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Sunday, October 31, 2021

Cat Problems, written by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith. Random House Studio, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

 


"I want to eat 
that plant. 

I want
to chomp
that book. 

I watch to scratch the couch, 
but I already tore all the 
material off both arms. 

I want to rip 
that curtain. 

But hey, that's just me."

In this third book in the Animal Problems series, a constantly disagreeable cat wants its audience to know just how difficult it is to lead a life on the inside. Because it is disgruntled, it is determined to let readers know why it feels as it does: the moving sunbeam, a lack of sleep, those who forget to feed it or feed it the wrong food, a flinching feline member of the household who stoops to being in the place it has chosen to be. 

It lacks privacy, is annoyed by unknown noises, feels threatened by a vacuum, and despises its life led on the inside. The list goes on. As it sits by the window moaning about boredom, it is set straight in a full-on diatribe from a squirrel on the outside. Finally, its complaining leads to being fed the desired food. Will that change the attitude carried with it throughout an entire day? What do you think? 

A book that offers such a distinct and whining voice is just the kind of book I long to read in classrooms. There is so much text to build on, and children's responses are always filled with giggles and a plea for it to be read again. 

Jory John and Lane Smith are obviously owned by their cats. They know the ins and outs of feline behavior and it is evident in this take on living with a cat. The voice is engaging, the artwork provides the proof in the pudding with its inspired images of a cat controlling the narrative from start to finish.  It's a lively, dramatic, and humorous tale that kids will want to hear more than one time.                                                                                    

                                                                          


Saturday, October 30, 2021

Inside Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

 

"Inside cat knows many windows, 
finds a view wherever it goes. 

Wanders. 
Wonders. 

Nibbles.
Naps. 

Knows what's hiding in the gaps."

Brendan Wenzel uses many materials (watercolor, acrylic, pencil, crayon, cut-paper and more ...) to tell this story of an inside cat, the building where it resides, and the amazing world outside its windows. These windows hold pride of place for both the cat and those who read its story. What an adventure in perspective! 

In an earlier cat book, They All Saw a Cat (2018), readers saw that particular cat from wide variety in mindset. In this one, it is the cat that is looking. It is able to see the world outside through the windows of its cat-shaped home (a fact not known until the end of the book). Outside is all bright colors; inside is pale washes of faint blue. What the cat sees is impacted by what is known about the outside world, and the condition of the windows it uses. 

"Glass all dusty. 
Glass so streaky. 
Glass gone gloomy. 
Glass way freaky. 

Glass all bubbly. 
Glass got broken. 
Glass that's blocked
and glass wide open.
"

What is out there? Is the cat brave enough to venture beyond its windows into the world it has only seen from the inside? Rich and detailed, you will want to read this more than one time. Each time you will see something new.                                                                          


Friday, October 29, 2021

The Thing Lenny Loves MOST about Baseball, written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Milan Pavlovic. Kids Can Press. 2021. $19.99 ages 5 and up

 


"That night, Lenny looks for more facts 
in his Big Book of Baseball Facts. 

Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron were great players. 
They were all-stars. Hall of Famers! But they 
struck out more often than they hit home runs.
They weren't great all the time. 

I love that about baseball, thinks Lenny."

The first two games of the World Series have been played, with one game going to each of the teams vying for the coveted trophy. There is no doubt that those who love baseball will be glued to their TV sets over the next week or so; included will be young baseball fans who also love to read books about baseball. So, it seems appropriate to share Andrew Larsen's new book with you now. 

It is a father-son story of working together to get better at baseball. Lenny has dreams of a future in the big leagues. His father encourages him at every turn. After coming home from playing catch at the baseball field, Lenny goes straight to his favorite book, The Big Book of Baseball Facts. He is sure that learning all he can about baseball will make him the player he wants to be. He shares facts from the book with his dad. 

Finally, it's the first game of baseball season. Lenny is in his outfield position when a ball is hit right to him. He misses the catch. It's enough to make him wonder if he should be playing. Hid dad encourages him to take time to practice. Before bed, Lenny learns that both Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron had bad games. 'They weren't great all the time', according to his book. 

Father and son are back to the ball field the following day. They practice and practice without success. Back they go the next day. After many throws, a catch is made! At the next game, practice pays off and Lenny makes a great catch. It's all he needs. Who knows what the future holds for him? 

Milan Pavlovic captures the emotions and actions of the story on paper and digitally. He uses panels, full and single-page spreads to bring baseball to the fore, while also showing the loving support given by a caring parent.   

Back to cheering for your favorite team, be they Astros or Braves!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

My City Speaks, written by Darren Lebeuf and illustrated by Ashley Barron. Kids Can Press, 2021. $19.99 ages 3 and up

 


"My city grows. 

My city is busy 
             and relaxed. 

My city plays 
              and works. 

It walks and runs and climbs and slides."

A young girl and her father explore their city with great joy. They love its streets, noises, movement, smells, and the feelings it evokes as they journey together through their eventful day. There is constant activity as they travel its streets, a community garden, a construction site, a park bench, and a busy playground. 

There are smells (not always pleasant), tastes (sometimes sweet), rain showers, subway travel, and music to enjoy. That music is provided by the young visually-impaired child whose company young readers have enjoyed every step of her day. As she finishes her concert, her father provides hugs and great pride. She wonders what might be said of her performance the next day. 

Astute observers will note from the brightly-colored collage on the front cover that the young narrator is visually impaired. She carries a white cane as she walks beside her father. As they walk, readers are made aware that she senses the city scenes through smell, touch, and sound. 

