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A blog written by the editor of Through the Looking Glass Book Review, a monthly online children's book review journal.
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1. Picture Book Monday with a review of Flora and the Flamingo

They say that imitation in the sincerest form of flattery. This may be true sometimes, but being imitated can also be really, really annoying. In today's picture book you are going to meet a little girl who decides to imitate an elegant flamingo and who soon learns that her actions are not appreciated. At all.

Flora and the FlamingoFlora and the Flamingo
Molly Idle
Wordless Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Chronicle Books, 2013, 978-1-4521-1006-6
Flora is a girl who is wearing a pink bathing suit, a yellow swimming cap, and black flippers. In the shallows of a pond there is a flamingo and Flora decides to copy it. When the flamingo stands on one leg so does Flora. When it makes several elegant ballet-like poses, Flora does her best to copy the bird’s moves. Though Flora tries not to be seen copying the flamingo, the wily bird soon sees what she is doing and with a firm squawk it puts a stop to Flora’s shenanigans. The startled girl ends up doing a forward roll and finds herself sitting on her bottom in the water with a flower on her head.
   This could very easily be the end of the story of Flora and the elegant flamingo, but the kind-hearted bird reaches out to the child and teaches her a little about dance and a lot about friendship.
   In this remarkable picture book the illustrator tells a riveting story without using any words or word sounds at all. The expression on the faces, and the body language, of the two characters is so expressive that no words are needed. Children will love seeing how Flora and the flamingo come to terms, and how something special grows out of their interaction.


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2. Poetry Friday - A review of On the Wing

Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Harcourt, 1996, 978-0152023669
Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
   Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
   Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
   The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
   With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird speci

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3. Poetry Friday with a review of On the Wing by Douglas Florian

Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Harcourt, 1996, 978-0152023669
Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
   Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
   Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
   The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
   With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird species.

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4. Picture Book Monday with a review of Maple

In my family we like to plant trees on special occasions. Sometimes the trees serve as a memorial to someone we love. These trees almost become members of the family, but not quite. In today's picture book you will meet a little girl who has a tree for a friend who really is a member of her family.

MapleMaple
Lori Nichols
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2014, 978-0-399-16085-1
Before she was born, when Maple was “still a whisper,” her parents planted a little maple tree in their garden for her and when she came into the world they named her Maple. As she grew, the little maple tree grew, and when she needed to be noisy, or sing, or pretend to be a tree, Maple went to be with her tree.
   One fall Maple saw that her tree was losing its leaves, so she gave it her jacket so that it would “stay warm.” No matter what else was happening, Maple always knew that she had her tree, and the tree had her.
   Then one spring something changed. A new little tree appeared in the garden and Maple’s mother had another little whisper growing inside her. Not long after, Maple became a big sister and she learned that life rarely stays the same. Change is inevitable and Maple had to figure out how to be a good big sister, which isn’t easy.
   In this heartwarming picture book we meet a little girl who develops a special connection with a tree. This may seem strange, but the tree and the little girl grew up together and shared many grand times. Young readers are sure to enjoy seeing how Maple deals with a very big change in her life. Thankfully, she has a friend who helps her sort out her problems.

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5. Poetry Friday with a review of Knock at a star: A Child’s Introduction to Poetry

Over the years I have looked at a lot of poetry collections. Some focus on one kind of poetry, or one topic, while others are collections of all kinds of poetry. Today's title belongs to the latter category, and I have to say that it is one of the best collections of this type that I have ever looked through. Poetry as a form of writing is explored in an interesting way, and readers of all ages will enjoy reading the poems and the sections of text that accompany many of them.

Knock at a Star: A Child's Introduction to PoetryKnock at a star: A Child’s Introduction to Poetry
X. J. Kennedy and Dorothy Kennedy
Illustrated by Karen Lee Baker
Poetry
Ages 7 and up
Little Brown, 1999, 978-0316488006
Many people have created poetry anthologies for children, and such collections give children the opportunity to experience and explore a wide variety of poems. Readers can open such books on any page and start reading.
   This poetry collection is a little different in that the poems are categorized into chapters. The authors use poems to show readers what poems do, what is inside a poem, the special kinds of poems there are, and they wrap up by showing us how to write our own poems. Throughout the book readers will find notes that help them better understand the poems and the people who wrote them.
   The purpose of poems may seem obvious, but in fact poems, like stories, can serve a variety of purposes. They can make readers smile either because they describe something funny, or because the poet uses words in a funny way, or both of these things. In Spring is Sprung, a poet deliberately used words incorrectly to give us a poem that is short and amusing. Ogden Nash’s The Termite tells us a short tale about how a termite tasted wood “and found it good.” We learn that the termite’s fondness for wood explains why “Cousin May / Fell through the parlor floor today.”
   Telling stories using poetry is something many poets enjoy doing. These stories can be humorous or serious, and they help readers see that story poems can be just as colorful and exciting as stories that are told in prose.
   Some poets like to use their poems to convey a message to their readers, presenting an idea or point of view that matters to them. Then there are the poems that allow their writers to share their feelings with the reader. Often these poems are very powerful because they are personal and heart felt. In Janet S. Wong’s poem Losing Face we read about a guilt-ridden girl who won an art contest using a picture that she traced. She so much wants to tell everyone what she did, but she doesn’t “want to lose / Mother’s glowing / proud face.”
   People can often be confusing. We don’t understand why they say and do the things they do. Some poets use their writings to help us understand people and their ways. Through them we learn that people come in so many shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. For example, in her poem My Mother we learn about a mother who is not “like / Some others.” Instead of being the kind of mother who bakes and cooks, this mother stays up late into the night “Reading poetry.”
   This is the kind of poetry collection that readers of all ages will enjoy exploring. Even adults who know a great deal about poetry will soon appreciate that this collection is truly a gift.


