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Monday, April 30, 2018

Hello Hello, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2018. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Hello Hello

Black and white

Hello Color
Hello Bright.

Hello Stripes"

The endpapers hint at the animals we might encounter once we turn the pages of this spirited and dazzling new book by the author of They All Saw A Cat, an impressive picture book about perspective. A turn following the title page brings two cats into focus. One is black, and one is white. They stare at each other across the gutter. Turn the page that black cat greets black bear, faced by a black and white panda and zebra. The text reads black and white. Another turn and the eye is drawn to color ... brilliant color and an end to the first poetic rhyme. Connections are made from one to the next page throughout the entirety of the book, causing readers to consider how important the connections are.

With every step forward readers focus on animals of the world. Some are familiar, some not so. All are worthy of careful study. The mixed media images reveal recognizable features, while also giving the animals personality through the use of expressive eyes. Mr. Wenzel wants his readers to know the many animals that share our world, and to know that many of the ones pictured are on the near
threatened, vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered lists.  How sad is that?

He encourages those who read his book to take the first step - say hello to one and then find out as much as you can about them. Share what you learn and encourage others to do the same. In back matter, he creates a list of each of the animals as it appears in this wonderful book. From the house cat, all the way through to the giraffe (number 92 on his list), it provides encouragement for all to go back and more careful look at all he has shared. Each is named and their status described. In the animal world between 200 and 2,000 species face extinction every single year!  What a sad commentary on the importance we give to each and every one. But, we can help make a change.

What life is on these pages! We can only hope that it remains so.                                                                              

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Things That I LOVE About TREES, wirtten by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by Charlotte Voake. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2018. $2018. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"It's spring!

And the thing
about trees that I love
in the spring is that
changes begin.

There are buds, like beads,
getting bigger
on the branches ... "

Kids are such celebrants! I watch out the window every day as the kids at the school across the street enjoy these early spring days. They are noisier, happier, dressed in t-shirts and flip-flops, despite the still cool temperatures. I like to be in that procession. Spirits are lifted following the long, cold, dreary days of winter. Lucky us!

The little girl in this homage to trees is also happy to welcome the new buds and emerging leaves on the plum tree. She watches the activity and the life that is found there, and has some information to share with readers.

"New leaves are usually bright green
and still a bit crumpled. When you
touch them, they feel soft."

As spring moves into summer, there are other things she LOVES about TREES. They look so big, they provide shade and they make lovely sounds when summer breezes blow.

"By summer, leaves are
thicker, stronger, and
darker green than
they were in spring."

In fall, the colors are very special, and the fruit is ripe. You can catch blowing leaves, if you are lucky enough to be there when they fall. Finally, in winter, the trees are bare and quite lovely. You can see right to the very top.

Then, the wait begins for new growth in spring!

Charlotte Voake, as she always does, creates gorgeous images that match the text perfectly. Watercolors and black ink illustrations will have young readers reaching out to touch the branches and bark of her stately trees.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow, by Jan Thornhill. Groundwood Books, 2018. $18.95 ages 10 and up

"Pros and cons began appearing in newspapers across the land. Name calling began. The House Sparrow was called a villain, a cuss, a disreputable character, a glutton and a parasite. It was impudent, insolent, irascible, irritable, intolerable and lazy. It even caused fires? In Pittsburgh, it lined its nests with fluff from the cotton mill that ignited ... "

Jan Thornhill has written another stunning nonfiction book about birds. Her story of the house sparrow is a notable companion to 2016's The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk. In talking with those who have shared the auk's story in classrooms, I am told their students feel it reads like the best of stories.

This narrative text that tells the history of the house sparrow is written with the same results. Reading it is a joy! I see them every day, and have never once wondered about the house sparrow and its history of adaptability. By the time I finished reading this remarkable book, I was in awe, once again, of Ms. Thornhill's capacity to tell a grand story after doing plentiful research - and make it both
meaningful and memorable.

For thousands of years, the house sparrow has flourished in an ever-changing world. It's ability to adapt is quite the remarkable tale. Ms. Thornhill tells it with respect and wonder. Dating back 12,000 years, she writes that the sparrow has charted its course in the company of humans, managing to find the food and shelter needed. Although there have been times when its numbers decreased due to improved farming practises, the sparrow has always proven its ability to adapt and prosper. Quite remarkable!

 Despite numerous attempts to lessen its numbers, it has always made a resurgence and today remains a presence in our lives, and the lives of people around the world. Written chronologically and conversational in tone, our connection to this tiny bird is made clear to us.

There is also some sad news:

"In North America, House Sparrow numbers have dropped
so much in some communities that it has become hard to find.
But - unlike in Europe and India - in North America, no
alarm has been sounded. The plight of the polar bear - an
animal that few have seen in the wild - is constantly in the
news. But a sudden crash in population of a bird that is so
common you hardly even notice it? No one seems to care."

Her accurate and appealing digital artwork is perfectly placed on pages of text, showing the birds throughout history and in many interesting and engaging circumstances. Detailed, textured and realistic, they are sure to garner much attention.

In final pages, Ms. Thornhill includes a world map showing where sparrows originated and how they spread, an illustrated life cycle, a brief glossary of terms introduced in the text, and a list of resources and references.

I found it very interesting to read a section there titled Wild Animals That Choose To Live With Us. Sparrows are not the only animals who have made the adaptations necessary to live among us. Life is easier for them when they can find shelter, protection and food. A pretty extensive list is provided and the author advises that we might look to our own environments and find as many as we can - and then take the time to learn as much as we can about them. What an idea! 

Friday, April 27, 2018

a house that once was, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Lane Smith. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2018. $26.99 ages 5 and up

"Tiptoe creep
up the path
up the path that is hiding.
A path that once welcomed.
A path that is winding.
A path that's now covered
in weeds.
At the front of the house
the house that is waiting
there's a door that is not
really open but barely ... "

Two youngsters are out on an adventure when they walk up to an old and abandoned house. A winding path through the woods leads them there. Who lived there? What is it like inside? Luckily, a glassless window allows entry; the children make their way inside. They whisper as they go, while knowing no one would mind if they talked. And they continue to wonder about many things.

"Who was this someone
who ate beans for dinner
who sat by this fire
who looked in this mirror?
Who was this someone
whose books have been waiting
whose bed is still made
whose pictures are fading?"

So many questions, asked directly of those reading the pages of a book meant for the senses. I love that we see the present in contrast to what the children imagine of the past. The change from one technique to another represents those changes. Mr. Smith explains:

Lane Smith's illustrations 'were done in two different techniques. The "present day" illustrations were made with India ink, drawn on vellum with a crow quill pen, then pressed while wet onto watercolor paper creating a blotted line effect. The colors were painted in oil over gesso then scanned and added digitally under the ink-line. The "imagined" scenes were painted in oil paint on hot press board and scanned along with paper collage elements that were combined digitally."