"My city speaks with hasty honks,
impatient beeps, distant chimes, 
reliable rumbles, speedy sirens and 
urgent clangs.
"

The language is specific and appealing. Ashley Barron creates detailed visuals that match the text perfectly, showing the warm bond between father and daughter as they explore their city on a day's outing. This is a rich celebration of an urban environment! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Bodies Are Cool, written and illustrated by Tyler Feder. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

 

"Dark skin, olive skin, 
every shade of brown skin, 
pinky-pale or peach skin. 
Bodies are cool! 

Poofy hair, wavy hair, 
springy curls and flat hair, 
lots of hair or no hair. 
Bodies are cool!
"

Cool is right! Little kids don't judge people by the way they look unless ... and it's a big 'unless' ... they hear those they love comment on differences and react with indifference or distaste. It is a fine line for adults these days. News, television, magazines, social media all have a hand in contributing casual, or not so casual, comments on size, shape, race, sexual identity, and wardrobe. Little ones are learners, and they listen to such comments, inadvertently accepting the tone of that conversation. 

Tyler Feder honors every type of body in this welcome and thought-provoking book. She illustrates and describes bodies seen wherever people gather. The bodies are from different cultures, and of different ages, genders, disabilities, and physical shapes and sizes. Each double-page spread offers a new gathering place filled with activity and joy: public transportation, a dance class, a mural installation, the park, a campfire, a movie theater, a farmer's market, an ice cream shop, an art class, the pool, a birthday party, a neighborhood barbecue and a community celebration. The rhythmic text makes for a great read aloud for classrooms, and with small groups. 

"Growing bodies, aging bodies, 
features-rearranging bodies, 
magic ever-changing bodies. 
Bodies are cool! 

Body love is a resonant and achievable goal when it's given a fair shake in the world. Careful observation of the fully detailed spreads, followed by meaningful conversation are sure to result in a growth in confidence and pride about all bodies. Kids need to see themselves in the books they read. This book offers a REAL look at the people they come in contact with each and every day.                                                                               



Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A Walk in the Words, written and illustrated by Hudson Talbott. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 6 and up

 

"I took time to look 
for words that I knew. 

There they were! 

Like stepping-stones
leading me onward. 

I jumped over the words
I didn't know, 
and let the words
I knew lead me into the story.
"

In a first-rate book that speaks of his own reading journey, Hudson Talbott gives voice to a young boy who loves to draw. After school every day, he comes home to his art supplies and long swaths of drawing paper. Drawing the stories he imagines provides pleasure and assurance. 

It is not the same at school. There, he is the slowest reader, well behind all of his classmates. As the images become less available to him and the words take up all the space, he retreats from books. 

"I had to face it:
I was alone and lost in a world of ... 

WORDS"

Slowly, very slowly, he comes to grips with the challenges of reading and begins to feel more confident in finding his way. He learns that many of the most brilliant historical figures also had reading difficulties that didn't stop them from doing great things. He is no longer ashamed of his 'failures' and finds a way to combine storytelling with art to find success. 

Using watercolors, colored pencil, and ink to help tell his story, Mr. Talbott creates a clear and honest look at the many feelings he experienced as he walked in the words to find his own love of reading ... on his terms and in his time. 

In the author's note that concludes this book, Hudson Talbott explains some of the difficulties he experienced as an emergent reader. He recalls the pressure that made reading even harder for him as he struggled to meet the requirements for all children to be at the same place on their reading journey. Being the one that didn't fit the mold was very uncomfortable for him, and he didn't get much school support for the difficulties he was facing. 

At home, he found comfort in pictures. He was curious about what they represented. Using them, he managed to generate confidence in himself to be a reader. 

"The less I thought about reading,
the more I read. I had crossed a 
threshold. Fear no longer prevented
me from finding my way with words.
"                                                                                   


Monday, October 25, 2021

Change Sings: A Children's Anthem, written by Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99 ages 4 and up

 


"I'm bright as the light each day brings. 

There is love where my change sings. 

I show others tolerance, 

Though it might take some courage."

If you were expecting marvelous work from Amanda Gorman following her President Biden inauguration poem, you won't be disappointed with her first picture book. You will be again captivated by her words in this new anthem for children. 

She writes in rhythmic verses, using a first-person narrator. The young girl carries a guitar and moves through urban streets, observing a huge mural of Martin Luther King Jr., and his wise words. She is joined there by another child who is playing a French Horn. Together, they clear garbage, provide food for the needy, deliver groceries to an elderly woman and, with help from a young trumpet player, build a ramp for a young girl in a wheelchair. She is the drummer in their procession, and they add one more band mate from a nearby park. He plays the trombone. Their work is not done; their willingness to be helpful sets an example for others. 

"I also walk our differences, 
to show we are the same. 

I'm a movement that roars and springs,
There's a wave where my change sings.
"

The book reads like a song and feels like one as well. Loren Long fully complements the rich text with acrylic and colored pencil images that extends meaning to story form. Alternating between full color and white space backgrounds, he gives life and presence to each of these children who change the world through the song they sing within their hearts. Uplifting, confident, and a joy to read. 

Please put this admirable book in your library or on your family bookshelf to be experienced again and again!                                                                             


Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Longest Storm, written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. minedition, Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99 ages 4 and up

 

"It did. 

We were completely sick 
of each other. 

Is it possible for a family 
to run out of nice things 
to say? 

Everyone just wanted to be alone."

This is the third book in recent months that explores the Covid-19 pandemic and how it has impacted families everywhere. 

https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/7130079189010543417/7456827465080608467

https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/7130079189010543417/5532866579965699375

In this new book, Dan Yaccarino uses a storm as metaphor for the isolation felt by a family spending all their time together over a long period of time. A parent, three children, and a dog are forced to weather a relentless event 'unlike any storm we'd ever seen'. No one is happy about being inside with nothing to do, and too much time on their hands. It begins as strange, progresses to bad, and moves on to worse. 

