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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Beware of the Crocodile, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $22,99 ages 4 and up

"And they're not at all picky
about what they eat, as long
as it's got a bit of meat on it.

When it comes to hunting
down their dinner, they're
very determined and very
cunning. They know all the
places along the sides of the
rivers and lakes where animals
come down to drink."

With tongue in cheek, Martin Jenkins describes for his young audience some of the distinctive features of the crocodile. By doing so, he is able to educate while also captivating them with scary scenes and impressions.

First up, he wants them to know that crocodiles are 'really scary - or at least the big ones are.' That has to do with their teeth, their cunning ways, their quick action when prey unintentionally gets a bit too close. He explains it can be gruesome, but goes no further than that.

He then says that a good meal will hold the crocodile for some time, allowing it to have a long, enjoyable nap (as humans often do), and to scope out new hiding places for seizing its next meal.
As he tells his story, further informative text is added to the spread using a different font.

That is not all that crocodiles do:

"But there's more to crocodiles than SPLASH, snap, twirl, swallow.
You might be surprised to hear that they make very good parents.
Or mothers, we should say."

He goes on to fully explain all that a mother does to lay, incubate, hatch and get her babies to the water, where she will continue to care for them for an extended time. She protects them as they grow and thrive (those who survive), allowing them to take their place along the river's edge in search of their own sustenance.

An ending paragraph, suggestions for further research and an index complete this stellar book. It is a wonderful way to introduce young children to the elements of illustrated nonfiction in very accessible text.

Mr. Kitamura creates lively accompanying artwork to enhance the learning and to draw a child's attention to the information presented. The palette chosen seems perfect, and the horizontal perspectives ensure a real sense of size and danger for readers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Birds, by Carme Lemniscates. Candlewick Studio. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.00 ages 3 and up

" A bird's song is like
the loving words of a

A happy song that greets
us every morning.

And our hearts sing, too,
because birds are like
good news coming."

On a day trip to Winnipeg yesterday, I was listening to the radio and happy to hear the news from our national weather service that we really can look forward to spring. this year. The announcer said that we should expect cold days for two weeks; then, it looks like an abrupt change to much milder temperatures. After weeks of -30 days and wind chills of more than -40, I wouldn't be surprised if people are skeptical.

Perhaps reading this lovely new concept book will give a bit of an uplift to the spirits in days to come. I'm tired of the squawking crows, the screeching blue jays, the chirping of sparrows, with no backup chorus. It is always joyous to welcome spring birds home, and to sit in the porch and listen to their songs.

Birds of all sizes and shapes make an appearance in this beautifully illustrated picture book. Their differences in size, shape, and color are evident on every page; their natural habitats provide inviting backgrounds.

The young child who narrates the book makes mention of their different needs, but shows love and admiration for each and every one. They do have one similarity.

"But no matter what, nearly all like to have conversations.
Tweet, tweet! calls one.
Cheep, cheep! replies another.
For every call, there is a response."

If you have a child who is showing an interest in birds, or work with children who love learning about nature, this is a book that can be shared and then handed over for a closer inspection of all the artist would like them to observe about the birds presented.

As I have mentioned in other posts, don't miss the endpapers. The feathers are gorgeous and offer up a bit of a guessing game for little ones. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Monkey Time, by Michael Hall. Greenwillow, Harper. 2019. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"Hop! Pop! 
Ha-ha. You missed me.

Look, Monkey.
There goes another minute.
Can you catch that one?

Chase it over. Chase it down.
Chase it all the way ...
Pop! That one got away
from you, too!"

Monkey lives in a tree. But, it is not just any tree. It is a tree that looks just like a clock!

Endpapers show the smiling monkey surrounded by a collection of small-footed, orange balls, numbered 1 through to 60. The title page has that same monkey asleep in a twelve-branched  tree while the tiny orange balls march forward to climb its trunk. They want to play!

The first offers a challenge:

"Wheee! I bet you can't
catch a minute, Monkey."

Off it goes, clockwise from branch to branch. Monkey gives proper chase but can't keep up. So the game goes from one minute to the next, with the monkey just missing the mark each time.

"Pippity-pop! Pippity-pop!
Pippity-pippity-pippity ...
One hour is almost over.
There's only one minute left!"

Will the monkey catch that last minute - and what will he do with it, if he does? 

The design is inspired, as I have found with each of Michael Hall's earlier books. They have a special space on our 'keepers' shelf! Always thoughtful, and endlessly engaging, we share them time and again.

The digital collages are precise and driven by the mathematical game itself. Monkey's arm sweeps from minute to minute clockwise, always chasing time. When the hour is up, the minutes fly away and a new set of green dots begin the climb to start the next hour's worth of fun. Let the game begin again!

A turn from page to page takes readers from white backgrounds showing the game's progress, to boldly colored images of the rainforest and its inhabitants, who are aware of the game in progress. In the end, Mr. Hall offers short descriptive paragraphs and thumbnail sketches of each, and further information about time itself.

Monday, February 25, 2019

drawn together, written by Minh Le and illustrated by Dan Santat. Disney-Hyperion, Hachette. 2018. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"Right when I gave
up on talking,  my
grandfather surprised
me by revealing a
world beyond words.

And in a FLASH -
we see each other for
the first time."

Stories of the immigrant experience are always welcome and are very important, especially now. Children need to see themselves in stories that reflect their experience, their families, their daily lives.

This book shows how art can bridge the gap between a grandson and his grandfather; they do not speak the same language. It is an obstacle to conversation, but not to love. When his mother drops him off to spend time with his very delighted grandfather, the boy appears reluctant. He is anticipating difficulties.

Lunch is served: a Thai noodle dish for Grandpa, and a hot dog, fries and a salad for the boy. Conversation is limited by their inability to communicate, as are the choices made for watching television. The boy grabs his backpack, takes out his paper and markers and begins drawing; his grandfather is impressed and does the same thing. Their love of drawing and an ability to tell stories through their imagination is the ticket to a new way of understanding each other.  AWESOME!

