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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. Poetry Friday with a review of Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to love with your baby

There aren't many poetry board books out there, so I am delighted to be able to bring one of these titles to you today. Sharing poetry with very young children can be a wonderful experience for grownups, and their audience will enjoy experiencing language that has rhythm and rhyme.

Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to love with your baby
Selected By Lee Bennett Hopkins
Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to love with your baby Illustrated by Alyssa Nasser
Poetry Board Book
For infants to age 3
Abrams, 2015, 978-1-4197-1037-7
Sharing poems with very young children can be such a joyous thing for an adult to do. Babies and toddlers have a natural affinity for poetry because they are attracted to the cadences of the rhythm and rhyme.
   In this wonderful board book readers will find thirty original rhymes that Lee Bennett Hopkins has carefully selected. They are arranged in five ‘chapters’ which are: family, food, firsts, play and bedtime. The topics chosen for the poems perfectly suit the interests and concerns of very young children, and are they are paired with illustrations showing animal children and their families doing everyday things.
   In the first section, family, there are poems about parents, grandparents and siblings. In addition there is a poem called “My Name” by Madeline Kuderick. In this poem a little cat child talks about how his name is “everywhere” on “wooden blocks, / on my slippers, on my socks.” It is wonderful to see how the poem shows that the little cat child is a vital part of the family world that he belongs to.
   In the next section, which is about food, there is a poem about how a child feels to be in a high chair. The toddler is “the king of the upper air,” with “All below me in my power.” There are also poems about breakfast cereal, milk, snack time, spaghetti, and watermelon.

   Wonderful poets including Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, and Marilyn Singer wrote poems for this collection. There is warmth, humor, and softness on the pages, and little children will connect with the images and feelings that the poems and illustrations evoke.  

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2. Picture Book Monday with a review of Roger is reading a book

Sometimes I come across a book that is so well written that I can hardly bear to set it down. I just want to spend a quiet time, curled up in a corner, reading on and on. Of course, all too often, life does not allow me to have that quiet time. A dog wants to go out, a cat wants some attention, dinner needs to be cooked, a manuscript needs to be edited, a book needs to be reviewed and so on. It is so frustrating!

Today's picture book is about Roger, who really, really, wants some peace and quiet so that he can read his book. Unfortunately Emily has other ideas.

Roger is reading a book
Roger is reading a book Koen Van Biesen
Translated by Laura Watkinson
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Eerdmans, 2015, 978-0-8028-5442-1
Roger is reading a book and he needs some peace and quiet. He sits on a stool, the glow from a reading lamp lighting up the pages of his book, and reads. His dog lies at his feet snoozing. Then, on the other side of the wall, Emily starts playing with a basketball. She bounces it and makes a lot of noise, which means that Roger has to get up to knock on the wall. He needs peace and quiet so that he can continue reading his book.
   For a short while all is well until Emily starts singing. Roger knocks on the wall. Emily starts playing the drums, Roger pounds on the wall. Emily juggles, she dances, and she hits a boxing bag. Emily makes so much noise that Roger is in despair. Something has to be done about this situation.
    This wonderfully clever book will delight young readers and will certainly resonate with their grownups who are probably very familiar with Roger’s predicament. The author finds a perfect way to solve Roger’s problem, and then presents us with another one that brings the story to a perfect close.
   With a minimal text and lots of sound words, this is the kind of book young children will enjoy looking through on their own. They will love seeing what the dog does as the story unfolds, for the dog, in the end, steals the whole show.

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3. Poetry Friday with a review of Peaceful Pieces

Trying to explain what peace is to children can be problematical. You can't see, hear, smell, or taste it, and therefore children have a hard time understanding what this elusive thing that everyone seems to want is. In today's poetry title the author uses wonderful poems and beautiful photos of quilts (which she made) to help children appreciate what peace is and how precious it is.

Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts about PeacePeaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts about Peace 
Anne Grossnickle Hines
Poetry Picture Book
For ages for ages 6 and up
Henry Holt, 2011, 978-0-8050-8996-7
Peace is an elusive thing. Throughout humanity’s history, many great people have tried to bring peace to human societies. Occasionally they have succeeded in a meaningful way, but all too often their efforts have not been long lasting. All too often this is because humans just cannot overcome their differences to find the road to peace. What most people do agree on is that world peace will not come about if we cannot have peace in our own homes and communities first. We need to start small and then hope that the peace, like a plant, will grow and spread.
   In this remarkable book the author pairs her beautiful quilted creations with poems that explore peace in its many forms. She begins by wondering how peace will arrive. Will there be a fanfare of trumpets, “gold banners” and a “great noisy show,” or will peace “slip in quietly” and slowly fill us until we say, “Ahh … this is peace.”
   Next we meet someone who endeavors so hard to bring peace into his or her home. The person wonders why peace is “such / an infrequent guest.” Anger is banished, fear is pushed away and selfishness is kept busy and yet peace does not stay.
   Later on the book, for people who struggle to find that coveted prize, we find a recipe for peace. It is simple, and yet incredibly powerful. The ingredients are: at least two open minds, willing hearts, compassion, trust, forgiveness, respect, “A dash of humor” and, of course, hope.
   Peace can also be found in nature. It is there as we paddle along in a river listening to “Awakening birdsong” in a space that is “serene” and away from “chaos.” Then there is the peace that lies inside us, the peace that is often hidden. With sensitivity and grace the author talks about the angry thoughts and words, the busy brain, and the inflexibility that often makes that inner peace impossible to find.
   She also talks about the peacekeepers whose “tall and resolute” stance we should all try to emulate as best we can. They are the people who have dared to speak up and say that violence is not the answer, that peace is the only way forward.
   This powerful and meaningful poetry title has something to offer everyone, words of wisdom that we would all do well to listen to and think about.

