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Friday, August 31, 2018

We Travel So Far ... Words by Laura Knowles and pictures by Chris Madden. Firefly Books, 2017. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"We are the Caribou, 
the thick-furred travelers
of the icy north.

Every year, in long and
winding lines, we journey
further than any other
animal on four legs.

With our wide and padded
feet, we walk in each other's
footprints to keep out ... "

It is always interesting for young readers to learn more about the animals they know, and those they do not. In this book that deals only with migration, they will learn the stories of 26 such creatures. The author begins with a two page introduction.

"These are the sort of journeys
that we call "migration."
Often, animals migrate with the changing seasons.
Some travel to find food, while others are driven to
migrate to the perfect place to mate and raise their
babies. For most migrating animals, all these
reasons play a part.
The urge to migrate is instinctive:
it is hard-wired in them from the moment
they are born."

Each is given a two page spread, placing minimal, informative text over a clearly drawn illustration of each animal in its own particular environment. The text begins with the swimmers: leatherback turtles, humpback whales, sockeye salmon, Caribbean spiny lobsters, elephant seals, and European eels. On to the flyers, and finally to earth dwellers. Some entries will be unexpected. There is variety in the accurate and enlightening accompanying artwork. Children will find much to hold their attention here. 

The animals narrate their own stories, and the prose is full of relevancy. They tell where their travels will take them and why they have undertaken such a journey. The first person narrative gives a real feeling of immediacy for those reading it. The migrations happen all around the world, are shared with little fanfare, and offer just the right amount of information to satisfy most readers. Those who want to know more have a place to begin.

A map of the world is provided, and suggests that readers might take the time to plot out where each of animals migrates. It is followed by water, air and land migration data for each of the animals included.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Yak and Dove, words by Kyo Maclear and pictures by Esme Shapiro. Tundra, Penguin Random House. 2017. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"But, Yak, we are not alike.

That's true, Dove. 
We have never been the 
Not once. 

You are large and I am

As school begins again, there will be much discussion in classrooms regarding friendship and work being done to create caring communities. Children in school classrooms are diverse in character, culture and family. There is no telling how the new or renewed friendships will grow and develop as the new year begins and progresses. It is an ever-changing tableau, inspiring careful consideration and often, wonder.

Yak and Dove are, without a doubt, an unusual pair. They are as different as day and night. In the first of three stories about the two, Dove ponders: If We Were Twins. They would like the same things, live in the same house, and even share the same thoughts. Dove admits they are not alike and remarks on it, which leads to some pretty astute observations.

"You have feathers 
and I have fur. 

You can be a little too quiet.

You can be a little too loud. 

And you are smelly, Yak.

And you are ill-mannered, Dove. 

You never share your chocolate!

You make fun of my feet!"

The argument results in a parting of the ways, and a new story: The Audition. This time Yak is having a heart-to-heart discussion with Marmot about losing a best friend, the sadness felt, and the requirements needing to be met in a new best friend. An audition is held; the result is a happy surprise. In the final chapter, Yak and Quiet, the two come to an understanding about what each brings to the relationship and how those differences can make for something very special.

A caring friendship takes work. Kyo Maclear knows that, and shows her readers that the hard work is worth it, despite some ups and downs. The emotion and humor of the text is matched perfectly with Esme Shapiro's watercolor, gouache and colored pencil artwork. The world she creates is filled with lovely, emotional details and an awareness for the region where one might find yaks. Friendship comes in all sizes, shapes, colors; it is in our similarities and differences that it becomes meaningful.

Inventive, lovely and fresh; it will be an admirable addition to personal, classroom and school libraries. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Square, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2018. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Circle," said Square, "I
think I should tell you

But she was already gone.
"Oh dear dear dear," said
He studied the block.
"I have to make this block
look like Circle," he said.
"Circle is perfect. So I
must make this perfect."

Square first appeared in Triangle, the opening book in this wonderful series. Then, Square was the butt of a joke played by Triangle. Is that true? Readers were left to make their own decision concerning Triangle's explanation.

In this sequel, Square has the honor of being the 'star of the show'. Well-deserved, I would say! Square lives in secret underground cave, where square blocks are found in abundance. Each day he emerges with one block and adds it to an ever-growing pile at the top of a hill. It is his work.

A visit from a very complimentary Circle sets him on a new path. Admiring his expertise, Circle commissions Square to do a sculpture of her. It is a worry for Square that he has agreed since he has no observable artistic ability. Working hard to please his friend and failing miserably, Square is disconsolate.

"What have I done?
I push blocks.
I do not shape them.
I am not a genius."

When Circle sees what Square has done, she is joyous and even more certain of his creative genius. Once again, readers will have to decide for themselves what they think.

What a pair of brilliant artists! Mac Barnett's short sentences, work-laden plot, and perfect pacing, accompanied by Jon Klassen's signature watercolor and graphite artwork which uses the 'eyes' once again to give life to the simply shaped characters and to the arc of this terrific new tale.

Circle is next! Bring it on!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Best Frints at Skrool, written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2018. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"They learn to count.

"Urm, gurm, threep,
forgg, flive, snirb,
slebben, twango, frango,

Some students read
bloox. Others eat them.

At recess, childrinx ... "

Omek and Yelfred are back, and this time their adventures revolve around 'skrool' and the many activities happening there. It's pretty much the same for them as it is for kids friends here on Earth. They do ride a 'skrool busk', which looks very intergalactic when compared with our iconic yellow ones. Same color and multi-passengered, totally different in design, and they fly!

While at skrool they listen, treat schoolmates with care (until they don't), count, read. Recess is pretty much the same. Friends play with friends and make new ones; sometimes, they do not treat their old friends well. Omek has reason to feel left out. Yelfred and Q-B are doing everything together. They share lunch, but not 'frints'.

The sharing at lunch turns into something that will delight young readers until the all must take responsibility for their actions. Just like on earth, right? Their hunger leads to a new understanding.

"On Boborp, what makes things the most fun ...
is a best frint and a best best frint."


A glossary of Boborpian terms (Vol. Gurm), a counting chart and directions for playing 'eye ball in the peedle pit' adorn the front and back endpapers. Gorgeous colors, appealing alien characters, humorous mayhem, hopeful solutions, and a tender, lighthearted look at friendship is sure to make this a repeatedly requested book. Who could ask for more?

Teachers will need some practice with the new vocab before reading it aloud.

Monday, August 27, 2018

All Summer Long, by Hope Larson. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2018. $16.99 ages 12 and up

" I'm sorry! I - I didn't think
anyone was home!

So you thought, "Hey! I'll 
just break in!"?

I'm locked out of my house,

So go break in there!"

It's the summer between seventh and eighth grade, Its beginning is not promising for Bina. Her best friend is off to soccer camp, leaving her to spend quiet summer days alone. She and Austin have been best friends since they were babies. She is worried about what she will do without him. It turns out that being by herself leaves time for Bina to make her own choices for the way to spend her days.

