Tuesday, June 30, 2020
The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster, by Cary Fagan. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2019. $19.99 ages 10 and up
But I didn’t do anything, just lay back down and stayed there for a long time. I stayed there staring up ... "
Hartley's life has been turned upside down with trauma in his family. Life at home is no better than life at school, as he deals with questions, concerns, and the fact that his older brother, Jackson, has run away. No one knows where he is. His parents are unable to deal with their loss, his sister is dealing with it by being as difficult as possible. Only his little brother George remains a light in Hartley's life, although also a source of frustration.
An end-of-the-year school project is looming. Hartley has no idea what topic to pick ... there is nothing he is passionate about at the moment. In the middle of all this, he finds an unconventional postcard that has collaged art and an ambiguous message:
"i hate all kinds of flags
It has the number '1' on it, and is signed 'g.o.'. Within days, he finds another postcard, numbered '2'. With little else of importance to do, Hartley sets off to find other postcards; perhaps even the artist. As the reader becomes part of Hartley's quest to find and save others pieces of art, Cary Fagan interjects short pieces written by Gretchen Oyster to give her own personal point of view. Hartley discovers what he can about her, and eventually meets her.
Hartley is an impressive character who will appeal to many readers. As he searches for the artist, he becomes aware once more of the greater world, and begins to move past the trauma of Jackson's departure. Other characters are all worthy of attention.
This is an appealing story that will find fans in those readers who like mysteries, art, and new friendships. The artwork is beautiful and compelling; the text is funny and emotional. Both unconventional and compelling, it is a satisfying read.
Monday, June 29, 2020
he said to the sheep.
"Yes," said the sheep.
"I suppose I am."
Fausto walked on.
Next, Fausto came upon
a tree and declared,
"Tree, you are mine."
In this painted fable, Oliver Jeffers provides a story for our times. Fausto is an ambitious and pompous man who believes he is the rightful owner of everything he sees in nature. No flower, tree, or animal is free from his demanding presence. Each proves agreeable to his statement of claim. Fausto moves on, always claiming more and more objects as his own.
With each response to his declarations, Fausto moves on to bigger and better places.
"When he reached a mountain,
Fausto said in a clear voice,
"Mountain, you are mine!"
"No," said the mountain.
"I am my own."
Fausto is infuriated and is quick to show his ire. The mountain succumbs to Fausto's pressure. That only gives Fausto more power; he moves on to the sea. Nothing is ever enough to satisfy his greed. The sea proves his undoing ... and all can return to what they were before meeting Fausto and learning of his fate.
The mood in Fausto's story is portrayed in browns and blues that evoke a bleak and distressing world. Is this book a treatise on greed, a fable for the times in which we are living, or a cautionary story concerning our treatment of the natural world? Oliver Jeffers knows. Readers will have their own thoughts.
Sunday, June 28, 2020
Peter and Ernesto: Sloths in the Night, written and illustrated by Graham Annable. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $24.50 ages 7 and up
That's where he found the
fabric for my wind sock!
But after that, I didn't see
him the rest of the day!
Graham Annable knows how to pen stories about friendship; he proves it in this third adventure for Peter and Ernesto, two sloths who know what being a friend means. Fans will be pleased to have a new addition to this very popular series.
Both sloths love the jungle, although they do know how dangerous it can be if care is not taken. This is especially true at night. There are bats, and owls, and there's even talk of a dragon at the temple. When they realize that their friend Bernard is nowhere to be found as night is falling over the jungle, they face the danger with brave hearts and a will to rescue him.
Mutual friends join them as they set out, despite their concern for what lies ahead of them. A swooping bat is first. Lucky it is not very skilled. The bat hasn't seen Bernard but he has a warning about the Dark Glades. On they go in the moonlight, sharing conversation about Bernard. The temple awaits, and perhaps the dragon they have been imagining. They are surprised when they think they find him, only to discover it is an owl. A demanding and scary owl!
They avoid the owl, but not the darkness of the glades ... another surprise on their journey. Luckily, a polka-dot tree frog provides the light they need to find their way forward. Needless to say, adventure awaits at every turn and does not deter the friends from their quest. What further surprises are in store?
This series is welcome for its stories about friendship, and working together to make things better. A great read for those who are new to chapter books, and excited to find a series that appeals to their sense of humor and humanity.
Saturday, June 27, 2020
The Fabled Life of Aesop, written by Ian Lendler and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. $26.99 all ages
there was something special
about Aesop. One day the
water in the well dropped so
low that the bucket couldn't
reach. No one knew what to
do. But Aesop had an idea.
Everyone thought it was so
clever that they all pitched in
to help. The water began to
rise ... "
It is Ian Lendler's contention that fables are often felt to provide 'simple lessons on virtue and good values', just as fairy tales offered entertainment and quiet lessons about good and evil. Is that all they do? He is not sure. He suggests that 'many of them are actually practical advice on how to survive in a world in which some have power and some do not'. Apropos, is it not?
He theorizes that Aesop was a real person as his name is mentioned in historical records. There is no proof as stories of the time were oral, there are no records of his birth, and no image of him has been found. Does that matter?
The stories attributed to him are 'the most durable stories in human history'. They have been passed down from one generation to the next, and today are presented in a wide variety of books for children. In this book, he selects 13 to share with his readers. Some will be very familiar, while others are not so. I love that.
He explains as he shares them that Aesop was born into slavery, exhibited great promise early, and learned to speak in code when needed. He includes further imagined experiences where Aesop used his stories to help his masters with problems they were having. Finally, he was given his freedom, after sharing a story with his master Jadon, about a hungry wolf who refused food rather than be chained. After much thought, Jadon granted Aesop's wish to be free.
Pamela Zagarenski's artwork is alluring, as always. She fills the many spreads with dramatic images of both humans and animals. The final three spreads honor the man whose stories remain a staple of children's literature throughout history.
"As the years went by, the masters grew old and passed away. Their wealth and lands were lost. Their names were forgotten. Aesop, too, eventually passed away. But his fame kept growing.
His stories were repeated in homes and town squares for
generations. For centuries ...