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4. Picture Book Monday with a review of Rainstorm

RainstormWe live in a more-is-better world, a world where people often forget that sometimes less is more. In today's wordless picture book a magical story unfolds that readers of all ages will be able to appreciate. The artwork is simple without any frills or embellishments, and it is perfect.

Barbara Lehman
Picture Book
For ages 3 to 5
Houghton Mifflin, 2007, 978-0618756391
It is a rainy grey day and a lonely little boy looks out of the window. He then kicks a red and white ball across the floor and its rolls away and down the stairs. The boy goes after the ball, and when he reaches under a chair to retrieve the ball his hand touches a key. Now the boy tries to find the key hole which matches the key.
   After many tries, the boy discovers that the key unlocks a trunk. When he opens the lid of the trunk he sees a ladder, and being a normally curious sort of boy, he climbs down the ladder. At the bottom of the ladder the boy sees a tunnel which he proceeds to follow. Where does the tunnel go and what lies at the end of it?
   Any child who has found him or herself wishing something, anything, would happen on a dull and lonely rainy day will be able to identify with the main character in this story. Indeed, most children will be intrigued as they watch the events unfold in the wordless book. They will be delighted to see that the magic which occurs on that first rainy day can be repeated, and therefore there is a strong message of hope on the pages.
   Beautifully illustrated in bold and bright colors, this picture book is a celebration of magical places, the imagination, and much more.

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5. Poetry Friday with a review of When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Right Leaders

The history of humankind is peppered with the stories of men and women who have done their best to take away the rights of certain groups of people. Thankfully, the exploits of such individuals have been balanced, at least a little bit, by the actions of brave and selfless men and women who have fought hard to obtain equal rights for all people.

In today's poetry title the stories of some of these civil rights leaders are told.

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Right Leaders
When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Right Leaders J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by five notable illustrators
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Chronicle Books, 2013, 978-1-4521-0119-4
For centuries human societies have been rife with injustices and inequalities. Often change only happened when “The poor and dispossessed take up the drums / for civil rights – freedoms to think and speak, / Petition, pray and vote.” Often these uprisings, when the meek voices of the many became a roll of thunder, where led by one person, a person who dared to step forward and risk everything to speak out against injustice.
   In this remarkable book J. Patrick Lewis presents readers with poems about seventeen people who fought “for the equal rights of mankind.” Many suffered deeply for daring to stand against the status quo, and some even died for their convictions.
   On these pages we meet Aung San Suu Kyi who has fought for the rights of the Burmese people for decades. Often she was under house arrest, not allowed to see her friends and family members. For her courage she was awarded many prizes, included the Nobel Peace Prize “for defending / the rights of my people” against the generals who would oppress them. When she “refused food to protest my detention,” the general, her enemy “stuffed himself on mangoes / and banana pudding.”
   Like Aung San Suu Kyi, Mitsuye Endo was held captive by her own government. A simple typist “nothing more,” she was taken to a Japanese internment camp after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. She had committed no crime and yet she was treated like a criminal. Many of the internees accepted their captivity without a murmur, but Endo did not. She spoke out and challenged the government’s right to imprison her and other patriotic citizens based on their ancestry.
    Another person who spoke out against injustice was Harvey Milk, who dared to say that people who were gay should not have to hide who and what they are. He even became a “city father” so that he could contest the laws that “kept / boys and girls from living lives / that Life would not accept.” He felt that he had to do his part to fight against the “small-mindedness” that causes so much suffering.
   Readers will be greatly moved by J. Patrick Lewis’s poems, some of which are written in the first person. Each one is a gem, a reminder that our rights should never be taken for granted. Somewhere someone had to fight for them.

   At the back of the book readers will find further information about the seventeen activists who are featured in the book. 

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6. Picture Book Monday with a review of By Mouse and Frog

When I was a little child my best friend, Raff, and I used to make up games to play together. All too often one of us would come up with an idea, which the other would then try to take over. An argument would ensue. I saw this happen many times with my own child and her friends, and it was always interesting to see how they settled their differences.

Today's picture book is about a mouse who wants to write a story, and a frog who wants to be a part of the story writing process. The frog, alas, does not know how to respect his friend's creative process, and a situation arises that is rather uncomfortable for both the mouse and the frog.

By Mouse and Frog
By Mouse and Frog
Deborah Freedman
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Penguin, 2015, 978-0-670-78490-5
One morning Mouse wakes up and he starts writing “a brand-new story.” Carefully he tells his story in which a mouse wakes up early and sets a table. He then draws what he describes, a table with tea things on it. The next minute Frog jumps into the story. Frog contributes a cake to the story, which Mouse reluctantly agrees can be added to the tea table. Frog then rapidly goes on to add a king, and ice cream, and the next thing you know a dragon and fairy appear and poor Mouse’s story has been completely taken over. Mouse yells “STOP!” His poor story “is a mess!”
   Frog is rather upset that Mouse says this, but Mouse is even more upset because Frog took over his story without so much as a how do you do! Frog explains that he was just trying to help and the two animals start over. The problem is that Frog, who is a very excitable fellow, isn’t very good at letting Mouse have a say in how the story is going to go.
   In this deliciously clever and frequently funny book we see how friends often have to work hard if they want to collaborate on a project. They have to make compromises and be sensitive to each other’s wishes. Children are going to love seeing how Mouse and Frog draw their story and how, in the end, they create something that is uniquely theirs. 