She watches so much TV her parents put a stop to it. Her enthusiasm for music leads her to listening to favorite new bands, and to working on her own guitar skills. She loves her electric guitar and she makes great progress. She is surprised to make new friends, and is thrilled to welcome a new baby into the family. She gains independence, but she is concerned with the lack of communication from Austin, and is uncertain about how things will be when he returns. It has taken hard work to move forward without having Austin around all summer. The two work it out, remaining friends while also pursuing their individual interests. Bina realizes that she has grown into being herself ... more confident and ready for a new chapter in eighth grade. And her own band!

In a graphic novel that explores conflict, relationships, family, and growth while doing so with a good dose of humor and realistic dialogue, Hope Larson ably exhibits emotional change and brings the diverse community where Bina and her family live to full life for her readers. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Will Bear Share and Will Sheep Sleep, by Hilary Leung. Cartwheel Books, Scholastic. 2018. $10.99 ages 2-4

"Will Bear share
her berries?


Will Bear share
her book? "

What do you think?

Hilary Leung is creating a new series of books he calls 'animal question books'. In this one he puts sharing in perspective for little ones. Double page spreads ask and answer questions concerning what Bear is willing to share. Bear is a happy participant in the idea, until the talk turns to a toothbrush. The response changes abruptly ... and for good reason.

It isn't only the toothbrush that creates a bit of a complication. Favorite toy? Pretty personal. Ice cream? I wonder. Then, it's friends to the rescue ... and a reminder to readers concerning their own willingness to share. I loved the final panel!

Little readers will very much enjoy the pleasing artwork that accompanies this format.

"Will drinking water
help Sheep sleep?


Will Hopsie
help Sheep sleep?

Nope. "

Parents of toddlers are sure to see their child in this lead-up to bedtime. Haven't we all been privy to the many requests made to stall a child's giving in to sleep? Sheep is so cute, has spent the day playing hard, and is beyond tired after all of the activity.

That is exactly the time when little ones do their utmost to keep those peepers from drooping and sleep from taking over. Once again, the question and answer format shows some absolutely familiar avoidance tactics - brushing teeth, a story, a night light. Lovely backgrounds and intimate, quiet  details help to bring a feeling of peace and quiet. What finally works? You will have to read it to see for yourself.

Irresistible animal characters, done in basic shapes and bold colors will capture attention and encourage discussion of the varied scenarios. Sharing and sleeping are important issues for the toddlers likely to have these books read to them. There are problems to be faced, and surprises to delight. Expect to see all of these animal characters in future additions to this very pleasing series.

Fun to read, and another great couple of books for that baby shower basket!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Who Can? Written by Charles Ghigna and illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen. Orca Publishers, 2018. $9.95 ages 2-5

"Who does fishy flips
and has sharp teeth?

Who does? 


Oh! I love this book!  And you will, too.

The book begins with a two page spread, and a question. “Who can sing while sitting in a tree? Who can?” Careful consideration of the accompanying illustration offers a clue for the answer to that first question. The tall green-leafed trees conceal a colorful, pointed beak. The left side of the following page reveals the TOUCAN. The right side asks the next question and provides a visual clue to the answer expected. What fun! 

The pattern continues with an invitation (large, bold font) to the reader to provide the answers with great gusto. That will encourage young listeners to join in reading it the second time it is shared. Soon, they will be reading it, mostly on their own. The ample white space focuses the reader on the animal just described and the one to come. The colors are bold and realistic.

Jaunty, rhythmic, and filled with wordplay, it provides many chances to bolster vocabulary and literary understanding. You will find much to consider while reading it together.

One Eagle Soaring, by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd. Harbour Publishing. 2018. $9.95 0-3

"One eagle soars high

Two moose wander by

Three orcas swim the
strait "

My granddaughters live in the beauty of the West Coast on Vancouver Island. It is my hope that they will have opportunity to see each of the creatures featured in this stunning board book! I know they have already come face to face with many of them.

This is the second book in a series titled A First West Coast Book. If you have not seen Hello Humpback!, check it out. The collaborators have won various awards, and rightly so. It will take seconds, gazing at the beauty of the artwork and sharing the simple rhythmic text, to add this to your  'favorites' shelf.

It is a counting book and the animals it presents live on the West Coast. Bears, frogs, bees and orcas will entertain little ones and offer opportunity to count from one to ten again and again. The production is elegant and eye-catching, with embossed, glossy images of each animal. The natural landscapes are alluring, as are the bold colors. Indigenous designs are incorporated on and around the raised details. Small children and those who read this book to them will delight in running fingers over the images every time the book is read.

Add it to a basket of board books for the next baby shower!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Just Like Jackie, by Lindsey Stoddard. Harper. 2018. $21.00 ages 10 and up

"He sounds happy when he tells me, but when he thinks I'm not looking he squeezes his temples and rubs his fingers across his grooved forehead. Maybe he's worried about running the garage without Harold for a few weeks, or maybe he's thinking about my mom and when she was born. Or when I was born. I hope it's just that he's nervous about running the garage, because I can help with that. I know cars."

Robinson knows no other family than Grandpa. Any questions she asks about when she was younger are avoided, until later. At 11, she is an aspiring mechanic, working alongside her grandfather and Harold, his work mate. Robbie can take care of her grandfather, fix cars, help with tapping and making maple sap into syrup, and play baseball. The thing that causes her the most difficulty is handling her anger.

She does her best, but her temper often gets her into trouble she does not need. Advice from her school guidance counselor helps, but various things cause her to act out in public. There is no doubt that she has concerns worthy of attention. She and her grandfather look nothing alike. He is black, she does not appear to be. She knows nothing about her family and Grandpa is unwilling to share information. She doesn't want anyone to know that her grandfather is showing signs of Alzheimer's. She watches him forget where he put things, how to do daily tasks, and too often not be able to say what he wants to say. She is sure she can care for him, and keep others from seeing what is happening. It is a heavy weight for a young girl to carry.

In this remarkable debut novel, we walk alongside Robbie as she does her best to accept the changes and challenges. A school project about family trees ups her angst, and causes problems for all the kids in the therapy group she attends with Ms. Gloria. All the kids in her group are dealing with pain and hurt. There are many issues, all essential to the telling of this fine story.

Robbie is tough, sensitive, loving, exasperating, and wonderful! You will not forget her, or her story.
Powerful and intense, and ultimately uplifting, it is a book that breaks the heart and then mends it.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Can I Touch Your Hair: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship. Written by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, with illustrations by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. Carolrhoda Books, Lerner. Thomas Allen & Son. 2018. $25.99 ages 8 and up

"How many poems?
someone asks.
About what? 
Do they have to be true? 

Mrs. Vandenberg
holds up her hand.
Write about anything! 
It's not black and white. 

But it is. "

Charles is black. Irene is white. They are the last two students to partner up for the 'Poem Project.' On the opening page, and facing each other, the two react in poetry to Mrs. Vandenberg's announcement about picking partners for the assigned project. They do not know each other well. Charles has some suggestions for getting started with poems about shoes, hair, and then maybe school and church. It is a place to start!

