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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

House Mouse, written and illustrated by Michael Hall. Greenwillow Books, Harper. 2021. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"One day, a hungry fox
chased the mouse

past a forest

and in and out of a valley."

This tiny mouse is a traveler. It isn't until she finds herself in a wild asparagus patch that she stops and finds something 'warm and welcoming' and quite 'remarkable'. Because it is an open flame, the mouse builds a stove around it. It marks a special spot of warmth with its tall chimney.  

An inquisitive and hungry fox sees the mouse, chases her and is suddenly stopped by the sight of the hot stove. The mouse follows up by creating a floor to surround the stove. She manages to keep it within the border of the fox's footprints. While on further travels, she is caught in a rainstorm, and notes that her floor is dry when she gets back. She builds a roof to mark the spot where the rain did not fall. Now, she has shelter, asparagus for soup, and her days are good. 

An unexplained knocking sound has her looking for its source. Nothing! A door seems the solution and goes in where the knocking was heard. Opening the door, she makes welcome two new travelers carrying vegetables to add to her asparagus soup pot. Better than that, she now has friends, and would love to open her door to others. 

Imagination and industriousness are wonderful things. Using her skills at both, this tiny mouse creates a place of comfort that begins with an asparagus patch and a single flame. Michael Hall's incredible talent for creating wonderful art from geometric forms is evident in this gentle and thoughtful story. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

I Am The Shark, written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Laurie Keller. Crown Books, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"I have a gray top (or back). Unsuspecting prey 
above me don't even notice me against the dark-
colored water below me until ...


Yet my tummy is white, so to prey looking up 
from below me, I blend in with the lighter sky
above. This called countershading. 

And it makes me the SNEAKIEST shark in 
this book!

I am quite sure that my younger granddaughter will not think she wants to hear this book. She is 'not fond' of sharks, or learning more about them. I think that this funny, fact-filled book about said ocean denizens may change her mind. We will see in coming days. 

The great white, as narrator, does its very best to convince readers that it is the "GREATEST SHARK" in the entire book. Immediately, a voice contests that assertion. It's the whale shark whose claim to fame is being BIGGEST. The illustrative comparison shows the former how small it really is. The whale shark is as big as a school bus! Turn the next page and the great white is okay with being small as it affords some real benefits. So, now it is the SMALLEST. Is that so? Of course not! 

And so it goes, from page to page ... another shark species arrives to discount the statements being made by the great white. The conversation goes on; all the while readers are learning more and more facts about our narrator, as well as a fact or two about other species. The tone is humorous. I think it would be a fun book to read with numerous readers in a readers' theatre presentation. Or for two readers - one as narrator, the other as the voices of each of the other sharks. 

Readers will enjoy taking long looks at the animated collage illustrations. The review of shark facts provides a perfect opportunity for Laurie Keller to draw a blueprint with labelled and captioned body parts that are particular to the great white itself. Ms. Holub adds a short list for further reading, and a warning: 

"Don't swim too close to sharks.  We can be 
dangerous. But we're helpful too. Our hunting 
skills keep the oceans healthy.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Gustavo: The Shy Ghost, written and illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago. Candlewick Press. 2021. $22.99 ages 3 and up


"Making friends was terrifying. 
Gustavo had never dared to speak
to any of the other monsters. 

He tried getting 
close to them
in many different ways.

Gustavo likes the perks that come with being a ghost. He also loves to play the violin. What he loves most is Alma who just happens to be 'the prettiest monster in town'. There's a BUT ... Gustavo is hampered by bashfulness. That makes it more than difficult to make friends. Besides that, no one seems to know he is there. They cannot see him. 

Poor Gustavo! He so badly wants a friend. Perhaps, a letter will bring results. He sends out invitations for attendance at his violin concert. Set for the Day of the Dead and held at the cemetery, Gustavo makes all appropriate preparations. That is when he comes to the realization that everyone will be able to see him! Oh, dear. It proves to be no problem at all as no shows up. So, Gustavo puts his heart and soul into playing his violin. Turns out the invited guests got lost, and used Gustavo's brilliant playing to find him. They all want to be friends. What a coup!  

Images from Mexican culture fill the pages with interest. Young readers will find much to see as they follow Gustavo through the pages of this picture book debut from Mexican artist Drago. It is a perfect addition of your fall book basket.                                                                                  

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. Charlesbridge, Penguin Random House. 2021. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"Some amphibians rest inside another
animal's home ... 

As the days heat up, a California tiger
salamander scouts out an empty rodent
hole and falls asleep. The cool, comfy
burrow is the perfect place to spend the

Oh Melissa Stewart, you are so good at this! You do make science appealing and informative beyond belief. I started out having some brief knowledge of estivation and very little else. I had no idea how many animals sleep in the summer, where they lived, or how they did it. I know much more now. Thanks to you for another brilliant book sure to interest many new fans. 

Most children know about hibernation; it is a guess that there are not many who know about estivation. The author's eagerness to share her research into those animals that also interest her is a boon for young readers learning more about the animal world. Those animals that sleep in the summer are the stars of this excellent nonfiction book. The design of its double-page spreads is inviting, and provides just the right amount of information for young readers. 