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Happy May Day!

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8. Poetry Friday with a review of Lend a Hand

In 1976 my family left our home in war-torn Lebanon and we traveled, on a freight ship, to the island of Cyprus. Like so many refugees, we had very little when we got to our destination. When you are fleeing a country you don't have time to pack up much. The first few months were hard, but what made them easier was the fact that people who barely knew us reached out to us. The people we met in Cyprus knew what it was like to be refugees, and they helped us as much as they could. Their kindness and compassion made a great deal of difference to us.

Today's poetry title explores the many ways in which people help one another. Even the smallest acts of kindness can have a huge impact.

Lend a HandLend a Hand
John Frank
Illustrated by London Ladd
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Lee and Low Books, 2014, 978-1-60060-970-1
Many people are eager to do something big with their lives, to make a noticeable difference in the world. What they sometimes forget is that they can have a meaningful impact by doing small acts of kindness every day. Doing these kinds of things are the “first steps to changing the world.”
   In this book we see the kinds of compassionate things people do for one another as they go about their day. Beautifully written poems capture these moments, showing readers how powerful such actions can be, both for the person who receives the gift of kindness and the person who gives it.
   We see how a child shares her sandwich with a new girl at school, who is sitting alone and lunch-less nearby. We meet a little boy whose is caring for a little puppy, a puppy whom he adores. In the not too distant future the boy will have to give the puppy away because the dog is going to be “someone’s eyes / one day.”
   Then there is the girl who has her long beautiful hair cut off so that it can be sent away “to be part of a wavy wig / worn by someone / whose hair / sickness stole.” Another young person reaches out to a stranger by writing to a soldier who is serving his country many miles away. The boy reassures the soldier that no matter what happens he will not forget the soldier or his service.
   Sometimes an act of kindness can be as simple as helping a boy make his bike work “as good as new” without charging him for the time it took to test the wheels and tighten a bolt here and there. It can be as simple as that same boy helping a woman load her grocery bags into her car and refusing to take any money for his time. It can be as simple as a kindness being handed on from person to person, on and on.
   In this empowering and meaningful poetry collection we see how simple it is to reach out and connect with others. It does not matter if we know them or not. It does not matter if we never even meet them. Our acts make the world a better place, one simple kindness at a time.

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9. Picture Book Monday with a review of Knit Together

My daughter and I have lots of things in common. For example, we both enjoy making music, but we have our own tastes and styles. Therefore, when we make music together, we have to find a way to do so, as a duo, in a way that works for both of us. Today's picture book is about a mother and daughter who are both creative and who similarly have to find a way to allow their respective gifts to blend in a way that makes them both happy.

Knit Together
Knit TogetherAngela Dominguez
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2015, 978-0-8037-4099-0
A little girl loves to draw. It is her way of being creative and expressing herself. Her mother is not an artist, but she is a knitter. The little girl cannot help thinking that knitting is better than drawing because you can wear what you knit. She would love to learn how to knit so that she can make “the most amazing things,” things like finger puppets and gloves.
   Mom shows her daughter how to knit, but it turns out that knitting is “not as easy as it looks.” Soon the little girl has nothing to show for her efforts, other than a snarl of yarn and a grumpy face. Mom, who knows how hard it can be to learn a new skill, reassures her daughter, telling her that there is no need to be discouraged. Mom explains that the little girl’s artwork inspires her, and sure enough, when you look at the little girl’s drawings and her mother’s knitted projects, you can see how the artwork is indeed reflected in the knitted hats and other yarn creations. Then the mother and daughter come up with a plan, one that will combine both of their gifts.
   This wonderful picture book celebrates creativity in all its forms. Being able to draw and being able to knit are both gifts, and both gifts are precious.  Children will be delighted to see how the mother and daughter in this book find that there is a way to share and combine their skills to create something special and unique.

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10. Poetry Friday with a review of After the bell Rings: Poems about After-School Time

When I was in elementary school I can remember feeling that time seemed to slow down during the last lesson of the day. That last bell seemed to take forever to ring. When it rang I knew I was free, until the next school day began.

Today's poetry title explores those almost-out-of-school and free-of-school times.

After the bell Rings: Poems about After-School Time
After the bell Rings: Poems about After-School TimeCarol Diggory Shields
Illustrations by Paul Meisel
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2015, 978-0-8037-3805-8
For children, the moment when the last bell rings at the end of a school day is a special time. After that bell rings they will be free at last, and all kinds of activities await them. Before the bell rings they are “Like horses at the starting gate,” watching the minute hand tick, ticks around the clock face. It feels as if “the clock on the wall has stopped.” They are not the only ones who are happy when the bell rings. Their teacher is also glad that her work day is coming to a close, and for her too the last two minutes before the bell rings “are the slowest of all.”
   Once they are free, children head off for home to play video games, practice their musical instruments, and battle with homework assignments. They have a snack, read a book, send text messages and hang out with friends.
   There are so many things to do, but kids can become bored all the same. If this happens, children must never, ever mention that they are bored because if they do they will end up mowing the law for Dad or sweeping for Mom.  If children do get bored the trick is to “look busy and don’t show it” and make sure that they “Don’t let your parents know it!”
   This amusing poetry picture book takes readers into the lives of children after they are released from school. The poems come in many forms, including one that is made up of a series of text messages that fly between two children. We hear from a boy whose sister’s violin playing is making his life a misery, and another whose mother catches him playing a video game when he should be doing his homework. Then there is the girl whose afternoons and Saturdays are so booked up that all she wants to do on Sunday is to “just take a nap.”
   Children and their grownups will surely enjoy this clever trip into those wonderful after-school hours when children, if they are lucky, get to do at least some of the things that they dreamed of doing when they were sitting in class.