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6. Picture Book Monday with a review of Mister Bud wears a cone

Not long ago one of my dogs had surgery and he had to wear a "cone of shame" for a while to make sure that he did not try to pull out his stitches. Poor Pippin hated the cone, and I had to work very hard not to laugh as he went around the house bumping into walls and furniture. It was funny, and it also was pitiful.

In today's picture book you will meet Mister Bud, who has to wear a cone and whose doggy housemate, Zorro, takes shameful advantage of his friend's situation.

Mister Bud Wears the ConeMister Bud wears the cone
Carter Goodrich
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2014, 978-1-4424-8088-9
One night Mr. Bud’s itchy hotspot starts itching like crazy. Poor Mister Bud chews and licks it, and in the morning his person sees that the hotspot is much worse. She puts some medicine on it which she hopes will make the hotspot go away. She is comforting and tells Mister Bud that she knows that “It’s no fun,” having such a nasty hotspot. Zorro resents the fact that Mister Bud is getting all the attention. Even worse the dogs’ schedule is “all messed up” because of Mister Bud’s hotspot.
   Before she leaves the house for the day Mister Bud’s person puts a cone on his head so that he won’t lick or itch his hotspot. Not surprisingly, Mister Bud hates the cone. He cannot see properly when he wears it, he walks into furniture, he cannot eat or drink properly, and he cannot stop Zorro from stealing his favorite toy. Wearing the cone is the worst thing ever and when Mister Bud accidentally breaks a lamp, he is convinced that he is going to be in big trouble. Zorro is thrilled and he is eager to see what their person says when she sees what Mister Bud has done.
   In this deliciously funny and sweet book we meet a dog who has to wear a cone and whose life is severely disrupted by the horrible thing. It does not help that his house mate, Zorro, takes shameful advantage of the situation. Readers of all ages are going to laugh out loud when they see what happens in this memorable picture book story.


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7. Poetry Friday with a review of It's Raining Pigs and Noodles

Jack Prelutsky loves finding ways to hook children on poetry, and he has been creating poems that serve this purpose for years now. In today's poetry title you will see how he helps children to see for themselves that poetry can be great fun.

It's Raining Pigs & NoodlesIt’s Raining Pigs and Noodles
Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by James Stevenson
Poetry
For ages 6 to 8
HarperCollins, 2000, 978-0060291945
Life is too short for us to spend our days doing serious things and having serious thoughts all the time. A dose of silliness and goofiness is required every day at least once. Some of us find it hard to make the switch from being sensible to silly, which can be very trying. Where is that funny bone hiding and how do we get it to do what it is supposed to do?
   Thankfully for everyone who needs help finding their inner silly self, Jack Prelutsky has put together a collection of poems that are guaranteed to tickle the funny bone, thus bringing the silliness that lies within us all to the surface. Every single poem in this book is one hundred percent amusing, and readers can be sure that after a few pages they will be feeling a lot less serious.
   The poems begin with poem called It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles. If you like the idea of it raining pigs and noodles you should read the rest of the poem where the poet describes how “Assorted prunes and parrots / are dropping from the sky,” and these are followed by “a bunch of carrots, / some hippopotami.” The poem wraps up with the words, “I like this so much better / than when it’s raining rain.”
   A couple of pages later in The Chicken Club, we meet some people who are afraid of everything and anything, which is why they are members of this special club. The club members are afraid of thunder and shadows, creepy crawlies, and even their own reflections. In fact they are afraid of so many things that “we’ve even started clucking / and we’re sprouting chicken wings.”
   Children and their grownups are going to have a grand time dipping into this book and sampling a helping of poetry that will make them smile or chuckle.

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8. Picture Book Monday with a review of Imagine a Day

The great thing about having an imagination is that it allows us to make things up, and sometimes the things we make up are weird, magical, wonderful, or some combination of all of these elements. In today's picture book the author takes us on a fanciful journey into the imagination, and the places she takes us really are special.

Imagine a DayImagine a Day
Sarah L. Thomson
Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Picture Book
Ages 5 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2005, 0-689-85219-3
   The imagination can take anything from the everyday world and turn it in to something wonderful, something exciting. On a cloudy grey day the imagination can imagine a way to bring back a blue sky by filling the heavens with thousands of blue balloons. With the imagination a walk on the fence can turn into a daring walk between high rise buildings. Our imagination can make it possible for us to lay water down in slabs, much in the same way that one would tile a floor; and the coppery leaves of fall can be turned into a road that can be ridden on, high above the ground.
   In this wonderful book Sarah Thomson takes our imaginations on a journey. As we explore the pages we celebrate the imagination and all the wonderful things that it can do. It can make the dreary interesting, the commonplace remarkable, it can add spice to one’s life, and it can give one peace.  Rob Gonsalves has taken the simple text and has created paintings which make the mind stretch and wonder. The art is beautiful and intriguing, and it challenges one to look at the world though eyes that can see not just what is really there but what could be there. 

