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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Air Miles John Burningham, written by Bill Salaman and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"On a sunny day, with the engine roaring
and the propeller whirring, the plane sped 
across the field and rose into the air. 

Miles was flying. 

Miles was tired when he returned. 
Norman had to help him 
out of the cockpit.
"

What a loss to children's literature with the death of John Burningham in 2019. His bibliography includes more than thirty picture books that hold great appeal for young readers and their caregivers. In his final picture book, written with the help of his good friend Bill Salaman and illustrated by his wife, Helen Oxenbury, fans of Motor Milles (Candlewick, 2016) get a chance to see Miles embark on another adventurous journey.

This appealing sequel presents Miles in the twilight of his years. He can't run as he once did, or even walk easily anymore. His hearing is not what it had been. Perhaps Mr. Huddy, who made his car in the first adventure, can help find something to cheer Miles up. Turns out that Mr. Huddy is working on an airplane. Could Miles be the pilot for the tiny plane? 

Miles proves to be a quick study, and soon makes a solo flight. Upon his return, Miles is beat and succumbs to a long nap. All following flights are much longer. After each return, he requires more assistance. Soon, other activities stop: walks, eating, even flying. On his final day, Miles goes to the flying field where Norman lifts him into the plane. Miles takes his final flight. 

"He flew farther than ever before.
 
An opening note written by Helen Oxenbury, and endpapers created with John Burningham's thumbnail sketches are welcome. Touching, and full of heart. 
                                                                                  

Friday, November 25, 2022

A Leopard Diary: My Journey into the Hidden World of a Mother and Her Cubs. By Suzi Eszterhas. Owlkids Books, 2022. $19.95 ages 7 and up

 


"Finally we heard movement in the bushes. 
It was Mom with her two cubs following 
behind! She flopped to the ground, right 
where we could see her clearly. She checked 
us out for a moment and then rested her head
on the grass. Bringing her cubs out in front 
of us meant she was relaxed, and it felt like 
she was giving us permission to see her cubs.

I have posted other books by Suzi Eszterhas. She is a skilled and well-known nature photographer with a keen eye and an affection for animals in the wild. In this book, she shares her personal stories from s series of visits to the Jao Reserve in Botswana. There she spent time with Kambango Sinimbo, a local guide who provided help and advice for her work in capturing stunning photos of a leopard mother and two different litters.

A great deal of patience and tracking offers readers a clear look at some of the daily teaching the mother does to ensure her cubs' safety (she hides one in a camp washroom to keep predators at bay). Food, grooming, and encouraging her young to learn on their own are all activities shown in captivating photos that will hold attention for kids interested in knowing more about these majestic cats.  

Ms. Eszterhas' love of leopards is evident on every page. Despite their ability to avoid humans, there are times when the mother seems quite comfortable with the guide and photographer. What a coup for all, as we are the recipients of the photos that chronicle these up-close encounters. A series of diary entries are telling as they follow two tiny cubs through early growth and learning, all the way through to facing the world on their own with the skills needed to survive in the wild. What could be better than that? Then, the mother begins again with a second litter. 

Many related facts are offered for further learning. This ups understanding and a love and respect for wildlife, in hopes that readers will do what they can to offer protection in the future. Your readers who have a love of animals will be intrigued and involved in learning more. 

Back matter offers an interview with Kambango, and a glossary. There is mention that a portion of the royalties from sales of this book will be donated to Children in the Wilderness. You can find out more at www.childreninthewilderness.com                                                                                  


Thursday, November 24, 2022

On This Airplane, written by Lourdes Heuer and illustrated by Sara Palacios. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 3 and up

 


"There is turbulence! 
Up, down. Up, down.
Drinks drip drop. 
Tummies flip flop ... 

... but there is a hand
to hold and there is a 
helping hand.

We know before the story begins that a house has been sold, and bags are packed. As the young family of four boards the plane, they meet a happy pilot and take note of the other people sharing the plane with them. Those people are described in telling sentences, while the cut paper, gouache and digital media artwork adds context for young readers. 

The family shares a row of seats, and get ready for takeoff. As they make their way to their destination, the author continues introducing fellow passengers. So many of the small scenes will be familiar to those who are frequent flyers. Turbulence creates a bit of chaos and some fear. All is evident on the expressive faces and in body positions. Through it all there is a real sense of community created between travelers. 

"On this airplane, 
someone lends an earbud. 
Someone lends an ear. 
Someone makes a fuss ... 
someone makes a friend.
"

Welcome awaits. Soon all the luggage is loaded, and the family is on its way to ... a new home. 

Lovely, and uplifting.                                                                            


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

ICEBERG: A Life in Seasons, written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft. Groundwood Books, 2022. $19.99 ages 6 and up


"Humpback whales spiral, 
filter krill from giant mouthfuls of sea. 
Penguins dive for fish. 
Seals dive deeper to twitch-whisker hunt. 

Squid chase krill. 
Birds chase squid. 
Orca gather, linger, watch and seize. 
Short-tailed shearwaters feast then return
to their chicks. 

Who knew that making an iceberg the star of the show would result in such beauty? Those who know and admire the brilliant work done by both Claire Saxby and Jess Racklyeft will have guessed that it would be something. It is one of my favorite books from this year, hands down. 

The text is rich in observations made of the life cycle of the iceberg; the mixed media artwork a perfect accompaniment to the powerful descriptions for the seasons of that life. As its story begins in the last days of winter, the iceberg calves, meaning it breaks away from a glacier and makes its own place in the surrounding Antarctic waters. 