Could it really get even worse than that? No one wanted to be with the others. Until one night, when a very scary bolt of lightning brings only darkness. The family finds solace in being together again. Apologies make a difference; they do not change the storm. But something has definitely changed for the better. 

"Someone would get angry at someone else. 

Just not for all that long. 

Then things started to get better, a little every day. 

Until things were good."

Many families will share these same feelings and experiences. This book reassures readers that things will improve, but it will not be an easy wait. Mr. Yaccarino's strong lines and bright colors change dramatically in accordance with life both inside and outside. Tension is palpable, the telling is honest, and the ending hopeful. 

No one knew how long it would last. We were going to have to stay inside, maybe for a long while.” 

                                                                           


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals. Written by Katy S. Duffield and illustrated by Mike Orodan. Beach Lane Books, 2020. $25.99 ages 5 and up

 

"“Over, under, across, through.

Around the world, construction crews build overpasses,
underpasses, bridges, and tunnels - ways for people
to get from one place to another.

But what about the animals that live in
these places? What happens when construction spreads
over, 
under, across, and through their habitats?
Around the world, in search of solutions, animal
lovers come together. 

Opening their minds and their 
hearts, they work to find ideas, answers.

I was intrigued by the premise for this book over a long period of time. I did not order it until recently; I am delighted that I did and very happy to share it with you. It shows readers that there are fine humans throughout the world willing to work hard to ensure the safety of wildlife. Together, they create ways for animals to move, without fear, 'over, under, across and through' busy highways. 

The crossings they have created are the subject of this remarkable book. Ms. Duffield presents 12 different animal passages that have been built for two reasons. They are meant for regular use, or for seasonal migration. They are built for elephants, black bears, pangolins, spotted salamanders and other inhabitants of both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. A world map at the conclusion of the book plots each animal on the map, and provides further information pertinent to their survival. 

Information concerning each of the crossings is shared in two ways on the spread. One is a sentence describing the animal, the technology that created its specific passage, and where it is found. The material provided in a smaller font adds data about the planning and building and its usefulness. Keen readers will also find satisfaction in seeing the many machines used for construction. The illustrations are clear and telling, offered on double-page spreads which make the book easy to share in a school classroom, or library. Young readers will love seeing how these crossings protect vulnerable animal families. 

"The Trans-Canada Highway is home to more than forty wildlife overpasses and underpasses."

"Coyotes creep OVER the rush of Arizona motorists below."

"Pangolins teeter-totter toward their burrows ACROSS a Singapore expressway."

Mike Orod├ín’s pencil illustrations, finished in Photoshop, use light and shadow to show readers perspective and fine close-up looks at the animals being protected. These animals deserve the attention that is sure to come their way as this book is shared, and then shared again. 

Back matter further informs and is useful for those wanting to learn more than this exceptional book provides.                                                                                       


Friday, October 22, 2021

Time is a Flower, written and illustrated by Julie Morstad. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

 

"Time is a sunbeam,
          changing 
       the shadows
       and shapes 
    of everything. 

The sleeping cat 
    knows this.
" 

Thoughtful and lyrical, Ms. Morstad defines time in its many dimensions. Her writing is flawlessly paced to help children understand a very difficult and abstract concept for little ones. With its carefully-chosen language and exemplary artwork, she invites her readers to think deeply and begin to understand
the passing of time and the usefulness of clocks and calendars. 

"Time is a tree. 
As it grows, so do you. 

Who will be taller 
in two years?

In ten years? 

In fifty years?"

Using pencil, markers, colored inks and pastels assembled digitally, the author adds images of the same young child growing to maturity as the tree does, allowing readers to see the progression as time goes by. 

There is much to see in the artistic renderings for the many offered metaphors. Bold colors, changing perspectives, and plenty of movement hold attention, and encourage readers to revisit the book's pages.  I am especially fond of the double page spread that shows a group of unique and diverse faces as the progression of time reveals the changes that result. Arrows show keen eyes how to move from one image to the next.  

"Time is a face whose 
lines and shapes change
little by little, year by year.
"                                                                                 


Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Perfect Plan, written and illustrated by Leah Gilbert. Bloomsbury, Raincoast. 2021. $24.50 ages 4 and up

 


"So, together, they heaved and tugged, 
carried and lugged.

Soon all the branches 
were moved. 

But none of them were tall enough to lift the 
branches high into the trees. 

Fortunately, Maya knew just which animal 
was a great climber!
"

Maya loves the natural world, and longs to live in a tree fort ... a place of her own 'to hide out and read, to dream and play.' She knows exactly what she wants, plans for its construction, and heads off to make her dream a reality. She finds a perfect spot in the forest, and goes to work following her well-made plan. 

It takes little time to realize that, while her plan is a good one, it is a difficult task for one little girl. She first enlists the help of a family of beavers. Their special skills provide the branches needed to begin. Who will help move them? Enter a moose with the skills needed and a willing heart. Who will help get the branches into the trees? Why not a bear family? Eager to help, they get the wood in place. The branches need stability. Have you seen what birds can do when building secure nests? 

Just when her fort is nearly completed, rain pours down and stormy winds whistle. Will her fort withstand such a test? 

Maya is a young, independent girl, gifted with ingenuity, gumption, and zeal. Her willingness to ask for help needed allows her dream to come to fruition. Digital illustrations of the forest setting are infused with light, and wonder. The endpapers are eye-catching; the final spread is glorious.                                                                                    


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma, written by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Teresa Martinez. Harper, 2021. $21.99 ages 5 and up

 


"Feet planted on the soil of one nation, 
eyes gazing at the shores of another. 
Yo-Yo Ma guided his bow gracefully 
back and forth
across the strings of his cello. 

