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Friday, December 31, 2021

Loving Kindness, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Tim Hopgood. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 2 and up


"She is a blessing. 

She is 
just as 
she is. 

She is 
and she

As we turn the calendar to a new year tomorrow, let us hope that we can begin to find peace and contentment. It has been a year of strife and confusion for many. We need to honor all who share our world with us. 

This lovely new book begins with a blessing ... a tiny, beautiful baby to love and be loved. Mistakes made while growing are expected, as is the ability to dream, dance, and breathe. All the beauty of the earth that connects each one is right in front of us. That baby is nurtured by family in every way. 

Following that baby, the text turns to another blessing - a girl who is also allowed to make mistakes, to learn from them, and to grow in the warmth of the sun and all that the earth offers. Then, horses. They live their lives as the two children do. 

"They touch the earth, 
the earth that connects us all.

Ms. Underwood turns finally to all who inhabit the earth and find connections in living here. ALL have the same importance in finding worth. The goal is a peaceable kingdom where kindness is the great motivator. How's that for a universal goal for 2022?  Bright and colorful, Tim Hopgood's mixed-media artwork is soothing, affirming, full of grace and peace.                                                                                       


Thursday, December 30, 2021

Where the Wee Ones Go: A Bedtime Wish for Endangered Animals, written by Karen Jameson and illustrated by Zosienka. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2022. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"On Yangtze River, heading south, 
riding in their mama's mouth, 
       young may snooze
       aboard their cruise. 

That's where alligators go."

If you have little ones, you will know their love for animals. Karen Jameson brings attention to endangered animal babies and their sleeping habits here. The language is rhythmic, and begins with a question. She wants to know where little ones go when it is dark and time for bed. 

With each turn of the page, she introduces a new animal, their habitat and country, and completes each entry with a repetitive statement. By doing so, she brings an awareness of the environment that is their home. These babies are found around the world, and each finds safety and warmth when the time comes for settling down. 

Zosienka's mixed-media, digital spreads are rich in color and setting, allowing young readers to enjoy scenes from around the world. The soothing words and bedtime habits inform while encouraging a peaceful slumber. 

"In nests or trees, on land or seas, 
wee ones sleep just as they please, 
       in Earth's embrace
       with nature's grace. 

That's where wee ones go."

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

CLASH, written and illustrated by Kayla Miller. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2021. $17.99 ages 10 and up

"Next time, I'll REALLY show
 you a thing or two.
Olive's board is cute, but I 
built mine completely custom 
and I'm WAY more comfortable 
doing tricks on it. 

Thanks for the loan, Olive. 
You're a real pal. 

No problem." 

Kayla Miller's new graphic novel is the fourth in the Click series, following Click, Camp and Act. All have proved very popular with a middle grade audience. I continue to be amazed at the quality of stories being told in graphic form. 

Olive is excited to be showing the new kid around as a new year begins. It is true to her character to be friendly, and accommodating to others. She makes friends easily and is prepared to be one to Nat, the new girl. Nat, on the other hand, is quick to make it known that she is not thrilled with Olive. She is great at making herself interesting to other classmates, and declaring things to be 'dorky' or 'old news' to her. It isn't long until Olive is worrying that her friends might like Nat more than they like her. It is a familiar situation in middle school. 

The characters are many, and Ms. Miller does a great job of making sure that readers get to know them. In her deft hands, she is able to show rather than tell through meaningful silent moments. As happens, this story shows that not all adolescents are assured of becoming friends or treating others as they are being treated. It is the truth and the author handles it well. 

Much of the action is centered on the preparation for Olive's well-planned Halloween party. Nat steps in to ruin it. Finally, Olive makes her feelings known to Nat. Nat faces the wrath of her new classmates for what she has done. Can Olive change that? Though this story stands on its own, it will likely lead readers to look for the earlier ones. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Egg Marks the Spot: A Skunk and Badger Story, written by Amy Timberlake and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Harper, 2021. $18.99 ages 8 and up


"This was hardly the trip to Endless Lake 
Badger had imagined. Worse, it could have
been the perfect walk! Friday's storm had 
left a world tossed and dazzling in emeralds, 
jades and turquoise. The sun shone. Two 
clouds drifted across a blue sky. Skunk 
should have been shouting hellos to the goats
in that field. And that knotted apple tree?
Skunk should have picked an apple.

Since I read their first adventure last year, I have been waiting to meet up with Skunk and Badger once more. They do not disappoint. They remain as quirky as they were in that book, and prove to be very good friends, despite their oddities. Poor Skunk! When he discovers that an old neighbor is prepared to keep stealing his New Yak Times Book Review, Skunk wants to get away. He invites Badger to accompany him on a quest to find important rocks, especially one to replace Badger's letter A rock which has been missing from Badger's Wall of Rocks. Organized alphabetically, Skunk is bothered by the hole left when Badger's cousin Fisher stole his Spider Eye Agate. 

The journey begins well. It leads them to a waterfall in the woods that seems exactly perfect for Important Rock Work ... at least until Fisher shows up to mock Badger's research. It isn't long until they discover Fisher has made an important discovery, and is planning on stealing a dinosaur egg that he has found in a nearby cave. Skunk and Badger will not let that happen.  

Full of heart and humor, this book makes for a perfect read aloud in grades 3 to 5. The action, the quirky twists, and the admirable characters and their strong friendship will keep listeners fully entertained. Witty and joyful, it is an adventure not to be missed. 

Jon Klassen's artwork, as we have come to expect, perfectly complements the entire escapade. 

Bring on Number 3! 

Monday, December 27, 2021

I'm Trying to Love Garbage, written and illustrated by Bethany Barton. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Planet Earth is a big, busy place.
One study says there are over 
eight million different species of 
living things on planet earth. 


Thankfully, nature has a pretty 
sweet system going on, with food 
chains making sure living organisms
use each other for food and energy.

Do you know the difference between scavengers, decomposers and detritivores? Pardon? Can you say that again, please? I am quite sure I had not heard the term detritivore before I read this book. I know the word 'detritus'. I should have been able to figure it out, I guess. 

Thanks to Bethany Barton, I only had to keep reading. She explains it all in this marvelous book about garbage. The garbage collectors are quick to introduce themselves to the neighborhood narrator, and to do a great job of explaining how they get rid of nature's garbage. A captioned page about the food chain is helpful. There is a caution that there is more to it than that. 

