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Thursday, April 30, 2020

My Bison, written and illustrated by Gaya Wisniewski. Princeton Architectural Press, Raincoast. 2020. $$23.95 ages 4 and up

"My bison left one morning.
I wished he could have stayed,
but he had to join up with
the other bison.
I walked with him until it was
time to say goodbye.
He looked at me for a long
while, and then he was gone.
But I knew he'd be back
when snow covered the
ground again."

I love this gentle, touching story of a young girl and her willingness to take the time to develop a deep love between herself and a wild bison. When she first sees the bison, she is filled with awe and affection for him. As the bison returns to the same field yearly, their love and trust grows. Soon, she is feeding him food she thinks he might like which he eats even if he does not. Leaving to be with his herd is difficult. She is confident he will be back.

Each winter he does return; her loneliness disappears. All is right in their world. They sit by the fire, the girl reads some stories, and tells others. The bison is attentive and quiet. There is nothing she does not love about him. There is nothing she cannot share with him.

"Year after year, my bison returned.
He never noticed I was getting older. He was too.
We were never cold in the snow."
As happens, both grow old and things change. One winter, the bison does not return and the woman must come to grips with the fact she has seen him for the last time. But she feels his presence and knows he is there, caring about her, remembering her stories, always present in her memories.

Charcoal and ink are a perfect choice for creating this nostalgic picture book. Emotional and memorable, imaginative and carefully constructed, this tale of enduring friendship and painful loss will resonate with older readers as well. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Golden Threads, written by Suzanne Del Rizzo and illustrated by Miki Sato. Owlkids, 2020. $19.95 ages

"Snatched by a falling
branch, I plunged
head over paw.

I churned and
lurched, a blur
of ragged fur
and froth.

And finally ...
I stopped."

Their lives are spent together ... on a Japanese mountain under a gingko tree. Emi and her toy fox have many simple adventures until the day the fox is swept away during a storm. Luckily, a loving grandfather rescues the dirty, bedraggled fox with a gingko leaf in its pocket, and takes it home to his granddaughter. She is a young girl in a wheelchair at the time. Her name is Kiko.

Kiko has the patience to clean the fox up, knowing that there must be someone who loves and is missing it. The fox is ashamed of its appearance, and wonders how anyone would want it anymore. Kiko has compassion and a willingness to make things better. She mends the fox's wounds in stitches of gold. The two become companions, passing the seasons together. Kiko mends as well.

Two broken (and repaired) bodies enjoy seasonal changes until Kiko finds a gingko leaf like the one in the pocket, and knows it is time to return the fox to its home. Sad, but resolute, she and her grandfather follow a trail of leaves back to an ebullient Emi. The two share tea, their stories and a stitched and renewed fox.

Lovely images are constructed from cut paper, fabrics, and other materials. The little details are full of charm and delight. Readers will want to return to the book again and again. Based on the Japanese art called kintsugi and the wabi-sabi way of looking at the world, the mending of the fox with golden threads echoes the way that artisans repaired cracks in order for them to be painted with gold, while also valuing something that is not perfect.

An author's note states:

"We all fall down, get hurt, feel broken ... but the stories we have to tell from our experiences make us stronger. Mending with gold teaches us that if we choose to embrace our struggles and repair ourselves with gratitude and love, we become more beautiful for having been broken."

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Little Cloud: The Science of a Hurricane, written by Johanna Wagstaffe and illustrated by Julie McLaughlin. Orca Book Publishers.2020. $19.95 ages 7 and up

"Weather Fact: A slow hurricane might sound like a good thing. But slow refers to how fast the storm is moving forward, not how strong its winds are. Slow storms are the most dangerous kind because they bring strong winds and rain to one area for a long time. If a hurricane hits a mountain and slows down over the peaks ... "

Johanna Wagstaffe is an experienced meteorologist who wants to show her readers how a hurricane grows. She begins with Little Cloud, a tiny puff of white in a clear blue sky. Each type of cloud is displayed and labelled. But the focus is on only one in particular.

That cumulus cloud is very friendly, and born near Africa. A clear illustration of the water cycle ensures understanding of each individual part: condensation, precipitation and evaporation. Also included on the spread is information concerning groundwater and runoff, and two highlighted 'weather facts'.

It's a great start. The stages for the hurricane itself begin when the cloud moves out over warmer water and begins to get bigger and stronger. With each stage, further informative labels and captions are presented, always accompanied by useful weather facts. Named Nate when it reaches tropical storm status, it becomes bigger and more dangerous.

"Finally, Nate's winds were
strong enough that he became
a full hurricane! He loved his
spinning winds and towering
clouds, but his favorite part
was his eye."

By giving Little Cloud a personality, children are more invested in the stages. When conditions are perfect for a hurricane to build and cause destruction, many plans must be put in place. Then, there are times when conditions prevent it from unleashing its full power. People breathe a sigh of relief and the water cycle completes itself.

Very clear information is presented on each page, including many valuable facts. Accompanied by Julie McLaughlin's wonderful illustrations, it is a book that is accessible and descriptive without overwhelming the target audience. Anyone interested in worrisome weather will be intrigued and informed.

"Did you know that every drop
of water on our planet has been
recycling itself for four billion

Back matter includes a fact page, a photo of the author, and an author's note explaining her love of destructive weather and her reporting work.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Story Boat, words by Kyo Maclear and pictures by Rashin Kheiriyeh. Tundra, Penguin Random House. 2020. $21.99 ages

"Here is a blanket.
Patterned and soft,
color of apricots.

Every night,
When the world feels not
quite cozy,
And everyone seems weary
From hoping and hurrying,
We snuggle and dream
Under this blanket."

This perfect refugee story begins and ends with 'here.' As a little girl and her brother travel forward after leaving their home to find a safe haven, she helps him understand what is happening to them. Each step along their journey she shows him where they are. Then, she helps him realize that no matter where 'here' is, they have what is important with them.

"Here is a cup.
Old and fine, warm as a hug.

Every morning,
As things keep changing,
We sit wherever we are
And sip, sip, sip,
Sippy, sip, sip
From this cup."

