Sometimes we experience days when everything seems to go wrong. Bread gets burned in the toaster, a toe gets stubbed on a chair leg, and our mood becomes dark and gloomy. These are days when a little pick-me-up is needed, and one of the best remedies there is for a case of the gloomies is laughter. Today's poetry title is a veritable treasure box of anti-gloomy poems that will make readers feel a little warmer and happier inside.Laugh-eteria
Harcourt, 1999, 978-0-15-206148-7
Sometimes people just need something that will make them smile or laugh. They need to watch that video showing a cat jumping in and out of a box, or they can pick up a book just like this one. For this title Douglas Florian has written over a hundred short poems. They have nothing really in common other than the fact that they are funny and quirky.
In the book you will encounter a sofa that is unsafe because there is something under it that has teeth that are green and “gruesome.” This monster, for that is what it surely is, has eaten the narrator’s homework. And his sisters. Not surprisingly, the narrator decides that he will “sit on the CHAIR.”
In another poem we are told what witches wish for. Unlike you or me, they have no interest in sunny beach vacations, a new cell phone, or a puppy. Dear me no. Witches wish for things like “Rusty Nails” and “Dragon Tails.” They want horrible weather and nasty things like vampire blood and poison ivy. What makes this so much worse is that “Witches always / Get their wishes.”
Witches with nasty wishes are not the only unpleasant creatures you will encounter in this book. You will also meet Dracula who drives a “Cadillacula” and likes to “drink blood for a snackula.” Being attacked by him is terrible of course, but what is particularly upsetting is that, as he says, “Tomorrow I’ll be backula!”
Throughout this book the poems are paired with brush and ink drawings that perfectly capture the flavor of goofiness that infuses the book. For those down-in-the-dump days (and any other kind of day) this book is a perfect fit.
Dear Book Lovers:
The March and April issue of Through the Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews is now online. I have put together a wonderful collection of reviews for you for this issue, and I hope you enjoy reading the reviews as much as I enjoyed writing them.
For this issue I have put together a special feature about Rabbits
. Children's literature is full of wonderful rabbit characters. Some of them, like Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, make the lives of the humans they encounter very interesting. Other rabbit characters live in an all animal world, like Peter Rabbit in the Beatrix Potter books. Some of the rabbits in these books are friendly, while others are rather grumpy. Readers of all ages (including adults) are going to enjoy exploring the books in this collection.
Here in Oregon, spring
is making itself felt already, and for many people March and April are the months when they start getting busy in the garden. Spending time in the garden
gives children and young people a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature, watch things grow, and - of course - get dirty!
In March, schools and libraries all over the United States observe Women's History Month
. This event celebrates the achievements of women over the years, and I have quite a large collection of books in the TTLG Women's History Month feature
. In this feature readers will finds fiction and non-fiction titles that look at the lives and achievements of many great women from around the world.
April is the month when many Americans celebrate Earth Day
and Arbor Day
. For Earth Day you can look at the Earth Day feature
and the Saving the Environment feature
. For Arbor Day I have put together a delightful collection of books that are about trees
. Some of the books in these features are informative nonfiction titles, while others are stories that will amuse, touch, and delight readers of all ages.
For this month's Editor's Choice title, I have selected Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse
by Torben Kuhlmann. This incredibly beautiful and creative picture book will appeal to children and adults alike.
Finally, take a look at the new Bookish Calendar.
Here you will find reviews about Michelangelo, St. Patrick's Day, Harry Houdini, the sinking of the Titanic
, and much more. This calendar is a great tool to use at home and in the classroom to help children incorporate books more fully into their lives.-:Bookish Events for March and April:-March is Women's History Month (USA)March 2nd is Read Across America Day (USA)National March into Literacy Month (USA)April is National Poetry Month (USA)April 2nd is International Children's Book DayNational Library Week April 13th - 19th (USA)Young People's Poetry Week April 21st - 25th (USA)National Week of the Ocean March 30th - April 5th (USA)
I hope you find a way to celebrate some, if not all, of these bookish events. If I have missed an important bookish event, please drop me a line to tell me about it.
In September of 2012 I launched a new project that I would like to tell you about. It is a story blog called Talon Diaries
, and it is written by a colorful and very unusual character who is called Gryf. Gryf 's story posts appear every Wednesday. Do take a look and subscribe to the blog.
Some of the titles I reviewed several years ago are now out of print. Though you cannot buy these books in every bookshop, many of them are still available for purchase on websites like Amazon.com.
I hope you enjoy this new issue, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Many of us love stories about heroes, about characters who prevail despite the fact that the odds are against them. In today's picture book you will find just such a character, and I challenge you not to be moved by his inventive genius and his great courage.
Lindbergh: The tale of a Flying Mouse
North South, 2013, 978-0-7358-4167-3
There once was German mouse who was curious about the world. In fact he was so curious that he read all kinds of books that the humans wrote about history, inventors, science and other topics. Unfortunately, there came a day when the little mouse made his way home only to realize that the humans had waged war on his kind by using mouse traps. For weeks the mouse could not find any other mice and then he realized what had happened: the mice in his city had all left. After seeing some newspaper articles, the mouse decided that his fellow mice must have boarded ships and gone to America. America, after all, was a land full of promise for humans and mice alike.