Hibernators are happy to show themselves as the weather warms, and spring bursts forth. As that happens, the estivators move to their summer sleep. Each spread begins with the way in which a group of summertime sleepers finds shelter from the heat. The following spread shows another animal that spends its estivation in the opposite way from the first: in groups or alone, up high or below ground, quickly or with more deliberation, in another's home or in their own, travel to a perfect spot or stay at home, for a few days or a much longer period of time, Come autumn, they are into coming out and enjoying the cool ... the hibernators take their cue from the weather to find their perfect spot for sleeping. 

A journal page, drawn by Sarah Brannen in pencil, is included on each spread. It names the estivator, provides its scientific name, length, home territory, and a clear,detailed illustration. They are found around the world, and each moves into dormancy in its own distinctive way. 

End matter provides further facts for each animal included, the difference between hibernation and estivation, and books that will add to the wealth of information already shared. Also there are an author's note, a note from the illustrator, and a list of selected resources. Engaging, accessible, and sure to please those wanting to know more about these twelve animals and their sleeping habits.  

Friday, August 27, 2021

If Bees Disappeared, written and illustrated by Lily Williams. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2021. $25.99 ages 6 and up

 "If honeybees disappeared ...

so would many of the plants they pollinate. 
Wind pollination creates less plant diversity
than bee pollination. Plant diversity is important
for the strength and health of an environment. 
While some plants would be able to survive 
without honeybee pollination, the crops they 
produce would look different, be less 
flavorful, and have a shorter life span."

The importance of the honeybee to our way of life is clearly pointed out in Lily Williams' fourth book about endangered species. Honeybees play a very important role in the food chain, and we would be without much of the food that pleases and sustains us without their survival.  

The book begins in Kent County, England, a place where many bees live. Ms. Williams informs readers about bees; their ancestry, the number of species found in the world, the fact that they are the very best pollinators. An accompanying illustration shows development through the ages, leading to the honeybees she is presenting in this fine book. 

She explains the role of all three types of honeybees: drones, workers, and the queen. They must work together for success. They are threatened by both environmental changes and damage done by humans. What she wants her readers to know is that many things will be very different if bees disappear. It would not only affect plants. Loss of those plants would lead to less of many favorite foods: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee. Continuing along that line of thought, what happens when those plants disappear. It is sobering to think of the many changes in the natural world which all have a direct effect on life as we know it. 

As with everything else we know about climate change and its effects, we do know that we can begin to make different and effective changes to stem the loss. Have you thought about what you might plant in your backyard garden to attract and sustain the local bee population? If we don't change, the bees will DISAPPEAR and what will we do then? It is a sobering thought, isn't it? 

Excellent, helpful artwork complements the information provided in the text. Engaging and informative, this is another exceptional addition to the series. A glossary, an explanation of the dangers of decline, a list of suggestions for getting involved, an author's note, a bibliography, and a short list of additional sources  are included in back matter. Worthy of a spot in classroom or home libraries. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Watercress, written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House, 2021. $24.99 ages 5 and up

"They haul us out of the back seat.
We are told to 
untie our sneakers, 
peel off our socks, 
and roll up our jeans. 

We have to help them gather it. 

The water in the ditch is cold. 
It stings my ankles
and the mud squelches 
up between my toes.

A family outing leads to gathering wild watercress that is growing at the side of the road. The parents are filled with memories of home, and has them thinking about China where they grew up. The young narrator is not thrilled as is evident from her reluctance to remove her shoes and roll up her jeans to help with the harvest that is so pleasing to her parents. 

She shares her negative response to the impromptu stop. 

"The bag in my hands grows
and heavier
with the weight of all 
the watercress. 

The paper is soaked and I'm 
half afraid
half hopeful 
that the bottom will split, 
sending all the plants back down
into the muck."

When they are finished, they head home. The road trip is forgotten. Dinner that night includes a big dish of watercress which she is not prepared to try. Her parents encourage her to try the bounty collected without cost. Not a chance, she knows what 'free' means in America. For her mother, it is a stark reminder of times of trouble when there was not nearly enough food. Her story gives the young girl pause; she agrees to taste this dish that is so special to her parents. A new memory of sharing watercress assuages the sadness of looking back. 

Beautifully written, with admirable watercolor artwork, this story is emotional, memorable and a poignant family story. Back matter includes notes from both author and illustrator.                                                                                                               

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Nye, Sand and Stones, written by Bree Galbraith and illustrated by Marion Arbona. Orca Book Publishers. 2021. $19.95 ages 5 and up


"And hurl they did. Every day, 
after a lengthy warning bell rang 
out, children of all ages fired 
sandcastle-smashing stones into 
the air. The children on the Island 
of Sand, hearing the bell, scurried 
off the beach to watch their castles 
turn to ruins.

Two islands, two different groups of inhabitants, and two totally different environments make for a timely story of activism and courage. On the Isle of Sand, children spend their time creating remarkable sand castles. Across the water on the Isle of Stones, something totally different is happening. The people there spend their time creating stone launchers. The same thing happens every day; after a warning bell, stones are hurled at the sandcastles, smashing the castles to smithereens.

It is what is expected, and no one questions it. Nye is upset when she is two, and still bothered when she is four. At six, she is an expert builder, and still upset when her castle is the first one destroyed. Now, she is eight and helping her little sister learn how to build sand castles. When her castle is destroyed, Nye speaks up. As she returns the tugboat filled with stones, she offers those on the Isle of Stone an ultimatum: 

"People of the Island of Stone," her voice 
echoed over the water, "if you throw another 
stone at the Island of Sand, we will keep your
stones, and we will become the Island of Sand 
and Stones." 