Each one of her stories provides reassurance, even though things are not always the same. Some days are sad, others hold more hope. They have their blanket, their cup, a lamp, a flower and the tales they tell with images and drawings that remind them of where they have been.

Finally, they arrive 'here' ... their new home where they will be safe and find the promise of a new life. The story is told simply, with so much meaning. The accompanying images are created using colored pencil and watercolor, oil and acrylic paint with additional materials, including wood, wool and cut paper. Imagination and assurance make the difference for two young children facing an unknown future. Heartfelt, hopeful and telling.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Truman, written by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

 "She strapped on a backpack
thirty-two small tortoises
could ride along in it -

but zero tortoises did.

Sarah placed seven green
beans in Truman's dish -

two more than usual!"

Truman and Sarah are cut from the same cloth. They love quiet days together, and they love each other. Truman is small and sweet. Unlike the noisy street below them, Truman is never loud or disruptive. They are a compatible pair.

The early actions on one particular morning have Truman concerned. A banana, a backpack, a bow in her hair and extra beans? Sarah has been away before, and had always come back. This time, things feel different. When he sees her get on the bus, he knows there is a problem. So, he waits for long hours until he can not stand to wait any longer.

He will go after her. He is terrified of everything that is outside, and he has a lot of planning to do. First up, how to get out of his glass home. Bravely, he ventures forth. His path is long and fraught with obstacles - the sofa, a pillow,tall boots, a rug which seems never to come to an end. The day wears on, Truman continues his journey till the light begins to fade, He knows himself to be brave - all he needs to do is get outside and catch the Number 11 bus, just as Sarah had done. He will find her!

As he is about to go under the door, surprise! So brave, so proud! Truman, you are a treasure.

Lucy Ruth Cummins uses gouache, brush marker, charcoal, colored pencil, and digital illustrations adroitly to give life to these two admirable friends. The expressions, the affection, the perspectives, the colorful, cozy indoor world - each scene perfectly matches this delightful tale. Heard in the words, and show in the gorgeous images, this is one of those books that are darn near perfect. Readers will be charmed from start to finish.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

little mole's wish, written and illustrated by sang-keun kim. Translated by Chi-Young Kim. schwartz & wade books, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Little Mole had a brilliant idea.
He and his friend waited patiently.

Night fell.

"Look, a shooting star!"
exclaimed Little Mole.
"Grandma says a shooting
star makes your wish come
true. I hope my wish comes

You will want to have this book to share with your own children and your early years students when the first snow falls later this year. Hopefully, much later. Here's hoping we will be back to our new normal by then.

It is an enchanting and enduring tale of friendship. A lonely mole is on his wintry way home when he finds a small snowball and makes it his friend. Then he makes it bigger as the snowball listens to his tale of woe. No friends - how sad. When he decides to take it home with him, the mole is happy. The two wait patiently for a bus to take them there.

The first bus refuses to accept a snowball as a passenger. Little Mole's next idea - turn the snowball into a bear. Then, wait patiently again. Nope, still called a snowball. Can he come up with another idea? Well, yes. A longer wait ensues. Will third time be a charm?

You will have to find out for yourself.

Perfectly written and translated, this is a book that goes straight to our 'keepers' shelf. I know it will become a favorite, and deservedly so. Stunning illustrations done in colored pencil, pastel, pen and compiled digitally add a sense of poignancy at every turn, matching the beauty of the told story on every single page.

Bravo, Grandma!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Not A Bean, written by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez and illustrated by Laura Gonzalez. Charlesbridge, Penguin Random House. 2019. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"On a bright and early morning,
una oruga - a wiggly caterpillar -
burrows into the seedpod.
The caterpillar eats
the inside of its pod
and drinks the water
that seeps in."

As a kid, I was always intrigued by the Mexican jumping bean. Of course, I knew nothing about it and may never have really seen a real one. It was the movement that caused me to wonder about it. Until now, that curiosity has never been satisfied. It's just one of the things I love about books for children. They continue to teach - even retired teachers.

In her debut children's picture book, Ms. Martinez invites her readers to learn about this bean that is 'not a bean.' As she explores its life cycle, she reveals that it is a seed pod that comes from the yerba de la flecha shrub. The caterpillar burrows deep inside. The pod hardens, falls to the ground nearby, and then spends time frightening animals and nearby birds with its jump.

It travels where rainwater takes it, and is eventually picked up by exploring children. Using it and others they have found for a favorite game, the NOT a Bean does its thing and entertains until evening. After many days under the desert sun, it is time for the caterpillar to spin a cocoon, and emerge the lovely moth it was meant to be.

Spanish vocabulary including counting words add interest. The warm colors and spirited desert scenes were created in Photoshop. A glossary, a list of Spanish words from one to ten, and an author's note make up back matter.

Fun to read aloud, and filled with new information for many.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

GOING UP! Written by Sherry J. Lee and illustrated by Charlene Chua. Kids Can Press, 2020. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"The elevator stops on the second floor.

When the doors open, the Santucci
brothers, Andrew and Pippo, are
waiting to get on.

"Hey, Little Bit!"

Pippo always calls me Little Bit.

Going up!"

We enter the high rise building on the first floor where Sophie and her dad are getting ready for Olive's birthday party. We're told it's being held in the 10th floor party room. Cookies baked and plated, the two are ready to head for the elevator. DING! 

As they rise from floor to floor, making a short stop at each one, they are met by other party guests. Two enter on the second floor, three on the third, four on the fourth, and Mr. Kwan on the fifth. Every new passenger is greeted with warmth, and all have brought something for the party. It is a multicultural group whose personalities, clothing, foods, pets, and gifts are evident in the mixed media artwork provided by Charlene Chua. It is a most delightful ascent.

Their spirits soaring, the elevator full to the brim, there is slight concern as they reach the ninth floor that it may have reached capacity. Not so. Nori fits, and off they go to the party room. The double gatefold that opens as they exit the elevator is lovely. Finally, we get to meet Olive, the guest of honor. Surprise!

Very observant kids will notice who makes an appearance on the seventh floor when there appears to be no new guest. Go back and see what they notice on the second reading. What child doesn't love birthday parties and elevator rides?