The mouse tried to board a ship bound for America but was prevented from doing so because “hungry cats guarded the ships like fortresses.” If he wanted to get to America, the mouse was going to have to find another way. Then the mouse saw some bats while he was moving through the sewers. He was intrigued by the creatures that looked so much like mice, but that had wings. Inspired by the abilities of his “strange flying relatives,” the mouse decided that what he needed to do was to build a flying machine. He would fly to America!
With its gorgeous illustrations and its remarkable main character, this is a book that readers of all ages with enjoy and appreciate
In this remarkable picture book we meet a mouse who, despite his diminutive size and the many enemies who would like to kill or make a meal out of him, is determined to fly to a America. Readers will be charmed to see how the mouse deals with the many setbacks that inventors and innovators face, and they will read on, with hope in their hearts.
I have a tendency to write a great deal when just a short sentence or two would suffice. I think many of us struggle with this proclivity for for over verbosity. Thankfully there are many writers and poets who have the gift for beautiful minimal writing, and in today's poetry title you will encounter some truly magical short poems that capture special moments perfectly.
Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick Press, 2014, 978-0-7636-4842-8
We live in a world where many of us value quantity over quality. We want our food supersized, we want two-for-the-price-of-one, and are we are delighted when we get more for our money at sales. The problem with this approach to life is that often more is not necessarily better. Sometimes less is more. Minimalist art and spare and powerful writing can have as much if not more impact than artwork full of detail and reams and reams of writing.
This is the case with the wonderful poems in this collection, all of which are short and compelling. Paul Janeczko takes us through a year, which is divided up into seasons, sharing a splendid collection of very short poems with us. The poems include the writings of William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, Charlotte Zolotow, Joyce Sidman, and Emily Dickinson.
We begin in spring when “Rain beats down, / roots stretch up.” Where the rain and the roots meet, a flower appears aboveground.
In the summer the sun plays a big role, floating in the sky like a “roaring dandelion.” At night fireflies like “baby stars” blink “Among the trees like dimes of light.” Charlotte Zolotow paints a picture of a little orange cat, which, “like a small tiger,” stalks through a field of “white daisies / and shining / buttercups.”
Fall is a time for fog that “blurs the morning,” and leaves drift down telling us that change is coming. The wind is busy searching for who knows what “under each leaf.”
In winter there is snow and chilly temperatures. Animals sleep away the cold nights, and sometimes the cold days as well. We are given the image of “clear winter’s evening” when the crescent moon in the sky and the “round squirrel’s nest” look alike.
Throughout this remarkable collection the poems are paired with Melissa Sweet’s beautiful and arresting multimedia art. She captures moments of tranquility, and times full of movement perfectly, gifting readers with images that are a joy to explore.
I freely confess here that I love using my computer, tablet, and phone to connect with others and to gather information. I do indeed feel lost if I am not able to look something up with just a tap or two on a screen. However, I am not so much of an addict that I need to be plugged into the digital world all the time. I love being out and about in the real world as well.
In this picture book we meet a little girl who loves her gadgets so much that she ends up getting a case of digital overload.Dot
Illustrated by Joe Berger
Random House UK, 2013, 978-0-857-53396-8
Dot knows how to do a lot of things, especially when it comes to using technology. She knows how to use a computer, tablet, and phone to surf, swipe, share, search, tweet and tag. She knows how to use these devices to do something that she loves to do; to talk. Dot talks and talks so much that eventually Dot gets “talked out.”
Dot’s mother decides that what Dot needs is to go outside to “Reebot! Recharge! Restart!” It is time for Dot to connect with the world in a different way, but does Dot remember how to be an unplugged little girl?
In this delightfully clever picture book we meet a little girl who is very skilled when it comes to using electronic devices. The hard part is that she also needs to remember that there is more to life than living in a virtual world. There is a real world to be enjoyed too.
With a minimal text and expressive artwork, this picture book conveys a message that we all need to hear once in a while.
Usually on Fridays I post reviews of poetry book collections, rather than reviews of books that contain one poem. Today I am going to make an exception because the poem is so timeless and the way it is presented is to powerful and beautiful. The poem is If by Rudyard Kipling and this is a book that will appeal to readers of all ages.
Illustrated by Giovanni Manna
Creative Editions, 2014, 978-1-56846-259-2
What parent does not want his or her child to be happy in life, and to reach his or her full potential? This is the wish of millions of parents all over the world, and has been the wish of parents long gone for children who are also long gone. Rudyard Kipling was just such a parent. He wanted so much for his only son, John, and he also had many aspirations for him.
When John was only twelve years old his father wrote a poem called If
in which he offers advice and encouragement to his boy, advice which he hopes will help John grow up so that “the Earth and everything in it” would be John’s, and he would be “a Man.”
The advice offered in the poem is universal in nature and if readers are truly listening, they will find that the poem speaks to them, no matter how old they are. It does not matter if you are a student, a parent, or a grandparent, Kipling’s words will resonate with you and give you cause to reflect.
Throughout the poem the word “If” appears, a constant reminder that we are in control, that we can choose what we do. “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you” and “if you can wait and not be tired by waiting” then you will come to a place where all things are possible. “If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,” and “watch the things you gave life to, broken, / And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools” then you will prevail. Again and again we are reminded to be true to ourselves and to let the words of naysayers and critics pass us by.
Throughout the book Kipling’s powerful words are accompanied by beautiful, emotive watercolor illustrations.