The powerfully illustrated panels show everything that readers need to know about the two men - young and old. Awkward pauses, concerned side looks and detachment are all clearly evident and uncomfortable. The art and story that grows from a shared love of drawing is inspirational to each, and sets up a battle of the two imaginations.The new world they build in Dan Santat's spectacular illustrations will awe readers and inspire them as well. Their styles may differ, but their love is evident in life and in art.

Beautifully told in both text and illustration, this is a book to be savored.                                                                       

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Reptile Club, written by Maureen Fergus and illustrated by Elina Ellis. Kids Can Press, 2018. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"Nice to meet you all," said Rory. "My name is Rory. I sweat through my armpits, I can swallow a hotdog in one bite and I would give anything to be able to lick my eyeballs." Everybody laughed. Once the new club members were comfortably settled, they talked about their favorite reptiles."

When Rory arrives at his new school, he feels like most kids who find themselves in this same situation. He wants to fit in. Try as he might, he cannot find a school club that interests him - not glee, ballet, knitting, karate, theater or cooking. He explores others as well. What's Rory to do?

His parents offer a solution; Rory could start a club of his own. Eureka! That club will be for kids who like animals, especially reptiles. He does all he can to entice new members. No one shows up for the first meeting, until ... he hears voices outside the classroom and is astonished to meet the first arrivals. They are a gecko, an anaconda, and a crocodile. Introducing themselves by sharing a special attribute gains a funny response from their host, and on they go.

Once the other students see the reptiles their interest peaks, and Rory must do his best to convince the reptiles to let mammals join them. They have no idea how much they have to learn.

There is great energy in the digital artwork created for this school story. The many details Elina Ellis includes add interest and beg special attention. It is imaginative, informative and perhaps just the incentive needed for children to consider special interests and new learning.

It's a terrific book to share with a group, full of fun and appeal. Friendship and inclusion are its heart, while providing some new learning adds to its allure.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Seal Garden, by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read. Orca Book Publishers, 2018. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"Sometimes there are hundreds of marine mammals in a seal garden. They feed on the fish, bob like corks on the ocean's surface and wrap themselves into long copper-colored seaweed called kelp for afternoon naps. Harbor seals laze in the middle of the seal garden ... "

In this third book for the My Great Bear Rainforest series, Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read look to the sea. The first two featured animals of the land ... the bear, and the wolf. This is definitely a set of books worth having for younger readers, with enough information to educate and enlighten without overdoing it for them.

The Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia's north and central coastline is an amazing and protected environment for the many animals who thrive there. The authors include otters and fish alongside the seals as an integral part of the marine life threatened mainly by orcas and weather. Kids will be intrigued to check out the gorgeous photographs that show how the inhabitants manage to hide from inherent danger.

The seal gardens provide perfect and welcome protection for the animals who find refuge there. Too small for the larger predators to get inside, they offer much needed cover. Rocks along the coast also keep seals out of harm's way by keeping predators back from the dangerous shoreline.

"Orcas like to sneak up on their prey, so the fact that the seals saw them first is bad news for the whales. Even so, once they spot the seals, they chase them all the way back to the seal garden. They can see all the seals, sea lions, sea otters and river otters inside the garden, but they're too big to enter it."

The orcas prove to be patient, causing the many animals in the garden stress and worry. Finally, they decide to move on. Whew!

You can hear from the excerpts that this information book reads like a story for young readers while also teaching about this beautiful environment. It will make a great addition to your nonfiction collection for early to middle graders.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Circle, created by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.99 ages 4 and up

""There is one more rule,"
said Circle.
"No hiding behind the
Square said, "OK."
Triangle said, "Why not?"
"Because," said Circle. "It
is dark back there."
Square said, "OK."
Triangle said, "I am not
afraid of the dark!"

Oh. boy! You know exactly where Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are going with this, right?

I don't get to read to kids in classrooms as much as I would like to do. I love seeing their faces and watching their responses to the books I have chosen to read to them. This one was top of the pile while visiting at Ecole New Era School on Tuesday this week. My friend Nicole asked me to visit, and I was very happy to say I would love to be there. The three groups were students from K to grade 3, and they were so attentive that it was a real pleasure being there again.

I read Circle to each group, and it was well-received by all. That is testament to the writing and artistic work of these wonderful collaborators. They know kids, and they know what kids want to read. Following up on Triangle (Candlewick, 2017) and Square (Candlewick, 2018), this is the third installment in this fine and funny series of books. I have read that some call it a trilogy. I surely hope they are wrong. The kids that I read it to on Tuesday would feel exactly the same way if you asked them. Their responses to the question posed at the end of the book were numerous. We can only hope that the creators have another ace up their sleeves.

The game played by the three friends ends with a surprise. Along the way, there is intrigue, some fear, a touch of humor and a question that musters up careful thought. Jon Klassen's signature images evoke all the emotions felt and spark a child's imagination as the story moves from game-playing and rule breaking to concern for the unknown. Circle's move to the darkened world behind the waterfall, and then into total darkness where only sets of eyes can be seen is inspired.

What a message to send - do we fear what we don't know before finding out all we can about it?
Simple and childlike is the story it tells, but is it?  Let's think about that.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

I Love You Mom, written by Abbie Headon and illustrated by Liz Temperley. Firefly Books, 2019. $14.95 ages 6 and up

""Black Rhinoceros

Single parenthood is a
challenge, but it creates
a unique relationship with
lots of joy. Each rhino mom
raises her baby by herself,
and her love is so strong
that she won't mate again
until her little becomes fully
independent, a process that
can take two to three years."

This book came in the mail today, and I thought I would share it right away. Now, you can be sure to find a copy to use in your classroom in the days leading to Mother's Day, or maybe you know a mom who would really appreciate having a copy. I am one of those 'moms' who doesn't think there is a need to celebrate just one day. So, don't wait if you feel you want to gift it earlier than May. It's important to celebrate everyone every single day, isn't it?