... until one day someone gathered them together in a
book and called them
Friday, June 26, 2020
Flash and Gleam: Light in our World. Written by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Khoa Le. Millbrook Press, Thomas Allen and Son. 2020. $25.99 ages 5 and up
Help us heal
Far and wide"
What a gorgeous visual study of the lights that brighten our world! The perceptive phrases are paired with brilliantly colored and effective images of the kind of light that makes days brighter, celebrations more meaningful, wild weather more awe-inspiring.
Readers will hear the well-chosen, meaningful language while letting their eyes wander over the spreads that show families awakening, watching storms, basking in sunsets, appreciating the beauty of the northern lights, setting candles in celebration, pursuing fireflies, dancing in the moonlight, and celebrating with fireworks.
The families are as diverse as the light sources themselves. The action follows four children from these families as they explore and rejoice in the beauty that light brings to their world. The combination of rhyming lines and richly patterned illustrations is a treat for both eyes and ears.
In backmatter the author provides a spread about the science of light and offers further information on lightning, rainbows, the Northern Lights, fireflies, and moonlight. A further note includes the various cultural celebrations and holidays that have been included.
Thursday, June 25, 2020
It Is (Not) Perfect, by Anna Kang with illustrations by Christopher Weyant. Two Lions, Thomas Allen & Son. 2020. $23.99 ages 3 and up
and it needs
Your littles will be delighted to see Purple and Brown again. This is their fifth time together. The joy found in the reading never wavers. This time they are at the beach, with sand castle building on their minds.
Their first attempt is deemed 'perfect' by Brown. Both seem very happy with their work of art. Until Purple has a closer look. utters a Hmm, and points out that it definitely is not! So, they add flags. Purple is happy, Brown thinks it needs more. Just when they determine they have achieved success, two friends come along with a Hmm of their own ... and a suggestion for making it even more perfect.
They get to work, redesigning and working hard to bring the new ideas to fruition. Others enter from the sidelines, with further proposals and offering help.
"And a greenhouse.
And a drawbridge ...
Can you just imagine? Work continues at a pace, until it is finally declared PERFECT! again. Is it?
Just right dialogue throughout makes for an easy read for emerging readers. It won't be long until they are sharing it with all who will listen. Once again, the illustrations are full of fun characters and charming details. As happens with these eternally optimistic bear friends, the day is not a washout. There is more fun to be had!!!
This book is sure to be as popular as the first four, and will have fans aching to see the next.
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
One Year At Ellsmere, by Faith Erin Hicks and colored by Shelli Paroline. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $20.50 ages 10 and up
going to knock over our bucket?
I thought we should talk, Project.
Sort a few things out.
It's for your won good, by the way.
How nice of you, always thinking of me."
Juniper is the new girl at Ellsmere, an impressive boarding school. It happens after she wins the first scholarship to the academy and leaves her public school to attend. She quickly meets her roommate, Cassie. That first meeting is not auspicious. Jun is nervous, and puts her foot in her mouth right at the get-go, letting Cassie know she is not at school to make friends. Poor Cassie is dumbfounded by the remark. Jun is quick to apologize and explain. The two become fast friends, especially when Jun puts Emily (the mean girl and bully) in her place.
The rivalry between Jun and Emily ramps up throughout the story; each wants to be the 'best' student, and neither is willing to back down. Jun can hold her own. As the year goes on, Emily takes her bullying to the next level, wanting to get Jun in trouble and even expelled. There is some risk every day for Jun. As the rivalry ramps up, Jun and Cassie support the other with each genuinely caring for her friend.
Cassie has been at Ellsmere through all of her schooling, and she shares stories about the Ellsmere family, their tragedy, and the workings of the academy. She is not a friend to Emily - few are. She stands by Jun when trouble finds her, and supports her as the bad feelings between Jun and Emily escalate. In a final confrontation, Cassie proves to be loyal and brave, cementing the friendship she and Jun have been establishing. It is a trying year, but ultimately satisfying and promising.
The artwork, as fans already know, has much visual appeal. The characters are expressive and well drawn, the setting is lovely, and the conflict is clear.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Wildlife in The City, written by Diane Swanson and illustrated by Douglas Penhale. Whitecap, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2020. $15.95 ages 8 and up
It is not too surprising to learn that critters like to live in urban areas where they don't have to work too hard to find both food and shelter. Of course, the humans who live there are not so keen.
Finding coyotes on sidewalks and frogs in swimming pools can be disconcerting, and often surprising. It's pretty easy to forget that in building those cities, we often encroached on the habitats where they had lived and flourished.
Diane Swanson will be a familiar name to readers who love learning about animals. What kid doesn't? She has written books about otters, owls, bears, rabbits, wolves ... the list goes on and on. Her interest in creatures of the world, and her tireless and diligent research are evident in her long list of publications.
In this new book, she turns her attention to animals that find themselves feeling quite at home in our cities, large and small. She includes chapters on peregrine falcons, cottontails, coyotes, garter snakes, Canada geese, rats, feral cats, red squirrels, and striped skunks. Each chapter is approximately six pages long, all designed in the same way to make the information accessible and enjoyable for the target audience.
It is this design that drew me to the book, and carried me from page to page. She begins with an introduction.
"Despite the traffic, which kills lots of wildlife, city animals face fewer dangers than their country cousins. Hunting and shooting are not allowed in cities. People use smaller amounts of pesticide in cities than they do at many farms and orchards. And some of the animals that move to cities leave behind many of the country animals who eat them."
As the reader moves through each chapter, the format remains the same: an opening paragraph describes the creatures themselves, further information unique to each is presented on attractively bordered pages, often accompanied by special information boxes with particularly interesting tidbits.
"In 1936, a pair of peregrine falcons swooped into downtown Montreal, Quebec. They landed on a building ledge 20 stories above a busy street. People set trays of sand and gravel on the ledge, and the falcons began nesting and raising their chicks in the trays. Every year for 16 years, the same female returned to the same building. In all, she laid 50 eggs and raised 22 chicks, setting a breeding record in Canada."
That's the kind of stuff young scientists want to know, and share. This welcome and inviting book is filled with pertinent and remarkable facts that will keep them moving from chapter to chapter, and learning as they go.
Douglas Penhale's realistic illustrations provide visuals that are often endearing and 'aww'-inspiring.