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9. Poetry Friday with a review of Give me Wings

When I was a child I dreamed about flying all the time. I never needed wings and the dreams were so wonderful that I was sorry when I woke up. Today's poetry picture book celebrates those dreams (or daydreams), allowing us to take to the air once more.

Give Me WingsGive me Wings
Poems Selected by Lee Bennet Hopkins
Illustrated by Ponder Goembel
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Holiday House, 2010, 978-0-8234-2023-0
For many people their favorite dreams are the ones in which they are flying. In these dreams they can soar in the air without needing any kind of mechanical aid to help them do so. With arms held wide, or with wings attached to their arms, they are able to fly high above the ground and feel the freedom of not being tied to the earth.
   In this delightful book, poet Lee Bennett Hopkins brings us a selection of poems that take us, at least for a little time, up into the air. He encourages us to imagine what it would be like if we were to wake up one morning to find that we had wings attached to our arms. He tells us the story of a boy who, at one time, was able to fly. Every night the boy lay on his bed and “willed myself to fly.” It was hard work, and sometimes an hour would go by before he finally felt himself float up above his bed. By using a “swimming motion” the boy would make his way over to the window and then he would go out into the night sky.
   Humans are not the only ones who dream of flying. In one of the poems we meet a cat who is just a “scruffy house cat,” but she “dreams all day / of wings and sky.” At night the cat climbs a ladder and swings back and forth on a trapeze until it is time to finish with “somersaults / to wild applause.”
   The wonderful collection wraps us with a poem by Lee Bennett Hopkins that describe how we should put our wings away into a wing box where they will lie, safe and sound, until we need them “for / tomorrow’s / flight.”
   This is a book for anyone who has dreamed (or daydreamed) about flying. Readers will enjoy a brief time when they can take flight through these poems and explore hopes and dreams that float as soft as downy feathers on the wind.

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10. Picture Book Monday with a review of Boris and the Wrong Shadow

We tend to take shadows for granted, until there is a hot day and we can't find a single shadow where we can get some respite from the heat. Shadows are important, which is what Boris the Siamese cat learns in today's picture book. They should not be taken for granted, and one should never, ever, lose them or let them wander off.

Boris and the Wrong ShadowBoris and the wrong shadow
Leigh Hodgkinson
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Tiger Tales, 2009, 978-1-58925-082-6
One day Boris the Siamese cat wakes up after having a delightful dream. The delicious aftereffects of his dream are soon replaced by a distinct feeling that something is amiss. When Boris gets up he soon sees what is wrong. Instead of having a cat-shaped shadow, he now has a mouse-shaped shadow. Now, some cats would freak out if they saw their shadow acting up, but Boris decides not to let such a “silly thing,” bother him. Instead, he goes outside to enjoy the day.
   Unfortunately, the animals in the garden don’t have such a sanguine attitude to cats with mouse shadows, and Boris is laughed at, squeaked at, and ignored. Try as he might, Boris cannot help feeling rather depressed about his situation, and then he sees something that pulls him out of his unhappy state. Boris sees his shadow going by and he sets off in hot pursuit.
   In this delightful picture book we meet Boris, a cat whose shadow has been shadow-napped. Or so it would seem. Though Boris is understandably upset about his shadow problem, the experience teaches him something about what it is like to be a small, defenseless creature that other animals don’t take seriously. Maybe it was a good thing that this whole shadow conundrum took place.

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11. Poetry Friday with a review of Pocket Poems

When I was growing up the only short poems I encountered in poetry books were limericks and rhyming riddles. I didn't learn about haiku until I was in high school, and certainly did not encounter the kinds of poems that you will find in today's poetry title. These short "pocket poems" are perfect for children. Many of them are amusing, but some are more serious and offer children images and ideas that they will enjoy thinking and talking about.

Pocket PoemsPocket Poems
Selected by Bobbi Katz
Illustrated by Marylin Hafner
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2013, 978-0147508591
Though we live in a “bigger is better” world, we don’t always have to buy into this way of thinking. There are many instances when smaller is better, or when less is better. There are times when a tiny and perfect little violet has more impact than a big bunch of roses, or when a little basket of perfectly ripe strawberries is better than a whole bowl full of strawberry shortcake.
   In this poetry book we are going to encounter a wonderful selection of pocket poems, poems that are short and sweet and that we can write down on a small piece of paper and tuck in a pocket. Such poems can go “wherever you go” and since nothing can “take it” or “break it,” that poem “becomes / part of… / YOU!”
   There are a wide variety of pocket poems included in this collection. Some are amusing like Toothpaste. In this poem we hear about how toothpaste ends up “on my nose” and how it “sprays north and west and south.” The only place the pesky stuff doesn’t end up is in the one place where it belongs, which is “inside my mouth.”
   Other poems, like the excerpt from William Blake’s Night, are more contemplative, creating an atmosphere and capturing a precious memory or moment in time. In this poem we read about the moon which is “like a flower / In heaven’s high bower.” Another simple get meaningful poem is called Home and in it we read a few short lines that capture the essence of home with its “quiet” and “peace.”
   As we move from page to page we enjoy moments from school days and everyday life, old fashioned Mother Goose rhymes, and more. The poets whose creations appear on these pages include J. Patrick Lewis, Carl Sandburg, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Nikki Giovanni.