Humorous and beautifully designed, this book is sure to become a favorite.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Nature All Around: Plants. Written by Pamela Hickman and illustrated by Carolyn Gavin. Kids Can Press, 2020. $19.99 ages 9 and up

"Take a look at the flowers in your neighborhood. You'll see a rainbow of colors and lots of different shapes and sizes. If you get nose-to-nose with some flowers, you can smell their sweet scents. People have enjoyed flowers for thousands of years, but the colors, shapes and fragrances of flowers are really designed to attract pollinators, including birds, bats and insects such as honeybees."

In this newest addition to the Nature All Around series, Pamela Hickman follows the pattern from previous books. Conversational in tone, and providing the perfect measure of material for her target audience, this book moves forward with the resplendent artwork and precise text that educates while also inspiring readers to take a close look at all that is shared here. It is also an excellent book for learning about nonfiction elements.

As happens with books that mentor learners, she begins with a concise table of contents. Each double page spread further informs concerning all things plant. There are, indeed, plants all around us. She describes the life of a plant, the flowers, plants through the seasons, growing zones, habitats, careful observation, unusual species, endangered plants and how to grow microgreens.

"Spreading Seeds

The seeds of wild plants can spread in many amazing ways. Seeds sail on the wind, float in the water or hitch a ride on an animal. Seeds have to spread out so that they are not competing with each other for the soil, water and sunshine they need to grow. Many seeds don't land in the right spot, and so they never grow."

Kids with a penchant for the natural world and how it works will enjoy this fine introduction. They are sure to learn something new and be inspired to take a close look at the world around them. Carolyn Gavin's colorful, accurate artwork adds a further dimension to the learning. 

A glossary and index follow and provide guidance for finding specific information.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Two Truths and a Lie: Forces of Nature, written by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson. Walden Pond Press, Harper. 2019. $21.99 ages 10 and up

"For most of you, a glass of water
is probably nothing special.
Feeling thirsty? You simply turn on
your kitchen faucet, or put a glass
under your water filter, or get a
bottle from the fridge. But many
folks around the world are not so
lucky. By current estimates, 844
million people - that's one out of
every nine people alive right now! -
do not have access to clean drinking

Just a quick note today to let you know about this third instalment in the Two Truths and a Lie series. I have referred to the first two in previous posts. Learning about forces of nature in this uniquely informative way will have fans clamoring to share this book with friends, and reading endlessly to try to trick them into making the wrong choice when faced with which one is the lie.

The table of contents provides all the information needed to take a reader to their most fascinating personal topic. There are three parts: It's Elemental, Sensational Science, and Science in Action. Within each of those parts are three separate chapters: Earth, Water and Air, followed in part two by Uncanny Chemistry, Freaky Physics, and Surprising Space, and finally in the third part readers will find chapters named Amazing, Unbelievable and What's Next? Back matter includes a research guide, the answer guide, a bibliography, and an index.

Where would you start? No matter where that it is, you will find crazy, but true, stories that will engage, entertain and enlighten concerning the astonishing forces found in nature. Most are true - except for that one in each chapter that is a lie. In order to discover which is the lie readers will need to rely on research, and recognizing what the difference is between fact and fiction. There are pictures, maps, and various experiments to try.

While science is not my forte, I found my attention was first drawn to the chapters in part 3. I read, I thought carefully, I did a little research. Luckily, I was right about ONE. If completely befuddled as to what the real answer is, you can always turn to the answer guide for help. Do your best, then see if you are right. How much fun is that for those problem-solving kids you know?

Monday, April 20, 2020

When my brother gets home, written and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast. 2020. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"When my brother 
gets home ... 

we're going to have 
our own comic book 

Then we'll climb
Mount Kilimanjaro."

Oh, to be the little girl in this book whose imagination runs rampant and whose joy overflows with the return of her big brother from school! As readers watch her and her canine companion look longingly down the street in anticipation of seeing the school bus turn the corner, she thinks seriously about what might happen when her brother gets off that bus.

She is full of ideas. While she waits the page that faces her shows a child-like drawing of the trip her brother is taking to get back to her. From climbing aboard the bus, to the mapped-out trip from point A to point B, observers can watch the little one as she waits in high anticipation and the progress of her brother's bus on the journey back home.

Each new adventure she anticipates upon his return plays out in pencil, watercolor and colored pencil artwork that is filled with joy and adventure. Young readers will delight in watching the two spend such imagined special times together. And as all wonderful big brothers are sure to do; the minute he gets off the bus, his attention turns to his sister with a question: 'what do you want to do?' She has some surprises in store for him.

The repetitious phrasing, the signature Lichtenheld images, and the comfort she imagines in being together in the outdoors following a long day apart is delightful. Such a lovely premise for a story about siblings!                                                                 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

In A Jar, written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero. G.P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin Random House. 2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"One night, the sunset painted
the sky the color of tart cherry
syrup. Llewellyn ventured down
to the shore with as many jars
as he could carry.

A little girl named Evelyn
was there too.

Llewellyn scooped that cherry
light into his jars."

Llewellyn is someone we would like to know better. He is a thoughtful collector of all things important to him: sunsets, buttercups, heart-shaped stones, feathers. tart cherry light. Each jar in his collection holds wondrous memories of things seen and done. Llewellyn is a solitary rabbit until the evening he meets Evelyn.

One jar from his collection is a gift given. Evelyn takes it home. Imagine her surprise when she discovers upon awakening that the jar continues to glow. That first gift jar is the start of a special friendship. Now, the two do all of their saving together. The jars offer joy and contentment.

"They collected things you might not think
would even fit in a jar. But somehow, they did."

Through winter, spring, and summer, they wander together gathering and returning home with their treasures until Llewellyn's house is full to the brim. Touching sadness results when Evelyn announces her family is moving. When he cannot ignore his collecting any longer, Llewellyn wanders out into a starry night to fill his jar ... and then mail it to his friend. It is the beginning of a new kind of relationship. And when autumn leaves begin to fall, Llewellyn meets Max. Luckily, he has an extra jar with him.