How I wish all books included the artist's choices for design and media! 

No longer a home, but with stories to tell. A house that once was, indeed! Read this book once, and then again and again. Each time, you will notice more, be inspired by the rhythmic language and the understanding the author has for inquisitive, imaginative children, see the beauty in the endpapers and note the changing font color while being aware of the bluebirds that accompany the young visitors. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing, written by Hiawyn Oram and illustrated by Birgitta Sif. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2017. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"When nearly all the trees were gone, Snowboy thought, We can't breathe without trees. And he left one standing, hidden by his cloak of many uses. "OK," said Greenbackboy. "All the trees have gone to be made into things. In return for them we got this. Look!" 

In the world of imagination that two young boys create, we meet Snowboy and Greenbackboy. Snowboy and his Ice Troopers (two pigs) and the Polar Bear King are busy defeating a threat to their world when Greenbackboy shows up to play - and to make up a whole new game. He is certain his will be more fun. Snowboy complies, bringing along his Cloak of Many Uses.

The game is called KA-CHING, and the setting for the first part is the forest. Dark and somewhat forbidding, the players enter. Their task is to cut down all the trees. Snowboy knows better, and manages to hide one from his bossy friend. The trees are quickly sent away. Greenbackboy has chests full of KA-CHING to show for their work.

Next are the oceans. Plenty of fish to catch, pile in their boat, and be paid off with even more KA-CHING. Again, Snowboy knows that oceans need fish to survive. So, he lets two slip back into the water, unbeknownst to his greedy friend. The rest of the fish are sent for canning, Greenbackboy gets his reward, and he begins making plans for using all they are gathered. At that moment, a terrible storm blows in.

"As there were no trees to snag its wings,
 it swept all before it, tossing the mountains
of canned fish into the empty oceans,
where they sank and rusted and were lost."

Greenbackboy is unconcerned. He still has the KA-CHING! What good will it do now? Snowboy wonders. He's out of the game. He and his pals are left to do what they can to make their world a better place. Greenbackboy gets his comeuppance, and must ask for help.

An impressive tale of avarice and what results when we care more about money than about the world we live in. It's an important message for every one of us. The story is told with a real sense of goodness, and bravery. Great instincts, Snowboy!

Birgitta Sif does not disappoint, using her formidable artistic talent to bring quirky players and subtle light to this fine story. In the midst of greed's darkness, her expressive characters allow readers to feel the pain felt when no concern is shown for the natural world. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rewilding: Giving Nature a Second Chance, by Jane Drake and Ann Love. Annick Press, 2017. $14.95 ages 10 and up

"Every plant and animal needs a certain amount of core space to survive. That space has to include the right arrangement of water, food, and shelter for the species. A whale needs a lot more water than, say, a shrimp.  In rewilding, a core is a stretch of habitat large enough to support all the forms of life that exist there naturally in the wild."

There are efforts being made throughout the world to ensure that natural habitats are restored in support of the plants and animals native to those particular spaces. The introduction explains:

"Rewilding is a big, new idea. "Rewilders" are stepping back and completely rethinking the relationship between people and our living Earth. Rewilders want to restore habitats to their natural state, easing the damage done by humans. They want to recreate wild environments that will support native species and make room for animals to move freely across vast spaces. In this way, they believe, we can help our endangered species survive ... and thrive!"  

There you have it! Now you know what Jane Drake and Ann Love want us to learn while reading their new book. The design is appealing and educational, with a mix of archival and current photographs, captioned info boxes, conversational and accessible text for their target audience, and a smooth transition from one section to the next.

There are six sections presented in a useful table of contents, each section providing a list of headings that will allow readers to find what is of most interest to them as they read. Each heading describes the theme for two pages of information. I chose The American Eel as a starting point; I had little knowledge of a constantly occurring crossword answer. The two pages provide just the right amount of information to satisfy my need to know, without overwhelming me with too much data.                                                                   
I like that attention is given to efforts around the world - from Yellowstone to Namibia, from Europe to Newfoundland and Labrador. The authors also let readers know about the successes from a variety of places. The overview it provides will encourage those with a lingering interest to find out more. I think that is a very special benefit when our children read nonfiction. 

Readers will learn about keystone species, cores, wildlife corridors, and efforts to scale back our worries about endangered species. They will also come to know that the best laid plans are not always successful, and that failure leads to further efforts to improve ideas and methods for helping to 'rewild' our world.

Final pages include a glossary, a list of selected sources, ideas for further research, image credits and a helpful index.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Florette, wirtten and illustrated by Anna Walker. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast, 2018. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Mae was tired of those boxes.

Down below, people moved like ants winding through the streets. Beyond them, Mae spied an open space. A space with trees and a swing. When Mae's mother was ready to go out, Mae ran downstairs and led the way on a new path. She turned the corner and ... "

Moving can be a very traumatic experience. Mae's family has made the move from an idyllic countryside life to a new apartment and crowded city streets. Mae misses her garden, and can't see any room for the trees and flowers she so loves. Despite searching, she finds little to make her feel settled and happy. She misses her friends, the birds, and finding treasures to keep for herself.  

A courtyard provides space for chalk drawing ... imaginary flowers, insects and butterflies. Rain soon erases those memories. She creates a flower-filled indoor space by decorating the moving boxes, preparing a space for a picnic ... that is no more successful. Boxes topple, the tea spills and Mae is irritated enough to get out with her mother to try and find an outdoor play space. An empty park with empty chairs. On they go. When she spots an 'apple-tree' bird, she is quick to follow it.

Too soon, the bird flies through a tiny window and into a large, leafy florist shop named Florette. Lush and inviting, it is discouraging to learn that it is closed. After a long wait, Mae is thrilled to discover 'a small green sprout peeking through a gap' ... "  It offers hope and provides joy. It is a new beginning!

The gorgeous watercolor artwork is ideal for telling this winsome story of a little girl lost until she finds the beauty in one shop inspires her to make a difference for her new home. Beautiful!


Monday, April 23, 2018

My Wounded Island, written by Jacques Pasquet and illustrated by Marion Arbona. Translated from the French by Sophie B. Watson. Orca Books, 2017. $19.95 ages 9 and up

"Why is this creature trying to hurt our island? Why isn't the goddess of the sea, Sedna, protecting us? Grandfather says she can do nothing. Our island is wounded, gnawed away bit by bit by a monster that is unknown to the gods, goddesses and spirits who looked after our people ... " 

Imarvaluk and her family live on Sarichef Island. It is so tiny that, on a map, it looks like a speck near the Arctic Circle between Alaska and Russia. The real problem is that Sarichef is getting even smaller, devoured by a fearsome sea creature. The Inupiat have lived on the island for many years. Though there have been changes, they have been able to support their families through a connection to life there and at sea. It is their winter home.