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11. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Boy on the Page

Most people, at some time or another, wonder why they are here and what they should do with their lives. When we are children we ask each other "What are you going to be when you grow up?" and when we are grown up we ask ourselves, "Am I doing what I should be doing with my life?"

In this exceptional picture book we meet a young boy who wonders why he is where he is, and what he discovers will resonate with readers of all ages.

The Boy on the PageThe Boy on the Page
Peter Carnavas
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Kane Miller, 2014, 978-1-61067-245-0
One day a small boy landed on an empty page. It was a rather abrupt arrival, and for a while he just stood there as there was nothing else around him. Then, slowly, a world began to appear on the white page. Green hills, trees, flowers and then animals of all kinds joined the. Soon other people were there too, and buildings. As he grew up in the every changing world, there was a question that the boy wondered about. Why was he there?
   The boy went on to have all kinds of wonderful experiences. He rolled down a hill, rode a horse, planted a tree, paddled a canoe, and made music with friends. He grow up and fell in love, he became a father, and built a house. He did so many things and yet he still had no idea why he was where he was. What was this all for?
   In this beautiful and sweetly simple picture book we watch a boy, and then a man, experience all the wonderful things that life has to offer. We see how the boy (and man) gives of himself to others, and receives so much in return. When we come to the end of the tale we realize that the answer to the boy’s question is a simple but powerful one.
   Throughout the book wonderful illustrations are paired with a spare text, and together they offer readers of all ages a message that is timeless.


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12. Poetry Friday with a review of Changes: A child’s first Poetry Collection

Young children are often wonderfully receptive to poetry. There is something about the rhythm of verse that appeals to their ears. In today's poetry title readers will find a collection of beautifully rhythmic poems that perfectly capture the adventures, images, and sensations that children experience as the seasons go by.

Changes: A child’s first Poetry CollectionChanges: A child’s first Poetry Collection
Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 3 to 6
Sourcebooks, 2015, 978-1-4926-0168-5
Charlotte Zolotow was a prolific writer who wrote more than ninety published books for young readers, two of which won Caldecott Honor awards. For four decades, in her capacity as an editor-publisher at HarperCollins, she worked with wonderful writers such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maurice Sendak, and Arnold Lobel. In this wonderful collection, twenty-eight of her poems are brought together to offer young children a beautiful journey through the seasons. They are being published in what would have been Charlotte’s centenary year, and therefore they serve as a fitting tribute both to her and to her “ability to frame the largest, boldest truths for the smallest, newest readers.”
   The collection begins with a poem called Change, which explores the joys of “Celebrating the Seasons.” We see how one season flows into another, a process that is full of change and wonder, and yet in the end, when the year comes full circle, the only thing that has really changed is us. We have grown up and grown older.
   Next we begin our journey with poems about spring. We see a river winding through a meadow and experience the spring wind which “comes gently after the rain / smelling of spring and growing things.” We lie in the grass and see a small bird flying over the trees. We meet some violet sellers and celebrate the simple beauty of crocuses and pansies.
   In summer we share a moment with a child who is watching a honey bee. That “shimmering clear / making the sky seem very near” moment is his to relish and enjoy. We see how blue is a true summer color, the color of “the sea at noon,” bluejays, blueberries, larkspurs and “the sky itself.” We experience the essence of time spent by the sea, and meet two denizens of summer; a fly and a beetle.
   Autumn is a time when “the light long summer / is grown old.” It is a time of falling colorful leaves, of school days, and Halloween costumes. Following close on its heels comes winter with its snow and frozen rivers. “Black and still” trees are stark and beautiful, and now when toes feel the cold, we remember the summer sun.
   Paired with sweet illustrations that capture the magic of the seasons, these wonderful poems will delight readers, young and old alike.

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13. Picture Book Monday with a review of The baseball player and the Walrus

Many people think that they know what a person needs to have to be happy. Happiness = having lots of money and being famous. However, judging from the stories we see in the media. the rich and famous often are not very happy people. Something is missing from their lives.

Today's picture book explores the way in which one rich and famous person stumbles across something that makes him happy, and we see how he tries to figure out how to change his life so that happiness can be his.

The baseball player and the Walrus
Ben Loory
The baseball player and the WalrusIllustrated by Alex Latimer
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Penguin, 2015, 978-0-8037-3951-2
There once was a baseball player who had it all; fame, fortune, and fans. The surprising thing is that the baseball player was not happy. He knew that something was missing in his life but he had no idea what that something was.
   Then one day the baseball player went to the zoo and he saw all the animals. He saw the lions, tigers, giraffes, and elephants, and then he came to the walrus pool. The baseball player was very taken with the walrus and he stayed and watched it all day long. Something about the animal lifted the baseball player’s spirits and made him feel happy inside.
   That evening the baseball player decided that he was going to buy the walrus. He created a splendid walrus habitat in his back yard, and stocked up on fish and walrus vitamins. He showed the zoo people that he was going to be a responsible walrus owner, and they finally agreed to let him take the walrus home.
   The walrus and the baseball player became fast friends and had many grand times together, but when the baseball season began the player had to be away from home a lot and both he and the walrus were very unhappy. Eventually the baseball player decided that he had had enough, and he quit his job and went home as fast as he could to be with his walrus. Everything was perfect for a while, until the baseball player realized that without a job he could no longer afford to keep his dear friend.
   Many people think that happiness should be a secondary consideration in life. We have to make money, buy things, and be ‘successful’ first and foremost. In this delightful picture book we meet a man whose money, fame, and success don’t make him happy. Luckily, he finds out that having a walrus for a friend is just what he needs, and he does everything in his power to make the walrus part of his life.
   With humor and sensitivity, the author of this book gives readers a tale that is amusing, memorable, and that conveys a message that everyone should take heed of: Follow your heart.