Each seasonal change transforms the iceberg itself. As in any other environment, summer brings much activity with the arrival of many birds and other species. Fall's shorter days encourage migration and preparation for the deep cold of winter when the iceberg lies motionless until the promise of another spring. Thus, this life cycle ends. 

"The iceberg twists, tilts, rocks, shears. 
It is old now - tall and small and mellow. 
It eddies into a sheltered bay, 
tips and falls.
"

The life of a new iceberg begins as a new dawn breaks. 

Digital illustrations created in watercolor, collage, acrylics, pencil, and ink are done in muted shades of blue, green, grey and teal in contrast to the brilliant white of the iceberg, They allow readers to see the animals that live on top of and below the ice, Careful observation results in discovering some surprises, and a gorgeous gatefold allows readers to see the many species that can be found there. 

A final page offers information about polar regions affected by climate change, a small global map and a glossary that provides help with new and pertinent vocabulary. 

Be prepared to read it once, and then again and again. Don't miss out, please.                                                                           


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The Lodge That Beaver Built, written by Randi Sonenshine and illustrated by Anne Hunter. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up

 


"These are the yearlings that pile up sticks, 
then pack them with mud like mortar and bricks, 
repairing the lodge that Beaver built. 

These are the muskrats, crafty and bold, 
that pop in one day out of the cold, 
sharing the lodge that Beaver built.
"

The beaver plays an essential role in creating a healthy habitat. Young readers learn much about the work done to find the most convenient place for building, down the trees needed to construct the lodge that dams the water, and move on to the hard work of getting each tree in place. The dam built to block the stream provides an environment conducive to the many animals who also make their homes nearby. 

The lodge itself is maintained by yearling beavers who work tirelessly to keep it in good repair, while also offering safety and comfort for a muskrat family in need of a temporary place to stay.  As the text moves forward children learn about the other animals who are affected by the lodge's construction: musk turtle, coyote, geese, heron, and moose. When a flood destroys both dam and lodge, the beavers swim away to find a new spot. Their work begins again. The book moves full circle to a repeat of the sentence that began the story. 

Ink-and–colored pencil illustrations fully support the story. The watery habitat is inclusive of the natural surroundings and the the variety in animals that make their homes there.  

Kids interested in knowing more will find help in a set of beaver facts, a glossary, and a list of resources that promises further learning.                                                                              


Monday, November 21, 2022

KINDergarten: where kindness matters every day. Written by Vera Ahiyya and illustrated by Joey Chou. Random House Studio, Penguin Random House. 2022. $19.95 ages 4 and up

 


"The gym is the biggest room by far! PE 
teacher Ms. Lauren has a question for the 
class. "Does anyone have any ideas about 
ways we can show kindness in PE class?"
Many hands fly into the air.

Leo is a very quiet boy who is happy talking with the members of his family, but not with anyone else. So kindergarten presents a problem for him. He is worried when a letter arrives addressed to him. It's from his teacher and invites all students to come prepared to talk about ways to be kind as they start the school year. 

Two weeks later, Leo is still concerned about what he will say. When he meets her, his teacher understands that he might be scared. She is quick to let him know she will be there for him. Leo likes that, but he continues to worry. Meeting new friends and working on a Kindness Pledge is a big part of the first day. Everyone is invited to add ideas about kindness to a chart. Leo worries that he will be asked what he thinks, and he is not sure what he knows about being kind to others. 

He is happy when the class heads off on a trip around the school. The class visits the nurse's office, the library, the gym, and the playground where he spends time with some of the quieter kids in his class. As the day passes, Leo remains uncertain about sharing his ideas. As the conversation continues before they leave for the day, the other children begin to talk about the kind things Leo has quietly done throughout this first day. No words needed. 

When his dad arrives to pick him up, Leo is feeling fully ready to return for day two of KINDergarten! Although this book is meant to be read on the first day of school, it can be shared at any time during the year. A Kindness Pledge should be a work in progress all year long. 

Digital illustrations are bright and rife with familiar school activities. They add context to the first day for Leo as he becomes more comfortable. A Kindness Pledge chart is included, as well as an author's note and additional suggestions for creating a kind classroom.  

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Counting in Dog Years and Other Sassy Math Poems, written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Priscilla Tey. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 8 and up

 



"One fifth of me 
is a brother. 
One fifth of me 
is a son. 

One fifth collects 
old comic books. 
One fifth finds 
campouts fun. 

One fifth of me 
loves shooting hoops 
or scoring 
a soccer goal. 

Five fifths combined
make all of me. 
I'm a living, 
breathing whole!

I am always on the lookout for new poetry to share with kids and their teachers. What about pairing poetry and math? That's exactly what Betsy Franco has chosen to do for this new book. It is a lot of fun for all. The 20 poems are divided into four separate sections: Hanging Out at Home, Math Musing, School Daze and finally, Last Bell, School's Out! 

I found a favorite or two in each section. It was difficult to choose the one I would use to open this post. In fact, I have changed the opening twice already as I go back and read some poems again. Readers will find numerous ones to share with their friends and classmates.

The topics are many, and Ms. Franco's way with wordplay make them appealing and relatable for her audience.  

"Do numerals get out of sorts?
Do fractions get along?
Do equal signs complain and gripe
when kids get problems wrong?” 

Offering a host of complaints from those trying to figure out things that are often annoying in terms of math and numbers, the poet also includes a guessing game, a poem to perform with a friend, and even a group of number palindromes. 