After finishing reading it myself, I know more about the cottontails and red squirrels I see every day in my backyard.
Monday, June 22, 2020
The Year We Fell From Space, by Amy Sarig King. Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic. 2019. $22.99 ages 10 and up
I have read a number of excellent middle years novels lately, and am going to start this week with another remarkable work by Amy Sarig King. To say she writes memorable stories is a massive understatement.
Liberty loves looking at the stars, and does so often. She creates star maps for what she sees in the night sky, and names her own constellations. She uses her father's love of many of the same things are her guiding light. Her parents' separation and decision to divorce wreak havoc in her life. As the number of days of not seeing her father grow, her anger does, too. In the midst of all that is happening, she watches a meteor fall to earth nearby, and brings it home.
Her anger is aimed in different directions, but mostly inwardly. Throwing a toaster through the kitchen window, hiding a diamond ring where it will never be found by a school nemesis, and eventually telling her father just exactly how she feels about the family separation, cause her the added worry that she might also be suffering from the same depression her father is. She uses the meteor as a sounding board for all that she is experiencing. This allows her to piece together the struggles and fears she is facing at home and at school. Liberty is spirited, while also willing to seek counselling to help her navigate her new, unwanted reality.
“I don’t know what aliens would think about humans if they came here. Humans are weird. We have some problems, I guess. I care more about stars than I care about humans anyway. Humans have been nothing but a pain in my butt so far. Which makes me more like Dad. And I’d be lying if I said that didn’t worry me.”
In this emotional and realistic look at the effects of divorce on a family, Ms. King navigates the pain and grief felt through Liberty's eyes. Poignant and heartbreaking, it shows Liberty, in the midst of her rage and uncertainty, to be a sympathetic and understanding friend to others. Though she is not perfect, she does her best to grow from her experiences and to find the help that she and her family need at a very critical time.
Sunday, June 21, 2020
When Stars Are Scattered, written by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Color by Iman Geddy. Dial Books, Penguin Random House. 2020. $27.99 ages 10 and up
Yeah. I have to take care of
Hassan. You of all people must
No, I don't understand. I don't
understand how anyone would
turn down the chance to go to
Do you think if I were a boy I'd ... "
Omar and Hassan are brothers forced to flee Somalia when their father is killed during the civil war. As they fled on foot, they became separated from their mother and eventually made it to Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya. The two are fostered to one of the camp's citizens, Fatuma. She treats the boys as her own, helping Omar with Hassan who has a seizure disorder and cannot communicate clearly. Always at the back of Omar's mind is that they will one day find their mother and return to their homeland.
The boys are at Dadaab for seventeen years. Omar is lucky to be going to school, and having good friends. He studies hard, helps Fatuma, spends time wtih those friends, and harbors wishes to be resettled through the United Nations to a Western country, at some point. Food is scarce, there are few resources, and there is little to no medical care for Hassan. This is Omar's mostly personal story, impressively told in a graphic novel by the talented Victoria Jamieson. It flows perfectly from the first page to last.
This novel gives readers a very personal view of life in a refugee camp settimg that is a reality for many people around the world. Displaced by circumstances beyond their control, the boys get emotional and physical support to help them deal with their new normal. In the end, when they set to go, they must leave the family they have always known. This story needs to be told, and should ensure empathy for their plight. Readers will not forget these boys, their friends, neighbors and supporters.
Back matter includes photos of the brothers before and after leaving Dadaab, an afterword that continues their story, and separate author notes from both Omar and Victoria. It is an amazing tale, both heartbreaking and heartwarming. You will not be sorry to spend time with these quite remarkable characters. It is stark account of life as a refugee, and an eye opener. Fitting for our times and a needed resource.
Saturday, June 20, 2020
Wild About Dads, written by Diana Murray and illustrated by Amber Alvarez. Imprint, Macmillan, Raincoast. 2020. $24.50 ages 2 and up
in a snap,
and like to take a
Dads are quick to
share a snack
or carry you on
piggyback ... "
I know two little girls who would love to have this book to share with their dad tomorrow. He is a wonder, and they know it.
Ms. Murray begins with human dads; one is waiting at the bottom of the slide, one is carrying his child on his shoulders, and one is pushing a toddler in a stroller while watching his other children on a bike and scooter.
Then, she shows her young readers that dads of the animal kingdom do similar things with their young. Need help to get fruit that is too high? Lifting is a dad's job. Need to stay warm and dry? Yep, there's a dad right there to provide protection from the snow and cold.
In rhyming couplets sure to appeal to the target audience, readers take in all the tasks that dads happily do to make their young happy and safe. As an eagle swoops down to catch a fish for two downy eaglets awaiting lunch, children will recognize that their dads fish, too. Animal dads do many of the same things that human dads do. They play games, take naps, shave, provide protection, fetch dinner. There is no end to the attention and love they so freely give.
"And dads would rarely miss the chance ...
to strut their stuff and dance, dance, dance!"
The final three spreads return to the human dads from the beginning of our story. They are all still busy doing what dads do when spending time with their children.
Thumbnail sketches by Amber Alvarez are accompanied by a few pertinent, descriptive sentences concerning each of the animals featured. Her warm and lively illustrations add charm, and are sure to bring smiles to the faces of those sharing this delightful book. Bright and attractive, they match the rhyming text in just the right way.
Friday, June 19, 2020
Our Environment:Everything You Need to Know. Written by Jacques Pasquet and and illustrated by Yves Dumont. Translated by Shelley Tanaka. Owlkids, 2020. $19.95 ages 9 and up
to work, move, and eat. We
need energy to carry out all
the activities of our daily lives.
For example, kicking a ball
requires energy. Without the
force of a kicking foot, the
ball will not move.
We eat food to accumulate the
energy that allows our muscles
and other body parts ... "
This is a very helpful, and well-designed resource for middle grade students who want to know and understand how our environment works, and what components are a part of the whole picture. Mr. Pasquet divides his work into five 'essential' parts: water, air, soil, energy and climate. He finishes the chapters by talking about the future, and adds a glossary, a list of selected sources, and an index. All will be very useful to readers.