The entries follow the same pattern throughout the book: on one page a beautiful watercolor image of a mother and her baby, and on the facing page a short paragraph of pertinent and accessible text.

In the introduction, Abbie Headon says:

"Motherhood is the most demanding and rewarding of roles, as these loving animals demonstrate. Let's go on a journey to meet nature's very best moms, and celebrate everything that makes our own mothers so special."

These animals live on the land, in the air, and in the sea. They are from every continent. Some are familiar, some may not be. Their love for their young is evident in every illustration presented. Moms are wonders, and this little book celebrates that.

"Gray Langur

As we grow old enough to start finding out about the world around us, we open ourselves to new role models. In the same way, when a gray langur baby reaches the age of two, its mom will allow other females in the group to share mothering duties, helping it to bond with its community."

"Sea Otter

As well as being adorable, a baby sea otter's fluffiness plays a vital role in its safety. A mother sea otter will blow air into her baby's soft, dense fur, puffing it up like a natural life jacket, so that her little one can float safely until it learns to swim and dive just like she does."

Just enough information to have young readers asking for more. This is a great format to use when presenting data collected during scientific research.  There is lots to learn, and it will also suggest  further reading.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

NOT YOUR NEST! Written by Gideon Sterer and illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up


I'm sorry.
This is not your nest.

That's okay. 
You can build another. 

I guess I could ...

This is my new nest."

It is evident from the beginning that this tiny yellow bird is industrious, determined, and looking for a place of her own. The animals of the savanna that play a role in the lighthearted comedy that is about to be read have their eyes on the action as she looks to be settling down.

She has spent time and effort to design, plan and carry out the difficult work that has resulted in a new home. Adding the final piece leads to an unnerving and rather annoying discovery. A much bigger bird with a pretty self-serving attitude sends the tiny bird on her way to building a new nest.

And so, it goes. With each new, completed nest, the bird makes the alarming discovery that someone else has usurped her space. A fennec fox, a warthog, a gorilla ... the list goes on. Each time the bird grows more weary and more miffed. At the end of her patience, she finds a friend to help with her plight!



Out they go! Feeling contrite, the animal interlopers decide to help with a new nest, and build it at the top of the acacia tree. It's much too big, and the bird is left feeling alone in a new home that is much too big for her. Hmm??? How to solve that problem?

The illustrated animals are a delight, offering expressions that will capture attention and prompt discussion among readers. The speech bubbles allow for sharing the reading as little ones giggle and guffaw their way through the constant drama experienced by one small yellow bird.

This is a fun interview with the author and illustrator themselves.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Carter Reads the Newspaper, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Don Tate. Peachtree. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2019. $23.99 ages 8 and up

"Carter was inspired by Oliver and this circle of men committed to freedom, equality, and knowledge - men whose own life stories would never be in history books. And so the seeds of Carter's own life work began to grow. "My interest in penetrating the past of my people was deepened."

As I find so often when I read books by Deborah Hopkinson, I come away from the reading more enlightened, and fascinated by the stories she shares.

This picture book biography tells the story of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who is called the 'father of Black History'. Highly appropriate for sharing in February which is designated Black History Month, it shares the experiences that led Carter to realize how important reading could be to all people.

Carter was born after the Civil War to former slaves who told their stories to Carter and his six siblings. Life was not easy for the family. Carter was needed to help on the family farm for part of the school year; in the other months he did his best and was able to read the newspaper to his illiterate father. Through that reading, Carter learned about the world beyond the family farm.

Carter gave up his schooling before high school in order to help the family. Farm work, and then working in the mines taught him a great deal and earned him new friends. Meeting Oliver Jones lead to joining other miners in the reading room Oliver opened in evenings when their work was done. Carter was more interested in the food that he was in the reading. But, Carter's ability to read afforded him the chance to read the newspapers to the men gathered there, and the knowledge that a person can learn much from others.

 Eventually earning a PhD in history from Harvard, he was challenged by one of his teachers to prove that Black people did, indeed, have a history. And that is what he did for the rest of his life.

This is a very interesting life story, told in an accessible, conversational style. Ms. Hopkinson inspires her readers to learn more by introducing other historical figures, and opening to them the opportunity to make further discoveries of their own.

Don Tate's illustrations present portraits of influential leaders, informative backgrounds, as well as realistic images of Carter and his family. Endpapers are worthy of your attention as is back matter which includes a resource list for learning more about Carter, an author's note, an illustrator's note, a list of the Black leaders pictured throughout the text, a timeline for Carter's life and many accomplishments, and quotation sources.

Engaging, informative and worthy of your attention. It should be shared!

"The boy who began by reading the newspaper to others transformed the way people thought about history. He fought for a history based on truth - a history that includes all people. Carter G. Woodson didn't just study history. He changed it. And we can too."

Monday, February 18, 2019

Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish, written by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Putnam, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"Rule no. 2
You must have a PARTY! 

A celebration, hoopla., or jamboree. There should be games and laughter  and definitely hats. Hats immediately elevate the party mood.
Food is also a good idea (see Rule #3), as are streamers, confetti, and balloons.

Unless ... "

Who doesn't like having a new birthday book in their repertoire? It seems there can never be enough of them. After all, their birthday is the best day of the year for most kids. We all love to celebrate those special days with family and friends, don't we?

Two traced hands with ten little fingers provide an invitation for readers to place their own hands right on top. That way there will be no confusion over the opening statement:

"There are, 
there most definitely are,

       very specific, tried and true,
        and absolutely essential
        Rules For The Making of
        a Birthday Wish."

Let the counting begin. Counting up, and placing each rule in bold and large font, readers will be privy to the details that make birthday wishes so special. Each rule is presented on a double page spread, which may or may not be accompanied by following pages with exceptions to that rule. There are conditions where the exact rule may not apply because of extenuating circumstances.

