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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Pumpkin Heads, written by Rainbow Rowell and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast. $24.50 ages 12 and up

"We came to the wrong Kettle.

Yep. Let's go. 

Deja, that's on the other side
of the park.

We've got nothing but time! 
It's seven o'clock - the Patch 
doesn't close for three hours!
We'll cut through Gourdy Golf, 
go around the Freeto pie stand ... "

The yearly pumpkin patch has provided fall work for Deja and Josiah for the past three years. They like working together, and are best friends. It's the last night, and Deja is ready for adventure. Josie has a crush on the Fudge Girl, and Deja wants to find her so Josie can say hello for the first time. The two leave their stands and head out to see if they can find her.

Readers get to know a lot about each of them as the evening wears on. They encounter problems in making sure Josie has a chance to meet his crush before college attendance takes them all in different directions. Josie is shy and likes to follow the rules. He is not comfortable with events as Deja pushes him to move forward. Deja is funny, outgoing and knows and likes many of the young people who have jobs at the pumpkin patch. With her encouragement, Josie agrees to takes the chance to find and talk with the girl he has been dreaming of for so long.

They make a number of stops along the way. The Fudge Girl is never where she is supposed to be. As they go, they find unexpected adventure: an annoying young boy who steals one of Deja's treats, a new treat at every stop along the way, a runaway goat with a mission to upset the goings-on in the patch, getting lost in the corn maze, and almost not catching up to the object of Josie's affection. As well as that, spending all that time together has them exploring their own friendship.

Readers who like graphic novels will find much to like here. The bright colors of autumn create an ideal setting for young love. The two are terrific characters and their story is filled with humor, heart and discovery. I love the setting and the opportunity to explore the pumpkin patch fully. It is quite the place!

If you are not sure that you like graphic novels, this is a great place to start.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Small in the City, written and illustrated by Sydney Smith. Groundwood, 2019. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"The streets are always busy.

It can make your brain feel like
there's too much stuff in it.

But I know you.
You'll be all right.
If you want, I can give you
some advice."

 I started yesterday with the most amazing news: Sydney Smith has won the Governor-General's Literary Award for Young People's Literature - Illustrated Books!

It's not amazing that this book won. It is deserving of every award it is sure to garner. It was such splendid news to read as I opened my eyes to the news of the day. I was trying to tell a group of teachers and preservice teachers about it last Friday in a workshop about new and worthy books for kids. I felt I had done a miserable job of it. It is hard for the large group to see the stunning artwork, and I did not take the time it deserves for the quiet and tender reading. It should have careful attention paid to every word and every image.

I will do my best to tell you a little bit about it. I know I will not do it justice. You will have to read it for yourself to get the full impact. It should be in every public, school, and home library that honors perfect books to be shared with the children we love.

A 'small' child peers from a streetcar window. The chosen stop is busy with traffic and people. It is difficult to see that small child in the chaos of the city; it is easy to see how hard it is to navigate the streets with the cacophony of sounds, and crowds of constantly moving humans. It's challenging to be there alone and to make decisions about the path to take. This child narrator keeps up a conversation as the walk progresses, with quiet contemplation of all that is happening and an assurance that the one meant to hear the words will be just fine. Advice is given:

"Alleys can be good shortcuts.

But don't go down this alley.
It's too dark.

Three big dogs chase and
bite each other in this yard.
I would avoid this place ...

if I were you."

The child places a LOST poster on a pole. Readers are made aware that a cat is missing, and the child's words are meant for its ears. So much emotion in every word, on every page, and all with a desire to lure the pet back from where it has gone. So quiet, so extraordinary.

Set in Toronto, and conveying the hustle of the city, the dangers inherent in travelling its busy streets, the grip of snow and cold, and the concern of the child every step of the way, it is quietly magnificent. Sydney Smith takes readers, along with the child, from dark and dangerous to light, warmth and welcome. Back in familiar surroundings, the child can only hope the cat comes back. Then, Mr. Smith leaves his audience to wonder at a twist on the very last spread. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Beverly, Right Here. Written by Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $19.99 ages 10 and up

"Don't wait for me," said Beverly.
"I can't stand to think about you
waiting for me."
"I waited," said Iola. Her glasses
slipped down her nose. She pushed
them up with one finger. "Just
because you can't stand to think
about something don't mean it ain't
happening, that it ain't true. People
wait on other people. People rely
on other people." Iola's glasses
slipped down again ... "

I met Beverly when I read Raymie Nightingale three years ago. While reading that book, I learned about 'The Three Rancheros'; three girls who found each other while competing in a ‘Miss Central Florida Tire 1975’ pageant.They were ten, all in it for a different reason. Their friendship grew, and I was sad to say goodbye when I was finished reading their story. Though I wanted to, I was sure I would not meet up with them again.

I was wrong, and so happy to be. Last year I read Louisiana's story, Louisiana's Way Home. It gave me hope that I would come to know Beverly as well. Happy I am to tell you about her story in this post.

It's 1979, and Beverly is 14. Her dog, Buddy, has died and she sees no reason to continue living with her mother. She has run away many times before now; this time she makes good by leaving. She has no plan to return. She does have a plan to live life on her own, depending only on herself and no one else. She hitches a ride to Tamaray Beach, Florida where she quickly finds a job busing tables in Mr. C's restaurant. Needing a place to stay, she is lucky enough to meet Iola Jenkins. Iola is an elderly woman, living alone and needing someone to drive her to Bingo. Beverly stays.

In spare and heartfelt text, Ms. DiCamillo focuses on Beverly's view of the world around her. Time passes. We are witness to the relationships she has with Iola, with the restaurant staff, and with Elmer, a kind and artistic teenager who works at a nearby convenience store. We know how hard she works to remain independent, while finding herself drawn to these new people in her life. Beverly enjoys the tiny moments, the friends she is making, and savors the company she keeps. It is a world she did not know, given her many difficult experiences. Though reticent to share her life with others, and unwilling to open her heart to moments that matter, the slow growth of the true meaning of family brings this wise and gracious tale to a reassuring and hopeful end. BRAVO!

Monday, October 28, 2019

give and take, by Elly Swartz. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $22.50 ages 9 and up

"The panic rises from the place
that holds my forever good-byes.
To Nana.
And now, Izzie.
I hug this little human who smells
like powder, and a tear slips out.
I don't want to let her go. Don't
want to be forgotten. I want to
teach her how to ride a two-
wheeler, hold her hand when she
crosses the street, and be annoyed
when she borrows my favorite ... "

Life for 12-year- old Maggie is not easy. She is missing her grandmother, who has recently died. She is also worried because, in the end, the grandmother she loved so much no longer knew her beloved granddaughter. Maggie wonders if the same thing might happen to her. Might she forget things that are so important in her life? To ease the anxiety, she begins to collect things that will remind her about her life. She collects and stores items of great importance, as well as seemingly random and unimportant matter like used milk cartons, feathers, gum wrappers, and diaper tabs.