"Because every living thing creates waste ... "

Garbage in nature has to go somewhere. You will know about scavengers (vultures, rats, cockroaches, termites) and maybe even decomposers ('organisms that break down the waste of and remains of living things'). Turns out that a detritivore eats trash. They do their work on land, and in the oceans. They do not help with inorganic waste. They are NOT designed for that. 

The author goes on to describe what happens to human trash, and the landfills that can be overwhelmed, in both size and stench. There is a solution. She uses the last few pages to explain what readers can do to make a difference where they live. All that is needed is to think about what we do with our garbage. What did you do with all the garbage that collects at Christmas time? 

Chatty dialogue, cartoon-like illustrations and a clear message assure this to be a worthwhile addition to classroom, public and home libraries. It is a worthy introduction to an important topic, and will surely lead interested children to find out more.   


Sunday, December 26, 2021

You Are a Reader/You Are a Writer, written by April Jones Prince and illustrated by Christine Davenier. Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99 ages 5 and up

"Storybooks aren't quite your speed?
So many other things to read!

comic books. 

A recipe that you can cook. 

Maps, directions. 
Menus full of sweet selections."

This book is perfect for readers, for writers, for listeners, and for those who love to tell stories. The narrator speaks to the process it takes for a child to become a reader. It is not easy, but the work is worth it. No matter how a child gets there, it is a worthy journey. Learning to love reading comes with finding the 'just right' book ... one that speaks to a reader's heart, interests, and begs to be read again and again. Taking the steps to get to that point is what literacy is all about, and what makes hearts sing. 

The list of reading materials is extensive; it is in no way connected only to storybooks and novels. Stop to think what you have read today. You might be surprised at how much reading is done to gather information, and to make life easier. The places for reading are countless. Living a life within the books read is ever-changing, constantly allowing readers to live with empathy and kindness for others, with travels around the world, and with pleasure for the task itself.

"Reading is like milk and bread - 
 feeds your thirsty, hungry head. 
You can dream! Imagine! Muse! 
Slip on someone else's shoes.

A quick turn to the back of the book, and the reader becomes a writer. 

Here, the narrator describes all those things that writers can do. The two are mutually important in being literate. Writers know how stories work, based on their reading experiences. Using their senses, enjoying experiences wherever they find them, and honing skills through asking questions, pondering points, and hard work encourage children to take a chance at writing their own works. As with reading, there are many ways to find a writing voice ... banners, journals, thank-you notes, poetry. 

"Hear the stories in your head, 
bake them into epic bread. 
Write to share your hopes and notions
or to sort out tough emotions.

A clever design, rhyming text, and loads of encouragement to try reading and writing as empowering ways to communicate with others assure that this book will be a perennial favorite for young learners. Christine Davenier brings her signature joy and energy to the diverse characters who people its pages. They fulfill their roles as readers and writers with emotion and wonder at all they accomplish.  



Saturday, December 25, 2021

Santa Jaws, written by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Galia Bernstein. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2021. $25.99 ages 4 and up


"Horn sharks trim the Christmas kelp
And top it (with a little help).

Finally, it's the special night. 
Families sing by lantern light. 

Cookiecutter sharks make treats
For Santa and his Christmas fleet.

Had you any idea that there was a Christmas book for your shark-loving child? Well, here you are. What a splendid way to spend a gift certificate! 

In a rhyming holiday story from the sea, Ms. Heos entertains her readers this story of sharks lining up to have a visit with Santa Jaws, just as children line up to see Santa Claus. Santa Jaws, a great white, is as accommodating to ocean creatures as he can be. Elfin sharks provide help with toy requests while horn sharks decorate kelp trees. Lantern sharks provide light in the depths for carolling. When Santa Jaws is ready to roll, the prow of a shipwreck provides the sleigh to carry the gifts, and is pulled by hammerheads. 

Together, they make visits to all underwater creatures while awed by the cheery sights that surround them on their journey. As Christmas morning dawns and tiny shark pups wake for the day to begin, Santa Jaws makes the return trip home for a much-needed rest. 

Rhyming couplets and the notion that Santa Jaws has an insatiable appetite for the toys he is leaving keep little ones listening as the story is shared. In a final double-page spread the author adds a quick note about the sharks that made an appearance here. 

The colorful, action-filled illustrations create an ocean environment that is sure to attract attention. Filling the pages with jolly, smiling sharks, shells and seaweed, while also creating lots of energy, makes for a Christmas story that will become a favorite of the shark enthusiast in your family.  

It's a romp! 


Friday, December 24, 2021

'Twas the Night Before Christmas, written by Clement C. Moore and illustrated by P.J. Lynch. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2021. $22.99 ages 4 and up

"As leaves that before 
the wild hurricane fly, 
When they meet with an obstacle,
mount to the sky;

So up to the housetop
the coursers they flew
With a sleigh full of toys,
and St. Nicholas, too -

Words are not the draw here. I am sure you have heard these many, many times before now. This poem has been regularly read on Christmas Eve in homes around the world. It has been reinterpreted year after year by many wonderful artists. Last year, I shared Loren Long's wondrous work about four different families and how they spend their time awaiting Santa's visit.

This year the timeless tale is complemented by P. J. Lynch's wondrous watercolor and gouache artwork. It is not the first time I have been amazed at this man's talents. The title page shows a sleepy village scene, lightposts providing soft light as snow falls gently. Does that bare tree in the foreground resemble a set of reindeer antlers? 

The first scene depicts a dark corner filled with a straw bed for a mouse family, all cuddled up and sound asleep ... and not stirring. The next spread glitters with the muted light of the dying embers of a fireplace where stockings are hung, and the hearth offers cupcakes and a mug. The family is tucked up under cozy quilts in adjacent bedrooms; they, too, sleep soundly. 

Hearing an unfamiliar noise, the father rushes to the window just in time to see unexpected visitors. So the story goes, with listeners often able to recite the familiar words without pause. Each spread is filled with the wonder and magic of the season, with tiny details tucked in to draw attention. A warm glow surrounds Santa as he gets to his work, then leaves as he arrived. The final image of a smiling, generous youngster offering a gift-wrapped packet of cheese to the mouse family is a precious reminder of the joy to be found in this celebration of the season. 