"Rule no. 5
There must be singing. 

Traditionally the "Happy Birthday" song.
Sung happily and loudly and definitely off-key.
Unless your friends are feathered ...

you're lucky enough
to have friends who can
and carry a tune,
sit back and
enjoy the show."

Tom Lichtenheld's humorous and detailed artwork is done in pencil, watercolor, colored pencil and pastel. Sure to elicit big smiles. the occasional guffaw, and contented sighs, it offers context for the rules as they are presented and visual information about the animals attending as well. There is much to see and celebrate. Young readers will be captivated by those animals and their unique ways of celebrating such a special day.

"Don't forget that "wish" ends in
so keep your wish quiet,

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier. Penguin Random House, 2018. $21.99 ages 9 and up

"Truthfully, Nan had her doubts. If there was a fat giant hopping down chimneys once a year, she would probably have spotted him ... or at least heard him stomping on the roof. Chimneys were her business, after all. "I'm merry that Father Christmas saved the baby," Charlie said, pressing his fingers together. "Only I'm not sure I'd want to find him inside our chimney. Is he very frightening?" "Oh, he's terrifying. Dressed in all red, with long white ... "

What a cast of characters you will meet when you choose to read this marvelous Victorian tale of loss, terror, family, misery, and love above all! You will not forget them.

Nan Sparrow and the Sweep are inseparable, and have been as long as Nan can remember. His lessons to her have been numerous, and the days they spend together are happy, if often difficult. Everything they do together is described in the first five pages.

"This was life as the girl knew it. And every night she slept soundly, knowing that she and the Sweep would have each other forever."

When the Sweep disappears, Nan is left with his hat, a warm lump of charcoal, and an abiding love for the man who was her mentor and stalwart companion for so long. Going on without him is heartbreaking, but Nan is strong, smart, brave, determined, and often outspoken among the group of sweeps owned by the abusive Crudd. A frightful chimney fire allows escape for Nan. And, it gives life to the bit of 'char' the Sweep has left in her care, who saves her life. Naming her protective golem Charlie and striking out on their own, the two manage to make a life for themselves in an old abandoned house.

Life in Victorian London for children who sweep chimneys is harrowing, and fully realized in Jonathan Auxier's outstanding storytelling. There were times when I just had to take a breath before reading on, but those breaks were few and far between. Nan's story is compelling, heartbreaking and forever hopeful. She finds and gives support to those she loves, and welcomes help from Charlie when needed. She is also a protector of the naive golem, only wanting what is best for him at all times. In the final touching scenes, Charlie does what he has always done. Only then does Nan fully realize (as Miss Bloom has earlier told her) her golem is not an immortal, and she must learn to say goodbye again.

There are two sections, Innocence and Experience. Each brilliantly describe Nan's life. The characters brought to life are memorable, as are their many experiences ... good and bad. The setting lives and breathes, the community created is meaningful, and the novel itself deep and satisfying.

There is darkness; there is also brilliant light. Part fantasy, part truth ... it is a story for the ages. Don't miss it!

“We save ourselves by saving others.”

Saturday, February 16, 2019

HOW TO BE A LION, by Ed Vere. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. 2018. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"The world is full of ideas.

Big ones,
small ones.
Good ones,
bad ones.

Some think this ...

    others think that ... "

It has been said that there is only one way to be a lion. Do you think that is true?

If you think that all lions are fierce, you haven't yet met Leonard. He will change your mind about the preconceived notions you have concerning lions and their behaviors. There are many things Leonard loves to do that do not fit the mold generally attributed to the 'king of the jungle': Leonard loves having the sun warm his back, taking time to think, humming a new song, and thinking poetic thoughts.

In fact, should Leonard meet a duck, many think that would be the end for said duck. But, they don't know Leonard and they haven't met Marianne. Marianne is a perfect companion for Leonard. They are both poetic, They like to lie in the sun. They like to play together, and to take long walks while conversing about all manner of things.

"At night they watched for shooting stars,
and made wishes if they saw them.
"Do you think the universe has edges?'
quacked Marianne.
"If it doesn't," said Leonard,
"will we fall out?"

Together they are happy.
They wish for nothing more than this."

Coming upon a pride of angry lions demanding more appropriate behavior from one of their own has Leonard questioning his better instincts, and Marianne quaking in fear. In time, Marianne helps him design a poem that Leonard is brave enough to share with the other lions.

I guarantee you will be impressed by it.

The two friends are the focus for this thoughtful tale, appearing happy together on warm and unencumbered backgrounds.  They prove that being a lion, and being a friend is a worthy pursuit.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Niblet & Ralph, by Zachariah Ohora. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. 2018. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"One day Ralph found a way
to visit Niblet.
And Niblet found a way to
visit Ralph.
Except when Niblet got to
Ralph's, no one was home.
I'll just wait for Ralph, he
When Ralph got to Niblet's,
nobody was home there, either.
He probably just stepped into the 
litter box, thought Ralph."

Kids who love cats are going to love this story. Gemma and Dilla live in the same building. However, they do not know each other. They do have cats that look eerily similar; the two cats do know each other. In fact, they talk on the telephone together every single day, and lay in the same sunshine as it comes through their respective windows.

Tired of phone calls, the two decide to pay each other a visit. When the opportunity arises, they make their escape. It is not a good plan as each apartment is empty of its inhabitants. When the two children return home wanting to spend time with their pets, they are surprised at the cool reception they receive. It isn't long until they realize they have a big problem. Their parents show no concern, and insist that they get some sleep.

Impossible! They cannot sleep for fear of what has happened to their beloved pets. Their parents remain convinced that nothing has changed. Gemma and Dilla know they are wrong, and set out on their own to find the missing  felines. Their search leads them to an unexpected discovery! And ... all's well that ends well!

The colors are bright, the setting is warm and welcoming, and the details presented are engaging for young readers.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

my heart, written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Some days it is cloudy
and heavy with rain.