Priscilla Tey creates gouache artwork that is funny, frantic, and downright serene, in keeping with the mood of each poem included. There is lots here to make readers snicker, while also speaking to truths they know at home and at school. 

"Today, when she said, "Just a sec,"
I timed my mom ... and then 
one hundred seconds tick-tocked by -
she'd pulled her trick again. 

The next time Mom says, "Clean your room. 
Right now! Your floor's a wreck!"
I'll answer, "Sure, no problem, Mom. 
I'll do it in a sec.
"

Careful word choice and a genius mix of number and math concepts, make this great fun to read out loud, to think about, and to respond to the concepts being considered. It's a terrific addition to any home or classroom library where it is sure to find fans. 

"That’s three months of summer
but nine months of school!
It must have been grown-ups
who made up
that rule!
” 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Most Magnificent Idea, written and illustrated by Ashley Spires. Kids Can Press, 2022. $21.99 ages 4 and up


"The girl returns to her workshop, 
but still no idea. 
She looks around for inspiration ... 

She could build a mobile, but she's 
already made four of those. Or some
cat toys for the neighbor, but she made 
a boxful last week.
"

In this sequel to The Most Magnificent Thing (Kids Can, 2014), the girl who loves to make things is back. Her canine companion is always at her side. This tiny engineer is the one with the ability to be the maker. Her ideas range in awesomeness from good to great to magnificent. Her brain is ALWAYS full,  until today. She has no idea what to make, and that has never happened to her in the past. 

She isn't too concerned at the start of the day. A walk seems fitting for accessing ideas. Together, the two travel the neighborhood, helping and strolling happily. Upon their return home, she is unable to come up with any new idea. She searches everywhere, to no avail. Beginning without a concrete plan in mind, she fails. A break from old habits doesn't work either. Deciding to remain in place until an idea forms leaves her grouchy and discouraged. 

"She shuts her eyes, plugs her ears and holds 
her breath to FORCE an idea into her brain.

Nothing works. It isn't until she discovers a mischievous kitten, who is always fleeing the confinement of home, that her brain clicks into gear, and a 'most magnificent idea' manifests itself to her. Confidence restored; she is back to her old ways the following day. 

The entertainment is evident for readers listening to this story of creativity, and fear. They will be keen on her finding some new inspiration as she struggles with a brain freeze. Turns out that all she really needs is some patience, and the opportunity to help others. Always appealing art is welcome and expected from the funny and very creative Ashley Spires. 

Friday, November 18, 2022

All Are Neighbors, written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up


"We are all neighbors here. 

We can help each other along. 
Building bonds that are strong. 

So everyone knows that they belong. 
We are all neighbors here.

As classroom collections of books about empathy and kindness grow, here is another to show the importance that creating community should have for all of us. Community is here described as 'a place for you and me'. That is absolutely the best definition of what communities can and should be. 

A family moves in, and is greeted by members of their new community. As their journey through the neighborhood begins, it is evident that there are many differences between those who live in the same place. Community members are varied, as are the ways they begin their days. Some are in wheelchairs or walkers, others are not; some go to work, some stay home to work; skin colors are different as are methods of transportation. Despite those things that make us different, there are so many others that make us the same - first and foremost, we are all community members. 

"We're here for each other, come what may. 
We are all neighbors here.

Each turn of the page follows the newcomers as they discover the places and people, and the diversity that is such an important and revealing aspect of their chosen home. Friendships flourish. What a truly wonderful way to make newcomers feel welcome and included in the warm spirit here shown. 

Young readers will be fascinated by the countless scenes created in vivid and meticulous artwork by Suzanne Kaufman. Stories will be imagined and shared as each part of the neighborhood is visited. Perspectives change, activities abound, and always there is a real sense of welcome and celebration. A final gatefold of only some of the neighbors is delightful. 

"There's a place for everybody.

Amen. 
                                                                           


Thursday, November 17, 2022

Beautiful You, Beautiful Me, written by Tasha Spillett-Sumner and illustrated by Salini Perera. Owlkids Books, 2022. $19.95 ages 4 and up

 


"But Mama lovingly twirled her 
finger in one of Izzy's curls. 

You're part of me, 
and I'm part of you. 

I'm beautiful like me, 
and you're beautiful like you.
"

Izzy loves nothing more than being snuggled up close with her mama. Their hugs are something very special. As they read a book together one night, Izzy sees that her skin and her mother's skin do not look the same. She tells her mother what she sees, while not being totally comfortable about that discovery. She so loves her Mama; she wants to be just like her. 

Her mother is reassuring and hugs Izzy closer. The next morning, Izzy notices the difference in their hair. While Izzy's is curly, her Mama's is straight. Their hair just doesn't match. Once again, Mama is loving and soothing. Despite that, Izzy longs to be 'Mama's kind of beautiful'. 

A walk together, where they see other mamas and their babies in nature, has the little girl realizing that she is not the only one who doesn't look exactly like her mother. Later, when her Mama points out a difference between the two, it is Izzy who provides comfort for her. 

"I'm part of you, 
and you're part of me. 

I'm beautiful like me, 
and you're beautiful like you.

The text is quiet and loving, the artwork matches the mood by offering continual warmth and strength.  

https://youtu.be/pPPdDTtAhHE

                                                                                   


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

LOST, written and illustrated by Sam Usher. templar books, Candlewick Press. Penguin Random House, 2022. $ 23.99 ages 3 and up


"We plotted ... 
and measured ... 
and bent ... 
and twisted and tapped. 