    

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12. Picture Book Monday with a review of Chickadees at Night

When I moved into my first apartment in Washington D.C. there was a tiny garden in the back. The patch of glass was minuscule, but my roommate and I enjoyed spending time out there, and soon after I moved in I got my first bird feeder. I was soon able to recognize several bird species, birds that I had only seen in books heretofore. My favorite was the little chickadee, a very small bird with a distinct song and a huge personality.

Today's picture book will delight readers who like birds, and they will enjoy finding out what chickadees do at night when we are all asleep in out beds.

Chickadees at Night
Chickadees At NightBill O. Smith
Charles E. Murphy
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Sleepytime Press, 2013, 978-0-615-56972-7
We all know what chickadees do during the day. They sing their chick-a-dee-dee-dee song, “dip and dart through the tangle of trees,” and visit our birdfeeders. What do they do at night? They disappear and we have no idea what they are up to. Do they perhaps bathe in the rain and rest “on hidden perches?”
   Actually the answer is a simple one. Those cunning little birds spend their nights playing and having fun. They bounce on spider web trampolines, play hide and seek, and take rides on the backs of flying squirrels. They enjoy the simple pleasures that can be found as the moon rises and the stars twinkle overhead.
   In this delightful, lyrical, magical picture book the author answers some delightful questions about the doings of a cunning little bird. Chickadees may be small, but that have oodles of charm, and thanks to Bill O. Smith we now know just a few of their secrets.
   Throughout the book the uplifting and sometimes funny rhyming text is paired with stunning illustrations that capture the beauty and sweetness of one of North America’s most beloved wild birds.
   At the back of the book the author provides readers with some “Chickadee Nuggets.”

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13. Poetry Friday with a review of Cat Talk

For almost my whole life, I have shared my home with a cat or two (or three or four), and I cannot image being catless. Every single one of my cats has had a distinct personality. Alex was grumpy and did not know how to be a pet at first. Sophie was sweet and incredibly patient. Mini Katie was brave and she always had something to say. Tinka the Tonkinese was a minx who could not be trusted to stay out of trouble. Now I have Sara, who seems standoffish but who actually loves attention, and her incredibly naughty sister, Suma, who has broken more things than all my other cats put together.

Today's poetry title pairs beautiful paintings with poems about cats, who, like humans, are all one-of-a-kind characters.

Cat TalkCat Talk
Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest
Illustrated by Barry Moser
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
HarperCollins, 2013, 978-0-06-027978-3
Some people are under the impression that cats are all alike, that they don’t have distinctive personalities. They could not be more wrong. Cats, like people, come is all shapes and sizes both in their looks and in their inner selves.
   In this beautiful book we are going to meet some cats, each one of which is very different. Tough Tom, with his torn up ears, has been living out in the world on his own. He is independent and knows how to take care of himself, but when someone opens a window and when Tough Tom finds out that the person in the house has food and a blanket, Tough Tom has to make a choice. He is scared because he is used to the outdoor life and “fighting with other cats,” but a life of comfort and ease is attractive to that cat.
   Lily is a barn cat who shares her life with cows, horses, and a gray donkey called Rose. It is a good life and she likes the “sweet-smelling hay, / And the breathing of cows / And horse snorts.” Lily has a secret though. She has a best friend and she asks us not to tell anyone about this friend because…she thinks he is “a mouse.”
   Some of the cats we meet on the pages are house cats who get to share their human’s bed, and who rule those humans with a firm paw. Then there is Eddie, who has a job which he takes very seriously. Eddie is an office cat and he goes to “greet people at the office door.” He uses “many voices” to say hello, to ask for snacks, and to comment on and react to things that happens around him.
   Some cats like Sylvie are aloof and make sure that everyone knows that they are “the boss cat.” Others are more like Romeo, loving everyone, asking for attention, and playing with anyone who happens to be available.
   Throughout this book the wonderful poems are paired with Barry Moser’s beautiful and evocative paintings to give readers a delightful cat-centric poetry experience.


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14. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Crayon: A Colorful Tale about Friendship

Crayons play a big role in the lives of little children. They are used to draw pictures of course, but they are also eaten, they are forgotten in cars and handbags where they melt on hot days, and they are often used to make crafts, sometimes in surprising ways. In today's picture book you are going to meet some crayons who are alive and who, like children, don't always know how to be a good friend.

The Crayon: A Colorful Tale about Friendship
The Crayon: A Colorful Tale About FriendshipSimon Rickerty
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Simon and Schuster, 2014, 978-1-4814-0475-4
There are two little creatures, one of which is red and one which is blue. Red gets a blue crayon and he scribbles a blue design and asks Blue to look at what he has done. Blue then gets a red crayon and he scribbles a red design saying, “Look Red!” While Blue is busy creating his red artwork, Red scribbles on Blue’s page, on his “side,” and this infuriates Blue. What does Red think he is doing? Red is not supposed to cross over the page to poach on Blue’s territory.
   A dreadful argument breaks out and then something terrible happens, Red’s blue crayon breaks. Blue, seeing how upset Red is, gives him his red crayon. There are smiles all around, but Red is not quite finished with his mischief making.
   Figuring out how to get along with others is not always easy. Learning how to share and to include others is even harder. In this delightfully clever, minimal picture book the author shows his readers how two colorful creatures struggle to get along, and how they learn what it means to be a real friend.