Some days it is tiny,
but tiny can grow ...

and grow ...

and grow."

Corinna Luyken captured my heart in her first book for young children, The Book of Mistakes (Dial, 2017), and then again in Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse (Dial, 2018). Today, she has done it again.

What better day for talking about the power your heart holds than Valentine's Day? The heart the author describes belongs to a child. There are many wonderful things that heart can do. It is at the discretion of the heart's owner to keep it open, or to close it; it can be a window to the world or a door to its impact. While there are days when it protects from darkness, it can also open a child to the beauty of a wider world.

Readers are encouraged to look to their own heart, and face the world's many possibilities. The language has a gentle rhythm, and a concern for finding better days among the dark ones. There is always hope when care is given to keeping the heart whole and strong.

In tones of black and gray with gorgeous sunny yellow, Ms. Luyken shows emotion at every turn, and offers an opportunity for discussion concerning the many emotions felt by children. Sensitive and ultimately uplifting, children are sure to find themselves within its pages. They will be intrigued in a search for the many hearts displayed as well.

"My heart is a shadow,
a light, and a guide.
Closed or open ...
I get to decide."

Such power in beautifully chosen words!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Hush, Little Bunny, by David Ezra Stein. Balzer + Bray, Harper. 2019. $21.99 ages 2 and up

"And when that patch
of clover is done,
I'll give you a meadow
where you can run.
And if a hawk comes
gliding down,
I'll show you a nest
safe underground.
And when that hiding
place gets tight ... "

One of the songs I always sang to my kids when they were little  was Hush Little Baby. I have carried on that tradition with my granddaughters when are here visiting. Lullabies are very special songs for young ears. The catchy rhymes and calming rhythm bring a feeling of peace and contentment.

David Ezra Stein changes the song up by setting it in the warmth of a sunny spring day. We know those days are coming, although it is hard to believe given the deep freeze that has us in its grip. I thought today, as we await another dump of snow, might be the perfect day to tell you about it. Maybe you are thinking Easter and want a special book to celebrate the arrival of spring-like weather.

A father bunny has to do some coaxing to get his little one to emerge from their burrow. The first thing they do together is to say goodbye to the snow as the sun warms the earth and causes it to melt. Once they are out and about, there is enticement in the the blue sky above and the delicious emerging plant life on the ground. There is so much for the two of them to enjoy together. As they go, the father teaches his little one what he needs to know about this new and wonderful world.

The text is encouraging at every turn, and always informative as the two make their many discoveries. The sunny mixed media illustrations add warmth and delight throughout the singing ... and sing it you will.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Meet Tom Longboat, written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Mike Deas. Scholastic, 2019. $16.99 ages 9 and up

"The way Tom ran was different, too. In those days, most runners took long, high strides with their hands up and still. By keeping his feet close to the ground and his hands low, Tom saved energy as he ran. Not every race ended with a win, but Tom was becoming known as a top racer."

This is the third book in the Scholastic Canada Biography series. The first two featured Viola Desmond and Chris Hadfield. Each of the books in this series is deserving of your attention and a place on the shelf where you keep picture book biographies. They have much to share concerning prominent and admirable Canadians. Your students will find them enlightening and engaging. They will enjoy the accessible text, the design, and artwork of each.

Tom Longboat made his mark as a long distance runner. An Onondaga member of the Six Nations, his accomplishments are many. Ms. MacLeod begins with Tom's early life ... a life filled with running and fun. Sent to a residential school at 12, Tom hated life there. In his second year, he ran away twice and never went back. It would be five years before he entered his first race in 1905. When he came second, he decided he would not lose again.

His training was unlike that of other runners. People were not impressed and made their feelings known. Tom was doing then what many runners do now. As his fame grew, the people of Canada celebrated.

"A huge crowd paraded him to Toronto City Hall for
an official reception. Tome Longboat was famous - not
only in Canada, but all over the world."

His fame continued to grow, despite failure at the 1908 Olympic Games in London. Then, war changed everything. Tom served, and returned home in 1919 to find that running was no longer a revered sport. He could no longer earn a living doing what he loved. So, he got a job, cared for his family and eventually moved back to the reserve he loved. He died in 1949, but his spirit lives on in the Tom Longboat Award given to top Indigenous athletes yearly.

Well researched and presented in a conversational style, this is a welcome addition to a stellar series. Liz MacLeod is an accomplished storyteller, and Mike Deas fills the pages with energy and color in  historical settings that help with understanding. The speech bubbles will be much appreciated by middle grade students wanting to know more about notable Canadians.

Backmatter provides a timeline for Tom's life, and archival photographs.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Fox Explores The Night, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Richard Smythe. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $22.99 ages 4 and up

"The clouds have cleared.
There's the moon.
That's better.
And there's more light ahead.
Fox creeps forward.
What's that?

A mouse!

But the mouse is too fast
for Fox."

In this third book in the A First Science Storybook series, author Martin Jenkins and artist Richard Smythe use a young fox in her search for food to help their target audience understand the concepts of light and dark.

As she emerges from her den, the hungry fox is faced with bright sunlight, a lot of morning action, and many people. Not wanting to be discovered she returns to the darkness of the den. Later, she is even hungrier and the people have gone. Darkness has descended. She is ready to hunt, and her sharp eyesight will be an asset. Moonlight helps as well, and soon she spots a mouse. The mouse proves elusive. The fox must look elsewhere. As she searches, she faces a surprise and other obstacles to her understanding and safety.

Using her keen sense of smell she finally finds something to eat. Her search has come to an end. She returns to her den by the light of the moon.

While focusing on the fox and her search, the premise of the book is to educate young readers about light and dark. To that end, the simple language and visual awareness of the many types of light found in the dark of night provide an appealing learning experience for little ones. The mixed media illustrations effectively portray shadows, beams of light, and the differences between day and night.

Discussion suggestions for adult readers in frontmatter, and questions to ponder in backmatter are useful, as is a simple index which helps in understanding how information books work.