Classic, and most enjoyable. Add this to your collection of other artful interpretations previously published. It is always fun to compare one with the other.                                                                                     


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Pax, Journey Home, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2021. $21.99 ages 10 and up


"Bristle was licking three squirming bodies.
The kits were dark and slick. As his eyes
adjusted, Paw saw tiny legs stretch out from
the pile. Tiny pink paws curled, tiny pink
noses wriggled, and tiny pink ears flicked
with new life.

The moment I started reading this awesome new story about Peter and Pax, I gave in to the many memorable scenes from the first part of their lives together. I can't imagine how hard it must be to take the same beloved characters and write a sequel that so brilliantly gets back to the joy and the loss the two experienced in Pax (Harper, 2019). 

They remain separated a year later, with both being affected in very different ways by postwar rebuilding. Peter has found a home with Vola, a reclusive former soldier. He plans to join the Junior Water Warriors, a group of young people tasked with travelling to reclaim the rivers and reservoirs after the poisons of the war. Once done his work with them, he is determined to return to the home of his childhood. Despite his very young age, he is sure he is ready to live on his own and fend for himself. Vola is impressed with his workmanship in the cabin he has built on her property. She would love for him to stay. Wracked with guilt over the loss of Pax, he feels living alone is the price he must pay for abandoning him.  

The narrative moves back and forth from chapter to chapter; from Pax, an adult fox and attentive, protective mate to Bristle and father to three young kits, to Peter on his path to redemption. Their lives intersect when Pax and his young daughter end up too close to one of the poisoned reservoirs which lies near Peter's home. Their new connection is as strong as the original one. The need for Peter's help with the young kit sets Peter on a path toward a better future.  

This moving sequel is as fine and compelling as the first. Ms. Pennypacker fills it with poignant scenes of hopelessness, determination, fear, connection, loss, love, and family. I so hope to meet these remarkable characters at some future time. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

the Tiny Star, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Freya Blackwood. Alfred A.Knopf, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up


" ... it was all grown up. 

It was caring and kind, 
and loving and wise, 
and was loved and adored in return. 

It has family and friends, 
and hopes and dreams.

The narrator who tells this moving and joyous story comforts readers with the fact that tiny stars often fall to earth. This very special one becomes a baby. Imagine! The couple who finds it takes it home in a star-covered quilt. The baby is loved and admired by all who lay eyes on it. It grows rounder and taller with each passing year until it is fully grown. 

Honored by family and friends, and filled with hopeful dreams, it grows older and older. The longer the life, the more the love garnered. As the family circle grows wider, the care given is always attentive and gentle. Years pass; the body begins to diminish until it is as tiny as it was in the beginning. One day, it simply disappears, leaving only the starry quilt in its place. 

"No one could believe it.
They ran to each other
and clung to each other
to comfort each other 
and cry with each other.

But it was not gone; it had merely returned to its original place in the sky - to be there and celebrated for all time.  

 "Every heart was lightened. 
Every heart began to mend.” 

This wondrous multicultural community finds unconditional love in the company of that one person who brings joy to all, and whose life has great meaning for each one of them. Freya Blackwood's glorious art gives life to each of the book's many characters and cozy warmth to its setting. Her illustrations speak to the heart at every page turn. If you need a break from the world's mayhem, take time to sit, read, and wonder at the beauty to be found in these forty pages. It will be worth it, I promise. 

A keeper, in the best sense of the word. I love it!                                                                                     


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

If You Want to Knit Some Mittens, written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Angela Matteson. Boyds Mills Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages


"6. Once it is dry, pick the 
fleece into pieces.
Then, use bristly paddles 
to card them. 
This untangles the fibers.

It does not work 
on people hair!

If you are planning on knitting mittens, Ms. Salas has some advice to offer. It will take 18 steps, and begins with finding a sheep. Luckily, there is one for sale at the apple stand our young narrator and her father visit. Then, there is work to be done. Keeping the sheep fed and comfortable through the winter means that it will be ready for shearing in the spring. Once sheared, the fleece needs careful cleaning, carding, spinning, and dyeing. 

Marigold is the color the sheep chooses for the mittens. So, seeds must be planted and tended. Wait time is tedious. Finally, the marigolds are ready to be dried, then soaked to be cooked with the yarn. What a gorgeous color. All that is left is to learn how to knit! Patience pays off. The arrival of winter means mittens for the knitter, and a new golden toque for the provider of the wool. 

Charming illustrations 'painted with acyrlics, gouache, and a touch of colored pencil on wood board' provide a gentle, cozy softness for this affable, tongue-in-cheek instruction manual. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Barkus, The Most Fun, written by Patricia Maclachlan and illustrated by Marc Boutavant. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2021. $19.99 ages 6 and up


"Barkus knows something! 
I hear Jess go out the door. 
Baby and I go out to see what
Barkus knows. 

"Dora has a calf!" says Jess 
happily. Barkus woofs softly, 
as if telling us "hush.

Fans of Barkus will be plenty excited to get their hands on his new tale. Beginning readers love to meet up with familiar characters. This is the third book in the series. It follows Barkus (2017) and Barkus Dog Dreams (2018), and is written with the same charm and perfection that made the first two so popular. 

In this book, there are four seasonal adventures. They begin with a summer camping trip. Barkus is one smart dog, and is familiar with grills, tents and sleeping bags. His excitement is clear, and so is his need to have the family kitten make the trip ... it is his secret until the family begins to unpack. Baby should NOT be with them. Turns that Baby likes camping, and water, and unfamiliar nighttime sounds. Who knew? 

The book goes on to describe a family farm visit in the spring and an adventure with runaway cattle; a fall parade of animals; and finally, a winter trip to the cabin.  

"We'll make up a story after dinner,"
says my mother. "What will be call it?"
"A Winter's Tale," says my father. 
"The story will be about us," I say. 
"And Barkus and Baby."

And, that is exactly what they do. 

The Barkus books are just right for readers ready for a longer book with a few chapters. Illustrations help with comprehension; clear language assures the stories are accessible; the characters are engaging; and each chapter reads like a short story which has a beginning and an end.  

Let Me Fix You a Plate: A Tale of Two Kitchens, written and illustrated by Elizabeth Lilly. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House, 2021. $24.99 ages 4 and up


"Mamaw's midnight kitchen is warm and light, 
with blue tiles on the floor and cat plates on the wall. 

Mamaw's morning kitchen is clean and bright, 
with sausage sizzling in the skillet, blackberry 
jam on toast, and tractors on cups. 

My Papaw drinks his coffee with cream but no sugar,
and Daddy does too. My dad and his dad ...