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14. Poetry Friday with a review of Poems From Homeroom: A writers place to start

Happy poetry Friday! Today I have a book that is full of wonderful poems. It is also is a sort of guide book to help young people start exploring the world of poetry for themselves. Knowing how to start, and what to write about is often hard, but Kathi Appelt shows young poets where to begin by offering them prompts and exercises. She shows them how accessible this writing form is, and how freeing it can be.

Poems From Homeroom: A writers place to startPoems From Homeroom: A writers place to start
Kathi Appelt
For ages 13 to 18
Owlet Paperbacks, 2010, 978-0805075960
Early humans spent most of their time doing what they could to survive. They had to find food, build shelter, and keep themselves and their young safe from predators. Then there came a time when existence was easier, and humans began to look for ways to express themselves. They told stories around the fires at night, made up songs, created beautiful paintings on cave walls, and eventually figured out how to write so that stories could be kept and treasured.
   Writing is a wonderful form of self-expression because it is so easy to do, and it comes in many forms. “One of the most flexible is poetry,” because you can write poems about anything at all. They don’t need to have a story or characters unless you want them to, and they can be in verse or not. Poems can be about mundane things, or they can explore big picture subjects. The sky is the limit.
   In this thoughtful book, Kathi Applet takes us into the lives of several teenagers through a series of poems, building their personalities using wonderful imagery and stories. We get to know Jimmy Haliburton, who has a real guitar at home, but who plays the air guitar at school. With this instrument he accompanies the morning announcements. Then he plays the blues, after which he moves on to be Jimi Hendrix. On this instrument of air he “can’t mess up or play out of key.”
   We meet a girl who has a dragon tattoo “Curled around her ankle / like a cat.” The tattoo somehow makes her more than just “plain ‘ol Patty Lopez.” It turns her into the “Dragon Girl of Dogwood High.” Then there is another girl who has a pick-up truck sized crush on her teacher. She is “smushed by love,” and loves the fact that he thinks that she asks intelligent questions. What should she ask next?
   In the second half of the book, the “study hall,” the author goes back and looks at the poems she wrote again. She talks about what inspired her to write them, and then offers her readers a collection of prompts that they can use as a jumping off place to write their own poems. For example, she tells us why she wrote the poem about the girl with the dragon tattoo. Then she presents readers with ideas and questions. She invites them to write about people who are somehow unique and different. She talks about people who are a part of a group, and those who hate being classified into a group. She asks readers to think about how clothing and other embellishments make people feel. The dragon tattoo makes Patty feel powerful. How would a black trenchcoat make a person feel? Finally she talks about people who have some distinguishing mark or characteristic forced on them. This is not something they chose. Rather, it is something that they would like to be rid of. She asks her readers to “Write about someone like that.”
   Finding a starting place is often so hard to do when you are beginning to explore the world of writing. In this excellent book Kathi Applet helps young people to explore the world of poetry in a way that makes sense to them. She gets into their world in poetry form, and then invites them to share their experiences through writing.

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15. Picture Book Monday with a review of Breaking News: Bear Alert

Spring is a time when many animals become active again, after the cold months of winter are over. Birds and squirrels start building nests, and bears come out of hibernation, Typically bears immediately set about looking for food when they wake up. In today's picture book you will see what happens when a pair of just-woken-up bears are accidentally brought to a town.

Breaking News: Bear Alert Breaking News: Bear Alert
David Biedrzycki
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2014, 978-1580896634
An episode of Our Furry Planet is being broadcasted live. The host of the show, Jean Louis, is in a bear cave with his cameraman, filming a pair of bears who are hibernating. Jean Louis says that soon the bears will wake up and they will be hungry for food. As he is talking he pokes one of the bears with a stick. What he does not realize is that his actions wake up the bear, and not surprisingly is gets mighty miffed that it has been disturbed.
   The screen goes blank for a moment and then we are brought a “Breaking News” alert. A skycam shows viewers that the bears, who are now fully awake, are riding on the roof of the Our Furry Planet van. Jean Louis and the cameraman have no idea that they are taking two large, furry passengers to the city with them. They think that they escaped the bears that they so rudely woke up.
   When they get to the city, the cameraman tells the media that he and Jean Louis scared the bears away, but it soon becomes clear how wrong he is. Security video from Teddy’s Diner shows the bears entering the establishment where they start eating whatever they can get their paws on. The bears then make their way down Main Street, and their progress is picked up by various cameras. Animal Control officers arrive on the scene but the bears are now in the Misses and Petites section in Paddington’s Department Store, and they in disguise
   Young readers are going to love this clever picture book. The story is presented in such a way that we feel that we are watching the whole crazy bear alert situation on a screen. Young readers will see that in addition to the chaos created by the arrival of the bears in town, something else is going on. Eventually the two stories collide to bring the tale to a wonderful denouement.

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16. Poetry Friday with a review of Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold

Spring has officially arrived in Southern Oregon, but the last few days have been quite wintery. A chilly wind has blown through out valley bringing rain with it, and snow has fallen on the mountains. I therefore feel quite justified reading and reviewing today's poetry title, which explores how wild animals and plants survive the cold months of winter.