The poor 'hurlers' are upset that they will have nothing. Nye suggests there might be better things to do with their stones than what they are presently doing with them. The solution will thrill readers. The final illustration makes it all worth it! The idea that two very different types of people can operate in harmony is relevant and hopeful, in these times. Children need to hear stories like this one.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

What's Inside a Flower? And Other Questions About Science and Nature. By Rachel Ignotofsky. Crown Books, Penguin Random House. 2021.$23.99 ages 7 and up


"Leaves have the 
special job of 
absorbing sunshine.

Plants turn sunlight
into food in a process
called photosynthesis. 

Turning sunlight 
into food is a plant's 

Do you have a favorite flower? So many children are interested in the flowers they see around them. You know how much they love the dandelion flower, and how happy they are to bring bouquet after bouquet inside as soon as they pop their yellow heads out of the ground. 

In this book, they will journey from place to place seeing where flowers grow, the colors they display, how they grow, and what they need to do that. Once buds open, careful observers can see what flowers look like inside, and learn why flowers are so important to the natural world.  Their colors and smells attract pollinators. Flowers then create new seeds which are carried in a variety of ways to be planted elsewhere. 

Visually appealing illustrations are clear, telling, and engaging. Labels, captions, and speech bubbles ensure understanding for the target audience and leave readers with the idea that planting their own garden would be a worthwhile pursuit. If your kids are interested in knowing more about the natural world, this is a wonderful way to start. 

"Whatever you plant 
in your garden will be 

Because you know what's 
inside a flower and you 
understand the science 
that makes flowers special. 

Happy flowers mean 
a happy earth for you and me.

Monday, August 23, 2021

NO PANTS! Written and illustrated by Jacob Grant. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"And pants have been around long before
Grandpa was born! Pants have been made
in every shape and size you can imagine, 
and people wear pants all around the 
planet. Even in space!

Now, please get dressed, Pablo. We don't 
want to be late for the party. 

Any pants I can imagine?"

Pablo is like many young children. He has a mind of his own, and is not afraid to share his thoughts and opinions. He is also curious. Today, he is determined to have his way with his patient, caring father. Before we learn that today is Party Day, we see that the two have matching pants hanging on a line ready for wearing. 

Pablo is a bit disconcerted when there is no time to make pancakes for breakfast, only oatmeal. After his bowl is in the kitchen sink, his teeth are brushed, he has toileted and washed his hands, it's time to get dressed. The matching pants await. He puts his foot down ... no pants! 

There is further reasoning at every turn. Dad says one thing; Pablo does not agree. Dad explains that pants are a social expectation; that most people they know, including family, wear pants. Perhaps not ALL the time, but most of the time. Pablo is pleased to be part of the not all. The dialogue moves on to how Pablo can imagine wearing said pants. Dad has finally had enough:

"Just. Put. On. 
We need to 
leave for the 
party now.

A surprise or two are still to happen, but nothing like the hilarious (and perfect) ending! Enjoy the chuckles ... I can't wait to read this out loud in a classroom and with my granddaughters.                                                                                  

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Truth About Parrots, written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan, Raincoast. 2021. $20.99 ages 6 and up


"Most parrots spend their days eating 
some combination of seeds, nuts, fruits, 
berries, buds, or flowers. Many have 
their specialities. 

Hyacinth macaws crack large palm nuts
with powerful beaks. 

Blue-winged parrots feed on grass seeds. 

Scaly-breasted lorikeets sip nectar and
eat pollen from flowers.

I just did a count of previous books in this much-loved series. This is the eighth, and I do hope it won't be the last. I have enjoyed every one and all the information they provide, while also making me laugh.  Maxwell Eaton does a great job of filling heads with facts and interesting fare; the parrots are articulate and also willing to provide their own interpretations. 

Readers are engaged from the the beginning when they learn that they are 350 different species throughout the world, and see labelled cartoon-like illustrations on each spread. As well as their name, the labels tell where they can be found across the globe. The author also captions his illustrations with their many characteristics. Simply stated text allows accessibility for kids as young as 5 or 6. 

Information boxes add further matter of interest for readers. The design is full of fun, and humorous talk between the various parrots featured. Instructive and most enjoyable, I just read that it is the final book in the series. They are perfect for nonfiction shelves - don't miss the chance to add them to your classroom library.                                                                               

Saturday, August 21, 2021

The Ramble Shamble Children, written by Christina Soontornvat and illustrated by Lauren Castillo. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"The next day, the children set to 
work turning the ramble shamble
house into a proper home. 

They propered up the chickens. 

They propered up 
a scarecrow. 

They raked over all the mud puddles 
because mud definitely isn't proper.

Early in my career, while teaching kindergarten, I read The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner) to my students. They loved it! I read it every year after that, no matter what grade I was teaching. Many years later, students I met would ask if they could borrow it. The appeal came from the fact that four children, on their own, made a life for themselves living in an abandoned boxcar. Do kids today dream of doing the same thing?

The five kids in this lively and heartwarming new book, created by two very accomplished artists, are sure to inspire those who dream such dreams. They (Merra, Locky, Roozle, Finn and Jory) live on their own in a 'ramble shamble house'. Because there was always work that had to be done, each took their responsibilities to the family seriously. 

