Total Pageviews

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Come With Me, written by Holly M. McGhee and illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre. G.P. Putnam's Sons, Random House. 2017. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"The girl and her papa
were brave and kind,
and that day
they won a tiny battle
over fear
for themselves
and for the people of
the world.
The news kept telling her
of anger and hatred."

Parents and teachers of all children are tasked these days with trying to appease the fears being expressed over what these children are seeing on daily news feeds. They hear about rage and increasing divisiveness at every turn. People hating people. People fighting verbally and physically to prove their way is the only way. Too many people in the world face war, cruel destruction and devastating weather. What can be done to ease the fears, stem the hatred, and seek a peaceful new way to deal with all of it?
One thing we are can be doing is building empathy and understanding in our homes and in our schools. Books like this one provide a pathway to conversation, and to feeling more powerful and capable in knowing that we can do 'something'.

The little one is concerned, and for good reason. She has serious questions for her parents about the state of her world. Each invites her along to show her there is much good in their world - that it need not be the painful and fearful place she sees projected on a television screen.

A walk to the subway, where concern is evident on most faces, has dad and daughter tipping their caps and offering a smile. It makes a small difference. A trip for mom and daughter to an international market to buy food for dinner offers a connection in their multicultural neighborhood. A chance to discuss with her parents the need for trying something on her own makes them nervous, but that fear is quashed to allow independence. Walking the dog with a neighbor child brings joy and understanding.

"One step
at a time,
they understood
what they could do
to make the world
a better place.

They could go on."

The message is clear, and heartfelt. The smallest positive action makes a difference ... to someone, somewhere. There are many wonderful moments in every day. We need to be aware of  them, and focus our attention there.

Here's an stirring post concerning the background for writing this lovely book.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Full of Fall, by April Pulley Sayre. Beach Lane, Simon & Schuster. 2017. $23.99 all ages

"Meet the trees!

Their shapes emerge.

Hello, yellow.

Greetings, gold.

Oh - it's orange!

Red, be bold."

I admit to loving autumn. That being said, I'm not sure why. It is the shortest season of all here in Manitoba. The leaves have barely changed to gorgeous color when a ferocious wind blows them to the ground, leaving bare trees, leaf-filled yards and a lot of work to be done. I wouldn't mind so much if we could say we had a month of autumnal weather and a riot of color to savor as winter approaches. Today, with the wind whipping through bare branches and sending whatever leaves are on the ground swirling, we are acutely aware that the first week in November is promising a 'significant snow event'.

Luckily, I will have this brilliant new book from April Pulley Sayre to remind me of the beauty that is fall. The first pages show sun-soaked grasses, and leaves just beginning to change color, bit by bit and without fanfare. Then - their colors burst forth! We are invited to look carefully at the beauty that is found in all of nature. Colors reflect through a leafy canopy and on pond surfaces, and plump fall berries await their fate - hungrily picked by birds and others.

Too soon, the trees are ready to shed their leaves. Winds blow them into piles.

"They drift and dry.
Their edges curl.
They float and sink,
They snag and swirl."

This companion to her earlier seasonal books, Raindrops Roll and Best In Snow, is filled with incredibly beautiful photographs. The poetry is simple, but perfectly written to provide context for the leafy glory of the season.

In back matter, Ms. Sayre provides short Look Closer paragraphs that provide scientific information concerning both leaves and fall itself. And, an invitation to get outside and drink in its beauty. Too late for us, don't let it be too late for you!

To learn more, go to the author's website.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sit, written by Deborah Ellis. Groundwood, 2017. $9.95 ages 10 and up

"I am ten years old and have lived in this town my whole stupid life, so, no, I am not lost. Everything will be okay as soon as you get away from me. And, yes, I should be in school but I am taking the day off because I'm sick of people BUGGING ME!" Bea said none of these things, of course. Instead, she looked up from her book, smiled sweetly and said, "I'm just waiting for my mother."

Bea is not waiting for her mother. She has taken her leave from school for just the reason she wishes she could say out loud. Instead, she is sitting in The Day-Off Chair in one of the eleven short stories shared so eloquently and poignantly by the accomplished Deborah Ellis. To 'sit' seems a simple task. In each of her eleven stories, sitting and where the sitting takes place have great importance. Each of the chapters is titled for the chair's existence: The Singing Chair, The Time-Out Chair, The Question Chair, The Knowing Chair, The Plain Chair, The Day-Off Chair, The Glowing Chair, The Freedom Chair, The Hiding Chair, The War Chair and finally, The Hope Chair.

Each 'chair' has special meaning for the person whose story is being shared. Whether it's a restrictive apartment housing far too many people in Uzbekistan, the glowing chair her father warns her about should Miyuki return to dangerous radiation zone to save her mother's donkey following the Japanese tsunami, a pink plastic time-out chair where a young girl can contemplate escape without her mother's knowledge, a chair crafted by a child worker in an Indonesian furniture factory that carries his inscribed poems to the outside world, or a cement bed for a boy who spends 72 days in solitary confinement as a young offender, each story resonates with heart and power for those who 'sit'.   

It is a wonderful collection, as I have come to expect from Ms. Ellis after reading each of her published works. As we await the much anticipated release of the animated movie The Breadwinner, I went back to reread it. It made an indelible impression when I read it 17 years ago. It is one of those 'window' books that allows a careful look at a then unknown-to-me culture, and the plight of many children in our world.

This new book does the same thing ... allows readers a look at children who might be like them, and others who are not.  The places to 'sit' may be different, but each provides the context for a very powerful story. These are young people who will not let adversity shatter their spirit. Rather, they do what they can to change their circumstances and fight for what is of great importance to them. Yes, there is disobedience; ultimately, there is a renewed understanding and hope for better times. Their stories should be heard and discussed in middle years classrooms.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Under-The-Bed Fred, written by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Colin Jack. Tundra, Random House. 2017. $16.99 ages 6 and up

"Leo had solved his monster problem. He could get into bed. He could get out of bed. In. Out. In. Out. His ankles were safe! But the monster was still there. Growl. Creak. Moan. Leo could hear him in the night. So Leo got more and more curious. Finally, he couldn't stand it anymore. "Hey, you!" he said. "Me?" said the monster.

Kids who have feared the monsters under their beds, in their closets, or in the basement and who are keen to read early chapter books are going to love this story!

Leo is not pleased when he first realizes that a monster has taken up residence under his bed. He can hear it in the night, and expends a lot of energy at bedtime trying to avoid a confrontation. Once in bed, he is afraid to get out. Some nights, when a trip to the bathroom is imperative, Leo does his best to stay put. Then one night ...

"I need to go to the bathroom," said Leo.
A long time passed.
"Do you want me to come with you?" asked the monster.
"NO!" said Leo.
"Well, what do you want?"
"Nothing," said Leo. "Just stay there.
Don't move. Do nothing."
"Okay," said the monster."

Now, that seemed simple.

As the two form a growing friendship, the monster is especially pleased to be given the name Fred. Fred has opportunity to explain his career to Leo ... he is meant to scare him. Fred turns himself into many frightening entities to prove his mettle. Leo is impressed and lets Fred know how competent he really is at the job he does. Fred is happy to help his new friend problem solve, and even enjoys being part of one of Leo's school assignments. It's a win-win situation for both. Readers will like them.