During the summer, they live on the mainland, gathering berries, fishing and hunting caribou. Life is forever changing and Imarvaluk is frightened by the strength of the sea.

"I can't ever forget the fury of the sea.
 Once,  huge waves, so high and so
strong, almost swallowed the entire

As the sea creature continues to threaten their way of life, outsiders have come to study the island. They explain that this is no mythic creature working its bad magic. Rather, it is climate change and it is happening in other places in the world as well.

'We watched a film that showed what is happening
to islands like ours. Because of the warmer temperatures,
glaciers are melting and the water is rising. Our island, like
all the others that are too close to sea level, could
disappear under the sea."

Nightmares for Imarvaluk are just one consequence of this new knowledge. The other is that any house sitting close to the sea will have to be moved to the middle of the island where all the other houses are. Eventually, they will have to leave the island for good. Then what? Solutions are discussed and considered, including a move to Nome. That does not sit well with Grandfather. He prefers a permanent move to their summer camp on the mainland.

"What worries Grandfather the most is that
the creature will make not only our land
disappear but also the memories of our

It is a terrible thought, and a scary future for too many. This is a book for older readers, and is sure to evoke serious conversation. Making it personal and real through a story of the people affected most by the warming climate and the shrinking sea ice gives perspective to news stories and environmental warnings. Ms. Arbona's  mixed media illustrations match the tone perfectly. She uses rich tones and important detail to depict the growing sense of dread, while also providing a threatening sea monster intent on devouring what has been their way of life.

A brief glossary that defines both geography and culture adds context.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Girl Who Tamed the Wind, written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Lee White. Schwartz and Wade Books, Penguin Random House. 2018. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"The wind blew, the shutters
banged, the boards bent, the
table tipped, and the tea spilled.

The tea spilled and the bread
broke on the tippy table in the
creaky house at the tip-top of
the steep hill.

And still the wind blew."

Kate proves to readers that she knows much about the earth, its needs, and how to make a difference. She will certainly be celebrating Earth Day today with the rest of us.

Kate is doing what young girls like to do on windy spring days. She wants to be outdoors, and is busy with a game of hopscotch. The man who lives alone on the top of a nearby hill enjoys the light wind that blows - until he doesn't. He is hanging freshly washed laundry when that wind picks up and blows his clothing away. Then, it blows until his shutters bang and the house boards bend. It is blowing up a catastrophe, and the man is at his wit's end.

Kate hears his cry of lament as the wind whips his words past her on the sidewalk. Not sure what to do, she draws up a plan with her chalk. She knows that stopping the wind is impossible for one small girl; she also knows how to help. Up she goes with a wagonload of new trees. Together the two plant those trees. Luckily, they are both patient people.

As the wind continues blowing, the trees continue growing - through seasons and over the years. Kate grows, too. The old man ages. They practice patience together, until the trees have fully grown and offer protection from the relentless wind. The house returns to its original state. A picnic at the top of the hill become a pleasant diversion - all because of trees.

Word choice and cumulative text makes for a lively tale. Mixed media artwork has an earthy vibe, while also brimming with movement. The book is a testament to children making a difference, and the need for concern about our natural world. This is a terrific story to read aloud for Earth Day, or any other day.

Ms. Scanlon adds an informative author’s note entitled “More About Marvelous Trees.” It contains background data for the role trees play in the earth’s ecosystem. Added is a list of  internet resources for those who want to help make our world a better place.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

From the Heart of Africa: A Book of Wisdom, collected by Eric Walters. Tundra, Penguin Random House. 2018. $21.99 all ages

"Children are the
reward of life.


Meaning: Community
is very important, and
children are a big part
of any community."

That meaning entry continues: You are pretty special! Everything your parents, your grandparents and everyone else who came before you learned gets passed down, so those ancestors live through you.

Further to that in back matter, we are told the illustrator of the charming illustration that accompanies the proverb is 'Roge, a French Canadian artist who worked in advertising before turning to illustration, painting and writing. He has twice won the Governor General's Literary Award and numerous others. He lives in Quebec.'

The format for this very special book features a double page spread where each adage, origin and meaning are placed on a facing page to an accompanying illustration. The adages have been collected during Mr. Walters' travels in Africa. The diverse group of 15 illustrators whose works honor its pages represent abundant variety in style and medium.

"If you wish to go fast, go alone.
If you wish to go far, go together.


Meaning: If you need to get somewhere fast,
going alone means no one will slow you down.
But if you're alone, you might be stopped by
obstacles that you can't overcome without help."

The bird's-eye view image shows a zebra speeding forward accompanied by a flock of fast-flying brown birds. Information from the endnotes says this: 'Setor Fiadzibey is an illustrator and former aircraft trainee engineer from Accra, Ghana. He's been drawing all his life, and he was nominated for the Golden Baobab Prize and the Keunyehia Prize.'

A letter from the author, a foreword from Dr. Femi Kolapo, and the short artist bios add context and interest for adults who share this book with its intended audience. In his foreword, Dr.Kolapo suggests that aphorisms are a “kind of portable knowledge” originating in the oral tradition. Each is better read aloud, and then considered for its invitation to think about, respond, and apply to our own lives.

A portion of Walters’ royalties from this book will be donated to the Kenyan orphans supported through his Creation of Hope organization, with Penguin Random House Canada matching that amount. 
Lately I have been taking a careful look at the age ranges suggested by publishers. In numerous posts, I have changed their suggested range, thinking that many of the illustrated books are more suited to older readers or, as in this case, all ages. Anyone can appreciate the beauty and the idea that brings it to our attention.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Honey, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein. Penguin Random House. 2018. $22.99 ages 3 and up

"Warm, golden, sweet,

clear, slowly flowing,

spicy, aromatic,
sparkling with sunlight -


But it was too soon
for honey."

We met this bear first in Leaves as he explored autumn for the first time, and then hunkered down to sleep the winter away.  Now, spring has finally arrived! In his second year, the young bear awakens with an empty stomach and a craving for honey! He can't wait to taste it again!

He munches as he wanders from his winter home to the tree he remembers so fondly - and its wealth of golden, drippy honey. What? He's too early! No honey yet. When it is not ready, he does what he can to forget about it, and get on with rolling in the grass, sitting on tree limbs, exploring the stream, and eating flavorful berries.

None of that alleviates his need for honey. Back he goes! Still too soon. The return of summer heat brings rain, which he loves. Sticking his nose back in the tree for a third time earns him a sting from a bothered bee. Water helps ease that pain and provides joy and activity to fill his days. He almost forgets about the honey, until he hears a buzz. Patience has paid off - it's time for honey!