Built in Italy, 
his cello was made from parts
that came from lands of 
many languages.
"

Since reading this winning picture book biography, I have spent time learning more about Yo-Yo Ma, his performances and his bridge building between cultures, and about Bach's six suites. It is what I love about the amazing biographies being published for children. They inspire interest and new learning for all who read and share them. 

This particular event happened in Laredo, Texas on the U.S. - Mexico border two years ago. It was the inspiration needed for Joanna Ho to pen this gracious account of Yo-Yo Ma's life and career. Using music, Mr. Ma does his part to inspire unity between cultures globally. Readers interested in music will follow up by learning more about the Silk Road Ensemble and the Bach Project. 

Petunia, his cello, is lovingly described as being created with materials from Italy, Brazil, Mongolia, India and West Africa. The two have recorded more than one hundred albums, won numerous awards, and performed for countless audiences. 

To complement Ms. Ho's childhood memories of listening to Bach's cello suites and her admiration for the prolific cellist himself, Teresa Martinez has created tender scenes that include musical notes which relay the magic felt while listening. Her spreads of children and adults holding hands across the border are full of kindness and unity. 

Extensive back matter is illuminating, and inspiring. 

"Fingers flying over four strings, Yo-Yo Ma made
improbable melodies, a harmony of notes,
a symphony of sound, from a single cello. He played
at the border between nations, between cultures,
between languages, between centuries, and built a bridge.
”  

https://youtu.be/1prweT95Mo0                                                                           


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Nia and the New Free Library, written by Ian Lendler and illustrated by Mark Pett. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2021. $24.99 ages 5 and up

 


"The town's detective saw
the crowd forming and came
over to see if there was any 
trouble. She picked up a book. 
"This was my favorite book
growing up!"

"And this book is the 
reason I fell in love 
with the sea," said
the boat captain."

It takes a disaster for the people who live in Littletown to finally notice their library; well, its absence. A devastating tornado picks it up, carries it away, and leaves a big empty space. The townspeople have ideas concerning what might replace it. Nia voices her opinion:

"We need to rebuild the library."

There are clear arguments from those who have not been using it. Nia disagrees with them. She loves the library. She wants to read the books a new library would provide. She decides that writing new books will be the answer. It takes time, and no one appears to care. When the wagon is full of her own handwritten books, she sets off to offer them for the townspeople to check out. 

She starts with the grocer; he is first to point out that Nia's story has mistakes. He says he will make things right. Nia moves on, loaning books to anyone interested. Each of her books has special meaning for someone in town. Soon, everyone is writing. It is not an easy task, but it is worthwhile. As they write, they share memories of books they have loved at an earlier time. Soon, there are new books everywhere and they are a disorganized mess. 

Invested townspeople step up to provide shelving, a building, and some welcoming lions to stand guard outside the front doors. Soon, everyone is involved and the library is open to welcome readers. Only one thing is missing; a librarian. No problem at all. It becomes a place of community and joy. 

All is well ... until the tornado returns! 

Mark Pett creates town scenes that are warm and inviting. Back matter includes an author’s note.


                                                                              


Monday, October 18, 2021

The Night Walk, written and illustrated by Marie Dorleans. Translated by Polly Lawson. Floris Books, 2021. $23.95 ages 4 and up

 


"We threaded through the whispering forest. 
The earth was damp, the bark smelled comforting. 

Dead branches snapped under our feet, 
and ferns swayed quietly as we passed.
"

Although the family does not want to be late to their eventual destination - and it is the middle of the night -, their journey is never hurried and bravely anticipated. Awakened by their mother in lamp-lit darkness, they dress and head outside with senses on alert. They pass through the village quietly, noting the brightly-lit hotel, and a house with one light on. 

They pass a farmer's field where cows are resting next to the quiet country road. Moving off the road and onto a path leading upward, they walk in silence. Through a darkened forest, with only Mom's flashlight to guide them, they come to a moonlit lake where they can stop to play. Further on, a clearing invites a look at the beauty of the night sky, before Papa encourages pushing forward. On they go, and arrive just in time for a spectacular sunrise. 

The watercolor-and-graphite artwork blankets their world in striking blue darkness where the only faint light comes from bedside lamps, porchlight, streetlight, lit windows, flashlight, moonlight, starlight, and finally brilliant morning sunshine. Anticipation builds for readers as the family nears its destination.

Perfect word choice, vivid artwork, and a memorable family outing - amazing!                                                                         


Sunday, October 17, 2021

How To Make a Bird, written by Meg McKIinlay and illustrated by Matt Ottley. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $22.99 ages 5 and up


"Next you need feathers - 
for warmth
and for flight. 
Smooth these over the bones
of your bird shape; 
press them firmly into place. 

Save the longest feathers 
for the wings and tail.
"

What a feeling it must be to take all the time needed to build something of great importance! For the child in this exemplary story of creativity and imagination time passes slowly, as it must, while she creates a bird. She knows what she needs, and first finds the bones (very tiny) to build the bird's shape (any bird will do). As she moves forward through the process, readers are made aware of each slow step. After bones and feathers, the builder adds a heart. It needs to be strong for all the hard work that will be required to carry it where it needs to go. Final touches, and the bird is ready. 

"But when you see it sitting, 
cold as a statue, you will know 
that there is more to a bird than
these things you have given it.
"

When the time is right, it is time to let it go. Sad, yes. Happy, too. All the hard work beautifully worthwhile. 