It took a long time. 
But it was worth it!
'

The boy and grandad we met first as they experienced seasonal changes and the joys of being together in those times, are back in the third book about their adventures in the wonders of the natural world.  Free helped the boy realize that the world's creatures must make their way on their own when they are healthy enough to do so. In Wild the two care for a cat that has a mind of its own, leading them on an unexpected adventure. In Lost, they find themselves involved in a project meant to ease the boredom of a cold, uninspiring day. 

The boy would choose to do nothing. Grandad is not quite ready for that. Instead, they get dressed and head out to run some errands. First stop is the shop where Granddad purchases the glasses he needs for some important reading. Off they go to the library for needed instructions. Then, it's the hardware store for materials to be used for the project he is considering. Armed with everything they need, the two head home ready to get at their work. 

After a good deal of effort and a lot of cooperation, their project is complete - a sled! Off they go, child and sled in tow, into the blustery, snowy outdoors. When they read a poster about a lost dog, they do their best to help find Loopy. No luck! They keep trying. The weather worsens and they must seek shelter from the blowing snow. Loud howling brings a wolf pack, led by Loopy! As great good luck would have it, the pack is there to take them home safely with Loopy sharing their sled. What an adventure! 

As he is wont to do, Sam Usher creates wondrous ink and watercolor artwork to fully engage his readers from start to finish. As the action picks up, astute observers are sure to notice a small black dog taking it all in. What fun, and a terrific read aloud for storytime! 

I wonder what's next for this intrepid duo? 
                                                                                


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Ringed Seal, written by William Flaherty and illustrated by Sara Otterstatter. Inhabit Media, 2022. $15.95 ages 6 and up


"Like other marine mammals, ringed seals 
are covered in a thick layer of fat called 
"blubber". Blubber helps keep ringed 
seals warm in the cold water of the Arctic 
Ocean. Blubber also stores fat and proteins
that ringed seals need to survive.
"

Young readers love to read about animals, and this series is perfect fare for them. The "Animals Illustrated" books from Inhabit Media look closely at Arctic animals that may or may not be familiar to all. This newest addition is written by a conservation officer who lives in the north and knows his stuff. 

He writes engaging text about the ringed seal, its appearance and size, and its importance to northern communities. These seals occupy a wide range, from the Canadian Arctic all the way to Arctic Europe. It is interesting that they spend most of their time alone on the ice or in the ocean, and only in a group while mating. The farther north, the more ringed seals. 

Mr. Flaherty explains that ringed seals have powerful claws making them excellent at digging. They keep their breathing holes open at all times. He also discusses blubber, diet, babies, and predators. He tells readers that these seals are intelligent and very difficult to catch. 

"In the wintertime, ringed seals will even send bubbles up to the surface before actually surfacing to breathe to see if a predator is waiting above."

Once caught, they are used for food, to make tents and boots, and their bones are used to create games and toys for children. 

Sara Otterst├Ątter's illustrations expand learning with detailed images that show this most common seal in their Arctic habitat. Clear and informative, this is an excellent book for early years students as they learn to research.                                                                                     


Monday, November 14, 2022

PIZZA! A Slice of History, written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 5 and up

 


"For centuries, most Europeans 
thought tomatoes were unhealthy - 
even poisonous - and many people 
refused to eat them. 

But in Naples, Italy, people did cook
w
ith tomatoes. 

They added tomatoes to many Italian 
recipes, including a dish they called 
pizza." 

Can you name five people who DON'T like pizza? I'm not sure that I can. Of course, there are those that don't eat it all that often; there are also those who eat it far more often than you might expect. One of the statistics Greg Pizzoli includes in his history of this long-favored food is that 'in the United States of America we eat 350 slices of pizza every second.' Every second! 

The author begins by showing his audience what pizza looks like - familiar and not so. His text offers proper names for places that sell pizzas and the people who make them, and includes a pizza rat who happens to be a fan. It turns out that pizza is popular in most places in the world. But, where did it originate? 

"But where did it start? 
When did it happen? 
Who made the first pizza? 

How should I know?

Text that follows speculates on a variety of food that resembles pizza as it is known today. Then, the author introduces RAFFAELE ESPOSITO, known for making the best pizza in Naples and his story of creating pizzas for important people. With immigration, Italians brought their food ideas with them. Now, pizza is a much-loved meal for many. Four US cities and one state are described as having their own special take on the pizza pie: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and California.  

Today, pizza is made around the world in many variations worth trying. They are described in final pages. What is your favorite? 

Readers will enjoy the detailed illustrations and the four-color palette that awaken taste buds and cause a strong wish for a slice. What great good luck it is that Mr. Pizzoli has ended his book with a simple recipe for a mini-pizza, toaster oven style!

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Night Lunch, words by Eric Fan and pictures by Dena Seiferling. tundra, Penguin Random House, 2022. $24.99 ages

 


"Tick hum, oven's on. 
Pots and spoons are clanging. 

Hoot, hoot, mince pies for Fox. 
Badger wants a sandwich.
"

What a collaboration this new book is! Eric Fan has penned a story about the lunch wagon that travels Victorian streets throughout the night bringing food and comfort to the animals who live nocturnal lives there. Through textured, intriguing nighttime scenes, the Night Owl travels slowly and quietly, encouraging the creatures to come forward and assuage their hunger and thirst. 

They are a menagerie of familiar visitors who line up to order the fine meals provided by the chef, a huge and capable owl, and whose talents allow for variety in the dishes he creates for his many customers. Fox gets a mince pie, Badger a sandwich. The menu at the Night Owl cart is extensive and appealing. 