Have you been thinking of sharing holiday meals for the past month? It is one of the most anticipated events for a family, there is no doubt. Although these celebrations have been curtailed for almost two years, and might be again, just thinking about the fun times spent with families and food brings happy memories of times past. I thought this book might encourage readers and listeners to sit back, relax, and explore the many memories they have of similar times. 

On a family road trip that leads to two very different kitchens, our young narrator shares her observations and opinions about visiting two sets of grandparents. Once a year, they head out to the West Virginia mountains to spend time with Mamaw and Papaw. It is a long trip, and it is late when they arrive. They are warmly welcomed with food before it is time for bed.  

After spending three days enjoying the love, the food, and all that West Virginia has to offer, the family is on the road again. This time, they are headed south to Florida where they are welcomed by Abuela and Abuelo. They arrive just in time to partake of food with family and friends in Abuela's midnight kitchen. 

"In Abuela's midnight kitchen,
white tiles feel cool
under my feet. 
Aunts and cousins 
and uncles and neighbors
talk over each other
above my head. 

I crunch tostones
and scoop arroz 
and slurp flan and fall asleep
at the table ...

Their days are spent preparing food, learning new Spanish words, and doing their best to keep out of the sticky heat. Too soon, it is time to get back in the car and head for home ... tummies full of amazing food, and hearts full of love and memories. They arrrive in time for Mom and Dad to open their own midnight kitchen, filled with the warm and delicious smell of waffles. Time for bed ... 

The story told is filled with heart. The pen-and-ink, colored pencil and markers are filled with the many details of their visits, and are rich with culture, love, and wonderful foods. 

What stories do you have to tell? 


Sunday, December 19, 2021

Norman Didn't Do It! (Yes, he did.) Written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins. Disney-Hyperion, 2021. $22.99 ages 3 and up


"Suddenly, it was no longer
just Norman and Mildred. 

Now it was Norman and Mildred
and the other tree. 

This did not sit well with Norman. 

Norman began to worry. 

What if the other tree wanted 
to be friends with Mildred?

Ryan T. Higgins fans will be in their glory with his new book about friendship. Norman, a porcupine, is best friends with Mildred, a tree. Unusual? Yes. Even more unusual is the fact that the two do everything together. They play one-sided baseball; watch birds with one pair of binoculars; model tall, majestic trees; and even play the occasional game of checkers. Funny? Oh, yes! 

Norman is not pleased with change. He likes things to be just the way they are. When another tree pops up close by, he is truly disturbed by the interloper. Now, there are three of them. For days, Norman watches the two closely. Everything keeps changing. When they finally touch, Norman is done! 

"It was the last straw. 

This is the 
last straw!

Even though, in this case, 
there were no straws. 
Just branches.

The situation demands that a plan be made. What Norman does is a bit startling. Now, nothing will come between the friends again. But things do not return to normal. Norman tries to talk to Mildred about it, and to assure her that their friendship remains unchanged. The guilt builds, with Norman becoming more and more anxious over what he has done. Norman 'hits rock bottom' when he falls into the hole where the young tree had been. Another plan must rectify the situation. Snap! Just like that, the two become three once more. 

Inviting illustrations, clever dialogue, and extremely funny scenes demand more than one visit with this book, as is so true of all books penned by Mr. Higgins. He knows kids, and he knows exactly how to engage them in a love for reading. The final illustration is not to be missed! 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

One Smart Sheep, written by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, with illustrations by Jane Manning. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 8 and up

"He moved farther into the warm pen and looked around.

No Tippy. 
No Abigail. 
No woodstove, either. 
Wilson began to wonder if a friendly, woolly,
smart sheep belonged here after all. 

Then the two deliverymen lifted the ramp
into the truck.

Abigail Atwood and her border collie, Tippy, work hard every day to keep their 27 sheep happy and healthy. Abigail is aware that there is something very special about Wilson. In fact, she notes that he is the “friendliest, woolliest, smartest sheep” of the flock. As a young lamb, Abigail had kept him in a box near the woodstove, and fed him with a bottle. Now, Wilson is an important member of her flock. 

Abigail has a neighbor named Jeremiah Jefferson. He is a bit of a curmudgeon, who is handy with tools and fixing things; he is not keen on sheep. He has much to say about them that Abigail does not appreciate. After an annoying encounter with Jeremiah one day, Abigail and Tippy are upset enough not to check the gate as they head back to the house. As luck would have it, a series of ill-timed events create a real dilemma. 

Abigail has a piano delivered; Wilson discovers the gate unlatched; Wilson makes his way to the house, and then into the back of the delivery truck. Only Tippy notices there is something amiss. Tippy tries to warn Abigail, to no avail. The scenes created for Wilson's wild ride to the city, and his subsequent escape will have readers chortling. Abigail recruits Jeremiah to help with the search. After many attempts to find Wilson, the search is ended. Inadvertently following the path that is leading Wilson home, the team finds him heading straight for the pasture that is his home. What a smart sheep! 

Large print, easy-reading text, and short chapters make this action-filled book perfect for kids wanting to read chapter books on their own. It has everything to attract them: action, suspense, great characters, humor, and excellent illustrations that engage and entertain. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

Birds on Wishbone Street, written and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo. Pajama Press, 2021. $22.95 ages 5 and up


"Our parkette is awesome for bird watching, 
epic snow fort-building, and treasure-finding. 
Just last week we found two cardinal feathers
and a robin's eggshell.

Wishbone Street is a very interesting place to live for those who live there. They come from many different countries, with unique histories and languages. Their stories reflect their lives before they moved there. Maureen, called Moe, has an Irish background. When a new family moves in nearby, Moe wonders about the boy she sees outside her window. 

The children of Wishbone Street often meet in their parkette to share treats, time, and discoveries. To welcome the new boy, Moe places a gift on his front step; it includes mitts, hot chocolate, and a feather. She wonders if he likes the same things that she does. But she is not sure how to approach him. Birdsong and gently-falling snowflakes provide just the impetus she needs to introduce herself. He tells her that his name is Sami, and he is from Syria. 

