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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Alone Lke Me, written and illustrated by Rebecca Evans. Anne Schwartz Books, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"I look for the smiling girl 
everywhere - behind the spices
that make my eyes water. 

by the barrels of sweet lychees ... 

under the tables of rainbow fabric. 

She's gone."

Set in China, this quiet story introduces Liling who has moved with her parents from the country to live in a big city. Her parents do factory work, and cannot afford to send her to school. She spends her days with them, in places where children are expected to be quiet and still. It is a lonely life. 

At the busy market, Liling notices a smiling girl in a bold yellow coat. There is no chance to speak to her. Liling searches everywhere at the market for her, with no luck. At home, her parents do their best to find places she will enjoy. Instead, the children in the park ignore her greetings and call her names. 

"I climb under the 
slide and pretend I'm a 
dragon with diamond 
scales. Dragons don't 
need new friends.

From her balcony Liling can see the city, its cars and its multitude of inhabitants. She is surprised to spot a flash of yellow. What are the chances? The smiling girl lives in the next building. They call out to each other, much to the consternation of a grumpy neighbor. Home is now more welcoming as the two share greetings every night. Liling continues to look on visits to the market and park. The girl is not in either place. 

Inspired to find a way to communicate, Liling draws a picture of her old home and lowers it in a can from her balcony to the girl below. Back and forth they go with messages and pictures every day. When Qiqi invites her to meet at the park, Liling voices concern about the other children. There is no need. This heartful story is proof positive that friendship has remarkable power for those who feel lonely, as we all do at times. 

The only bright spots in the Ms. Evans' pencil and watercolor images are the jackets worn by the girls.  Against the backdrop of a bleak city landscape, they are easy to spot and follow as their story is told.  I love the way dragons, a sign of courage, are woven onto pages where bravery is needed. Scenes that reflect Chinese culture are sensitively drawn and help to inform young readers. 

A glossary and pronunciation guide as the story opens, and an author's note and list of resources are helpful. 

Monday, May 30, 2022

Sun in My Tummy, written by Laura Alary and illustrated by Andrea Blinick. Pajama Press, 2022. $22.95 ages 4 and up


"Those oats grew tall and green, 
then turned to gold. 
Hidden inside were all the things
that had made them grow. 

Clouds. Rain. Soil. Sun. 
They're hard to see. But look deeper. 
Everything is there.

After far too many days without sun, people who live in wet and soggy Manitoba can attest to the leap in energy and joy that comes with long, sunny spring days! We are basking in the warmth for as long as it lasts. 

As the day begins for our young girl and her mother, there is a reluctance on her part to leave her warm and cozy bed. Leave it she must. Mama is making oatmeal, a gift from the sun. It isn't long since those oats were planted in a field, warmed by the sun, encouraged to grow by rain, harvested and made into the oats for the breakfast that begins this new day. 

The oatmeal is not the only part of her breakfast. There are also blueberries, encouraged to grow in the warmth of sunshine and providing sustenance for birds and animals, as well as the people who pick them. Don't forget the milk! The cow who gives the milk chomped the grass that grew thanks to the power of the sun, rain, and soil. 

"Inside everything, 
if you look 
deep enough, 
you will find 
the sun.

The second-person narrative is soothing and informative as it includes instruction on plant life cycles, food webs, and photosynthesis. It provides a clear and logical explanation for a complex process, and leaves young readers with an easy awareness for the breakfast foods that sustain them during their day. Questions are asked, comparisons are made - all with the purpose of helping young children know the importance of the sun. After a filling and healthy breakfast, the girl is off to catch her school bus with sun in her tummy.  

Andrea Blinick's mixed-media artwork is filled with the sunlight that benefits all. From making its appearance at dawn to its growing brilliance as mother and daughter tuck into their nutritious meal, the sun is always in the background doing its amazing work. Many lovely details on each spread will encourage further attention and discussion. The cow literally floating in her cereal bowl will elicit tiny giggles. 

An author's note further explains photosynthesis for readers.  

"So anytime you take a breath, or have a snack, or sit down for a meal, thank green plants and the sun for making it all possible."

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Gemma and the Giant Girl, written by Sara O'Leary and illiustrated by Marie LaFrance. tundra, Penguin Random House, 2012. $22.99 ages 4 and up


"Momma and Poppa told her stories about 
a time when there had been giants. 

They said that outside their house was 
another larger house. 

Gemma tried to imagine it, but it made 
no sense. 

There was nothing outside her window."

Gemma and her family live in a 'very nice little house and had a very nice little life'. Her days are filled with sameness - same room, same toys, same clothes. It has always been this way. When she asks her parents about her future, they tell her that she will always be their little girl. 

They share stories from the outside when there were giants. Gemma sees nothing outside the windows. Until one day, the house moves, scattering Gemma and its contents in all directions. What is outside? Can it be a giant? Gemma would like to know. Quick as anything, Gemma is confronted by a giant girl.  Readers will quickly note that Gemma's house is a dollhouse, safeguarded in an attic.

From then on, life in Gemma's house changes considerably. Something new is added every day. Some things are welcome, others not so much. New clothes hold tremendous appeal. A big book appears that allows for new learning about the world outside their sheltered life. Just when Gemma thinks she has seen it all, something even more startling happens. 

Gemma is removed from her house to the giant girl's bedroom, and shown some of the real natural wonders of the world beyond the home she has known for her entire life. Although enticing and quite revelatory, to her surprise all she really wants is to go home. Gemma learns that the world can be a place of many wonders, but nothing beats home. 

Magical and full of childhood wonder, this book will have readers thinking about possibilities and change. Marie LaFrance's artwork is memorable and meaningful as Ms. O'Leary captures the magic of childhood in her choice words.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Blips on a Screen: How Ralph Baer Invented TV Video Gaming and Launched a Worldwide Obsession, written by Kate Hannigan and illustrated by Zachariah Ohora. Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages

"He liked the idea of working with radios -
people around the world tuned in every 
day to gasp over mystery shows, laugh 
with comedians, and worry over wartime 
news. He enrolled in radio-repair classes."