There is a lot going on in Maggie's life. Her brothers, one older and one younger, are not always easy to get along with; her father, who coaches her all-girl trapshooting team, has decided to replace one of its members with a boy; her parents, wanting to make a difference in the foster care system, have agreed to keep tiny Izzie until her forever family is found. Maggie wants the family to keep Izzie for themselves. Her parents remind her it is a temporary situation. When her pet turtle, Bert, goes missing, Maggie learns that she can count on friends who have her best interests at heart.

The collection boxes in her closet and under her bed, and in her locker at school, are protected with great care by Maggie. When her mother finds them while cleaning Maggie's room (a situation Maggie has worked hard to avoid), Maggie explodes in anger. Frightened by her daughter's outburst and very concerned about her hoarding, the family seeks help. It takes concerned family and friends, and the counselling of a kind and committed doctor to help Maggie begin to deal with her worries.

It isn't a quick or easy process. The family works together to help Maggie meet her goals, to help her understand that the people and things we love live on in our hearts, and to learn that life is all about 'give and take'. There is so much to love about this important middle grade novel - memorable and worthy characters, trapshooting, friendship, love, family, and child hoarding. It is a worthwhile and thoughtful read.

Throughout the telling, readers see the lists Maggie makes of what is contained in her boxes and locker. She gives each stashed item a value, and then works to get rid of those things that have a lesser value that those that mean the most to her. Back matter includes information and resources that are meant to help families and children dealing with anxiety and hoarding.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

ROAR Like a Dandelion, written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier. Harper, 2019. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"Kick away the snow
and make spring come

Look under the bed
for poetry

Make music

Nod YES"

What joy is found in this playful and sly alphabet book! Unpublished for many years, Ms. Krauss' longtime publisher and the executor of her estate agreed to have Sergio Ruzzier create the artwork for this new book. What a blessing for us!

With his signature pen and ink and watercolor illustrations and his penchant for often outlandish creatures that accompany more recognizable animal characters from earlier books, Mr. Ruzzier steps up to the plate and hits a home run. He creates wondrous spreads that capture the action in the words Ms. Krauss penned so long ago.

'Jump like a raindrop' shows tiny elephants bouncing skyward in great delight while a tiny cat drops its umbrella and runs for the hills. Observant readers will note that this particular command corresponds to an earlier one, also involving said elephants and cat. 'Walk backward all the way home' shows a v-shaped flock of diverse ducks happily following their leader across a sandy plain. And so it goes!

Unlike any other ABC book of the time, Ms. Krauss created commands meant to mock the tradition inherent in other such books written primarily to teach the alphabet to young children. Mr. Ruzzier uses his  innate sense of humor to capture the mood of the text with creatures sure to be loved by the intended audience. There is much humor and plenty of adventure at every turn of the page, with each added letter.

Kids will obey the commands without hesitation, and take great delight in seeing the interpretation provided on page after page. Imaginative, full of charm and delight, it will become a favorite for many.

Don't miss the back cover, or the endpapers!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Scarecrow, written by Beth Ferry and illustrated by The Fan Brothers, Harper, 2019.$23.99 ages 4 and up

"Then something drops from

A small, scared crow lying there.
      Broken nest?
            Broken wing?

Scarecrow does the strangest thing. He snaps his pole."

Scarecrow is always there ... keeping animals and birds away from 'the fields of gold.' There is no one else. Scarecrow has no friends, no visitors. He is always busy doing his job, through season after season. In winter he dreams of spring.

In this particular spring, something quite extraordinary happens. A tiny crow falls from above. Scarecrow takes unusual action, snapping his pole to provide a safe place for such a tiny creature.

"He tucks him near his heart of hay.
He lets him sleep.
He lets him stay.
He doesn't stop to wonder why.
He sings the sweetest lullaby.

And, that is the heart of this story of an unusual and lasting friendship. They live together in harmony as the crow grows and learns to fly. Then, one day he is gone and Scarecrow is alone again. The seasons pass, offering a chance for the two to meet again in the spring. Is there any hope for a lonely, benevolent scarecrow to find comfort and companionship once more?

The Fan Brothers capture every emotion in their glorious artwork. Using pencil, ballpoint, and digital media, they create a world of wonder for those who will share this book. The landscapes, no matter the season, capture attention and keep readers fully involved in the story being told. The scarecrow is a fully realized character on the page as he experiences all the loneliness, grief, and joy in this tale.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Grandpa's Top Threes, written by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Daniel Egneus. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"Grandpa, what are your
top three sandwiches?"
Grandpa said nothing.
"Mine are chocolate
spread, raspberry jam,
and butter with grated
cheese," said Henry.
Grandpa looked at Henry
and sighed. "Tuna fish,"
he said. Henry grinned.
"What about second and third

Henry is missing the grandpa he used to know. Now, when Henry talks, Grandpa doesn't really listen. He gardens. Gardening is what he does, day in and day out. Henry is upset. He thinks his grandfather can no longer hear. His mother suggests Henry give him time. Why, we wonder.

Henry is impatient to have his happy, attentive Grandpa back. Henry asks a question about  sandwiches. Grandpa seems slightly interested. So, begins a game between the two of them. What that does is encourage Grandpa to concentrate on his grandson once more, sharing lunch together at the pond. One response leads to more questions, more connections, and more joy in the world for each one.

Grandpa gives up his gardening to play with trains and talk about other favorite pastimes.

"Top three days out?" he asked.

Henry jumped out of bed. "The zoo.
The swimming pool. The park."

Grandpa winked.
"Better get dressed then, lad."

The game of threes continues during their busy day. Home and ready to search the sky with the telescope his Granny gave him, Henry asks the most important question of their day.

"Who are your top three
Grannies?" asked Henry.
Grandpa didn't answer.

"Mine are Granny who is dead.
Granny Agnes who lives on top of the shoe shop.
And the granny in 'Little Red Riding Hood.'

Only then is Grandpa able to talk about the Granny he has loved and lost.

This is a very special story about quiet grief. It flows beautifully, and is accompanied by emotional and busy watercolors that capture the love between the two. There is no rush; rather there is patience, tenderness, love and connection.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

What Cats Think, text by John Spray and art by Mies Van Hout. Pajama Press, 2019. $23.95 ages 5 and up


Okay, sorry I got on the
But the turkey looked so 

I only had a little taste...
...but they YELLED and
chased me away!

If you have never lived with a cat, you may not recognize the many faces they present to the world. That is decidedly not true of Mies van Hout, whose wonderful, warm and witty mixed media artwork bless the pages of this fascinating book. There is wide variety in color (mostly in shades of red, yellow, green and blue), and medium (acrylic ink, oil pastels, and gouache). Every single illustration gives personality to the feline doing the narrating on a particular spread. That first person voice has dramatic impact whether the cats are scared, dreaming, furious, mystified, or curious.