The pen-and-watercolor images are as alluring as Bear's need for the honey that brings such joy! Lots of white space and framed illustrations keep attention on Bear's activities and environment as he anticipates (a trifle impatiently) the deliciousness he knows is in store for him. The many details will engage young listeners as the story is shared aloud.

Seasons pass from spring, to summer and finally to autumn. He has much to consider as he thinks back on the many pleasures he has experienced.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About A Simple Act of Kindness, by Kerascoet. Schwartz and Wade Books, Penguin Random House. 2018. $23.99 all ages

A new home.

A new school.

A new classroom.


A bully.

We were talking about bullying at lunch today. It never goes away, does it? We all wish there was an simple solution to a problem that is generations old! I think that picture books can have a huge impact. In our rush to get 'everything' done in families and in classrooms, have we forgotten that kids need to sit and listen to books that help them understand how others feel, and how to make changes when they see something they don't like? How I wish we did not need to see such an uptick in the number of books being published that have kindness at the heart of the story.

In saying that, there are a growing number of books that encourage thoughtful consideration of others, and offer ways that even the very young can help to make a real difference. That is why I wanted to share this charming new book with you.

There are no words, and none are needed. Inspired by real events, it presents readers with a new girl in school, Vanessa. We watch as her family moves their belongings into a new home. Then, are with her as she attends her first day. She is obviously nervous and that is reflected in her looking down, sitting alone in the gym while others play basketball, and walking alone at the end of the day. On her way home, she is bullied by one of her classmates. Scared and alone, she rushes home.

In the following set of images, we see that one little girl has noticed what happened. She sadly watches Vanessa as she runs inside. She tells the friends she is with, and  they all head home, sadness etched on their faces and in their demeanor. She is bothered enough that her evening is miserable and so is bedtime.

In the early morning as the family prepares for the coming day, she has an idea and rushes off to knock on Vanessa's door and walk with her to school. Hand in hand, they meet many other children as they go - every one of them joining in to make Vanessa feel welcome. The crowd grows until only one child is left out of the group gathered to begin another school day.

There is no need for words. The message is clear - together, we can change our community and in time, the world! That's a procession I want to join.

Simple and powerful, expressive and uplifting.

I love the endpapers, and the center spread that shows how both girls are feeling that first night!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Is It Warm Enough For Ice Cream? Written by Violet Peto. DK Books, 2018. $12.99 ages 2 and up

"In spring ...

the sun rises earlier
trees blossom
the first flowers bloom
chicks hatch
rainbows appear
lambs are born
rabbits play
birds return and lay eggs "

My front door is open today to sunshine and a smidgen of warmth! It is the first time in months, and I may just be jumping the gun a tiny bit. But, the sun is shining, the snow is melting quickly, there is no wind, and the kids at the school across the street were out for recess in shirt sleeves this afternoon. We may all be a bit ahead of time, but it feels just lovely!

The title question is asked to lead young readers through the four seasons, beginning in fall and moving toward summer ... when you know the time for ice cream is right! Of course, ice cream is not only eaten on the hot days of summer. It does seem most appropriate when your brow is sweating, your tongue is dry and you long for something cold to help deal with the heat of summer. Our Dairy Queen opened the first of March and there are people there every single time I drive past. Ice cream can, and should, be eaten on any given day, don't you think?

The book's pattern is the same for each of the different times of year. A double page spread heralds some of the signs of the season. Engaging, colorful and clear photographs accompany each of the stated harbingers. Turn the page and the question is asked ... Is it warm enough for ice cream? Asked and answered on the second spread. It may not be warm enough for ice cream, but the particular season is perfect for a lot of other activities. Then, we move on to the next.

The text explores seasons, weather, and what animals and children are doing in such weather. Mixing photographs with detailed digital images invites little ones to take a careful look and think about all the wonder of the presented season. 'NO!' until you finally get to summer, and then a clear 'YES!' Finally, it's really time for ice cream. HUZZAH!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Baby Monkey, Private Eye, by Brian Selznick and David Serlin. Scholastic, 2018. $21.99 all ages

"Baby Monkey!
Someone has stolen my pizza!

Baby Monkey can help!

Baby Monkey looks for clues.

Baby Monkey writes notes.

Baby Monkey eats a snack."

Baby Monkey is ready to search for a suspect! Wait! First, he needs to put his pants on ... not an easy task, to say the least. Finally ready, magnifying glass in hand, Baby Monkey quickly solves the case. Back in his office, he anticipates what might happen next.

What a collaboration this is for Brian Selznick and his husband, David Serlin! It's been a long time in the idea stage. Twenty years or so. There were rules for the development of the story ... an unusual and humorous job for a baby monkey, an unexpected difficulty for one who is so smart (the pants problem), and everything that went into the book had to make the two of them laugh.

 Aces! This wonderful book meets every one of those rules and so much more. Imagine the early reader who picks up a book of nearly two hundred pages, boasting five separate chapters (one for each case solved) and finishing it independently!!! The text is repetitive and unlikely to provide a single bump in the reading. The wonderful black-and-white illustrations, accompanied by bright red details in pertinent places will delight both children and adults alike.

As each client shows up with a problem, Baby Monkey gets right to his personal approach for solving all criminal cases. As the reader is introduced to a singer, a chef, a clown, and an astronaut, his process remains the same. And in each chapter, Brian Selznick entertains with variety in the way Baby Monkey solves the pants problem, and in the structure of his office to match the upcoming case. Through these he provides clues to the next needy client. Brilliant! Thankfully, for those of us who cannot quite make the a connection to every clue in the office spreads, he provides a key to each in back matter. If you are like me, you will be pretty happy with what you recognized, and a touch frustrated by what you missed.
The final case offers a whisper of mystery. The client is unseen but for a bonnet and dress. Tired after a hard day's work, Baby Monkey's usual approach comes undone.
"Baby Monkey!
Can you help me find my baby?
No time for clues.
No time for notes.
No time for snacks.
No time for pants."
What the what? Will Baby Monkey be able to solve this final case? Oh, yes! He will. I will leave it to you to find out how ...  

Monday, April 16, 2018

On The Night of the Shooting Star, written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Jenni Desmond. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2017. $22.99 ages 4 and up

"Every morning, first thing,
Bunny looks through the fence
and the tall grass at Dog.

And every morning, first thing,
Dog looks through the fence
and the tall grass at Bunny.

No one says hello.
Or hi.
Or nice to see you today."