"Merra took care of the garden,
while Locky and Roozle chased
off the always-hungry blackbirds.
Finn fed the chickens, 
and Jory looked after the mud.

They prepared meals, kept up with the work that needed to be done by working together, and Merra told them stories at night before sleep overtook them after their long, busy days. After reading a book they found in the attic, they realized they could make things even better - more like the pictures of the house they saw in that book. They worked hard to make it 'proper'. It turned out, after all their hard work, perhaps 'proper' was not better. Bigger problem: where was Jory?  

Full of charm and delight in both words and pictures, this book will win favor with young readers and leave them with hopes to meet these appealing characters again. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Follow That Frog! Written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99 ages 5 and up


"Of course, in time, my delicate
beauty caught the eye of the 
admiral's ridiculous son. And 
as he stood transfixed, he was 
suddenly, swiftly ...

... swallowed by a giant frog. 


The first two books done in collaboration with one another, (Special Delivery, 2015 and The Only Fish in the Sea, 2017), are terrific companions to this new escapade by Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell. 

A raucous knocking at the front door surprises Sadie and the chickens as they are about to serve morning tea to Aunt Josephine. Aunt J is having none of it, although she does speculate on who might be at the door. 

"It could be a vacuum salesman. Or more likely, 
a suitor. But I tell you this! I am quite satisfied 
with the state of my carpets. And my days of 
romance are but a memory. I have run life's 
race and have earned my rest.

She goes on to regale her niece with wild events from her past, all of which are highly emotional and hard-to-believe. The knocking persists, and so does Aunt Josephine's tall tale. Her story includes chasing a frog big enough to eat a young boy, a bathtub ride, being lost in the middle of the ocean, running into pirates off the Canary Islands (which did house a large number of canaries), and riding a whale ... all in pursuit of that gigantic frog. After many years involving world travel and a constant search, she never did find that frog. Or did she? 

"Well, Aunt J, there's always hope."

Funny, full of mayhem and complemented by Matt Cordell's exuberant, detailed scenes, this is a story sure to please those who read the first two, and those who have not. What an ending!                                                                            

Thursday, August 19, 2021

1, 2, 3, Off to School, written and illustrated by marianne dubuc. Kids Can Press, 2021. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"At Foxtrot School on the hill, 
it was time for gym class. 
Running, jumping, cycling - 
the foxes were on the move! 

Bravo! That's one more 
point for Pippin's team!

Heads up, everyone! 
Follow the rules!

As a happily retired teacher for a number of years, I still find myself feeling some angst as the calendar turns from July to August. While July always seems to pass too quickly, that sense of time running out is exacerbated by the arrival of the final month of summer vacation. The wheels start turning early, with thoughts of new kids, new learning, and readiness for a brand-new year. 

Pom is not yet ready for school. She has another year to wait. Still, she has an abiding interest in what will happen there and wants to pay a visit. Her animal friends have told her about their schools, and she wants to see what kindergarten looks like for herself. 

"And so Pom set off for school, 
ready to discover all its secrets.

First up is the Nutcracker School, whose students are mouselings, and very busy. Her second stop is Hopalot School where rabbits are learning the many rules of their new environs. On to Cattail Academy and a chance to see froglets enjoying the arts, and a snack or two. Her next stop is Foxtrott School; it provides foxes with instruction in a variety of sports. Pom is beginning to feel a touch tired, and certainly hungry after her morning stops. 

Luckily, her next visit is to Honeycomb School where lunchtime is in progress. There are many friends to sit with while waiting for something good to eat. After a satisfying lunch, Pom feels much the same as so many do - sleepy.  Her stop at Sleepytime School is absolutely appropriate; she enjoys a sweet dream in the company of many resting sloths. Refreshed, she moves on to Lookout Heights School where squirrels are learning a lot about trees and nature. Another few quick stops and her school day comes to an end. 

What fun Pom has had, and what stories she has to share with Momo when she gets home. Having learned many new lessons along the way, Pom knows she will be ready when she attends kindergarten next year. 

The delightfully detailed spreads offer a chance for little ones to stop and take in the action and learning they are sure to be a part of when the first day of school arrives. Full of wonder, action, and fun, this book offers a chance for readers to pore over its many small scenes. It warms the heart and will help to ease the tension that comes with new endeavors. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

IF ONLY ... written and illustrated by Mies Van Hout. Translated by David Colmer. Pajama Press, 2021. $22.95 ages 2 and up


"The stick insect thought, 
If only I were a whirligig beetle. 
Then I could swirl across the water.

The whirligig beetle thought, 
If only I were a firefly. 
Then I'd never be scared of the dark.

It's a familiar refrain. isn't it? If only ...

The book begins with a child's wish to be a butterfly; flying seems such an awesome enterprise. Who knew the butterfly would be thinking about being something different, too? With each turn of the page, children are treated to eye-catching, color-filled collage environments that are home to a long lineup of tiny creatures. 

Readers come to understand that each of the creatures has a specific characteristic that sets them apart from the others; each is also envious of that next particullar trait. A firefly would like to be a bee that always has friends to help. A spider would like to be a ladybug that is 'adorable', and not scary to so many. 

The repeating text makes this stylish and entertaining book fodder for emerging early readers who are sure to find support here. It celebrates the differences that make each one special, and helps young readers appreciate strengths in others. It is a spirited look at nature in all its glory. Young readers will love that it is a 'circle' book that returns them to the child (and others) they met at the outset. Children can do many things that creatures cannot. 