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15. Poetry Friday with a review of Another Day as Emily

When I was first presented with a novel written in blank verse, I was rather surprised. I had never encountered a novel with such a format before. When I began to read the book I was immediately hooked. Since then I have read several novels written in blank verse and my favorites are those written by Eileen Spinelli. I was therefore thrilled when I got her latest creation in the mail and I read the entire book one afternoon in one sitting. It is a delightful story, one that I think readers of all ages will enjoy reading.

Another Day as EmilyAnother Day as Emily
Eileen Spinelli
Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Poetry
For ages 9 to 12
Random House, 2014, 978-0-449-80987-7
The summer vacation has begun and Suzy has so much to look forward to. Among other things there is the Fourth of July, her twelfth birthday (when she is going to go to a ball game), bike rides, and Tween Time at the library. Not to mention time spent with her friends Alison, Mrs. Harden, and Gilbert.
   One morning Suzy’s little brother Parker decides to ride his trike to Mrs. Harden’s house, which he is not allowed to do unless he tells someone first. Which he forgets to do. Normally Parker would get into trouble for doing this, but on this occasion he doesn’t. When he gets to Mrs. Harden’s house he sees that she is lying on the floor and that she is in trouble. Remembering what he learned in safety class, Parker dials 911. Suzy arrives just as Parker is saying “Emergency! Emergency!” into the phone. Suzy holds Mrs. Harden hand until the ambulance arrives and worries about the old lady, who is her “honorary grandmother.”
   Thankfully Mrs. Harden is all right, and Parker becomes a local “little hero.” He is interviewed for the local newspaper, is sent all kinds of gifts, and the mayor invites Parker to be in the mayoral car during the Fourth of July parade. Not surprisingly all this attention goes to Parker’s head. He decides that he is a “big hero” and he becomes rather insufferable.
   Suzy’s summer does not improve after this incident. Instead it gets worse. People, including Suzy’s mother, keep making a fuss over Parker. Gilbert is accused of being a thief even though there is no proof that he stole anything, and when Suzy and Alison audition for parts in a play, Alison gets a part but Suzy doesn’t. On Suzy’s birthday Parker disappears and Suzy’s dad has to cancel their baseball game trip because they have to look for Parker.
   Suzy decides that there is only one thing to do. She is going to stop being Suzy and she is going to start being Emily Dickenson. Suzy has been learning about Emily for her Tween Time people-from-the-1800’s project and she knows enough about the poet that she decides that being a recluse is just what she needs. Suzy gets some white dresses, she refuses to go out or use the phone, and she tries to spend her days doing what Emily Dickenson did. At first the novelty is enjoyable, but then Suzy starts to get lonely.
   Written using a series of blank verse poems, this delightfully sweet, poignant, and gently funny story will give readers a peek into the heart of a twelve-year-old girl. Suzy is starting to grow up and she is struggling to figure out who she is and what she wants. Her quirky personality and kind heart make her easy to identify with, and readers will find themselves hoping that Suzy finds her way.
  

   

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16. Picture Book Monday with a review of Hank Finds an Egg

When I came across today's picture book for the first time I was completely captivated by the photos that fill the pages. There are no words in the book at all, and yet the story is rich and delightful. Readers of all ages will enjoy seeing what Hank does when he finds an egg.

Hank Finds an EggHank Finds an Egg
Rebecca Dudley
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Peter Pauper Press, 2013, 978-1-4413-1158-0
One day Hank is walking in the forest when he finds an egg lying on the ground. He picks up the egg and soon figures out that it must have fallen out of a nest that is resting on a branch in a nearby tree. Hank is determined to do what he can to put the egg back in its nest, but there is a problem; Hank is very small and the nest is high up in the tree.
   Hank rolls a log over to the tree to stand on, but he still cannot reach the nest. Next, he builds a little ladder, but the nest is still too high up. The moon starts to rise and so Hank makes himself a little bed out of leaves and lights a fire. When it is time to sleep, he tucks the egg under the leaves next to him so that is stays warm. Maybe, in the morning, he will figure out how to get the egg back into its nest.
   In this remarkable wordless picture book we meet a little woodland creature whose compassion and determination to do the right thing warms the heart. To tell Hank’s story the author made Hank out of fabric and then photographed him in his woodland world. The photographs are beautiful, and Hank’s loving and generous character shines through.