People who don't love books and the written word sometimes find it hard to understand the relationship that we bibliophiles have with our favorite books. These books becomes our friends and we turn to them when life is hard. We cherish them even when they are falling apart and looking rather sad and shabby.
In today's picture book you are going to meet a book that was once loved but is then forgotten. The book becomes lonely and lost.
The Lonely Book
Illustrated by Chris Shelban
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2012, 978-0-375-86226-7
There once was a book that was very popular with the children who came to the library. Even when it was no longer new and was on the shelves instead of being in the new book section, this book was still taken out of the library often.
Years and years passed and the book wasn’t as popular as it once was. The book’s cover was faded and the last page was missing. One day the book was taken off its shelf and it was dropped in a “dark corner by a daydreaming child.” The librarian failed to see the book and it lay where it had fallen until a little girl called Alice came along. Alice looked at the book and fell in love with it. Even though the book was old, Alice wanted to take it home with her, and that was what she did.
Alice read the book over and over, and she even shared it with her classmates at school. The book, so long forgotten and lonely, “Had never felt so beloved.” It was happiest when children were reading its story and looking at its pictures. It was happiest when it was with Alice. Then, but sheer mischance, the book got misplaced and it was separated from Alice, which made both the book and the child very unhappy.
In this splendid picture book we celebrate the love that a child can have for a book. There is no way to predict which book will become a favorite, but once it has been chosen, a book’s child will never forget it. With a wonderful story and delightfully soft and expressive artwork, this is a book that will surely capture the imagination and hearts of many children in the years to come.
I live in a town where there are some lovely vintage cars and also some downright bizarre looking vehicles. None of them, however, are as bizarre as the cars you will read about and see in this picture book. This book of poetry is a must for any young readers who have a fondness for cars.Poem-Mobiles: Crazy car poems
J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian
Illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
Random House, 2014, 978-0-375-86690-6
When somebody talks about a truck or a bus, you pretty much know what they are talking about. Of course a bus might be a yellow school bus or a red double-decker London bus, but it is still a bus. When it comes to cars though, you can never quite know what to expect because cars come in so many sizes, shapes, and colors. A car might be a race car, or an antique car. It might have a huge sign saying “PIZZA” on its roof, or it might be low slung and have wild looking fins and huge headlights. In this book we are going to take a “futuristic sneak preview” at some “wacky” cars from “fender to fin,” so hold onto your hat and let’s take “a spin.”
If you drive around today there is a good chance that you will see one of those two-person Smart cars that are delightfully small and cunning looking. Imagine what it would be like to drive a car that is even smaller, one that is “itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny.” This is the mini-mini-car and though it is a wonderful car, there is a “snag” to owning such a tiny vehicle: the driver “can’t get out the door.”
At the other end of the spectrum there is the Giant Bookmobile. Fueled by “imagination power,” this car is driven by the Gingerbread Man and it travels to every block where children get on so that they can dive into books and comics.
If you think this sounds strange, then you should see the Dragonwagon with his wings, its spiked back, and its sharp claws. The Dragonwagon has toothy jaws under its hood and it is such a “scary, scaly mean machine” that no one dares to “provoke this dragon’s wrath.”
Readers with imaginations are going to love the deliciously odd, bizarre and sometimes even ridiculous looking cars in this book. Throughout the book the poems has been paired with artwork that is full of clever and creative details.
When I was younger I was quick to judge others. I have since learned (the hard way) that such judgements serve no purpose and can be unkind. When someone is disagreeable I remind myself that the person probably has some sadness in his or her life that I know nothing about, a sadness that makes them behave as they do. In today's book you will meet a yeti who is grumpy and who is therefore friendless. No one who sees the yeti imagines that he his kind and gentle on the inside.Yeti and the bird
Random House UK, 2013, 978-1-780-08014-7
Deep in the forest there lives a very large, very white, and very hairy yeti. Since he is so big, so hairy, and so scary, the other animals keep their distance, and Yeti is alone all the time. And lonely.
Then one day something lands on Yeti’s head. The something is a very confused orange bird who has a great deal to say. She sqwalks and sqwalks until Yeti roars at her, but instead of being afraid of Yeti, the bird is amused. She then tells Yeti all about her journey and explains that she has “landed on a hot, tropical island” where she will spend the winter. The yeti then points out that there are no palms trees in the forest, and no sun for that matter, which is when the bird realizes that she has made a big mistake. She is in the wrong place and is lost.
In this delightfully sweet picture book we see that friendships can exist between two very dissimilar characters, and such friendships can change one’s life is a deep and meaningful way. Children will be delighted to see how the little bird gives the yeti a gift that is truly priceless
The yeti tries to console the bird and then, not knowing what else to do, he picks her up and takes her home. Soon the two animals are the best of friends and everyone in the forest is amazed to see that the yeti is a cheerful fellow and a wonderful friend. In fact he is such a good friend that he decides that he has to find a way to help the little bird continue her journey south.
Keeping ones pets happy should be easy, but actually it can be rather complicated at times. Especially if ones pet is unusual. We had a potbelly pig for a pet for a number of years. At first Gracie was a very easy house pet to care for. She was house trained in just a few days and was very intelligent, which meant that she learned the rules very quickly. Then Gracie's urge to root took over and she became very destructive. We then had to make sure that she had rooting time outdoors every day so that her rooting instinct was satisfied.