I have no business writing a post about a persistent and prolific inventor who made video gaming a fixation for people around the world. However, having read this book about Ralph Baer and being able to follow his process thanks to the detailed illustrations created by Zachariah Ohara, I feel a touch more qualified at this point. I hope I can do it justice.  

For Kate Hannigan, inspiration came while wondering what her son would find interesting enough to read. Wanting to learn about what was important to him, she researched the history of gaming. She begins with the journey from one blip on the screen to the Brown Box. This led her to Ralph Baer, the man whose move to New York from Germany as a child grew up to love working with radios. He enrolled in radio-repair classes, and went from there to renown in his field. 

That love led him to look to television, which was fast becoming an important household word. He began designing them and quickly realized that their lines on the screens looked like board games. Why not use them to play games? It took many years, using his combined knowledge of radio, television and military experience, before he developed his idea for a 'game box'. 

Real work often got in the way, but Ralph and his friend Bill Harrison worked tirelessly through countless long nights to create the 'first two-person video game contest in history'. The work did not end there. Ms. Hannigan keeps the story going as Ralph patented, presented, produced, and improved on his remarkable invention! 

In back matter, four pages of questions and answers add further facts about Ralph and his life. A timeline follows, as well as a list of resources (books, websites and museums). Ralph Baer died in December 2014 at age 92. His legacy lives on for people around the world. 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Drawing Outdoors, written by Jairo Buitrago and illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Translated by Elisa Amado. Greystone Kids, 2022. $22.95 ages 4 and up

"Today the teacher tells us that 
our lessons will be outside. We 
are explorers, we have paper, 
we have crayons.

The narrator for this uplifting story tells readers about her school that has 'almost nothing'. It does, however, have a remarkable teacher. The children arrive along numerous paths to their school 'in the middle of nowhere'. On this particular day, they leave the school for lessons outdoors. 

They have all they need. For some, the trip to school is uninspiring; the chance to draw outdoors is the incentive neded for making the long trek. It isn't long before the teacher points out a Brontosaurus. Their day of drawing, observing, and imagining begins in earnest. Filled with excitement and eager to see more, they continue exploring their environment. 

""There, hidden between those stones, is the Stegosaurus."

"What's a Stegosaurus?" ask the twins. 

"It's that one over there that has rocks on its back," 
I explain to them. 

"Oooh," they say and stop talking and start to draw.

What wonders they behold as they draw in the outdoors. Their final sight is of a Tyrannosaurus rex. It is both breathtaking and terrifying. The brave stay to draw, the others tear back toward their school. A break is taken before the children return home. Our narrator heads home, pink-cheeked and clutching the many drawings produced on this spectacular day. 

Isn't that the kind of education every child deserves? A caring, enthusiastic teacher makes all the difference. She encourages creativity, a love for their natural surroundings, and important conversations. Digital illustrations add humor to the events of the day. They also provide stunning landscapes and personality for the school's students.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Another Squiggly Story, written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Mike Lowery. Kids Can Press, 2022. $21.95 ages 4 and up


"Things I Know 

* The difference between 
the big dipper and the 
little dipper. 
* How to find the North Star
* Facts about Mars
*the difference between 
a great white shark 
and a hammerhead

My granddaughters are delighted that Another Squiggly Story is published. It is an engaging sequel to A Squiggly Story (2016) which they really enjoy. Now a few years older, the narrator continues his journey toward being an author. 

His imagination has him constantly daydreaming about the things he loves. When Mr. Lopez tells the class that the assignment for next week will be a story about themselves, he is perplexed. His classmates immediately make a decision for their writing. He has not one idea! As he did in the first book, he consults his older sister. Surely she can help him. 

First of all, she lets him know that what he is about to write is called an autobiography because it is a 'story BY you ABOUT you'. He is in charge of whatever he writes. To help, she shows him her autobiography written when she was in Mr. Lopez's class. He decides on a title: THE STORY OF ME BY ME! It's hard work, and she is willing to help with advice about editing, and anything else he might need. 

In class, after the weekend, he shares his title. To help with the writing process, Mr. Lopez suggests brainstorming - a chance to talk with a partner about ideas each has. Thinking is hard. First drafts are the work of the day when he returns to school the following day. He decides to make a list of things he likes, as his sister has suggested. That writing turns into three lists! 

A walk with his sister helps him make connections between his three lists in hopes that he will find a story to tell about himself. Talking to his friend helps him add important details. It will take some time, but with practice and thought there is a story to be told. That is the process we call writing. Perhaps a third squiggly story is in the future. 

Mike Lowery's cartoon drawings add context for the process, and will encourage readers to give an autobiography a try. Listing is a fine way to start.                                                                                      

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Those Kids From Fawn Creek, written by Erin Entrada Kelly. Greenwillow, Harper, 2022. $23.99 ages 9 and up

"There weren't many perfect-weather days in Fawn Creek.
The summers were brutally hot and humid, and they lasted forever. When the cold months came - and there weren't many - it was just enough to nip the air and send you indoors.

Before Orchid showed up, the air was heavy and stifling. But the week after she appeared, it changed.

So did many other things for the truly remarkable cast of characters Ms. Kelly has created for her new book! They are authentic, commanding, and incredibly themselves. Each of the twelve seventh graders have been together at school in Fawn Creek Louisiana since kindergarten. When Orchid Mason arrives, she creates quite the distraction from what school has been like for the rest. 

Change rarely happens there, so her arrival causes quite a stir. Orchid, with her stories of life in Paris and New York, becomes fast friends with outsiders Greyson and Dorothy. Greyson's home life is hampered by the attitudes of his father and brother when he doesn't meet their expectations of who he should be, and how he should act. Dorothy is introverted and wanting to make a real connection with her aloof and seemingly indifferent parents. Orchid gives them hope that the world beyond Fawn Creek will one day welcome them, too.  