John Spray's free verse text celebrates the cats presented. Each turn offers a double page spread with featured feline accompanied by tremendous variety in tone and temperament.


After my people are in their beds,
I'll have a sneaky fishbowl snack. 
I'll drop the tail in Doggie's dish ...
... He'll get no treats tomorrow.

Heh Heh!"

Verse matches art in every way. There are times when readers will laugh out loud. There are also more sombre, haughty, and frightening times. The absolutely on-point feline faces speak clearly to the emotions felt. Those who love cats will tell you that cats do have varied emotions. The 20 featured here certainly speak eloquently to that statement.

You don't have to love cats to love this book. It's a charmer!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Finding KIndness, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Irene Chan. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $24.50 ages 3 and up

"Kindness is sometimes
just taking a break or
sitting with someone
who's sad,
forgiving yourself when
you've made a mistake
or forgiving a friend who
got mad.

It's cuddling puppies,
it's holding a door ... "

We are badly in need of kindness in our world, if all you do is read headlines. It seems more pressing  events sell newspapers and digital news. Those stories too often take precedence over what would make all of us feel better, rather than worse. So many acts of kindness take place every day in communities, families, schools; we need to hear about them. We need to see them happening, and we need to pass on our own acts of kindness to inspire others to do the same.

In her new book, Deborah Underwood tells her young audience the many ways they can show kindness to family, friends, neighbors, pets; even those they have never met. We all know that kindness sparks a feeling that needs to be passed along. The rhyming text carries the reader from page to page, and ends where it began with 'a bug and a cup and a card. I think this book would work wonderfully as a mentor text for further writing.

Irene Chan interprets the text with images that bring clarity to each of the gentle acts described. A boy rakes his elderly neighbor's yard; she offers a cookie to him, then a carrot to her rabbit. The warm, colorful  illustrations arouse feelings of goodwill and gentle accomplishment in her diverse community. What a difference those actions make for everyone involved.

It seems so simple, doesn't it?                                                                       

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Idriss and His Marble, written by Rene Gouichoux and illustrated by Zau. Lerner, Thomas Allen and Son, 2019. $25.99 ages 6 and up

"One day, Idriss hears a
loud BANG! 

His mother lifts him up
with her strong arms
and carries him swiftly
into the house.

Idriss hides in a corner ..."

This timely and meaningful refugee story introduces Idriss to readers as young as he is. His home appears to be an African country, but it is  not named. He has one marble and he loves to spend his days in imaginary play, using that marble to accompany him on many adventures. Idriss is happy.

Warfare disrupts his peaceful village; he is kept inside until it is calm once more. Soon, the sound of cannons and gunfire creeps closer. He can no longer be outside as it is far too dangerous. Finally, all villagers abandon their homes. Idriss and his mother must do the same. Idriss does not understand, looking poignantly back at the home they are leaving. He takes nothing with him but his marble.

"They ride on buses, jumping off
at the slightest sign of danger.

They continue on foot ...

... until the danger passes
and another ride comes along."

Their walk is long, hot, and exhausting. It continues until they reach a barbed wire fence. After a night of needed sleep, his mother 'weaves' their bodies beneath it, walks across a beach and pays money to the men in charge. Along with far too many others, they board an old boat. Idriss holds his mother's hand at all times, while also keeping his marble safe in the other one. Idriss is sure his marble has brought them luck.

That may be so!

The ink and watercolor artwork is powerful, and filled with changing settings as the two face an unwanted but necessary journey to a better life.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Little Libraries, Big Heroes. Written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by John Parra. hClarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 8 and up

"In school, he didn't feel
heroic. Even though his
mother had been a teacher
who loved books, reading
was difficult for him. He was
often scolded for asking too
many questions, and was
told that he wasn't a good
Todd's mom disagreed. She
told him he was gifted ... "

I love driving by a neighborhood school and seeing its Little Free Library near the entrance. It gives me such a good feeling knowing it is there. My friend Cathie, who is the school's librarian, posted a photo just before school started in September of a child sitting on the step beside it, quietly reading. What joy she must have felt to recognize again its true worth!

This book honors the men who co-founded the Little Free Library, Todd Bol and Rick Brooks. Todd placed the first one in his front yard in honor of his mother, a teacher who loved books and gave Todd the confidence to 'do anything' he wanted to do.

When his neighbors discovered his little free library, they were inspired to borrow books, to talk about them, to add their own books while borrowing from it. Seeing that his own box of books inspired others, he turned to his friend, Rick. Rick was full of ideas and confidence that the two could grow a business using the idea. The plan fizzled when no one bought them.

Determined to make a difference, they found another way ... they would not wait for people to come to them, they would take their libraries to the people. And, a movement was born!

"It was working! 
The seeds of Todd and Rick's idea were beginning
to grow. A radio interview spread the word about
the little free libraries all around Wisconsin. Then
a national TV show featured their idea. The whole
country seemed to be buzzing about the tiny,
anything-but-ordinary libraries."

Community heroes took up their cause. The idea spread, and continues to spread throughout the world. Stories are included of many places where these libraries are flourishing.

"Stewards placed Little Free Libraries at a hospital in
Ireland, on a street corner in Pakistan, outside a house in
South Korea, and near a schoolyard in South Sudan."

An author's note speaks of her research. Added information includes More About Little Free Libraries and More About the People and Events in This Book. Finally, there is a chance To Learn More through a list of books and a website:

Finally, the good news! There are now over 73,000 registered LFLs around the world! Will you add to that number?                                             

Sunday, October 20, 2019

King Mouse, written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dena Seiferling. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"They argued about how to amuse the mouse. A fox stopped to listen.

"Why not put on a play?" said the fox.

The others agreed it was a splendid idea. They rehearsed over and over. Then they performed the play for the mouse."

Wearing a crown he has just discovered in the nearby grassy meadow, a hungry mouse is confronted by a bear who asks if he is a king. The mouse pauses and ponders the question before admitting that he is. The bear is suitably impressed with the  mouse's status, bowing down to acknowledge it..

Before long a crow arrives, meets the new king, and concerns itself with finding food for the ravenous monarch. The quest leads to a tortoise who also helps in the search for sustenance. The mouse, now sated and quite taken by his newly-acquired position, demands amusement. A passing fox suggests a play. The performance is very much appreciated by the royal.

Not far away, a snake also finds a crown and dons it. The animals are impressed and happy to welcome the newest royal - a queen! A lot to be thankful for, they admit. It doesn't take long before other crowns are discovered. Declaring themselves royalty and feeling quite haughty, they barely notice as the crownless bear trudges away in despair.

"The bear walked until he came to a
tree stump. He sat down. He could still
faintly hear the others.

"I never have any luck," he said."

The mouse notices. Removing his crown, he does what he can to offer kindness and friendship. It is delightfully reciprocated.