Matt Ottley, using pigmented ink, creates dreamy artwork that speaks to the intangible quality of Ms. McKinlay's magical text. His spreads are both glorious and memorable. After looking to have it published for 16 years, what a coup it is for us to see it this year. It will make an enduring impression on every reader!                                                                                

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Hurricane, written and illustrated by John Rocco. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2021. $22.99 ages 4 and up

 

"The next morning is silent. 
The wind stopped roaring, 
and my window stopped rattling. 
I grab my gear and rush outside. 

I almost don't recognize my neighborhood. 
It was like a giant, angry monster stomped 
through it.
"

The young boy who narrates this story loves nothing more than the dock where he fishes, swims, catches critters, and peacefully watches the water below him. It is old and rickety; he is its only visitor. When he gets home from his day at the dock, his father is boarding up their house's windows. He lets his son know the forecast warns of a coming hurricane. 

As the wind roars and the rain 'slashes sideways as if shot from a fire hose', the boy watches with concern. He dreams about what might appear near the dock following the storm. He doesn't have long to wait. As he heads out the following morning, he is astonished at the damage done to his street ... and his dock! It is gone and he needs help to put it back together. No one has time to help as they have their repair own work to do. He offers them his help. Following that and determined to rebuild, he gathers all he will need. It is a daunting task; is he up to it? Time will tell. 

Mr. Rocco's story is told in straightforward text, accompanied by outstanding, realistic artwork that is sure to interest and engage young readers. Perspectives change in response to the ongoing action. Endpapers up the interest by describing how a hurricane forms prior to the story's start, and ending with a clear description of the parts of a dock.   

A note from the author, at age 6, is included: 

To Mom and dad

I have gone fishing.

I will come back with 

a fish  LoveJohn

P.S. I hope I will 

come back with a fish."
                                                                                    


Friday, October 15, 2021

windy days, written by Deborah Kerbel and illustrated by Miki Sato. Pajama Press, 2021. $19.95 ages 2 and up


"Gushing wind: whoosh and whirl
Flags aflutter, pinwheels twirl

Whistling wind, stormy song
Tapping branches drum along
"

What, you ask. Another board book? Not exactly. Pajama Press calls these books with puffy covers and sturdy pages toddler tough. That they are, and quite wonderful to boot. Sunny Days is published, while Snow Days is due this month and Rainy Days in early 2022. They make for a lovely birth or birthday gift for a youngster you know. 

We have experienced a lot of winds this summer and fall. Some are warm and gentle, others are cold and jarring. Then, there those that are simply bothersome and seemingly endless. Wind is inevitable through the season. As little ones are invited to share this book, they will recognize the many ways that wind helps, and hinders a variety of activties. 

In the spring it scatters milkweed seeds; in summer, it powers pinwheels, and causes flags to flutter; it can also worsen powerful storms. Autumn winds inspire geese to begin their long migration to warmer places, and kites to drift in cloudy skies. Winter wind keeps children inside, or bundled up against its icy blasts. 

Ms. Kerbel uses effective, rhythmic vocabulary to give her readers a real sense of the movement, power, and joy that wind provides. Miki Sato's gorgeous, mixed-media collage artwork perfectly matches the text and provides a glorious feeling of constant motion. The textures will have readers wanting to touch the pages to feel what is shown there. Charming! 
                                                                               


Thursday, October 14, 2021

A Kid is a Kid is a Kid, written by Sara O'Leary and illustrated by Qin Leng. Groundwood Books, 2021. $18.99 ages 4 and up


"I get asked why 
I'm so small. 

I'd rather get asked what 
big words I can spell.

I get asked where I 
come from. Here. I 
come from here.
"

I often wished I were a fly on the wall when school kids were involved in student-generated discussions. In this book, the talk begins outside on the playground when a new kid arrives and is asked a lame question. Observing that there are much better ways to learn about someone, a group of kids discuss the kinds of questions they are asked about size, hobbies, friends. To these kids, the questions are often offensive, and pretty meaningless. They would prefer to be asked about things that are important to them.  

As they move from place to place, readers get the feeling that friendships are being built through honest dialogue. Finally, the new kid asks the question that everyone on the playground has been waiting to hear. 

"Hey kid, do you want to play?"

What an excellent companion book to A Family is a Family is a Family (2016)! Sara O'Leary's text is relevant and attentive to the feelings of the children on the playground, and touches on a number of individual challenges experienced. Qin Leng's wonderful watercolor art helps readers see the emotion felt by every child, and gives each loving attention to their personal needs. These kids have much to share, if the right questions are asked. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Summer Camp Critter Jitters, written by Jory John and illustrated by Liz Climo. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

 


"Are there bunk beds? 
Will I have to sleep on 
the top bunk? 
I don't think I could get 
to the top bunk or even 
the bottom bunk.

Is this a bed or a tower?"

They're back! I hope you met them first in First Day Critter Jitters. It was their first day of school and each had concerns about how the day would go. They need not have worried; they had each other. In their new book, they are expressing their worries about attending summer camp. I know the feeling; I was always homesick when away from home and family. 

Each has worries of its own. Skunk doesn't like scary stories. You know what happens when a skunk is frightened! Mole is concerned about sports, knowing he isn't good at them. How would a mole know the flight of an arrow while practicing archery? Rabbit hops at night, in order to tire himself out for sleep. Snake is troubled because of his reputation for surprising others ... especially in the woods. Sloth, Duck, Bear, Kangaroo, Parrot, and Mouse are equally anxious.  

Their worries are valid, and threaten to make the camping experience an unhappy one. All uneasiness vanishes when they find their counselor stuck in a tree on his first day. Sammy wanted to welcome them with a banner, and got stuck in the tree he was hanging it on. What to do? 