In following pages, they compare their experiences. It is quite the inventive way to show perspective, and gives readers much to ponder. The poems and authors face each other with each turn of the page. The topics are wide-ranging and of interest to the intended audience. They include: shoes, hair, church, beach, horseback riding, playground, geography, best and worst dinner conversation, apology. They touch on complicated issues such as slavery and police brutality as well.

The two find commonalities when they talk about their love of reading and facing the difficulties inherent in finding true friends. In these poems that capture clear thoughts on identity and race, they confront their own feelings and perceptions. We all face challenges. It's important to talk about them. We need hard conversations to start and then keep them going. Only in the true acceptance of our differences can we find the many similarities.

"Bedtime Reading
After homework
I read The Black Stallion 
for the third time.

I imagine I'm Alec,
coaxing that horse
with seaweed.

and it's me
the stallion is saving
when he stomps
out the snake.

When I find
a note from Shonda
tucked inside the pages,
I can't wait to tell Charles.

Sorry for freezing you 
out of freeze dance, it says.

I smile
the same way Alec does
when the stallion
nuzzles him
for the very first time."


Irene and I stand in line, cradling our book like
newborn kittens. We can't stop smiling.
We're about to meet an author, her name is Nikki Grimes.
We both love her book about kids in someplace called
the Bronx going through life's ups and downs, like us.
I tell Irene that with her beaded earrings, twisty curls, and full lips,
Ms. Grimes is a mirror image of my Auntie Jackie. Irene whispers
when she grows up, she's going to be a writer, go to schools, and sign books.
Mrs. Vanderberg says, " Ms. Grimes, I'd like you to meet
two of your biggest fans," and our faces briefly turn crimson.
Her bracelets jangle as she shakes our hands, takes our books,
then dashes off her name in perfect cursive.
Skipping back to class, Irene and I high-five each other
while our classmates stare at us like we're Martians."

Candid, contemporary and critical to having readers think and talk about issues of importance to each of us, this book needs to be shared in families, classrooms, and school libraries. It is an important addition for an collection.

The artwork by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko is created using varied media - acrylic paint, colored pencil and collage. They perfectly match their art to the text on the page, assuring understanding and allowing readers to see how similar the two writers are. Every image begs attention, and is worthy of a close look.

The author and illustrator notes that follow are thorough and enlightening.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Trevor, written by Jim Averbeck and illustrated by Amy Hevron. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2018. $24.99 ages 3 and up

"Trevor built a soft nest for
himself and his friend. The two
huddled together through summer
rains and enjoyed warm sunny days. So did the striped seed, which
sprouted and grew.

Each morning, Trevor and the
lemon performed a duet.
Trevor sang the notes.
chur weeeee chiddle chiddle "

Trevor is alone, knowing he can leave his cage at any time, but not wanting to as he loves the seeds in his dish. His most favorite are the ones with stripes; he keeps them for the days he feels the loneliness most acutely. He is also a bird who knows what to do when life gives you a lemon; embrace it and make it your friend.

That is exactly what he does when he wakes one morning to find a lemon hanging on the tree branch just outside his cage. Trevor does his best to strike up a conversation. The lemon remains silent. Trevor offers the seed he so treasures, putting it on the lemon's branch. The lemon offers nothing. Not to be deterred in his search for a friend, Trevor hops off the branch in search of another gift. He does not realize that he has knocked the seed of the branch as he moved.

Disappointed and blaming the lemon, Trevor experiences anger and then forgiveness as he realizes how lonely the world can be without a friend to share it. He builds the two a nest which provides a home. Trevor is content, until a storm blows the lemon from the nest and it is lost from sight. What happens next shows Trevor the meaning of real friendship!

Amy Hevron creates her gentle, loving scenes on wood using acrylic paints and then collaged digitally. Using yellow, green, blue and brown hues, she fills this sweet story with exactly the right feeling of clarity and warmth. The wood shines through exactly where it is needed, and makes for a natural backdrop.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen, written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann. Schwartz & Wade, Penguin Random House. 2018. $23.99 ages 10 and up

"People screamed and scattered.
But Strongheart only had eyes for
the pudgy, balding studio hand
standing beside Jane. The man
turned and started running.
Strongheart lunged. Catching
him by one of his ankles, he
threw the man flat on his back.
"Stop! Stop!" commanded Larry.
Strongheart didn't obey. Seizing
the front of the man's jacket in his
fangs, he shook with furious might."

How many kids do you know who don't like dogs and their stories? You will find many fans in middle years classrooms who will fully appreciate this tale of one very special such hero. Candace Fleming's tale is based on the true story of a German Shepherd that was trained as a police dog in  Germany in the 1920s. His early life was a happy one. That changed dramatically while being trained as a police dog. Then, he was discovered by Larry Trimble.

Trimble was a Hollywood director looking for the perfect dog to cast in a silent film he wanted to make. The dog had be smart with a dramatic flair, and he had to be handsome. Strongheart fit the bill perfectly. Larry took him back to the United States. The two became inseparable, along with screenwriter Jane Murfin. Their story is one of ups and downs, tragedy and triumph. Readers get a strong sense of the 'wonder dog' and the brilliant actor he became. Along the way, they also learn about his uncanny ability to detect thieves in crowds, bond with young orphan boys in need of a hero, and the movie-making business itself. 

It is an adventurous tale, and romantic at times. Strongheart does find the love of his life, and starts a family. Eric Rohmann's wonderful oil paintings, done in black and white, give life to the many dramatic events and show Strongheart to be the intelligent and expressive star he becomes. Kids will find their own favorite scenes; mine is the three page one in which he actively exhibits a love for doughnuts!

Before the dogs I remember from television, there was Strongheart, the first canine movie star. His  story is as dramatic as the he was. I whipped through it in quick time, wanting to know more about this amazing dog, his life, and his legacy. There is certainly suspense, both early and later in his life.

An author's note provides welcome information. There are also archival photos, a movie list, and a bibliography.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Antlered Ship, written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by The Fan Brothers. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster. 2017. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"But the voyage was more difficult that anyone expected. It rained. Waves crashed over the sides of the deck. Why is water so wet? Marco wondered. The deer worried about sharp rocks and fierce pirates and feeling seasick."

I have read so much about this book, and am thankful to be able to share it with you today. It is Marco's story. He is a fox with a pressing need for answers. He has questions on his mind from morning until night ... often, they are questions that rarely have answers. Still, he has a need to know.

"Why do some songs make you happy
and others make you sad? 

Why don't trees ever talk? 

How deep does the sun go when it 
sinks into the sea?"

When a ship crewed by an inept threesome of deer docks close to his Land of Foxes, he is not surprised they are lost and agrees to join them, along with a flock of pigeons. Marco wants to find other foxes with answers to his many questions. The ship is headed to the island of their dreams.

The voyage is fraught with surprising difficulties. The pigeons, finding the work more tedious than they thought it would be, retreat to the galley to play checkers. The deer, who have no idea what they are doing and constantly worrying about untold danger, are paralyzed by their fear and await whatever fate has in store for them. Things do not look good.

