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Monday, May 31, 2021

Waiting for a Warbler, written by Sneed B. Collard III and illustrated by Thomas Brooks. Tilbury House, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. $24.95 ages 5 and up

 


"Daylight comes, but storm clouds blot
out the sun. The birds have been flying 
for eighteen hours now, with no land in 
sight. Weaker birds use up the last of 
their reserves and fall into the stormy 
seas. Other birds keep flying. They claw
at the wind, fighting to stay above the 
deadly waves. The Cerulean is one of 
them.
"

This is a bird migration story that combines fact and fiction to describe Owen's attempt to have his family make their home yard a place for wildlife, especially birds where they will find safety and sustenance. Last year, Owen and his sister Nora welcomed a Cerulean Warbler, a very rare sight in their vicinity. They are hoping it will return. 

Owen and Nora's tale in told on alternating pages, with the pages in between offering clear information about the migration story of the birds themselves. The family, led by Owen, have worked to keep the old trees and plant new native flowering trees to encourage birds to stop. There are now birds aplenty, but only one warbler. They keep journals describing their visitors, while holding out hope for that one special bird to arrive. 

There is much to learn on the pages in between about the migration of a variety of birds as this story moves forward. It is often an arduous journey, made more perilous by terrible weather. Still, they fly on. At school, Owen shares what is happening with the migrating birds and answers questions from his classmates - and his worry about the tiny warblers. The story continues as the warbler returns with a mate, makes the yard their summer home, and allows for further learning by Owen's family and their observations. Perhaps they will return in following summers. 

An author's note offers the genesis of this informative book. Mr. Collard then finishes with instructions for becoming a birder, ideas for protecting birds, and a list of resources to help readers learn more. Thomas Brooks does a fine job of telling both parts of the story in lovely images. His watercolor artwork allows readers to experience the difficulty of the birds' journey, the beauty of the avian visitors, and the welcome habitat that Owen's family has created.                                                                                       

                                                                               

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Sheepish (Wolf Under Cover), written and illustrated by Helen Yoon. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $22.99 ages 4 and up

 

"It's all part of my master plan.

Step one: Be helpful. 

Step two; Be handy. 

Step three: Be fun, be friendly, 
be a team player.
"

Little ones love books that put the often more powerful character in a bit of a bind. That is exactly what happens in this amusing new book about the relationship between predator and prey. Readers learn early that the wolf is a tailor, and a reader as well. His book pile shows books about lamb, shepherd's pie, and lamb recipes. One lies open with many pages marked for future reference. 

This wolf is a sneaky one, scooting closer and closer to the sheep enclosure where every sheep is working hard at the start of a new day. Removing his cloak, he takes his place in line as the sheep flow into the cafeteria for breakfast. He is confident that he has pulled the wool over their eyes. Those sheep are far more astute than he thinks. They know exactly what is going on! 

They allow the wolf to complete all the work he has determined he must do to gain their trust; washing dishes, doing laundry, baking bread, even reading a bedtime story. One little lamb offers a smooch of thanks. Once all are tucked in, the wolf has second thoughts about his initial plan. SCOOT! Back home he goes - hatching up another plan that soon goes awry.   

Humorous, expressive artwork and minimal text will appeal to emergent readers, and make for an entertaining read aloud.                                                                                        


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Migrants, by Issa Watanabe. Gecko Press, Thomas Allen & Son. 2020. $24.95 ages 6 and up


"The migrants must leave the forest.
Borders are closed, sacrifices made, 
loved ones are lost. It takes such 
courage to reach the end. 

At last the journey is over and the 
migrants arrive. This is the new place.
"

The visual imagery here is remarkable. Issa Watanabe first introduces a huge blue ibis, carrying a stark image of death on its back. The tone is ominous. A turn past the title page shows the two approaching a brown satchel lying in the grass. Death then carries that satchel as it follows a disparate company of animals. Through deep darkness, they walk steadfastly forward with the clothes they have on their backs. Only a few are carrying any extras. 

Catching up, Death motions to the satchel. The animals look longingly at it, and carry on. As they journey on, fatigue sets in and they must stop to rest and share food. Nearing the coast, they see the boat that promises their chance at freedom. Death rides above them, perched on the back of the ibis once more. Too full, the boat capsizes and spills its precious cargo overboard. The animals must save themselves; sadly, not all are lucky enough to reach shore. Despite their sadness, the survivors move forward, Finally, they find their way out of the darkness and into a brightly colored new place. The cast of migrants has dwindled; their hope for a better life has not waned. 

No words are needed. The impact of the visual storytelling has a far greater impact than adding text could ever have. 
                                                                                     


Friday, May 28, 2021

Dear Treefrog, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Diana Sudyka. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"In Gym Today 
during  
child's pose
I became a treefrog
curled around 
the still green center
of my heart

Others 
found their 
centers too

So many treefrogs
there on the gym floor

Sometimes young treefrogs of the 
same age will gather near one another. 
On a sunny day, you might see several
sharing the same leafy plant.
"

Moving to a new home can be very difficult. When you are young and shy, it can be even more so. Luckily this little one finds solace in nature, and in the treefrog she finds on a big green leaf in her garden. She is immediately attracted to the fact that it does not move when she peeks through the leaves. It remains still despite all the movement and noise that surrounds it. It helps the watcher sit quiet and remain calm. She isn't so lonely when she knows the frog is there. 

They spend a good deal of time together, experiencing many happenings: morning dew, buzzing bees, imagining, remembering, rambunctious visitors, a noisy storm, resting, hiding, meeting a new friend, climbing, hibernating, and reuniting. 

Ms. Sidman's writing is glorious, as always. This series of telling poems mix nature, verse, and quality information for interested young learners. Told from the little one's viewpoint, it is a very personal look at the joy that comes from being in nature and learning, as they spend time in each other's presence. The poems are placed at the edge of the verso, and the quick reports on the treefrogs are placed at the bottom corner of the recto (in a different, smaller font). 

Each double-page spread is filled with the lush greens of the garden. Created using gouache, they invite readers to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings while becoming familiar with the many attributes of a treefrog. Careful observers will see the names of flowers, insects and birds hidden on some spreads. 

Ms. Sidman answers four pertnent questions, with useful answers for caring for treefrogs and their survival, in back matter. 

"No Frogs 
today 
in the yard
at the park  
     or by the pond

Good thing 
I took pictures 
of you 
with my eyes
to 
keep
inside me
when I am 
        trying to 
              be brave 
                                                                            

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Simon and Chester: Super Detectives! Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $16.99 ages 7 and up

 


"What's with the mousetrap?