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17. Poetry Friday with a review of Mammalabilia

Douglas Florian is a master when it comes to writing short, often amusing poems about animals. I have reviewed several of his animal centric poetry books, and so far we have met animals that live in water, dinosaurs, reptiles and amphibians, and in his book Beast Feast we meet a collection of especially bizarre creatures. In today's poetry title he takes us into the lives of mammals.

mammalabiliaMammalabilia
Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004, 978-0152050245
Many of us are able to identify with mammals, perhaps because our pets are usually mammals. They are furry, have four legs, and give birth to live babies. Some of them even look a little like us, and we love to read stories about them.
   In this poetry collection poet and artist, Douglas Florian, introduces us to a wide variety of mammals, pairing clever little poems with his unique artwork. The poems come in many forms. There are rhyming poems, blank verse poems, concrete poems, and some of the poems contain word play elements that readers will find amusing.
   Our mammalian visit begins with the aardvark, which is without a doubt, a very odd animal. They are so odd that the poet believes that “Aardvarks look better / By far in the daark.” He is more complimentary about the ibex which “risk their necks / On scary, airy mountain treks,” and he thinks otters are “quite charismatic.”
   As they explore this book readers will enjoy ‘listening in’ when the poet asks a Bactrian camel a very important question, and they will find out what he thinks of gorillas, porcupines, the elephant, lemurs, and other mammals from around the world.
   This is one in a series of poetry books about animals that Douglas Florian has created.

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18. Picture Book Monday with a review of Puddle Pug

Everyday I read articles online about people who refuse to share what they have, or who refuse to accept someone (or a group of people) who are different. These stories sadden me deeply. Thankfully, there are occasions when these exclusionary situations end and doors are opened. Today's picture book tells the story of a pug who loves mud puddles, and a pig who does not like to share her mud puddle.

Puddle PugPuddle Pug
Kim Norman
Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Sterling, 2014, 978-1-4549-0436-6
Percy was a pug who loved puddles of all kinds. Any kind of puddle would do, and he loved the puddles he frequented so much that he even went so far as to put them on a map so that he would always be able to find them. Though Percy enjoyed the puddles he visited and though they were nearly perfect, none of them had all the qualities he was looking for. For some reason “something was always missing.”
   Then one day Percy saw a puddle that really was perfect. It was big and brown and deliciously muddy, and when he jumped in he was in pug heaven. Percy had found his “puddle paradise,” but there was a problem. A very large mama pig and her piglets were using the puddle, and the mama pig made it clear that Percy was not welcome. Nothing Percy did made the large pig willing to let the pug join her family in the muddy wallow.
   In this charming picture book children will meet a pug who finds the perfect puddle, only to discover that it is taken by a very unfriendly pig who will not share. Readers will find Percy and his love of puddles hard to resist, and they will be delighted to see what happens as the story unfolds.


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19. Poetry Friday with a review of World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of

Thanks to Facebook I have learned that there is a World Penguin Day and a World Pig Day. It is fun to find ways to 'celebrate' these mostly unknown holidays, and I like reviewing books that are suitable for such days. In today's poetry title you will find poems that look at some very unusual holidays.

World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You've Never Heard OfWorld Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of
J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Anna Raff
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick Press, 2013, 978-0-7636-5402-3
Many people have heard of Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Halloween, even if they do not celebrate these holidays, but what about World Rat Day or Dragon Appreciation Day? These holidays, though they are not well known, really do exist and wouldn’t it be fun to add them to our calendar of holidays.
   In this title J. Patrick Lewis give us a collection of poems that celebrate twenty-two lesser known holidays. He takes us through a year, beginning with Cats Day, which is on January second. This is the one day in the year when a cat should be able to be the boss who does whatever he or she wishes. A cat should be able to “Spin a yarn,’ and dine on “Mice Crispies” while sipping eggnog. This of all days should be the day with a cat should be allowed to “hog the bed before the dog.”
   January also offers us Dragon Appreciation Day, a day when dragons should be honored and given their due. For this day J. Patrick Lewis offers dragons a little reminder of how they should behave at mealtimes with his poem Eight Table Manners for Dragons. He tells them not to blow on their soup as this “only makes it hotter,” and they should always “Play with your food, but don’t let it run around screaming.” After all, to do so would be rather uncouth.

   Young readers are going to love the often funny poems that J. Patrick Lewis has created for this collection. They come in many forms and will titillate reader’s ears when they are read out loud and shared with others. Wonderfully expressive paintings accompany the poems, and children will soon notice that a quartet of rats appear on many of pages. One never quite knows what these four rascals will be doing next.

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20. Picture Book Monday with a review of Going Places

I know a lot of people who find it very hard to 'jump' into the unknown, to do something unconventional. It is scary to do, of course it is, but the rewards can be priceless. Today's picture book is about a boy who discovers that thinking out of the box and taking a risk can be truly wonderful.

Going PlacesGoing Places
Peter and Paul Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Reynolds
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2014, 978-1-4424-6608-1
Rafael has been waiting all year to have the opportunity to participate in the Going Places go-cart competition. He raises his hand so fast in class that his teacher gives him the first go-kart kit. The kit includes precise instructions, which Rafael really appreciates because he is good at following directions.
   With care, and following the directions exactly, Rafael builds his go-cart, and when it is complete it looks exactly like the one shown in the directions. Feeling pleased with himself and his go-cart, Rafael decides to see what Maya is doing. She hasn’t even started working on her go-cart because she is so busy drawing a picture of a bird.
   The next morning Rafael goes to visit Maya again to see how her go-cart construction is progressing, and he sees that she has built a flying machine. Of sorts. Rafael tells his friend that her creation is “cool,” but it isn’t really a go-cart. Maya challenges Rafael by saying, “Who said it HAD to be a go-cart?” At first Rafael isn’t quite sure how to respond to these words, but after some thought he realizes that Maya is right. No said that one had to use the kit to create a go-cart.
   There is nothing wrong with following directions. Nothing at all. However, when you dare to venture away from the instructions and to think outside the, box interesting things can happen. This is what happens to Rafael and Maya, who, by working together, discover that the sky is the limit when it comes to coming up with fresh, creative, and innovative ideas.
   This wonderful book will help young children to discover (and older readers to remember) that thinking outside the box can lead to grand shared adventures in creativity. 