The first two books in the series are Squirrel's Busy Year and Bird Builds a Nest. Caterpillar and Bean is due in April. Check for them at the library or in your local bookstore.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Unlimited Squirrels in I Lost My Tooth! by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, Hachette. 2018. $13.99 ages 4 and up

"You should not let a tooth
go loose, Zoom Squirrel.

Teeth have no sense of 

You should have used a

You must be upset that
you lost your tooth."

We can only hope this is the beginning of a new series for all of those readers who have loved, and still love, the Piggy and Elephant books. Longer in length and in scope, this first (hopefully) book starring the Unlimited Squirrels will continue the learning that comes from books kids love. After a bit of research, I can confirm that it is a new series:

The Unlimited Squirrels series features a cast of squirrels, acorns and guests. The books will each include a funny adventure, jokes, quizzes, fun facts and more. 

Willems says in the announcement, "I'm excited about creating these new Unlimited Squirrels adventures with my longtime team at Hyperion Books for Children. I hope these books will resonate with young readers who love funny stories, interesting facts, silly jokes, and an overabundance of squirrels." 

His signature comedy, punny language, quick pace, and emotional telling will have fans, and new readers of his work, giggling and learning as they go. The table of contents, the chapter divisions, the color-coded speech bubbles, the description of the 'emote-acorns', and the silliness of the expressive and numerous squirrel characters all help readers learn about the workings of story. Combining an entertaining premise with actual facts about teeth, jokes, and short quizzes add to the appeal of the book itself.

Zoom Squirrel lisps while sharing the fact that he has lost his tooth. What a tooth is out there all alone? It is enough to send Zoom's many squirrel friends into a frenzy. They have a duty to help. Turns out that their mad search results in nothing but chaos, while Zoom methodically thinks through where he might have lost that tooth. Calm wins out. When the rest of the squirrels return in defeat, they cannot find Zoom. Imagine the continued chaos.

 Yes, that's what I am talking about with Mo Willems and his ability to strike new chords. Can't wait to share this in classrooms next week! Then, we will all wait patiently for the next adventure, won't we?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Cyril and Pat, by Emily Gravett. Two Hoots, Publishers Group Canada. 2019. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"Pat tried to learn to earn a treat
Like Cyril could, by looking sweet.

But no one threw a treat for Pat.

Urgh! Mum, 
I saw a great big ... 


Poor Cyril! He's the only squirrel living at Lake Park, and he is lonely. Then, one day, a new 'squirrel' makes an appearance. Cyril is beyond excited to meet Pat and have a mate for playing games, planning and performing puppet shows, skateboarding and bothering pigeons by sneaking up and scaring them. He is oblivious to the fact that he and Pat are not quite the same ... he cannot see any difference between them. Pat is his friend.

Every creature in the park tries to tell Cyril that he is making a big mistake. Pat is not what Cyril thinks he is. Cyril knows Pat to be a companion, a 'real joker', 'brilliant sharer', 'clever squirrel who can't be caught', and a 'rat'? All the others are quick to let Cyril know all that is wrong with a squirrel being a friend with a rat.


With Pat out of the picture, Cyril returns to a state of melancholy as all park life seems to go wrong. When he is finally chased from the park by the dog Slim, and into the city at night, Cyril is terrified. It's dark, and strange, and he is all alone to protect himself from those terrifying canine teeth. Or is he?

Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes. Emily Gravett has her fans in her heart when she shares her charming stories that resonate with young readers. Be sure to add this one to your list of perfect books for reading aloud. If you do, you will not only enjoy the timely tale, but you will be privy to her artistic talents so wonderfully displayed on every double page spread. From the warmth and bustle of the park and its sometimes scary moments to the real terror of an unknown urban landscape, she manages to entertain and draw our attention to the many fine details in the full-of-action, witty scenes. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Squirrel's Family Tree, written by Beth Ferry and illustrated by A.N. Kang. Orchard Books, Scholastic, 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"In a snap, white winter comes.
Snow falls down and cold wind numbs.
Squirrel eats up all the crumbs
as winter swiftly comes.

Squirrel does not hibernate.
She'll snuggle down and sleep in late,
but always she'll anticipate
the taste of something great. "

What is it about squirrels? We have one or two in the neighborhood, running along the utility lines in the back lane all year round. A neighbor provides peanuts, another neighbor offers a backyard tree, and the rest of us provide the roofs of our houses for romping and jumping. It's fun to watch!

This appealing information book will be much appreciated by little ones who want to know more about the squirrels they see in their own neighborhoods or on forest walks. It is easy to hear them chatter away as you near their nests and to watch them as they industriously help forests survive and thrive. They do a remarkable job of that, as is mentioned in a quote in front matter.

"Squirrels are the inadvertent heroes of forest restoration." - Anne Raver

In rhyming text, Ms. Ferry shows her readers how the squirrel's presence helps to keep oak trees growing in forested areas. As they gather and bury acorns in the fall, they ensure a plentiful food supply through the long, cold winter. Spring brings new babies that follow in the footsteps of their parents. The acorns not found remain to germinate and perhaps grow another tree.

"But many seeds she can't locate.
Her tummy will just have to wait.
And those seeds might just germinate
if found a bit too late."

So, the oak provides the seeds that sustain squirrel life, and squirrels stash seeds in places where they are not always found, and can grow another tree. It's a neverending cycle of life.

In back matter a list of "Nutty Facts" is provided, offering little additional tidbits of information.

"It is estimated that only one in 10,000 acorns becomes a mature oak tree."

"Tree squirrels fail to recover approximately 74% of the nuts they bury; therefore they are really planting hundreds of new oak trees."