Readers get an early glimpse of the action that results in the discovery of the crowns on a wordless opening spread. The warmth and quiet tone of the graphite illustrations carry readers through this timely tale of status, and the need for kindness. At once humorous and endearing, it is a book that promotes quiet empathy, too often missing in today's world. A final wordless spread follows the book's text, and is telling and lovely.

Shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Awards in the Young People's Literature - Illustrated Books category, this is a wonderful addition to any library or child's book shelf.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Tiger Like Me, written by Michael Engler and illustrated by Joelle Tourlonias. Translated by Laura Watkinson. amazoncrossingkids, Thomas Allen and Son, 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"Tigers always need a good breakfast.
It makes us powerful and strong.
I leap up to my feeding spot.
With my tiger appetite, I devour
my tiger flakes and drink a big
glass of blood ... orange juice!
I crunch and munch just like a tiger.
And then I'm ready for adventures.

Because I am a tiger, 
a greedy, gutsy tiger! "

The opening endpapers of this delightful look at childhood imagination pull readers directly into the action. It shows a little boy, in tiger costume, waking in the early dawn.

"Even before the first ray of sunshine lights the sky,
one animal is already stirring.
In the tiger's den, two eyes blink sleepily.
The peaceful night is over.
Because the king of the jungle is awake!"

Awake he is, and ready to get this new day started. As all tigers would, he avoids both washing up and brushing his teeth. Instead he heads straight to the kitchen for breakfast, devouring his cereal and juice with gusto. Then, he is off on an adventure-filled day that includes hiding, sneaking, being rescued, the snowy outdoors, face painting, dad-scaring, a timeout, fort building, crafts with his attentive and helpful parents ... all before returning to his den at sundown.

Oh, dear! He's not nearly sleepy enough. So, he waits until he hears his parents head for bed and makes a beeline for a cuddle between the two. Aah, blissful sleep at last.

The closing endpapers show a tiny tiger returned to his den.

"The tiger returns to his den,
where he lies down, worn out after a long, exciting day.
In the forest and on the plain, everything is finally silent.
The little tiger shuts his eyes and dreams."

In between those endpapers, the double page spreads are awash with lyrical language, aptly describing the imaginative world of a small child. The digital illustrations bring that language to life with every turn of the page. Young listeners will be engaged from beginning to end. The action and the many clever and amusing details will bring them back to the story time and again. It is a wonderful book to read aloud with a group,  or to share quietly at bedtime with little ones. Careful scrutiny afford opportunities for observation and discussion. Lovely!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Moth: An Evolution Story. Written by Isabel Thomas and illustrated by Daniel Egneus. Bloomsbury, Raincoast. 2019. $24.99 ages 7 and up

"When the sun rose, the
peppered moths dozed on
lichen-covered branches.

Silent, still, they hid. 

Someone else was looking
for food.

Who was the best hidden?
Who would survive?"

'It starts with a little moth.' Indeed, it does.

Isabel Thomas uses the story of the peppered moth to help her explain evolution to our youngest readers. It is a story that has changed over time; in doing so, it explains why there is diversity in the species. One is pale in color with speckled wings. One is a peppered moth born with charcoal wings. Both are present in nature today. Why?

When trees were lightly colored, the speckled moths found safety in their camouflaging bark. The charcoal ones were more easily seen, and promptly devoured by their predators. Then, pollution began to darken the trees. The speckled moths were more easily seen, leaving the charcoal ones an opportunity to flourish and find protection from their enemies. Today, in light of the fact that coal is less used in many places, the air is cleaner and provides an opportunity for the return of the speckled moth population.

Both species are in evidence today, and their numbers are increasing. Adaptation and natural selection are quite miraculous theories, aren't they? The striking collage artwork provides a detailed and intriguing look at how things change in our world over time, dependent on conditions. The blend of well-chosen text and picture-perfect art makes this a fine nonfiction choice for young learners.

Back matter adds further useful information about the moths themselves, as well as how natural selection and adaptation work to change our world.

"This is a story of light and dark. Of change and adaptation, of survival and hope." A brilliant one, I would say.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

My Winter City, words by James Gladstone and pictures by Gary Clement. Groundwood Books, 2019. $19.95 ages 3 and up

"It holds warmth a little closer
to our skin and our bellies,
and time a little slower, tying
laces, pulling mittens ...

trudging, huffing creatures
move at the sluggish speed
of snow.

My winter city is a soup of
salty slushes, full of sliding ... "

I had a plan to post this wonderful book much later in the season ... then, a Thanksgiving weekend winter storm practically closed down our province. It left plenty of homes without power, hip-deep drifts, clogged streets and highways, thousands of trees bent and broken, and many abandoned and dented cars. Although the snow is melting, it is taking its time under cloudy skies. I know we have some fall weather left to come but, it has left many dreading what might be next and last for a much longer time.

Two urban inhabitants here are keen to get out and see the sights following a winter storm. The streets are winter-white; the cars are covered in a deep layer, a man and his dog make tracks along a pristine snowy sidewalk, and still the snow falls. It is s wonderland to many!

The boy and his father (with their dog) bundle up in parkas, woolen socks, snow boots, scarves, toques, and mittens. Their dog anticipates a walk. Off they go. Dad has the toboggan in hand while the son trudges behind his dog. Buses splash slush on pedestrians as they wait to board. Everywhere there are signs of people on their way somewhere.

Their day is filled with the wonders of snow and its many differing scenes. After making it to the sledding hill and enjoying its excitement, they make their way back home.

"My winter city is an afternoon journey
past side-walk singers in shivery shadows,
past winter workers with hot steaming chocolate,
past rows of locked bicycles, buried and waiting,

back where we came from ... backwards sledding.

Jump up,
hang up,
warm up,

The author ends with an invitation to readers to tell him what their winter city is like.

Gary Clement designs the endpapers and full spreads with wintry scenes that are sure to be familiar to those who experience the wonderland that a storm brings. Perspectives change, adding details that give context  to James Gladstone's family story celebrating the many joys of a 'snow day'.

It won't be long until we will all have our own stories to share. In fact, kids here could write one now.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Please Don't Eat Me, written and illustrated by Liz Climo. Little. Brown and Company. Hachette, 2019. $23.49 ages 3 and up

""Wait! I still need to eat you!
My friends will make fun of
me if I don't.

Oh, no. I am being eaten.
What a bummer. 

Okay, are we good now?

Oh, those guys weren't my

If you like to read books that are certain to make your listeners snort with laughter, you will be happy to have this one in your hands. It begins with a burrowing bunny who pops up in front of a much larger bear. The bunny has only one request: not to be eaten.

But, the bear is hungry and you know what that means. The bunny offers to order a pizza. Wanting the last slice is definitely not the way to avoid being supper for the bear, although it is fairly content with the meal. Dessert will make it perfect. The bunny has another solution. After sharing an ice cream soda, the bunny prepares again to take its leave.