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold    Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold  
Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Rick Allen
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 978-0-547-90650-8
In the past, winter was often a time of hardship for humans. Food was scarce, it was cold even indoors, sickness was common, and the days were short. Without the comforts of heated homes, electric lights, decent healthcare, and grocery stores, winter was grim. For wild animals winter is still a time of hardship. They have to adapt to the changes in their environment so that they can survive until spring.
   In this award winning picture book Joyce Sidman shows us how animals that live in cold places survive, how they find ways to get through the long winter months. On every spread we find a richly textured and colored illustration that is with paired with a poem. There is also a section of nonfiction text, which provides us with further information about the animal species featured on the pages.
   The first spread takes us into the cold world of the tundra swan. We see how they “tucked beaks / into feathers and settled for sleep.” As they slept, the swans dreamed of the journey that was coming when they would see “the sun’s pale wafer / the crisp drink of clouds. “ When the swans woke up to a land covered with snow, they began that journey that would take them thousands of miles from Alaska to warmer climes on the east or west coasts of the United States.
   Later in the book we meet a young moose, a creature that is “built for the cold.” The largest deer species in the world, the moose’s size makes it possible for their core to stay warm and their “tough, shaggy hide” keeps their extremities from getting too cold. Moose use their excellent sense of smell to find food and they can reach the high branches of “willow and yew” that other animals cannot get to.
   Beavers find the perfect way to get through winter. They build a dam and a lodge and even when their pond or lake freezes over, the beavers can swim under the ice to get to the twigs that they stashed in the water not far from their home. Like “strong brown bullets” they dive and then return to their warm home where they groom, eat, and then sleep cuddled up together.
   Even the trees and plants have adapted to survive the cold darkness of winter. Deciduous trees shed their leaves and “essentially shut down” in winter, bending “when all the wild winds blow,” standing firm thanks to their deep root systems. Unlike the tender leaves of these trees, conifers have tough needles that are not damaged by freezing temperatures.
   This is a book that children and adults will greatly enjoy exploring. The sections of text that appear on every spread are packed with fascinating facts and information, and the poems, with their layers of rich imagery and language, are a joy to read.

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17. Picture Book Monday with a review of A tale of Two Beasts

We often like to think that there is only one side to a story, the side we know and believe in. This is rarely true, and into today's picture book we see how the same story can be very different depending on who is telling that story. Children will be amused by this tale, and hopefully they will also take something away with them after they have read it.

A tale of two beasts
Fiona Roberton

A tale of two beasts
Picture Book
For ages
Kane Miller, 2015, 978-1-61067-361-7
One day a little girl is walking home through the woods when she sees a peculiar little beast hanging from a tree. The little beast is “whining sadly,” so the little girl decides to “rescue” the little animal. She takes him home wrapped in her scarf, washes him, dresses him in a sweater and hat, and gives him a bowl of nuts to eat. She takes him for walks and shows him off to her friends.  Then the little girl realizes that the little beast is not happy and soon after he runs away, returning to his home in the woods.
   One day, a little beast is happily hanging from a tree singing when he is “AMBUSHED by a terrible beast!” The beast ties it up, takes it to her “secret lair” and then proceeds to do unspeakable things to the little beast, things like bathing it, dressing it, and giving is stupid squirrel food to eat. Eventually the little beast comes up with a “cunning plan” and it escapes into the woods before its cruel captor can get her hands on him again.
   In this clever book the author tells us the same story from two points of view. First the little girl tells the story, and then the little beast tells the story. They both think the other is a “beast,” and they don’t think very highly of each other either. It is interesting to see how the little girl thinks she is saving the beast, whereas he thinks she is kidnapping, or rather beastnapping, him.
   Both the stories are funny, and together they will help children to see that there are always at least two sides to every story.  The wonderful thing about both stories is that in the end the two beasts come to an understanding. They see things from slightly different perspectives to be sure, but the end result is a good one for both of them.

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18. Poetry Friday with a review of Favorite Poems Old and New

Some children's poetry collections only really appeal, long term, to children. Some however, contain collections that adults also enjoy; they are books that can be shared and passed down from generation to generation. Today's poetry book is just such a title, and it would make a wonderful gift to a family.

Favorite Poems Old and NewFavorite Poems Old and New
Selected by Helen Ferris 
Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard 
Poetry Book
For ages 5 and up
Random House, 1957, 978-0-385-07696-8
Many years ago, when Helen Ferris and her brother Fred were little, their parents made poetry “as much a part of their children’s every day as getting up in the morning.” Helen and Fred absorbed poetry, learning many of the poems they heard by heart. Their poetry journey began with Mother Goose rhymes, and went on to include the poems of Alfred Tennyson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Shakespeare. Helen’s mother felt very strongly that even if her children “could not understand all the words,” they could still “enjoy the beautiful sound of them.” Helen and Fred and their parents moved several times, and their lives changed in many ways, but they never stopped enjoying poetry and sharing it with others.
   Out of her love of poetry grew Helen’s wish to create a book that celebrated this form of writing, that brought together the writings of many, and the favorite poems of many more. In all there are over seven hundred poems in this collection, both classic and modern. The poems are divided up into eighteen categories, making it easy for young readers to find poems that suit their interests. The topics include “My Family and I,” “It’s fun to play,” “Animals, Pets and Otherwise,” and “Almost any time is laughing time.”
   Many children will naturally gravitate to this latter section, for here they will find old favorites like The Walrus and the Carpenter and The Owl and the Pussycat. Here too is The Song of Mr. Toad, which is the song that Mr. Toad sings in The Wind in the Willows when he is feeling rather pleased with himself. Edward Lear and Ogden Nash’s nonsense poems are also here.
   Poems with a patriotic feel appear in the “Sign of my nation, great and strong,” section. Here children will find Paul Revere’s Ride,and The Gettysburg Address, along with The Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.
   This is the kind of collection that has something for everyone, no matter what the age of the reader. It is a book to grow old with, and a book to pass on to the next generation so that they too might grow up with a love of poetry, just as Helen Ferris did.