A.N.King uses colored pencil that was scanned and digitally colored to create the warm, earthy images that clearly show the passing of the seasons, and years. Note the young boy and his dog in the first spread on land where few trees are growing, and in the end the old gentleman and his dog among a growing grove of oak trees. Same house, same setting. Lovely!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

My Anty-War Story, by Tony Ross. Andersen Press, Penguin Random House, 2018. $23.95 ages 7 and up

"Douglas watched the other ants form a beautiful line. All day, they hurried past carrying food. "Why do you do that?" asked Douglas. "So we can eat it over here," was the reply. "Why don't you eat it over there?" asked Douglas. "Let's not talk about it!" was the reply. Douglas thought that was a fine answer. Now he knew what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to fit in, to carry food and be in the beautiful line."

The ants in Douglas' world have no name. Well, other than Douglas that is. Even in the nursery, everyone knows who he is. The other ants are described with the letter A. Douglas would rather be like all the others.

He wishes he could carry food as they do. Douglas has a different purpose in life. Douglas is a soldier ant. When the time comes, his destiny is to carry his rifle and protect Antworld from any future threat. He is meant to keep their world safe for all of the ants. He is very proud of the role set for him.

"You are a big ant. You have a big head, and
big teeth." Douglas felt proud and very special.
"We have you down as a soldier."

Douglas is happy to join the other soldiers and do his duty. Then war rears its ugly head in the human world, and an attack destroys the anthill he is meant to protect, and all of the ants with it.

Large black shells aimed right at the anthill, followed by a double-page spread wide BANG, and the story comes to an abrupt end.

Only one somber image of human soldiers streaming across a war field at the SOMME, and a final look at a memorial covered with many letter As and the word 'Douglas' complete this thoughtful and meaningful book.

It is what war has done, and can do again.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Computer Called Katherine, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison. Little Brown and Company, Hachette. 2019. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"She asked questions. Lots of questions! What were her calculations used for? Why were they important? How did her answers help design airplanes and flights? The men engineers noticed the woman who asked intelligent questions and how quickly she solved difficult math problems."

Because of her outstanding ability in solving those problems Katherine was asked to join the space team whose mission was to get America's first astronaut into space. She felt she had been waiting for a long time to do such important work. Of course she agreed to join the team.

She was, however, not invited to be present at group meetings. How could that be? Katherine knew it was not right. Since there was no law preventing it, Katherine made an appearance at the next meeting. There, she asked the questions she needed to be answered. She then used their answers to compute a path for the rocket. A launch was planned. Success with the first launch lead to her being a part of the plan for John Glenn's Earth orbit. He would not leave until Katherine had approved the calculations.

What about the moon? Could a team travel around the moon?

"The rumbling rocket slowly rose
about the ground,
above the smoke,
above the clouds,
and then disappeared into ink-black space."

Numbers intrigued Katherine from early on. Always curious, always keen to learn, and an extremely gifted student, she did what many others had not done before her. That gift for learning and applying what she was learning carved a space for her in American history. She was no longer one of the 'hidden figures.'

Veronica Miller Jamison's use of mixed media brings Katherine's story to life for a young audience. The historical context in the illustrations helps readers understand some of the barriers faced in Katherine's quest to find a place for herself in what had been a working world for men, many of them white. Changing perspectives and mathematical imagery are sure to capture attention and bring focus to her remarkable life.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Every Month Is A New Year: Celebrations Around the World, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Susan L. Roth. Lee & Low Books, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2018. $26.99 ages 7 and up

"Dragon Dance
Chinese New Year
Hong Kong, China

Today my shy brother
has become part red dragon,
dancing joyfully in the square,
whipping his tail to the beat,
beat of the drum,
chasing away evil spirits ... "

A bit late with sharing a calendar for the new year, but ... Today is Chinese New Year - The Year of the Pig. It seems appropriate to share this with you now.

Marilyn Singer writes poetry with such style. This book takes the reader to many different parts of the world to learn how, and when, the new year is celebrated. A world map and an informative introduction prefaces a lovely beginning poem.

"The Year Turns

We choose the date.
From the earth's movement,
from the moon's phases,
these clocks and calendars
we create.
in parks and squares,
in temples and houses -
the year

Designed to move forward as a calendar does, each new turn presents another poem that focuses on a date, a country, and the name given to celebrating a new year. There are 16 celebrations in 14 countries, and they encompass an entire year from December 31 to December of the following year. Some are religious, some are secular, and some are a combination of the two.

The collage images that accompany each poem (which is conspicuously placed on a white background) are created from papers collected all over the world - and are absolutely stunning! Textured and very colorful, they give life and meaning to the poems shared.

 As she has proven in previous published works, Ms. Singer is adept at creating reverso poems. A case in point for the final entry:

"Turning the Year

the year,
in temples and houses,
in parks and squares.
we create
these clocks and calendars
from the moon's phases,
from the earth's movement.
We choose the date."

Amazing, as always!

Back matter includes a note about calendars, a list of the various greetings (with pronunciation), a descriptive paragraph or two about the many celebrations included, a useful glossary with pronunciation guide, and a lengthy list of sources.  It is worthy of your attention.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Tall Man and the Small Mouse, written by Mara Bergman and illustrated by Birgitta Sif. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2018. $22.99 ages 3 and up

"by day she slept
and at night she crept
to do small things
that needed doing
like finding pins
and pegs and corks,
long sharp nails
and long-lost forks,
a special pen, a silver ring,
a watch, a coin, a shiny thing.
Afterward she'd crawl ... "

Two creatures live in the house. The tall man does not know about the small mouse; the small mouse has no knowledge of the tall man's presence. The tall man spends his days doing what tall men do - picking apples, untangling swings, rescuing cats and kites from trees. The small mouse sleeps and creeps, then spends her time finding pins, pegs, corks and other very special things.

The tall man sets himself a task to fix the town clock. But no matter what he tries, he cannot do it. He cannot find a way to fix it, despite much research. Tired, he goes to sleep. While he is sleeping, the small mouse does her thing, and then settles into a nearby pair of shoes for a long night's slumber.