They are neighbors. They live their own separate lives. Bunny's yard is grassy, with a rabbit shaped door on the hutch, a ladder to the rooftop garden and a swing hanging from a tall tree. Dog's yard has a meticulously mowed lawn, a 'do not disturb' sign on the door, a carefully contained garden, and a comfy chair placed in the shade of a flowering tree. Their houses inside have much in common.

Their lives are sedate and enjoyable. They certainly are aware of the their neighbor. As they go about their days, each peeks at the other. As they settle in at night, they check that the light is on next door. But they never take the time to greet one another. Seasons come and go. They stick to themselves although they do wonder.

"One sleepless night, Bunny goes out to the
yard to watch the stars above the little red house.
Dog's house. Dog needs a friend, she thinks.
Who could be Dog's friend?
The stars are dim but beautiful that night."

As luck would have it, Dog is also mindful of Bunny's need for a friend.  Then, fate intervenes. The two share a very special occurrence, and friendship blooms.

I am such a fan of both author and illustrator. Together, they have created a warm story of found and lasting friendship. Though, at one time, each was happy with their own company, Dog and Bunny are story-living proof that life can be much better with a friend at your side.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sleep Tight, Charlie. Written by Michael Escoffier and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo. Princeton Architectural Press, Raincoast. $23.95 ages 3 and up

"Pardon me, Bird,
do you know what time it is?"

"Sorry, I thought I was
alone out here."

"Well, you're not,
and it's bedtime.
I am trying to sleep!"

"No problem," ... "

If you have ever dealt with kids and bedtime, you will know just how important a bedtime routine can be ... especially for your own sanity! It is so much easier when little ones know what is expected of them and, if they get to bed before they lose all sense of the composure needed to ensure a peaceful settling in. This book may not help with that!

Charlie has the perfect routine. It's time to settle down. Everything is in its proper place, all rituals followed. Charlie doffs his bowler and is soon sound asleep. A very loud TAPPING brings a quick end to his slumber. He speaks firmly to the bird; the bird retreats. Bedtime begins all over again.

"Charlie drinks a sip of water.

He places his glass back
on his bedside table.

He puts his slippers on the rug.

He makes sure there isn't
a monster under the bed.

He hugs his teddy bear tight.

He closes one eye, then the other.

And then Charlie falls asleep."

A squirrel cracking nuts, a mouse on a squeaky swing; it's all too much to bear. With each rude awakening, Charlie's nightly routine gets more and more confused - until a final surprise ending!

The sounds are loud, the resulting confusion and sleeplessness obvious, the dark smudgy artwork perfect, the humor contagious. Many details will be noticed, loud guffaws will accompany Charlie's confusion with each wake-up, and the final scene is sure to have that child you are reading a 'bedtime' story to begging for one more time!

 You won't read this once. It will rise to the top of the pile again and again. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Old MacDonald Had a Boat, written by Steve Goetz and illustrated by Eda Kaban. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2018. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"Old MacDonald had a farm

E - I -E - I - O.

And on that farm
he had a  ...

W H O A!"

It's amazing what you can get done if you have the will to make things happen. If you read Old MacDonald Had A Truck (2016), you will know that you have come to the right farmers to see what hard work can accomplish. This Old MacDonald and his very skilled wife have many skills that none of us could know about if we first met Old MacDonald in the children's song. There, we met his animals and learned little about the man himself, or his family.

If this is your second meeting with this particular Old MacDonald, you will know all the many construction machines the farm animals and Mrs. MacDonald used to create a souped-up version of their tired, dilapidated truck, while Old MacDonald was producing a terrific track and grandstand for a speed race audience.

Now, they are using that terrific truck to bring in an old fishing boat. With the help of the farm animals, saws, hammers, a torch, a sander and paint they fashion a  'Finntastic' power boat that can tow anyone who happens to love water sports!

It's a spirited new adventure for the farm inhabitants, and full of boisterous entertainment for young readers. The quiet of the early morning gives way to much work. That work pays off when, at the end of the day, all benefit from the transformation and can end their day happily enjoying the many pleasures of being on the water. Finally, the cool evening breezes and waning daylight allow a quiet opportunity to reflect on the day's events.

Each of the spreads provide energy and images for exploration. The onomatopoeic language, the expressions on the animals' faces, and the leadership offered by the farmers themselves add interest and context for all that is happening here.

We will look forward to your next adventure, Old MacDonald!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Can't Catch Me! Written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2017. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Can't catch me!" sings Jake. "I'm the fastest mouse in the world!"

The wolf runs and runs.
It sprints and springs. But it
doesn't have a chance: it can't catch Jake.
Jake runs out of the woods and up into the hills."

I'm excited, because I am going to be reading this book today in early years classrooms as we continue to celebrate I Love To Read! It is great fun to read aloud, and to hear the kids' reactions to the two main characters and their personalities ... the fact that there is a surprise ending just adds to the delight of sharing it with them!

It's a grand tale. Jake considers himself the fastest mouse in the world. It takes him no time to prove that to his readers, and to Old Tom who would love to have Jake for lunch. Jake tests Tom's patience right from the opening page. Bragging and bounding away, Jake is gone and Tom is left with an empty stomach and an annoyed look.

Jake is off and aims his windbag ways at a fox, a wolf, and a bear. All are left in his dust, embarrassment etched on their faces, anger in their hearts, and growling in their stomachs. While taunting those who cross his path, Jake makes his way around the 'world', only to end up right where he began. Jake's absence has given Old Tom a chance to sharpen his wits and devise a plan!

Jake returns home as arrogant as ever, and readers will be of two minds when concerning yet another escape from Old Tom. I will be interested to hear what listeners this afternoon think.

Timothy Knapman and Simona Ciraolo are perfect collaborators for this well-told tale. Mr. Knapman's words carry the action through snappy dialogue from one predator to the next, while Ms. Ciraolo’s sunny setting and expressive characters add humor and perspective in pencil and watercolor images that beg to be carefully considered as the story moves toward its perfect ending.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

I'm A Duck, wirtten by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2018.

"Now I'm a duck
who's scared to go
in the pond or lake,
and so
I cannot swim, and
that is bad.
A landlocked duck
is very sad.
My brothers,
swimming in a line ... "

Have you ever been afraid to try something? I'll bet you have, and I know for certain that you know children who feel the same way. Duck is no different. Just because you have webbed feet, a big bill, and a family who loves swimming, doesn't mean you are a duck who feels confident in giving it a go.

Duck has reason to be afraid of water. Before even hatching, the tiny egg rolled out of the nest and into the nearby pond. But for an observant mother who was an accomplished swimmer (as readers might expect), that egg may never have had the chance to hatch. What a shame that would have been!

Once hatched, the little duckling discovers an aversion to water; thus, Duck cannot swim despite encouragement from siblings, friend Big Frog and sage advice from Owl. Owl does provide impetus to give swimming a try, since Duck is specially equipped for life in the water. Practice will make the  new skill perfect.