Middle school is a complex place to be. While she is friendly to everyone, it isn't long until Orchid becomes the object of some jealousy. Janie, the resident leader in all things social, decides she doesn't like Orchid much and plots with a former student to teach her a lesson. Acceptance, bullies, and dealing with life as it happens in middle school also results in growth, kindness and community. 

Secondary characters, including Mr. Agosto their teacher and Greyson's mom, have much to add to the course of the story. It is a strong and varied cast. Their problems are real; their family lives complicated; their voices authentic; and their support for each other when that support is needed is apparent.  

Powerful and thought-provoking, this is an absolutely perfect read for middle grade classrooms.   

Of her novel, Erin Entrada Kelly has this to say about the readers she hopes to impact: "My ideal reader doesn't feel seen at home or school. My ideal reader has a rich interior life and isn't sure how to walk around in the world. My ideal reader feels lonely sometimes, even if they don't know why. My ideal reader is a kind-hearted dreamer who asks questions of the world around them, even if they never speak them out loud. Basically, my ideal reader is little Erin." 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

I Am Golden, written by Eva Chen and illustrated by Sophie Diao. Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"You are the lotus flower unfurling - 
triumphant and bright - in the darkest 
water. You are the first bamboo stalk, 
piercing the soil, that will overtake 
the sky. 

Your voice is the call of the magpie, 
joyful and unapologetic.

In celebrarion of Asian Awareness month, today I share another triumph of Chinese identity. Eva Chen writes the text as a letter from two loving parents to their daughter. They tell her that her name Mei translates as beautiful, like their new country Mei Guo - America. They ask her what she sees when she looks in a mirror, and let her know what they see as well. They talk about her warm eyes, her black hair, her golden skin. 

"You carry a golden flame... and it’s always with you.” 

Their move to New York City from China has been made easier because of their Mei. They see a new path for her in the future. While they cannot protect her from all disappointments and hurts, they allow that being different can be a powerful thing. They are honest with her when they speak of the racism and hate she will face, and assure her that she has everything she needs to find her way in the world. 

"It’s a strange world we live in—people will call you different with one breath and then say that we all look the same with the next angry breath.” 

Their belief in and love for their daughter is evident in every word they speak. Most words are so lovely and uplifting that I just want to keep adding quotes. Then, there would be no need for you to check it out at the library, or to buy it for your school library or classroom. 

Perfectly matching the text's rich imagery are Sophie Diao's lustrous digital images of family love, new experiences, Chinese history, mythology, and culture. Powerful and stunning, it's a first collaboration for this team. One can only hope that there will be another. 

In the backmatter, Chen and Diao relay their own family stories of immigration, accompanied by  family photos.                                                                                    

Monday, May 23, 2022

Time To Shine: Celebrating the World's Iridescent Animals, written by Karen Jameson and illustrated by Dave Murray. Groundwood, 2022. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"A regal peacock loves to reign
by fanning out his feathered train.

To impress females, peacocks pose in the 
best light to display the iridescent eyespots 
on their feathers. As a defense, the males 
make their shimmering tail feathers as big
as they can to frighten off other animals.

Adaptations in nature are quite marvelous. In this book, Ms. Jameson uses rhyme and rhythm to attract young readers to a variety of animals whose iridescent features help them survive by blending in to their environment or by drawing attention to themselves wherever they are. 

Readers will recognize many of those included for their brilliance; others are less well-known. All use their color to communicate, defend themselves, and make adaptations to improve their chances of survival. Each rhyme reveals facts of interest to readers, and is followed by short entries that expand on the learning. It's a great book for reading aloud, and for savoring as it quietly teaches.  

"With flashy sleeves, swift dragonflies 
zoom around to advertise. 

With striking colors on their wings,
dragonflies dart and hover to advertise
for their mates and claim their territory.
They may even point out good spots for 
the females to lay their eggs."

In two final spreads (and front and back pages), the author adds eleven additional animals that might be researched, and a summary explanation of iridescence, its features, and its scientific importance to learning today. Digital illustrations by Dave Murray are worthy of such descriptors as sparkling, shiny, radiant, dazzling. Readers will be awed by their colors, the settings and the perspectives. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Interrupting Chicken Cookies for Breakfast, by David Ezra Stein. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"There Was an Old Woman 

There was an old woman 
who lived in a shoe. 
She had so many - 

Cookies, she gave me a few! 

Why do you live in a shoe? Isn't 
it stinky? 

Not when I bake cookies! 
Ha! Ha!

In this third book about Interrupting Chicken, the day begins early. It's much too early for Papa. Chicken brings cookies for breakfast in bed. Papa will not be fooled by this blatant ploy. He's still tired and he would rather sleep. But he does respond to the second of his chick's wishes. He will read a book. 

The two cuddle up with a book of nursery rhymes. 

"Papa be nimble,
Papa be quick, 
Papa read to your little chick.

Chicken is well-known for interrupting, as all fans will well know. So, they begin ... only to be interrupted in the reading again and again by an exuberant little one who loves to rhyme, and to include in those rhymes the cookies so dearly coveted. Listeners love the 'book within a book' illustrations that David Stein uses to tell his grand stories. 

Try as Chicken might, Papa does not succumb to constant reminders of the cookies wanted desperately for any meal of the day. Cookies are not meals; they are snacks! While Papa does his best to try again to get a little shut-eye before breakfast, Chicken has one last surprise. Then, Papa (now hungry himself) has one of his own. 

Artwork is created in 'watercolor, water-soluble crayon, china marker, pen, opaque white ink, and tea'. The scenes with Papa and Chicken are rich with color and full of warm details, while the nursery-rhyme pages are drawn as cartoons with only Chicken drawing attention in full color. 

David Ezra Stein proves once again how well he knows the persistence and interruptions that come from living with young children. Here again, he offers a book that is fun to read at any of the day. 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

A Day for Sandcastles, written by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Qin Leng. Candlewick, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 all ages

"It's a lovely summer day, 
perfect for spending at the 
beach. A busload of beachgoers
disembark and set up along the 
sand to enjoy the cool breezes 
and sun.