"One two, just like that -
sausages and peppers.

One two, just like that - 
butter rolls and biscuits.

Sure to make any hungry stomach growl as meals are described and presented, readers will wonder at the creatures as they arrive to partake of all the owl has to offer them. Then, with the sky brightening and the time to shut down nearing, a tiny mouse sits trembling by a wall as he is too shy to order and has not found the scraps that would stop his stomach from rumbling. It will not be lost on children that this is a meeting between an owl and a mouse. What happens next is quite wondrous and inspiring for all readers. 

Beautifully told with striking vocabulary and exceptional digital artwork, this is a quiet book to be savored as the sun dips low and children tuck in to cozy beds.                                                                                      


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Billy and Rose: Forever Friends, written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2022. $22.99 ages 7 and up


"Billy looks at the cello. And Rose. 
Rose looks at the washtub, the soapsuds, 
and Billy. 
Then everyone gets to it. And for the rest
of the morning, Rose does the wash to the 
glorious sound of Billy's cello.
"

Billy and Rose are fine friends. As with most relationships, they do not always agree. Working through their problems is at the heart of each of the four stories presented here. All look at the daily activities both characters experience. True friendship comes shining through as they deal with what causes conflict for them. 

In the first, Rose knows she needs to do the wash if she is going to have the clothes she wants to wear. She is not keen to get started. Stepping out the door, she sees that Billy has just finished hanging his wash. On the other hand, he is clearly putting off practicing the cello which is a task he cannot face at the moment. 

Each successive chapter deals with the things that friends like to do together. At least, most of the time. Those things don't always go as expected. With thought and concern for a friend, there are ways to make them better. Rose and Billy show readers that there are compromises to be made, and a chance to let time heal minor arguments. In the end, there are solutions to the problems faced, and working toward them is worth it every time. 

Kady's watercolor-and-ink illustrations are as endearing and engaging as they have always been. Full of kindness and lively action, they offer characters to admire for the work they do to ensure friendship wins out. How wonderful it is to see this new work from a favorite artist.                                                                                        


Friday, November 11, 2022

Cocoa Magic, written by Sandra Bradley and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. Pajama Press, 2022. $23.95 ages 4 and up

 

"Soon enough, Sarah sat down. Out of the corner 
of his eye, Daniel saw her reach into her desk for 
her notebook. Finding the box, she peered inside. 

And then, Sarah did something that Daniel had not
seen her do even once the day before: she smiled. 

It was ... magic." 

Does chocolate spring to mind as the Christmas season gets under way? Why chocolate? It's one of those gifts that seems to make everyone happier. 

That premise certainly works in this charming story that takes place in a Prince Edward Island school in the 1920s. Daniel's Great-Uncle Lewis make chocolates in his local candy shop, and is known as the Cocoa King of Charlottetown. Daniel loves to spend time with him. By the time he is 8, Daniel works for one hour every morning before school helping his uncle. Then the two walk to school, a place that Daniel finds cold and lacking welcome. 

When a new girl arrives, shy and alone, Daniel considers what he might do to make her feel accepted and happier. He tells Uncle Lewis about Sarah; the two make a plan. Daniel chooses a chocolate from the shop and secretly places it in Sarah's desk. What a change it makes! 

Watching Sarah delight in the small treats left for her, Daniel notices that Ben is looking on with sadness. Monday brings two treats. As Daniel carefully watches his classmates, he notices that others would also benefit from a gift left for them. At the end of the month, he and Uncle Lewis deliver one chocolate for every child (and the teacher) in his classroom. 

While Uncle Lewis is away at a conference, Daniel finds loneliness a sad companion. Leave it to all the children to surprise him with gifts and thanks for all he has done. The actions in that one classroom begin to be felt in the entire school, making it a warm and friendly place for all.  Empathy and consideration within one school classroom - what an impact they have elsewhere else. 

Mixed-media illustrations by Ms. Grimard offer young readers a real feel for this time in history while also showing the emotions felt with such wonderful acts of goodness.  

Thursday, November 10, 2022

the world's longest licorice rope, by matt myers. Random House Studio, 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Until he saw a sign for the 
world's longest licorice rope. 
And it only cost a nickel!

"Just how long is it?" Ben asked. 

"How long is the world?' 
a girl said.

One nickel is all Ben needs to set him off on an imaginative travel adventure. Ben has earned a number of nickels, taking all of them with him when he visits the community treat fair. His choices for spending seem endless: wrapped candy, Santa candy, instant soup and the water he needs to make it, day-old pizza, Halloween candy, cinnamon toast, melted snow cones, mud pies. It isn't until he comes to the booth selling the world's longest licorice rope that Ben shows interest. He wonders about its length. 

The seller, a young girl with a jaunty hat, has her own question. 

"How long is the world?" 
a girl said.

His hunger and curiosity put the licorice in his mouth and move his feet forward ... until he comes to a river where the same girl has a boat to rent for one nickel. As they make their way around the world, the young entrepreneur manages to provide what Ben needs to get out of any scrapes he encounters. How lucky is that? Will the odyssey come to an end before Ben runs out of the nickels that manage to keep him moving on? Will he have to stop because of the fatigue created by his constant chewing on the licorice rope? 