Marco takes matters in hand. First, he cooks a warm stew with available ingredients. Then, he suggests a look at maps and charts to set a course for the 'sweet tree island.' Off they go, using the pigeon's flight skills to guide them in a clear path. When faced with intimidating pirates, they refuse to succumb to their threats. Finally, they spot their destination. Foxes? No!

The others have found what they were looking for; Marco has found no answers to his myriad of queries. However, he may have found something much more enduring. Perhaps finding friends is even more important than it is to find answers.

The Fan Brothers bring their incredible artistic talent to each and every detailed spread, moving readers from the beauty and fury of the sea to the cozy comfort the animals find below deck together.
You must see it to truly appreciate everything about it, from the rich feel of the cover, to the endpaper maps of that initial journey, to the visual effects for every mile of their sea voyage.  You will not read it quickly. It is a keeper!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

That's Not Hockey, written by Andree Poulin and illustrated by Felix Girard. Annick Press, 2018. $21.95 ages 5 and up

"Jacques is thrilled by his
first goalie pads. His dad
made them out of potato
sacks and wooden slats.
Hey, that's not hockey! 

But this seven-year-old
won't be stopped.

At fifteen, Jacques plays
goal for a factory team ... "

Are there ever be enough hockey books for our kids? I doubt it. I am ever pleased to see a new one that is sure to garner attention, while telling a good story. Additionally, it is about not fitting the mold expected of you, of having the courage to dare to be different and to stand up for yourself. The best part - it is never preachy or overbearing.

It is Jacques Plante's story: beginning when he was a three year old, focused on hockey from sunup till sundown. Using a tree branch and a tennis ball may not be what we think of as hockey. It was enough for Jacques to indulge his love of the game. He graduated, with his father's help, from a branch to a tree root by the time he was seven. When his interest turned to goaltending, his father fashioned goalie pads from potato sacks and wooden slats.

Imagine the joy he felt when the Montreal Canadiens hired him at age twenty-one! He used his amazing talent to earn great success for himself and his team. But, his early career was not without incident.

"He leads his team to victory but his face suffers badly.
Broken jawbone.
Broken right cheekbone.
Broken left cheekbone.
Broken nose - four times.
Hairline fracture of the skull.
More than two hundred stitches for cuts
to his face and head!"

Finally deciding enough was enough, he wore a mask. No one was happy to see him with his face covered, sure that it would impede his ability to play the game as he had been playing it. When he is badly hurt one more time, he refuses to go back on the ice without his mask. Can you play the game without a goalie? I think not. Jacques Plante faced boos from the crowd, and a good deal of anger. He stood his ground.

His record, while wearing that first goalie mask, speaks for itself!

Hockey fans will be thrilled with this well-told story, and its glimpse at old-time hockey in Felix Girard's action-packed illustrations.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Howl Like A Wolf: Learn to Think, Move, and Act Like 15 Amazing Animals. Written by Kathleen Yale and illustrated by Kaley McKean. Storey Publishing. Thomas Allen & Son, 2018. $26.95 ages 5 and up

"I couldn't say for sure, but I think
we elephants probably have the
coolest noses of any animal. My
flexible, boneless trunk is made
of pure muscle and is about five
feet long. I use it to smell things,
of course, but I can also use it to
help me drink water or as a long
hand when I'm looking for food.
I use my trunk to keep cool on
hot days by spraying water, then
dust, over my body ... "

The fifteen animals in this interactive and informative book tell their own stories. The conversational tone will entice kids reading it to take stock of the way each one lives, communicates, and moves. Each new chapter offers a first creature narrative from the animal itself, information boxes, short paragraphs describing typical behaviors and an invitation to copy the actions of the featured animal.

They howl, slide, remember, echolocate, squeeze, rattle, build, engineer, sneak, sing, dance, joke, spray, transform, and graze. They live in many parts of the world, and each has one attribute that sets them apart from the others. The table of contents offers just the right bait to help kids choose where they want to start; slide like a penguin, sneak like a leopard, dance like a honeybee, or transform like a frog. They are sure to recognize most and will likely find a favorite here. The bowerbird might be the only creature some readers will find unfamiliar.

"I don't mean to brag, but I am a pretty amazing artist.
I build tall structures called bowers on the forest floor
using sticks, woven grasses, and moss. Only male
bowerbirds build nests.

I have a unique sense of style."

The artwork, done in bold matte colors, provide a peek at environment and show scenes of children exhibiting various movements and sounds in their imaginative play. Kids who love to be active will find out about these creatures by getting into their space and taking on their own particular traits.

There is a lot to do here, and much to learn. The more our kids learn about the creatures that share our world, the more concerned they will become for their welfare. If you have an animal lover in your family, this is a perfect book to get into their hands.

Can an aardvark BARK? Written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster. 2017. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Can a kangaroo mew?

No, but it can laugh.

An eastern gray kangaroo 
may grunt, cough, or hiss
depending on its mood, But
when a joey spots its mom,
it lets out an excited laughing

Two for the price of one ... I have always admired Steve Jenkins' brilliant science books. In truth, I am in awe of writers and illustrators who focus on subjects that children are completely fascinated by; and have often wondered if he ever gets any sleep. He always has me consider new questions I have never thought to ask. He has written and illustrated a host of books with fascinating titles, and provided me with much learning over the years. Now, his work is paired with Melissa Stewart, no slouch in the world of impressive science titles herself. So, I was pleased to get my hands on this first book the two have done together.

The design is just right for young readers wanting to know about the animal world. Each new double page spread begins with a question about the noises certain animals make.

"Can an aardvark bark? 
No, but it can grunt."

The text at the bottom of this page states:

"An aardvark grunts softly as
it zigzags across African
grasslands at night. When it
sniffs out an ant nest or termite
mound,  it laps up thousands
of insects with its long, sticky

Providing the right amount of information to guarantee a page turn, and then further material on  animals that grunt, children will be intrigued. The next page asks a question about a seal squealing. You guessed it. The seal does not squeal, but it does bark. And so the pattern goes. Barking is followed by roaring, whining, bellowing, growling, laughing, and finally, mewing. Communication is a fascinating subject for young readers to consider. Using this format, they can easily transfer new knowledge to a personal book of what they have learned from their own research. Why not different ways that humans communicate, or additional ways that animals respond to each other?

Melissa Stewart dishes up appeal on every page. Steve Jenkins adds his intricately detailed cut paper collage images to further interest. Pages have plenty of white space to keep attention fully on the animals being described. The text is accessible and sure to encourage wonder. The central question about the porcupine provides a surprise, and then moves readers forward to see the pattern revert to its previous form. A final two page spread asks readers a question about the noises they are capable of making. A list of selected resources and ideas for further reading are added.

If you have not had much experience with either the author or the illustrator, please take some time to visit their websites ... endlessly fascinating stuff.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Run Wild, written and illustrated by David Covell. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2018. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Squeaky clean?
Who cares about that?


Meet a beetle.
Talk to worms."