Pencil, watercolor, ink, and digital media capture the charm found in the days experienced by the two friends as they find wonder in the world around them - the sights and sounds that are so often missed.  The small moments are beautifully captured on double-page spreads that give value to all they experience together. The patterns and colors are gorgeous, and sure to elicit some oohs and aahs. The prose is amazing; wonderful for reading aloud. Magical and memorable, this book is a treat.

It begs the question: what marvelous thing would you collect?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Wild Child's Guide to ENDANGERED ANIMALS, by Millie Marotta. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2019. $37.50 all ages

                    Happy Animal Crackers Day to Everyone!             

                    I hope this affords a smile for you today:


"As you weave your way from the oceans to the forests, from mountaintops to the Arctic tundra, you'll discover a collection of endangered animals that call these places home. At the end of the book I've given some ideas of what you can do next if you want to help them survive and thrive. My hope is that you will fall in love with these creatures just as I have ... "

Ms. Marotta reminds us that these 'beautiful beasts' are hanging on for dear life. They need help to survive. By bringing their stories to her audience, she lives in hope that we will find ways to do our part in assuring their existence in our world.

The text is divided into various habitats: oceans, forests, deserts, fresh water, grasslands, mountains, tundra, and wetlands. Each section introduces between 4 and 7 creatures who live within that habitat, on double-page spreads that include a helpful illustration, a catchy descriptive nickname, the name of the creature itself and a few very informative paragraphs about each one. Some will be familiar; others are less well-known. And, readers are off to a text that will interest, inform, and intrigue.

Endpapers reveal images of already extinct animals, and help to raise concern for those featured in the pages that follow. There are 43 creatures included, living around the world. The map that follows the text shows exactly where they can be found. The numbers beside each will take readers back to the page where they are presented. A glossary provides the given name, the scientific name, the status for each, the number of mature individuals if known, their place in the world, and the many threats to their survival. The final spread offers a multitude of ways readers can help to protect the wonder that is the animal kingdom.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Hello World, by Ethan Long. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $25.99 ages 2 and up

"Many folks in Happy County
choose to live in neighborhoods,
where lots of other folks are doing
lots of different things.
Look! It's Buck the Mail Carrier.
And there's Dottie, who loves
walking dogs! Do you see Mr.
Rhinehorn unpacking his new
Our town is filled with many shapes, colors and patterns. Do you see some?"

If you have been looking for something to entertain little ones on these long days of quarantine, you  want to look for this book. If you have fond memories of spending hours pouring over the detail-filled pages of Richard Scarry's Busytown series as a kid, this will be a lovely reminder of happy times in your younger life. Whichever is your reality (or perhaps both are), you can't go wrong when introducing your little ones to Ethan Long's Happy County!

It is the first in a new series. It's my understanding that Sun and Moon Together (Book 2) will be in bookstores in August, and that books 3 and 4 are being readied for publication. I will look forward to each one, and the joy my grandgirls find in poring over each page during their summer visit.

An introduction to the main characters is the first item of business, giving readers individuals to follow as they explore every new scene. The welcome banner invites kids in, and begins a journey of exploration that will delight them all. The table of contents lists the neighborhood people and places we will meet in this first visit, and will help when wanting to return to a favorite haunt.

There is so much to see on every new spread. It is a colorful, and happy place to be. Full of expression, activity, and many humorous bits, eyes will be in constant motion to ensure that every part of the community is seen and appreciated. New community members are introduced as our exploration continues. Children will be busy, with someone or on their own, as they examine the pages that encourage discussion, storytelling, observation, and just plain fun. Ethan Long labels many of his images, allowing for a growing vocabulary and sight words for those ready to remember them.

Everyone loves to look at artwork that requires close attention to the details and to new content they may not have seen. How much fun is it to take note of little bits of action, while also observing this diverse world reflected accurately, and with heart and humor. Energetic and filled with stories, I will happily anticipate each new addition to the series.

Get ready to 'read it again!' and then again, and again, and again. Wonderful!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

My Friend Earth, written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Francesca Sanna. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2020. $23.99 ages

"She tends the prairie where
the sun-dappled horses run
through grasses that swish
against their legs -

the tundra where the
reindeer graze for moss,

and the glistening ice
where the young polar bear
pads on mittened feet."

My friend Earth is pictured as an angelic brown-skinned girl whose closed eyes open as the world wakes from a long winter nap, and welcomes the arrival of a robin. She peeks out from her hiding place to watch as the world comes to abundant life. Gardeners garden, birds sing and crows caw raucously. As she watches in amazement, she takes note of spiders and their webs, birds and their nutritious seeds, and an ever-greening world.

Friend Earth watches over the animals, offering deep darkness for sleep and bright light for discovery. She cares for the prairies, the icy world of the north, and the oceans. She provides rain, sunlight, winds, and quiet peaceful days.

"Sometimes she blows fierce autumn winds,
sweeping the limbs of trees
and shingles from the roofs of barns."

Readers will love the many flaps, curved edges, and die-cuts that help move their reading from spread to spread with interest. Ms. Sanna created her artwork in pencil, ink, and digital painting. The beauty in the colors chosen to show the seasons are stunning, and the actions of Earth are a welcome tribute to this wonderful world that is ours to protect and nurture.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Why? Written and illustrated Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2019. $24.99 ages 3 and up




I don't know why.
Sometimes I just don't
know why!"

Sometimes the very best illustrated books say so little; yet, they say so much! That has been the case with Laura Vaccaro Singer since I Had a Rooster (2001). I began acquiring each new book since then and continue to this day. I am delighted to share Why? with you today.

We know toddlers and how they learn about the world around them. They ask questions, then follow our answers with another question ... often that question is why. There are times when an answer seems impossible. Here, she shows us how that happens. Any fan of Ms. Seeger knows how much she admires little ones and their ability to learn, to reason, and to seek answers to their questions. She gets right to the heart and soul of them.