Back matter offers a glossary of the featured creatures, acccompanied by a thumbnail sketch and a sentence or two of description. Following that, there is a step-by-step guide for creating collage art resembling that created for this book by Ms. Van Hout. 

If only, what? 

After reading this book with young readers and others, it would be a telling exercise to ask that question of both children and adults.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Brave As A Mouse, written and illustrated by Nicolo Carozzi. Random House Studio, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"It was a brave idea. 

But was it a good idea?

It was not."

In an empty room sits a fishbowl, containing one small goldfish. A tiny mouse visitor wanders in and wonders about playing together. Readily agreeing to the invitation, the two find they have things in common to help pass the time. Until ... the shadows expose three frightening figures. Each shows an intense interest in the tiny fish. 

The mouse distracts the three cats by playing a game of chase. Through a doorway, over the bed, up the curtains; there is no stopping them. Finally, the mouse heads for the pantry, hoping he has not made a big mistake. Cornered, it seems it might have been. 

Luckily, the cats find something much tastier than one tiny mouse. They tear into their own bags of cat food, after which they fall into a deep sleep. Knowing that sleep won't last precipitates a daring rescue. With help from resident mice, a escape plan is devised and accomplished by putting the fish in a water-filled teacup, and carrying it through city streets to the nearby river. What ingenuity! What fine friends! 

Nicolo Carozzi 'used graphite on paper with digital enhancing to create the illustrations for this book.' Each winning scene is realistic and quite remarkable. 

Quietly told despite the suspense, this tale's minimal text resounds with perfectly timed action. Readers will be delighted with the happy ending.                                                                                     

Monday, August 16, 2021

Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use, written by Richard Haynes and illustrated by Stephanie Laberis. Candlewick Press. 2021. $23.99 ages 9 and up

"To dig out those pieces stuck between 
its teeth, a macaque uses twigs, long
coconut fibers, or even pieces of its own
hair to dislodge the food. 

Female macaques floss slowly in order 
to show their young how it's done. Up,
down, up, down -
and out flies a seed 
or a little chunk of food.

If you want middle graders to maintain reading interest, and follow up with further research - and if they love learning about animals - a book like this will go a long way toward achieving that goal for them. Information provided in this book about twenty different animals and how they use tools to get their business done is enough to pique further interest. I guarantee it will also have numerous readers aching to learn more. That was the goal, right? 

The table of contents provides an excellent start for the reading. Each of the six chapters deal with tools that have specific purposes: neat and clean; health and healing; defense; hunting, harvesting and eating; comfort, and joy. An invitation, to be sure. In back matter, the author offers a conclusion, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index.  

Let's start with a world map. Six of the seven continents (not Antarctica) are shown, and the twenty animals included are placed where they can be found in the world. The animals will be familiar for many of the book's readers: bald eagle, crow, green heron, sea otter, Florida harvester ant, American bison, coconut octopus, Galapagos woodpecker finch, white-face capuchin, bearded capuchin, red colobus, African elephant, black-and-white colobus, boxer crab, bottlenose dolphin, orangutan, long-tailed macaque, olive baboon, long-tailed tailorbird, and white stork. Pick a place, and pick an animal. Check the index to find the correct page ... and you are off on a journey of discovery. 

Dolls - page 25 ... 

"Young female orangutans in particular, 
in Borneo and Sumatra, have been observed
taking small bundles of leaves to bed with them. 
They hold and cuddle these bundles through 
the night, as a human child might do with
a doll. This behavior might very well be 
practice for the day when they have little 
orangutans of their own.

Digital full-page and spot images add realistic scenes and settings for the animals presented. Pertinent paragraphs explain the unique ways in which the tools are used. Readers will be entertained and intrigued by the ways animals have adapted to find the tools they need for an easier existence. Close observation and determined research have led to many amazing discoveries.What an awesome book this is for home and classroom. What ingenious inventors these animals have proven to be!                                                              

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Puppy In My Head: A Book about Mindfulness, written and illustrated by Elise Gravel. Harper. 2020. $21.99 ages 3 and up


"I breathe in and out for 
a few more times ...
as many times as it takes, 

Ollie follows my breath and comes
to sit right next to me, we CUDDLE.

He's asleep now. See? He just needed

Ollie brings great joy to the child who loves him. He is playful, sleepy, inquisitive, even eager. Then, there are the times when he is out-of-control excited, or scared, or nervous about something. In those times, he creates chaos for himself and his caregiver. She finds herself responding in ways that are as frantic as the puppy in her head. 

Luckily, she has a magic leash. 

"It's not a leash that you can see. It's 
invisible. The leash is my BREATH.

As she sits quietly and breathes deeply and audibly in and out, Ollie is calmed by the sounds. He comes closer. As he listens, he gives in to sleep which puts both is a much better place. Mindful breathing is not the only thing she can do to help her puppy deal with his needs. She can also walk with him, throw a ball for him, and make sure she is doing her best to be a strong and thoughtful owner.

In sharing these techniques when thinking about a puppy, Ms. Gravel offers guidance to children who have too much in their heads and need ways to cope with the anxiety they are feeling. Using quiet, controlled breathing, getting outside for some exercise, and talking to someone can help alleviate the stress. It's an important message for all. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Thao, written and illustrated by Thao Lam. Owlkids, 2021.$19.95 ages 4 and up


"T as in Tom.