Pretend it's a magnifying glass. 
I just need to find the full outfit.

I thought you didn't want to 
dress up? 

It's not dressing up, Chester! 
It's a uniform.

AHA!"

Young readers may be lucky enough to have met Sir Simon Spookington and Chester in their first adventure a few years ago. If so, they will be happy to meet up with them again. Their relationship remains the same ... each chitchatting with the other as the story moves forward.   

Simon is busy at his writing; Chester is busy at interrupting. Chester is bored, and can't take it anymore. Checking out the boxes in the attic provides a distraction. When he finds an 'old smelly hat', a 'broken clock', and a 'mousetrap', Simon is not impressed. That is, until he gets a gander at the hat. He loves it immediately and sets them on the path to becoming detectives. They'll be like Holmes and Watson! They set up their office in the attic, and await their first case. Their personality differences are evident. Simon provides all the drama, while Chester is the voice of reason. 

Hearing a series of weird sounds coming from the kitchen, the two leave the office in search of the noisemaker. They find a 'mysterious pug' eating cereal, and set about creating a case to be solved. 

"Not talking, eh? 
I see what's going on here. 
You may have everyone else 
fooled, pug. 
But I know a disguise when I 
see one! 
Trying to pull a fast one on 
Simon and Chester, Super 
Detectives?
NOT TODAY! 
Let's take off that mask and
see who you really are!

I'm sure you can guess ... the pug is a pug, with no need for detectives. The shenanigans that happen as they try to open and close their case will have young readers spinning with merriment. The two are such fun; I would love to hear two readers share the story aloud. The dialogue-filled tale is perfect for early readers. The graphic format is boldly colored, highly engaging, and filled with fun. The details, oh, the details! Personally, I can't wait to see their next escapade. I'm sure I won't be alone in wishing for that. Bravo! 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

I Am a Peaceful Goldfish, by Shoshana Chaim and Lori Joy Smith. Greystone Kids, 2021. $22.95 ages 3 and up


"Then I let out all my air 
to make bubbles in my bowl. 

I have an idea, too! 
I'm a mighty elephant. 
I take a slow, big breath in.
"

The two children in this book about mindfulness are not having a great day. It's easy to see why: an upside-down ice cream cone, broken toys, their cat harassing the goldfish. They are both rattled, and need to calm themselves. 

One has an idea. Their imaginations and mindfulness training kicks in. What could be more peaceful than a goldfish? A slow breath, and a full release of all the air in the lungs. Things begin to settle. His friend imagines being a 'mighty elephant' taking a deep, slow breath in, and then letting out a quiet trumpeting sound as the air is released. 

Together they create peaceful scenarios that even cause the cat to relax on the lawn. Their practice is working, and things are calming quite nicely.

"Now I'm a 
growing flower. 

I take a slow, 
big breath in and 
stretch to the sky. 

Then I let out all my air
and bring my hands to my heart." 

Children need practice in finding the calm, just as adults do. This book helps them with ways to use their imagination to promote a sense of serenity on tough days, when they are feeling overwhelmed with various emotions. Digitally created illustrations add a touch of humor and show emotion, while also offering images of intentional practice at bringing a sense of peace to the day. 

 Useful in classrooms and at home, these are skills needed when faced with difficulties in daily life. Read and practise; read and practise. Just breathe ...                                                                                      


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Ducks Run Amok, by J.E. Morris. Penguin Workshop, Penguin Random House. 2021. $13.99 ages 5 and up

 


"Green duck's back 
is hard and tough.
He has no down.
He has no fluff.

I am NOT 
a duck!"

When a flock of ducks land on its pond for a swim, an astonished turtle is taken by complete surprise. He has no idea who they are, or what they are doing disturbing his very solitary and serene time in the water. The ducks pay no attention to his concerns. In fact, it isn't long until a duck band (The Screaming Ducks) and even more ducks make their way to the party. 

The turtle is quick to count himself out of the frivolity, asserting constantly that he is, in fact, NOT a duck. They ignore his complaints, all the while acknowledging that he does not look like them. The ducks insist that he become part of their flock. When hunger causes their 'tummies to growl', they spy a food truck driven by Freddy Drake. 

"Hey look! Some ducks 
inside a truck
and selling pies 
and cakes. What luck! 

HOORAY!"
 
Turtle is disgruntled, until he realizes that the food is darn fine fare. Turns out the ducks have a bigger plan for the pies - a food fight. They have stepped on the turtle's last nerve. 

"KNOCK IT 
OFF, YOU 
ROWDY DUCKS!

They listen to his rant and leave the pond as pristine as it was when they arrived. Only the storyteller and the frog remain. Well, for a short time. Minutes ... 

 Early readers will hoot at the surprise ending and will absolutely want to read it again for themselves. It won't be long until they are independently sharing it with others. The clever cartoon illustrations add to the enjoyment. Filled with funny details and expressive entanglements, they provide context to help with independent reading. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Travels in Cuba, written by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel. Grooundwood Books, 2021. $15.95 ages 8 and up

 


"Pretty soon my father fell asleep 
with his face in his book. And I knew
better than to disturb my mother when 
she was drawing. This was getting pretty 
boring. I didn't want to waste my time 
on the balcony. I wanted to explore the 
city.
"

This is the fifth book in the Travels With My Family series, and is equally engaging and entertaining as each of the others: Travels With My Family (2007), On The Road Again (2008), Summer in the City (2012), and The Traveling Circus (2015). 

Fans will be pleased to meet up with Charlie, Max and their parents as they embark on a Cuban vacation. Before the vacation part can start, Charlie's mother has promised to work with children in local schools. Charlie spends the week her, practicing the Spanish language and learning about Cuban school days. 

Once the vacation part begins, the family starts to see Cuba in a different light. They learn that there are many rules; some are for the Cuban people, others are for the tourists who visit their country. Charlie is not always impressed. 

"That was the point of all the rules,
I decided. They were there to keep
Cubans and us from talking to each other.

When they leave Havana and make the long, dusty bus trip to Vinales and then by car to Trinidad, they make many new discoveries about the Cuban people, their food, their culture and their music. They are also witness to some of the country's drawbacks - poverty, lack of nutritious food, fear, and how living in a communist country impacts their way of life. It is not the Cuba he has heard about from his school pals who stay at Cuban resorts for tourists. 