We meet rabbit and bear immediately. Bear is busy at work, watering the flowers. The rabbit is curious and wants to know why. Bear has a ready answer. Throughout their days together, reasonable questions and patient answers flow back and forth. Rabbit says nothing but why. Bear has a ready answer each time. Only by carefully considering the telling artwork, does the listener understand what causes the rabbit to ask. The questions are asked and answered until the rabbit notices a dead bird. In that instance, the bear has no answer. It is a truly poignant and beautifully delivered moment. Then, the tables turn and their story comes full circle.

What love these friends share. Their story is comforting and inspired. My granddaughters are going to love it, as I do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Wanted! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom, written by Heather Tekavec and illustrated by Susan Bartori. Kids Can Press. 2020. $19.99 ages 9 and up

This mama bird is too lazy to
build her own nest, so she
secretly lays her egg in a
neighbor's nest. She lets the
other mother do all the work
to hatch the eggs. And if
that's not bad enough, when
the baby cuckoo hatches, it
bumps off the other eggs by
pushing them right out ... "

The kids who are going to love this book will know it from the moment they open the cover. It has everything they look for in nonfiction - facts, fun, and an invitation to find further facts. What more can you ask?

The author has created 13 profiles of creatures who are 'turning to a life of crime, chaos and corruption'. Humans need to know this. Only then will they be able to offer the kind of assistance Detective X needs in his hunt to rid the world of these despicable beings.

Turning to the first report, readers note the design elements that will take them from the first to the last of the collected summaries. Each includes a case number, a nickname, the reason for capture, a rap sheet, a set of descriptive elements (life span, sightings, witnesses, previous arrests, gang name), an FYI note, and two illustrations: one a mug shot, and one showing evidence of the crime perpetrated.

Their crimes are many, and egregious. They certainly deserve their fate, once captured.  Each entry is sure to elicit laughter while also providing pertinent information about the featured creature. Susan Batori's delightful illustrations add to the lightheartedness of the text. The expressions are wonderful, and their menacing nature evident. 

In back matter, the author offers an explicit set of rules made for the animal kingdom, and offers proof that, due to superior detective work, all cases are closed. For now ...

Monday, April 13, 2020

Three Lost Seeds: Stories of Becoming, written by Stephie Morton and illustrated by Nicole Wong. Tilbury House, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2019. $23.95 ages 5 and up

"Though tattered and tired,
it now felt inspired
to do what a seed's meant to do.

As soil hugged its skin,
the seed snuggled in
for a long winter's rest.
Then it grew."

There are three stories told here. Each one connects the reader to the resilient growth found in natural surroundings. A single seed is the subject of each story. One is a cherry seed in the Middle East; the next an acacia seed in Australia; finally, a lotus seed in Asia.  While seeds know exactly what they are going to be, it is not always evident to those who see or find them while exploring nature. Seeds are capable of amazing things wherever they are found.

"Still Nature is smart
and has a big heart
for helping a lost seed to be found.

She likes problem-solving,
adapting, evolving,
and turning the trouble around."

The cherry seed is picked up by a bird and dropped in a creek. Stuck in the muck, it finally travels by rushing water to place where it can survive and grow. The acacia seed is picked up by ants, carried down into the nest, and left there with little chance of surviving. Luckily, time spent in the nest prevents it from being burnt in a fire that destroys the surrounding acacia grove. The lotus seed survives an earthquake and the drought that follows. Each is persistent and insistent that it will be what it is meant to be.

Though the poetry does not offer a further story, Nicole Wong adds interest and context in her renderings of a serene aftermath. The cherry tree grows alongside a stream where families enjoy picnics and pick the cherries from its branches. The acacia becomes part of reforestation following the fire. The lotus finds life much later (one hundred years!) when the lake returns to its former state.

Welcome back matter adds notes for kids about nature, the seeds mentioned here, and survival. A plant physiologist discusses seeds and seed banks. A short note is included about both author and illustrator.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Natsumi's Song of Summer, written by Robert Paul Weston and illustrated by Misa Saburi. Tundra, Penguin Random House. 2020. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"What would Jill be like?
What would they have in common?
Would they become friends?

Or perhaps they would quarrel?
There was no way of knowing.
At the huge airport
Natsumi saw her cousin
weaving through the crowds,

grinning and anxious, her eyes
bright with curiosity."

Once again, Robert Paul Weston uses tanka poems to tell a charming tale. This one concerns two cousins meeting for the first time. Natsumi loves everything about summer in Japan. She spends her days in the sun's heat, enjoying all things she can do in the outdoors. She has a special fondness for summer's tiny creatures.

"But what she loved most
were summer's insects, gleaming,
crawling, fluttering ...

With their songs and bright bodies
the air itself came to life!"

She especially loves cicadas - their presence, their chirps, their gorgeous wings. Natsumi is also excited about her summer birthday. It will bring a special guest. Her cousin Jill is flying to Japan for a visit. The two have never met. Along with the excitement she feels, she is also a bit nervous about keeping Jill happy and entertained.

Jill is an inquisitive visitor, wanting to learn as much as she can from her cousin. Their days are spent celebrating the beauty to be found in a new culture, its beaches, and leisurely summer days. When Jill asks about the buzzing she constantly hears, Natsumi experiences some apprehension.

"Natsumi wanted
to show them to her cousin
but she was worried.

Insects frightened some people.
What if Jill was frightened, too?"

Luckily, there is no need to worry. Jill is thrilled to learn what Narsumi has to teach about the insects. Then, she is happy to share with her cousin a picture of something she knows a lot about - the luna moth. A promise is made to introduce them when Natsumi visits Jill.

This is a lovely celebration of family and friendship. It also pays particular attention to the beauty to be found in the natural world.

Misa Saburi's digital artwork adds rich detail to this lovely story, allowing readers a clear look at the Japanese setting, the wonders to be found there, and the growing friendship between the cousins.

 In back matter Mr. Weston provides information about the Japanese form of poetry he has chosen to use, adds further facts about the cicada, and explains the mimicry of sounds found in his story.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

A Story About Afiya, by James Berry with illustrations by Anna Cunha. Lantana Publishing, Thomas Allen & Son. 2020. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"Afiya passes sunflowers
and finds
the yellow fringed black
faces there,
imprinted on her frock,
all over.
Another time she passes
red roses
and there the clustered
bunches are, imprinted
on her frock."