What a challenge this book presents for young adventurers and their relationship with the natural world! David Covell celebrates the magic that is the world around us, encouraging his young readers to get out and glory in the warmth of the sun, the clean air, the joy of cool breezes rushing past, a quickly passing storm, and the delight of dirt and mud. There is so much to do, and he inspires trying it all.

The boy on the first page, in his black and white world of technology, finds the outdoors to be freeing and happy as soon as he opens the door to it. The blue sky gives the boost needed to explore all facets of play in nature. David Covell's enlightening text wills children to race the wind, jump in a mud puddle, greet beetles and talk to worms. What joy they will find in following his directions! It's all about getting out there and exploring ... all day long.

"Run. Run. 
Wild. Wild. 
All day long,
the sun's gonna

Are you brave?
Come on, explore ... "

I've read it aloud a number of times, and can't wait to share it with someone. The gorgeous watercolor artwork and handwritten font are as carefree as the lively text; the colorful spreads are filled with natural images that entice and energize kids to get out there and explore.

It is a day of wonder ... one that children will not regret or forget. Hopefully, many who share this book will be encouraged to talk about their wondrous summer days spent at the lake, in parks, or wherever they found great joy. Out of breath, and basking in the happiness the two find in their day of play ... isn't that we want for all kids?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Rooster Summer, written by Robert Heidbreder and illustrated by Madeline Kloepper. Groundwood Books, 2018. $16.95 ages 7 and up

"Some cooler days
we do attic play,
where trunks, boxes, corners
are full of come what may.
We love the old clothes,
toss them on any which way
and play, play, play -
school, storybook people,
tough-talking city folk,
fancy-pants rich guys,
hoity-toity dancers at a ball.
This we like best of all."

It was such fun to read this book, and to remember events from my past. My brother and I spent time with family on their prairie farm for a few weeks during the summers from ages nine to thirteen or so. He loved being on the land and getting dirty; I loved being at the lake. Before we could go, the work had to be done. So, we picked vegetables, helped pack a picnic and would head off for the afternoon with my aunt.

Robert Heidbreder shares memories from his childhood in poetry about a pair of siblings who are spending the summer on their grandparents' farm. Each of their little excursions include the companionship of four very special animals - Rexter is a rooster, Seed-Sack is a mule, Tuffin is a cat, and Ginger-Tea is a replacement dog for the one that has just died.

Farm life proves to be an enjoyable time even though there is daily work to be done. They gather eggs, then entertain train passengers as the train slowly makes its way to the city.

"City folks on the go
need a barnyard show,"
Grandpa says.
In a rag-tag line
we shuffle back,
singing high and low.
"City folks on the go
need a barnyard show!"

Imagine the stories those people have to share when they get back to the city.

The garden abounds with colorful delight, and waiting for the watermelons to ripen seems endless. Playing in the barn offers new adventure and a chance to make friends with its feline residents. Tuffin is one of them, and they do their best to make her comfortable with their presence. Dusk and its approaching darkness offer a chance to see a myriad of stars, something children rarely see in the city. Splashing in the creek, running from a coming storm, and discovering a quiet hen yard after a fox has visited are all a part of their summer life at the farm.

"We get hammers, nails, wood,
and work to make it strong and good.
"Foxes, they gotta eat too, I guess,"
Grandma whispers,
a little sad, we think.

Life in the barnyard can sometimes be hard."

Those who read this book with very much enjoy the many adventures, and will be pleased to meet and get to know both Rexter and Seed-Sack. They play a lively role in many of the day's events.  The book is perfect for reading aloud, and for discussing character development as each of the poems is shared. Madeline Kloepper's pastoral artwork is created using inks, gouache, graphite and digital technique. Using shades of brown, orange and yellow she evokes the warmth of a farm summer and add context for the memories shared here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Good Night, Good Night, written by Dennis Lee and illustrated by Qin Leng. Harper. 2018. $12.99 ages 2 and up

"Cool Pillow 

Pillow, cool pillow,
Come snuggle with me,,
Drift me to sleep
Where I'm longing to be;

Birds in the nest
and the nest in the tree -
So, pillow, cool pillow,
Come snuggle with me."

We read Dennis Lee's poetry night after night in our family. Our kids were born in 1976 and 1978. The six poems included in this lovely board book were originally published in books between 1977 and 2000. I loved the familiarity as soon as I opened it. There are poems I recognize and remember well from our family reading times.

Each focuses on bedtime and will hopefully lull little ones to peaceful, restorative sleep. The poems included begin with Cuddle a Bug. 

"Cuddle a bug in a blanket,
Cuddle a bug in a rug.
Cuddle a bug in her own little bed,
Till she's snug in a big bug-hug."

The rest follow, quietly bringing their stories to listeners.

Qin Leng, whose charming watercolor artwork I very much admire, creates a story to run from poem to poem. She begins with a little boy, and follows him as he makes his way from cuddling a bug to finding a pillow, from meeting a friend in her playhouse to joining a bevy of bears making their way to her treetop residence. Then, they all go to watch the moon as it drifts slowly across the sky and shines its light on a cozy hammock and its occupant ... an invitation for all to find the perfect spot for tucking up and succumbing to slumber.

What a splendid way to link six stand alone poems!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What's Your Favorite Bug? By Eric Carle and Friends. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2018. $23.50 ages 3 and up

          - Tim Hopgood

My favorite bug is a ladybug.
I live in England and over here
we call ladybugs ladybirds, which
is a funny name because, as you
can see from this drawing, they
are not a type of bird. The
reason I like ladybugs so much
is because of their color - such
a bold, bright red - "

This collection is the third in a series that began with What's Your Favorite Animal? (Henry Holt, 2014) and What's Your Favorite Color? (Henry Holt, 2017). In this newest addition to the series, Eric Carle and fourteen other distinguished artists explain in a variety of ways which particular bug most appeals to them. Mr, Carle begins with his love for caterpillars (all fans might have guessed!) and a splendid illustration of himself, eyes matching those of his iconic character, and antenna to boot! Love it dearly!

Each turn of the page offers a double page spread of great beauty, accompanied by a short explanation for the artist's choice: a poem, a description of the bug's importance, or an anecdote.

           Britta Teckentrup

I love millipedes! They remind me of
my grandmother's garden. I would
pick up rocks and stones to find them
hiding underneath in the shade.

Did you know that a millipede can
have up to 750 legs?"

The joy for young readers is in the subject matter. What kid doesn't like watching, holding, catching bugs? The art is glorious! Variety in the medium chosen, style, color, and perspective will guarantee careful observation and attention. Have the art supplies ready!

A final spread offers a photo of each artist as a child, and a short descriptive paragraph about them.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Barkus Dog Dreams: Book 2, written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Marc Boutavant. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2018. $21.50 ages 6 and up

"Robin taught her father how
to give Barkus his pills. She
put the pill in some cheese and
opened Barkus's mouth. She
held his mouth shut. After a
minute Barkus swallowed.
"Bring him back next week,"
she said. Then Robin took
Baby out of her carrier and
gave her a shot. Baby didn't
care. She jumped out of
Robin's arms and ran ... "

If Patricia MacLachlan's name is on the front cover of a book, I will read it. I have enjoyed many hours completely absorbed by her words, her characters, her stories, starting in 1986 when Sarah, Plain and Tall  (Harper, 1985) won the Newbery Medal. It was a gift to us from a dear friend who loved reading as much as we did, and we read it together as soon as it was given. What a grand memory!