He patterns each of the sections similarly, talking first about the component itself, then moving on to discuss each important issue that is essential to it. For water, he discusses oceans and fresh water, threats to both, how we use water and why we need it. He adds information in a microscope-shaped frames on many of the pages:
"In the middle of the North Pacific Ocean,
there is an island twice the size of Texas
made entirely of plastic. This huge whirlpool
of waste, called the Great Pacific Garbage
Patch, contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces
of plastic. Other garbage patches are drifting
in the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic, and
the Western Pacific."
He follows this first section with the rest of the four, presenting each with the gathered information readers need to know to begin to understand the importance of our environment to each one of us. Mr. Dumont accompanies the information with colorful illustrations that help with understanding. The captions and labels are clear and helpful as the reader moves from section to section. It is a complicated subject, made more manageable because it is presented in a way that moves from one topic to another in a logical, step-by-step delivery of pertinent detail. The author answers pertinent questions posed as the book moves forward.
In the final section, he discusses actions that are being taken to help make the world a healthier place to be, and asks readers to take small steps to help make a difference. As we are now hearing reassuring reports of how the earth is healing in the past three months as the pandemic rages, it is pretty easy to see what an impact we humans are no longer having. We can change things. The more we know, the better prepared we are to move forward.
"If we take of the Earth, it will also look after us."
Thursday, June 18, 2020
I GOT YOU A PRESENT! Written by Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan and illustrated by Cale Atkinson. Kids Can Press, 2020. $18.99 ages 4 and up
a birthday jam! I practiced
it all day and night.
Sadly, I made a
musical mess instead of
a spellbinding song.
That's when I thought of
the magic kit, I bought it.
Wrapped it up. And hid
it in a special place ... "
Another book about birthday gifts, you ask? Yep, this one is too much fun to leave for another day. The duck whose story it is to tell is very excited about the party and the presents. Everyone is carrying a present, and he would like to have one as well. But, there is a problem ... or a few of them.
It seems that every idea considered 'presents' a problem. Knitting socks is not as easy as one might suspect. Carrying a ten-scoop ice-cream cone obviously would be problematic, even though it is a great idea! The list goes on, and nothing seems to be exactly right. Even the magic kit disappears. (He has hopes it will show up in time for next year.) Other ideas falter. No matter the inherent 'wow' factor, something happens and each new idea goes kaput!
"So, then I bought you
a rocket ship. You could
explore space and find
But on my way back home from
the rocket ship store -
KABLAM! Friendly martians
crash-landed. I gave them
your rocket ship to get
home. You'd have
done the same."
And so, there is no gift from Duck - nothing! Or is there?
A debut picture book for this husband-and-wife team, it is inventive, expressive, and fun to read. Cale Atkinson's colorful, detailed, and energetic illustrations add to the humor and appeal. Don't miss Duck's plan for next year's celebration.
Then, be prepared to read it again.
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
RISE! Written by Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Tonya Engel. Lee & Low Books, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2019. $25.95 ages 12 and up
Inside, words make music.
Maya memorizes the rhythm,
sways to the exquisite dance,
the twisting, turning
conga line of language
that pulses across the page.
The words of others
live inside Maya now,
though she refuses to speak
to anyone ... "
In this eloquent picture book biography, Bethany Hegedus uses verse to tell Maya Angelou's story. It is both heartbreaking and uplifting. It begins when Maya and her brother Bailey are put on a train and sent to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Momma Henderson owns the general store there, and proves herself to be a loyal and formidable woman to her grandchildren. Life is good and bad in Stamps, but Momma cares for them until their mother calls them home again.
As before, Mother Vivian does not have much time for them. She has a boyfriend who abuses Maya; he spends one night in jail. The children then return to Momma Henderson where the only solace Maya finds is in reading. Meeting Mrs. Flowers, a woman who loves words, is a watershed moment for the young girl. Listening to Mrs. Flowers read allows Maya to be in awe of the words she hears.
Though she refuses to speak to anyone but Bailey following the abuse, Maya is filled with the beauty of words on the inside.
"Under Momma Henderson's bed,
under the stairs of the store,
Maya begins to read
Slowly, Maya rises out of her grief
and does more than answer,
"Yes, ma'am." "No, sir."
welcome her home."
Life in the south becomes more dangerous. Momma sends the children back to their mother who is living in San Francisco, and living a better life. Maya never forgets what she has learned from her family and her life in Stamps. Her love of language and of San Francisco lead her to performing, and entertaining.
"Maya's feet tap to the jitterbug.
Her legs kick to the Lindy.
She is an entertainer.
A trolley car conductor.
A high school graduate.
A young mother.
Leaving home, Maya has to work many jobs -
stripping paint off cars -
all to support her son, Guy."
The rest of her story is more well-known: a writer, an activist, a civil rights supporter, a journalist ... a voice in the fight for human rights. She knows there is 'no safety in silence.'
Tonya Engel's acrylics and oils done in glowing, colorful paintings show the strength in women, in words, and in vision. Those words soar from Maya and the young people who find power in what she has to say.
Back matter includes a detailed timeline that is accompanied by archival photographs, a note from the author, a list of organizations that offer help to victims of abuse, and child advocacy. A selected bibliography is also included.
Outstanding, and very suitable for these times in our world.
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Trees Make Perfect Pets, words by Paul Czajak and pictures by Cathy Gendron. Sourcebooks, Jabberwocky. Raincoast. 2020. $23.95 ages 4 and up
and found her tree.
"He looks friendly."
"It's a tree. They're all
friendly," her brother said.
"I'll name you Fido. You and
I are going to be best friends.
Abigail and Fido were always
A tree is not often chosen as a pet, would you agree? It takes a strong-willed, unflappable little girl to make a decision that few others have made in terms of a birthday present. People have opinions, including her family members. Abigail knows what she wants - and she wants a tree! No matter their argument, she can do better.
Her choice is a dogwood she names Fido. He comes home in his pot, and the two are never apart. Fido helps to dry socks, listens to Abigail's stories, and keeps her company overnight. Abigail does everything to ensure that Fido gets what he needs to grow healthy and strong. Fido can do nothing wrong as far as Aligail is concerned.
"She didn't mind that Fido was
only good at fetching kites, and
didn't like to give them back.
She didn't mind that he
sometimes had accidents.