James Berry wrote this poem in 1991. It is reissued now (three years after his death) with mixed media artwork that keeps audience attention on the child herself, and the dress that is constantly changing in relation to the places she visits.

Afiya has only the one dress. She wears it every day and washes it every night. The joy in the simply written, but expressive, text comes when the dress somehow transforms whenever she visits the wonders to be found in nature. The dress makes each of those visits memorable and full of joy for Afiya.

"She walks through high grass and sees
butterflies and all kinds
of slender stalks and petals
patterned on her back and front
and are still there, after
she has washed her dress."

Yet, every morning the dress is white again and ready for the next adventure. Each delightful image invites a child's imagination to rise to new heights.

In a foreword, Myra Barrs describes the book this way: "This book is a wonderful weaving together of two imaginations." Very well said.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Mr. Scruff, written and illustrated by Simon James. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $22.99 ages 4 and up

"But who's this?

It's Mr. Scruff ...

For Mr. Scruff there's no one.

This is Mick.

He belongs to Rick.

And this is Lawrence."

Oh, I love reading this funny and heartwarming book to little ones. It takes them no time to begin chiming in with the rhymes; and you know how they absolutely love books about dogs.

Mr. Scruff is no ordinary dog. He is a resident of the local animal shelter; no one seems interested in his plight. The other dogs are carefree and happy with owners whose names and looks match their own. Poor Mr. Scruff. He is having a rough time.

It is his lucky day when Jim visits the shelter and takes an immediate liking to Mr. Scruff. His parents are unconvinced, offering arguments that have no bearing on how Jim is feeling about the loveable, scruffy, aging dog their son has decided should be his. He has all the right arguments.

"No," says Jim.
"He needs a home.
A place to call his very own.
That's what he needs.
And that's enough
for me -
and Mr. Scruff."

Off they go, despite the fact that there is no rhyme to their names. After Jim and his fmaily leave the shelter, along comes Mr. Gruff - a man with the same soft heart as Jim. LOVE it!

The artwork for this book is signature Simon James. I have followed his career sine I read The Day Jake Vacuumed (Bantam, 1989). Here, his watercolor-and-ink illustrations are filled with light and joy. Telling details add another layer of understanding to this tale of friendship in its many forms.

Fun, and poignant, too.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Write! Write! Write! Poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and illustrations by Ryan O'Rourke. Wordsong, Penguin Random House. 2020. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Dear Monarch Butterfly,
Thank you for flying
by our front stoop this morning.
You fluttered joy into my heart
when I was feeling sad.

Dear Crazy Socks,
Thank you for not caring
if you match or not.
You hug my feet.
You make my mouth smile."

You are off ... with another wonderful idea for a fun writing project for your students, or your own schooling-at-home children! Think of all the people, places, and things you can thank, if you set your mind to feeling grateful.

There are 21 poems written for this fine collection. It all begins with the alphabet and the 26 letters that we use in this game of writing poetry. Each following entry is an homage to making poetry a part of the day. Writing it, reading it, and then writing more.

The subjects are endless, the place you write needs to be well-chosen and comfortable. At times, a writer suffers from writer's block; Ms.VanDerwater has a suggestion.

"Did you ever open up your fridge
hungry for a snack
seeking something good -
but nothing good stares back?

Did you ever look at all your clothes
uncertain what to wear
for a favorite shirt -
one that is not there?

If you did, you recognize
how writer's block can paralyze.
But unlike a snack or shirt
one idea multiplies.

Ideas spread like wildflowers
when you move your hand."

Certainly, good advice - just get writing!

This is a companion book to Read! Read! Read! (Wordsong, 2017) and a worthy one. The poems differ in subject, meter, rhyme scheme, and type. Kids interested in poetry will find much to think about, and ideas to try. The writing process itself is described in a number of the poems, including revision, editing, and even getting started.

Lovely artwork, done in oil paints and then colored digitally, provide accompaniment to the poetic words. There is comfort, humor and quiet thought in the images created. The art matches the animated text and it all works well as a mentor text when wanting to encourage writing at home or in the classroom.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Red House Tree House Little Bitty Brown Mouse, written by Jane Godwin and illustrated by Blanca Gomez. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. 2019. $22.99 ages 3 and up

"Pink shoes
      Blue shoes
Green shoes

Shoes go on your feet.
What goes on your head?

Purple fish
      Orange fish -

Oh, she's an industrious one - the little mouse who stars in the engaging picture book. She packs her suitcase and sets off to accompany little ones on this journey of discovery. Each turn of the page is a sweet invitation to readers and listeners to take the time to immerse themselves in all there is to see.

First, it is a concept book that encourages young children to take note of both color and number. It is also filled with lively language that builds on rhyming, listening, and new vocabulary. though not mentioned again, astute observers will spy that wee tiny mouse. She does appear on every new spread. The journey is perfectly paced, always directing the audience's attention to the questions being asked and things to be noted.

"Brown dog
         Red dog
Dog with a

Dogs that are friendly,
and dogs that are not."

Blanca Gomez ensures that delighted attention will be paid with each new scene. They are brightly colored, with visits to many of the community's familiar places - the streets, a flower garden, local transit, the sidewalk, curb and street crossing, the aquarium, the ice cream store ... Kids are asked to make decisions when thinking about safety, flavor, observation, and always attending to the many details provided.

The final page asks a question that will send children back to the beginning -

"and did you spot that mouse?"

The mouse and her suitcase? If that isn't enough, the author adds a bit of extra fun using the endpaper images. She suggests that a careful look at them might lead readers back to a 'related image in the story'. What fun!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Portrait in Poems: The Storied Life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B.Toklas. Written by Evie Robillard and illustrated by Rachel Katstaller. Kids Can Press, 2020. $19.99 ages 10 and up

"Pablo studied her with his wild,
dark eyes.
Eyes that took in everything.
And then
he began to paint,
Eighty times during the winter
of 1906,
Gertrude climbed that hill
and sat quietly
while Pablo painted
and painted ... "

Gertrude Stein lived very close to the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris after she left the United States to live abroad; it is fitting that this tale of her life begins there. In the first of eight short chapters, Evie Robillard describes the place where Ms. Stein lived, first with her brother Leo, and then with her partner Alice B. Toklas. It was a home filled with the art that she and Leo loved and bought once they were settled.