The digital artwork by Colin Jack helps readers see the fear and apprehension that Leo and Fred are each feeling, while also providing a sense of fun that matches the appealing text. I understand it is the first in a new series by the very capable Linda Bailey. I will look forward to seeing what's up next.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package, written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $16.99 ages 5 and up

"It was not a fruit basket.
It was an accordion.
Baby and Eugenia and Mrs.
Watson and Frank and the pig
and General Washington all
stood together and stared down
at the open box.
"It's an accordion," said Frank.
"Obviously," said Eugenia.
"I was hoping for a fruit basket,"
said Mrs. Watson."

Fans of Kate DiCamillo's Tales from Deckawoo Drive series will know Baby Lincoln's sister, Eugenia. The two are neighbors of Mercy Watson. This is their second adventure and we learn more about the pragmatic and very direct older sister. Chris Van Dusen brings her to life in artwork that speaks volumes about her character, giving fans a clear look at the woman who believes in nothing more than GETTING THINGS DONE. She is quick to let her sister know they have not much in common.

"We are diametrically opposed," said Eugenia to Baby.
"You are woefully impractical. I am supremely practical."
"Yes, Sister," said Baby.
"You are soft, and I am sharpened to a fine point, indeed,"
said Eugenia.
"Well, yes," said Baby. "That's true, I suppose."
"Suppose nothing," said Eugenia.
"Believe me when I say that your head is in the
clouds, and my feet are planted firmly on terra firma."

And that's how it goes. When an unexpected parcel arrives with Eugenia's name on it, she is totally
unimpressed and makes no bones about sharing her feelings. Upon discovering an accordion inside, she gets right on the phone to make arrangements for its return. Not possible, says the receptionist. Faced with keeping it, she makes a list that includes selling it, destroying it, or giving it to some other unsuspecting recipient. What to do?

Will Gaston, a positive and persistent man, be able to change her mind with a promise 'to teach anyone to make beautiful sounds upon the world's most magnificent instrument'? I wonder. Does Eugenia have music in her heart?

Sicily who, at 3, loves the Deckawoo Drive family can't wait to have it read to her.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Hidden Dangers: Seek and Find 13 of the World's Deadliest Animals. Written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Tymn Armstrong. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 6 and up

"SLAP! An angry ALLIGATOR can whack you with a 200-pound (91 -kilogram) tail, GRAB you with its large jaws, and drag you to the bottom of the river to DROWN. If you enter an American alligator's territory ... "

Lola Schaefer has a keen understanding for what young readers find intriguing, scary, and worthy of study. So, she does her research and writes books that are sure to find an audience. And, she is quite prolific. As I said on Tuesday when discussing Nicola Davies' work, I don't make many workshop book lists without including a book or two by Ms. Schaefer. She definitely gets my attention, and I am happy to tell others about her work.

In Hidden Dangers she cautions her readers:

"Like us, animals try to avoid danger. But if someone or something invades their territories or startles them, they'll use defense mechanisms to protect themselves. In some cases, that defense is nothing more than a harsh sting. Other times, it may be venomous tentacles, barbed quills, or poison-oozing skin."

Each double page spread introduces a new and nasty animal, explains how that animal protects itself when it feels the need to do so, and how you might avoid any danger presented when encountering it. Of the 13 presented, I would perhaps encounter 2 - a porcupine and a moose. My chances for meeting a golden poison dart frog, a deathstalker scorpion, or a tarantula hawk wasp are nil. Thankful I am!

Advice is given in case I should meet said MOOSE:

"If a moose starts to come your way, turn and RUN away! Usually it will stop running after a short distance. But if the moose doesn't slow up, HIDE! Hide behind a large tree trunk or rock. Roll into a tight ball, placing your arms over your head for protection. When the moose cannot see you, it will walk away. Later, so can you!"

The author also provides guidance for filling a backpack with essentials necessary to keep you safe while you are out exploring. An explanation accompanies each item. Finally, she describes the difference between poison and venom - how they are delivered is key. Readers are tasked with two separate questions: one about plants and the other about the number of each of the deadly animals found throughout the book.

Tymn Armstrong's digital artwork is full of detail. It surrounds the text, and assures that readers pay attention to habitat as well as the animal itself. The fact that some of those animals might be hidden or even found on other spreads ensures a very close look. Luckily, the actual numbers are provided in back matter. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Winter Dance, written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Richard Jones. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"A snowshoe hare
hops by in his new winter coat.
"I can tell you what to do,"
he says.
"Turn yourself white
to match the snow."
And the snowshoe hare,
who has done just that,
disappears in the whitening world.
"That won't do for me,"
says the fox."

Our first warning has been posted. The bright morning sun has already given way to gray cloudy skies.Those skies should bring rain before that moisture turns to snow! Along with very high winds, forecasters are predicting a bit of an accumulation and dangerous driving conditions. I guess we will soon be doing our 'winter dance' as well.

The inquisitive fox on the front cover felt a snowflake land on his nose. Now, he is full of questions and comments about the coming winter and how he should prepare for it. Asking his animal friends should give him direction; instead, they leave him with solutions destined to fail. He can't curl up in a chrysalis. He certainly can't bury himself in the mud at the bottom of the pond, as the turtle suggests.

He wanders along talking with a bat, a squirrel, geese, a hare, and a bear. Each has a personally plausible comment to make about the best way to deal with the coming cold. Fox has no time for any of their suggestions, and has a reasonable response as to why they just won't work for him. After much wandering

"The fox hushes.
on his

And then ...
a whistle,
soft, soft."

What can it be? Is there some way to enjoy the joys of the winter season? What do you think?

The text is poetic and polished. Readers and listeners will enjoy the repetitive nature of the fox's response to each suggestion made. The full spread artwork is lovely, filled with rich natural colors and beautifully designed to provide a clear look at the natural forested world.

Seems the coming of winter can be quite a good thing. I love the changing seasons; just the same, I am never quite prepared for how quickly autumn passes us by, and foists winter upon us. Let's hope it isn't here to stay yet. I don't want to give up my sandals!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Petr Horacek. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $26.99 ages 4 and up

"Chameleon Song
Chameleons have curly tails
and little toes that grip,
eyes that move on turrets,
long tongues with sticky tips.

They creep around the bushes
and can turn themselves quite green,
till they blend in with the forest
and simply can't be seen."

I was a facilitator at a workshop for teachers last Friday, where a friend and I presented new titles for sharing in classrooms and libraries. Nicola Davies' name is on every list of books I have shared for a number of years. I am in awe of the research she does, and the writing that brings animals and her love of nature and the environment to the forefront. This year there were two new books on the list. This is one of them.

Absolutely stunning for its impeccable poetic text and the lush mixed media artwork that brings young readers face to face with animals of the world, this is a celebration!

"Snail Shells

A curly suit of armor,
that's the snail's spiral shell.
It protects the snail from drying out,
from hungry mouths as well.