In today's book you are going to meet a wide variety of pets and you will learn what these pets need to be be happy.When your Porcupine Feels Prickly
Pomegranate, 2012, 978-0-7649-6318-6
Many of us know all kinds of things about animals. We know that cheetahs are the fastest land animals and that whales are not fish. We like to think that we know a lot about the animals that we keep as pets too. We know that cats like warm places to sleep, that dogs like companionship, and that pet rats need to be kept busy because they are intelligent. However, there are some things that perhaps we should know about animals that we don’t. Thankfully, the author of this book has kindly written down a few tips and suggestions to help us.
For example, it is very important to get your dog food as soon as he or she asks for it because “To do any less would be rude.” If you have a cat, always be sure to offer the feline a choice of food and ask “Would you prefer this? Perhaps you’d like that?”
Pet birds also need to be treated with consideration, and we need to show them that we trust and respect them. The best way to do this is to take off your hat when you are talking to your pet bird to show that “you don’t think you will be pooped on or pecked.”
If you have a bee for a pet and if she is “feeling down,” the author suggests that you offer her a crown. Wearing a crown helps the author when she is “feeling blue,” so maybe it will help a pet bee too.
In all there are twenty-two little poems in this book, each one of which is accompanied by a whimsical painting. As they read the poems young readers will find out how to care for their pet porcupines, baboons, pelicans, ponies, cockroaches, goats, and other animals. The author uses humor and a clever use of language to create poems that will delight readers who have a fondness for animals.
Most children, at some point, decide that they cannot stand being at home. They get it into their heads that they are not appreciated or understood, and the only thing they can do is to run away. I remember the day I did this. I managed to get about four blocks from my house before I sat on the curb, a picture of misery. In today's picture book you are going to meet a little girl who decides to run away to Africa, and who finds a wonderful companion to take her there.Loula is leaving for Africa
Kids Can Press, 2013, 978-1-55453-941-3
Loula is afflicted with three brothers who are “MEAN, HORRIBLE,” and to add insult to injury, they are also “STINKY.” One day she decides that she has endured as much as she can take, and she announces that she is leaving home. She packs a little suitcase and heads down the stairs to begin her journey to a place that is far away from the dreadful triplets.
Loula tells her mother and father that she is going to Africa, but both of them are far too busy to take what she is saying seriously. Which is very annoying. So annoying in fact, that Loula decides that she will never come back. Why should she. No one cares about her.
Loula climbed a tree, which is where Gilbert the chauffer finds her. When Loula tells him that she is in Africa he informs her that she has made a mistake. They look at a map together and then Gilbert tells the little girl that she will need to travel on a ship to get to Africa. Gilbert pretends that the family car is the ship and he takes Loula on a journey that turns out to be wonderfully exciting.
Most of us experience days when nothing goes well. Machines break down, people are mean, and life has a grey pall hanging over it. This picture book is perfect for days like this, for days when one feels like running away from home. Children will be charmed by Loula’s adventures with Gilbert, and they will appreciate that all Loula really needed was a little love and attention.
I have now read several books where tale is told using a series of poems. They poems are often written in blank verse and I have come to appreciate how powerful such books can be. Today's title is just such a book and I have placed it on my to-read-often shelf because it is so meaningful and so beautifully written.Words with wings
Boyds Mills Press, 2013, 978-1-59078-985-8
After her parents get a divorce, Gabby and her mother move to a new home across town. Hating having to say goodbye to friends and worried that she won’t find new ones, Gabby does what she so often does. She takes a break from the world and dives into her imagination and daydreams. Gabby’s old friend Cheri never minded Gabby’s daydreaming and Gabby fervently hopes that her new school will have “a Cheri who’ll think daydreamers are cool.”
Gabby’s daydreaming began when her parents started fighting. Trying to lock out the sounds of raised voices, Gabby wished that she could “fly away” and the word fly seemed to transport her into a daydream where she was flying to her grandmother’s house where there are no shouting parents.
Since that moment certain words seem to send Gabby off to another place, into a daydream where happy things are happening. She drifts into daydreaming moments all the time, exasperating her mother and her teacher.
Gabby realizes that she is a “dreamer” like her father and she is not much like her mother, who is a “maker.” Would it be possible to combine being a maker and a dreamer? Gabby wishes she could please her mother and knows that her mother wishes Gabby where more like her, more practical and down to earth. Eventually, Gabby’s daydreaming costs too much and she decides to set it aside. No more “word-journeys for me,” she thinks. The problem is that being a “Girl robot” does not suit Gabby, and not having her daydreams makes her very unhappy.
In this extraordinary book Gabby’s story is told using a series of poems. The first person narrative poems are interspersed with poems that describe the daydreams that Gabby has. It is interesting to see how her daydreams fill her life, until she forces them to cease, and how this deprivation makes her whole life sad, bland, and boring.
Readers who have a love of the written word will greatly enjoy reading this remarkable book.
New Year's celebrations mean different things to different people. Sometimes it is a time for new beginnings, and sometimes it is a time for looking back. In this picture book readers will meet a little girl whose New Year's celebration has an added significance because it is the only time of year when she gets to see her father.A New Year’s Reunion
Illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang
Candlewick Press, 2011, 978-0-7636-5881-6
Chinese New year is a wonderful celebration for children all over China, but for one Maomao it is an extra special time of year because her father, who “builds houses in faraway places,” comes home.