It turns out it is not the end of the bunny's dilemma. Covered in bear spit and  bent on escape, he must now convince the bear that a four leaf clover is a better lucky charm than a rabbit's foot! The bear still has a bone to pick:

"Wait - are you
sure I shouldn't eat
you? I mean, you did
burrow through my
lawn earlier. That
was pretty rude.

For crying
out loud."

Posted warning signs for other bunnies, and returning the yard to its further glory certainly should be the end of it! It seems not.

Listeners will love the negotiating, the droll humor, the charming characters, and their ultimate solution to the problems faced. 

"Aw, nuts."

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

This Book of Mine, written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $23.50 ages 3 and up

"To open it wide
and put my nose inside.

To read it aloud
and wish for a crowd.

To become the book,
now that this book
is mine."

I spend a good part of many of my days reading ... I am blessed. Blessed to have the opportunity, blessed to choose the books I want to read, blessed to have a love for reading and books that has been mine since I was a child. Books lift my spirit, teach me about the world, provide opportunity to live in the shoes (and hearts) of many, offer lessons in empathy and understanding ... and much, much more.

This book pays homage to the affinity between books and their readers. The gorgeous artwork shows characters of all ages and races and from different walks of life; each reaches for a book for their own particular pleasure. The children from the cover, a child at the library, readers in solitary, peaceful places with books in hand, a mother and her baby ... the scenes move from page to page with wonder and purpose.

"To think about what I
just saw -
then close the book
and try to draw."

On each spread, the book holds attention through the color of its cover. Young readers will find pleasure in the simple text and its accompanying illustrations. The couplets have a rhythmic tone that will carry the reader from page to page. The expressive faces of the readers show that reading unites them. It is a quiet celebration of the friendship felt between reader and book. Perfect for your favorite bookworm.

Monday, October 14, 2019

A Voice for the Spirit Bears: How One Boy Inspired Millions to Save a Rare Animal, written by Carmen Oliver and illustrated by Katy Dockrill. Kids Can Press, 2019. $18.99 ages 9 and up

The spirit bears had no voice,
so he had to find his. He opened
his mouth and ...

... his words spilled out and
snapped into place! "By protecting
the home of the spirit bears, we can
ensure that they will be wild and
free forever." Simon went on to
explain ... "

Children can make a difference. They just need to care enough to raise a voice, and make it heard. Simon Jackson did just that. In childhood, he developed a love for bears. Simon's stuttering was a huge problem for him; he was teased and left out by his classmates.

In nature, he felt more comfortable and was even able to talk to the wildlife that lived in the woods behind his house. He read many books about grizzlies, his favorite bear at the time. Then, a news report changed his life.

"One day, there was a story about a forest
above Canada's border in Alaska that needed
protection. The trees were going to be cut down,
destroying the homes of the brown bears that
lived there.

Those bears are helpless, thought Simon.
It's not fair!"

He wrote letters, and raised money to convince the governments of both countries to protect the bear population. It worked. A park was created for their protection. That was only the beginning for Simon. Despite continuing difficulties at school, Simon was determined to do more research. His reading led to his discovery of the spirit bear, a rare species born with creamy white fur and found only in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, near his home. What could he do to help them?

Loving those bears and caring about their future gave Simon a chance to speak publicly about their plight. His passion for the cause lead to his being able to articulate clearly what he wanted others to know.

"He visited every classroom in the school. He
convinced students to put pen to paper. To stand
up for what was right.
Seven hundred letters flooded the government."

Although deforestation continued, Simon kept up his fight to protect the spirit bear. Word spread, thanks to his tireless work. With school friends to help, he established the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition. It attracted support and membership from all over the world. More and more people paid attention, including Dr. Jane Goodall. It remains his life's work.

In back matter, the author shares a short biography of The Real Simon Jackson, some notes on Spirit Bears, and offers a section on What You Can Do to Make a Difference. 

If you are looking for environmental protection books and the part that your own children or your students can play in making a difference, add this to your growing bucket of titles. It's the newest addition to the CitizenKid collection from Kids Can Press, and worthy of your attention.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Whale's World, by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read. Orca Book Publishers. 2018. $19.95 ages 6 and up

"The orca also sees another,
much bigger whale. Orcas
can grow to be the size of a
stretch limousine. But this
whale, called a fin whale,
is as big as a bus. Orcas are
black and white, but the fin
whale is bluish gray. And
unlike the orcas, he is not ... "

This is the fourth in a series of photo journals concerning the Great Bear Sea and Rainforest, and the creatures in this area of  British Columbia. The books are just right for kids who want pertinent information, and an up-close-and-personal accounting of the environment. In this book, a small pod of hungry orcas is looking food.

The very attractive photographs, taken by Ian McAllister, are sure to have readers poring over every detail ... they feature not only the magnificent whales; also bears, a wolf, other whales, a shark, seals and sea lions, and so much more.

"The orca is getting frustrated. Where are all the seals
and sea lions? How will she and her pod fill their bellies if they
don't find something to eat? She decides to look above the water
again. Maybe she'll spy a seal swimming toward a sun-warmed
rock. Then she and her pod can capture it."

Readers will feel a connection to the orca pod because the storytelling is focused on one orca, making it a more personal narrative. They are made aware that food can be elusive, and that the food chain is part of the natural rhythm of this beautiful habitat. The book is informative, while using rich language to allow young readers to 'see' what is happening here. Its content is sure to encourage children to ask questions, and will lead to them to find out more through further research.

Perfect for adding to the other books in this fine series.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Sweety, written and illustrated by Andrea Zuill. schwartz & wade books. Penguin Random House, 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"There were times when Sweety wondered what it would be like to be someone else. Someone like Deb. Deb always said the right thing and had stylish friends. Best of all, she had beautiful hair. Sweety wanted hair like Deb's."

Sweety is a sweety ... a naked mole rat with thick glasses, awkward dental gear, and a penchant for identifying fungi and doing school reports through interpretive dance. The interest in fungi is not shared by the other naked mole rats; she can't find anyone wanting to work with her on identification. While others describe their dolls in simple terms, Sweety has a much more descriptive and pointed answer when asked to describe her own:

"This is Warrior Princess Zorna!
Friend of the friendless, lover of
chocolate-beet cake with cream 
cheese frosting! Her favorite color
is aubergine and my mom made
her for me!"

Readers soon see that Sweety has some quirks. It never causes her friends to shun her, or make disparaging remarks. It just shows that her grandmother might be right when she calls her 'a square peg'. Sweety is generally happy with who she is. Only occasionally does she wonder if she should change just a little to be more like Deb, one of the other young mole rats. Most of the time she is happy being the way she is. 

Her Aunt Ruth, also a square peg, is just the visitor Sweety needs to boost her confidence and let her know that being herself is her best self. Sweety concurs. She gives herself license to wait and see if 'her people' are out there. Lo and behold!