A shell is like a mobile house
and allows a snail to roam.
But if you take one from your garden,
it will finds its way back home."

There is something for everyone who picks up this gorgeous oversized book and wants to share it. The sections are: Big and Small, Colors and Shapes, Animal Homes, Animal Babies, and Animals in Action. Kids will know which part they want to see first. I chose Animals in Action. As with every other part of the book, I found great beauty in the words and images. Each animal is carefully and thoughtfully placed in its natural surroundings. You will want to spend time savoring the colorful, beautifully designed collages.

"Monarch Butterflies

There is a grove
where the butterflies come,
in clouds of orange wings.
Like autumn leaves played backward,
they fly up onto the twigs,
clothing, covering, the trees
in a thick coat of living flame
that shimmers as a shiver passes
from wing to wing to wing.

There is a grove
where the butterflies come,
a place of dreams and magic."                                                                       
 It's a keeper!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Catching a Story Fish, by Janice N. Harrington. Wordsong, Highlights. 2017. $23.50 ages 9 and up

"there's a box -
a heart box
a dream box
a secret box
with lots of locks.

And only Mama
only Daddy
only Grandpa
only Noah
have a key."

Though it is not unusual for adolescents to feel vulnerable and unhappy in a new place, Keet will tug at your heartstrings as she tries to adjust to the family's move from Alabama to Illinois. Luckily, she can count on her grandfather and Allegra, a new classmate and neighbor. They help Keet deal with the insecurity, the teasing and her feelings of alienation.

It's hard for a girl who loves words and the stories they tell. In Illinois, her voice is quieted. She is inhibited in part by the teasing she takes from those who think she talks funny. Her normally talkative, storytelling nature is silenced. Her grandfather loves to hear her stories and constantly encourages her as they fish together. Then he has a stroke, and she turns to story to help him heal. Her indomitable spirit returns as her friendship with Allegra grows, as a very supportive school librarian offers support and encouragement, as she remembers her grandfather's lessons and feels his enduring love, and as she hears Doug McVicker talk about his many stories.

"You sound funny," John Royale says.

Doug McVicker just laughs.
"Sounds like good ol' Tennessee," he says.
"My voice is a map of all the places I've been
and all the talkin' I've heard.
My stories sound that way, too."

Then Doug McVicker tells us his stories."

The characters are winning, the poetry perfect, and the tale uplifting. Family and friendship are at its heart, and you will come away from the reading with admiration for a young girl who speaks her truth when she finds her place (and voice) in a new home. It is a wonderful book for reading aloud in middle years classrooms.

A glossary for poetic forms used in included in back matter.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

If Sharks Disappeared, written and illustrated by Lily Williams. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2017. $24.99 ages 5 and up

"Sharks have helped keep our oceans balanced for about 450 million years. Over that time, they evolved into the more than 400 different species that exist today. Sharks are apex predators ... "

While we may scorn their presence in waters where many vacation, it is very interesting to note that sharks account for less than ten human deaths each year. Try telling that to a friend who doesn't even want to take a cruise ship through shark-infested waters!

I would guess that many of us know little, and have thought less, about the place of sharks in the health of an ocean ecosystem. The little girl who narrates this book has much to teach us. Through engaging conversation and a love for sharks, she examines what might happen IF we didn't have sharks in our world.

She lets us know that without them the ocean would become a very unhealthy place. They have an important role to play and have a major impact on everything within the oceanic world. She speaks scientifically, in a clear explanation for interested readers. She allows readers to see what might happen if sharks were not there to play this much needed role.

" ... the population of seals, sea lions, and other pinnipeds would potentially explode. At higher populations, they would eat more and more fish, and eventually, once there weren’t any fish left ... "

Nearly impossible to imagine the end results of a food chain gone awry!

In her first book, Ms. Williams allows readers to see the beauty of the ocean while also letting them know that many shark species are approaching extinction - in general, the fault of humans. We are on a slippery slope if we don't start doing more to protect them. There is lots here for ALL readers to think on as they share her beautifully illustrated book.

Back matter is welcome, explanatory and includes a note from the author herself.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

now, written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2017. $24.99 ages 3 and up

"This is my favorite mud.

This is my favorite worm.

This is my favorite cloud
because it's the one I
am watching.

This is my favorite rain.

That was my favorite boat."

Oh, I love watching little ones as they share discoveries and ideas about the world they live in. Antoinette Portis is so in tune with them, and shares their childlike view of the world in the books she writes. She knows their ways, their feelings, their wonder.

This little girl is attuned to everything that surrounds her, and she is able to speak to her feelings about what makes the world special for her. She happily shares many well-loved  moments in clear, and simple text. Her time is NOW!

With each turn of the page, she explains that she delights in those things that make life wonderful for her ... a breeze, a leaf, a hole, mud, a worm. She appreciates each moment as much as the next thing that attracts her attention and allows readers to appreciate her enthusiasm for life and its many delights.

By repeating each simple declarative sentence Ms. Portis allows for a rhythm that will soon have little ones reading independently. Meaningful and filled with familiar joys, readers move with her through her day, both inside and outside the house. The illustrations, created using sumi ink, brush, and bamboo stick, then colored digitally, beautifully match the textual tone.

Charming and meaningful, it is sure to become a favorite and encourage young children to reflect on the joys in their own environment, and the freedom to be. As adults, we can definitely take a lesson from our children  ... slow down, and be present for every wonderful moment we have.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Magic for Sale, written by Carrie Clickard and illustrated by John Shelley. Holiday House, Thomas Allen & Son. 2017. $24.95 ages 5 and up

"It's a GHOST!"
"It's ALIVE!"
"Run awaaayyyyyy!"
Georgie giggled,
"Wait! You can't be scared.
You're the reason
I got double-dared!"
The ghost poked out his head.
"I can't help being dead.
But scary? Not me!"
he declared."

Has anyone ever dared you to do something that terrified you? Did you do it? It seems the perfect setup for a story to be shared at Halloween, doesn't it?

Georgie McQuist is on the receiving end of a double dare, and he is brave enough to take it.

"And though all the town's children had tried,
the shop specter had never been spied.
Georgie'd been double dared
so he came well prepared ...
He was going ghost hunting inside!

Creeaaakkk ... "

It is magic after all. Could you resist seeing what might be inside a magic-filled shop? Georgie, apparently, cannot. He sneaks in, hides until the place has closed down, and promptly falls through a trap door into a hidden room or two. There he meets the ghost whose job it is to count 'every treasure and tomb'. The awful, gloomy place! So, Georgie offers aid to the inept and disorganized specter. Together they count countless things:

"Tarot cards and crystal balls,
a ghost to haunt your
castle's halls,
snakes pulled from Medusa's hair,
a map to find a pirate's lair,
freeze-dried ghoul
and dragon drool,
a kraken for your swimming pool ..."

The list goes on, until they have finally completed the task. Happy, Georgie is ready to head for home when Miss Pustula Night, the store's owner, arrives with dinner on her mind. What happens next will be much appreciated by readers, and by Georgie himself.