Meeting Jimmy, who has the other end of the licorice rope in his mouth, presents a real problem. Or does it? Filled with action, humor, and surprise, with illustrations created using watercolor dyes and ink, Matt Myers has penned a tremendously appealing story sure to entertain young readers. 
                                                                               

                                           



Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Too Small Tola and the Three Fine Girls, written by Atinuke and illustrated by Onyinye Iwu. Candlewick, Penguin Random House, 2022. $21.99 ages 7 and up


"Tola sits up. And there is Grandmommy, still 
in bed beside her! 
Ah-ah! Grandmommy should have gone to 
work long before dawn! She should be squatting
over her fire, ready to sell groundnuts to people
hurrying to work. Instead here is Grandmommy.
Lying in bed. Her face covered with sweat.
Tola puts her hand on Grandmommy's arm. It
is hot like fire.
"

Following up on Too Small Tola (Candlewick, 2021), Atinuke pens another fine book about a young girl who lives 'in a rundown block of apartments in the megacity of Lagos, in the country of Nigeria'. Tola remains spunky, thoughtful, and ingenious as she deals with the everyday ups and downs of life in a family facing some difficulties. 

There are three chapters. In each we learn more about Tola's family, their daily life and the responsibilities given to a very young girl. Tola has an older sister Moji who spends most of her time studying to keep her A+ average. Her brother Dapo loves soccer and hopes to one day play in the World Cup. Grandmommy is their caregiver, and their chore giver as well. While she is out selling groundnuts to earn enough for the food they need, the children are tasked with chores.

 In the first chapter, on a Saturday, they are meant to be cleaning a large basket of rice. Only Tola is doing the work. An accident with the football creates a huge problem. Tola is the only one able to solve it. In the second, Grandmommy has succumbed to malaria and Tola must use all of their savings for the medicine that will cure her. Together, the children must now sell groundnuts to keep the family in food. Dapo's proficiency and interest in mechanical work leads to a turn in their fortune. In the final chapter, Tola sees three fine girls at the mall and wishes she had what they have. It doesn't take long for her to discover there is more to life than having things. 

There is abundant love in this fine family, and warmth and strength of character. Tola is a wee love of a girl, engaging and 'mighty fine!' Yes, they have challenges; they also have the wherewithal to work together to overcome them, as they live with a strong and capable woman who loves each of them deeply. 

It's a wonderful read, and I'm happy to relay that Tola will be back with a new story next year. 

Only The Trees Know, written by Jane Whittingham and illustrated by Cinyee Chiu. Kids Can Press, 2022. $21.99 ages 4 and up

 


"The winds blew and bit, and the trees
shivered and shook, and Little Rabbit
began to lose hope. 

He plopped down on the ground, feeling
sorry for himself and tired after all that 
jumping and shouting and listening. He 
nestled into the roots of a tree to have a 
little rest.
"

It's going to be a long wait until we start dreaming about spring's arrival. We have only had our first few looks at what winter might bring. As days and months pass, we will certainly feel the way Little Rabbit does as he waits impatiently to be done with winter's cold. It doesn't take long to miss friends who have burrowed in, or gone from the Old Forest to miss the biting cold that winter brings. It's been long enough now, and Little Rabbit needs change. He's hungry and bored, and wants his parents to tell him when he can expect the warmth of spring. 

His parents suggest patience. He goes to his grandmama for a more promising answer. She tells him that only the trees know when the warm weather will return. His next stop is a visit with those trees. Though he asks his question, the trees provide no answer. Shouting at them offers no response. Listening extra carefully does not work. The winds continue to blow, and nothing changes. While taking a nap at the base of a nearby tree, Little Rabbit detects a new smell. What can it be? 

Signs of spring are all around, and Little Rabbit repeats his question. 

"When will it be spring?" Little Rabbit 
asked the trees once again. 
And this time, without a word, the 
trees answered. 
    Soon."

Rich artwork allows young readers to feel the cold of the winter world and the impatience as Little Rabbit waits for a seasonal change we all welcome. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Frog vs. Toad, written and illustrated by Ben Mantle. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up

 



"Frog hopped and hopped. 
Toad was upset. 

"Yeah, well, not even a princess's kiss could 
turn you into a PRINCE!" 
laughed Toad. 

"All YOU'RE good for is a witch's potion!"
Frog shouted back. "And ...
"

When they first meet over a disputed fly dinner, Frog and Toad decide there is no way they can be friends. Although they both love to eat flies, they have nothing else in common. Toad is convinced frogs are slimy; Frog describes Toad as dry and lumpy. Back and forth they go, yelling and complaining about the other, the fly dinner now forgotten. 

Each has a quick retort to the other's observations. They cannot stop bickering. Reaching the swamp where their frog and toad friends are, the argument gets louder as insults are flung back and forth between the groups with disregard for other opinions. An ultimatum is voiced: 

"Frog was ready to burst. 
"THAT'S IT! IF YOU SAY
ONE MORE WORD ...""

As often happens when issuing such a threat and being challenged on it, Frog has no words left. A mud fight ensues. The result of their ruckus is a visit from an irritated swamp denizen whose plan is to eat each troublemaker. His observation about both frogs and toads brings a change in attitude ... since it seems they are related. 

The surprise ending is sure to result in a chorus that calls for reading it AGAIN! 

Full of light-hearted humor and delightful dialogue, and accompanied by bright, cartoon-like digital artwork, Ben Mantle has created a book that is read-out-loud memorable. The drama, the onomatopoeia, the surroundings combine to keep listeners invested in all that is happening on each spread.  

https://youtu.be/xfkEK2rWyv4

Monday, November 7, 2022

Brand-New Bubbe, written by Sarah Aronson and illustrated by Ariel Landy. Charlesbridge, Penguin Random House. 2022. $19.99 ages 4 and up

 


"The next time Bubbe came to visit, her hands were full. 