H like Henry. 

A for Amy. 

It would be 
so much easier if 
my name were 
Olivia ... "

When authors recount their own personal experiences, they show their young readers that they are not alone. In this memoir, Thao Lam poignantly shares events from her childhood. 

As the book opens, the children and adults who surround her pay her full attention. It is easy to see that she is new to their group. Clutching at her red outfit and bordered in stark white, she stands apart from all others. This photo from her childhood allows readers to see her discomfort.  

"It's not easy being Thao."

She shows how difficult life can be for immigrants as the people she is with make many, many attempts to get her name right. Some come close. Of course, they are others who don't even try. They would rather make a self-conscious Vietnamese child even more uncomfortable: China Girl, Shrimp, Toot Toot, Thaw, Tao the Cow, Yellow. 

On the day she decides to be called Jennifer, she goes to school and does d all the normal things that everyone else is doing. The discovery of what her mom has packed for her lunch resets her pride in her heritage. The final two pages have her sounding out and spelling her full name with confidence - and a touch of humor. 

Using mixed-media that includes collage and often-changed fonts, Ms. Lam also inserts childhood photos to make readers aware that this is a very personal look at her life as a new immigrant.  

Simple, yet profound, and full of heart and empathy for those whose initial struggles are similar. 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Hidden Treasure, written and illustrated by Elly MacKay. Running Press, Hachette. 2021. $22.99 ages 3 and up

"In movies, treasure is always hidden -
pirate treasure, lost and forbidden. 
But treasure is everywhere. 
You don't need a map to know it's there."

Elly MacKay's books have garnered many fans. The art she has created for this book about finding treasure is a treasure in itself. Her child narrator is a collector of the little gems to be found in the places we visit every day. Her day at the beach with her grandfather finds her playing in the sand, at water's edge while looking closely at land and sky, and diving deep to find unseen shells that sparkle when the sunlight hits them, a rock, a rusty key, and a marble. 

Some treasures you can't hold or collect. You have to return to see them again. At the end of the day, she will choose only one, with her Papa's help, to take home in her special treasure tin. A hard decision to make, but worthwhile. In the end, the best treasure of all is spending the day with her grandfather and her furry friend. 

Lovely! Be prepared to head outside with your little ones to see what treasures you can find in familiar everyday places.                                                                                 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Rock From the Sky, written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $22.99

"There is another spot
over there. Do you see it?

Yes, I see it. 

I will go and stand in it, 
to see if it feels better 
than this spot.

Oh, I love a revisit with Jon Klassen! In this substantial book, he tells five connected short stories. Each of them is entirely written in dialogue. Readers meet a turtle, an armadillo, and a snake. Each sports a hat - not a surprise for Klassen fans. I feel I should also mention a meteor (said 'rock from the sky') and an alien. There you have it - a complete list of characters. 

Chosen fonts allow readers to know who is speaking. Each story has its own focus: being a bit too close to a catastrophic event, saving face after a fall, the arrival of an alien unknown, an inability to appreciate the beauty of a sunset, and finally, a spat over feelings and another very CLOSE call. 

There is suspense, surprise, humor, and a lot of smarts in this classic Jon Klassen storytelling. As luck would have it, each character emerges unscathed though perhaps a touch embarrassed. I LOVE IT!


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Mr. Brown's Bad Day, written by Lou Peacock and illustrated by Alison Friend. Nosy Crow, Candlewick Press. Penguin Random House, 2020. $22.99 ages 4 and up


"Fortunately for Mr. Brown, the ice cream
seller soon stopped ... 

but unfortunately for Mr. Brown, 
some schoolchildren accidentally 
took the briefcase for a ride. 

"Wait!" shouted Mr. Brown. "Wait!
That's my very important briefcase!

Mr. Brown considers himself a very important person. His days are filled with work of importance, and his briefcase is full to the brim with important matter. People count on him to do the important work they need him to do. He does have a regular routine that is not altered by his importance. Every day he goes to the nearby park to have his lunch, and he always takes his briefcase. As he eats his lunch, he thinks meaningful thoughts, his case at his side. On this particular that careful thinking keeps him from seeing a baby grab his briefcase and carry it away. Oh, dear! 

Luckily, the baby is close by and he plans to catch up ... until the case caught up on the back of an ice cream seller's bicycle. Off it goes! Each new scenario has Mr. Brown close to catching hold of the case, before something else gets in the way of its rescue. The adventure continues, until he finally has the chance to claim it as his own. 

As rain drenches him and night falls, he makes his way home, where he quickly checks to be sure all of the important items he always carries with him are safe and secure. They are! What surprise awaits those reading about his adventurous day.

Both funny and sweet, a perfect way to end a child's day! 

Mixed media illustrations capture warm surroundings and humorous action, adding to the overall appeal of the book. Listeners will love seeing what Mr. Brown leaves behind in his quest to retrieve his very important briefcase.                                                                                             

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Zion Unmatched, written by Zion Clark and James S. Hirsch. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 8 and up


"Technically, I'm disabled but I refuse 
to see my body as less than whole. There
is a difference between not having legs
and believing you are missing something, 
and I can't miss what I've never had.