None of that mattered,
because Fido was her pet."
There is one problem. GROWTH! Exponential growth, that is. All pets grow; Fido is not like other pets. Soon, he is too big to be in the house anymore. How sad. Abigail solves the problem and quickly learns that Fido is going to be just fine in his new home. She has proven herself a capable and caring pet owner.
Cathy Gendron sketched her wonderful illustrations first in pencil, and then painted them on textured gesso with casin and oil glazes. They are lovely, and add visual appeal that ups the telling of this story.
Monday, June 15, 2020
It was a little bird
on his head!
"What are you doing with
your nose so low?"
Little Bear explained, " I
like to find treasure, like ... "
He pointed. "Like this stick."
Oh, Little Bear! You are so sweet.
A tiny bear who loves collecting personal treasures proves they don't have to be something exceptional. Eternally optimistic, he marches to his own drummer and sees beauty in the ordinary things. He likes buttons that shine, hollow trees that offer snug security, a blueberry bush that isn't laden with berries but is beautiful to look at. The all bring him happiness.
"Little Bear was a great treasure finder. That's right,
a treasure finder, because he didn't look for his treasures -
he found them. Everywhere. And he shared the news
about his treasures with everyone he met."
He showed a donkey, a squirrel, a rabbit, and a goose. It mattered little to them; they called Little Bear's finds 'junk'. Poor Little Bear. Sad and blue, he plodded along. Little Bird was impressed, and wanted to join Little Bear in his search.
The two were perfectly matched finders; imaginative, happy in each other's company, and equally intrigued by the many wonders they found as they travelled together throughout the day and into the starry night - a treasure of immense proportions.
The soft textures, quiet colors, and expressive characters offer readers a tranquil atmosphere for this lovely friendship story. How wonderful to meet someone who understands who you are, and is willing to be a partner in treasure finding.
Sunday, June 14, 2020
Cub, written and illustrated by Cynthia L. Copeland. Algonquin, Workman. Thomas Allen & Son. 2020. $18.95 ages 10 and up
from the predators that I didn't
realize they expanded their group
to include the two meanest boys:
Mark and Stew. UGH.
Where are my other friends?
Molly must have gone to Senorita
Berkowitz's room for extra help in
Spanish ... "
This is Cynthia Copeland's first graphic novel. I will anticipate the publication of another in the future. It tells a story from her life. The school year is 1972-73. The place is middle school. The focus is on the job shadowing she does with a local newspaper reporter, the only woman in that office. It is a year filled with new revelations, and lots of writing practice. It definitely allows access to the way news is presented locally.
The cultural references are interesting as a look back at that era. As well, many have a connection to the middle schoolers of today. The school milieu is absolutely contemporary. Former best friend becomes enamored with the 'in' girls and avoids contact with Cindy. Cindy meets a worthy group of new friends who prove themselves reliable, while also being slightly weird. It's all good. Some things never change. It is refreshing to read about a girl who doesn't let those events that can cripple a middle school student get in the way. She moves past old relationships and on with new ones.
Events in Cindy's family life, and growing attention to the Equal Rights Amendment make Cindy's work with Leslie more and more interesting, despite their sometimes less than envious assignments. As she works hard to improve her writing, she is pleased with the guidance and praise she receives from Leslie. Cindy also 'develops' a personal interest in photography. She improves quickly, gaining the confidence needed for an aspiring reporter.
The full-color artwork compliments the storytelling, and the historical events of the times. Cindy is able to deal with her work at school, her relationships with her family and friends, and the growing accomplishments of her internship with courage and success. It's a great look back at history, while also carefully connecting to the present time.
Saturday, June 13, 2020
Can you tell us about your son
and why this might have happened?
At first I thought
Mom wouldn't answer,
but then she did.
Because he's a teenage boy.
Because he didn't think first."
I have long been envious of those writers who can tell a praiseworthy tale in narrative verse. So few words to tell a memorable story so perfectly. That is what Betty Culley has done for me (and I'm sure for many others) in this novel-in-verse that looks at a family forever changed by an accident with a gun.
Jonah and Clay are best friends, spending time together whenever possible. They are neighbors, and teenage boys. Jonah's younger sister is the narrator of this heartbreaking look at an incomprehensible and life-changing event.
"We get to decide -
Mom, the nurses,
his fifteen -year-old sister.
Is that how it is in families,
one child with bad hands,
one child with good?
Jonah's bad hands found a gun
in Clay's attic."
One small mistake is made by a teenager, just fooling around; life is indelibly and forever changed for two families. Jonah is now on life support. Liv, our narrator, can barely comprehend this new life she is living. School offers no respite. Jonah is a permanent figure in the family living room, with round-the-clock nursing care. Members of their small community feel it is their right to send letters to the paper blaming poor parenting for the accident. The debate over gun control rages while Liv and her family try to move from one day to the next.
When her mother decides to take Clay and his family to court, things go from bad to worse. Clay is consumed by his role in Jonah's accident and quits school, his mother wants desperately to connect with Liv concerning their anguish over the events, and Liv's mother is insistent that the only way they will have enough money to support Jonah and his many needs in the future is to win their case for wrongful death.
Liv spends as much time as she can with her brother, feeling that he is in there somewhere despite assurances that he is not. She is the only one who can calm him night and day. She finds solace in going down to the riverbank where the old mill still stands. There, she has the chance to be on her won, to talk with Clay about the grief they are both feeling. It is a heartbreaking tragedy, with hopeful moments. Liv's voice is poignant and strong. She finds strength in her brother's spirit, in Clay's friendship and in the support of Jonah's caregivers.
Beautiful and realistic, it tells the story of two families in crisis. There are no easy answers to the lasting repercussions caused by one brief moment in time.
"I stop paddling
to watch a hawk
and steer over to the riverbank
to touch a water lily.
The best part of
being on the river
is that there's nothing
that needs to be done
except staying afloat."