If you read Above the Shop (2021) by this same remarkable team, you will be feeling as giddy with delight as I was to see that they have collaborated once again. JonArno Lawson's story concept is masterfully presented in gentle watercolors by Qin Leng. Explore each spread, start to finish. Then, go back and do it again. And again. And again.

A bus pulls into a parking lot near the beach; the first to alight is a family of five. Three children lead the way in a jubilant dash for water and sand. While the children explore, the parents set up chairs, an umbrella, and all other paraphernalia needed for a sun-filled, adventurous day.  

The children's work begins in earnest. A first castle is built, and quickly destroyed by the incoming tide. Not to be deterred, the work begins again. Dad has a suggestion. The kids have their own ideas. Ever more intricate, the next setback is a lady's large sunhat that lands and crushes it. Where's the fun if you don't try again, only to be thwarted by water once more? 

Lunch is served, the demolished castle forgotten. It isn't long before the older one reminds his siblings there is work to be done. Their skills much improved by trial and error, they are soon back at it. A masterpiece is constructed and reconstructed over and over again, always in retreat from the incoming tide. 

No words are needed ... just observant eyes and time to talk about, and take note of every imaginative and lovely detail presented from dawn until dusk. Please don't miss it!                                                                               

Friday, May 20, 2022

Eyes That Speak to the Stars, written by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Dung Ho. Harper, 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"When we got home, 
Baba stood with me in front of a mirror
and said, 

"Your eyes rise to the skies and speak 
to the stars. The comets and constellations
show you their secrets, 
and your eyes can foresee the future.

Just like mine."

This companion book to Eyes That Kiss in the Corners (2021), brings attention to the male side of an Asian family. Following an upsetting incident at school, a young boy shares his sadness over it with his father. The other boys in his friend's drawing show each with round, wide eyes while his are drawn slanted (and closed). He feels that it doesn't look like him at all. 

At home, Baba takes time to show him what his eyes really look like; they are the same as his father's. He likes that his eyes rise to the skies, just as his Baba's do. The rest of their day is filled with adventure and joy. They fly kites with Agong and play games, all the while considering the heritage of their Chinese ancestors. Time spent together is welcome and cherished. 

"Agong has an answer
for every question I ask
on our early morning walks, 

but when I hug him good night,
he cups my face in his hands
and looks at me
like I am the only answer that matters.

From Agong to Baba to our narrator and his little brother, Di-Di - all share the same eyes, the same heritage, the same joy in their world. This book complements the book that came before it, and honors what the future holds. Colorful, cultural digital images add a great deal of detail, warmth and interest for young readers. It is a worthy addition to any bookshelf.   

A powerful and uplifting book that is just right for sharing in homes, classrooms, and libraries as we celebrate Asian Awareness month.                                                                                         

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Free, written and illustrated by Barroux. Owlkids Books, 2022. $19.95 ages 3 and up


"You two can cross.
But for the birds, I need 
three copies of form 632BX.
Paperwork from a 
veterinarian, including
names of all species and 
their nationalities ...

The Great Bird Circus is plenty excited for their chance to perform for the governor. After an evening performance, with musical help from Paloma, they all need a good sleep. In the morning, they are up and eager to begin their journey. Their travels through the mountains are suddenly brought to a halt when they meet up with a border agent. The humans are welcome; the birds are not, unless they have a long list of forms filled out and presented to him. 

The fact that the governor is waiting for their performance holds no weight with the officious guard. The troupe will not pass until required papers are handed over. What to do? What to do? 

Paloma has an ingenious inspiration! The two release the birds, and freely cross the border. Once they have passed, the guard notices shadows on the ground of birds flying overhead. It takes him no time to realize he has been bamboozled! The birds fly straight back to the caravan and happily return to their cages until .... 

Paloma, you are a shrewd one! 

Kids will love it, and you will as well. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

School Is Wherever I Am, witten and illustrated by Ellie Peterson. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $24.99 ages 5 and up


"Is school only one place? 
Are there other classrooms? 
Different teachers? 
New things to learn? 

Where else is school? 

Can school be found 
among hoots and howls 
at the zoo?

The child narrator for this book about school and learning first describes his school: what it is, what is in his classroom, what he does while he is there, and what he wonders while there. Most of all, he wonders about the word school itself. 

His question about the concept of school leads him to wonder about field trips to the zoo, to the aquarium, to the museum or to the pumpkin farm. Are they school, too? He even wonders if school only happens when there are other kids with him, or can it be while he is alone. The questions posed are worth contemplating for readers. 

"My classroom could be Nana's kitchen, 
where I overstuff the potstickers.

And my desk might be 
Papa's workbench, where
we build a bird mansion.

His curiosity about the concept of school extends his thinking and allows him to realize that no matter where he is, he is learning. It might be inside, outside, at the library, in his school classroom, on his computer. In gentle language, and without any pressure, the author offers an opportunity for extended thinking. There are opportunities for learning something new wherever we are, and whatever we do. It is an empowering realization. We are lifelong learners, when given the opportunity to expand our experiences. 

Digital artwork explores emotions, settings, imagination, and quiet thought. Can you make a list of the places you enjoy that help you learn more about yourself and the world? 

My list begins with the books that I am lucky enough to read every day. They 'school' me in endless learning.                                                                                

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Luli and the Language of Tea, written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Hyewon Yum. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House, 2022. $24.99 ages 3 and up


"Luli poured the first cup and gave it to 
Maxim, who gave it to Anaya, who gave 
it to Kerem, who gave it to Nikou, who 
gave it to Hakim, who gave it to Valentina,
who gave it to Matthias, who gave it to 
Tishala, who gave it to Pedro.

Here I sit at the computer having my first cup of tea for the day. One early memory of making tea concerns my dad's sister, my Aunt Anne. She loved tea, and made it the 'right way', she told me. You didn't just dip a tea bag into hot water. You did it the British way. The Brits knew about tea, she said. Today, I often drop a tea bag into my mug, pour hot water over it and drink. She would not be impressed. 