Inspiration for young readers comes from many different places. Zion Clark's story allows them to see the hard work and determination it takes to find the life you were meant to live. Zion was born without legs, given up for adoption as soon as he was born, and spent the first seventeen years of his life in foster homes where he was too often abused or neglected. It was never his intention to be less than he was because he 'was lower to the ground'. Adopted at 17 and encouraged endlessly to do what he believed he was capable of doing, he has done exactly that. 

"Whatever your physical condition, success is intentional. 
In my case, I began wrestling in second grade and lost 
virtually every match until I was a senior in high school. 
But that year, I finished 33 - 15. I also won the state 
championship in the 100-meter and 400-meter seated 
racing competitions. My goal is to compete in the 
Paralympics and bring home a medal for my mother.

It didn't happen this year. After reading about just some of his many accomplishments, I have no doubt we will hear his name in Paris four years from now. Filled with stunning photos, and meaningful quotes from exceptional people in his life, this book is sure to surprise readers with the many amazing feats of this very dedicated and relentless young man. 

There is so much more to know about him. 

Luckily, today launches the Netflix Original Documentary Short, ZION: Possibility Is a Question of Perspective. I know I will watch it, and I hope you do the same. 

Visit for further information.                                                                           

Monday, August 9, 2021

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, written by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Dung Ho. Harper, 2021. $21.99 ages

"Mama's eyes that kiss in the corners
and glow like warm tea crinkle into 
crescent moons
           when she comes home from work.
           She scoops me in her arms,
                 eyes sparkling like starlight, 
                         and tickles me
                         until we laugh ourselves onto the floor.

I have two quotes from the amazing Walter Dean Myers on the message board that I see from my desk chair every day while I am writing. 

The first one says: Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. 
What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?

The second one is equally meaningful: We need diversity because kids who never
see themselves in a book will eventually become kids we never see with a book. 

Very wise words, Mr. Myers. 

Today, we are blessed to have authors writing from diverse cultures, and a growing number of publishers choosing books that reflect that diversity in the books they choose to bring to an audience.  By buying these books, we encourage growth where this has not long been the case. All children need perspective in stories; their reading lives are made better by growing diversity in the books they read. 

Joanne Ho has written this beautiful debut that introduces a young girl who has 'eyes that kiss in the corners'.  She recognizes the differences between her eyes and those of her friends. She is very proud of the eyes that make her look like her Mama, her Amah and her little sister, Mei-Mei. Each one of them have eyes that 'kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.'

What an exquisite and positive description that is. Ms. Ho's expressive text pays homage to each of the girls and women depicted here. Dung Ho matches its tone with luminescent light and warmth in her digital images. Careful observation allows the reader to note the many ovals meant to match the shape of the family's eyesand to focus on Chinese culture. There is much to see in this stunning artwork that reflects the joy and pride felt by our young narrator. 

This first book for Ms. Ho projects a legacy of family love and celebration; it is emotional and captivating because of the pride felt in heritage and identity.  

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The House of Grass and Sky, written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by E.B. Goodale. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"The house had a tree with a swing, 
a garden with roses, and a family. 
It was happy. 

As years went by, other families came and went. 

The house learned about babies being born
and babies growing up. 
It learned about bedtime stories and 
birthday parties.

The old house is the center of attention here. It stands with its memories of families past, of sounds, smells and sights that permeated its walls while people lived there, happy and content in its shelter. There is no one now, and the house is lonely as can be. It notes the changes in the seasons, and it feels forlorn. It wishes for a family with children and waits rather impatiently for someone to discover it to be the perfect place for a good life. 

The house is small and its place in the quiet countryside is not a real draw for a family wanting a new place to start. Time passes slowly; the house ages. When a family finally arrives (with children!), the house feels content. The children want to stay. The parents see its advantages. But they go away, too! 

"That night the stars and the moon
are small comfort. And it is the same 
the next night. And the next.

Surprise! They return, working hard to return it to its earlier glory. They want to know what the house has to offer ... and to make new memories there. Cozy warmth is captured in elegant, nostalgic images done in mixed media. They provide contrast in the feelings expressed to the book's readers: at first happy, then forlorn and lonely, and finally happy and hopeful once more. 

What's special about your house? How does it make you feel? What are some of your best memories there?                                                                                         

Saturday, August 7, 2021

The End is Just the Beginning, written by Mike Bender and illustrated by Diana Mayo. Crown Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Like this beautiful sunset. 
Sure seems like the end 
of the day, right?

Not so fast. 
You see, when the sun goes down, 
it's actually just
the beginning of the night.

Readers will be intrigued by the idea for this book; it begins with THE END. But it's also provides a new beginning. It is narrated by a caterpillar whose initial warning is just what young children need to hear if we want them to carry on with the reading. They will want to find out what is happening here.: '... because the end isn't really the end. It's just the beginning of something else!'

In a series of observations, the author offers readers another way to look at common events that seem to be ending, but are really the beginning of something equally amazing. 

"When all the snow melts  
at the end of winter, 
that just means it's 
the beginning of spring."

In artwork created using acrylic paint, colored pencil and collage, Diana Mayo provides a warm and inviting setting for each of the statements meant to cause readers to think seriously about the premise of this book: beginnings and endings. From the dark blues of space and the ocean deeps to the warm sand of a shared beach, she makes connections between the two children depicted in various scenarios. 

Really? Books don't start with an ending! Or do they?  