Because they are cold, Sami invites Moe in for hot cocoa. Sami shares the drawings of birds that he has been unpacking. (Those who have read Ms. Del Rizzo's My Beautiful Birds, 2017 will have met Sami there). Sami is a Syrian refugee now, and the two find they have a strong mutual interest in birds. Together they share all the fun of winter with others from the neighborhood. In the flurry of excitement, they come upon a female cardinal, motionless from the cold. The children gather what they need to rescue it; then, they do their best to provide the warmth and rest it needs to recover. In sharing his knowledge about birds, Sami also suggests they make roosting pockets and suet feeders to help all birds make it through the cold. Their wonderful community shares in their effort. 

Following the story, Ms. Del Rizzo provides careful instructions for making the treats and pockets that Sami and Moe make. The illustrations, made using polymer clay and acrylics, will have readers in awe of the details, the ever-changing perspectives, and the wonders of the season as the two friends learn more about each other and how much they are alike. An author's note about real-life events in her life adds interest.  

This is a truly wonderful story about friendship, community and being kind. It should be shared in all early and upper elementary classrooms.                                                                                   

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Mr. Watson's Chickens, written by Jarrett Dapier and illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"So the next day, the two men
gathered up the chickens in 
cages, boxes, and crates. 

They loaded them onto 
wagons all tied together 
in a line and set off for 
the county fair to find 
the chicks a loving home.

 Kids love books where pandemonium is the name of the game ... especially if there are animals involved. Mr. Watson's Chickens is a book that will hit all the right notes for those readers. It is chaotic from start to finish, and makes a great read aloud that demands attention and hoots of laughter at the antics created by a love of chickens. 

The number of eggs that fill the front endpapers offers a hint for what is about to happen. A series of spot illustrations provides an excellent lead-up for the story's opening page. Two men are carrying planks and wire, opening an instruction sheet, and building a pen that leads to one of the men (Mr. Watson) picking up a small animal carrier from a smiling woman and biking home with it. 

As the story begins we see that same man, who lives in a tall, lime-green house with a very tiny yard, showing his partner their three new arrivals. They already have two dogs and three cats. Mr. Watson loves those new chickens and they love them. With each new day, their numbers grow all the way up to 456 chickens! The house is overrun; the chaos is evident. Birds everywhere! 

"Chickens in the sink, 
    chickens on the bed, 
        chickens in the bread box, 
              chickens on their heads!

Because Mr. Nelson loves cooking eggs, he seems okay with the noise and bedlam. Then comes the day when four chickens ruin his brand-new boots. He is no longer happy with the arrangement. The problems get even more annoying. Mr. Watson says he is thinking about what he can do. Finally, Mr. Nelson issues an ultimatum. 

The following day, the chickens are crated up and being hauled away. All is well until Mr. Watson trips, sending the chickens hither and yon. They are found in every stall at the county fair, much to the chagrin of every operator there. Eventually, the two men find every chicken, save one. Turns out that Aunt Agnes, the singer of the flock, and her singing are a draw for their sale to a new owner. Off they ALL go! 

The final scenes are full of emotion ... and result in a change.  

Andrea Tsurumi's comedic artwork is a joy to behold. Her spreads are filled with chickens here, chickens there, chickens everywhere. The scenes are hilarious, detailed and will absolutely delight the little ones who share this book, especially while sitting on a loved one's lap. The full page spread that provides an aerial view of the fair will have readers searching obsessively to find the one chicken that is missing.  

Love the storytelling, and the art.                                                                            

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Super Santa: The Science of Christmas, written by Bruce Hale and illustrated by Guy Francis. Harper, 2021. $13.50 ages 7 and up


"Well, Santa visits about 200 million
homes on Christmas (depending on
who's been naughty or nice), and if
you figure two nice kids per house 
getting presents each -jumpin' Jack 
Frost! That's over a billion presents.
Line them up and they 
could stretch
three times around the Earth. Luckily,
has designed his workshop to
handle this crazy workload.

As Santa makes preparations for a very long and tiring Christmas Eve, there are those children just beginning to question the impossibility of that monumental task. Our narrator Holly invites us into the workshop to see the logistics of making good on the promise to deliver gifts for children all over the world one night each year. 

A delightfully designed double-page spread allows readers to see a multitude of elves at work on conveyor belts in a remarkably busy workshop. In the garage, Mrs. Santa is working with her elves to ensure Santa's sled in ready to make the 20-million-mile trip (to the moon and back five times) again this year. Each looks capable and competent as they add the finishing touches that are needed. 

The enormity of the load the sled must carry is compared to 'carrying around three Empire State Buildings', and the speed at which it moves requires a good deal of preparation concerning each rooftop landing. Once the sleigh is safety-checked and ready to go, it's Santa's turn to get into his specially-designed suit. After a slight conveyor belt malfunction, Santa is ready with no time to spare. In fact, he is running a touch late. 

"Will he go fast enough? Will the sleigh hold up 
under all the weight? Will he be able to hit the 
brakes perfectly on every rooftop? Don't worry. 
We all know he will. Santa has it all figured out. 
Kris Kringle is a Christmas superhero!

Luckily for Santa, children and their families leave cookies and milk wherever he stops. It provides the much-needed energy to get the job done. At the end of the night, he is home at last. Isn't all that work on a child's behalf worth taking time to send a thank-you note once presents are opened and enjoyed on Christmas morning? Santa is sure to welcome every note. 

Some readers will appreciate both the science and math of the telling, while others will be content to consider the pure magic of Santa's trip as the explanation for it. It's a tale that requires thoughtful consideration of its validity while the detailed artwork helps to keep the magic alive.                                                                              

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

It Takes Guts: How Your Body Turns Food Into Fuel (and poop), written by Dr. Jennifer Gardy with illustrations by Belle Wuthrich. Greystone Kids, 2021. $24.95 ages 10 and up


"Food is a little trickier, though. 
It needs to stop and say awhile, 
so the stomach can break it down 
into small enough pieces to move
down the line. The long side of 
your stomach-bean contains 
lots of folds, holding it in place
until it can be liquefied by 
stomach acids, while the short 
side allows liquids to pass 
through right away.

The table of contents is an intriguing start to this very accessible and informative study of digestion. The author clearly establishes her plan to share just exactly what happens from start (the mouth) to finish (the end) whenever we eat or drink. 

"Everybody eats and everybody poops. It might seem ordinary, but what happens between your mouth and your butt is almost magical, and you owe it all to one of the most remarkable parts of your body - your gut. Every day, you turn food into fuel and neatly dispose of the leftovers. Did you know that you produce over a pound (half a kilogram) of poop every day?"