I am happy to welcome Barkus back to the blog this year. I wrote a post about his first book here last year : here last year and want to share this new one with fans of the first, hoping they will be enjoy seeing Barkus, his family, new friends, and the events described in its five chapters. Each is a standalone story showing the family dynamic, the love for the pets that share their home, and will provide a successful reading experience for those readers wanting to make the jump to longer reads.

To that end, each turn of the page offers accessible text accompanied by colorful, detailed illustrations that help to provide context. Nicky is the narrator again as she relates stories about the dog she loves. Familiar settings and small adventures await. A vet visit, runaway animals, a party, making a new canine friend,  and helping out during a noisy storm show a dog who is comfortable and happy to be with his family. He is cared for, much loved, and valued by all. His humorous stories will delight readers and leave them wanting more.

I am hopeful it won't be long before we meet up with Barkus in a third book.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

brave, by Svetlana Chmakova. Yen Press, Hachette. 2017. $14..50 ages 12 and up


Jorge is so cool.
He's always super nice ...
... and I noticed that -
Is there a problem here? 
 - he's kinda like the school
sheriff. Him and Olivia both.
Always looking out for people ... "

Jensen is quiet and kind, loves comics and video games, and is particularly interested in the art club. It is his dream to be brave. He thinks he can be. He would like to brave the mean kids, the school classes he finds difficult, and the challenge of finding new friends. It is not his reality. In truth, he avoids classmates who insult and harass him, has big problems with math, and the only students who appear to be friendly are those who need him to run errands and provide answers to questions they have concerning research about bullying. Jensen does not acknowledge that bullying is a part of his school life. Accepting that it is amps up his anxiety.

It is heartbreaking to watch as he reacts to this new understanding. There is great opportunity here for frank discussions about what being a true friend is, and about how bullying manifests in middle school settings. Does this graphic novel reflect what is true about middle school life? I think it does. As Jensen moves from acceptance of the daily business of school to understanding that he is, in fact, being targeted by two boys has him blaming himself. With support from fellow classmates like  Jorge, Penelope, Olivia, Jenny, Akilah and Felipe, he begins to see himself in a different light.  Readers who like Jensen, and can relate to his reality, will be with him as he gets a little braver, more retrospective, and even accepts that he has something to offer to others because of his experiences. 

The artwork is outstanding, allowing readers to feel the full power of the story.

I am off to find a copy of the first in this series about the students at Berrybrook Middle School, awkward (Little Brown, 2015). Then, I will patiently await the release of crush at the end of October. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Becca Fair and Foul, by Deirdre Baker. Groundwood, 2018. $16.95 ages 9 and up

"The story had three kinds of people - romantic ones and mopey ones and funny ones. There was a magician, two sweethearts, and a sprite named Ariel, and a group of shipwrecked noblemen who sat around a lot, and a monster-fish-man named Caliban, and a couple of clowns who sang, danced, stole laundry and tried to take over the island. It took ages to read it out loud. The sea, which started out way far away in the regions of sand dollars ... "

After reading Becca At Sea (Groundwood, 2007) and loving it, I was keen to meet up with Becca and her unconventional family and friends once more. I was not disappointed. It's a great summer read and will be welcomed by those who love the sea, life in the natural world, and books about growing up.

The first scenes feature Becca and her friend Jane as they take Gran's boat on an independent sail away from the island where they are living. It does not go well; the two must deal with the consequences of not following Gran's rules about sailing on their own. They are no longer allowed to be on the boat without supervision.

Fine! They will make enough money to buy their own boat, which they will then control! It is easier said than done, as one might imagine. The island community offers little in the way of making the money the young girls need to make that dream come true. After Jane's experience performing in a school production of The Tempest, they decide to put on the play for the entertainment of the island's residents. Again, easier said than done. There are a lot of hurdles to clear: a lack of actors, time to rehearse, the demands Gran makes for chores to be done before anything else, the arrival of relatives, the day-to-day minutiae of island life. There are eagles, an owl, a dead bear, the eccentric Merlin, a bicycle accident, and other small, meaningful adventures.

The island setting, the quirky characters, the humor and drama, and the many events that reflect a look back to the past make this a readable and enjoyable tale.

Friday, August 10, 2018

A House in the Sky and Other Uncommon Animal Homes, written by Steve Jenkins and illustrated by Robbin Gourley. Charlesbridge, Penguin Random House, 2018. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"A house can be under the
ground ...
A badger excavates its
burrow with powerful 
claws. It makes a new den
often, and it may sleep in a 
different home every night. 
... or suspended above it.
The reed warbler hangs its 
nest from reeds or grass, 
keeping it safe from danger." 

Steve Jenkins describes twenty creatures in this new book. You might expect the text to feature a selection of birds, and that would be logical. In fact, only one of the featured creatures actually lives in that sky:

"The common swift spends months at a
time in the air, never touching down. It
eats, drinks, and sleeps on the wing."

The others offer great variety and even some surprises. The text is brief, using two fonts, and simply describes the shelter built by the chosen subjects. He includes mammals, fish, water life, birds, insects, and even a reptile. Some will be very familiar to readers while others are less well-known. As you might expect, I was intrigued by the Mexican book beetle.

"The larva of a Mexican book beetle gnaws
through the cover and pages of a book. The
beetle lives inside the book until it becomes an
adult. Then it chews its way out and flies away."

Some animals build their own shelter, while others use what is available to them. They need safety, comfort, and a place to raise a family, just like humans. All are fascinating, and the descriptions provide just enough information to lead to further exploration of the natural world. In final pages, brief paragraphs about each creature from start to finish focus on location, size, and diet.

The gentle watercolor illustrations attract attention and provide context.

Who says you can't learn something new ... every single day?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Koko and Bo, written and illustrated by Lisen Adbage. Translated from Swedish by Annie Prime. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2018. $22.95 ages 4 and up

"They eat their bedtime
snacks and do crossword

"Time for bed, off you go!"
says Bo.

says Koko.

"Stay here then," says Bo."

This wonderful book brought back memories of my mom, our kids' Nan, and made me sad that my granddaughters did not have the chance to meet her. Bo reminds me of Nan and her parenting style. She was not one to argue with us much. I know she thought we would learn from the decisions and mistakes we made along the way. I hope I instilled some of that in my own kids.

Koko has a look of contrariness right from the get-go. You can see that in the face presented to a much older companion, Bo. Koko's favorite response is 'I DON"T WANT TO' whenever a suggestion is made. Readers are witness to a series of small moments in the relationship between the two. Koko's demeanor does not change. Bo accepts Koko's various decisions with deference. Each double page spread shows the encounter on the recto side, faced by the engaging text on the verso. It is a winning design.