"My name is Sandy.
Your shirt is wonderful!
I wouldn't mind having a
shirt with a mushroom on
it. I love mushrooms. My
favorite is a Gyromitra 
esculenta. It looks like a

I cannot do justice to the quirky artwork. If you have seen other books by Andrea Zuill, you will know what I mean. Her characters warm your heart, The humor is understated but very appealing.
Every single spread is unique and detailed.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Because, Score by Mo Willems and Performance by Amber Ren. Disney/Hyperion Books for Children, Hachette. 2019. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"Because workers checked
the lights and the seats and
swept the floors - the grand
hall was ready.

Because the time had come -
 the ushers opened the doors.

Because someone's uncle
caught a cold -
someone's aunt had an extra
ticket for someone special."

This is a beautifully quiet cause-and-effect homage to the power of classical music in one young girl's life. It all begins long before she hears her first concert - with a man named Ludwig whose music  encouraged another young man (named Franz) to write some of his own. Contemporary musicians, all admirers of Schubert's work, decide to form an orchestra. In turn, they send out invitations to a wide variety of accomplished musicians asking them to join them.  The orchestra grows, and is soon ready to for its first concert.

In the meantime, a graphic designer is creating a poster about Schubert's work to announce that concert, a train conductor is dropping another kind of conductor at the concert hall, and the orchestra is settling in for its initial performance. Inside the concert hall, workers are making sure the hall is sparkling clean and ready to welcome concert goers. The ushers open the doors.

Not too far away, an uncle is confined to bed with a cold, leaving an aunt with an extra ticket for someone very special to her. The aunt and her special guest find their seats, and ready themselves for the music.

"In row C, seat 14 -
sat the girl with the uncle's ticket.
She heard the beautiful music written by
the man named Franz -
and it changed her."

It inspired her to follow the path that led to another very special musical performance. This book is not just about music - although music is at its heart. It is also about many small moments, one affecting the next. It is about the people who help make something extraordinary come to fruition. It is about hope, hard work, and wonder.

Amber Ren's gorgeous illustrations are filled with the joy and power of music. They present a multicultural community consumed by that joy, and supportive of the arts in personal ways. Every spread is filled with inviting details and is awash in music.

Do you have a BECAUSE moment? Can you tell someone about it?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Wolf Will Not Come, written by Myriam Ouyessad and illustrated by Ronan Badel. Schiffer Kids, Thomas Allen & Son. 2019. $22.99 ages 4 and up

"That woods is very small,
you know. A wolf could not
hide in it."

"But if it's a wolf who knows
how to hide? A wolf who knows
how to stay out of sight?"

"Even if a wolf was hiding it that
woods, he could not come here."

"How can you be sure?"

What a hoot this book is! I can't wait to read it to Sicily and Chelsea on FaceTime in the near future. I will be sharing it in workshops and classrooms this fall as well. It is a fabulous book to read aloud.

You will know the fear by taking a careful look at the cover. It's dark and a bit scary outside the bedroom window. The tiny rabbit is already in bed. Mom is tucking her in, and she has questions. She wants assurance that the wolf will not come. Her mother patiently provides a cover and a soothing response. The child carefully listens, and follows up with another probing question. Are all the wolves gone? Mom offers the opinion that there may be some, but very few. What about those few?

For every fearful question, Mom has a clearly thought-out answer. It's just not enough to assuage all concern. On they go; one question, one answer. All meant to alleviate the fear that is ever-present. Mom never leaves the room. She continues with her comforting, and her patience. When the final question has been asked, the final reassurance given, and a goodnight kiss bestowed, it's lights out and goodnight.

Wait! What is that knocking? The little one's quick rush to the door provides a most perfect ending.

The conversation between mother and child is perfect; the humorous cartoon illustrations add a layered story of their own. Every quiet, comforting bedroom scene is faced by the sight of the conniving wolf as it makes its way from the woods into the city, straight to the Rue Des Lapins, into the building and onto the elevator. Perhaps the young rabbit has reason to fear its sly ways. What a surprise is in store for readers! For those who share it with little ones, there will be an immediate response - PLEASE! READ IT AGAIN!!!

Little hint: Check out the tiny rabbit's ears once Mom has left the room, and she is alone to sleep. ;)

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Just Because, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"Why do birds 
fly south for 
the winter? 

To fetch
new leaves
for trees.

What happened 
to the dinosaurs?" 

Mac Barnett has impressive cred when it comes to capturing a child's voice. In this new book, he introduces a young lady and her father. She's in bed, and wanting to delay the inevitable. She is not yet ready to settle down to sleep. Dad is ever patient with her questions, taking the time to answer with a calm demeanor and an inventive bent.

She begins with one question, allowing him time to provide an answer. Then, another ... and another ... and another ... until, in an attempt to never give in to sleep, the next double page spread is filled with overlapping question balloons. It's enough to drive a dad mad. Instead, he responds with calm and a pat on the head, and a quiet 'It is time to go to sleep.' 

As he tries to slip out the door, she proves her tenacity with one final question.

"Why do we have to sleep?"

Dad is prepared.

"Because there are some things
we can only see with our eyes closed."

Satisfaction guaranteed.

Add Isabelle Arsenault's stellar visual storytelling, and you have a book that is sure to be a bedtime favorite for many nights to come. The worlds she creates to accompany Dad's ingenious answers are filled with fantastic creatures doing just what he has described. The child's questions are placed on a dark background in a white bubble; the father's answer in white, smaller bubbles on following double page spreads. The attempt to bamboozle him with a barrage of questions will be much appreciated by readers who may have tried the same tactic themselves.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Sharon, Lois & Bram's Skinnamarink, with Randi Hampson and illustrated by Qin Leng. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.99 ages 2 and up

"I love you
in the Arctic,
the desert,
by the sea ...
and on top
of the mountain
standing next to me."

Happy publishing day to this brand new version of a song I've been singing since I first heard it when our kids were babies. And, I can't tell you how many times we sang it during our recent summer visit with Sicily and Chelsea. I can tell you they have been hearing it since they were wee babies as well. I wish I had had this book to share with them while they were here. Ah, well ... next year. I will put it in their book cupboard as soon as this post is done.

In an introductory note, we are told:

"We started singing "Skinnamarink" in 1978 at our very first
 concert, and we never stopped. Lois brought the song to us
from her family and it became part of our musical family, a
family that has grown from hundreds to millions. In this special
book version of the song, we have added an introduction and
some additional verses."

It has been sung in concerts all over the world, and is a favorite singalong for all in attendance. It's a song that brings meaning to being friends, to being happy, to being part of a community, and to love.
It's great fun to sing with actions, and with those gathered together in celebration of so many special moments.