Friday, June 12, 2020
The Epic Adventures of Huggie and Stick, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by David Spencer. Philomel, Penguin Random House. 2018. $23.99 ages 5 and up
Today a giant panda tried to
eat Stick. That's what pandas eat. STICKS! Somehow, Mr. Wood for Brains thought he was gonna get a kiss. I'm not sure why I saved him, but I did. Unfortunately, the BEAR didn't appreciate my taking away his lunch ... "
It's a guess that Reese was like so many other young boys who love action, adventure, and riding bikes. Reese's backpack did not always get the attention it needed when he wanted to be on his bike and moving. On this particular day, he didn't take care to see it was zippered properly. As luck would have it, he hit a bump and two of his treasures - Huggie and Stick - fell out.
It only takes their first diary entries to let readers know exactly how different the two are.
I love Huggie. He is so cool!
Today I fell out of Reese's
backpack and Huggie tried
to save me ... "
I hate Stick. I really do.
I tried to push him out of the
backpack today, but his pointy
head snagged a loose thread on
my paw ... "
So begins a week-long adventure that takes them to every continent, replete with numerous meetings with people, animals, trains, even the Queen. Every day is a new destination; every day becomes a diary entry concerning one or the other's personal disparate version of those events. Stick remains positive and confident, while Huggie is grumpy and finds fault in each occurrence. The text provides for chuckles while showing readers two totally different perspectives on their time spent together. The art is cartoony, expressive and sure to attract attention to its many details. An endpaper world map plots their global travels.
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Emma's Gems, written by Anne Renaud and illustrated by Leanne Franson. Peanut Butter Press, 2020. $19.95 ages 5 and up
"There you go, little fellow," he says as he sets the beetle back on its feet. Next, Emma watches her grandfather take another small stone from his right pocket and ... "
Lessons learned from those we love can change the world. We are seeing that repeatedly as we experience these days of unrest. Look to the words of Nelson Mandela for guidance and understanding:
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
Emma and her grandfather show readers the difference we can make in the world. They love spending time together. On this particular afternoon, it's just the two of them. They head out for a neighborhood walk when Emma notices her grandfather move a tiny rock from one of his pockets to another one. She is intrigued, wondering why he even carries those stones.
Grandpa Phil promptly responds that he doesn't just see them as stones. Rather, he calls them his 'generosity gems'. Every day they remind him to do things that matter to others.
“The grey one reminds me to share with a person. The brown one reminds me to help an animal. And the white one reminds me to take care of the environment. Every day I do my best to make them travel from my right pocket into my left with three acts of kindness.”
What an amazing lesson to learn from a beloved elder! As happens with little ones, Emma immediately takes Grandpa Phil's actions to heart. Emma uses beads from her collection for her own 'gems' and sets to work to make her world at home a better place. We can all follow in Emma's procession, can't we?
Be sure to put this book in your 'grandparents' basket at school. Hopefully, you will be reading it to your students when Grandparents Day rolls around in September.
In conclusion. here's another reminder from Mr. Mandela:
"It is in your hands to make a better world for all who live in it."
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
This Is Not That Kind of Book, by Christopher Healy and illustrated by Ben Mantle. Random House, 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up
The girl thought it was unusual to
find a robot in the forest, but it's not
so unusual when you're in ...
What kind of book is this?
... the GLEEP GLORK FOREST
Well, I thought it was going to be an alphabet book ... and a pretty ordinary one at that. It starts with a pair of letter As (one upper-case and one lower-case) sitting above a group of apples. Yep! Wait a minute! Before B becomes a bee, the scene changes to the visual of a little girl in a red cape. Do you remember her?
The letter A and one of the apples is ready for the change, following Red Riding Hood and her basket full of goodies into the nearby woods. Dialogue between A and the young girl is telling and investigative. Upon meeting a robot, she wonders what kind of book they have encountered now. Can you guess?
The three (including the robot) then escape an unknown creature into the kind of book kindergarten children like to hear. So, it goes. Just when they think they have stumbled into the kind of book they were expecting, there's another twist or halt in the action. The speech bubbles are funny, and speak directly to the variety in genre that books provide for readers.
"Enough! Get out! All of you!
This is an animals-at-school book!
There are no pirates, no bananas,
no robots, no superheroes,
no talking letters, and no detectives!
None of you belong here!"
Obviously, the premise for this book is unusual; it is also entertaining. The cartoon characters fill the pages with witty dialogue, engaging antics, and slapstick adventure. Settings constantly change, new characters emerge, individual personalities vie for prominence, and all want the book to be about them.
In the end, a lesson is learned.
"Don't you realize what this means?
We're all supposed to be here!
Anybody can belong in a book like this!
The mystery was solved."
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade. Raoring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $24.50 ages 5 and up
Poison plants and animals.
Wreck everything in its path.
When my people first spoke
Of the black snake,
They foretold that it
for many, many years.
Now the black snake is here."
This stunning and meaningful book speaks eloquently to the perseverance of indigenous people who protect the environment, especially our water.
"Water is the first medicine, Nokomis told me."
It is from water we all come. It nourishes the body, the land, and the spirit. The author explains that there have been warnings about the black snake and how it would change all things. Now, it is here and it will take determination and endurance to insist that water and the land is protected. Nature needs champions who will stand together to fight on its behalf.
You will want to read this book aloud to children, their parents, their teachers. We can all help to ensure that we protect our waters. This is a compelling reminder of that. Its refrain can help to propel us forward.
With our songs
And our drums.
We are still here.”
Indigenous people lead the way, calling others to action. Young readers will learn from sharing this stunning book why it is important to protest for protecting the earth and the waters that sustain all people. Watercolor double-page spreads are awash with movement, and images of land and sky in deep, rich blues. Beautiful!
Backmatter offers information concerning tribal nations fighting pipelines and explains some of the teachings of the author's Ojibwe culture. She also explains that it is an issue that concerns every human being. She speaks with sadness, but also with hope. Finally, she includes an Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge that invites all readers to sign up and become part of the solution. It is a first step, if you haven't taken one yet.
Monday, June 8, 2020
Sunrise Summer, written by Matthew Swanson and illustrated by Robbi Behr. Imprint, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $25.99 ages 4 and up
"We rush to the window.
The salmon are here.
Mama and I keep an eye
on the moon. The moon
shapes the tides, The tides
say when we fish.
The tides say that we'll
fish at 4:00 AM."