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19. Poetry Friday with a review of Noisy Poems

Children love noise words and noise sounds because they are funny. For today's poetry title I have a book that is jam packed with noise words. It is the kind of book that children find amusing, and they will love having the poems read to them again and again.

Noisy Poems for a busy Day
Noisy Poems for a busy DayRobert Heidbreder
Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Kids Can Press, 2012, 978-1-55453-706-8
   The sun is rising and it is time to get up. With a “Riffle-rustle” a little boy jumps out of bed, his feet making a “down-pound” sound as they hit the wooden floor. Another day has “rolled around” and there are so many things to do.
  In this sounds-filled book of poetry we join some children as they make their way through the day from sunrise to sunset. Every page gives young readers little poems that are full of sounds and onomatopoeic words, many of which children will love. For example, in the second poem, Off to Breakfast, we encounter “sloppy slurp” and “Big Belch – BURP!” Later in the morning it is time to get dressed and we see a little boy “Twisty-Twiggle / Jump-up jiggle” as he gets his clothes on.
   After getting dressed we venture outside where we play in the grass, get kissed by a dog, do somersaults, look at the clouds, and enjoy doing the kinds of things that children love to do. By the time we are ready to go back indoors we are filthy and need to “Twisty-twiggle” into clean clothes again.
   Throughout this book the poems are accompanied by amusing illustrations that perfectly capture the ebullience of children as they make their way through the day having fun, playing, quarreling, and finally, resting.

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20. Picture Book Monday with a review of Norman, Speak!

When I was sixteen I found a little poodle mix on the streets of the town where I lived. He followed me home, and soon after he became a member of the family. At first I talked to the dog in Greek because we were living in a Greek speaking country. He did not respond to me at all and I thought that he wasn't very bright. Then we spoke to him in English and it became clear that he came from an English speaking household. He knew how to sit and stay and he was a proper little gentleman. In today's book you will meet a dog whom people make assumptions about, and it turns out that they are as wrong about their dog as I was about mine.

Norman, Speak!Norman, Speak!
Caroline Adderson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Groundwood Books, 2014, 978-1-55498-322-3
One day a boy and his parents go to the animal shelter so that they can adopt a dog. When they get there they realize that choosing a dog is not going to be easy; there are so many dogs that desperately need homes. The boy decides that they should adopt the dog who has been at the shelter the longest, and so they end up taking home a brown-and-white dog with a little stumpy tail. The dog was a stray and his name is Norman. Norman is thrilled to be out of his cage. He is thrilled when they leave the shelter. In fact he is so happy that “his whole rump swung from side to side.”
   When they get home the boy tries to teach Norman to sit, to come and to speak. He tries to teach Norman his own name, but the dog does not seem to understand a single thing the boy says and the boy starts to thing that Norman is a rather unintelligent animal. It does not really matter though, because the boy and his parents love Norman anyway.
   Then one day Norman and his master go to the dog park where they meet a friendly black dog. The black dog’s owner calls out and both Norman and the black dog go to him. When the man speaks to the two dogs they do exactly what he tells them to. The boy can hardly believe his eyes. He goes over to the man and realizes that he is not speaking English. The man explains that Norman understands Chinese! It turns out that Norman is smarter than anyone thought.
   In this charming picture book we meet a family that adopts a dog only to discover that their initial assessment of him was woefully incorrect. Their dog knows how to do all kind s of things and now they have to find a way to communicate with him. It is wonderful to see how hard they work to solve this problem and how things work out in the end. 

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21. Poetry Friday with a review of Animal Crackers: A Delectable Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Lullabies for the Very Young

Finding ways to present old material in a fresh new way is something that some children's book authors and illustrators do very well. Jane Dyer is just such a person. In today's poetry title she brings together wonderful nursery rhymes and other poems for little children and pairs them with her own lovely artwork to give us a book that will delight the young and old alike.

Animal Crackers: A Delectable Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Lullabies for the Very Young 
Jane Dyer
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 3 to 5
Little Brown, 1996, 978-0316197663
Animal Crackers: A Delectable Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Lullabies for tMany little children are captivated by the rhythms and rhymes in poetry, which is why so many nursery rhymes and other little sing-song poems have been written for them. Often they learn their letters using a poem, and their numbers and colors as well. They learn little stories for the first time, and connect with characters such as Humpty Dumpty, Peter Piper and Little Jack Horner. They learn to empathize with the characters who have a hard time, and laugh at the silly situations that they get into.
   In this charming picture book Jane Dyer pairs her warm, beautiful and often cozy paintings with some of the world’s most popular poetry for little children. There are poems for the nursery and the playroom, for bedtime and naptime, and for sick days and rainy days. The poems are divided into seven sections, and we begin with learning poems, such as One, Two Buckle my Shoe and A Apple Pie.
  Then we move onto poems about the seasons. The poem The Months of the Year takes us through the year with a series of rhyming stanzas, each one of which is paired with delightful little illustrations that capture the essence of that month. For example, we read about June, which “bring tulips, lilies and roses / Fills the children’s hands with posies,” and there, next to these two lines, is an illustration of three children, whose arms are overflowing with bouquets of flowers.
   The third section looks at food and drink, and here we find old favorites such as Hot Cross Buns, Pease Porrige Hot, and Polly Put the Kettle On, which many children like to sing together accompanied by the clapping of hands.
   We then go on to poems about animals, nursery rhymes, playtime, and finally wrap up with “Lullaby and Good Night” poems, all of which are perfect to share with a small tired child at the end of a day.