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21. Poetry Friday with a review of S is for Sea Glass

I love living in my valley with its beautiful mountains and snow-fed streams, but I do miss spending days at the beach. If you go to the coast here in Oregon you better wear warm clothing because it is cold there for much of the year. Only crazy people swim and surf in the frigid Pacific waters on our coastline. I may be somewhat crazy, but I am not that crazy.

Today's poetry title takes us to sunny sands where we build sandcastles, eat ice cream, and throw sticks for dogs to retrieve. Now if only I could find a way to jump into the pages.

S is for Sea Glass: A Beach AlphabetS is for Sea Glass: A Beach Alphabet
Richard Michelson
Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Sleeping Bear Press, 2014, 978-1-58536-862-4
For people who don’t live near the sea or ocean, going to the beach in the summer is often a delightful treat. There are so many things to do and to see. There are so many adventures waiting to be found. For some, creating a sand angel is the perfect way to start a seaside visit. All one has to do is to lie down on the sand and then open and close ones arms and legs as if one is “opening and closing a fairy-tale gate.”
   Of course a sojourn at the seaside would not be complete if one did not build a sandcastle. The more elaborate it is “with turrets and towers,” and perhaps with “parapets, arrow slits, keeps, and a moat,” the better. Kite flying is also a popular thing to do. At least with a kite you can be sure to have a “bite,” which cannot be said for fishing.  
   Humans are not the only ones who enjoy a vacation at the beach. Dogs also love to roll in the sand, “Dive into the surf,” sniff at everything and anything, fetch sticks, and run here, there, and everywhere.
   For every letter of the alphabet this book’s author gives his readers a poem that focuses on something that is associated with being at the beach. Each poem has its own flavor and voice, so readers find something new and different on every page. Some of the poems are amusing, while others are more contemplative. In the book there is blank verse, rhyming verse, haiku, and many other poetry forms to explore. Throughout the book the poems are paired with wonderful illustrations, all of which complement the poetry beautifully.

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22. Picture Book Monday with a review of the Mischievians

Most of the time my household runs smoothly. Occasionally a cat knocks something over, or a dog gets mud all over everything, but generally all is well. There are, however, a few annoying things that happen on a regular basis. Socks keep disappearing in the washing machine. I have no idea why this happens, but I have at least a dozen sock orphans in my closet that are waiting to be reunited with their twin. Then there is the fur problem. There is no way my pets shed that much fur. Every week I vacuum up enough fur to cover at least twenty large animals. Where does the extra fur come from?

If you have problems like these in your home, then you MUST read the book reviewed below.

The MischieviansThe Mischievians
William Joyce
Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Simon and Schuster, 2013, 978-1-4424-7347-8
Two children are standing in their yard preparing to send a balloon, one with a message tied to it, up into the air. The message is a plea for help. The children need help because the scissors, car keys, TV remote, one sock, and their completed homework have all gone missing and their parents think that they are to blame.
   The balloon is just drifting up into the sky when the ground literally opens up beneath the two children’s feet. They are sucked down a tube and find themselves in a laboratory. A man there says that he is Dr. Zooper, and he tells the children that the problems that they have been experiencing are due to the “pesky creatures called Mischievians.” He points to a book and tells them that all the questions that they have are answered in the volume. The book was written by Dr. Zooper and it is an “encyclopedia of things that make mischief, make mayhem, make noise, and make you CRAZY!”
   The children begin by asking why their homework, their completed homework, so often disappears either at home or at school. It turns out that a little creature called a Homework Eater is responsible for these puzzling disappearances. Apparently, Homework Eaters are not eating homework to be mean. They are doing so because when they do eat homework they get smarter and they “love knowledge.” They love knowledge so much that they have even learned how to steal homework from computers.
   The children then go on to learn that Mischievians are also responsible for belly lint, blisters, sticky fingers, bad smells, itches in unreachable places, funny bone injuries, missing socks, yawns, and so many other things that are annoying and frustrating. Intriguing questions are answered and the children are not only enlightened by their visit to the doctor’s lab, they are also invited to help Dr. Zooper with his research.
   In this amusing picture book William Joyce’s wonderful illustrations are accompanied by a text that will appeal to anyone who has experienced one or more of the many things that Mischievians are responsible for. Problems that have, for so long, been a mystery will finally be explained, and readers might even be tempted to identify some new Mischievian species.


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23. Poetry Friday with a review of Everything is a poem: The best of J. Patrick Lewis

J. Patrick Lewis is one of my favorite poets. Somehow he is able to create a wide variety of voices in his poems so that each one has a unique tone and flavor. How he is able to do this to such great effect confounds me. Today's review title contains a diverse selection of his poems, and I think anyone who likes poetry will enjoy exploring this book.