A solution is found, Sammy is able to introduce them to the many charms of camp life, and each discovers that being together might be the best thing of all!                                                                           



Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Busy, Busy Birds, written by Geraldo Valerio. Groundwood Books, 2021. $12.99 ages birth and up

 

"Some birds float. 
                American White Pelican. 

Other birds wade. 
                 Great Blue Heron.   

I don't often include board books in posts. That is not to say they don't have importance in the reading lives of our smallest children. I should make room for them. They make awesome gifts for a family welcoming a new little one, or for any toddler showing an interest in books. 

The birds in this lively new book are indeed busy. They fly, strut, paddle, perch, wade, sing, and even hum. In showing these mostly familiar birds, the author introduces new vocabulary for babies as they listen, touch and perhaps, chew on such sturdy must-haves for the very early years.          

The collage illustrations are exceptional ... colorful, detailed, appealing for those who read and those who listen. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

My Words Flew Away Like Birds, written by Debora Pearson and illustrated by Shrija Jain. Kids Can Press, 2021. $19.99 ages 5 and up

 

"Their words did not sound 
like the ones I had learned. 
So I did not say anything. 
I was like a tiny bug
on a little leaf

          WAITING,
           WATCHING,
        LISTENING, 

trying to figure out where 
I had landed, 
trying to fit in."

It's difficult to imagine what life in a new country must be like. I have lived in the same city for my entire life, never necessitating learning a new language, or adjusting to a brand new community and way of life. A daunting task, indeed. 

That is exactly the scenario for the young girl who narrates this immigration story. She speaks first of her 'before' life, where she was familiar with everything - homes, friends, trees, school, the noisy market. All were routine to her. Before leaving all she has known, her mother teaches her useful words for her new home. 

"The words felt strange 
in my mouth." 

Upon arrival, all those new words fly away as she is bombarded by unexpected language she does not recognize. Those words did not sound like the ones her mother taught. So, she stops talking and spends her time at other pursuits. So many things to worry about, while being called the NEW GIRL. 

"I am not new. 
I am just me, 
the same as always. 
Everything else, 
even that teacher 
is New.
"

Finally, in spring, she walks to a nearby playground where she helps another young girl who has fallen off the swings. The encounter is short, but becomes the start of something brand new. 

Warm, telling illustrations add context and ensure that young readers grasp the difficulties faced when missing the familiar, and confused about this new existence. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Lights Day and Night: The Science of How Light Works, written by Susan Hughes and illustrated by Ellen Rooney. Kids Can Press, 2021. $19.99 ages 6 and up


"The firefly and the stars are part of nature. 
The light they make is natural light. 

The Sun - which is 
also a star - makes 
natural light, too.

And there are other kinds of 
natural light. 

Lightning flashes across the sky. 
A forest fire. 
A volcano. 
The northern lights.
"

Where would we be without light? In this well-researched and readily accessible second book in the Science of How series, a young girl and her cat learn about the varied sources that provide light in our world. 

Outside on a summer night, a cloudy sky blocks the light from both moon and stars. The girl and her feline companion are delighted to see a firefly bring light to the darkness. In the distance, readers can see a warm glow from the windows of a summer cabin, and a string of lantern-shaped lights hanging outside the door. The sky clears. Using her telescope helps her focus on the moon and the many stars that now light the night sky. Such beauty to be found in nature! A text box provides a description for a star. 

Each turn of the page offers further details about the light that we take for granted. Whether it's natural or artificial, light is needed to enhance our many activities. Susan Hughes tells readers about the sun and its importance to all life. 

"Without any sunlight, Earth would 
be dark and covered in ice. There 
wouldn't be any life here at all.
"

When no natural light is accessible, humans create their own their own light. Creating a list of how we use artificial light is a worthy task. Ms. Hughes also explains the differences between the way humans and animals see light, and shares ideas to discover much more about the way light works. 

From the fireflies providing light in the darkness of an early summer night to fireworks over the lake as summer moves forward, there is much a reader learns by sharing this highly entertaining and informative picture book. Instructions for making a shadow puppet show, and a list of words to know are welcome.                                                                                  


Saturday, October 9, 2021

What is Love? Written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Carson Ellis. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

 

"LOVE IS A FISH.

"A fish?" I said. 

"It glimmers and splashes, 
just out of reach.
And the day that you catch it, 
if you know what you're doing,
you give it a kiss

            and throw it back in the sea." 

"But I don't like fish," I said.
They're slimy and taste bad. 
And they have creepy eyes."

The fisherman sighed. 
"You do not understand."

Wrapped in his grandmother's arms, a young boy's question about what love is goes unanswered. She does suggest that he find the answer he is seeking by going into the world and looking for the answer himself. And so, he goes. 

He stops to ask many strangers. Each has their own personal answer: a fisherman says fish; an actor credits applause for his happiness; a cat suggests thehnight, and a carpenter mentions a house. None of the answers has meaning for the boy who is growing older and taller as he searches far and near. 

"And so one day I returned 
to the house where we lived." 

As an astute reader might suspect, the answer is right in front of his eyes and he did not know it. Grandmother knew. 

Carson Ellis creates gouache artwork that provides a sense of drama as each answer is honestly rejected by the boy for obvious to him reasons. Spare and moody, the spreads reflect the discontent he feels throughout his long search. 

What is love for you, and for your children? 