Every spread is enhanced by John Shelley's detailed full color items mentioned in the text. Kids won't know where to look first, and will not be sorry to spend a good deal of time poring over the store's contents. Full of fun, a rhyming text and adventure, kids will enjoy wrapping their tongues around the names of the necessary items that fill the shelves, and watching a boy and a ghost work together to make things happen. Then, they will be delighted with the surprise (and scare) at the end.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

the Wolf the Duck & the Mouse, written by Max Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"The meal was delicious.

"Where did you get the jam?"
the mouse asked.
"And a tablecloth?"
The duck munched a crust.
"You'd be surprised what
you find inside of a wolf."
"It's nice," said the mouse.
"It's home," said the duck.
"You live here?"
"I live well! I may have
been swallowed, but I have
no intention of being eaten."

Poor little mouse! What injustice it is to be swallowed whole by a wolf. The wolf is only doing what is natural to him, while the mouse is not happy to be looking death in the face. Wait! What is that voice he hears?

And so begins another wild and wondrous tale by two of my favorite creators. Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have a way of sharing with great joy and panache their humor, their love of story and their exceptional talents. It is not always the way that book collaboration works. For them (and for their fans), it works beautifully every single time.

Turns out a duck is making its home in the wolf's stomach; and is very happy with the path his life has taken. In fact, he has been sleeping. When the mouse makes its entrance, they share a meal and a conversation about the great happiness the duck now feels. His life before was filled with the fear of being eaten.  The mouse is fascinated by the duck's stand on his new home.

The wolf is not so comfortable, definitely feeling the weight of his inhabitants luxurious lifestyle in his belly. Ill and vulnerable, he is perfect fare for an intrepid marksman. When that hunter threatens the tranquility, the two insiders must decide how to keep the status quo. That decision garners gratitude from their host; he promises that their wish is his command. Ha! Who knew?

Obviously, there is great fun in the storytelling. Jon Klassen (as he always seems to do) is adept at the details that will bring readers back again and again to read it, to notice even more, to want to discuss it, and to laugh each and every time it is shared. Funny, full of charm, and sporting a perfect ending, you want it for your collection. I will surely find a place for it on our 'keepers' shelf.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

the scariest book ever, written and illustrated by bob shea. Disney Hyperion, Hachette. 2017. $17.99 ages 5 and up

"Now I have nothing
to wear.

I guess you'll have to
go into the scary dark
woods without me.

You go check them out,
and I'll meet you in a
couple of pages."

Ghost is not one of the brave ones! Sure there is a terrifying forest just outside the door, it does its best to convince readers to stay inside and not risk the imminent danger beyond.

Thinking fitfully about what must be faced, the ghost accidentally spills orange juice on its nice white ... and spends the rest of the book naked and unable to explore the woods. Encouraging the reader to go and investigate, it will await news. With each assurance that there is nothing scary out there, the ghost finds new excuses for not taking part. Cleaning the bathroom and sharing doughnuts do nothing to encourage readers to stay put.

We are witness to all discoveries made beyond the ghost's house ... in the endlessly frightening forest where a rabbit doles out party invitations to the creatures and other inhabitants of the forest itself. There are crafts, food, and pumpkin harvesting. What fun! Will the ghost finally be cajoled into joining them?

I will leave that for you to find out!

Bob Shea's digital spreads, in bright and colorful geometric images, show the action on bold backgrounds. Compared to the crisp black and white interiors, young readers realize how much the tiny ghost is missing. Keeping up with the naked ghost makes for a laughter-filled and most enjoyable story. You are sure to read it more than one time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I WANT to BE in a SCARY STORY, written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $22.00 ages 4 and up

"Would you rather
something else jump out,
instead of the witch?


How about a ghost?

A ghost."

Don't all kids love the thought of 'scary'? It sounds like fun, but is it? In this interactive story, a little monster begs to be part of a 'scary' story. The unseen narrator offers choices concerning the where of the scare. A dark and scary forest? Well, maybe not. A spooky house? Maybe ...

The next choice has to do with who will do the scaring in the little monster's story. Will be a witch? Nope! A ghost? Even that proves too much.

'HOLD ON! This is too scary!
Well, you did say you wanted to be
in a scary story.
I know. But I want to be in a
scary story where I do the scaring!
Oh, you want to be the scary one?
OK then. You can creep up the stairs,
sneak over to the door and then ...
All right!"

But is it? Perhaps a funny story would be better after all. After a few shared ideas, the little monster turns the tables on the spooky house's inhabitants and provides both a scary and a funny story for readers to enjoy.

Enjoy it they will as they follow the antics and respond to the emotions felt by the little purple protagonist with the big head, yellow eyes, missing teeth and a penchant for stories. The tale moves along quickly, told completely in interactive dialogue. Jean Jullien provides a suitably scary backdrop for the creepy tone of the tale. The colors are striking, the double page spreads filled with expression and detail.  White space on alternating pages alert readers to the upcoming results of his requests and keep attention on the little monster who is creating the action for the book.    

Funny and just on the edge of frightening, this will be enjoyed by listeners as classrooms prepare for the Halloween festivities. It is perfect for paired or shared reading as the dialogue is controlled by contrasting colors. One reader reads the black text, the other the purple. Definitely two voices. I have shared other books that I feel would make terrific performance pieces. Add this on to the list.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Herbert's First Halloween, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Steven Henry. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2017. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"Herbert's father measured
Herbert from head to toe.
He measured him for ears.
He measured him for a tail.
He measured him for paws
with claws.

Herbert asked, "Can I roar?"
The answer was yes!
Herbert would roar on

My kids, when they were quite small, thought they would love Halloween. We decided on a costume, I got it done,and we were ready! As a mom who didn't much like Halloween (well OK, I thought the candy part was great!) and absolutely did not like dressing up ever, I should have known. Genes do run deep! They thought that the costumes were wonderful until it was time to put them on, and head out for the candy collection. Then, it was no thanks! Off we went in warm coats and a little face paint to gather the goodies being offered by friends, family and neighbors. It was mostly like that until they decided they had had enough of the whole thing.

Herbert is not sure about Halloween and how it works. His father, an aficionado, encourages his son to share the holiday with him. Herbert wonders if he might be a tiger. Of course! The delighted dad gets right to work while encouraging his son to help with the costume, the decorations and practicing his tiger persona. It is a warm and winning tale of togetherness.

When the big night arrives Dad dresses as a cowboy, emulating the little boy he was in a picture shown to Herbert. They walk from one place to another in their neighborhood, note all the other costumes being worn, collect candy, and call it a success. We leave the two as Herbert considers next year's costume.

I love the tone created by Ms. Rylant's carefully chosen text. The storytelling is thoughtful and reassuring for our youngest readers who share Herbert's uneasiness about the unknown. The father patiently encourages Herbert and listens carefully to his concerns. Steven Henry does a fine job with  digital illustrations to keep to the calm tone of the words, using soft lines, muted colors and inviting scenes.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

How To Make Friends With A Ghost, written and illustrated by Rebecca Green. Tundra, Random House. 2017. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Once the ghost knows you
are friendly, it will most likely follow you.
Welcome the ghost into your home. If it is reluctant, a simple blow will get the ghost inside.
Warning: Never ever put your hand through a ghost. It can cause a serious tummy ache."