Choosing a puddle for a test run, Duck prepares for the big moment:

"I puddle-swim all day and night.
It's nice to swim by pale moonlight!
My mother brings me out a snack.
She dries my feathers, rubs my back."

And now, it's time for courageous action! Scared as can be, Duck summons up all the daring and determination needed to live life on terms of its own, as a backstroker. Bravo!

I will let Will Hillenbrand describe visual literacy for you:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Cody and the Heart of a Champion, written by Tricia Springstubb and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2018. $20.99 ages 7 and up

"Every morning he ate the exact same thing for breakfast. Hooley's peanut butter on toast. When his family went on vacation, they took along a jar of Hooley's. Every night, he kissed his mother first. Then his father. Then GG. If one of them wasn't home, Spencer had a hard time going to sleep. Also, he did not like loud noises, throw-up, or the smell of poop."

Finally, it's spring. We all know how Cody is feeling - ready for all of its splendor and warmth. If you have met her in previous books, you will know that she loves watching ants, has a best friend, Spencer, who lives nearby and a school friend, Pearl.

Things are changing, and Cody is not totally convinced that change is for the better. Her red jacket meant to welcome spring is too small. She really doesn't want it replaced with something new. The ants are not yet convinced it's warm enough to begin their marching. Pearl is spending time with Madison, a top soccer player and know-it-all. Pearl wants Cody to sign up for soccer, too. Spencer has dire warnings about soccer injuries, and no interest in playing. Madison does nothing to endear herself to Cody; but, Cody decides to sign up to play. Coach Yazmin encourages Cody to develop her skills and things on the soccer field improve. That brings some satisfaction.

As all of this is happening, Spencer has taken to building a museum under his grandmother's front porch. He and his family have always lived with GG. But, the family is expanding and they need to find a place of their own. Spencer is reluctant to talk about the move, and the two have a falling out that must be settled. You will love The Museum of Friends.

The secondary characters are as supportive and endearing as in previous stories. Cody's family is loving, helpful and warm. Friends and neighbors make all things better. As the many changes take place, Cody continues to grow and learn and endear herself to fans.

Tricia Springstubb has her finger on the pulse of childhood in this winning series. In Cody, she has created a thoughtful, honest and positive lead character. If you haven't met her yet, you have a treat in store.

Here are the other books in the series:

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness (Candlewick, 2015)
Cody and the Mysteries of the Universe (Candlewick, 2016)
Cody and the Rules of Life  (Candlewick, 2017)

Dory Fantasmagory: Head in the Clouds, written and illustrated by Abby Hanlon. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House, 2018. $21.99 ages 7 and up

"My loof is toof," I say. "I mean, my toof is loof." "Let me feel," says Melody. She wiggles my tooth. "Yup, it wiggles!" she whispers. "My first loose tooth!!!!" I yell. And then Melody bursts into tears. The giant kind. "Oh, no! Why are you crying!" "Do you know what this means?" she asks. "Yes! It means the tooth fairy is coming!!" "It means you are growing up!" she sobs."

Two new early chapter books for kids transitioning to longer text are on my mind today. Both are new additions to ongoing series, and have familiar characters who are much loved by fans, young and old.

I can't wait to share this new story about Dory with Sicily next month. She will love her spunk, her imagination, and each of the other characters who have a role to play in her newest dilemma. It is the fourth book in the series, and Dory experiences her first loose tooth. What an exciting time for a very demonstrative young girl! With the tooth fairy front of mind, her constant chatter wears on her older siblings - as we have come to expect. They do as they have always done: give advice, call her names, rat on her and fill her head with untruths.

If you know Dory, you know all about her buoyant personality, her propensity for imaginary friends and the hilarity that ensues whenever she encounters a new unsavory situation with her enemy, Mrs. Gobble Gracker. This time, said enemy wants more attention than she is getting. So, she decides that she will usurp the tooth fairy's job. Dory is frantic to get the tooth fairy her job back, expecting reimbursement for the lost tooth. Everyone deserves that first dollar, right?

The dialogue is as rich and funny as in previous tales, the situations will feel familiar to all young children, and the black-and-white, detailed, humorous artwork adds context and a bunch of enjoyment for all who share it.

 “My two worlds swirl together like a chocolate and vanilla ice cream cone. Real and unreal get mixed up in one crazy flavor.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Escape From Syria, by Samya Kullab, Jackie Roche and Mike Freiheit. A Firefly Book, 2017. $19.95 ages 12 and up

"Toronto, Canada, 2017
"Dad, do you think we will
ever be able to call this place
"We are so lucky - don't
you remember why?"

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2015.
"Back then, Dad, you said we
were only leaving home for a
few months."

As we hear news about another nerve gas attack on the people of Syria, it remains unimaginable that a government could do that to innocent residents who are trying to keep themselves and their families safe. It is important that we continue to be aware of the unending tragedy for so many.

This honest account of what has happened and continues to happen in Syria first places readers in Aleppo City in 2013, where we meet Amina. She is on her way home from school, excited to share her good grade news with a friend, when a bomb strike changes her life forever. By 2017, her family (mother, father, brother and herself) have emigrated to Toronto. A time shift moves readers back to Aleppo prior to the bomb strike. Trying to come to grips with the fact that it is a government -led attack is at the heart of the anguish that has led so many to flee their homeland. It was and remains unexpected and heartbreaking for Syrians who now must seek asylum in world communities, as they have no homes and no hope for the future.

Samya Kullab uses her journalistic skill to help readers understand news from the Middle East. A former reporter for The Lebanon Star she has first-hand knowledge concerning the events and politics of the region. In this fictionalized account, we see the story from Amina's point of view - only one voice among many who have harrowing tales to tell. As the author moves us back and forth in Amina's life, we learn about Syria before the war. We learn about the politics, and the events that led to the crisis that has forced families to become refugees.

For Amina's family, it means a refugee camp in Lebanon and the dangers the family faces  there - all too real and described honestly to help readers gain understanding for their plight. Isolated because they are from Syria, they have little food and nothing to keep them busy. Without any means of support and needing funds to secure medical attention for Amina's brother, Amina must leave school. There are many painful moments, including her mother's need to go home again, only to find they have no home. In that moment, the family accepts an offer to leave for Canada.

It is important for middle and high school students (and adults as well) to read this story. It puts a face, albeit imagined, to the very real circumstances that force people to leave everything they have always known and make a new life.  It is powerfully told and provides a face for them to remember as they listen to continuing news reports.