Qin Leng's brilliant ink and watercolor artwork is filled with enormous charm, community diversity, and great joy. She fills the landscape pages with families both human and animal, all joining together to sing with gusto ... and to share in the remarkable experience. Each page turn offers scenes that represent the words sung: a family at breakfast in the morning, children at play in the afternoon, and bathing or camping in the evening.

Skinnamarinky dinky dink, skinnamarinky doo
I love you! is the constant, much-loved chorus.

Randi Hampson, Sharon's daughter, has added three new verses. The publication of this delightful book will bring it a new audience, and make it even more special to those who have loved and sung it through these past 41 years. What an accomplishment! 

Don't miss it - and PLEASE raise your voice in song whenever you share it!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Jumiper Kai: Super Spy. Written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis. two lions, Thomas Allen & Son. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"But over the last couple of weeks,
something had changed. Suddenly,
Dad was too busy to play. Mom was
too tired. And Mom and Dad kept
whispering to each other. Juniper
felt a bit left out.

"Fine!" Juniper announced to
herself. It didn't matter if she had
nobody to play with. Because
Juniper Kai was born to be a spy.
And spies work alone." 

In yet another story of a child who is feeling ignored, we meet Juniper Kai. She sees herself as an
accomplished spy, with all the necessary paraphernalia to make her an undisputed success. She's got the goods: finds the clues, sports any number of disguises, owns a James Bond spy camera, follows a set of code-breaking manuals, and even uses a listening device to capture her parents' conversations. She hopes these will hold her in good stead as she tries to discover what is going on with all the changes in their house: Mom is tired, Dad is busy, and the two are always whispering to each other. She can no longer count on them to act as her assistants.

Juniper Kai is on the case! She doesn't need help. She will do it herself, as all good spies do.

"With her best Spy-O-Scope,
Juniper observed Dad in the guest room.

He seemed to be building something.
it looked more like a jail than a fort.
But why would Dad build a jail?"

The clues might give the game away for astute and observant readers, but it requires of Juniper some demanding sleuthing to solve the case. Discouraged when undivided attention to the case at hand provides no answers, she is about to admit defeat. Then, a perimeter alarm alerts her to her father stowing boxes in the garden shed. She's back on the case, using her best investigative techniques.

"She took her lock pick set out of her pocket and unlocked the shed.
She slowly opened the door, turned on her Spy-De-LIGHT, and ...
... a different kind of light flashed on in Juniper's brain."

Case solved!

Adventure, humor, and a surprise twist at the end make this an engaging tale. The digital illustrations add drama and an element of adventure at every turn. The spy gear will attract attention and ardent wishes from young readers to own some of their own.  Do I see a Halloween costume in the making?

Sunday, October 6, 2019

What John Marco Saw, written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Nancy Lemon. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"Today I saw this big green
grasshopper in the yard.
Its eyes were all black and bulgy ...

And it was eating a
piece of grass, and
I could hear it chew,
like this, ch - ch -ch."

nobody listened."

Kids are very good at having an awareness of  things that many adults fail to notice. That is certainly the case for John Marco in this tale of a little boy who loves to tell his family about the things he sees every day. He is the littlest in a large, loud family and nobody ever listens to what he has to say.

He tries telling his neighbor who likes to whistle while reading the paper, and has no interest in what fascinating object John Marco has to show him. What about his mother? Nope, she's already doing 'four things at once'. She's not even slightly interested in the cat John Marco describes for her. Taking the hint, the little boy heads outside to sit on the step, alone except for that cat.

It is then that his penchant for paying attention to every small detail pays dividends. When he quietly announces that the tree in the front yard is falling down, no one listens. Finally, he makes enough noise to force everyone to hear what he has to say.

IS FALLING DOWN!" yelled John Marco.

Despite apprehension from his mother, it does just that -  and John Marco earns the attention he has been seeking. About time!!!

The digital illustrations are expressive, colorful, and enjoyable. They show that sometimes a small boy who notices things big and small is deserving of attention.


Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Hike, written and illustrated by Alison Farrell. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"In the beginning, we run like
maniacs. Until a ripe patch of
thimbleberries slows us down.

El teaches us how to make
leaf baskets.

The hike gets steep and the
trail narrows."

What is the plan? To hike to the top of Buck Mountain. Who's going? Three children whose favorite thing to do together is hike. The friends are Wren, El and Hattie. It is evident from the title page that each has a part to play in this adventure. Wren is to take a sketchbook and a flag. El will bring a poetry notebook. Hattie, the little one, brings feathers wrapped in a hanky. Their dog Bean is a constant companion. After final preparations are completed, they are ready and in a rush to get their day started.

It doesn't take long for them to realize that rushing the adventure is not the way to do it. They slow down, taking time to enjoy the berries, to learn how to make a leaf basket (thanks to the notes in Wren's sketchbook), and to moan about the abundance of berries they have managed to devour. As they move forward, the path becomes steeper and narrower. Soon, they are lost. Luckily, it's Hattie and her map to the rescue. While they wait for her instructions, Wren draws in her sketchbook and El considers the perfect word for a new poem.

Back on track, they take note of all that surrounds them. Despite rain and a few setbacks, they make their way to the summit and enjoy a shared celebration. Tired and happy, they plant the flag, read a poem and throw feathers to the wind. Then it is time to make the return trip, while taking in the starry night and the warm welcome of a lit window.

Readers will appreciate the beautiful, detailed illustrations that label the flora and fauna that are an integral part of their journey, and the joy to be found in being together. Following the story, eight pages from Wren's sketchbook add context and a charming look at what they have encountered throughout their very satisfying day. Don't be surprised if listeners are eager to try their hand at chronicling their own adventures in much the same way. Lovely ...                                                                                     

Friday, October 4, 2019

Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Marlena Myles. Millbrook, Thomas Allen and Son. 2019. $29.99 ages 8 and up

"Falling Leaves
by JaNay Brown-Wood

I loved the leaves
That dropped from the trees
And danced in the breeze
In Autumn.

The vibrant reds
That fell on my head
Or the lawn where I tread
And trot on 'em."

You know I love poetry. You might also know how hard I think it is to write it. That being said, I express gratitude for this anthology; its theme is giving thanks. Miranda Paul has chosen beautifully penned poems from a group of more than thirty diverse voices, all focused on favorite things. It's a brilliant collection and useful when having its intended audience consider what holds importance and gratitude for them.

The range of poetic form is in keeping with the voices shared here.

"Each Scar 
by Baptiste Paul 

My mom says
be thankful
for each scar.

So I play,
Every day.
Lose my way.

Bash, crash, rough -
Mom, it's tough
to thank scars. 

format: tricube"

This tricube is accompanied by a digital illustration showing a child on roller blades, helmeted and with wrist and knee protectors, losing balance thanks to an undone lace. Each of the poems included are of the same design ... the title, poet, poem itself and its form, presented on a textured, colorful background.

by Chrystal D. Giles

Deep indents in my brown skin
Inspired by the smile bouncing upward from my toes
Mirror to the brightness in my soul
Pools of laughter, bubbling up and spilling out
Love, light, and bursts of cheers
Expressions of peace, pops of joy
Sun-soaked, beaming cheeks, reflections of happy me

format: acrostic"

A young child with a wide smile shows total joy in swinging at the park. Feet up, hands holding tight to the swing hangers, this is a special memory for many children.