It is not a certainty in life that you WILL meet a ghost. No one is ever sure that it will happen. However, it might! If it does, you want to be prepared. That is the premise of this debut book by Rebecca Green. Her contention is that, should you be lucky enough to come face to friendly face with such a spirit, you should know what to do.

She does her best to assure your success. In a step-by-step handbook, she offers up her advice for making the best of a very rare occurrence. She begins with an introduction, telling her audience that few people will ever meet a ghost:

"A ghost is nearly impossible to find.
You can look till your face turns blue.
But if you're a person who is sweet, warm, and kind,
a ghost may come out and find you."

Wouldn't that be something? Ms. Green follows up with Ghost Basics, Ghost Care, and Growing Together. Each section offers helpful tips in a well-laid out plan for maintaining your ghost's health, happiness and friendship throughout the many years you may spend together.

"Then your friendship will last
for it knows no bounds -
you'll be friends even after the end."

Written in hand-lettered text, with images created in gouache and colored pencil and edited digitally, it is a book that will appeal at any time of year. I was always on the lookout for picture books to help young writers develop skill in nonfiction writing. They were not always easy to find. This book will work brilliantly. Told with humor and imagination, it will find fans in every library and classroom.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Pomegrnate Witch, written by Denise Doyen and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 7 and up

"The Pomegranate War was on!
The troops made preparation;
They plotted how to storm the tree
in fruit-assault formation.

At noon, the watchcrow cawed,
The players took their places:
The Witch, she hunkered down;
the gang spread at twenty paces."

Here's a story with wonderful appeal, and a great read aloud style. Its impressive, atmospheric language requires those who want to share it to take the time to read it once or twice before doing so.

Five kids in a battle with an old woman - the witch who guards the pomegranate tree and its luscious fruit. A bike ride leads a young boy to first set eyes on it.

"And before its sagging porch, amid a weedy foxtail sea.
Found the scary, legendary, haunted pomegranate tree.

The gnarled tree loomed high and wide;
 its branches scraped the ground.
Beneath there was a fort, of sorts,
with leafed walls all around.
Its unpruned limbs were jungle-like,
dirt ripplesnaked with roots,
But glorious were the big, red, round,
ripe pomegranate fruits."

The boy and his friends make plans to steal the fruit despite the constant presence of the woman they dub the Pomegranate Witch. Unseen, but clearly present, the children believe all the many warnings they have heard about her. But, they are brave and they WANT that fruit. What must the five of them to do to achieve success? As they stealthily approach, she shouts out a warning:

"Now, hear this! Pomegranate Gang,
I see you in your ditch!
High noon! Tomorrow!" double-dared
the Pomegranate Witch.
Shocked and scared - caught by surprise -
the gang froze, firmly rooted;
Then one, then three, then five stood tall -
and all of them saluted."

Obviously, it is not just the fruit that is luscious. I read it once, and then read again. Now, as I write this post, I am going over and over certain phrases and descriptions to remind myself of the rhythm and meaning in the wonderful text. I can only imagine the pictures it must have conjured for Eliza Wheeeler as she read it repeatedly while working on her magical watercolor images. It is a stunning collaboration, and worthy of reading in classrooms as Halloween approaches, or at any other time of year. The more often you read it, the more surprised you will be by its beautifully chosen language and inspired art.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Grumbles From The Town: Mother Goose Voices with a Twist. Poems by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrations by Angela Matteson. Wordsong, HIghlights. 2016. $23.50 ages 5 and up

"Song of the Vegetarian Princess

Sing a song of salad,
a pocket full of beans,
four-and-twenty canteloupes
stashed inside my jeans.

Will I eat some blackbirds
baked in a pie?
No, I'd rather see them all
flying in the sky."

Taking familiar Mother Goose rhymes (which are appended in back matter) and giving them a twist as promised makes for a fun read, especially for those children familiar with the originals. In an author's note before introducing their new poems, Ms. Yolen and Ms. Dotlich explain:

"We've reinvented them in two different voices, playing with points of view. So, we rhymed the old woman who lives in the shoe from the viewpoint of the shoe itself, spun our own webs as the spider tells of meeting Miss Muffet, became the plum as he shouts in bouncing lines his anger at Little Jack Horner, and more."

They chose 14, knowing there were so many more. Perhaps readers would like to try their hand at poetry and point of view, too. There's an idea!

As the old man (and all of the nearby animals and birds) snores while it rains and pours, the dog has a complaint!

"It's raining, it's pouring,
and everyone is snoring.

Despite some cotton
in each ear,
the only sound
that I can hear
is snore-snore-snore
and snore some more
coming straight at me
through the doghouse door.

It's so dang loud,
I cannot think.
I cannot dream
or sleep a wink.
I much prefer
the drip-drop rain.
No wonder, then.
this sad refrain:

It's raining, it's pouring,
and everyone is snoring.
   (Except for me!) "

The old man has a short retort:

Yes, yes, yes, I snore.
Long, loud, goose-gurgling snores.
Usually when it rains.
Especially when it pours,
I snores."

Need I say more?

Just a wee note about the illustrations! Angela Matteson uses acrylics and colored pencils on wood board to bring life to this lively group of reimagined rhymes. There is a skateboard, and a banjo, charming characters, and details sure to attract attention and conversation. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Our New Home: Immigrant Children Speak. Edited by Emily Hearn and Marywinn Milne. Second Story Press, 2015. $13.95 ages 8 and up

"On the first day that I came to Canada my family and I were very confused but luckily we received help by our uncle. Our uncle came and picked us up from the airport. Afterwards he drove us to his house to stay for a while. The roads in Canada are very different from the roads in Guang Zhou.

... Stephy China"

This second book in today's post is meant to be read by older readers. It is written by immigrant children who share in stories, songs and pictures how they are feeling about settling into a new place. It is often a tumultuous time for them. They are both uneasy and enthusiastic about leaving one home to find another. Their voices tell how they feel about being in Canada, what they find different from their previous experience, and how they are adjusting.

Readers get a chance to hear their personal stories. They will come away from reading this book with a better understanding of what it feels like to be new and confused about all that is happening with their families. For children who have never had to leave one home to find another, it provides an opportunity to put themselves in someone else's shoes (someone who might be the same age) and try to comprehend what it is like. For those who share the experience, they will feel some solace in knowing that others are feeling the same way.

A world map shows their home countries. The editors then divide the entries into five sections: Leaving, Differences, Adjusting, Problems, and Feelings. For Canadian children reading these entries, the learning is important. It is hard to imagine how many changes they face:

"Less pollution, less population, friends with good habits, school with more extracurricular activities and places with more security are some of the ways that my life has changed for the better. But some things like my family and my culture stayed the same and will never change.  (Vivek India)"

In each section the authors are listed, as well as their country of origin. Illustrations by some children are included. Their stories are sometimes frightening, and certainly filled with angst over all the changes they face as they attempt to adjust to their new circumstances. The stories are left as written, providing readers a chance to see how well they have adapted to reading and writing in a new and unfamiliar language. They are honest, often funny, and telling.  Reading one entry a day could result in meaningful classroom discussion and further understanding.