Heartbreaking and hopeful, memorable and mind-boggling.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Clutch, written by Heather Camlot. Red Deer Press, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 2017. $12.95 ages 10 and up

"I look at myself in the mirror. It gives me a knot in my stomach. Nah, more like a punch in the gut. I hate seeing my reflection. Pa's reflection. Dirty, brown hair. Long, narrow face. Hazel eyes. Thin build. No matter what I do or how hard I try, I always look back at his hair, his eyes, his build. Him. "I'm going to do what you couldn't!" I hiss at the man staring back."

Life has never been easy for the Grosser family, living in poverty in a Jewish neighborhood on the wrong side of Montreal's Park Avenue. Life following WWII brings its own set of problems, and then Joey's father dies suddenly. Joey, not yet 13, becomes the man of the house and takes responsibility for caring for his mother and his younger brother, David.

Joey's actions are controlled by his own personal need to make a better life for the family than his father did. He helps in the struggling family store, keeps a careful watch on the health of his ailing mother, and for the safety of his baseball-obsessed little brother. He misses his dad terribly, but is angry that he has left them with so little. The situation is often too much. Because of that, Joey sometimes makes decisions that are not in his or his family's best interests.

Joey wants to make money more than anything; it will offer the only way out the neighborhood. While he is resourceful to a fault, he is also conscientious, loyal and honorable. Tension builds throughout the story when his best friend's father tries to get Joey involved in his nefarious business dealings. Ben warns Joey, and wants him to promise to stay away from his father. Joey's age and innocence prevent him from understanding the danger inherent in what Mr. Wolfe is expecting him to do.

Short chapters that keep the intriguing plot moving quickly forward, a feeling of ever-growing tension, terrific secondary characters worthy of our admiration and having their own stories to tell, together teach a memorable history lesson for readers. Joey's first person narration is poignant, brave, and desperate. You will not forget him. I hope to meet him again one day.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

How Nivi Got Her Names, by Laura Deal and illustrated by Charlene Chua. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 2016. $10,95 ages 7 and up

"In Inuit culture, people get their names from many different places, and some people, like you, have many names to be proud of. People are often named after family members and loved ones who are no longer with us. Babies, like you, are given the names of people who are no longer ... "

When I shared Alma's naming story yesterday, I was reminded of another book I had read about a little girl and how she got her names. Nivi's names are hers through Inuit tradition.

A two page introduction sets the story, explaining traditional naming and Inuit custom adoption. It also explains how Nivi (Niviaq) became part of a much larger family.

"Through her names, Niviaq is a little girl, a grandfather, a grandmother, and a well-respected elders of all these families. And she's probably the cutest little girl in the whole universe.   -Aivaq Johnston"

As Nivi and her mom play one day, Nivi 's mother names the little stuffed pig the child is holding. Nivi wonders why her toy has only one name, while she has many - Niviaq Kauki Baabi Irmela Jamesie. She loves them all. Her mom explains in an easy manner, telling her that Niviaq means 'little girl'. She then goes on to tell her about the other special people whose names she was given.

Kauki was the grandmother of Nivi’s birth mother, and is a connection to her biological family. Baabi was a special family friend who appeared in a dream and naming Nivi after him allowed his spirit and character to live on through her, thus connecting her to Baabi's family. She is named Irmela after her great-grandmother Irma who was blessed with strength and creativity. Finally, the name Jamesie was to honour her mother’s grandfather, a man with a generous heart and a loving spirit.

Nivi's mother accentuates family, love, respect and identity in an effort to help her daughter understand the ways of her people. The artwork matches the gentle tone of the story, while including many family photos in the backgrounds. Animated expression and playful conversation are evident in the warm, colorful images.
In back matter, Laura Deal provides further material about 'Inuit Kinship and Naming Customs, descriptive personal paragraphs about 'Nivi's Namesakes', a helpful glossary of Inuit terms, and author and illustrator data.

Sure to inspire conversation concerning family and special people in a child's life, it also provides a window into Inuit culture and customs.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Alma and How She Got Her Name, wirtten and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2018. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"ESPERANZA was your great-grandmother," he continued. "She hoped to travel, but never left the city where she was born. Her only son grew up to cross the seven seas. Wherever her sailor son went, so did Esperanza's heart. "The world is so big! I want to go see it, Daddy."

When I was much younger than I am now, my family called me Sally Anne. They are my given names, and I am thankful that no one calls me that any longer. The only saving grace at the time was that my parents hadn't called me Sarah. It was my maternal grandmother's name, and I thought it was far too old-fashioned. Isn't it funny how we change? I was named for both of my grandmothers: Sarah, whose story I learned from my mother and her family and from my grandmother whenever I asked questions (although I rarely saw her), and Annie, my paternal grandmother who died when my dad was young and we knew little about her at all. 

There is usually a story behind our names. I wonder how many of us know that story. Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela complains about its length to her father. She can never write it on a single piece of paper. Her father offers to tell her the story of the name she was given, starting with Sofia. As she listens to his stories, she learns much about family, love, and heritage. Looking at the photographs of those who inspired her given names, she realizes that she has much in common with them. Her name does fit. Alma is a name chosen especially for her - one day it will have its own story.

Juana Martinez-Neal's illustrations 'were done with graphite, colored pencils, and print transfers on handmade textured paper.' It is a perfectly chosen way to share tales from the past. Mostly limited to black and gray, the bits of color come from Alma herself. Dressed in red stripes, with gentle spots of color on her cheeks and in the bow in her hair, readers will  always be attentive to Alma's presence on the page. Each of the photographs produced in vintage style include personal details that make her chosen names so welcome. Warm and spirited, they provide for Alma connections to those who came before her, and whose legacy is one of lasting love.

What is your name story?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Pashmina, written and illustrated by Nidhi Chanani. First Second, Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 12 and up

"Did you wear a sari every day?

Not at your age.
I wore salwars like
this, but when I was older,
before coming here,
yes. Every day.
Looking at new saris was
your mausi's favorite time
pass, she loved fabric
and embroidery work."

Priyanka and her mother emigrated from India when Pri was young. She knows little about her country of birth, or the father they left behind them. Now a teenager who loves to draw, she has questions for her mother about both. Her mother refuses to discuss the past with her daughter.

While looking in an old suitcase, Pri finds a glorious pashmina which she wraps around herself. Immediately transported to her home country, she meets an elephant and a peacock. They show willingness to introduce her to what India has to offer. Pri has many questions; some can be answered, while others cannot. With every question asked and unanswered, she has even more to ask.

Donning the pashmina has the young girl wondering why her life with her mother and her visit to the world of her dreams are so different. Why won't her mother be honest and open with her? The graphic artwork clearly delineates both worlds ... the one without the pashmina is drab, colored in black and white. With the pashmina, it is a fantasy world filled with bright color.