How's that for an invitation to new learning? It is quite amazing to see what the gut does for a body every single day. As those days go by, scientists are learning more about how the gut sends signals concerning hunger and satiation, how it can influence mood, how it triggers defences when a person ingests dangerous germs, and how it hosts untold numbers of bacteria meant to keep us healthy and strong. There is no lapse in learning when it comes to how remarkable the digestive system truly is! 

In this welcome book, Dr. Jennifer Gardy examines one body system in a conversational tone that is sure to inform, while also amusing readers of all ages. Each chapter is designed in an organized way, using bulleted lists, highlighted words (later found in the glossary), descriptive text boxes, helpful illustrations, and a Fast Facts at each chapter's end. There are many I didn't know that moments for readers. 

Did you know there are three stages to barfing - nausea, retching, and finally, vomiting? Or that you can 'put the brakes' on barfing? You have a P6 point about three finger's width below the wrist joint where you might try applying a firm, gentle pressure to help prevent nausea, or try chewing on a piece of ginger. Worthwhile suggestions, for sure. Referrals to historical discoveries and scientific advances add to the book's appeal. The chapters are full of pertinent information, explained in a way that much of the complexity is made easier to 'digest'.

Back matter includes a glossary of highlighted terms, and a very useful index. 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Snoozefest: The Surprising Science of Sleep, written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and illustrated by Valery Goulet. Kids Can Press, 2021. $17.99 ages 10 and up


"If you're a lion, there's really nothing better 
than a snoozing giraffe. Once a giraffe lies down
to sleep, it takes the animal about fifteen seconds 
to stand up again on its spindly legs. That's plenty 
of time for a lion to pounce. So why do giraffes 

It turns out that giraffes don't need to sleep as much as humans do, but they do need some deep sleep. They can't always be leaning on trees to keep themselves safe from predators. The need for sleep often outweighs the risk of becoming a lion's lunch. 

Sleep can be very elusive for many young people. Ms. Kyi tells readers about the studies showing nearly half of teens in Canada don't get enough sleep. What are they missing? Well, she is quick to make the research she has done accessible to interested readers. Her research is impeccable; she organizes the learning she has gleaned from dozens of studies and all of the other reading she has done in relation to this new topic of interest. 

We all need sleep to give our brains a fighting chance at a new day. That sleep helps humans organize what they have experienced, provides huge help for immunity, and affects countless bodily functions. She provides historical and scientific information, as well as some guidance for readers in an easy, casual voice that rings true and offers much to ponder. Readers who have questions about their own sleep patterns are likely to find the answers they are looking for in the pages of this book. 

The author discusses the growing movement to have high schools start later in the morninng, advising they need nine hours of sleep a night for optimum performance. After reading what she has to share, some teens may find encouragement to consider their own habits, and even make some changes. When kids learn the whys and hows sleep impacts health and happiness, they are much more likely to think seriously about their own nighttime habits. Becoming aware of what is happening in the body while it is sleeping is pretty 'eye-opening'. 

The artwork is enjoyable, sidebars and text boxes add interest and a routine break from the well-written text. Back matter provides for further reading, a comprehensive list of selected sources, and a very useful index; all are important elements to be found in exceptional nonfiction such as this. 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

This Very Tree: A Story of 9/11, Resilience, and Regrowth. Written and illustrated by Sean Rubin. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2021. $25.99 ages 5 and up


 "Some trees like a quiet park or forest, 
but I was a city tree. 
  I liked the sound of wind rushing 
between the tall buildings.
  I liked the smell of rain
on concrete in the summer. 
  I liked being in my plaza, 
watching everyone 
      and going. 

I was in my plaza the day it happened."

I didn't have this book in September when I shared Survivor Tree with you. Posting it today will give you plenty of time to add it to your library. That way, you will have both stories to share with your students or children next year. It is a story well-worth telling. Quite remarkable, in fact! 

Sean Rubin grew up in New York City, and had visited the World Trade Center as a kindergarten child. When his agent asked him to consider writing a story about it, he wasn't keen to return to that particular day and time. As he learned about the tree itself, he considered it a hometown friend and neighbor. The idea for a book began to take root, and became this notable story. 

Using a first-person voice, the tree introduces the plaza between the towers where it was initially planted.  It explains that it had a job to do; it provided shade, gave birds a place to rest, announced the arrival of spring with its blossoms. It was a city tree. One very typical morning, its world changed. The resulting chaos was unbearable and left the tree alone in deep darkness. 

It took weeks to be found, and taken to a quiet park. As the years passed, the tree changed as did its old home. Eventually the decision was made to take the tree back to where it belonged. 

"Then I saw it. 
One shining spire, and many 
more towers, surrounding a new plaza. 

And in the plaza, 
they had planted a forest. 
          It was filled with TREES.

Since 2010 the tree has new life, and a new job ... a symbol for peace, hope, and renewal. 

I cannot possibly do justice to the wonderful artwork, done in pencil and then digitally colored, that Sean Rubin has created. Driven by precise research, his detailed, emotional account of the tree's discovery in the ruins through its return to the plaza presents a story sure to impact those who share it. 

Back matter is plentiful, and worthwhile. 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Borders, written by Thomas King and illustrated by Natasha Donovan. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2021. $21.99 ages 9 and up

"Morning, Ma'am.

Good morning. 

Where you heading? 

Salt Lake City. 

Purpose of your visit? 

Visit my daughter. 



The following is an excerpt from a recent interview with Thomas King: 

"The only reason I revisited this one was because there was interest in turning it into a graphic novel. None of my stories and the phrase “graphic novel” had ever been in the same sentence before, so the possibility of Borders becoming one was intriguing."

Mr. King's original short story was published in 1993, in a collection called One Good Story, That One: Stories. It is a family tale that will resonate with middle years and high school readers today. Its relevance has never changed. 

A boy and his mother are unhappy when his sister decides to move to Salt Lake City to start a new life there. They reluctantly, and quite angrily, take her to the border and let her go. Then one day, his mother decides to make a visit to Utah. Their preparations for the trip complete, they leave their Blackfoot reserve and head to the border. 

At the border, she is asked to declare her citizenship. Her reply surprises the border guard: Blackfoot. He is polite and accommodating, asking the other necessary questions before returning to her declaration of citizenship. She repeats her answer; he goes back inside to bring out another guard. They are taken inside where she is eventually questioned again by an inspector. 