Bravo to these young writers for sharing their stories and their insights.

Where Will I Live? Written by Rosemary McCarney. Second Story Press, 2017. $$19.95 ages 3 and up

"They ride ...
or walk ...
or run, hoping to find
a peaceful place.

But where will I live?
Will it be down the road ...
beyond this hill ...
past this fence ...
across the sea?"

Is it possible to share enough books about the plight of children in our world today? So many have been displaced by war, weather, and religious persecution. It is important that we have empathy for each and every one.

This book, filled with compelling photographs of children and their families who do not know where the path they are on might lead, is essential to have in school libraries today. No matter the means of travel, they must wonder every day what will happen to them, to their family, and to the others who travel with them. Seeing their beautiful, haunting faces cannot help but make readers think seriously about the joy these children often find in life despite very trying circumstances, the love they feel for their family and friends, the hope they hold in their hearts for better times.

The text, written by Canada's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, reflects the trauma of being forced to leave home to find another place of peace and understanding. Nations of the world are welcoming these children and their families daily. It is our chance to help those who do not have the security of a home. Will they find one with us?

Let's be sure we start those discussions in our families, and in our classrooms. Their journeys are long, their lives uncertain, their future might depend on our response to their arrival in our towns and cities. Surely we can do out best. Knowing other cultures and helping fellow human beings can only make our lives better.

"I hope someone smiles and says "Welcome home."
I hope that someone is you."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Garvey's Choice, by Nikki Grimes. Wordsong, Highlights. 2016. $21.99 ages 9 and up

"Joe caught me dancing
in first grade, during recess,
out back by the slide,
alone - or so I thought, till
Joe showed up and joined right in.

Seems funny now, 'cause
there was no music playing
and neither of us
minded or needed any.
We were our own melody."

Ms. Grimes uses tanka poems to share the story of a young man - chubby, non-athletic, Trekkie, lover of music and books, dreamer - whose father wants him to be so much more. He wants a sports star when he already has a daughter who is just that.

"Angie's the athlete.
Why should I compete with her?
"Why can't Garvey be
like his sister?" I heard Dad
ask when I was eight. Mom said,

"That's the wrong question.
Ask Garvey what interests him.
Talk to him, honey."
Yeah, Dad, I thought. Talk to me.
But will he? I wish I knew."

It isn't until Garvey strength in his voice while singing in the school chorus that his life changes for the better. What will his father say? How will his family react? His happiness is heartwarming, and readers will naturally compare it to the hurt he feels at the teasing words of some schoolmates. 

"The change bell always
sinks fear into me like teeth.
Ugly name-calling
leaves me with bloody bite marks:
lard butt, fatso, Mr. Tubs."

Garvey is courageous and uncertain, buoyed by his friendship with Joe while also turning to food and his love of science fiction to deal with his father's displeasure. Meeting Manny at chorus is a step toward acceptance of himself and what makes him special.

"Manny nudges me
when it's time for my solo.
Legs like spaghetti,
I worry that I might faint.
Eyes closed, I wait for courage.

A whisper at first,
the music in me rises.
Live inside the song.
I tell myself and I do.
Then comes the hush, and applause."

Beautifully told in perfect poetry, this is a book that will find fans in any middle school classroom. It would be a terrific readaloud as students explore their own talents, and the way they treat others. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Koala, written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Julie Vivas. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $22.99 ages 4 and up

"Koala is thirsty
and nuzzles.
But for the first time,
Koala cannot make his
way in.
When he tries again,
his mother swats him

Koalas are marsupials
and suckle their young ..."

Telling a story about a young male koala, while including interesting information about the species itself, helps young readers attach the information to a character they feel they know. It's early morning, and he is hungry for his mother's milk. She pushes him aside ... a sure sign that he is now old enough to make his own way.

 A different font at the bottom of the page offers appreciated details. The mother is awaiting the birth of another baby, and is ready for her older one to leave home. The story is highly appropriate for young ones; the information will attract older readers. The facts are plentiful as the koala finds his way to his new home. He faces challenges, fears and danger. As happens with many, he struggles for the independence that will ensure a healthy and happy life. Kids will be pleased with his success in finding a new home for himself.

I like the descriptive language. It allows all readers (including the teacher) to learn more about the
koala than they have previously known. The illustrations are classic Julie Vivas. I am a long-time fan, having loved her work since I met Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, Our Granny, Hush and Grandma Poss in Possum Magic, and the little girl in I Went Walking. The Nativity is a book I will read to my granddaughters every Christmas. Her classic watercolors add context for some of the more difficult text, and she creates a character readers will grow to love as they watch him gain  confidence and independence. Warm, emotional and telling.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Home in the Rain, written and illustrated by Bob Graham. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $23.00 ages 4 and up

"It rained on the canal,
turning the water white,
and it rained on the fishermen,
wet as the fish below.

Young Marcus, water
running down his neck,
his fingers smelling of bait,
wished he were
somewhere else ... "

I have such admiration for the stories Bob Graham tells. In this family story we meet Francie, her mother and Baby Sister as they set out for home in a rainstorm. They have been to visit Grandma and want to be home for Dad's return. It's a long trip.

As they go, we are witness to the relentless rain and the many small moments happening outside their small red car. The traffic, the give-and-take of the wind, the passing rigs, the animals trying to find shelter from the wet are all shown in artwork that perfectly matches the quiet text. It is signature Bob Graham, and what makes every one of his books very special for me.

Washed off the road into a picnic area by a passing rig, they wait out the storm. Francie busies herself with writing on the foggy windows, moving from seat to seat, and wanting to know more about Baby Sister, not yet born. There is a window waiting for a name to be drawn on it. As they have their lunch, their conversation turns to a name for the baby, Daddy's return, and reassurances to allay the oft-asked 'when' questions.

Back on the road and a stop for gas leads to a very special moment, shared by the two ... well, almost three.

"Perhaps it was something unremarkable,
not to be seen by strangers passing in the rain.
For it was just a mom lost in thought
and a small girl dancing.

"Francie, come here,"
said Mom."

As they share their small, lovely moment, Mr. Graham (as he often does, and always wondrously) returns us to thoughts of Grandma and some of the creatures mentioned during their journey. His ability to convey such wonder in everyday life is quite remarkable. That is why his books do and will always occupy space on my 'keepers' shelves.

Full of warmth and heart, this is another Graham book that will be shared time and again, with stops to notice the often humorous, always noteworthy details. Just lovely!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Swing It, Sunny, by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Scholastic, 2017. $16.99 ages 9 and up

"One week later.

Just as I suspected, Sunny's
allergic to mold. It can kick
in this time of year. Everything's
damp and wet. Some people are
really susceptible to it. Is there
medicine? We can give allergy
shots once a week. ONCE A

In this sequel to Sunny Side Up (2015), we are back in the 1976-77 year at middle school with Sunny and her friends. References to television shows of my era, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island and The Six Million Dollar Man, definitely had me waxing nostalgic over times past. The Sunny Show is the platform she uses to share her stories of family, friendship, and friction.