One cold morning Maomao and her mother wake up early because Papa is arriving that day. Soon enough he has his big arms around Maomao. Maomao is a little alarmed because Papa has a prickly beard on his face and he seems different, but after he visits the barber, the little girl feels better. Papa is starting to look “the way he used to be.” Back at home Maomao and her family make sticky balls to eat and Papa hides a coin inside one of them. They hear fireworks going off outside as they fall asleep.
In the morning Maomao is the one who finds the coin inside one of her sticky balls. How excited the little girl is that she is the one who got the “fortune coin.” She is so excited that she shows her friend the coin when the family goes out visiting.
Day after day unfolds with new and exciting things to do with Papa, Mama, and with Maomao’s friends. There is a dragon dance to watch and snow to play in. Then, on the third day of New Years, when Maomao goes home after playing in the snow, she discovers something terrible; she has lost her fortune coin.
In this sweet and heartwarming picture book, the author and illustrator combine their talents to share Chinese New Year traditions with their readers and to tell the story of a little girl whose New Year celebration is a particularly special time of year. The joy and excitement that the little girl feels comes through clearly in the narrative, and readers will feel warmed by the love that is strong in Maomao’s family.
Sharing nursery rhyme books with little children can be a lot of fun but usually the books have to be carefully guarded so that little fingers don't tear the pages or color on them. Today's nursery rhyme book is perfect for little children because it has strong coated board pages that cannot be easily torn.Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear and other favorite nursery rhymes
Illustrated by Steve Lenton
Tiger Tales, 2013, 978-1-58925-601-9
For generations parents have been sharing nursery rhymes with their children. They have sung or said the rhymes so many times that the words often lie in their child’s memory, where they wait until the moment when the child is grown up and wants to share the rhymes with another child.
Saying or singing the rhymes gives so many moments of shared enjoyment to both grownups and children. These moments can be made even more special when one uses this book because there are pictures to look at.
Children will love seeing the picture that accompanies the Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe
rhyme because it shows a little boy tickling a tiger’s foot, and they will be charmed by the illustration that accompanies the Rain on the Green Grass
rhyme, which shows a little owl taking shelter from the rain in a little house that is perched on a tree branch.
The pages of this book are made out of sturdy boards that can withstand even the most enthusiastic page turning activities, and children will enjoy looking through it on their own.
The world is full of people who wish they could visit a place that is populated by weird and wonderful plants, animals, and people. Why else do so many of us like to travel to Narnia, Middle Earth, down a rabbit hole, and other places that exist on the pages of books. Today's book is a title that book travelers will find most intriguing. It is full of lovely annotated artwork that is breathlessly odd and beautiful.The Land of Neverbelieve
Candlewick Press, 2012, 978-0-7636-6021-5
One day the author is “quietly puttering about at sea in my boat,” when he sees an island that looks so amazing he cannot resist going over to investigate. From the moment he sets foot on the sandy beach the author is “spellbound,” because the island is populated by plants, animals and people the like of which the world has never seen. The people on the island explain that this island, unlike most islands that stay in one place, likes to move on a regular basis. It has legs that allow it to stand up and walk off “to a fresh location.” Working quickly the author sets about recording what he sees and learns using words and pictures. He knows that time is short and that the island could move on at any time. Thankfully for us, before the island can set off for pastures new, the author is able to create some extraordinary annotated drawings that show us what he saw when he was on the island.
The author begins by showing us a map of the Land of Neverbelieve. Among other things we are able to see where the mountains are, where the Hamlet is, and where the crop garden is located. Next we see the little houses that the islanders live in that are “delightfully colorful, fanciful, and quirky.” A fold out page reveals that the houses perfectly complement the islanders. They all have features that are decidedly animal-like and tend to favor clothes that are very colorful and creative.
We next go on to look at some very odd trees, and then on to the plants and animals that are found in the “mysterious marsh” and “rushing stream.” Here you will find a frog with legs that are incredibly long and an enormous snake that has three heads.
If you think that these creatures are odd then you should see the creatures in the “Happy Forest Clearing.” They can change their appearances in dramatic ways, transforming, and linking, and they can “stand upside down or even downside up.”
With careful attention to detail the author takes us to all the places shown on his map, giving us a complete picture of the Land of Neverbelieve and delighting us with his lovely artwork and interesting notes.
I, like so many people, went through a dinosaur period. I read about dinosaurs for months, and dinosaur facts tripped off my tongue at every opportunity. I was not a child when this event took place and I can therefore relate to dinosaur-mad children with great ease. This book of poetry is full of wonderful dinosaurs and it is a must-read title for anyone who has an interest in these sadly extinct animals.Dinothesaurus
Simon and Schuster, 2009, 978-1-4169-7978-4
Many children, at some point, develop a passion for dinosaurs. They want pictures of dinosaurs on their lunch boxes, on their pajamas, and on their backpacks. They want dinosaur books and plastic dinosaur figurines. They sleep with stuffed dinosaurs, and eat off dinosaur dishes. It is easy to understand why dinosaurs are so addictive. They are interesting, and bizarre looking. Many of them were enormous, and they are no longer here, which makes them seem mysterious.
In this splendid picture book Douglas Florian, who has created many wonderful poetry collections for young readers, celebrates dinosaurs of all kinds. He begins by talking about the “age of Dinosaurs,” where he tells us about how they “First lived outdoors / During the time Triassic
.” Most of them then died out, but a few survived to enjoy the Jurassic, and to flourish in the Cretaceous. Now, alas, the poor creatures can only be found indoors where they live in “museum halls.”