Charlie makes a new friend in Lazaro, and shares adventures on horseback with him. They swim, ride, discuss life, and say goodbye when their family moves on to their next destination. The story is told for children, and examines the world as they see it. It is quite a lovely journey and does an admirable job of presenting present-day Cuba to a young audience. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Cast Away, written by Naomi Shihab Nye. Greenwillow Books, Harper. 2020. $9.99 ages 12 and up

 


"But this is nothing, nothing, nothing
next to, say, the city of Aleppo,"
one of the most gracious metropolises
ever made, over centuries, the arches, 
the carefully inlaid tiles, 
curling avenues strung on lines for display,
gorgeous curlicued rugs, 
what it used to be, what it became. 
War is the worst waste - no imagination.
What did anyone gain?
"

An exploration of the many things humans throw away is the premise for this stellar book of poetry from the prolific Naomi Shihab Nye. She is a dedicated trash picker, committed to making her personal space healthier by noticing and picking up trash everywhere she goes. She stands in awe of nature and the environment. She is perpetually amazed at how easily humans throw things away. 

"To clear my thoughts next morning, 
I go pick up more trash at the Number 11B bus stop. 
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrappers, 
haven't seen these in a long time. 
Empty blue matchbox. A lost wheel, 
the kind an office chair might miss, 
a red comb with a long handle, 
broken headlight from a bike, 
three straws, four jelly containers,
two pennies, orange peelings, 
unwrapped food scraps are always a different story,
you leave them to return to earth, 
and then I find a giant eagle feather
and my brain settles down.

She writes beautifully and makes it her personal mission to have her readers notice what is in front of them, and she doesn't stop at trash. With humor, indignation, and clear vignettes, she presents her words in a conversational voice that invites attention and reaction. She worries for the homeless and immigrants - too often throwaway people in the eyes of far too many. She names names and pays compliments to those who work to make change. 

There are eighty poems; each clearly has an impact for those who read them carefully and respond to her plea for action. There are five sections, divided into routes: Sweepings, Titters and Tatters, Odds & Ends, Willy-Nilly and Residue. Readers will surely find their own favorites. Reading each one of them them made me stop occasionally and think about my own practice - and, how I might make a change, and a difference. What choices do you make that can be altered for a better world?

"Junk Mail     

The great poet
William Stanley Merwin
known as W. S. 
wrote first drafts of his poems
on junk mail envelopes
plucked from the garbage
so he never had to worry 
about wasting paper
or being perfect
"

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Memory Jars, written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. $25.99 ages 5 and up

 


"Freda remembered her grandpa eating toast 
every morning with glossy, purple jam on it ... 

... making sure it was spread all the way 
to the crust so every last bite was sweet.
"

While picking blueberries with her gran one day, Freda did her best to eat as many as she picked. With four full pails in the wagon on their way home, she continued eating. They were at their best when fresh, Freda had decided. But there were so many ... 

Freda did her best, but she could NOT eat all of them. Gran reassured that it was not a problem; they could preserve them as she had done every year. She has a jam recipe that Freda's grandpa loved. They will make the jam, store it in jars, and have it to eat until next summer's berry-picking adventure. 

Hmm ... that got Freda to thinking about memories and keeping them safe forever. Could she use memory jars to keep what she didn't want to lose? Gathering jars was easy. As she began, finding things she wanted to keep was also easy: a cookie, an icy pop, Halloween candy, a stuffie, new crayons. Then, things got a bit more complicated. Her best friend didn't want to move. Could she keep him in one of her memory jars? There were so many wonderful sights and sounds to keep safe. What about Gran? 

One day, while alone with her extensive collection of memory jars, the taste of blueberry jam on toast provided the catalyst to learning that we keep memories in our hearts - and that is the best place for them. 

Highly expressive, full-color gouache illustrations show a loving family dynamic between a young girl and her loving grandmother. Her gran knows that Freda has an important discovery to make, and she allows space for her to make it. A final twist adds humor, and satisfaction. The author follows up with a recipe for blueberry jam. 
                                                                                        


Friday, May 21, 2021

Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works. Written by Susan Hughes and illustrated by Ellen Rooney. Kids Can Press, 2021. $19.99 ages 6 and up

 


"Usually you can't see or feel 
an object vibrating. But try 
this: hum loudly while gently 
touching the sides of your 
neck with your fingertips. 

Can you feel the vibrations?"

A small child snoozes in the grass while a dog spends time sniffing the air for arresting smells. A bee intrudes on the silence with its relentless buzz. A flash of lightning, followed by a clap of thunder sends all scurrying for cover. These are some of the sounds of the natural world. Sit quietly and take note of the many sounds heard and what they mean. 

"Other sounds are made to 
communicate something.

An ambulance siren wailing. 

A school bell clanging. 

An alarm clock ringing.  

Your voice, calling to a friend."

The design is very appealing for its target audience. It begins and ends with the story of a child, a dog, a storm, and the many sounds heard in nature and in the city. As the text moves on to explain the science of sound, Ellen Rooney's graphic illustrations make the information presented clear and accessible for readers. By using curved lines and concentric circles to show sound waves, she shows exaclty how those vibrations help us hear. A graph showing the difference in hearing range for humans and animals makes for  an interesting discussion. It is followed by a chart that compares loud and soft sounds that humans can hear, ranging from 10 to 194 decibels - quite the contrast it provides. As the bee buzzes off home as the storm ends, the author adds an activity to try, and a list of words to know. 

This second book in the Science of How series is informative, enjoyable and instructional. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

We All Play, written and illustrated by Julie Flett. Greystone Kids, 2021. $22.95 ages 2 and up

 


"Animals swim
and squirt
and bubble 
and bend
and chase 
and chirp. 

We play too! 
kimetawanaw mina
"

Play is not only the pursuit of children, as you know from watching your family pets or animals in the wild. They all play! 

Julie Flett has created a book filled with the joy of movement, and the energy in the lives of children and animals. The rhythm of the text offers lovely words and an opportunity to quickly learn to read the book independently. The Indigenous children who grace its pages show that they move in the same ways animals do - in water, on the ground, climbing up and sliding down hills, and falling asleep wherever they land.  

Ms. Flett leaves plenty of white space to ensure that the movements remain top of mind as the book is read. It is a celebration of the world these animals and children inhabit. The inclusion of words from the Cree language, and a glossary that lists the animal names shown in one, more than one, and younger, smaller, cuter forms is welcome. A following note explains the language used in the text, with pronunciation and a suggestion to turn to the Greystone Books site to hear them is welcome. 

Ms. Flett then adds a personal note from her upbringing. 

"Whether we are running and hopping 
through the grass or rolling along the 
street or pondering creatures in the creek, 
we are all connected, living in relationship
and in care to one another, in kinship. In Cree,
this is called wahkohtowin."