Jillian harrumphed all the way down the stairs so that 
everyone would know this was not at all her idea. 
Bubbe didn't seem a bit bothered. "Ready to make 
soup?" she asked.
"

Jillian is quick to let readers know she likes her new stepdad, Michael. She's not so keen on his mother, her new Bubbe. Bubbe means that Jillian now has three grandmothers, and one great; she thinks that three are more than enough. Besides, this Bubbe is quick with kisses, and plans, and kvetching??? 

When Bubbe suggests making matzo ball soup, Jillian has had enough! Noni makes delicious meatball soup, and Gram's gazpacho is the best. From then on, Jillian does her very best to ignore Bubbe's attempts to appease her new granddaughter. Mom is quick to voice her concern, and suggests that her daughter try harder to be kind. 

When Bubbe brings all the ingredients needed to make her famous matzo ball soup, Jillian has a change of heart. But, what about her loyalty to the other grandmothers? Is she replacing them with her growing feelings for Bubbe? 

All it takes is a plan, and an invitation to bring the entire family together, and spread the love. 

Digital illustrations add humor and wonderful expression to this blended family story. Back matter includes recipes for all three soups mentioned, as Jillian grapples with the changes that come when families grow bigger.                                                                                         


Sunday, November 6, 2022

Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf, written by Davide Cali and illustrated by Marianna Balducci. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2022. $$23.99 ages 5 and up


"Once upon a time, there were seven little pigs. 
One for each color of the rainbow. 
                                                    And then? 

The wolf in yellow ate them all. 
THE END
                                               
                                                   OK, that's enough! 
                                                   I want a REAL story! 

Tiny porcine beads are placed on an abacus in accordance with each new story being told, concerning the big bad wolf and an everchanging number of pigs. The problem for the narrator is that each of the stories is much too short. Although it would seem to have originated with the classic tale of The Three Little Pigs, the only similarities are the characters; only once are there three little pigs. 

"Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. 
Then the wolf ate them. 
THE END

                                             This story is too short! 
                                             I want a longer one!"

The dialogue is witty, and would make a good book share for young readers to read together. Obviously, there is plenty of drama to rev up the storytelling and who can complain when it's a funny one. Moving from one full spread to the next, the number of pigs changes from 3 to 7, and then gets bigger and bigger until the final count is one thousand ... or more! Readers will be giggling with delight and counting as quickly as they can. 

When the number reaches 26, the text lists one pig's name for each letter of the alphabet before moving on to 29 (one for each day of the month of February in a leap year). You have to be kidding! The stories don't seem to be getting much longer, despite the rapidly growing cast of characters. 

"Once upon a time, there were 
three hundred pigs. 

                          Three hundred? That's a lot! 
Yes. 
                         Will it make the story longer? 

No, because they were tiny and 
the wolf ate them like cereal. 
THE END. 

                           I can't take this anymore!"

Marianna Balducci's animated illustrations use 'photography and a very brave abacus' to deal with the groupings created in this humorous text. Expressive faces and changing outfits will inspire little ones to take careful looks with each turn of the page. Those who love numbers and enjoy writing their own stories are sure to find inspiration here.                                                                                       

 

Saturday, November 5, 2022

The Digger Dance, written by Judy Ann Sadler and illustrated by Yong Ling Kang. Owlkids, 2022. $19.95 ages 3 and up

 


"After breakfast, 
I plow through some books. 

I dig in the toy box. 

I build a block house, 
then bulldoze it down. 

But it's still raining.

There's nothing to do.

Here's another look at construction ... of a very different kind than the lodge the beavers built so competently yesterday. Nonetheless, it deals with construction and the lure of the vehicles used to ensure great things happen. 

Spending time in Victoria when Sicily was young led us to walks that included any nearby construction site in the downtown area. There were many places to visit, and much to see. She was thoroughly intrigued by the huge machines, and the jobs they did. She was able to name each one, as so many fans are able to do. If you have someone in your family fascinated by digger machines, you might consider this fun book for purchase as a gift for the holidays. Your little one will be impressed. 

The young boy who narrates this story is very interested in the diggers in the field near his grandmother's house. She tells him those diggers can dance. He is a touch doubtful. Off he goes to see them dance. To his great disappointment, they are no longer working. He will have to wait. When he checks the following rainy day, the diggers remain in place. Inside, he uses all of his construction skills to pass the time while he waits again. 

Grandma knows he needs a distraction. So, they bake some cookies! 

"I try to scoop sugar, 
but it's hard as a rock. 

I have some excavating to do! 

My arm is a high hoe, 
my hand holds a bucket. 

I scrape and thump to 
crush all the lumps, 
then shovel smooth sugar 
into the bowl.

As they work, the child uses all the terms used for the many machines he is waiting to see at work. When the sky finally clears, he is off to watch with genuine interest and enthusiasm. The diggers do dance, and he is happy to be witness to those dance moves. Doing the digger dance all the way back to Grandma's, he is ready to taste the cookies they made together. 

Spirited artwork created with watercolor and pencil enhance the telling by bringing the diggers to glorious light for young fans. The changing perspectives and the clear look at the diggers in action will hold attention. Equally fun it is to watch grandmother and grandson take on the task of baking cookies, while comparing their work to the work the diggers do. 

Friday, November 4, 2022

Building, written and illustrated by Henry Cole. Harper, 2022. $21.99 ages 4 and up

 


"Soon, a small dam is built across the stream. 
The dam holds the water back, and a pond forms. 