Our narrator's family doesn't take the same type of summer vacation that most other families do. Instead, they make preparations for a trip that will take them two days, four flights and four thousand miles away from their home. They are off on their annual trip to Alaska. Are you wondering why?
Alden will tell you exactly what makes her parents and their four children so happy. This year, for the first time, she is going to join the fishing crew. She will no longer sit back and watch as they head out. And, that is a pretty exciting prospect. Her brothers are too young yet.
"While my brothers
chase lemmings on
And leap from rusted
truck beds on the bluff.
And search for agates
at the waterline.
I will help twist six-foot
anchor poles into the sand.
I will drag endless ropes through
She will do so much more than that! The family knows the fish are coming soon. While they wait, she is a part of the crew, sharing chocolate bars and waiting for reports that the salmon are coming. There's lots to be done while they wait. When the salmon arrive, the crew prepares for an early morning boat launch and a day filled with hard work.
"Some people never get to join the fishing crew.
Those people are not me."
The first-person text is personal and informative, accompanied by pen and ink and gouache artwork that immerses readers in the Alaskan landscape and the joys of salmon fishing. Backmatter introduces the author and illustrator as the parents of our narrator. In the following four pages, they introduce Coffee Point, their summer destination, and offer information about the land, and the indigenous people in the area and their traditional lifestyle.
Sunday, June 7, 2020
Catherine's War, written by Julia Billet and illustrated by Claire Fauvel.Translation by Ivanka Hahnenberger. Harper, 2020. $15.99 ages 10 and up
If she won't do it, I'll teach Alice how to read.
She is so incredibly strong and brave. I want to protect her and teach her everything I know.
I hope I won't fail."
The stories told in graphic novels being published today are quite remarkable, and a wonderful way to get great books into the hands of those kids who find middle and young adult novels a bit overwhelming. Sharing important stories in a more accessible format can make all the difference to their willingness to tackle them.
This emotional, and at times heartbreaking, story concerns one of the 'hidden children' of France, and finds its roots in the author's mother's experiences during World War II. In 1942, Rachel Cohen is living in the Sevres Children's Home near Paris. Her new passion is photography. This home is being run by a headmistress known to the children as Seagull and her husband, called Penguin. It is Penguin who loans Rachel a camera and encourages her to try learning something brand new.
In order to protect her from the Nazis, Rachel is given a new name, Catherine Colin. The Children's Home is the first stop on a long journey the children must make in the last years of the war. It is the only way to protect them and keep them safe. Informers are everywhere, and the children must be hidden in plain sight. Catherine finds safety in a convent, at a farm, in another orphanage, and finally in a secluded forest cabin. The photographs she takes as she hones her new craft document the people and events she encounters as she moves from one place to another, always trying to evade capture at the hands of the German army.
At war's end, she returns to Paris in hopes of finding her parents. The ink and watercolor images that give such life to this story are commanding and memorable, Readers will long remember the settings and the people whose courage, bravery, and willingness to help impacted the lives of so many children. This story is filled with danger, but remains ever hopeful.
A map of Catherine's journey, a gallery of archival photographs from the Sevres Children's Home, a note to the reader, and a list of questions asked by readers follow the main text.
Saturday, June 6, 2020
The Owl and Two Rabbits, written by Nadia Sammurtok and illustrated by Marcus Cutler. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Wnhiteside. 2019. $16.95 ages 5 and up
In this cautionary tale from the Inuit tradition, two rabbits get their comeuppance when they fail to listen to their parents' advice about safety. There is lots of suspense to keep young readers on the edge of their seats.
As soon as the two sisters forget to keep themselves hidden, as suggested by their elders, they frolic about with abandon. Never thinking that they might be in trouble, they take great pleasure in enjoying their freedom. It isn't long until an owl hears them, and swoops in. To say they are scared is an understatement.
The owl is delighted to find such a fine meal, and tries to capture both at the same time. They are a bit of a heavy load, and very determined to save themselves from the owl's talons. Just as those bunnies had not listened to their parents, the owl did not listen to his wife's advice to let one go. He was greedy.
Once released the rabbits ran as fast as they could, with the owl following right behind them. Would the large boulder ahead of them help? Terrified, they hid behind it. When the owl came too close, they used all of their strength to push that boulder right at their predator. Tada - success!
Let's hope they learned a valuable lesson. Educational and entertaining, with charming, colorful artwork, this is a book that children will enjoy hearing more than one time.
Friday, June 5, 2020
Running Wild: Awesome Animals in Motion. Written by Galadriel Watson and illustrated by Samantha Dixon. Annick Press, 2020. $19.95 ages 8 and up
Lucky kids today who get to see exemplary nonfiction at every turn. There are many valuable and comprehensive books being written to help readers see the role that animals play in scientific discovery. Mention physics or biomechanics and, I swear, my brain shuts down. But, show me those sciences in respect to the way animals move, and I have something to hang on to help me understand.
Following a beneficial and easily accessible introduction, the author follows up with six chapters that each focus on one aspect of movements that we see in animals. The chapters are titled Land Crossings, Keeping a Low Profile, Going Up!, Staying Sky-High, No Sinking Allowed, and Underwater Experts. The movements featured are: walking, running, and hopping; crawling; climbing, swinging, and jumping; gliding, flapping, and hovering; rowing, walking on water, and staying buoyant; and undulating, using hydrofoils, and shooting with jet propulsion. Quite the collection of ways in which animals get from place to place.
Four major forces (gravity, lift, drag, and thrust) affect how animals move on land and in water, and they must deal with them.
"In the following pages, you'll learn how animals manage
to fight - and use - these forces to travel, along with unique
methods and super-well-adapted body parts."
In easy-to-follow text, accompanied by engaging artwork, children will learn how animals' movements compare to the simple machines we consistently use to make work easier. In reading this book, I was able to put some scientific principles to work in my own head. Thankfully, the text is also meaningful for adults! Each spread is focused on just one of the movements introduced in each chapter. Carefully researched and with a design that is appealing and entertaining, the author presents variety in ways of looking at nonfiction and gleaning pertinent information for all readers.
Back matter invites a closer look at the animals seen in our own backyards and communities. The advice given is to spend time really noticing how the ways they move are different. A list of select sources and an index are also included.
"Keep wondering ... keep watching ... keep learning!"