The poet then goes on to introduce us to a wide variety of dinosaur species. Some, like Iguanodon and Triceratops, will be familiar to many young readers, while others, like Minmi and Troodon, will become new friends.
In almost every poem Douglas Florian combines humor with information to give young readers a delightful mix that beautifully complements his multimedia art. Sometimes the poems are in the third person, and sometimes they are in the first person and we feel as if the dinosaur in question is talking to us. For example, in the Plesiosaurus poem the aquatic creatures tell is that that they aren’t vicious and are “very polite,” they always “say PLEASE before we might bite.”
There are also many places where the poet uses language in clever ways, as he does in the poem about the Triceratops, which we are told to “Beware-and-please-take-care-a-tops.”
This collection would make a wonderful gift for a child who is a dinosaur fan.
For the most part we live in a 'more is better' world. We convince ourselves that we need to have more things to be happy or to be 'successful.' We therefore tend to think that a book with more content is better. This is not always the case. Sometimes less is better and this book serves as an excellent example of this rule. There are no words, there are not many pages, and yet this is a story that children and adults will love.The Boat
Creative Editions, 2014, 978-1-56846-252-3
A little mouse has run across the blank page. It appears to be in a frightful hurry and collapses, clearly exhausted from its exertions. After it has rested, paw to brow, for a while, it starts to chew the corner of the page. It peeks through the chewed edges at the scene that lies on the other side and then it pauses to deliberate. Something it has seen on the next page is worrying the mouse.
The mouse then makes a decision and it chews and chews until it has chewed a neat large square out of the middle of the page. As water pours out of the scene on the next page onto our page we can see why the mouse was worried. The sea is coming out of the page beyond into our page, and the water level is rising. What is the mouse going to do?
From the moment readers start looking at this book they are going to be captivated by the story. They will feel as if they are looking down at a real mouse who is really chewing a hole in the page. The mouse is not only realistic, but it also has a very expressive face (and feet and tail), and readers will be eager to see what the mouse does next.
Some writers have a gift for creating bizarre and fascinating characters in their books. Often, in a state of awe, I ask myself "how do they come up with these ideas?" Jack Prelutsky is one of these people, and in this book you will meet a colorful collection of made up creatures that you will surely find interesting and intriguing.Stardines Swim high across the sky and other poems
Illustrated by Carin Berger
HarperCollins, 2012, 978-0-06-201464-1
When we look up at the stars at night we are frequently tempted to imagine what those stars look like. Children often imagine that they are golden star-shaped objects that hang in the darkness, sending their twinkling light across the universe. In this book the author gives us a very different description of stars, one that is delightfully unique and imaginative. The poet tells us about stardines, which “still twinkle” overhead when other creatures are asleep. These stellar “nocturnal fish” not only “illuminate the darkest skies,” but they also “grant the slightest wish.”
You may have heard of cormorants, but have you ever heard of a chormorant? Prepare yourself because these birds are well worth knowing about. Unlike cormorants, who occupy their time doing normal bird things, chormorants work hard doing “senseless” chores all day long. Theirs is not a happy existence filled as it is with “endless drudgery.” Not surprisingly, the birds, who never do anything that could be considered fun, are dreadfully boring.
Unlike the busy chormorants, plandas never really get anything done because they spend all their time planning and never doing. They plan all kinds of things, like running a marathon, learning how to juggle, and forming their own brass bands. Alas for plandas because they never do any of these wonderful things. Instead, they “just keep making plans.”
Braindeer have something in common with plandas. These creatures are great thinkers and their brains are packed with knowledge and “lots of sense.” They think deep and meaningful thoughts, “Reflecting on the universe.” There is a problem though, for braindeers cannot share their ideas as they cannot speak or write, and thus “Their thinking is for naught.”
Readers who have active imaginations are going to find this collection of poems intriguing. In each case something inanimate is blended with something inanimate to give us a creature that is bizarre, often amusing, and always interesting. In all there are twenty-four species, and each one is quite unique.
Throughout the book the poems are accompanied by delightful collage artwork that combines drawn pictures with photos of objects to give readers beautiful and creative three-dimensional artwork to look at.
As an only child I spent a lot of my time playing alone. I was content to play make believe with my dolls and stuffed animals, and to have adventures with them outdoors. I was lucky though because there were many children to play with in the village where I lived. I could walk to their houses, which I often did. In today's book you will meet a boy who is similarly self-sufficient, but who does not have any friends.Oliver
Candlewick Press, 2013, 978-0-7636-6247-9
Oliver felt that he was different, but he did not mind because we had his books and his toy friends to keep him company. Oliver’s active imagination, fed by things he read about in books, meant that he could ride camels across the desert, fight sharks, and travel to the other side of the world. He was content in his solitude.
There were times though when Oliver’s toy friends were not really able to participate in what he wanted to do. They could not swim at the pool for example. Then there were those times when Oliver’s imagination was a little tired and at such times he felt particularly alone because he was. At such times his toys were just toys.
One day Oliver went outside to play tennis against the wall of his house and his ball bounced away. He never imagined, as he ran after it, that his greatest adventure of all was just about to begin.
There are times when being alone is just what one needs, but then there are also times when solitude loses its attraction and one longs for companionship. This book beautifully captures one little’s boy’s adventures as he realizes that something is missing in his life.