In Andrea Wang's book about the children who spend their time in day care while their parents take an English as a Second Language class, we meet Luli first. Her first entrance into the day care classroom is a touch surprising. There is no noise. Luli can't speak English, nor can any of the other children. Each one plays alone. The last time she attended, it was the same. This time, Luli has an idea she shares in a drawing for her teacher. Her teacher approves. 

At home, she makes necessary preparations for putting her plan into action. At school, she brings out all of the items needed ... 'a thermos, a canister, a stack of cups, and a fat-bellied teapot'. Luli prepares the tea, and after a deep breath announces Cha! in Chinese. Her announcement gets the attention of all of the children in the room. Each child responds with their own pronunciation of tea, which are all quite similar. The languages are Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Spanish, German, Swahili, and Portuguese. 

The joy of sharing the tea with the others creates a small problem for Luli. A solution is quickly determined by the children and all is well. Luli has one final surprise ... a word she knows in English. What a remarkable difference can be made with warm and thoughtful actions. Well done, Luli! 

Colored pencil illustrations create a warm community of children from around the world. Changes in perspective allow readers a close look at the ceremony and the growing comfort as children realize they have much in common. Back matter includes an author’s note and details about the children, their languages and their own personal history with tea drinking.                                                                                   

Monday, May 16, 2022

At the Pond, written by David Elliott and illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 3 and up


"At the bottom 
of the pond the 
hungry snapping 
turtle waits, where 
an unsuspecting 
minnow will meet
its hard-shelled fate.

I am always thrilled to see a new book of poetry from the very talented David Elliott. Spring here has been soggy, to say the least. However, after two very dry summers, it is quite wonderful to see ponds, sloughs, and other water sources replenished in anticipation of sunny, warm weather. This book about the animals and plants that make the pond their home comes at a very appropriate time. I am happy to share it with you today. 

Mr. Elliott begins in the early morning with a red-winged blackbird and his welcome song for a new day. As the day dawns there is much to be seen in the water and on its shores. A family of ducks makes its way across the pond, with hen in front and drake bringing up the rear. A frog sits on a lily pad, patiently waiting for the flowers to open, one by one. 

In the water, a huge fish makes its way. He is well- known to many.

"His reputation swims well 
beyond the banks of the pond. 
The stories he has spawned
have been repeated so often
no one knows truth 
from exaggeration. 
They have given him
a loving appellation: Old Harry, 
the Catfish That Won't be Caught.

Sometimes humorous, always atmospheric, these poems will be savored for their descriptive language and many details concerning the natural world. Together, they read almost like a story. They allow young readers a chance to witness all parts of the pond throughout a full day's adventures. There is a lot to see and admire as the poet guides their learning. In back matter, he includes welcome notes about each of the creatures and plants that have been his focus throughout. 

The illustrations 'were done in mixed media and finished digitally', and add magic to the carefully chosen words. The collage work gives the illusion of depth to the watery scenes and adds interest for careful observation. Beautiful hues and fine details attract attention to every spread.                                                                          

Sunday, May 15, 2022

My Delicious Garden, written by Anne-Marie Fortin and illustrated by Julien Castanie. Owlkids, 2019. $18.95 ages 4 and up



The soil has finally warmed up, 
and the perennials start to grow.
When the chives and mint spread 
out in the sunshine, it's time to 
get my hands dirty!

Children wanting to know about gardening will appreciate this book showing a young girl as she plans what she wants to have in the 'garden of her dreams'. It's hard to wait, but the wait will definitely be worth it.

Beginning in January and keeping a monthly record through the rest of the year is an inventive way to present her ideas and will prove very helpful for kids and parents new to a gardening venture. The plans include planting vegetables and flowers, and vocabulary that is sure to result in discussion and spending time researching ways to be successful. 


The hot sun and the rain 
help my broccoli grow. 
Eggplant, carrots, and zucchini 
color each tasty dish. 

By the end of the summer, we have a bounty! 
Even if we feast every day, 
there is still enough fennel, cucumbers, and rosemary 
to share with our neighbors.

It takes lots of time and much hard work to plant, care for, and harvest a garden; it is so worth it! Colorful illustrations add context and fun.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Whirl, written by Deborah Kerbel and illustrated by Josee Bisaillon. Owkids Books, 2022. $$19.95 ages 3 and up

"Follow the wordless journey
of a maple seed, sometimes 
called a maple key or whirligig,
as it helicopters away from its 
parent tree and floats across 
a city on the autumn wind.

This wordless book's main character is a maple seed, also known as a samara. Wind is a special helper in getting its fascinating story started. Because of its whirligig shape, children are ever intrigued by the paths it takes to get from seed to tree. This one begins in the sky above an urban backyard. A family takes note of it, and then readers follow as it experiences multiple adventures with humans and animals. The trajectory is clearly shown through varying perspectives and paneled illustrations. It is a slow process and takes time. 

From falling off a tree in fall to finding life as a sapling, readers follow its every move. What a gift is provided by its shape and its ability to spin from one place to another. Readers will be engaged and encouraged to discuss the events shown. It is one more natural wonder for them to appreciate and understand.  After seeing this book, imagine the adventures a young audience might think about for  the first maple seed they see aloft when its time for them to make their appearance later this year. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

emile and the field, written by Kevin Young and illustrated by Chioma Ebinama. Make Me a World, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"His favorite maple 
was as tall as his mother - 
taller than the other trees
who hid the field 
and filled it with shade
and breeze.

As I have mentioned recently, there are such marvelous books being published this season that inspire kids and parents to get outside and take note of the peace and beauty to be found there. Emile's story tells of his love for a field. When we first meet him, he and his dog are alone in a field rife with vibrant wildflowers. He is happy. The field is a place of peace and wonder for the tiny child. He spends hours there, listening to the buzzing of bees and following in their path. There is no one else with him.