Thursday, June 4, 2020
The Cool Bean, written by Jory John and illustrated by Pete Oswald. Harper, 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up
knew so well - the beans
from my own pod - became
the cool beans.
Oh, they were soooooo
One of them could play the
This is the third in a collaborative series by creators Jory and Oswald. Kids love them, and so do their teachers and parents. The three beans pictured on the opening spread know they are COOL! That is evident for all to see. The beans watching from the sidelines are enamored of their swagger, their look, and their obvious self-confidence.
All beans at school came from the same pod. Events changed when these three adopted their cool personas. Everyone knows the cool ones, and few pay attention to the others anymore.
"That's just how it is sometimes. You spend
less time together, even though you're not
totally sure why."
Our narrator has tried to make small changes to adopt their chill nature, but doesn't have much luck. Nothing much has changed despite all efforts.
"I started thinking of myself as just
a common bean with no special skills.
I couldn't compete, so I didn't even try."
Nothing changed. Time passed and their previous friendship was sorely missed. Then one day all things changed. Trouble in the cafeteria, and out on the playground, led to the cool beans stepping in to make a difference. They responded with quiet empathy and kindness whenever the "uncool" bean ran into a problem. Small acts meant everything, and resulted in a much happier circumstance. a leap in confidence was the outcome, and a need to pay it forward. Huzzah!
Winning characters, full of personality, are evident on every spread ... cool or not! The message is quiet and heartfelt, giving little ones a sense of peace, along with a lot of bean-related wordplay. Don't miss the funny details in the arrwork.
If you haven't read The Bad Seed (2017) or The Good Egg (2019), check them out. Your kids won't be disappointed. Nor will you.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Outside In, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Cindy Derby. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up
"We forget Outside is there.
So Outside reminds us
with flashes at the window
and slow magic tricks."
I am not so keen on the 'outside' when it is as hot as it is today. I do love sitting in my screened-in porch where I can appreciate the warmth of the sunshine, the birdsong that lasts from morning till night, and a peaceful place for reading to my heart's content.
Deborah Underwood has penned this gracious tribute to the outdoorsto remind readers of all the beauty to be found when we venture outside. Many people today seem to have forgotten there is life beyond hearth and home. It is encouraging to know that the pandemic is putting a different face on being in our yards, parks, streets ... providing we keep an acceptable distance from others.
There was a time when we were outside all the time. Luckily, the outside continues to entice with smells, sounds, light, clouds, changing weather, and so much more ... just begging for our attention. Even when we are inside a lot, we are reminded of what is outside as shadows show the rising and setting of the sun; as open windows allow outdoor sounds to come in and entertain; as water flows from taps; and, as tiny bugs venture inside, often inadvertently. Nature is there, whether we are inside or out.
Using watercolors, powdered graphite, dried flower stems, and thread soaked in ink to create the astonishing light-filled images that bring attention to this book's powerful meaning, Cindy Derby proves herself equal to the task. Readers will return time and time again to take in the beauty of both text and visuals. I have read it every morning for more than two weeks, loving the peace it brings.
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed The Ocean's Biggest Secret. Written by Jess Keating and illustrated by Katie Hickey. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2020. $21.99 ages 8 and up
of art classes. Marie sketched
in her notebook. She learned
about stylish outfits, shapes
and designs. And she stuck
her sculptures together with
Marie did not take art for long.
Soon, many men went off to
fight in a war. With the men
away ... "
Marie Tharp's interest in nature began when she was a very young girl. She wanted to be like her papa who studied their natural world. Marie's curiosity led to her will to explore with her father. At the time (early 1920s), girls were not allowed to study such things. So, Marie studied all things deemed appropriate for young women, unhappily.
When men were called to war, women were encouraged to turn to science. Finally, Marie could work in a field that she loved. Here learning led to work in a lab in New York, and there she stayed even though her male counterparts were encouraged to take trips for research. Women were not allowed on the ships ... bad luck! As data came back to the lab, it was Marie who was tasked with making a map of the ocean floor.
She did just that, by imagining she was there. When her map of the mid-Atlantic Ridge proved what none of the researchers had found, her work was mocked. It was Jacques Cousteau who decided to show the world she was wrong; she was not! Her map work showed the secret the ocean had been hiding. It led to further research and much discovery concerning earth science.
Katie Hickey uses watercolor, pencil, and mono-printing to create the digital artwork that accompanies this engaging picture book biography. The fold-out that shows Marie's map expanding along the ocean floor is awesome. I love all the blues, and the energy the artist exhibits. This is a great introduction to a woman very few people know. An author's note, a list of questions and answers, and a list for further research can be found in back matter.
Monday, June 1, 2020
The Old Truck, written and illustrated by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey. Norton Young Readers. 2020. $23.95 ages 3 and up
sailed the seas.
braved the skies,
and chased the stars.
But the old truck
This is a story told so simply, and yet marvelous! Its heart is in farm life, and the work farmers do day in and day out. It may not be easy; it is full of rewards. The old truck is as important to the work as those who make the farm viable and profitable.
A young family lives here. When we first meet them, the mother is expecting a child. The father is busy with barn construction. As the story begins, that baby has grown, the parents are loading the truck's bed with produce ready for delivery. The farm grows; the child grows; the family works hard, and so does the old truck.
As happens with old things, the truck eventually needs a rest. It is replaced by a tractor. The farm grows and changes while the old truck finds solace in dreams of sailing, flying, and exploring. The hard work continues as the mom tends chickens, the dad tends the tractor, and the ever-growing girl tends to her bicycle. All is well - and the truck ages.
The girl soon grows to be a young woman, and a capable farmer. The truck rests. One day, the 'new' farmer uses her tractor to haul it from its resting place and work some magic on her old friend. The story comes full circle when she and her daughter use the newly-refurbished truck to haul produce of their own. Bravo!
The Pomphrey brothers created more than 250 stamps to help them tell this outstanding story of resilience and persistence. The shapes and colors on every spread perfectly suit the simple storytelling. Time passes, the seasons change, the truck grows as weary as the farmers, and eventually the young woman takes up the challenge of farming with help from a dear old friend. How amazing is that?
One of my absolute favorite books this year!