I have always been intrigued by the story of Josephine Baker, a performer who was denied many basic rights in her country, the USA, but who was treated like the star she was in France, her adopted country. In today's poetry title the story of this remarkable woman is told using blank verse, and it is a book that both children and adults will appreciate.Josephine: The Dazzling life of Josephine Baker
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Poetry Picture Book
Chronicle Books, 2014, 978-1-4521-0314-3
Being born to a poor, single, African American mother, Josephine had the cards stacked against her from the moment that she came into the world. She and her mother lived in a shack in a slum in Saint Louis, Missouri, and her mother scrubbed floors when she would rather have been dancing in a vaudeville act. At least, when you were dancing, your worries left you for a while and you could “let your body LAUGH, / Or CRY.”
Like her mama, Josephine loved to dance. She also loved to tell stories, to be the center of attention, and “to entertain.” She danced because dancing can make a person happy “when nothin’ else will.” When she got older she worked alongside her mother and grandmother and saved her earnings so that she could go to the Booker T. Washington Theatre. This was a “negro” theatre where African Americans performed.
Josephine joined a street act, and when the group was invited to perform at the Booker T. Washington Theatre as an extra act for the Dixie Steppers she was there. She “danced like she was / ON FIRE,” and so impressed the Dixie Steppers that she was invited to join them.
Though she was a born performer and delighted audiences, Josephine found it hard to survive as an entertainer in the United States. The color of her skin was so often held against her and when she was invited to perform in a club in Paris, France, Josephine jumped at the chance. When they arrived in France, Josephine was amazed when she and her fellow performers “were welcomed,” on the train, and when she performed Josephine said, “For the first time in my life, I felt beautiful.”
In this remarkable book blank verse is paired with colorful artwork and quotes from Josephine Baker’s own writings, and other sources, to give readers an extraordinary poetry journey into the life of one of the world’s great women performers. The book is divided into sections, each one of which explores a different part of Josephine’s life.
At the back of the book readers will find notes from the author and illustrator. In one we find out more about Josephine Baker, and in the other we read about what inspired the illustrator to create the artwork for this book.
I have been reading graphic novels for as long as I have been reading. One of the first graphic novel series that I read were The Adventures of Tintin by Herge. I loved the stories, the characters, and Captain Haddock's colorful language! Not long ago I came across a new graphic novel series that has artwork that is reminiscent of Herge's style. I was delighted to discover that the books in this series not only look fantastic, but the stories they contain are exciting, unpredictable, and interesting.
The Rainbow Orchid: Volume one
For ages 8 and up
Egmont, 2009, 978-1-405248532
Julius Chancer works as an assistant for Sir Alfred Catesby-Grey, a man who specializes in researching ancient and historical manuscripts and artifacts. One day an unscrupulous reporter comes to interview Sir Alfred and when he sees an orchid in Sir Alfred’s house he asks Sir Alfred if he plans on participating in the Wembley Exhibition, the world famous orchid exhibition. The reporter is very annoying, and in a fit of pique Julius mentions the rainbow orchid. He claims that the rainbow orchid is finer than the black orchid that is favored to win the competition. The black orchid is owned by a wealthy American businessman called Urkaz Grope.
Unfortunately, the reporter mentions the rainbow orchid in an article that he writes and the next morning Lord Reginald Lawrence comes to call. He usually wins the Wembley Exhibition with one of his orchids, but this year he has nothing exotic enough to beat Mr. Grope’s black orchid. Lord Reginald was playing cards (and drinking too much) with Mr. Grope a few weeks ago and made a terrible wager that he lost. Now, unless Lord Reginald wins the Wembley Exhibition with one of his orchids, he will have to give Mr. Grope a family heirloom that is tied to the family title and lands. In short, Lord Reginald will lose everything that he holds dear.
Lord Reginald had some to see Sir Alfred to ask him to find the rainbow orchid. It is said to be the most beautiful orchid in the world and therefore it will surely win the competition. The problem is that no one really knows if the orchid is a real thing, and where it might be found. Sir Alfred is convinced that it does exist not just because it is mentioned and depicted in a manuscript and on an ancient tablet, but because he actually met a missionary in Lahore who saw the orchid with his own eyes. The missionary believed that the plant grew somewhere in the mountains in the Hindu Kush.
Lord Alfred has no inclination to help Sir Reginald to find the orchid, but Julius does, and he and Sir Reginald’s daughter decide to go to the Hindu Kush to see if they can find the orchid. Their search is going to be a difficult one and they don’t have much time. What they don’t realize at first is that their mission is going to be even harder than they imagine because Mr. Grope is determined to prevent them from finding the rainbow orchid.
Set in the 1920’s, this marvelous graphic novel not only tells a fascinating story, but it provides readers with a picture of what it was like to live in the 1920’s. Complete with a movie star, a ruthless businessman, a nosy newspaper man, a young hero, and an irritating publicist, the narrative and artwork will delight readers who enjoy the Tintin adventures and other graphic novels that are set in the past.
The Earth's watery places are full of fascinating creatures. When I was a child I spent many hours lying face down in the Mediterranean Sea looking at fish and other creatures going about their business, and I remember those hours with great fondness. In today's poetry title you will meet some of the creatures who live in seas, lakes, rivers, and oceans.In the Swim
Harcourt, 1997, 0-15-202437-9
For some people large bodies of water are fascinating places. Though we have mapped most of them, we don’t really know everything there is to know about these environments. We certainly don’t know about all the creatures that live in them, but we do know about some of them, and we are going to meet just a few of these creatures in the poems in this book.