"In the end, she told us that if my mother 
didn't declare her citizenship, we would 
have to go back to where we came from.

The rules are the same at the Canadian border. It is, obviously, a standoff. The two spend days in limbo between the two crossings. All the while, readers experience discomfort as there seems no solution. That is exactly the point, as the mother demonstrates how powerfully she feels about identity and family. It requires response from readers as they must sit, think, and learn. It is a story seen from the younger brother's perspective ... someone who is very close to their own age.   

In this new look at Thomas King's much-admired short story, he dedicates its publication to those "who understand that the border is a figment of someone else's imagination". The art captures all of the emotions felt by the boy as he recalls moments with his sister in the past, wonders if he will see her again, and spends time with his mother as she quietly demands to be heard. It is powerful, and meaningful, requiring readers to come to their own conclusions. 

In back matter, Thomas King also offers a list of Native writers whose work he admires. Readers who want to know more can look here for their next story: 

"When I was a young man, there were very few Native writers. Now there is a landscape full of good writers from various backgrounds. To mention a few is to suggest the rest. Writers such as Tanya Talaga, Eden Robinson, Marilyn Dumont, Lee Maracle, Drew Hayden Taylor, Jesse Wente, Richard Wagamese, Tomson Highway, Joshua Whitehead, Basil Johnston, Cherie Dimaline, Michelle Good, Waubgeshig Rice, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, and the list goes on. I used to pride myself on having read every Native writer who published a story or a poem or a book. That is no longer true, and it hasn’t been true for a while now. Such a happy occurrence."

Friday, December 10, 2021

How to Have a Birthday, written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Cindy Derby. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"At breakfast you might be given a crown. 

Because your birthday is to celebrate that 
you are here. It's to tell you that you matter.

People may sing to you.
Or you can make up a little song and sing
it to yourself.

Besides Christmas itself, many Canadian children count their birthday as their best day of the year. It is often a day filled with great joy and excitement for them as they are celebrated with gifts, cake, and party time. In her new book, Mary Lyn Ray speaks to the importance of that day and those doings that make it so very special. 

Her use of a second person voice immediately lets the reader know that she is speaking directly to them. The wondering and whispering happens as one child begins her day with her younger sibling, her mother, and a crown. The second shows a bright red-headed dad pushing his equally carrot-topped child down the hallway in a laundry basket. The third lies on the floor with her feet resting on the wall while she sings a gentle song to herself. Each holds a stuffed toy. 

With each page turn, readers learn there may be a chance to do something never tried before, few or many presents, or just time to celebrate the day as a very personal one.  

"Because wherever you go, 
your birthday goes with you.

In celebration, pictures are good, as is measuring to see how much growth has happened in the past year, and maybe even waiting patiently for a birthday surprise. What could be better than that? No matter what else happens during the year, everybody gets a birthday every year and cake. Please don't forget to make a wish! 

This is a sweet and cozy read aloud sure to inspire stories and memories from years past, and wishes for years to come.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

When I Am Bigger: Counting Numbers Big and Small. Written and illustrated by Maria Dek. Princeton Architectural Press, Raincoast. 2021. $24.99 ages 7 and up


"To keep 24 snails happy and fat, 
I will grow a giant head of lettuce. 

I will not clean my room for a week or maybe a year!
But I will collect trash in the park with Mama hedgehog
and her 27 happy hoglets.

This is welcome companion to Ms. Dek's earlier book, When I Am Big (2018). This one aims at attracting older kids. It is for those who can imagine a future life in terms of numbers and how to use them. In their minds they can imagine having an idea every 9 seconds, or building a robot that can do 16 different things, or holding a breath underwater for 35 seconds, or building a snowman out of 37 snowballs. 

With every turn of the page, readers see more gleeful flights of the imagination that just might come true, if the child doing the imagining does their best to accomplish the promised feat. Wonderful watercolor illustrations provide energetic color, careful counting, and intricate planning that bring each promise to fruition. There are many surprises and plentiful giggles as readers meander through the pages, stopping to ensure that art matches text. At the end, when they reach 100, they will have already practiced their big number prowess many times. What's more fun than making a point and proving that counting only becomes a bit more of a challenge as children get 'bigger'.   

The best thing about sharing this fun book is that it is sure to encourage readers to try to make a list of their number wishes and dreams. Perhaps the artists in the classroom could provide art to match the imaginings. 


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Bear Wants To Sing, written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dena Seiferling. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"The bear floated on his back.

The mouse crouched down, hopped into 
the air, and landed on the bear. 

They floated along, the mouse sitting on 
the bear's belly. 

"I like your song," said the mouse."

If you were lucky enough to read King Mouse (2019), you are sure to enjoy this new adventure by the same accomplished team. It opens with a softly-lit, full-spread scene showing a child riding a trike, with a small wagon attached, away from a bumpy forest path. In its wake are a collection of musical instruments. 

A bear, following that same path, finds a ukulele. He likes its smell, its taste, and the sound it makes. He wants to share his find with someone; the nearest one being a tiny mouse sitting on a tree stump. He offers to sing his song. The mouse is attentive. Before that can happen, a crow flies down. In landing, it steps on a tambourine, and demands to sing first. The bear is now grumpy, and unaware he is about to get even grumpier. First a snake finds a drum, and has a song. Then, a tortoise discovers a horn that helps sing a song of its own. Each time, Bear has not a slim chance to play his own song. 

When a fox arrives with a suggestion that the musicians for a band, there is much joy! The mouse reminds that the bear has not yet had his turn. Bear is no longer interested. The others persuade him to sing. Oh, dear! The singing does not go well. No one is willing to tell the bear the truth. From their actions, he realizes that he is not meant to be a singer. Off he goes, alone and disheartened. 

The mouse follows, wanting to give its friend support. As the bear begins floating down the river, the mouse jumps aboard his belly. The two friends each sing a happy song about themselves. In a final frame, the child on the trike returns to find all lost instruments left leaning against a tree stump, and bringing this story, about being a friend and being kind, full circle.  

The telling is rich in language and humor, the graphite illustrations warm and expressive, making this a perfect book to read aloud.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Barn, written by Leah H. Rogers and illustrated by Barry Root. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"I am a barn. 

My cows chomp on tall, rich grass, 
shooing flies with their swishing tails. 
And the dogs romp and wrestle in my outstretched fields, 
never seeming to tire of their joyous play.