                                                                                


Friday, October 8, 2021

Anteaters, Bats and Boas: the AMAZON RAINFOREST from the FOREST FLOOR to the TREETOPS. Written and illustrated by Roxie Munro. Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99 ages 7 and up

 

"Giant armadillos can grow up to 5 feet
 (1 1/2 meters) long. They carry their 
own defensive armor - a leathery shell 
made up of overlapping plates. Their 
long, sharp front claws help them dig 
out termites and ants from mounds. 
They have up to a hundred teeth - more
than any other animal.
"

If you want to know more about the animals that make their homes in the Amazon rainforest, this is the book for you. It's a terrific book for those children who always want to know more about animals and their habitats. Ms. Munro begins with an introduction to this particular rainforest, letting her readers know that, while all rainforests have similarities, they are not the same. 

"Not all rainforests have the same animals. For instance, you will see a gorilla or a hippo only in an African rainforest. A Southeast Asian rainforest in Indonesia is the only place where you will find an orangutan. On your journey through this book you will find Amazonian creatures (and plants) painted at their real size, from tiny to tremendous, and from dangerous to helpful to humans."

She begins with Emerald tree boas on a double-page spread that provides an informative paragraph and a close-up look at the brilliant green, coiled snake whose preferred diet consists of mice, lizards, bats, ane even monkeys. Moving on, the spreads offer clear and concise material describing two or three rainforest creatures. They are pictured on detailed habitat backgrounds, and presented in true size and color. Included are mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, arachnids, and a centipede. 

The names of the animals pictured are shown in colored type; words included in the glossary are italicized within the paragraphs to make them accessible in back matter. A center gatefold opens to present an giant anteater. Giant is right! 

Back matter is extensive and extremely engaging. A black and white rainforest scene, with colored numbers, includes all of the animals included in previous text. Below it, there is a chart with the names of the creatures placed next to their corresponding number.  Then, the author offers a report on the four layers of the rainforest and the ways in which rainforests can be preserved. Further pages include a glossary, additional reading in reference books, children's books, websites to visit, and an index. Finally, a world map shows where tropical rainforests can be found. 

The Amazon Rainforest ... what an invitation to read with children to initiate a conversation about conservation!  

https://youtu.be/hPEPNJKtAa8

Thursday, October 7, 2021

I'm A Hare, So There! Written and illustrated by Julie Rowan-Zoch. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up

 

"My name is Jack, 
but I'm no rabbit! 
Hares are bigger. 
Bigger ears, 
bigger feet. 
Check out my toes! 

Pee-yew!"

In a heated discussion sure to entertain young readers and make them laugh, said hare and a ground squirrel discuss various animals that are often lumped together as being the same. The squirrel makes the initial faux pas, calling the hare a rabbit; the hare retaliates calling the squirrel a chipmunk. Each admits to the other that there is some relationship between the misnomers. 

Hare explains what makes him who he is. 

"Baby rabbits are born naked!

Naked? 

Yup. They have to stay 
in their burrows. 

I was born with hair - with my 
eyes wide open. I can look out 
for myself.
"

As the conversation continues, readers will learn about the differences between other animals as well. Heedless to what is happening around them, the two are very surprised when a 'jackal' pounces, and voices its intention to eat the rabbit. Infuriated, the hare lands a perfect punch. As they walk away, the squirrel informs the hare about the downed animal ... "Technically, that was a coyote!"

Two pages of back matter are entertaining and informative. One compares eight pairs of animals often mistaken for the other, and the other asks readers to go back and find fourteen Sonoran Desert creatures hidden in earlier spreads. 

Kids will respond with laughter to the facial expressions and haughty voice of the hare, making it an engaging book to share with them. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Never, Not Ever, written and illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna. Harper, 2021. $21.99 ages 4 and up

 


"Outside, everyone's on their way. The 
toads, the caterpillars, the squirrels, and 
the hedgehogs. Each is going to their school. 

"You're going to learn so many things," her 
parents insist. Pascaline grabs on to the 
furniture.

She's only 5, but ... 

Pascaline knows her mind, and she makes her feelings clear in a loud, confident, determined voice. Her parents are filled with excitement and encouragement for her first day of school. Pascaline is absolutely resolute that school is not for her. She will not go! 

Everyone else is going. She can see that from the window in her tree house. Nope! No enticement works. Pascaline ends the conservation with her loudest "NEVER, NOT EVER!" That voice causes her parents to wither to the size of peanuts, and resolves Pascaline's biggest worry - going on her own. Now, she can tuck both under her wing and take them with her. 

When she arrives at school, every other little bat is sobbing. Pascaline is the exception. Bold and confident, she takes her place. Unfortunately, her parents' constant interruptions get her in hot water with the teacher, and make for an uncomfortable day for their little one. The walk home clears up any misconception that she might need them to attend school with her the following day.  

Mixed-media images (gouache, oil, collage, and wax pencil) up the appeal as readers are welcomed into Pascaline's world. Her wings glow in neon-pink, her school sparks the readers' imagination, and the walk home, through a warm and welcoming forest setting, is filled with family love. 

Endpaper images of the young bat doing what she loves to do ensures that readers will want to get to know her better ... and they do! 
                                                                                  


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A Tree Is A Home, written by Pamela Hickman and illustrated by Zafouko Yamamoto. Kids Can Press, 2021. $19.99 ages 7 and up

 


"AUTUMN

Autumn brings many changes. The mornings 
are frosty, and the green oak leaves have turned 
a deep purplish red. The acorns have changed
color, too, from green to brown. By late 
autumn, most of the leaves and acorns will 
have fallen off the trees and covered the ground 
below.
"

Pamela Hickman has penned many nature books for young readers. In this newest one, she chooses an oak tree to focus readers' attention on, as it passes from one season to the next. This particular tree is almost one hundred years old, and has housed a wide variety of visitors. 