"Matisse, Cezanne, Gaugin, 
Marie Laurencin, 
Georges Braque, Juan Gris. 
And, of course, Picasso. 
The one and only Pablo Picasso."

Each of the seven chapters that follow begin with a Stein quote, and tell of their life lived in the early to mid 1900s. As an adult, Gertrude had her portrait painted by Picasso. As well, she used words to paint her own personal life views. Anyone who wanted to visit and see the art collection was met by Alice at the front door, and offered tea. If the visitor met with Alice's approval, entrance was allowed.

"Look at all these people!
Sipping tea and drinking wine
and oohing 
and aahing
and trying to say intelligent things
about the paintings on the wall."

In charming text, the reader is made aware of the idiosyncrasies of the two women who so clearly represented modernism. Brilliant in their own ways, yet often misunderstood, theirs is a story that intrigues in a book that informs interested readers. Using gouache, colored pencil, and graphite in shades of blue and green, and also yellow and pale pinks, Ms. Katstaller offers a historical perspective and adds context for the story told.

A timeline, snapshots, a list of sources and an author's note are included in back matter. The author's note explains more clearly what life was like during World War II in France and the connections the two women made during the invasion.

Monday, April 6, 2020

16 Words: William Carlos Williams & "The Red Wheelbarrow", written by Lisa Rogers and illustrated by Chuck Groenink. Schwartz & Wade, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 8 and up

"Stepping around his chickens,
he turns the soil,
pulls weeds,
harvests greens.

He plucks ripe vegetables
and carries them to his

The first line of this book about a doctor whose poetry has inspired many is a perfect invitation to all of us as we harbor in place in a bid to 'flatten the curve' and stop the spread of Covid-19.

"Look out the window. What do you see?"

We have the time to take close looks outside our windows these days, and think carefully about what we are seeing there. If you are homeschooling, it is a perfect opportunity to encourage your kids with the power of observation for their writing. That is one of the truly wonderful lessons poetry written well teaches us.

William Carlos Williams was a doctor, and an aspiring writer. He spent his days caring for his patients, and eking out time to consider what he saw around him. Those close observations became the subject of his poetry. As he watched his neighbor, Thaddeus Marshall, work diligently to grow a garden that would supply his neighbors with fresh produce, Dr. Williams also went about the work that endeared him to all who received his medical attention. He carried with him the tools he needed to do his work, just as Mr. Marshall did when tending to his garden.

Between visits, and whenever else he found time, he wrote.

"He chooses the words for
his poetry as carefully as he
examines his patients.

If he's making a house call, he scribbles
poems on his prescription pad.

He writes about his town and the people who live there." 

Written with clarity and perfect word choice, Ms. Rogers makes this story a stellar picture book debut. Chuck Groenink's rich digital artwork brings Dr. Williams' world to full life and allows readers to clearly see all that he saw, helping them realize the power to be found in words. Leaving the 'red wheelbarrow' poem to the final page is an ingenious denouement.   

There was a time when I was conducting poetry workshops in schools. I love the power it has to stimulate thought, the senses, the creative juices that young learners have. One of my favorite poems by William Carlos Williams encouraged writers to consider an apology for something they should not have done:

"This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold"

Is there anything you have done lately that deserves a poetic apology? Why not try?

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Soccerverse: Poems About Soccer, written by Elizabeth Steinglass and illustrated by Edson Ike. Wordsong, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Find me.
I'm under the bed.
Sure, I smell
like something dead,
but who cares?
Wear me.
Wear a pair of me.
Tuck me
in your sock,
and let's get out of here.
I want to be kicked.
It's why I exist." 

Kids love soccer. Any other year, the school playground across the street from my house would soon be teeming with little ones four days a week from 5:30 until 7:30. It won't be like that this year. I will miss it. Kids will miss it, and so will their parents.

Those kids who love to play soccer are sure to find any number of poems to enjoy as they pore over this book that deals with all aspects of the game. There are 22 from which to choose. It is a real celebration; each poem is written from the perspective of those children who have a passion for playing.

The table of contents invites attention to its many aspects, allowing readers a chance to choose what most interests them whether it is defence, passing, dribbling, teammates, goals, or the handshake as the game comes to a close. I wanted first to read the poems about an apology and its acceptance.


I got too mad.
I tried to hard.

I crossed the line.
I got a card.


I saw he was sorry.
I knew he felt bad.

I sat down beside him.
I didn't get mad."

Ms. Steinglass has knowledge of and a love for the sport. That is evidenced in the variety found in this collection. The poems are written from different perspectives, and in a wide variety of poetic form. A list that describes each of those forms is included in back matter. Edson Ike's digital artwork is boldly colorful, energetic, and embodies all of the action.

If you have a soccer player in the family, this is a perfect book to give prior to the new season, whenever that might be this year. It certainly is an excellent addition to classroom and school libraries, making it available to anyone wanting to better understand the game they want to play. Or, have the team sign it and gift it to the coach as the season comes to an end.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

On The Horizon, written by Lois Lowry with illustrations by Kenard Pak. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2020. $22.99 ages 10 and up

"When he was made commander
of the entire Battleship Division,
he became an admiral.

Admiral Kidd ran to the bridge
that morning in December.

His Naval Academy ring was
found melted and fused to the mast.
It is not an imaginary thing,
a symbol of devotion so vast."

It will come as no surprise that renowned author Lois Lowry's first book of poetry is beautifully written. In it, she recalls life in Hawaii and Japan as a child. She had played on the beach at Waikiki with her nanny and her father, a short distance from where the Horizon often sailed. She rode her bike through her neighborhood where she saw reminders of the war. In this poignant account of the lives of sailors at Pearl Harbor and children in Hiroshima, she articulates the horrors and the humanity of war.