Summer turns to fall, and Emile wonders if the field knows what it is missing: the sea, skyscrapers and airplanes. Perhaps not, but the field knows a lot about fall and night stars. Emile remains inquisitive and asks his father what it knows about weather. What will happen when it is covered with snow? He doesn't like that other children are sharing his field in winter. His father gently reminds that if all children learn to love the field and help take care of it, it will have a long life. 

"Emile thought 
and thought -

he liked the idea 
a lot. The field 
would not, could not 
be bought! or belong
to anyone.

Lovely translucent artwork, done in watercolor and ink, provides a glorious setting for Emile. He shows in every way the honor and love he has for it.                                                                                    


Thursday, May 12, 2022

OFF - LIMITS, by Helen Yoon. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Hello! I'm just looking. 
There's nothing wrong 
with just looking ... 

and I don't think anyone 
would miss one piece of tape. 

         Just one little teeny - tiny piece."

As Dad leaves his home office, he tapes an important message to the door: OFF-LIMITS! Peeking around the corner, an inquisitive little one takes careful note before opening that office door and peeking inside. Given the apparent age, one might make the case for her not understanding the words posted. Or does she?

Of course, she is intrigued by the many visible stationery supplies. Her plan is to LOOK - only look! But. the tape dispenser has real appeal. One piece turns into many, then four extra rolls. The tape decorates her arm, a lamp, the stapler, her face ... 

The decor surely needs something else. What about paper clips, and rubber bands, and binder clips? Covered in paper clips, she then cannot resist the colorful, never-ending post-it notes.  Patterns soon fill the entire double-page spread. The office is a decorator's delight! Suddenly realising that she might be in a great deal of trouble, she sneaks back to her own room. The tension clearly dissipates in the final two spreads! What's this? What has Dad been doing while she was messing about in his office? You won't believe it! 

Mixed media artwork adds to the fun, and the joy the little one feels while creating. Filled with movement and color, it is a wonder to behold despite the touch of trepidation that comes with the transformation of the office.                                                                                      

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Wait - and See, poems by Helen Frost and photographs by Rick Leider. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages


"Is that a praying mantis,
brown and green, 
standing still, 
     trying not to be seen?

This is another in a growing list of wondrous books written to encourage little ones and their parents to take themselves outside together and look closely at the natural world that surrounds them. While many who read this blog post do not live in Asia where the Chinese praying mantis is found, we can take a lesson from Rick Leider's spectacular photos and Helen Frost's engaging poetry. Readers are invited to be like this praying mantis. Stay still where you are, and practice being patient and quiet while paying attention. 

"If it's hungry 
     and it's hunting, 
and if you don't 
      go away, 
you might see it 
     make a sudden move
to snatch its prey. 

The Chinese praying mantis is but one of more than two thousand species in the world. Kids who love watching insects will learn a lot about the best ways to be observers of this mantis's habits. The detailed close-ups views are awe-inspiring. The photo of the cocoon, and the hundreds of tiny mantises emerging was enlightening - and quite the surprise. 

In her closing note, Helen Frost describes the life cycle of the mantis and offers a valid suggestion for each one of us.  

"Whenever you see something interesting in nature, whether it is a praying mantis, a frog or toad, a butterfly, a bluebird, a skunk, a raccoon, or anything else, keep watching. You might see the same thing again in the same place - of you might not. The important thing is, if you are patient and watch closely, you will always see something that you would have missed if you were in too much of a hurry to notice."

Wise words to live by! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Fossil Whisperer: How Wendy Sloboda Discovered a Dinosaur. Writtn by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Sandra Dumais. Kids Can Press. 2022. $21.99 ages 5 and up


"When Wendy was twelve, she went on a field trip to the 
badlands near her hometown in Alberta. Its hauntingly 
beautiful hoodoos were scoured by wind and time. And its
deep coulees held fossils just waiting to be discovered.

Wendy was an adventurer. When school let out at the end of the day and other children headed for home, she took to the hills always looking for the next good thing. She didn't mind at all what that 'thing' was, she was content to spend her time looking for it: a rock, a bud, a feather. She was always on the lookout, new camera in hand. 

At 12, she went on her first field trip to the Alberta badlands near her home. Right away, she noticed something no one else saw. It was a piece of fossilized coral, and that find set the stage for Wendy continuing to search for similar treasures. Wendy loved hunting in the hoodoos, always making new discoveries. She was quick to see what others did not. Through her teens she continued to find items of importance. Others would follow to search her sites when she was gone. 

"No one had ever seen Hypacrosaurus embryos in such 
superb condition. The discovery told a fascinating story 
about how these dinosaurs changed as they grew. And it 
was all because of Wendy!

Wendy wanted to learn more and more. It became her career, working at the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology and traveling the world because of her talent for seeing what others did not. Preferring to be back at home, Wendy made her most important discovery there ... a horned lizard that had never been seen before she saw it. It was named the Wendiceratops in her honor. 

Back matter includes further facts about Wendy, suggestions for becoming a fossil hunter, a list of Wendy's key fossil discoveries, and notes about the Alberta bone beds, how fossils are formed and the Wendiceratops. It ends with a glossary and further reading suggestions. 

Digital art provides a welcome setting, and a clear look at a determined, perceptive woman of science. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

The Big Bath House, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Gracey Zhang. Random House Studio, Penguin Random House, 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"The water will flow
and the garden will grow
at the big bath house. 

The birds will be fed
and your clothes will be shed
at the big bath house. 

Note by note, the chimes will ring. 
Tune by tune, a voice will sing
at the big bath house.

In this heartwarming tale of family and community, a young girl and her mother are welcomed to her grandmother's house in Japan. Soon, the aunties will arrive to tell stories, and with purses full. It isn't long until the women head out together to the big bath house. Everyone is delighted to be together. They quickly disrobe, and are washed before entering the warmth of the big bath together. Female bodies may differ; all are part of this communal experience. 

"You'll all dip your bodies, 
your new sprouting, 
gangly bodies, 
your saggy, shapely, 
jiggly bodies, 
your cozy, creased, 
ancient bodies. 