She describes six animals that have a home in the tree: a raccoon, an acorn weevil larva, an opossum, a gray squirrel, a blue jay, and a chipmunk. Imagine what careful observers will see as one season passes and another presents itself. As readers watch the seasons and the tree change, another story is playing itself out. The house nearby has been sold, and a new family is making a home there. 

Each animal is described in short information boxes as they prepare for the life changes that the seasons bring. 

"WINTER

During a snowstorm, the gray squirrel 
shelters in her drey. Her thick fur and 
bushy tail act as a blanket for extra
warmth. Later, when she is out gathering
food, she will find a mate nearby.

The blue jay stays warm by puffing 
up his feathers to trap air. The air 
acts like insulation to keep his body 
heat.
"

The book's design is attractive, presenting a note about every season beside the changing oak tree. The images of the house and its inhabitants show how it also changes from season to season. The full spreads, created using watercolor, gouache, colored pencils, and Photoshop, that fall between each season continue to tell the story of each of the animals who make the tree their home. Too soon, it is autumn once more and the cycle will begin again. 

Backmatter includes the life cycle of an oak tree, the life cycles of each of the animals presented in this book, a glossary, and books for further reading.  

Monday, October 4, 2021

what can you do with a rock? Written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Katie Kath. Scourcebookskids, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

 


"Tell someone about your perfect rock.
Explain where you found it. 
How long you've had it. 
Why you like it. 
Then, let that person tell you about 
their best rock. This might take a while.

Our family has warm memories of evening walks in the neighborhood, and coming home with pockets filled with all manner of materials, especially rocks. There seemed so many wonders of nature to collect and admire. The rocks did not have to be a particular kind. They needed to be rocks. Some were kept, many were discarded. 

Children who love to collect rocks are sure to find themselves in this book. In the link at the bottom of this post, Ms. Miller explains that the idea for her book came from a conversation with her nine-year-old daughter who loved rocks.

Not everyone does; for those who do, they find countless ways to make them a part of their life. You can kick rocks, skip them, and drop them to see how many sounds you can make. It's always better to have more than one, and to collect them from as many places as are visited. They will always be there. For those who love sorting, there are endless ways to sort: color, shape, feel, size. It's up to each rock hound. 

The visual images, created in watercolor by Katie Kath, fully complement the book's conversational text. Scenes are appealing and encourage readers to imagine themselves with a rock collection and how they might use it for learning, art, and sharing. Endpapers offer labeled samples of many different types. 

Backmatter adds information concerning formation, organization, further learning, and book lists of both nonfiction and fiction - and a nod to librarians.  

https://youtu.be/Ti6TvANNbpo

Sunday, October 3, 2021

How To Find a Fox, written by Kate Gardner and photographed by Ossi Saarinen. Running Press KIds, Hachette. 2021. 22.99 ages 3 and up

 


"Foxes don't hibernate: they spend the whole
year out and about. But a fox will look different
depending on the season. That's because in the 
winter, red foxes have thick coats that keep 
them warm. By spring, this longer, heavier fur 
starts to fall out in clumps so that by summer,
red foxes sport much sleeker haircuts.
"

It is interesting to me that, when looking to see what others had thought about this stunning book, there were few reviews written. Sadly, I was not too surprised. Information books written for children aren't often illustrated with superb photography. Don't get me wrong, there are some. They are few and far between. That's sad. Enough said. 

Ms. Gardner's smooth, telling text gives good advice for those with a dream to see a red fox. They are best found in early morning or at dusk. They can be seen in all seasons. Check meadows and forests. They are even found in the city. Look for quick feet, and a soft bushy tail with a white tip. She shares the places they like to hide, and the sounds they make. Throughout, readers will find additional paragraphs that further inform. 

Ossi Saarinen's magnificent photographs impress with their range of images, and their clarity in capturing the true character of this appealing animal. Readers will be enchanted by the feeling that they could reach out and touch some. In his note he provides sage advice: 

Whenever I discover an animal in the wild, 
I must be very careful. Any sudden movement
or sound may scare them away. If I remain 
quiet, calm, and respectful of their space, the 
animals become accustomed to seeing me and 
are not afraid.

Backmatter includes a note from the photographer and a small Bibliography of sources.                                                                                  


                                                                            

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Amira's Picture Day, written by Reem Farqui and illustrated by Fahmida Azim. Holiday House, Pernguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

 


"Amira knew it wouldn't be the same. She loved
Eid and the party at the masjid, but she didn't want 
to be left out of the class picture. 

How would her classmates remember her if she 
wasn't there? Amira brushed her thoughts away
as she tried to fall asleep that night.
"

Following up on the post about the worm family and their picture day adventure, I thought I would add this story about a young girl who is troubled that she has two reasons to celebrate the following day. Eid will be spent with other families at the masjid. The family is well-prepared. Amira's hands are decorated. She has helped her brother fill goody bags for the other kids in attendance. Her new Eid clothes are pressed and ready. Skipping school is allowed.  

Therein lies the problem. The note on the fridge is a reminder that it is also picture day at school. Amira does not want to miss having her picture taken with her class. If she is not in it, how will they remember her? She is expected to attend Eid with her family. As they enter the masjid, her worries disappear. Everything looks so celebratory. It isn't until someone wants to take her picture that she remembers she should be at school to have her picture taken there. Can she do both? She has an idea! 

The digital art created allows readers a close look at an Islamic community celebration, while also ensuring that they see Amira's classroom as the children prepare for having their picture taken. The settings hold importance for the telling, as do the emotions shared. The bright colors and expressive faces show the diversity of the people attending Eid, in both race and clothing. 

Back matter includes an author’s note, more information on Eid, and a glossary.