As the beavers make the dam bigger, 
the pond grows larger too. 

Building, building, 
That is what beavers do best.
"

In this companion book to Nesting (Harper, 2020) Henry Cole uses Micropens and acrylic paints to create a stunning natural habitat for a pair of beavers as they set about building a dam. It will lead to the formation of a pond. Mr. Cole situates the pair in exactly the right place; near a stream where the trees they need are plentiful. 

They get right to work, cutting down the trees needed and making each piece the perfect size for construction to begin. They haul each of the cuts into the stream and place them where they are meant to be. As their dam grows, so does the pond. Now, they have the water they need to build their lodge; a perfect place of shelter for the mother to birth her three babies. 

It isn't long until the family finds its way outside the lodge, ready to examine their surroundings and learn about dealing with any danger that might cause concern. The family grows; the parents continue construction on their home. When a storm threatens, they know what they have to do. 

"The pond is large now. 
Other animals make the pond their home. 
There are ducks and blackbirds, butterflies
and swallows, dragonflies and turtles.

Then comes winter. The family remains safe and warm in the lodge while they wait for the warmth of spring. 

Beautifully illustrated in fine, detailed lines and with a masterful setting, this is perfect nonfiction about the natural world for young listeners.                                                                                    


Thursday, November 3, 2022

Don't Worry, Murray, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein. Harper. 2022. $21.99 ages 4 and up

 


"Why don't you want to say hello 
to this new dog, Murray? 

Don't worry, Murray! He's nice. 

Good boy, Murray! Good boy."

While we never meet the narrator, there is constant love and praise for the tiny dog who cannot seem to come to terms with the outside world and all the many experiences he might face if he leaves his house. His worries manifest themselves in his imagination, and at every turn. 

Questions are asked; readers can see what Murray so clearly imagines as his answer to each successive one. What if it rains, and the water rises higher and higher. Danger! Maybe a raincoat would help. A sound plan until the thunder and lightning BOOM! Poor Murray. 

A new dog? Perhaps it's bully and will take his toy. When it doesn't, things look more promising. A loud, animated bark sends Murray scurrying to find a hiding place. Poor Murray. Will there be fireworks at the barbecue? No. But there might be exploding balloons. Poor Murray. Even the darkness of bedtime does not look promising. 

Listening to the voice full of praise for all he tried in the day, Murray is finally able to settle. 

Listeners are sure to empathize with Murray as he explores new and often scary moments in his day. It's a terrific read aloud and encourages them to speak to some of the fears they share with Murray, or have of their own. 

"I'm proud of you ... 
My brave dog.
"

                                                                                      


Wednesday, November 2, 2022

My Poet, written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Jen Hill. Harper, 2022. $21.99 ages 4 and up

 


"She picks up a round white stone, 
smoothed by the sea, 
closing my hand over it - 
warm from her hand. 
"It has a story, Lucy," my poet tells me. 

What story is that? 

Poets are word collectors. In this book that Patricia MacLachlan writes in memory of Mary Oliver, she helps listening children see how poems develop from the world they see around them. Lucy's 'poet' lives next door. As they walk together, both look for words. Lucy carries a notebook, and is always tuned into the way her friend is observant about dogs, the sand on the beach, flowers, stones, birds. the marsh, and weather. If you know Mary Oliver's poetry, you will see the similarities. 

First-person narration by the child who spends so much time with her friend is quiet and gentle, in keeping with the many discoveries made as they wander. Lucy learns and creates as the two spend time together. The poet reacts enthusiastically to Lucy's attempts at creating her own poetry. When they are not together, Lucy continues to hone a craft that she hopes will one day be hers. 

"Are you writing something, Lucy?" she asks. 
"I'm still looking for the words," I say. 
She puts her hand on her head,
then over her heart. 

"The words are here," she says. "You just 
have to find them." 
And I know the secret! 
She listens. 
She touches.

Jen Hill's charming gouache artwork perfectly matches the soft tone of this story of friendship and inspiration. The story concludes with a poem by the young girl. An author's note adds context.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

You are the Loveliest, written by Hans and Monique Hagen. Illustrated by Marit Tornqvist. Translated by David Colmer. Levine Querido, Raincoast. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up

 


"A baby dog is called a puppy
a little cow's a calf
a baby bed is called a crib
a quarter's not a half

a baby plant is called a cutting
a tiny fly's a gnat
a little man is still a man
nothing changes that
"

As I read and reread these remarkable poems, I would choose one to begin the post. I would type it on the page, move forward, and find another to replace it. That is to say there are many of the 23 poems in this newly-translated book of poetry that comes to readers from the Netherlands that are worthy of attention. Lucky we are to be able to share all 23 poems with our children. 

Each of the poems offers the perspective that comes from a young girl who experiences the daily pleasures and concerns of childhood. She is fully aware of the world, both indoors and outside. Like other children, she wants a dog, has dreams, plays teacher for her stuffies, dislikes the smell of a baby's full diaper, is sometimes hurt, and wonders about clouds. Each poem considers her daily thoughts about her own world. 

"grandma is wrinkles
grandma is kind
grandma is cuddles 
and grandma is old

her hair is made of silver 
and her teeth are made of gold

An opening note about the drawings is spot on ... 

... are like a color palette, comparable to the moods of a small child that can quickly switch from light to dark. Marit Tornqvist came up with a new recipe for each poem, using materials from gouache and acrylic paint to charcoal and ink, from watercolor and pastels, in an attempt to build a child's world ... 

What a truly wonderful book this is. Please don't miss it!