Everything is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick LewisEverything is a poem: The best of J. Patrick Lewis
J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Maria Christina Pritelli
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 and up
Creative Editions, 2014, 978-1-56846-240-0
J. Patrick Lewis discovered what he calls “word magic” relatively late. He had been teaching college economics for thirty years before he realized that he was in the wrong line of work and he made a radical change, trading in figures for words. After years of struggle, J. Patrick Lewis finally got an acceptance and since then he has written eighty-five picture books and hundreds of poems.
   J. Patrick Lewis wanted to “write poems in a hundred voices” and to “explore everything under and over the sun in as many different ways as it’s possible to write poetry.” He has done both of these things many times over, and this collection of his poetry will give readers a feeling for his skill and his passion for poetry. The collection certainly demonstrates that he has the ability to “help unlock imaginations,” which is another of his goals.
   The poems are divided up into eight categories. These include poems about animals, people, reading, Mother Nature, and places. They come in many forms and do indeed have many different voice and tones. Some will make the reader laugh out loud, while others are more contemplative and will give the reader food for thought. Some tell fictional stories, while others serve as a tribute to a real person who contributed to the world in some way.
   For example in Baby Contralto we read about Marian Anderson who “brushed / Her voice / Across the air / In colors / Not seen / Anywhere.”  We can also read about Miles Davies, Roger Bannister (who broke the four-minute mile), Jesse Owens, and Rosa Parks.
   In the Mother Nature section we can read about a redwood that is six thousand years old. It “waved its arms about the sky / And sang a sea breeze lullaby,” until in 1977, the great tree “bid farewell,” and fell to the forest floor. We also meet a “her-i-cane” called Lorelie, who “twisted around the ocean” but who “never grew / into a proper her-i-cane.”
   Though these poems were written for children, readers of all ages will enjoy dipping into this collection. There is something on these pages for everyone. It would make a perfect gift for anyone who loves the magic that lies in words.   


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24. Picture Book Monday with a review of Pig and Small

On very rare occasions we make friends with a person who is just like us. Most of the time our friends have different interests, and different approaches to life, and we have to adapt or compromise if we want the friendship to flourish.

In today's picture book you will meet two animals who are very different and who have unique challenges to overcome.

Pig and SmallPig and Small
Alex Latimer
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House UK, 2013, 978-0-552-56543-1
One morning Pig notices that his nose is squeaking. His nose has never squeaked before and though it appears to be working properly, it never stops squeaking. Pig doesn’t find any information about Squeaky Nose Syndrome so he takes a good look at his snout and there, on the end of it, is a bug, and the bug is squeaking. In fact the bug is “waving and squeaking like mad,” which Pig realizes is Bug’s way of asking if Pig will be his friend.
   Pig gets out his tandem bike and the two new friends head for the park. Of course bug’s legs are too short to reach the pedals so Pig ends up doing all the work. When they get to the park Bug decides to thank Pig for the bike ride by giving Pig a cake that he made. Unfortunately, the cake is so small that Pig doesn’t notice or comment on the lovely decorations that Bug put on the cake. Pig just eats it whole in one gulp.
   Pig and Bug try to play chess, but the pieces are too heavy for Bug to move. Bug knits a pair of sweaters, one for himself and one for Pig, but Pig’s sweater is too small for him. Sadly, Pig and Bug realize that they just cannot be friends. They are just too different.
   Sometimes we make friends with people who are a lot like us and our friends almost become an extension of ourselves.  At other times we befriend people with whom we have some things in common, but who are also different from us in big ways.
   This often funny and very sweet picture book explores how two very different animals try to find common ground so that they can be friends. It is not easy, but it can be done.

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25. Poetry Friday with a review of A pond full of ink

There are quite a few story poems out there that are delightful, though they tend to be rather long. Not that this is a bad thing, but young children often have relatively short attention spans. In today's poetry title readers will find some story poems that a quite short, many of which are deliciously funny.

A Pond Full of InkA pond full of ink
Annie M. G. Schmidt
Illustrated by Sieb Posthuma
Translated by David Colmer
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Eerdmans, 2014, 978-0-8028-5433-9
Many poems capture a ‘snapshot’ of a moment in time, or describe a place, an emotion, or a person or thing. Then there are poems that tell a story. Annie M. G. Schmidt is the kind of poet who excels at telling stories through poetry, and this collection will introduce readers to a few of her delightful creations.
   The first story poem we encounter is about a writer who writes stories from the moment when the “roosters crow” to the time when the “dinner bell rings.” He is such a prolific writer that he has a pond of ink at the bottom of his garden. A little inkwell simply won’t do for a man who has “made up ten thousand stories already.”
   Then there is the poem called Three Elderly Otters. These venerable gentlemanly creatures have always wanted to go boating, but, alas, they discover that all the boat rental places have signs in their boats that say “FORBIDDEN FOR OTTERS.” Perhaps a train ride would be pleasant, but the same sign is stuck to every window in the train. The otters, not surprisingly, are very discouraged, but there is one form of active entertainment that might work for them.
   Another amusing poem is about some furniture. A table and chair decide to go out for a walk, and since they have legs, this is something that they can do. A sideboard and a bookcase, in spite of all the things they have on their shelves and in drawers, decide to go along with them. However there are some pieces of furniture that cannot make the journey into the great outdoors.
   Throughout this charming volume delightful poems that are threaded through with fun are paired with charmingly original illustrations.


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