Beautiful!                                                                                 


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Snooze-O-RAma: The Strange Ways That Animals Sleep, written by Maria Birmingham and illustrated by Kyle Reed. Owlkids, 2021. $19.95 ages 5 and up

 


"While you and your family fall asleep
under the stars ... 

... a group of whales snoozes under the sea. 

For a long time, it was a mystery how sperm 
whales slept in the deep blue. Now we know 
the huge mammals gather in a pod to doze
near the surface. They bob and drift in one 
spot with their heads pointing up and their 
tails pointing down - almost as if they are 
standing.
"

Kids are always interested in knowing how we share animal traits. This book is perfect for answering their curiosity about animals and the ways they sleep. There are 12 rituals showcased here; the author compares what animals do when sleeping to the various ways humans slumber. 

To start on the right note, Ms. Birmingham offers a warning about noise. The animals included are ready for bed, and need their sleep in the same way that children do. Then, she invites her readers to follow along and see how they do it. Children cover themselves with blankets when it's time to turn in for the night, while otters cover themselves in seaweed. Children often fall asleep while traveling in a moving car, while frigate birds fly for long periods of time and sleep while they are doing so. And so on ... 

Each new entry begins on the recto with a familiar human bedtime routine. Turn the page and the verso presents the comparison. The book finishes with a meerkat family that sleeps in a heap, just as children do when they share their parents' bed. The author adds a note about the need for sleep - for animals and for children. She explains that all animals don't get the same amount of sleep each night as it is not needed in the same way. Human children should get ten hours of sleep to keep them healthy, both physically and mentally. Sleep times for animals vary greatly. 

Her final question asks her readers where they like to sleep. It is just the right invitation to move the conversation forward. A list for further reading will help those who want to learn more. 

This is a fine information book for reading aloud at bedtime. The design is lovely, The illustrations are bright and inviting. The animals are realistic, as are the children. The rituals are depicted so as to engage those ready for bed.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Who Got Game? : Baseball Amazing But True Stories, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by John John Bajet. Workman Publishing, Thomas Allen & Son. 2020. $17.95 ages 8 and up

 


"Baseball is a game of strategy and patience.
Of course, you've got to have the tools - 
a few heavy hitters, a couple hot pitchers, 
and a team of gritty ballplayers ready to 
put in the work - but you need than all that
when you're competing against the best of the 
major leagues. You need fire. Enough fire to 
keep fighting even when the odds are against 
you. Even when the other team has so many 
runs, a win seems impossible.
"

Just as kids who love hockey will enjoy Bobby Orr's early years and his hand-me-down skates, others cannot get enough of baseball and its stories. This entertaining and informative compilation of stories captures attention while providing much fodder for learning a great deal about the people, the players, the games, and the many feats that baseball has experienced through its long history as 'America's pastime'. Those who read it will want to repeat many of its stories, and will learn more than they ever thought they would know - so many amazing stories to share. 

There are four chapters: Pivotal Players, Sensational Stories, Radical Records, and Colossal Comebacks. The table of contents gives a clear listing for the people and events. I went first to 33 Short Innings. That game lasted eight hours and happened in 1981 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Two minor league teams played until 4:09 a.m. When it was finally ordered stopped by the league president, 19 fans from the more than 1,700 were still there, and were given lifetime free passes to the stadium. The game was completed on June 23 that year, and lasted only one inning - it was a sell-out with 5,746 fans in attendance. Eight and a half hours, fourteen records set, including the one for the longest home plate appearance by one ump, Mr. Dennis Cregg. And he kept coming back to ump for 28 years longer! 

I am a proud baseball fan, and I found these many stories of joy, hardship, triumph, racism, challenges, sexism, and achievement to be compelling and fascinating. It is a terrific and engaging read for classrooms, for baseball fans, and for readers who like short shots of information. While readers may know Babe Ruth, it's unlikely they have heard of Jackie Mitchell, the teenage girl who struck out both The Babe and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game. There's a lot to learn. The cartoon illustrations add charm and humor. They make you feel as if you are a part of the game you love. 

If you can't get to the baseball field to watch your favorite team this summer, this book will feed your interest - and in baseball 'stuff' you may never have otherwise known. You are likely to return to it again and again. 

In an email interview with 10-year-old Josh Sibler for Horn Book magazine, Derrick offered these answers to his questions: 

'The thing that fascinated me the most was how many baseball players voluntarily chose to leave behind the sport that they love in order to fight in WWII.' 

'My favorite players of all time are Josh Gibson, a power hitter from the Negro Leagues; and a player from my hometown Royals, from the 1985 championship team, second baseman Frank White. Mr. White was a smooth ballplayer, intelligent and a real competitor.'

'Pitcher is my favorite position by far. Everything begins and ends with the guy up on the mound. Plus...it has traditionally been the highest-paid position in all of sports. Wish I had an arm that could accurately hurl a ball one hundred miles per hour (I'd still be an author though!)'.

'My favorite all-time game was Game Five of the 2015 World Series. It was the bottom of the twelfth inning and right-handed pitcher Wade Davis shut out every batter that the NY Mets brought up to the plate. The Royals won the series 4-1 and ended a thirty-year championship drought.'

There you have it!  

Monday, May 17, 2021

Barnaby, written by Andrea Curtis and illustrated by Kass Reich. Owlkids, 2021. $19.95 ages 4 and up

 


"The lady was patient. 
Each day she let 
Barnaby nuzzle her 
neck with his feathers. 

She also talked gently to the 
yellow bird, and offered him
seeds and slices of tangerine.
"

Barnaby is content in his life with the lady who feeds him, and provides shelter and companionship. He has freedom to fly about the house when the lady is home, nuzzling her neck in a show of welcome. So, he is a bit put out when she adds a new member to the household. That small yellow bird is not welcome, as far as Barnaby is concerned. He does his level best to ignore it, and to let his lady know he is not happy with its presence. She is patient, until she is not. 

One evening, when she lets him out of his cage for his fly-about and their evening visit, Barnaby shows his anger by tearing apart a favored pillow. 

"The lady's face turned as red 
as her hair, and she shut him 
in his cage.

It does nothing to tame his temper. When she releases him from his cage the next day, Barnaby heads out the window and is gone. He does not look back. It isn't long until he is lost; nothing is familiar to him. Nearby brown sparrows do not welcome him, even though Barnaby tries to entertain them with his song. Hesitant, he tries again. He is hungry and thirsty. The tiniest sparrow shows concern and finally offers a red berry. Barnaby joins the flock. As they fly, so does he. They offer advice for his life in the outdoors. Barnaby follows their lead. 