She begins on one horizon, the bombing at Pearl Harbor. Focusing attention on the place, the people, and the unbearable losses on that day, she introduces readers to the band, the captain, and the sailors who were aboard the ship, as well as memorabilia. Each poem is a powerful reminder of love and loss. The other horizon is Hiroshima, and is described in the second part of this collection. She presents stories of the morning of the bombing, the cloud, of children affected including Sadako, and memorabilia.

"Soon four years old! A big boy!
Shinichi Tetsutani
played that morning,
riding his red tricycle.

When his parents found him,
he was still gripping the
handlebar. He was so proud
of his red tricycle.

Shin-chan, they called him.
They buried him in the garden,
and with him, they buried
his red tricycle.

He had called it his friend.

Finally, in the third part, Ms. Lowry writes about the post-war years and her family's return to Tokyo, where her father was a doctor. She shares memories of life there, and tells the story of a schoolyard, the children there, and one boy she would meet much later in life, when both were living in the United States.

The poems reflect suffering and promise, are written in a variety of forms, and offer a reminder that by learning from past experiences we can make our world a more peaceful and empathetic place. Kenard Pak's graphite artwork is emotional, historical, and reflective of the remarkable words penned by Ms. Lowry. An author's note is touching and revelatory. A bibliography is included.


Friday, April 3, 2020

Construction People. Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Ellen Shi. Wordsong, Penguin Random House. 2020. $23.99 ages 8 and up

"We lay pipes
Straight and round.
Inside. Outside.
Up and down.

From the basement
To the top.
We plumb, plumb, plumb.
We never stop.

               - Charles Gigna"

It is apparent that teachers and their students will not be spending futher time in the classroom this year. It is an unprecedented situation for each and every person around the world. Perhaps some of the books that I will continue sharing with you daily will find a place in your home, your library or your classroom when life returns to our new normal. Be safe, stay in, and stay healthy.

Shown above are the opening two verses of Charles Gigna's excellent description of the many tasks plumbers perform while being a part of a huge construction project. As with each of the workers included in this fine book, new buildings would not be possible without their professional expertise and necessary hard work.

Each of the fourteen poems written describe the work that so carefully takes place, from first day to last, when building a skyscraper. Rebecca Kai Dotlich starts the reading with a pertinent question:
"What Will I Become?"

"A skeleton of rods and steel,
built by muscle and brain -
through rain, wind, and snow

          I will rise."

Each new poem, written in various forms and by notable poets, is shown on a double-page spread and grants readers a detailed look at the work it takes to bring this new building to completion. From the architect's vision and planning, to the many skilled laborers whose work goes into the construction, readers are able to follow along and watch it rise. Everyone has an important role to play.

The writing is filled with rhyme, rhythm, and appealing and descriptive language. The illustrations spread across each new turn of the page provide detailed context for the jobs required. The last image shows the architect and her daughter admiring the building that began at her desk many months ago. What a sense of accomplishment!

The final poem by Ms. Dotlich is inspired, and voiced by the building itself - now that it knows the answer to the question it first asked.

"Majestic with steel spine;

once known

                 as blueprint

now part of a


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Dictionary For a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z, written by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, with illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini. Carolrhoda Books, Thomas Allen & Son. 2020. $26.99 ages 10 and up

"Pink light
winks through
blue curtains,

house silent,
save Mama's
hacking -

so I leap up,
my sister."

That is the beginning of a poem called Compassion. It continues the story of a young girl and her sister comforting their mother and wishing her well before the two head to the bus on their own. At the bottom of the page we are told the poem is an aubade: a morning song.  The facing page features a quote from Julian Lester (This Strange New Feeling: Three Love Stories from Black History). It is followed by a note from Irene that speaks to the meaning of compassion for her, and ends with the following;

"Compassion needn't be a grand gesture. In fact, it is often
the smallest moments of connection that carry us through
tough times."

Further to that, there is a prompt for readers to TRY IT! She suggests looking around to find someone you can help with something. Then, do it!

What a rare, and lovely dictionary this is. It begins with an abecedarian written by both authors that clearly states the premise for this new collaboration. They then move forward with 48 words described in quotes, prompts, meaningful remembrances, and a wide variety of poetic forms. They range from that first abecedarian to villanelle. Each is described in a concise caption. Both poets pen personal stories that relate to the word being considered. Their encouragement to try something new is accessible to their audience in both word and deed.

Reading this book more than a few times makes me hopeful for the future - something we sure need now more than ever. The language is inspirational, the suggestions meant to improve our communities and make a connection with the people who live in them. Most letters suggest two words, some just one, and a few more than two. Each is meaningful and worthy of being here.

The final poem has an abundance of meaning for these trying times:

"The Etymology of Progress

After gathering these words,
we discover
our dictionary is endless!
What makes the world
a zinger
is remembering
we're all in this


Mehrdokht Amini's mixed media artwork is wonderful, adding much to the tone of the book. Back matter is extensive. There you will find an author's note, a list of books, poems, and speech referenced, an extensive list of books for further reading, a list of poetry resources for readers wanting to know more, an alphabetized index of poetic forms, and a gratitude list.

It will be on my bedside table for a long while. Bravo!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What To Do With A String, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by C. F. Payne. Creative Editions, Raincoast. 2019. $26.99 ages 3 and up

"You can hang up
a hammock
in the hold of a boat.

Or pull up a sail
so the boat stays afloat.

Of if there's a gale.
hitch a ride on a whale."

In this follow-up to What To Do With a Box? (2016), Jane Yolen considers the many things you can do with a piece of string - large or small. In doing so, she sparks imagination in her readers and encourages them to think about the many ways that strings come in handy.

It is a terrific book to share when asking kids to use their imagination while thinking about everyday things they might encounter. Who knows where it might lead for classroom writing, or for penning poems of their own?

The format is similar to the first one ... a new idea from this prolific author, a rhyming text. This time, however, the illustrator is new to the collaboration. That being said, C.F. Payne does a spirited job of making the author's words come to life. Filled with exuberance and detail in form and action, kids will very much enjoy seeing the many ways a string can be used.   

                                         LET'S CELEBRATE!