Douglas Florian is a poet who has a gift for injecting humor into his poems. Often this humor is quirky. For example, in the very first poem we meet a catfish whose tone sounds rather annoyed. The reason for its annoyance is that it wants to make it perfectly clear that it is a fish, not a cat. Nor, for that matter, does have any wish to be a cat.
Next we meet a salmon and the poem is cleverly presented so that we have to read up the page, just as salmon have to swim upstream to spawn. The poem about the sawfish is also presented in a unique way. It is jagged, just like a saw, and we learn that a sawfish cannot cut “A two-by-four,” or “build a bed.” It has its “splendid” saw so that it can get its fish dinner and it eats the fish raw, which means that is doesn’t have to “do dishes.”
The catfish is not the only aquatic creature that was given a name that really does not do it justice. The sea horse is another such animal. Seahorses have no hooves, they cannot race, and “have no legs / With which to chase.” In fact they are so unlike a real horse that their name is just plain “silly.”
Douglas Florian has created so many wonderful poetry collections and this one is sure to entertain and delight readers, just as the others have done. Throughout the book the twenty-one poems are accompanied by wonderful paintings that have the same quirkiness that you find in the poems.
I am thrilled to bring you today's picture book because I had the privilege of editing it. I can remember seeing the manuscript for the first time when it was a PDF. I fell in love with the artwork, and was delighted to work on the book. This picture book will not only charm anyone who looks at it, but it also conveys a message that is relevant to just about everyone on this planet.Norbert: What can little me do?
Illustrated by Virginia K. Freyermuth
Polly Parker Press, 2013, 978-0-9848682-0-9
Norbert is a very small, fluffy, white dog and he and his person have moved to the big city. Norbert and Momma now live in an apartment way above the city streets, and on his first night Norbert lies in his little bed and wonders what he, being such a little dog, can do in the big city.
The next day Norbert and Momma go for a walk and not surprisingly many of the children they meet want to pet Norbert. In the park Norbert sees big dogs that can bark loudly, and he meets a big horse that can pull a carriage. Norbert wishes that he too had a big voice or that he could do what a horse can do.
The following day Norbert and Momma go back to the park. Norbert sees birds who can fly in the sky, ducks who can swim in the pond, and a squirrel, who can climb trees. Poor little Norbert cannot fly, float, or climb a tree. He cannot even climb the stairs from the subway to the street above because his legs are too short.
It is not much fun feeling as if you can’t do anything or contribute anything. This is how Norbert, a three-pound dog, feels. He is too small to do any of the things that he thinks he would like to be able to do. What Norbert does not realize is that he, like everyone else, has something to offer, and in his case what he is looking for is right under his own sweet little nose.
This charming, heartwarming, and inspirational book is based on the true story of Norbert, the author’s dog. Children will immediately fall in love with the pint sized dog, whose story is presented using a journal format. Wonderful artwork, a handwritten text, and a memorable story make this a book that children and their grownups will greatly enjoy reading and looking at.
Though I enjoyed reading and listening to poetry when I was a child, I did not really appreciate the language, the meaning, and the form of poetry until I was a teen. Back then, in the dark ages, there were no collections of poems for teenagers, and I often read poems that did not resonate with me at all. Thankfully, this is no longer the case and today I have a review of book of poetry that will delight teenagers who enjoy reading and listening to poetry.Poetry Speaks Who I am: Poems of discovery, inspiration,independence and everything els
Sourcebooks, 2010, 978-1-4022-1074-7
There are some wonderful collections of poetry for young children, some of which have been around for a long time, and there are excellent collections of poetry for adults. Unfortunately, the needs of teenage readers are often overlooked when it comes to poetry. In this poetry book there is a “highly unusual collection – coming-of-age-moments caught next to classics next to grieving, kitchen tables, Cinderella, dragons, and school periods.” The editors of this book asked poets from around the United States to share the poems that touched them when they were teenagers. They also asked poets to submit poems that they have written that they think will resonate with teenage readers.
Growing up is all too often a painful process full of high moments, and an awful lot of low ones. What is interesting is that these same years are often the ones when young people are most drawn to poetry, which is why it is odd that no one has created a collection like this before. The poems in the collection beautifully capture those moments in the life of a teenager that are so bright with emotion, newness, and confusion.
Some of the poems are modern, capturing moments and images that can only be found in the modern world and yet have a timeless feel to them. One of these poems is Mascara
by Elizabeth Spires. In this poem we see two sisters who are ten years apart in age. One is applying mascara and she belongs to a world the younger sister knows so little about. They are separated by their ages and by “old injuries, forgotten but not entirely / forgiven,” and yet they are also close.
Then there are poems that are from another time. If I can stop one heart from
breaking by Emily Dickinson is just such a poem. It is short but addresses an issue that most teens think about at some point. What are they going to do with their life? Are they going to serve themselves and “live in vain,”or are they going to be the kind of person who will “stop one heart from breaking” or “ease one life the aching.”
This book has an added dimension because there is an accompanying audio CD with forty-seven tracks. Most of the poems on the CD are read by the poets who created them, and many are original poems that the reader can only read (and hear) in this collection.