Beautiful bodies.

Once the bath is done, bodies are wrapped in the warmth of snuggly towels. While waiting for everyone to be ready for the walk back, sweet, shaved ice is slurped. Then, it's goodbye to the bath house and a walk out into the cool night air. It's a welcome chance to walk through the quiet streets, holding hands with grandma. What a truly memorable day it's been. 

The naked bodies are sure to cause concern for some readers. The warmth and sudsy happiness created for this celebration of all body types and Japanese culture are created in ink, gouache, and watercolor. Family joy, cultural understanding and positive body image are evident in every spread.  

An author's note explains that Kyo Maclear spent summer months in Japan at her grandmother's house. Her visits there were filled with love and many memories of Japanese culture. The two could not speak the other's language, but understanding was implicit. Both loved sweets and bathing. Ms. Maclear's visits showed her that there is no shame in seeing the naked body. Wouldn't it be something if that were true for our children and ourselves? 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Cornbread and Poppy, written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2022. $21.99 ages 6 and up


""Don't you remember," asked Cornbread, 
"when I told you to pick your berries from 
Grandma Winkle's farm? 'They're almost 
gone,' I said. And what did you say?"

"'Nah, I'll do it later,'" Poppy said. "But I 
was playing on my swing set!"

I am such a fan of Matthew Cordell. To have him illustrate so wholeheartedly the three chapters in his new book for early readers is a dream. He tells the story of two great friends who look at life in very different ways. Cornbread is diligent about his preparation for the coming winter. He knows that in order to survive, he is going to have to be ready for the cold weather. His foraging holds him in good stead for the long months ahead. Poppy loves adventure, riding her bike, and chooses not to forage at all. In fact, it is winter before she thinks to make any preparations. 

Cornbread is worried about Poppy, realizing that all the food she will need is already gone. He reminds her that he had tried to encourage her to ready herself. Poppy reminds him that she had no time as she was busy enjoying herself, and her favorite activities. No one in their community has any of the food Poppy needs. They must make another plan. Poppy suggests trying Holler Mountain, a place of great danger. 

The next two chapters deal with finding Poppy the food she will need to make it through winter. Though perilous, they make the best of the conditions and, as one might expect, things fall into place for them. Starting with a vegetarian owl, and ending with the very kind Miss Ruthie who enjoys a solitary life on Holler Mountain. It turns out she is very prepared and generous. Home they go! 

Matthew's signature pen and ink and watercolor illustrations are emotional and friendly. Readers who join the two friends in their various adventures will react to the concern, suspense, humor, generosity, and success presented. There is much here to like, and the great news is that there is second book in the series. Cornbread and Poppy at the Carnival is available now. I can't wait to see it!                                                                                    

Saturday, May 7, 2022

As Glenn As Can Be, written by Sarah Ellis and illustrated by Nancy Vo. Groundwood Books, 2022. $19.99 ages


"Glenn likes rules - the rules of games and 
puzzles, the way that math works, the patterns
in music, but ... 

he does not like rules that squash him. His 
parents make a rule that he can only practice
piano four hours a day. Glenn hates this rule 
because ...

Sarah Ellis writes this insightful picture book to capture the personality and work of Glenn Gould, the esteemed Canadian classical pianist. Glenn died in 1982 at 50. His legacy is the body of work he left. 

Ms. Ellis begins her story when Glenn is a young boy. He is described as 'a boy who knows what he likes'. In contrast, he also knows what he does not like. He likes fun, but not bullying. He likes nature, but not being cold. She creates a personality with her carefully chosen words and allows readers to understand how he became the man and artist he was. They will be intrigued with the descriptions shared as they take him from childhood to his great love for piano playing and his distinguished success. 

"He loves it more than anything. 
It's as exciting as fast boating. 
It's as fun as solving a really hard puzzle. 
It's a way of saying what he wants to say
without using words. Playing the piano 
is when Glenn gets to be totally and 
completely Glenn.

People loved to listen, admiring Glenn's talent for making them feel the emotions he was evoking with his music. Admired throughout the world, his concerts were attended by many. Too soon, the concerts lost their appeal for Glenn. The halls were cold, the audiences were loud, he didn't like the piano, he didn't feel well. He stopped playing for a live audience, choosing instead to 'play for an audience that isn't there'. He pleases only himself.  

Using pen, watercolor and acetone transfer, Nancy Vo designs images true to the text. She allows readers a rare glimpse into the life of this original and eccentric musician. Each vignette is powerful, while also revealing his strength of character and endless talent.  

Back matter includes an author's note and a list of resources for the kids and adults who want to know more.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Big Dreams, Little Fish, written and illustrated by Paula Cohen. Levine Querido, Raincoast. 2022. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"She had LOTS 
of big ideas. 

How to make things faster,
and more modern. 

But first of all, nothing sold gefilte fish." 

Shirley loves her family's new store in a brand-new neighborhood. They all work together to make their customers happy. Shirley is concerned when no one buys their gefilte fish. The terrible thing is that they won't even try it. Shirley has ideas for changing that, and other ideas, too. It doesn't matter ... the gefilte fish does not sell. 

The family is concerned that Shirley is too young to be working in the store. Things change when Aunt Ida goes to hospital to have her baby. Everyone rushes off; not before leaving Shirley to help Mrs. Gottlieb run the store. It's the perfect opportunity for Shirley to prove herself. 

While Mrs. Gottlieb sleeps, Shirley gets down to work: straightening, decorating, modernizing, and advertising. She works the till, fills customers' orders and adds a small surprise to every bag. 

"Buy anything and get a surprise!"

The neighbors are surprised, and so are Shirley's parents when they arrive home to find all of the gefilte fish GONE! Shirley admits to giving it away and is sent to her room. When the store opens the next morning, the lineup is long. Everyone is waiting to purchase the store speciality. 

Digitally colored images with strong black outlines bring this Jewish family's story to light for young readers. Nostalgic and endearing, they will love this story of a young girl and her determination to prove her worth in the family business. Back matter includes a glossary of Yiddish words, information about gefilte fish, and a family recipe for it.  