Chapter One, Episode 200 starts us off with Sunny's mother asking her to change her brother's dirty diaper while she gets on with making supper. And, we are off. Her story is revealed in episodes based on family life, its challenges and triumphs; friendship; school life; and a holiday visit from her brother Dale, who returns from his military boarding school for a visit. It is troubling for Sunny, as Dale is decidedly different from the boy who left home after getting in trouble with drugs. It is a low point and handled with empathy and honesty.

The rest of her story is often optimistic and positive. Television binging with her best friend, listening to popular music, Halloween hijinks, babysitting, allergies, Gramps' visit, pet rocks, and new neighbors all add punch and hilarity, as well as emotional impact.  Constantly concerned about her older brother, his anger and his return to a school he hates, she seeks advice from Gramps. He speaks from his heart in trying to help his beloved granddaughter.

"Kind of what you're going through with Dale.
I know it's hard to watch somebody you love
struggle. All you want to do is make it better.
But you can't always fix things.

So what can I do?

What we did. Just keep loving him and
hope for the best."

As a reader I very much enjoyed the many references to 1970s culture. Fans of Sunny Side Up will be delighted to spend more time with Sunny. Her story is filled with emotion, and realistic family life that is often messy. Its message is ultimately cheerful and uplifting.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

What's My Superpower? Written by Aviaq Johnston and illustrated by Tim Mack. Inhabit Media, 2017. $16.95 ages 4 and up

 "On the first day of school, Nalvana was in gym class when a boy named Davidee ran into the gym so quickly he was just a blur. All the other kids tried to race him, but he was faster than all the kids in the class. "Davidee, you have a superpower!" Nalvana excitedly told him."

Don't we all want to be like Davidee? Who doesn't want to be known for being exceptional at something, no matter what that might be. Nalvana feels the same.

There is much she loves about her life. She likes her town, its quiet roads and abundance of space for games and bike riding. She is happy, but worried that she has no superpower. She imagines what it might be like, and wears a cape and goggles to be ready in case she makes a surprise discovery.

She regales her mother with stories of the other children at her school who exhibit powers that she deems special. Always wondering if she will find what she is special at, she imagines 'herself flying in the sky, or talking to animals, or even breathing underwater'. She is quick to praise her friends for their accomplishments. Maata can fly on the swings. Joanasie can carve things. Adamie can hold his breath underwater for longer than anyone else.

"Nalvana was happy for her friends. They
had all found the things that they were good at.
She liked to tell them they had superpowers,
and she liked to see them smile. They all seemed
so happy to have a special talent."

Nalvana's mother is positive, letting her daughter know it will just take time. She knows Nalvana will discover what makes her truly special. Then one day, she thinks that she has the answer for Nalvana. It makes both very happy.

The setting for Nalvana's story is evident on every page. Tim Mack has created a northern Inuit community where children are free to explore their outdoor environment. There is sculpting with snow and building inuksuks, snowy hills, a husky puppy, small houses made of wood, a lack of trees and an abundance of rocks.

A worthy debut for both author and illustrator. I will certainly look forward to future collaborations.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Good for Nothing Button, by Charise Mericle Harper. Hyperion Books, Hachette. 2017. $10.99 ages 3 and up

"Red is my favorite!

What does it do?



Yes, nothing!

Wow! What a grand addition to the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series! No wonder the two friends like the three goofy birds who star in this one ... they have the same wacky sense of humor shared by Elephant and Piggie.

"What are you reading, Piggie?"
I can see
you are
reading something!"
"I am reading something 
about nothing!"
"That is something
I want to read, too."
 It literally is a story about nothing, and it is also exceptionally funny. Sure to have kids rolling their eyes and smiling at the silly antics, the button that needs to be pressed to have something happen seems to be of no real use. Yellow, Red and Blue Bird are very excited to have it in their possession. Blue Bird is not sure what it is. Told it is a button, and a red one at that, he asks what it does.

Imagine his surprise when told it does nothing. Despite that the birds are very excited. Blue Bird is surprised at how easy it is to press. And surprise is NOT nothing. Red Bird is sad when nothing happens. Sadness is NOT nothing. Yellow Bird insists it is of no use. An argument (that goes nowhere) ensues, until the red and blue bird convince the yellow one the button makes him funny. He likes that!

Performance assembly? YES! Read again and again and again? YES! Want more? YES! Piggie and Elephant feel exactly the same. Bring on the birds, Ms. Harper. PLEASE!

I will leave the last words to our favorite and abiding friends.

"This book makes me want to
press a button."
"I do not see any buttons
around here."
"I do!"
PRESS! (pressing Piggie's snout)
"I am

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Apex Predators: The World's Deadliest Hunters, Past and Present, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Houighton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"Agile Hunter
The fossa (fos-uh) is found
only on the island of Madagascar.
It is an excellent climber, and
it stalks its prey - lemurs, wild
pigs, birds, reptiles, and small
mammals - in the treetops
and on the ground.
The fossa looks like a cat,
but it is more closely related
to a mongoose."

Oh my, yes! Steve Jenkins has done it again. When this book becomes part of your home or classroom library, it will rarely be returned to the shelf before another keen reader scoops it up to read about the deadly hunters presented. We get face-to-face with them in quick order. Following an introduction to predators that include the pictured terror bird, their evolution and those whose toughness, size and protective armor made them virtually invincible, we move on to meet even more of them.

On facing pages, Mr. Jenkins presents predators from both present and past. A Siberian tiger faces a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Short paragraphs offer just enough information to ensure the reader understands why they are included. As he does in so many of his books, he provides clear size comparisons to help us see their size in perspective. Always compared to a human ('the deadliest predator of all'), these hunters are shown to scale and created using his signature and very realistic paper-collage artwork.

The African wild dog faces the electric eel. This is what we learn about them:

"Strength in numbers

Hunting in packs of as many as thirty animals,
African wild dogs patiently pursue an antelope,
wildebeest, or zebra until their prey drops from

"Shockingly effective

The electric eel lurks in the rivers and streams of
tropical South America. It zaps fish, amphibians,
and other small animals with a powerful electric
charge, then gulps them down while they are
stunned and helpless."
If you are not yet intrigued, I am surprised. He leaves readers thinking about how well a modern apex predator might fare if matched up with one from the past. And, asks us to consider the deadliest one of all - us!

A bibliography and various websites are useful.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Picture the Sky, by Barbara Reid. Scholastic, 2017. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"It can be a blanket
or the curtain rising
on your day.

The sky can be an

It can slip into
the background.

You can find it ... "

The stories you will share as you pore over the splendid illustrations in Barbara Reid's new book are certain to be endless. Using her incredible interest in the world and its beauty, this incomparable artist turns her attention to the sky. It is a wondrous thing!

The endpapers are filled with thumbnails that will remind you of other books, other artists, familiar scenes - all with attention paid to the sky that is 'above us and around us'. Turn to the title page which begs joining the young boy on a bed of grass, so content to be staring at the blue sky above him. Moving forward, we are reminded that 'There is more than one way to picture the sky.' The first child looks at the dark and stormy heavens as they are reflected in the puddle at his feet.