And my own favorite from this collection; although I do not have cats, I absolutely understand the joy to be found in such days.

"All This 
by Liz Garton Scanlon

a book
hot cocoa
a bubble bath
and two curled-up cats.
Another book, more snow
and those cats - oh, how they purr.
Even when the world's dark and cold
there is all this to be grateful for
and I purr too: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

format: Etheree"

The illustration is soft curtains, a white world, a steaming mug, an opened book and those purring cats. Lovely! I would have tea, a cozy blanket and soft music playing in the background.

 Backmatter includes a list of the poetic forms and literary devices included, with an explanation of each, plus an appeal to try them at home. There follows a list of contributors and a short paragraph about each one. The final page includes an editor's note to teachers and parents, and a list of resources.

Thank you, Miranda Paul.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

What Are You Looking At? Written by Sara Stanford. Carlton Kids, Thomas Allen & Son. 2019. $15.95 ages 7 and up

"They don't look at all cute
or cuddly, but they are cool.
Mole rats live in complex
burrows underground. They
dig them out using their front
teeth! Surprisingly, these
wrinkly rodents are not
completely hairless (despite
their name) - they have
sensory whiskers on their nose
and tail."

Up to 300 live in a colony together! As well as that short informative description, the author also includes a data box that provides name, lives, eats, size. Each page has a title ... this one is HOLY MOLY! 

This is just the kind of book that kids love. It's table of contents lists five different sections: Furry Freaks, Creepy Critters, See-Through Stunners, Funny Faces, and Dragon-Tastic. They are sue to be hooked from the beginning. There are 7-9 entries in each section. Each is described as being part of a group of the 'world's weirdest animals'. Indeed!

Each page has the same design; there is a wild fact accompanied by a small photo, the data box, a catchy title and said short paragraph. The background provides a close-up photo of the animal being described. They are definitely little-known creatures and are sure to elicit attention and perhaps the occasional ahhh or ewww! 

Young readers love learning about strange and wonderful creatures. Their interest and the knowledge they gain from reading about them will lead them to care about nature's wonders, and to want to know ways to protect them, thus ensuring their existence for the future.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Why Don't Cars Run on Apple Juice? Real Science Questions From Real Kids. Written by Kira Vermond and illustrated by Suharu Ogawa. Annick Press, 2019. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"How do whales sleep?

... Luckily, whales' bodies have adapted to their watery environment in a few different ways. Some swim to the water's surface and fall asleep while floating. Many whales slumber for only a few minutes at a time. Others sleep using only ... half a brain! One side of the brain slumbers ... "
I love the origins for this book: that every question in it came from kids who visited the Ontario Science Museum. They were asked in a cafe setting and something special happened -

" ... the amazing and intriguing things they asked were captured in a computer and laser-cut into personalized wood coasters. They even got to keep them."

I have mentioned that I spent the month of July with a 3 and a 5 year old. It has been a long time since my own kids were that age. I had almost forgotten how inquisitive little ones can be. When you are asking science questions, it always seems as if one leads directly to another. That is exactly what happened here.

The questions that visitors to OSM asked are divided into five different chapters:

  • Whipping Up A Batch of Planet Earth
  • Creeping, Crawling Living Things
  •  Human Bodies from the Inside Out
  •  Stars, Moons, Planets, and Other Spaces
  • Big Ideas About Past, Present and Future. 
I know where I would start first. Readers will make that determination for themselves, depending upon their own personal interests. What I like about the book is the fact that all questions are considered - and none of them are deemed too silly to answer. Many adults are afraid to ask questions important to us for fear of being criticized. Here, 50 wide-ranging questions are asked and answered. The answers are meant to help the target audience (and the children who asked the questions) understand the scientific reasoning for the answers given by experts in their field. Most importantly, not all questions have a clear and definitive answer. 

The cartoon artwork is appealing, and often humorous. The final question encourages active thinking and thoughtful response. The design is terrific -  colorful, humorous, conversational, and encouraging of further inquiry. 

"Why do people need to sleep? 

Short answer? We don't know. But scientists have a few theories.

Here's one. People and animals need sleep to repair their bodies and
restore what has been lost during the day. That means growing muscle
and healing tissue. Sleep also helps us conserve energy so we have
enough when we really need it, like during gym class."

If you want to know the answer to the title question, you will have to get your eyes and hands on this book!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Dear Sweet Pea. bu Julie Murphy. Harper, 2019. $21.99 ages 10 and up

"Mom says it's none of our business
and that it shouldn't change anything.
Especially if your mom is okay with
it."  "I wouldn't say she's okay with it, but she's not mad at him." I pull my knees up to my chest and hold them there while I think of the right way to explain. "She knows he doesn't mean to hurt us, but it's kind of hard, because I think it might be easier if they didn't like each other so much and just got divorced for the usual reasons."

Happy publication day to Dear Sweet Pea! It's time to celebrate.

This new middle years novel from Julie Murphy continues her run at capturing worthy and memorable characters in stories that speak honestly to the emotional bumps of adolescence, family, friendship, and diversity.

Sweet Pea DiMarco has a lot on her plate. Her parents are divorced. Her mother's solution to their living conditions is for her father to rent a look-a-like house two doors down from their family home. That way Sweet Pea can move seamlessly back and forth, from one house to the other depending on whose night it is. The divorce happened when her father announced he was gay. Her parents continue to love each other, and only want what is best for their daughter.

Then, there's school and friendships; Sweet Pea's former best friend has decided she likes the popular girls more than she is loyal to Sweet Pea. They are in the same seventh grade class, and Kiera is  mean enough not to ask Sweet Pea to her birthday party (even though every other kid in class is invited). Her new best friend, Oscar, wants to attend because it's being held at the brand new Trampoline Zone.

Into the mix the author adds Miss Flora Mae, an older woman who lives between Sweet Pea's two houses and writes an advice column for the local newspaper. When Miss Flora Mae must leave town to help her sister, she leaves Sweet Pea with the job of taking care of the paperwork while she is away. Oh, and her plants and the music they love to hear. While helping out Sweet Pea gets herself in a bit of a fix. How she works through the consequences of that makes for a compelling story, filled with familiar situations that readers have likely experienced ... friendship issues, family difficulties, guilt.

Through it all, Sweet Pea becomes stronger and more confident. As with Ms. Murphy's characters in previous books, Sweet Pea is overweight. It matters more to others than it does to Oscar, her parents, or herself. She has a strong sense of self and shows it through a first person narrative that is funny, and full of charm.