Helicopter parents will have difficulty in the way they perceive Bo's responses. However, it is evident from Bo's love for the child that there will never be a time when Koko is in danger. After a four hour play at the park, Koko refuses to leave. Bo goes home ... or so Koko and the reader think. We can only assume that awareness for Koko's safety is front-of-mind, if covert. Bo is never seen watching. When Koko arrives home after dark, a lesson has been learned.

"It was dark by the time the doorbell rings.
It is Koko.
Koko wants to come in.
It was boring staying out alone."

Bo offers a sandwich.

So it goes with bedtime; waking up late having missed a prepared breakfast; taking a coat, in case of rain and cold, to do their grocery shopping. You know how little ones feel about being trapped in a shopping cart. The two are separated. An announcement lets Bo knows where Koko is. Retrieval happens when the shopping is all done. It turns out that Koko has landed in some trouble. Allowed to make a choice about paying for the items in hand, and not making the best one, summons store guards. OOPS!

The design of the book is square. The illustrations fill its pages with details never verbalized. Beautifully colored in simple form, they are also expressive and will hold attention as the book is read.

Julie Danielson at says in her review that this book is 'a breath of fresh air.' J'agree!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Storytelling of Ravens, written by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Natalie Nelson. Groundwood, 2018. $18.95 ages 9 and up

"The shrewdness of apes
loved the new arrangement.
Now everyone would get a

The trip of sheep looked
away in embarrassment.
Philomena never could keep
her footing.

The knot of toads didn't
know what to do. "

This is such a fun book to read, and then read again! Collective nouns for a variety of familiar animals are presented in a brand new and thought-provoking way. I will bet you have never considered the descriptions as they are presented.

Unpredictable and creative, readers will want to give clear thought and careful attention to both text and illustration. The double page spreads are full of color and surprise. The vocabulary elaborates on the scene shared. Characteristics of the animals being shown are known, and dealt with in an often humorous way.

"The knot of toads didn't know what to do.
Everyone wanted the fly, but not that badly."

The accompanying art shows deep green toads atop personal lily pads, tongues tangled in a bid to capture a passing dragonfly. None is willing to do the work necessary to follow through with the ensuing trouble. Would it be worth it? Not likely!

My personal favorite shows five lazy bears lounging on chaises; a waiter offering a tray replete with whole fish and a tropical mint cocktail to one of the five; and the facing page caption that reads: "the sloth of bears didn't want to forage anymore. Let the food come to them for a change."

Natalie Nelson uses gouache paint, ink, and found photographs to create digital collages that are both inspiring and whimsical. They provide an apt and appealing complement to Kyle Luckoff's text. I have read it a number of times, and realize that each collective noun is brand new learning for me. I wonder when I will astonish friends with this new knowledge.

Literally, funny!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Little Brothers and Little Sisters, written and illustrated by Monica Arnaldo. Owlkids, 2018. $18.95 ages 4 and up

"In nearly every
neighborhood of
almost every town,

you will find
little brothers and
little sisters,

all longing for
the same few things ...

A turn at the wheel ... "

Younger siblings want to follow in the footsteps of their older sisters and brothers. On the one hand, it can be irritating ... if you are the older one. On the other, it can be wistful ... if all you want is to be  like your sister or brother. If you are a parent, you will know what I mean.

The cover of this winning picture book introduces the eight siblings, allowing young readers the opportunity to see just how similar they are to each other. As pages are turned, the author provides familiar scenarios for many children. The little ones can't always have what the older ones have; that does not mean they cannot wish for such things.

The move from being the ones pulling the wagon to the ones riding in it. 

The secret password that allows entrance into the tree fort.

A place on the sofa rather than the floor while watching a movie.  

If you have an older brother or sister, you have been there. Wanting more than we have because we are envious of those older than we are is a familiar complaint.

Then, in the middle of the book, an accident causes a shift. A peace offering and an apology results in an evident attitude change. From there, the vignettes provide a look at feelings of protection, help, and love. That changes the dynamic.

The art is expressive and offers numerous chances to slow down for a discussion of feelings. The background colors shift from bright white of morning to the warmth of sunset, as the siblings find strength and love in the comfort of each other. Yes, there are negatives and positives in these family relationships and we are witness to them all. At the same time, they give the reader perspective from both sides of sibling rivalry.

This book will warm your heart and bring comfort to your soul. It needs to be shared.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere. Written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Katherine Roy. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2018. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"Will grew up and trekked the world
collecting exotic birds for the Bronx
Zoo. He climbed a smoking volcano,
fought armies of stinging ants, and
wrote bestselling books.

Nothing surprised him ...

until he dove into a shallow reef off
the Galapagos Islands. A brand-new

Ohh! My claustrophobic tendencies kicked in when I read this book the first time. I was intrigued enough to read it again, and to admire the two men who made history aboard the Bathysphere, a hollow metal ball that would take them to the ocean deeps.

They made that historical dive in 1930. Two men - renowned scientist William Beebe and the Bathysphere's designer, Otis Barton, descended more than 800 feet in an unproven submersible. Otis had always loved the ocean, and wanted to explore the deeps from a young age.

"He sketched a wood helmet
with three glass windows that a
carpenter made for a few dollars.
Otis hung two sandbags around
his neck and connected a hose.
A friend pushed air into the
helmet with a bike pump while
Otis bounced on the shallow
harbor bottom."

Yep, I would have tried that - not in any lifetime.

Will learned much about the natural world that surrounded him before his Galapagos Island dive. Following that, he had the same dream as Otis had - to explore the deep ocean waters. Otis read about Will's proposal for a machine that would descend into the deeps, and knew it would fail. So, he designed another. Will agreed to meet with him to discuss his plan. The two agreed to work together.

And here's where I stopped the first time:

"Inside, the 5,000-pound Bathysphere
measured four and a half feet, the size of
a tiny closet. Otis and Will each stood about
six feet tall. To get in, they wriggled like seals
over the scratchy hatch bolts, fell to the cold
steel bottom, and untangled their arms and legs."

I still get the heebie-jeebies. The rest of their story is so clearly documented that readers cannot help but be captivated by it. There were many things that could go wrong. Their descent - stopping every 100 feet all the way to 800 - was terrifying and is precisely described. Their smiles upon returning to the surface were radiant. They had done it!

Oh, my! Katherine Roy adds immediacy and beauty with her wondrous mixed media images. Realistic and detailed, she chronicles the preparation for the history-making plunge and the perils of the descent. The spectacular double gatefold that opens to show the ocean life panorama discovered when they shone a beam of light upon it will inspire cries of surprise and awe.

Author and illustrator notes, including archival photos, add further information and are sure to inspire interested readers to follow up and find out more. To that end, a list of sources is also provided. This is a dramatic, gripping account of one historical event in discovering the depths of our oceans.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Bigger! Bigger! By Leslie Patricelli. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2018. $21.99 ages 2 and up



Bigger! Bigger!