With each turn of the page, we are witness to the varied skies we have seen at some time in our lives. The comfort of a nighttime quilt, the beauty of an early morning sunrise, the wide open expanse of a prairie sky with mountains in the distance, the almost indiscernible sky in a lushly treed or building-filled setting. Every single spread, whether in spot or full page splendor will awaken memories and garner stories meant to be shared.

Barbara Reid has this to say about the book itself:

"The idea for the book began when I was working on the Picture a Tree because the more I looked at trees, the more I noticed the sky. The more I looked at the sky, the more I noticed about how it looks, as well as the feelings it can inspire and how it is reflected in art. I also noticed how often the sky is pictured in children’s artwork. The biggest challenge has been trying to fit all the ideas and pictures into the book!"

Beautifully rendered in modelling clay, each page is worthy of admiration and careful consideration.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid, by Kara LaReau with illustrations by Matt Myers. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $19.99 ages 7 and up

"Ralphie isn't thinking about telling anyone. He's remembering who started the rumor about Stinky. It was him, back when he and Louie were trying to act tough all the time. He was joking around with the nickname "Stinky Stanko." At the time, it just sounded really funny. But it doesn't seem funny at all now. "I think I'm the one who's sorry," Ralphie says."

What a great series this is! We met Louie and Ralphie last year. This time, the two face their fears as they work to establish an neighborhood arcade. Their love of all things carnival is just the push they need to consider a vacant lot next to The Haunted House as the site for Louie's idea.

The lot is full of junk. The Ratsos LOVE junk. They love rummaging through it and finding treasure no one knows is there. It is going to take a lot of help to get the lot cleaned up and ready for a clubhouse. Then the plan is to create the Big City FunTime Arcade. It will all be worth it! No more video games. Everyone can come to their carnival.

If they are going to work in the lot next door, Louie will have to conquer his fears concerning The Haunted House. No one knows he is scared. He always does whatever he can to avoid it. Ralphie is dealing with his own fear - of being teased concerning Stinky Stanko, her fallen pen and the rumor that he likes her because he picked it up for her. Luckily, they have an understanding and trustworthy father who listens to those fears. He reassures them with the revelation that he also is afraid at times. He encourages them to put on a brave face and do what they can to face them down.

"I just tell myself it's OK to be afraid,"
says Big Lou. "And I try to be brave."
"How?" asks Louie.
"By reminding myself that I'm the
boss of me, not my fears," Big Lou

Ralphie, in trying to discover who started the rumor, finds out that Stinky is not stinky at all and is hurt by the nickname he gave her. Louie takes his father's advice and meets up with the man who lives in the haunted house. It's a game changer for both boys. Big Lou is a great dad, doing his best to raise his boys alone following his wife's death. He's good at guiding while also serving up his signature spaghetti and meatballs, and his advice is totally appropriate for his two sons.

This is perfect fare for those readers wanting to move to accessible longer reads. The chapters are short, the pages have plenty of dialogue, helpful illustrations and carefully spaced text. Those illustrations show an urban landscape, a working class neighborhood, and a typical school setting. Kids will recognize themselves in some of the images, and will also hopefully have some of the freedom the Ratso brothers and their friends have for exploration and activity.

Monday, October 2, 2017

What Makes A Monster:Discovering the World's Scariest Creatures, by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand. Alfred A.Knopf, Random House. 2017. $23.99 ages 8 and up

" ... HONEY BADGERS are known as the world's most fearless creatures in the Guinness Book of World Records. The pick fights with leopards, lions, hyenas, and even porcupines. Their thick, rubbery skin is tough enough to withstand arrows ... "

Following up on Pink is for Blobfish (2016), Jess Keating and David DeGrand describe 17 animals that answer the titular question. They are quite monstrous, part of The World of Weird Animals, and certainly scary when you consider the descriptions and information provided on double page spreads.

Each spread begins with a warning: Don't high-five the AYE-AYE, Don't dine with the VAMPIRE BAT, Hide from the GREATER HONEYGUIDE. You get the picture. A clear photo, a cartoon, q descriptive paragraph, a sidebar containing pertinent information about species, size, diet, habitat, predators and threats, and a warning concerning their monstrous behavior complete each spread. Then, readers move on to consider the next included MONSTER.

Examples run the gamut from those you will recognize and know to be dangerous to others that might come as a surprise. Case in point for me: the PRAIRIE DOG. What? That cute, though often annoying, little creature with its big eyes, its tiny body, its constant chattering.

"What's so scary about a sweet little PRAIRIE DOG? Prairie dog
fleas can carry the deadly bubonic plague. This is the same
disease that killed an estimated 50 million people in the Middle
Ages. Infected fleas can jump from prairie dogs to domestic pets,
so it's very important to de-flea your cats and dogs!"

Got it! Who knew?

That is the wonder of such books. They bring to the forefront information for consideration and new learning. Not really surprising to learn that the assassin bug, the fangtooth moray eel, the tyrant leech king give a bad vibe. It is important for readers to realize that included species do what they do to survive. They each have a role to play in the workings of the world and the habitats where they reside. The inclusion of the HUMAN might come as a surprise - it shouldn't!

"Pollution from industry and cars, habitat destruction, overfishing, and overhunting are all consequences of human development."

The author leaves readers with a question to ponder - Is it a monster? Look closely!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Rain, written and illustrated by Sam Usher. templar books, Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $23.00 ages 4 and up

"So I said, "Grandad, I'd like to go on a voyage with sea monsters." And Granddad said, "Let's just wait for the rain to stop." But did the rain stop? No! So we waited some more. And Granddad got very busy writing. I said, "Granddad, I'd like to visit a floating city ... with acrobats and carnivals and musical boatmen!" And Granddad said ... "Quick! Let's go - I need to get this in the mail!"

Who doesn't love rain?

Sam and Grandpa are together for the day. Will they let rain dampen that? Sam badly wants to be outside, enjoying the puddles and seeing his reflection in them. Grandpa wants to wait until the rain stops.

What a disappointment! Sam sits at the window waiting and pining, and reading and wishing, and drinking hot chocolate and reading. Grandpa is busy with his own work: reading the paper, checking the mail, doing some writing. Sam continues to stare through the window at the rainfall while imagining adventure with sea monsters and floating cities. Suddenly, Grandpa has a need to put his letter in the mail.

The rain has stopped. The adventure has just begun! Was it worth waiting for? INDEED!

You cannot help but want to read this book again and again. There is so much to see, to ponder, to wonder at. You will notice something new each time you share it. It's a family story that reflects a special bond between generations, that embraces patience and adventure, and that shows the beauty of the natural world.

Mr. Usher's ink and watercolor images are brilliant. Inside, the detailed artwork is bright and lively. Outside, the spreads are dark and filled with raindrops and rising water. Inside, Sam spends his time watching through the windowpanes while also reading books meant to up his desire for water adventures. Outside, people brave the onslaught with umbrellas and rain boots. The spread showing their reflection as they step outside into the water that laps their doorstep is glorious!

Pair this with Snow (2015) and Sun (2017) and you are past halfway to celebrating each of the year's seasons.