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22. Picture Book Monday with a review of Spring Blossoms

Spring begins in just a few days time. Here in Ashland we have already had a grand display of spring blossoms that began when the almond trees starting blooming a few weeks ago. Now the cherries are displaying their pretty pink blooms, and soon the crab apples will be starting. Today's picture book takes readers into the beautiful world of blossoming trees in spring.

Spring Blossoms

Spring Blossoms
Carole Gerber
Illustrated by Leslie Evans
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2013, 978-1-58089-412-8
Spring is here and the trees are “dressed up for their yearly show.” Blossoms cover branches that not long ago were bare. Here is the dogwood wearing its “frosty crown” of white blossoms. The crab apple has white blossoms that are white too, but they are smaller and smell sweet. Magnolia trees produce flowers that are large and tulip shaped, which are quite different from those that you find on cherry trees that  are small and “grow in bundles” so that they look like “small bouquets.”
   Some trees are less showy and yet they too are beautiful in their own understated way. These include the white oak with its green male flowers and its small red female flowers. White pines have small yellow male flowers. Later in the year the female flowers, “tinged with red, like slender lips” appear.
   Throughout this special book, beautiful illustrations are paired with rhyming verse to take young readers into a spring day that is full of beautiful blossoming trees. They will ‘meet’ ten different tree species, and at the back of the book there is further information about spring and the changes that come about in this lovely season.

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23. Poetry Friday with a review of The Popcorn Astronauts and other Biteable Rhymes

We humans invest a great deal in the food that we eat. We enjoy trying cuisines from around the world, spend hours cooking meals, and love going out to eat in restaurants and diners. Food is often at the center of our holidays and celebrations. In today's poetry title you will find poems that are deliciously "Biteable," and that celebrate food in many creative ways.

The Popcorn Astronauts and other Biteable Rhymes
Deborah Ruddell
The Popcorn Astronauts and other Biteable RhymesIllustrated By Joan Rankin
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2015, 978-1-4424-6555-8
As spring shifts into summer, summer into fall and so on, we do, of course notice the changes in temperature and weather. We notice the changes in the flora and fauna around us, and enjoy the celebrations that come around as the year progresses. There is another thing that changes with the seasons, if we are lucky: our food. There are certain fruits, vegetables, and dishes that we look forward to all year because they taste best when they are enjoyed at a certain time of year.
   In this rip-roaring poetical celebration of food, the author takes us through the seasons, and throughout the book we encounter wonderfully delicious foodie poems. For example, in spring we meet the strawberry queen in a poem of that name. We are told that we will “know her the minute she enters the room / by the first little whiff of her springtime perfume.”
   Summer is when, if we are ants and we are lucky, we encounter a “Watermelon Lake!” We are invited to “jump right in” to enjoy this seasonal treat. The cool, sweet, pinkness is fantastic of course, but there are also “small black boats for summer fun” all over the watermelon lake to play on. Summer is also the time when, should you feel so inclined, you can make raisins. Fear not, for the recipe for making raisins can be found in this book. All you have to do is to hang grapes out to dry and leave them there until they look like “wrinkled rubber rocks” and have the taste of “well-worn pirate socks.”
   Some of the poems talk about food items, such as brownies, apples, toast, and peaches. Others tell funny food-centric stories that will delight and amuse young readers. All the poems are accompanied by Joan Rankin’s amusing and expressive illustrations, which perfectly capture the delightful goofiness of Deborah Ruddell’s poetry creations.

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Happy Spring!

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25. Picture Book Monday with a review of Such a Little Mouse

Some picture books have wonderful rich stories that catapult you into a different world and take you on a grand adventure. Other picture books are quieter, more contemplative, in nature. Today's picture book review title is just such a book. The story is a very simple one, and yet it is still meaningful and incredibly enriching.

Such a little mouseSuch a little mouse
Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Stephanie Yue
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Scholastic, 2015, 978-0-545-64929-2
It is spring and a little mouse, who lives in a burrow in the middle of a meadow under a clump of dandelions, pops his head out of his hole and takes in the world around him. He explores, watching a snail and bees go about their business. He listens to the sound of a woodpecker hammering away at a tree. Next the little mouse looks at his reflection in a puddle and then he heads off home, a little seed in his mouth. He goes down a tunnel into his kitchen, down another tunnel to his bedroom, and then down yet another tunnel to his storeroom, where the shelves are mostly bare.
   On a summer morning the little mouse “pops out of his hole” and heads out to check on his neighbors. He watches the beavers, who are busy working on their lodge in the pond, and then pops in to visit a toad who has set up house under an upside down flower pot. At the end of the day the mouse carries a sprig of watercress home and he puts it in his store room, which is starting to fill up.
   When fall comes around, leaves lie on the ground and the mouse has a grand time tunneling through them. Everywhere he turns he sees and hears signs that winter is coming. Animals are on the move and there is a lot of work to be done. At the end of the day the mouse carries a big acorn back to his storeroom.
   In this delightful and gently sweet picture book we go through the seasons with an industrious little mouse, whose days are full of visits, explorations, and food collecting work.
   Throughout the book beautiful illustrations capture little mouse’s world to perfection. The pictures take us into his world, even down into his cunning little home, and we cannot help growing fond of our new little friend. We watch the seasons unfold in gorgeous color, and can appreciate how much joy is to be had from life’s little pleasures.

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