His memories of the lady and the little yellow bird do not fade. Barnaby spends his evenings searching for the falling-down house where he once lived. His search finally finds him looking in the window to see his golden cage, its door open and welcoming. Using the skills he has learned from his other bird family, Barnaby makes amends. 

Ms. Curtis pens a story filled with emotion. Readers will feel all that Barnaby feels as he deals with jealousy, anger, and the results of running away. Then, the gratitude he feels toward his adopted family, and the quiet lessons they teach. Finally, the restrained joy he feels in finding family again ... and home. 

This book makes for an enjoyable readaloud, and a sure conversation starter. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

My Red Hat, written and illustrated by Rachel Stubbs. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2020. $22.99 ages 3 and up


"This hat holds dreams, 

hides secrets, 

and covers fears."

As a grandparent, I love reading new tales of the relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren. I live far away from mine, but am blessed to be able to visit with them daily because of the various platforms we can use today. It keeps us in close contact, and allows us to know each other despite the distance. 

The grandfather in this new book lovingly gives his granddaughter his red hat. Along with the gifting of the tangible, he shares all the many things the hat can do. It offers protection from sun and rain. It can be silly, serious, and necessary. It makes her easy to find in a crowd, unless everyone else is wearing a red hat, too. It has endless possibilities. The hat is hers. 

Through all of life's adventures and worries it will be with her, until she returns to home and love. 

Through the reading and paying careful attention to the accompanying ink and graphite digital images, readers see the perfect moments and the special bond between the two: warm, quiet, uplifting, and loving. What more can a child ask? 

Bring on the red hats!                                                                             


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates, written by Bobby Orr and Kara Kootstra and illustrated by Jennifer Phelan. tundra, Penguin Random House, 2020. $21.99 ages 8 and up


"It wasn't easy adjusting to the "new" 
Hand-Me-Down skates at hockey practice.

In the first drill, he tripped and fell 
backwards onto the ice.

During his second drill, a speed skating
exercise, Bobby knocked down every 
single pylon.
"

Anyone who loves hockey knows the name Bobby Orr. He has long been touted as one of the best players the sport has ever seen. His hockey story began, as do many, when he was a young boy. He was a sporty kid, living near a big lake. He loved fishing and baseball; he LOVED hockey. He played every chance he got! 

His dream for his 11th birthday was to have a brand-new pair of skates. He knew exactly which pair he wanted: 

"They were made of smooth, black leather.
The blades were an untouched gleaming silver. 
And the bright white laces were tied in perfect bows.
"

He loved those skates. He made sure his parents knew the ones he coveted through hints, pictures, pointing them out when they passed the sporting goods store, and constantly reminded them how tight his old skates were. Instead of those skates, he got his brother's hand-me-downs. They were sharp and they had new laces, but ... 

The skates were too big and had to be stuffed in the toe with newspaper until he grew into them. He let his parents know how much he appreciated the gift. It did take some time for him to get used to wearing them; there were a few mishaps. Things got better as he became accustomed to their feel. Those skates went with Bobby everywhere he went. He played on. 

By his 12th birthday a friend of his father had taken note of his skills, and offered a brand-new pair of skates. One year after his hand-me-down skates Bobby got the pair he had always wanted. Paying it forward with the skates he had come to love, he passed them to down to his smaller brother. The two couldn't wait to play hockey together. 

Ms. Phelan's oil pastel and watercolor illustrations add depth and warmth to this nostalgic story. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Watch Me: A Story of Immigration and Inspiration, written by Doyin Richards and illustrated by Joe Cepeda. Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2021. $25.99 ages 4 and up

 


"His friends and family were right. 

The food in America was strange.
The music was new, and, perhaps like you, he enjoyed it. 

But Joe still missed Sierra Leone."

An homage to people who immigrate to a new, and often unfamiliar, country, this book introduces readers to Joe. His home country is Sierra Leone where he lived with family and friends, and was happy. But Joe had a dream and ideas for a better life. He was determined to make his way to America. 

His community and parents told him it would be a tough life. People would be afraid of his dark skin and his speech. Joe was full of hope and determination, offering his own take on the move: "Watch me." He discovered that their warnings were true. While he loved his life in America, he yearned for his home. 

"It hurt Joe to be hated for things
he couldn't control. Just like it hurts 
you. Maybe going back home to Africa 
was the safe and easy thing to do.

Safe and easy did not describe Joe. He stayed. It is at this point that the author encourages his readers to look around and really see people just like Joe. He pens pertinent and probing questions about their lives, their strengths, their treatment by others. To take the time to watch and see who they really are. He suggests that there is enough room for everyone. 

After that brief pause for thinking, he continues with Joe's story. His life was not easy, always having to prove himself capable of meeting his goals and fulfilling his dreams. Joe became a doctor. The author has first hand knowledge of that, because Joe was his dad. 

Watch closely and see others do what Dr. Joe did. 

 Joe Cepeda's warm, sunlit acrylic illustrations offer an openness that matches the text wonderfully well.
                                                                                               


Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Tale of the Mandarin Duck: A Modern Fable, story by Bette Midler, photographs by Michiko Kakutani, and illustrations by Joana Avillez. Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99 ages 4 and up

 


"In a very short time, 
people were not the same. 

All of them were bent over 
the small screen in their hand. 
It was as if nothing else existed. 

Then one day, something happened
that changed many people in the city. 

        Maybe forever."

In her retelling of this tale, Bette Midler introduces New York City, its inhabitants, and the arrival of the cell phone. As we can all attest, it made a huge difference in everyday lives. 

"And most important, it was a camera, and you could 
photograph anything and everything - especially 
yourself. Everybody really liked that. 
It wasn't long until everyone in the city had one.
"

With the arrival of the phone, people stopped paying attention to each other, and what was going on around them. One bird changed that! It was 2018. The community looked up from their phones when a mandarin duck landed in Central Park. Why such a response to its arrival? Well, the mandarin duck is native to East Asia. No one living in New York had seen one. As happens in the days of the cell phone, everyone wanted a chance to take its picture. The park filled with interested and intrigued birdwatchers. 

One day a small child stood on a rock, and explained that she was not going to use a camera to 'see' the duck. She was going to look at it with her 'own two eyes'. When she put her phone down, so did the rest. They fell in love with the beautiful bird they were seeing with their own eyes. What a truly remarkable event. People began talking to each other about what they were seeing, and about other engaging topics. Their habits changed, and they liked it. When the duck disappeared, the people chose to continue with their new habits. They liked this new world they were seeing. 