In the morning, the tall man is preparing for the day when he tries putting on his shoes, disturbing the small mouse and scaring himself. He also discovers where so many of the little treasures he needs for his fixing work have gone. Perhaps the mouse can help him with the town's clock. It seems two heads are better than one.

Engaging text that sings with rhyme and rhythm is accompanied by Birgitta Sif's signature charming images, created in pencil and then digitally colored. They are as warm and gentle as the story, and assure a lovely read at bedtime, or any time of the day. 

"In a tall hill
in a tall house
live a tall man
and a small mouse.

What do the two friends do all day?

Well ...

come rain or shine, whatever the weather,
they do the things that need doing

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories, by Sergio Ruzzier. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2019. $20.99 ages 4 and up

I'm going for a quiet boat ride.

I guess it doesn't have to be quiet.

Can I be the captain? 
We don't need a captain, Chick.

Captain Chick! That sounds good.
What does a captain do, Fox?"

Oh, I am very pleased to see Fox and Chick again. I loved their first book, The Party: And Other Stories (2018), as did everyone who read or heard it. They are a pair; their adventures are quite delightful despite the fact they are polar opposite personalities.

The three short stories in this new book are adventurous, and will be appreciated by fans of the first one and all emergent readers. Told completely in speech bubble dialogue between the two, their stories are told with warmth and humor as they seek common ground.

Fox is wanting a calm and peaceful boat ride. Chick is seeking companionship, and fills the quiet of the pond with constant conversation, observation, and questions.Chick needs reassurance that sea monsters don't like ponds, pirates would find nothing to take if they came aboard the boat, and being shipwrecked is not a possibility when the pond's shore is so close.

Fox makes an observation about his plan:

"A quiet boat ride
was my plan."

Chick feels the need to set Fox straight about what has transpired:

"Are you kidding me?
Sea monsters! Pirates!

The imagination can conjure up many fearful, things!

The second tale concerns a gift box filled with chocolate cake, and is equally charming. Finally, in a story about Fox wanting to see the sunrise, that plan is foiled by patience as Fox waits - and waits - and waits for Chick to get ready to go, too. The end result is full of meaning for both.

Fox remains unflappable, while Chick is totally flappable. But, in the end, their friendship is what will resonate with young readers.

I have great admiration for Sergio Ruzzier's storytelling, his playful, inviting art, and his tales of true friendship. BRAVO!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

What a COLD Needs, written by Barbara Bottner and illustrated by Chris Sheban. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"A cold needs socks,

Mom's soft hands,
Grandma's famous chicken soup,

a kiss from Grandpa's
gentle lips,

and plenty of Dad's
goofy jokes."

Wow! What a perfect book to be sharing these days! Seems that everyone I talk with has a cold - on the phone, on FaceTime, in person. It is that time of year.

I Love to Read month is just beginning, and I will be toting this book from school to school as I visit. Can't wait to share it with kids - and adults, as well. I love everything about it.

This young child is as unhappy as any of us are when confined to bed with a cold that needs a lot of care.The red nose, sad demeanor and lethargy are right there for all to see when we turn to the first page. A warm bed, birdsong and raindrops lift spirits, as do the many other efforts meant to help one so sick feel more comfortable. Young readers will recognize themselves in many of the small scenes.

"A cold needs someone to say,
"Poor you."
And someone else who says,
"You'll feel better soon."

Have you been there? I think is a universal affliction. While every attempt to make it better can be helpful, nothing works as well as the cold playing itself out and moving on ... unless it's to someone in close proximity. Poor Dad!

The warm and reassuring text is matched perfectly with Chris Sheban's illustrations done in watercolor, colored pencil, and graphite. Each image reflects empathy in soft tones and comforting settings. I have a few favorites - the child blowing a red and runny nose while used tissues can be seen everywhere, the dog's ears blown back with the power of the next sneeze, and the warmth of an afternoon nap, with soft music playing in the background, mouth wide open in an attempt to breathe, and the company of a loving pet.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle, by David Litchfield. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast. 2018.$23.99 ages

"News of the incredible
fiddle-playing dog spread,
and one day, a very famous
bear came to watch.
Bear told Hugo that he was
starting a band of musical
animals. He invited him to
come on tour and play his
fiddle for hundreds of
thousands of people. As
Hugo looked up at Hector,
his tail wagging ... "

Hector and Hugo are best friends. Hector loves to play the fiddle and dreams of being famous. Through good times and bad, Hector plays and Hugo listens intently to every note. When fame proves elusive, Hector decides to retire. Sure that no one wants to listen to an aging musician when they can turn their attention to a famous bear who plays piano, he admits defeat.

What? A bear playing a piano? Do you remember him from an earlier post? The Bear and the Piano (2015) hit a bright spot with children in times past. Lucky we are to meet the Bear again in this new story, with Hugo and Hector as brand new characters.

Hector spends more and more time at home, alone and sleeping. He does not notice that Hugo is keeping busy with the discarded fiddle. The neighbors are amazed that a dog has such talent, while Hector is oblivious to what is happening right under his nose. Then one night, he leaves his window open, hears a familiar sound, and makes a surprising discovery.

"Hugo was playing Hector's fiddle,
and the music Hugo was making was

Setting aside his personal feelings concerning his own career, Hector recognizes Hugo's love for the music and finds new purpose in teaching Hugo as much as he can. That is when the Bear makes his first appearance, offering Hugo a chance that might never come again. It is terribly hard for Hector to let him go. His jealousy has him saying things he never meant to say. Hugo is gone before he can apologize. World-wide recognition for Hugo is wonderful. Watching and listening from so far away sparks interest in playing again for Hector ... but, it doesn't bring back his best friend.

When the band comes to town, Hector finds a spot in the first row. What happens next is another lovely surprise for readers ... and for Hector!

David Litchfield's mixed media illustrations are glorious! The choice of colors, the infusion of light on every page, the detailed, expressive scenes draw readers into the story and hold attention throughout the entire book. Emotional, tender and just plain wonderful!