This wonderful debut picture was released on March 1, five days after Paula Cohen's sudden death on February 24. She was 57. Her husband, Paul Martin, shared this in a tribute: 

“Big Dreams, Small Fish was truly a labor of love for Paula,” he wrote. “The main character, Shirley, is named for her beloved mom, whose parents owned a store not unlike the one depicted in her book. It is such a comfort that Paula was able to realize her dream of being an author."

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Mommy's Hometown, written by Hope Lim and illustrated by Jaime Kim. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"I have dreamed about playing in the river.
And tomorrow I am going to see it for myself. 

But when we finally arrive in Mommy's hometown, 
it doesn't look the way I had imagined. 
Mommy says over the years her village has grown
into a big city. The new replaced the old.

Mommy has always shared stories from her past with her young son. She talked about river play, the mountains, and the endless clouds. When they visit his Mommy's hometown, he is very excited. Their arrival brings a surprise; it looks nothing like the place she has described so lovingly. 

As they walk down the streets past mostly new buildings, they take note of those that have managed to remain standing through the years. When Grandma comes out to welcome them, Mommy suggests that she never changes. Soon, it's time to go to the river, her favorite place when she was growing up. Although the surroundings have changed, the river remains the same.  

Mommy and our narrator wade in. They do all the things that Mommy once did. As they prepare for their return to Grandma's, the two note that others have now come to the river at the end of their days to find solace there, as Mommy once did. With memories intact, they return 'home' to Grandma. 

Jaime Kim places readers solidly in the setting that is now Mommy's childhood home. Though many things have changed, the memories bring them back to the way it was and to the joy found in childhood adventure. Full-color backgrounds are appealing and feel just right for this story of family and connection. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

red, by laura vaccaro singer. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House, 2021. $24.99 ages 3 and up


"mud red

rust red

blood red"

Previously, Laura Vaccaro Singer has explored the colors Green (2012) and Blue (2018). Both are spectacular concept books for young children. Now, she turns her attention to autumnal red. 

As she has done in the first two books, she uses simple, two-word, descriptive language to describe distinct shades of red. The text is supported by a story of a fox family, and the young kit who falls behind. After a night in the dark red of being alone at night, the kit is warmed by the light red of sunrise. It is then the kit comes to the realization that it is lost red. 

As it wanders about, it is caught in the headlights of a blue truck, intrigued by the rose red of flowers near a yard where a child is playing, curious about a wheelbarrow filled with mud red dirt, hurt by rust red nails which results in blood red. Its travels move it forward past other scenarios that eventually lead it back to its family. 

I love the visual storytelling, the connections from color one book to the next, the emotions evoked, and the absolute beauty of this book.                                                                                   

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Molly on the Moon, written by Mary Robinette Kowal and illustrated by Diana Mayo. Raoring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $25.99 ages 4 and up

"But the fort and the witch's cape and 
Lassie were her only toys on the Moon ... 

except for the tin cans.

Those became a tea set!"

Have you ever thought about moving to the moon? It has never occurred to me! 

Molly made the trip with her mother and her baby brother. Their home on the moon was an underground room, called a module. It didn't have a lot of room; for Molly that meant she could only take one toy. It didn't limit Molly's imagination for play. She used packing boxes, with her mother's help, to build a fort. A solar panel cover became a cape. Then, there were the tin cans! 

Using her imagination, Molly created a comfortable place for play. When her stuffed sheep Lassie disappeared, she went looking. She found Lassie with her brother Luke, who didn't want to give the toy back. Molly was determined to have it. 

"The gravity on the Moon is weaker than on 
Earth, which made Molly seem extra strong. 
And like Moon cookies, Luke seemed extra light,
like he didn't weigh much more than a feather pillow. 

So when Molly pulled Lassie ... "

Oh dear, what did she do? It was Mom to the rescue for Luke, and Molly to her fort to sulk and be mad. After she calmed down, Molly had a change of heart. She set about making things better for Luke, which made things better for everyone.  

Diana Mayo's mixed media art provides a dramatic setting for the story's action, while also keeping it warm and a touch magical. Using varying perspectives, she adds understanding to the storytelling. It is a very small space made bigger with each digital detail. 

An author's note adds further information about the moon itself, and the differences between living on the moon and on Earth.

Monday, May 2, 2022

This Book Will Get You to Sleep, written by Jory John and illustrated by Oliver Tallec. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $25.99 ages 3 and up


What ELSE would make you tired? 

About fifty CAR ALARMS going 
off simultaneously. 


This is not the bedtime story you want to read with someone who needs to be dozing in quick time. It will be a much-appreciated book just the same. Filled with humor and a great deal of noise, it is the perfect invitation for little ones interested in a new bedtime book. It won't be long until they are helping with all the noisemaking. That is an assured response to the rumbles, bumbles, crashes, roars, and other attention-getting attempts to help them settle down to sleep. 

The kangaroo narrator attempts to get the reader's attention on the first spread. Not nearly loud enough, it empties its pouch, produces a megaphone, and demands keen listening. Readers are assured they will soon be asleep. Really? A series of questions and answers provides an ever-increasing amount of noise. From monster trucks to electric guitar riffs; from car alarms to a wild and endless chant (FALL ASLEEP! FALL ASLEEP! FALL ASLEEP!); from a magic trick to pet sounds, the narrator continues to try to find ways to guarantee falling asleep. 

What about the oldest trick in the book; counting sheep? Might that work? Listeners can't ignore the dragons that are chasing those sheep. Nothing is working. What can it be? 

"It's ... what?
It's this very book that's the problem? 
Well, I never! 


 Olivier Tallec's easy style heightens the energy of the humorous narration. Giggles will erupt and readers will mimic the sound effects that are sure to thwart any real attempts to settle in for sleep. The warning from the front cover should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Occasionally, some readers 
may have a slightly different

And, that's the truth of it!