Is this a theme? It's wonderful to have received two books about building with blocks on two consecutive days. Here's the second one. My granddaughters love this little pig-tailed girl whose love of life and learning is so evident in the books Leslie Patricelli has written with her as the main character.

She's keen. We can tell by the determined look she gives as she pushes the block box to where she wants to dump them out. And then, they are on the floor, and she is ready for big doings. Her cat and dog are interested observers. She's got the idea, and moves from house to yard. As she does so, fantasy kicks in and we watch as she builds first a dog house (in the style of her first block construction), then a family home, a manor, a road, a bridge, a multi-story building, and a series of skyscrapers. Each one is bigger than the last, and the text shows the progress made. Big, Bigger, Biggest! Then, BOOM! BOOM!

From behind the row of skyscrapers a giant baby emerges - and the little girl is returned to reality. Her baby brother is bent on a crash course in destruction, leaving his sister bereft. Well, both are sad. A solution presents itself in the concept STRONGER! All is well.

Kids who know Ms. Patricelli's board books for toddlers will surely recognize that baby and understand the chaos created. Appealing thick outlines focus attention on the events of this story that celebrates learning through play, imagination and compromise. Simple text, bold color and textured artwork make it a great read aloud for story time with little ones.

If you have not yet seen Higher! Higher! or Faster! Faster! check for them at the public library.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

CRASH! BOOM! A Math Tale, written by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Chris Chatterton. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2018. $21.99 ages 2 and up

"Hmmmm ...



1 more.

Hey! I want it to be as
tall as ME!"

Who hasn't watched little ones building block towers, and seeing them fall? Often, to a child's great consternation and equally to great delight - depending on their disposition at the time. It is amazing to watch the concentration, the determination to get it right, and the prevailing attitude when the tower falls.

The little elephant here wants to match the pile of blocks to her own height. As a former kindergarten teacher who replaced workbooks with full sets of building blocks (to my principal's dismay at the time), I watched intently to see how each child handled the challenges inherent in block play. It was not only enlightening, but it affected and improved my ability to assess and report on growth and development.

Watching this little elephant brought back many memories. Robie Harris clearly captures for her readers a mirrored look at their own block play. After emptying the blocks from their container and spreading them out, the elephant takes one at a time, and constructs. The blocks are different shapes and sizes, wooden, and easy to handle. Thrilled to be successful, she celebrates. An errant touch and it all falls down - CRASH! BOOM!

Developmental math language is used to great success - more, up, tall, shorter, down, flat, wobbly, counting, even equal sizes. The first failure does not deter, nor does it thwart the imagination for other ways of building equal sized towers.

Chris Chatterton creates expressive collage artwork, using real wooden blocks. Employing plain backgrounds and expressive facial changes, he creates a warm and engaging mood to match the author's text. There is great joy here - and success! Be sure you have blocks at the ready for when the story is done!

No adults to offer advice. One small being trying, failing, and then trying again and again. This is learning through play at its best. Bravo!

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding The World's Coral Reefs, written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2018. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"One hopeful dive ...
One optimistic experiment ...

Six small coral colonies -
glued onto a limestone
surface where a reef had
once flourished and was
now bleached and barren.
Would they grow?"

I was astounded when I first read this story. So, I read it again. Then, I read it again now as I want it to be front of mind as I tell you about it. It is a truly remarkable look at Ken Nedimyer, who was fascinated with the ocean from his earliest days, and remains so to this day.

"He loved the ocean.
He watched TV shows about underwater
explorer Jacques Cousteau.
He visited the beach whenever he could,
swimming far out to a world of angelfish and sea stars.
The reefs of the Florida Keys
teemed with life."

There was much to learn about the coral reefs, and Ken set about learning all he could. Imagine his horror when he saw the reefs changing. They were less colorful; there were fewer fish. He was watching the reefs die, and had absolutely no idea what to do about it.

Later, as an adult, he learned what he needed to know. He watched staghorn corals grow on his live rock farm. He and his daughter took pieces of the coral and attached them to other rocks. What an inspiration, and what a difference one person CAN make!

The rest of his story is inspiring, and today his Coral Restoration Foundation volunteers work tirelessly at his side. Their success is amazing. He travels the world sharing what he has learned with other countries, in hopes that coral reefs everywhere will come to full life again.

"The corals may spawn, and if one tiny life lands in
just the right spot, another new colony will grow.

And then another."

What great news!

Matthew Forsythe's light-infused illustrations create a perfect setting for this hopeful story.  The color palette is ever-changing, allowing readers to see the full beauty of the ocean and feel the movement in its flowing waters.

In backmatter, the author provides further information about the dying reefs themselves, tips on how kids can make a difference, a useful list of resources, and a glossary.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Be Prepared, by Vera Brosgol. First Second, Roaring Brook Press. Raincoast. 2018. $16.99 ages 10 and up

"I got your letter. 
Is it really bad? Are 
kids mean to you? 
No, it's just ...
Well, that's the whole 
point of camp! It's 
supposed to be a challenge! 
But I don't have any friends.
Everybody already knows
each other ... "

This graphic novel is perfect for middle graders, especially those who have a camping background. As a non-camper, having only attended one and hating every minute of it, I can relate to some of the scenes Vera Brosgol describes in this wonderful memoir. She bases it on her memories of the two summers she spent as a young girl at camp (which she hated).

"I wrote down all my memories in a big list, then grilled my siblings for THEIR memories. My mom dug up old letters and photos. I also interviewed Natasha, a former counselor who has been at camp much more recently than me. I even went to the camp myself, sneaking in during an open house to sketch and take photos. It was exactly as I remembered it, though they had added a door to the Hollywood and the campers were no longer washing their hair in the lake. (Thanks, Clean Water Act.)"

Vera is nine, and a Russian immigrant. She wants to be like the other kids. Because her church will pay for her to go, she begs her mother to allow attendance at camp. She can't wait to get there ... and then, she gets there. It is not the camp her friends are attending. It is nothing like she thought it would be. Traditions that many of the other Russian campers embrace are brand new to Vera. The girls can be mean, the outhouses are more than she can bear for their stink, the bugs are annoying, and she is downright miserable. Her older bunkmates use her artistic bent to draw sketches of the boys who interest them, to provide candy when they need it. They make fun of her at every turn. In the face of all the humiliation, she begins to find her footing when she finally meets a friend. 

This is a wonderful graphic novel, and it will find many fans for Ms. Brosgol's work. The dialogue is spot-on, the pace is perfect and the artwork is full of feeling, even humor at times. Vera is a young girl to emulate, and to admire for her stamina and spunk. Vera endures, and eventually finds a place to belong.

The author speaks for me in an author's note in back matter:

"Though some details have changed a bit for dramatic purposes, the feelings are 100 percent true. I set out to write about a hard, lonely summer I had when I was a kid. It always took me a long time to make friends, and being dropped into a strange environment with older kids and giant horseflies didn't play to my strengths. Plenty of people love summer camp and look forward to it every year. Hooray for them, but I was not one of those people. I know I'm not alone in that experience, and this book will hopefully make some kids feel less alone, too. Or you can just laugh at what a weenie I was."