A combination of a well-told fable, stunning photographs and grayscale images of the people of New York at their various undertakings make for a most enjoyable read. Michiko Kakutani's end note adds further information about the 'duck' and its stay in New York. Facing that page, she provides a number of thumbnail images.                                                                                


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Collectors, written and illustrated by Alice Feagan. Kids Can Press, 2021. $19.99 ages 4 and up


"Winslow led the way up the trail
and along the creek. Rosie followed 
closely behind. 

"That's it!" said Winslow, pointing to 
a giant gemstone. The jewel certainly 
was extraordinary, but it was ... 

TOO HEAVY!"

Together, Rosie and Winslow are a remarkably intrepid team. They love collecting items from the natural world; each girl brings a special skill to their teamwork. Winslow's expertise comes from her keen sight and daring. She will go anywhere she needs to go to find the treasures the two seek. Rosie is a field journal specialist. She catalogs and carefully sketches each of their finds. Their extensive collection is nearly complete. 

Their hearts are set on one more thing ... something extraordinary! That wish is what it takes to get them outfitted with the gear they will need in their final search. They will not fail. Young readers will be aghast at what they are willing to leave behind as they investigate ... a huge gem, a dinosaur fossil, a rainbow, a rare woodpecker, a gold nugget. None is exactly what they have in mind. 

When the trail ends with a mountain climb and the discovery of the entrance to a dark cave, they are sure they have found the perfect spot. They have not; instead, they find a huge, angry, frightening surprise that causes them to run for their lives. 

"Winslow and Rosie ran as fast as
they could down the mountain, 
along the lake, through the spruce
grove, past the overlook, up the 
valley, across the creek and into 
their tree house.

Once back home, they are dismayed by their failure. Should they be? 

Cut-paper collage images fill the double page spreads with details that are not always part of the book's text. That works to make it an even more satisfying read for all. The story offers up a pair of girls whose bravery, imagination, adventurous spirit, and dogged determination show readers what nature has to offer.                                                                                      


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Slow Moe, written by DeborahKerbel and illustrated by Marianne Ferrer. Orca Book Publishers, 2020. $19.95 ages 3 and up


"Nana calls Moe 
a lollygagger. 
"He must get it from your
grandfather's side 
of the family. 

I'm not sure what a lollygagger looks like.
But I checked the old photo albums, 
and there aren't any other snails in there. 

Maybe aliens brought him." 

Oh, my! Siblings, especially little ones, can certainly try another's patience. If you ask for a list, the inclusions will be many: they make messes, they ask too many questions, they get in the way, they want everyone to pay attention to them, they 'hog' the tablet, they take too long in the bathroom, they cry when they aren't hurt, they are soooo slow. Have you heard, or made, these complaints? It is family life with children. 

The older sister, who narrates this story about her brother Moe, sees him as a snail. She is quick to fill readers in on all that is the matter with him. He takes his time, and needs encouragement to get to out of bed every morning. He eats his cereal one small piece at a time. He sluggishly crawls from one place to the next ... and he leaves a slime trail behind him. Inside or outside, it doesn't matter where they are. Moe is slooooow!

She is eager to share a surprise concerning Moe. 

"You see, my brother's not 
always a snail. Where there are 
no grown-ups around, Moe 
shakes off his shell and turns 
into a ... 

kid!

The sneak! Being a sneak is just one more of the annoying things that younger siblings can be. 

The details in Marianne Ferrer's illustrations ('watercolor, gouache, lots of sheets of paper and love') add an impressive level of visual appeal for readers who want to read stories about kids like themselves, who live in families where siblings aren't always on the same page. However, the important thing is the love. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Catch The Sky: Playful Poems on the Air We Share, written by Robert Heidbreder and illustrated by Emily Dove. Greystone Kids, 2020. $22.95 ages 3 and up .



"Sunflower

Sunflower, standing 
taller than me, 
what do you see
that I can't see? 

Honeybee

Sweet honeyed sound, 
from flower to flower
buzz-buzzing around
hour to hour!
"

There are thirty short poems in this new collection from poet Robert Heidbreder. In them, he celebrates all that can be seen in the air we all share, no matter where we live in the world. The observations begin 
at dawn, just as the sun peeks over the horizon. It is worth watching; two children do so from the branches of a tree. 

The design is lovely, pairing two quatrains such as sunrise and sunset; sunflower and honeybee; dragonfly and butterflies; wind and leaves. They encourage young readers to look carefully to the sky to connect with its many treasures. Rhythmic and lyrical, the poems entertain with clear visual images from the start of the day until moonlight dances in the sky above.  

Words are carefully chosen to make for a memorable read. Each poem has less than 20 words; it matters not. Emily Dove matches each poem in every part of the day in 'watercolor, ink, and a tablet'. They are full of colors that sharpen the mood, and include variety in culture and setting. The day passes much too quickly. These poems will be requested time and again. It is a great readaloud for early years classrooms, in families, and to help with a soothing start to a good night's sleep. Beautifully designed and executed!                                                                       


Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Most Beautiful Thing, written by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Khoa Le. Carolrhoda Books, Thomas Allen and Son. 2020. $23.99 ages 8 and up

 


"We had plenty of meat only when we celebrated
Hmong New Year with our aunts, uncles, and 
cousins. The old table was heavy with whole, boiled 
chickens, more than our family could ever eat. 
After dinner, our bellies full, my cousins and I sat
on the carpet around Grandma as she told us 
stories. 

She always began, "It was a long time ago and 
I was just a girl ...
"

As we celebrate the important women in our lives today, I thought that this Hmong refugee story would offer reflection on the tremendous impact of their importance in our lives. Kalia's grandmother holds an honored position in the family. No one knows much about her childhood. How old is she? No one knows? How did she escape a tiger when she was very young? No one knows. They do know her stories because she shares them with her family.  As you can see, she starts each of her stories in the same way ... in a time when she was very young. 

What she did to protect the siblings in her care, and to immigrate with them for a better life, have ensured her a place of honor in her family. Her life has been filled with challenges and hard times. She survived it all, and she smiled. Kalia's family still struggles with not having enough for all the things Kalia would like to have. She wants ice cream rather than ice, more food on the table, and new braces for her crooked teeth. Her parents cannot provide more than they already are. 

Grandma asks an important question: 

"I turned to her in the glow of early evening. 
The sun was low in the sky, and its golden
light fell on her face.

Grandma asked, "Is my smile not beautiful?"

What a special family story. It is accompanied by digital mixed media artwork that is quite remarkable.                                                                                   


Saturday, May 8, 2021

Addy's Cup of Sugar. A Stillwater Tale written and illustrated by Jon J Muth. Scholastic, 2020. $23.99 ages 5 and up

 


"Addy was very sad. 
Trumpet couldn't be gone. 
This couldn't really be happening. 
There must be something she could do!