Narrated by a sturdy red barn, this poetic homage to that familiar part of many farmyards presents the daily routines of a building that is emblematic of earlier, peaceful, and profitable farming operations. 

The reassuring voice describes its beginnings, and the many hands that worked to construct it. The barn's day begins in warm sunshine. Inside, the animals are eager to begin their day with needed food, and an immediate release to a new day. The scenes are bucolic, showing the farm from various perspectives on full-color, double-page spreads that invite careful consideration of the many details of farm life. 

"I am a barn. 

A cat lurks in a distant field, 
crouching to catch her unsuspecting dinner,
while I cradle her kittens in a bed of discarded blankets. 
They lie wrapped together like tangled yarn,
waiting for their twilight milk.

The language has much appeal for the senses; an invitation for young liseners to create mind pictures for the events being depicted. It invites a quiet, careful reading for those sharing it to delight in the pastoral descriptions. Throughout the day and into the early evening, the farm operates as it is meant to do. The fields are inviting; the animals are safe and cared for; the day slips slowly into dusk when all animals return to the warmth and comfort of their home. Sleep comes peacefully as the barn calms, and night falls - all ready to begin again with the rising of tomorrow's sun. 

Ah, sweet comfort! What a lovely debut for Leah Rogers, and what warm and inviting scenes from the deft hand of Barry Root.   

Older readers might find this documentary of interest.

Monday, December 6, 2021

What Isabella Wanted: Isabella Stewart Gardner Builds a Museum, written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99 ages 5 and up


"Outside, Boston's gray rain puddled the snow, 
but inside she gazed at The Concert
sat for long hours in front of The Storm
thinking and dreaming, 
happy and warm.

What an interesting and persistent woman Isabella Stewart Gardner proved herself to be! Isabella was not prepared to meet the social standards of Boston society at a time when that is exactly what was expected of all young women of means. Instead, she marched to the beat of her own drummer. When she tired of it all, she boarded a ship. 

"She sailed away, 
one summer's day, 
from tight-lipped, 
Boston to ...

Her travels led to an uncompromising love of art of all kinds. She was captivated by paintings, stained glass, mosaics, tapestries, furniture. Once her collecting began, she only wanted more. She filled the rooms in her Boston home, where she could sit and admire her many purchases. While she sat quietly admiring their beauty, she hired professional agents to continue buying priceless artifacts for her, not always legally. Isabella got what she wanted. 

Soon, her dream grew to building a four-story palazzo that would accommodate her many acquisitions, and become a museum for visitors. She lived on the top floor, spent a year arranging the three lower floors and various rooms as she saw fit. In 1903, at the age of 63, she opened her museum with a grand party. For more than twenty years, she opened its doors for twenty days a year to visitors who could afford the $1 entrance fee. Always adding more, organized and reorganized, and in the end left it all to the Boston community ... 

"to keep forever, 
just as long as nothing
was moved. 
Not a cup. 
Not a cross. 
Not a painting. 
Not a thing. 

And that is how her 
museum home stayed. 
For decades.

One dark night in 1990 (long after her death), all that changed ... a $500 million heist mystery today remains unsolved. 

As we have come to expect from the amazing Candace Fleming, this is a wonderful story! In Ms. Fleming's deft hands, Isabella is an engaging, if unbending, woman. Though privileged and eccentric, she chose to share her bounty with the people of Boston, in life and in death. You will know from previous posts that I also have great admiration for Matthew Cordell's art. In this book, his illustrations perfectly match the text. He creates energetic scenes of a spirited woman in many different places and fashions, with mannerisms that clearly show who she is. There is drama, humor, and an unmistakable understanding for the clutter she created in the museum that looked exactly as she wanted it to look. 

Back matter includes an impressive accounting of Isabella's life and art acquisitions, and the ways in which she used her own personal memorabilia to enhance the collection housed in the Gardner Museum to this day. To see the museum virtually, please visit

Quirky and joyous, this is a book that will find many fans ... deservedly so. 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

circle under berry, by carter higgins. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2021. $22.99 ages 2 and up


"lion under scarlet

scarlet over frog

lion over scarlet
    under oval 
      over frog

Oh, I hope you have a new baby or a happy toddler in your life! If you do, this is the perfect Christmas gift, or anytime gift, for a little someone you love. I know exactly who I am gifting it to next week. 

Take nine basic shapes, add impressive vocabulary, eye-catching colors, and you have only skimmed the surface of the learning that will happen when you share this truly exceptional book. It is such a collection of images, with a charming and well-planned structure. Throw in hearing and learning prepositions that are a part of language building, and a chance to watch any shape take on a new persona, and you will be amazed.

It is a book filled with rhythm and rhyme, making it perfect to read many times over. Each time it brings delight and wonder for those little ones listening.  The constant shuffling of one form to a different place, the beauty to be found in the brilliant named colors, and the possibilities to be discovered with each visit to its irresistible pages ... what more is there?  

Creating artwork using hand-painted papers that are collaged and then assembled digitally, Carter Higgins invites careful consideration and observation in a truly remarkable new book for our youngest readers.                                                                              

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Chez Bob, written and illustrated by Bob Shea. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2021. $22.99 ages 5 and up


"As a small-business owner, Bob wanted to 
be part of the community. He coached the 
basketball team. 

It's rewarding to be a positive role model
for the birds I'm going to eat,
thought Bob.

There's nothing sneaky about Bob, a ravenous and very lazy alligator. It is his assumption that the birds he so loves to eat will simply fly into his immense mouth when asked; thus, requiring not a bit of effort on his part to appease his longing for sustenance. After all, being as lazy as Bob is makes an alligator mighty hungry. His methods, despite his attempts to be polite, have little effect on the birds feasting on nearby seeds. 

Could the solution be a birdseed restaurant? If that works, Bob will sell his idea to other alligators and gain untold riches. Chez Bob is soon ready for guests. The birds flock to his establishment. Bob provides delicious seeds, and suggests that satisfied patrons tell their many bird friends. Soon enough, business is booming. The birds build their own townsite right next to the restaurant. Bob becomes a well-liked member of the community, despite his ongoing plan to eventually eat the unkowing birds. 

Before long, Bob is a trusted friend. When a storm blows up, the birds seek shelter in his mouth. What a lucky twist of fate! Or is it? 

Humorous and wonderfully illustrated in bold colors, and presenting a charming lineup of appealing birds, this story has all the right stuff to become a bedtime favorite.