I would love to be in on the conversation that invites listeners to think of their own ends and beginnings. They are sure to have some great ideas, if given time to think and consider what they have just heard.                                                                                 

Friday, August 6, 2021

Masters of Disguise: Camouflaging Creatures and Magnificent Mimics, written and illustrated by Marc Martin. Candlewick Studio, Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99 ages 3 and up


"Hanging Out 

Sloths are arboreal animals, meaning they 
spend nearly all their time in trees, gripping 
branches with the help of their long, powerful
claws. They descend to the ground only to 
find a mate, establish new territory, or poop
(which they do only once a week!)

This is a terrific book for kids and adults who love a challenge, while learning more about the natural world. A dozen animals are presented, in full-color, textured artwork using watercolor, pencil and digital collage. The illustrations immerse readers in an interactive search for each of the featured animals, whose homes are found on every continent but Antarctica. A world map on the endpapers provide context for each. 

A double-page spread introduces each one, with clearly-captioned information and illustrations that describe their many distinct features. A turn of the page hides them in their fully-realized habitat. The author notes some of the other animals that live alongside them, and then offers a counting challenge to find them all. 

"Slothful Swaying

Three-toed sloths spend most of 
their time suspended in the treetops
among birds like the hyacinth macaw, 
red-and-green macaw, plum-throated 
cotinga, and oropendola. Can you spot
all twelve sloths in this rain forest?

That sent me looking to read a description of the plum-throated cotinga and an oropendola. As well as that, I will admit that a few of the spreads had me looking more than once. My granddaughters who have a great love for learning about animals will be much better at discovery than I am. They will be delighted to help, I'm sure. Scientifically accurate, conversational in tone, and enhanced with the luxuriant beauty of, the Earth's diverse habitats, this is a book to be savored through many readings. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Out Into the Big Wide Lake, written by Paul Harbridge and illustrated by Josee Bisaillon. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $22.99 ages 6 and up

"Next morning, after sweet tea and 
pancakes and sticky syrup, Kate 
helped Grandpa carry groceries 
to the boat. When it was full, Grandpa
threw off the ropes and started the 

It is evident from the book's first page that Kate has a few challenges. A knock at the door has her welcoming her grandmother. It turns out that Grandma wants Kate to come to the lake to spend the summer with her grandparents. Her mom is apprehensive; Grandma is persuasive. Kate is up for the adventure. 

That adventure begins with a train ride to the lake where her grandparents own a store. The first night in her mother's childhood bedroom is strange for Kate. She wishes she were home. The following morning, she and her Grandpa head out on their first grocery delivery. Their stops introduce community members, and allow Kate to act as first mate. Their last stop before lunch is Walter, a grumpy and mean-spirited man. 

Home they go for lunch. While Grandpa minds the store, Grandma and Kate take the boat into the big lake where Kate gets her first lesson in navigation. 

"Grandma took her hand off. 
Kate steered the boat in a circle. 
"A natural sailor," said Grandma.

So their days go: delivering groceries, an often-uncomfortable visit with Walter, and an evening boat ride. When her grandfather falls ill, Kate, her trusty canine pal Arbuckle at her side, decides to do what she knows how to do. Walter is her last stop. When she tells him that Grandpa is sick, Walter steps into the boat with instructions that they need to get moving. 

A surprising revelation and her mom's arrival to help with deliveries, while Grandpa rests, brings the story to a lovely conclusion.  

Paul Harbridge dedicates his book to 'my brave, loving, little sister Linda Catherine Harbridge', who has Down syndrome. Her athletic skills and many achievements inspired him to create Kate, a courageous and self-confident young girl.  

Mixed media illustrations will have readers longing for their own lake adventures.                                                                                      

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

A Garden in Your Belly: Meet the Microbes in Your Gut, written and illustrated by Masha D'Yans. Millbrook Press, Thomas Allen and Son. 2020. $26.99 ages 8 and up


"Your microorganisms come in many
forms. Some are simple. Some are fancy.
Some are friendly, and some are not. 

Some kinds have existed for a million years!

Most microorganisms help your body do 
things it cannot do by itself. They protect 
YOU and the river every minute they're 

Describing the intestine as a 'river', this book explains that it has many twists and turns. Were that not so, and the 'river' were stretched to its full length, it would be ten times taller than the child whose body it inhabits. Wow!  

The author shows readers that humans collect new microbes as they live ... everything they touch and all that they eat becomes a garden in the body. They are different in shape and color, and constantly do the job they are meant to do. 

"Your garden microorganisms put out
fires and take the garbage out. Sometimes
they have adventures and strange encounters. 
They can even influence your thoughts and feelings.

There are things that can be done to keep the 'gut' healthy and strong. Ms. D'Yans encourages readers to get enough exercise (preferably where the air is fresh and clean), drink plenty of water, and eat foods that are good for them. This makes the microbes very happy. 

But ... without healthy food, bad microbes make their way inside. Too many sweets, not enough fresh air, and a lack of attention paid to hydration, create weakness in the body's systems. The only way to change that is to return to good habits. 

"Take good care of your garden, 
and it will always have your back.

And belly! 

And heart! 

And head!"

Watercolors and digital art provide bold, detailed and most enjoyable spreads meant to attract attention while also being very informative and accessible. Back matter includes more pertinent explanations in What is the Microbiome?, a glossary and Amazing Gut Facts.