Then Addy remembered her
friend Stillwater. He knew a lot about 
how to help people. He would know 
how to bring Trumpet back again. 
Addy ran to find him.
"

Addy is so sad. Her much-loved kitten named Trumpet has died following being hit by a car. Her world was so much better with Trumpet in it. Lost in grief, she turns to her friend Stillwater, a wise and supportive panda who offers his counsel. He will make her a medicine meant to ease her broken heart. He cannot, however, make that medicine without sugar, and he has none. He tasks her with borrowing the needed cup of sugar from a neighbor. There is one condition: the sugar MUST come from a house that has never experienced death. 

At every house visited, she listens to stories of loss. She cannot find the house she needs. 

"Addy thought about all the people 
she had met today. When she looked 
at their faces, she knew how each of 
them had felt. And while she was still 
very sad, she did not feel quite so alone.
"

Her journey made her think even more about all that she loved about Trumpet. Those memories made her cry. Back she ran to find Stillwater sitting on his porch. Addy now knew what the medicine was meant to do ... exactly as the panda had hoped she would discover. Trumpet is sure to have a special place in her heart. 

Jon Muth's watercolor and pen artwork beautifully portrays the emotions experienced by those who share their stories with Addy. In shimmering spreads, he is able to help Addy and the children who read her story realise the power of memory to ease the pain felt when a loved one dies.

An author's note adds context. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Spring Stinks, written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins. Disney - Hyperion, Hachette. 2021. $12.99 ages 3 and up

 


"Ruth has a basket. 
A very nice basket.
"Let's smell some smelly springtime 
smells together," says Ruth. 

"That is my basket," says Bruce."

Every other bear in the world may anticipate the arrival of spring with a growling stomach, and a need to get out of the den and into the many delights that spring brings. Bruce, as you know by now, is not like other bears. In fact, Bruce is the grumpiest of bears as he proves time and time again. 

The fact that he thinks 'spring stinks' will be of no surprise to readers who love his antics. Everyone else in Soggy Hollow is ecstatic to welcome spring ... the mice and geese are jumping with joy. Ruth, a small and toothy bunny is doing her best to change Bruce's foul mood. She is using Bruce's own basket to gather the delights of the new season. She fills the basket with grass, daisies, fir tree branches, and a wet moose??? 

Bruce does not want any part of that wet moose, quickly kicking it out of the basket. Poor Moose walks morosely away. What about honey? Will honey work? Um, no! 

You will have to check out the back endpaper to see why. As always, the artwork is positively perfect for our youngest readers. This is a story that will be shared with great amusement  time after time. Ruth and Bruce may be polar opposites in terms of the value seen in the arrival of spring, but together they make for one terrific tale.                                                                                  


Thursday, May 6, 2021

Alice & Gert, written by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Dena Seiferling. Owlkids Books, 2020. $19.95 ages 3 and up

 


"Gert leaned back on her 
branch and picked up a 
soft green maple key.
"Who can think about 
winter on such a fine day?"

Alice harrumphed. But as 
she returned to work, 
she found herself humming
Gert's tune.
"

Helaine Becker dedicates this book 'In memory of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein, and Sheila Barry. Great ladies all.' Dena Seiferling adds her own nod 'For my parents, who raised me to value creativity, hard work, and kindness.' Together, the two create a story that will resonate with readers of the ant and grasshopper fable. 

If you know this story, you will already know that the two come from separate sides of the benefits that come from hard work. Gert is often preoccupied with the warmth of summer sunshine, and the beauty to be found in nature. She spends much of her time trying to distract Alice from her hardworking ways. Alice is preparing for the coming winter when food will be scarce. Gert hears what she is saying, but isn't really listening. She prefers to spend her time composing music and creating a dramatic performance. 

When winter rears its ugly head, Gert finally recognizes what she has done by ignoring the signs. How will she survive the long, cold winter? Where will she food buried under ice and snow?  Luckily,  Alice recognizes that Gert has played an important role in making her work a touch easier. She offers food and a place to stay. 

"But," Alice continued, "your work 
lightened my load, and now it's time 
for me to repay your kindness. I've 
collected enough food to last the 
winter ..."

" ... for both of us."

Filled with wonderful narration, and accompanied by appealing and distinctive artwork, this is a tale that is sure to be requested numerous times. There is a softness to the illustrations that beg careful consideration. It's a soothing tale for bedtime, a fable to be shared at any time during the day, and offers a memorable twist on a story often told.                                                                                   


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Sunny-Side Up, written by Jacky Davis and illustrated by Fiona Woodcock. Greenwillow Books, Harper. 2021. $21.99 ages 3 and up

 


"What to do?
What to do on this rainy day?
Daddy says inside is where I have to stay. 

I jump. 
I jump up and down
and stomp my feet 
on the ground. 

I don't want to be 
stuck inside all day.
"

Another rainy day sstory for you! Mom is off to work, leaving Dad and their daughter to have breakfast together. Sunny-side up eggs on buttered toast are the order of the day - and grape juice. After they have finished eating, Dad opens the shades for full sunshine. Not to be. Everything is gray and wet. Hopes are dashed for a play outside. It is an infuriating feeling. 

Dad does his best to convince his daughter that being inside will be fun. Her ideas are many and she finds much to do; still the rain comes down. There must be other things to keep her busy. 

"I make make-believe muffins and pies. 
Ones you might like to try?
"

The rain is relentless. Dad suggests lunch and a nap. She will not have it! Dad is persuasive, knowing a nap is much needed. After a short rest, there's lots to do while she waits for Mom to come home, which she does at exactly the perfect moment. The two have time for a walk in muted sunshine. All is well! 

Digital illustrations are full of feeling, warm, and soothing. The child's emotions are clearly on display as she moves from moping about the rain to finding fun inside and finally, outside as well. Her many activities provide fodder for young ones who might be facing some of their own indoor days as we move from April into May.                                                                                 


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Saoked! Written and illustrated by Abi Cushman. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2020. $23.99 ages 3 and up

 


"And sure, I'd love to 
use my umbrella. 
The blue one with the 
bumblebees on it. 
But everyone looked,
and no one could find it. 

Badger said she found her
blue bumblebee umbrella. 
But not mine. 

Blah."

What a debut!

This is the kind of book that makes me want to get right back in classrooms, and read to kids, kids, and more kids. They would be hooting, and I would be loving sharing this grumpy bear's take on rain. As can be seen from both images included in the post, the bear is not impressed with the wetness, or his friends' enjoyment of it. At least, not in the beginning. 