When Pri wins an art contest and its $500 prize, she is determined to spend it on a trip to India to visit her aunt. Her mother will not hear of it, until there is a phone call for help from Aunt Meena, her mother's younger sister. Finally, her mother agrees to the trip, with reluctance. Once there she learns about her mother's painful decision to leave home and find a better life, and about the real India.

Every panel helps readers, in meaningful ways, to explore immigration, oppression, and making difficult choices. Pri's search for her roots is a beautifully told tale of coming of age, culture, family, feminism, and religion. For some who read it, it will be a mirror; for others, a window. For all, it is worthy of attention.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

With My Hands:Poems About Making Things, words by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson. Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast, 2018. 24.99 ages 5 and up


of scraps
torn from
is a window
to my heart
showing ... "

Sticking to a similar theme for this second day, I want to tell you about another book that honors artistic sensibility. Amy presents a wonderful assortment of projects meant to inspire her readers, and inviting them to let loose their imagination and try something new. Hands and the work they do can be challenging, uplifting, powerful, and fulfilling.

" ... A maker
through mistakes.
A maker
must be tough.

A maker is
a tinkerer.
A maker will

A maker creates
something new

The projects are varied and inviting. First person narration gives an immediate sense of accomplishment and pride. The poems are written using diversity in approach, and are meant to clearly exhibit a child's feelings as the project is worked on and completed.

"Tie-Dye Shirt

I made a tie dye.
Didn't buy it.
Tied it.
Dipped it.
Dyed it.
Untied it.
Shook it.
Dried it.
Wore it.

Try it!"

The collage artwork, completed using mixed media, add context for the poetry. The colorful illustrations show children dedicated to the work they have chosen to do; a boy covered in glittery sprinkles, a girl warming her hands on a mug of hot chocolate after a snowman build, bakers tasting their wares, a boy showing great pride for making a card for his dad rather than buying one. Together, they provide just the impetus needed to get those creative juices flowing. Have some art materials at hand when the reading is done.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

This Beautiful Day, written by Richard Jackson and illustrated by Suzy Lee. Atheneum Books, Simon & Schuster. 2017. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"This beautiful day ...

has all of us skipping

and singing

and calling

or whistling "

Would that we were children who find happiness and laughter in living! If you know, or have lived with a child, you will also know the pure joy they find in the water that follows a storm or the rain itself. Nothing can stop them from wading, splashing, kicking up their heels as warm rain soaks them through, and covers the ground around them. They find wonder in their world, and express it through unbridled delight and movement.

The rain and dark clouds outside might dampen the spirits of the three children featured here. It does not. When the oldest of three finds a music station on the radio beside him, they are off. They dance, and twirl, and spin in glorious abandon. With umbrellas in hand, they take their exuberance outdoors, footloose and fancy-free as they splash through the street. As the rain stops, friends spill out of surrounding houses and onto the street to partake of the fun to be had, until sleep claims the littlest one, and the need for a snack has the other two resting for a few sweet moments - before they succumb to the joy of a 'beautiful day' once again. Refreshing and sure to capture the attention of little ones who will not be able to hide their satisfaction in hearing this book read.

Richard Jackson's lilting text allows Suzy Lee free rein to create action-filled, spirited scenes as kids swing from tree branches, swoop through the air with windblown umbrellas, skid down hills and languish in summer heat.

Kids don't let rain stop them from savoring every moment of their days. Returning sunshine only ups their fascination and their imagination.

Look At The Weather, by Britta Teckentrup. Translated and adapted by Shelley Tanaka. Owlkids, w2018. $21.95 ages 6 and up

"But wait ...

The moon is rising
behind the clouds.
Can you see it gleaming
on the choppy water?

Soon a radiant moon
and a sprinkling of
stars light up the land."

Full color spreads with explanatory text show weather from a variety of contexts and viewpoints. The author's compact text offers all that is needed to support the artwork presented, describing scientific phenomena for four types of weather.

Narration includes scientific facts and provides encouragement for readers to consider various aspects of weather and their memories of such days. There are four sections, describing familiar weather events - sun, rain, ice and snow, and extreme weather - that we have all experienced at one time or another. Weather is the focus here, although people and animals are often seen in the distance. Brief mention is made of human responsibility for our planet's growing warmth that is resulting in extreme weather.

"Extreme weather feels like someone turned up the volume on our regular weather, creating scorching heat waves, gale-force gusts, and torrential downpours. Sometimes, many kinds of weather happen at once, causing tremendous confusion.

Climate change, which occurs as human activity warms the planet at an unnaturally fast pace, means extreme weather events are becoming more frequent."

A glossary and an author’s note acknowledging several classical landscape painters are included as backmatter.

This is a lovely and contemplative look at what tends to be the focus for many of our days.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Pink Umbrella, written by Amelie Callot and illustrated by Genevieve Godbout. Translated by Lara Hinchberger. Tundra, Penguin Random House, 2018. $22.99 ages 6 and up

"The café stands in the midst of a small group of houses that face into the wind, looking out at the ocean. The coast is rugged, but the land is gentle, covered in tall grasses blown flat by the sea air. Aside from the residents of the village, there is very little here in this wild landscape. For the villagers, the café is a refuge, a small lantern always lit."

Adele lights up life in the village with her warm countenance and her wonderful café, a place that is the center of the villagers' social life. The only thing that changes Adele's sweet, welcoming demeanor is rain.

Adele loves the sunshine. It makes her sing, and smile, and even whistle. When it rains, 'she loses her spirit'. She refuses to go outside, often staying at home under her quilt while waiting for the sun to return to the sky.

Lucas is her friend, bringing fresh vegetables for market day and flowers on Sunday. Lucas takes care of Adele in many little ways. One day after the café closes and the cleaning is done, Adele finds a pair of pink boots on a rug by the door. She tries them on, and finds they fit her tiny feet perfectly. She searches for the owner the next day; no one claims them.

At the next weekly market day, a lovely pink raincoat is left on the coatrack. Whose might it be? Just as the boots did, the coat fits Adele perfectly ... but, it is not hers.  Maybe both were left for her! On the following market day, almost no one comes to the café as it is gloomy and raining. Lucas prepares to leave early.

"When the truck disappeared from view, Adele turned around to close the café, roll herself up in her quilt and wait for the sun to take the place of the clouds ... "

Another surprise is in store for her - a pink polka dot umbrella! Mystery solved and aversion to rain diminished. There is so much to discover when one is prepared for the weather.

Using colored pencils and pastels, Genevieve. Godbout sets the story in a charming seaside village, where residents enjoy each other's company and offer friendship and understanding. The warm textures and expressive faces exude good feelings all around.

Full of charm, this tribute to small town living and the gift of friendship makes a terrific read aloud in early years classrooms.