He would rather spend time in his cave; he tries to convince the others to join him. Except for the hula hooping moose, things would be exactly right. Hard to imagine how much space a moose with a hula hoop can take up. It isn't long until they are all back outside. The moose's enthusiasm never wanes; the bear's attitude doesn't change. 

And then, the hula hoop gets caught on a tree branch. That just will not do. The bear supports both rabbit and badger in retrieving said hoop. A slip in a huge puddle, encouragement from his friends, and a perfect opportunity for fun has the bear trying the hoop himself. 

"There. I did it. Totally 
unfun. Just like I thought. 
Now if you'll excuse me, 
I need a moment to myself.

Trickster, indeed! 

Ali Cushman's remarkably expressive characters will grab attention when kids are introduced to the cover. What an invitation it is to get inside and see what is happening.  Laugh-out-load fun, with a water-logged and detailed setting will certainly have young listeners looking for the nearest puddle. This is a perfect book for examining how voice impacts storytelling. I can't wait to read it out loud! Bravo!                                                                                


Monday, May 3, 2021

The No-Cook Cookbook, by Rebecca Woollard. DK Publishing, Penguin Random House. 2021. $21.99 all ages

 


"CAULIFLOWER RICE BOWL

Rice bowls are usually made with sticky
sushi rice. This version uses finely-chopped
cauliflower instead, which means you 
don't have to do any cooking!
"

Only recently did I ask to see a copy of this new cookbook for review. It arrived in the mail this morning, and I spent some time pouring over the more than 50 recipes collected to be included; none of them need heat. What a treasure trove for any young cook who wants to learn more! 

In talking with my 7-year-old granddaughter this morning, she was telling me about the 'huevos rancheros' the family had for breakfast. The idea came from watching an episode of Beat Bobby Flay last evening. Her dad loves to cook breakfast, and that's what they decided on for their first meal of the day. She loves to cook, too. She will be delighted to learn that I am saving this copy for when she can visit next. 

As I paged through it, I found recipes that I will try for myself to see what I think. Many will appeal for their healthy ingredients, their ease of preparation, and the anticipation of tasting them. DK does an exceptional job of publishing books that have much to teach young readers about nonfiction. Their books are designed to make using them successful. 

The table of contents provides a detailed look for each double-page spread that will help a reader find exactly the right recipe to try. Through it they can find out how the book works, rules and tools of the kitchen, an equipment guide for keen gardeners, and finally a more detailed look at basic techniques of cooking. 

The first section considers breakfast foods: granola, overnight oatmeal, smoothies. How about a muffuletta for lunch, or any number of salads, a baguette sandwich, even cold soups? The list goes on to include ideas for healthy snacks and sauces, then further to supper meals, desserts, and other welcome suggestions.  There is a great variety in the choices that can be made.  

The design for each recipe includes a time frame, how many people each will feed, a list of ingredients, tools needed, and a step-by-step method for preparation. The photographs are, as always, full color and very helpful while also making the reader drool in anticipation.  'Growing your own' entries include tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, spinach, and strawberries. 

You can't go wrong with this book, if you want to encourage your children to try their hand at meal preparation, independence in the kitchen, and a sense of real accomplishment without the worry of having to use heat.                                                                                     


Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Lost Little Bird, written and illustrated by David McPhail. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2021. $25.99 ages 3 and up

 


"WHO? WHO? WHO? 

An owl tried to help by asking 
the little bird some questions. 

Wait! 

But the owl flew away before 
the little bird could answer.
"

Hitting its head on a tree trunk has this little bird puzzled. The bump is hard enough to make it forget what kind of bird it is. It determines that it will need help from other birds in his forest home. It isn't long until it meets up with a nightingale; its song is unpleasant and an assault on the nightingale's ears. Not a nightingale. On it goes to a robin ... cannot eat a worm. Not a robin. The eagle assures it is much too small to be an eagle. Not an eagle. 

Tenacious in its quest for identity, it moves ever forward. Doesn't have the stomach to eat a rat. Not a crow. An owl, an egret, a sandpiper, a duck, a chicken, a woodpecker, it is not! In a stroke of good luck, he chooses to stop at a birdbath and slake his thirst. Along comes a similar-looking bird ... same size, familiar coloring; finally, he has a name and a new home and family. 

David McPhail knows his audience. He creates stories for our youngest readers, knowing their interest in learning and their love of nature. His little bird is never discouraged while attempting to discover something important about itself. In the end, his patience pays off when he meets a mate for life. 

The pen and ink images, filled in with watercolors, are soft and gentle. They invite careful observation. Humor is added in the speech balloons that prove the lost bird is simply not a part of the many bird families he meets. This is a soothing tale, perfect for any quiet reading time.                                                                          


Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Lost Package, written by Richard Ho and illustrated by Jessica Lanan. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2021. $25.99 ages 4 and up

 


"The package was tattered and muddy, 
but its destination was clear. 

Like all packages, this one was sent with hope
that neither snow, 
nor rain, 
nor heat, 
nor gloom of night
will keep it from being delivered.

There were many reasons for posted packages not arriving on time this past year ... not the least of which was VOLUME. Can you imagine being a postal worker faced with the loads and loads of packages being sent daily to people through the many months that the pandemic has kept them home? 

How much did you use the postal service in the past year to get what you needed to be delivered? Were there times when you were angry for delays? Of course, it was frustrating. Did you consider the alternative? 

The story begins with a box, an empty cardboard box. It is the right size for sending a parcel from a young girl in New York City all the way to the other side of the country ... San Francisco. From the postal counter where she lives, through all its many stops along the way, to being bumped from a delivery van, and discovered by a young boy and his mother who find it on a wet neighborhood street, the package remains in transit. Luckily, its address is clear. 

In another bit of happenstance, the two are about to move to San Francisco. They take the package with them. Once they reach their destination they make sure the package does the same. Their kindness is much appreciated; they are invited in for a visit. The mothers have tea; the boys discover its contents. Its delivery means that another package is soon on its way across the country. 

Richard Ho writes this heartwarming homage to people like his father, a postal clerk for over thirty years. Richard knows the value of an institution that is under scrutiny from many for a variety of reasons. By telling this rich and emotional story of but one package within the system, he allows young readers a chance to see the process of mail delivery, the kindness of others, and the need to support the service by buying stamps, writing letters, and mailing packages. 

Jesssica Lanan does a superb job of helping readers understand the mail system. The settings for the storytelling are expertly presented and offer quiet context for the package's journey.