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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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Over the years I have encountered several poetry collections where poets have take other people's writings and have changed them in little ways to make them accessible for young readers. Often the changes add touches of humor to the poems. In today's poetry title, Iza Trapani does this to great effect, taking young readers into the school life of a little dog character.Rufus and Friends: School Days
Charlesbridge, 2010, 978-1-58089-249-0
It is a rainy day, Rufus is off to school, and he “can’t wait,” because “My teacher and my friends are great.” As he hops on the school bus he invites us to join him. When they arrive at school the little dog children march into the building and head to their classrooms, though Rufus has to pause for a moment “to suck his thumb.”
Once Rufus and his friends are in their classroom they begin their day. They have a “busy day” ahead full of writing, reading, drawing, and will learn “some things worth knowing.”
Presiding over the classroom is a “neat little clock” which “points to the time / With its two little hands.” The clock always has a clean face and those hands are always ready “To do what is right.” One can hope that the children in the class will have similarly clean faces and ready hands, but sometimes things do not go “as we planned” and the students, despite all their good intentions, end up with paint and glue in unexpected places.
After several hours of laboring away, the children have lunch, which is most unappetizing, and then they go outside to play. The children jump rope, throw a ball around, or play on the swings and slide, but Joan, who loves “books a lot” finds a spot under a tree to read a book. With a book in hand Joan never feels alone.
In Mrs. Alegro’s music class the children have a grand time playing musical instruments of all kinds. Tom-Tom is a wonderful flute player and he tootles away to the delight of his classmates. Later, in the library, the children are not as well behaved as they should be. They talk, wriggle, and giggle. They are rambunctious and the librarian is not at all happy.
In this splendid poetry picture book Iza Trapani presents children with some traditional poems which she has “extended” in creative ways. Taking us through the school day, she gives us familiar poems such as One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
, and songs such as The Ants go Marching
. There are also poems that children may not be familiar with, but which offer readers wonderful opportunities to enjoy the written and spoken word.
For many young people today a book is digital file on a tablet. Print books just aren't a part of their lives. I read books in both formats but I generally prefer a printed book. There is something about how a book feels, how it looks sitting on a shelf, and even how it smells that I love. I have books in almost every room in my home, and book cover images appear in frames on my walls.
In today's picture book you will meet a character who has no idea what a print book is. He is puzzled by the book that his friend is reading because it cannot be twitched on, it doesn't noises, nor can you play games on it. What is the point of a book he wonders. What indeed!It’s a book
Roaring Brook, 2010, 978-1-59643-606-0
One day Jackass comes over to where Monkey is reading. Jackass asks Monkey what he has in his hands. Monkey explains that it is a book. Jackass is not sure what a book does so he asks Monkey a lot of questions about the strange object that he is holding.
Jackass wants to know if you can scroll down with a book or blog with it. Does it have a mouse? Can it make characters fight? Does it tweet or use wi-fi- or make noise like Jackass’s laptop? It turns out that a book cannot do any of these things. Monkey shows Jackass that the book he is reading has a story in it about pirates. In Jackass’s opinion there are too many words. As he takes the book and goes to sit down, Jackass learns that the book does not even have a screen name, nor do you need a password to read it. How bizarre!
This wonderful book shows young readers all the things that a book isn’t. Then, in a sneaky and completely silent way, it shows us the wonderful magic that can be found in an object that does not need a power cable, upgrades, or a mouse pad.
With a minimal text, delightful characters, and touches of humor, Lane Smith gives readers a fantastic reading experience.
Animal characters play important roles in many children's books, allowing authors to connect with their young readers on many levels. Children begin with Babar the elephant in picture books and work their way up to to the gripping animal-rich adventures in the Redwall novels. Poets also love to write about animals, and in today's poetry title animals of all kinds can be found on the pages to offer children a wonderful poetry-filled book experience.Beastly Verse
Poems selected and illustrated by Joohee Yoon
Enchanted Lion, 2015, 978-1-59270-166-7
Children love poems about animals, especially ones that are about creatures that a big and scary. Over the years poets have chosen to write poems about animals of all kinds, including those that we love to be afraid of. In this collection Joohee Yoon has brought together some of these poems and paired them with her colorful print illustrations.
We begin with Lewis Carroll’s poem about the “little crocodile” who seems to grin so “cheerfully” and who “neatly spreads his claws.” So friendly does the crocodile seem that it is as if he is welcoming fish to swim into his “gently smiling jaws.”
Another creature with claws and teeth is a tiger and William Blake’s famous poem about a tiger perfectly captures the awe that the poet feels for the animal that has fire in its eyes. He wonders what “immortal hand” created the tiger’s “fearful symmetry.”
The mood is lightened in the poem that follows, where we meet a happy hyena. This animal can play the concertina and is very particular about his appearance. A master of sartorial elegance, the hyena even has a flower stuck into his lapel.
A few pages later we encounter someone who is trying to tell us about an elephant who “tried to use the telephone.” It turns out that a trunk is not the best of appendages to use when one is trying to make a telephone call. It also turns out that the narrator of this poem cannot help getting his or her words frightfully, and hilariously, mixed up.
For children who fancy having an unusual animal for a pet there is the poem The Yak
. In it we hear about how a yak is a perfect pet for young people. After all it “will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back, / Or lead it about with a string.” The Tartars who live in Tibet have been keeping yaks as nursery pets for centuries, so if they can do it why can’t you?
Animal loving children are sure to love this clever collection of poems. On the pages they will find verses that are often humorous, that offer up wonderful descriptions, and that sometimes give readers cause to pause.
Not long ago we brought a new kitten into the household. Our two dogs were thrilled to bits to have a new playmate, but the two cats were appalled and disgusted. They behaved as if a fate worse than death had been placed upon them, and were rude and anti-social for days. Thankfully, the kitten's charms have started to wear down the older cats' standoffish behavior. There is only so much you can do when a little furry person snuggles up against you.
In today's picture book you will see what happens when a large and indulged cat called Fuddles gets a new housemate who is.....prepare yourself.....a puppy!Fuddles and Puddles
Simon and Schuster, 2016, 978-1-4814-3839-1
Fuddles is a fat, lazy, and utterly content cat. His people spoil him rotten and that is exactly how things should be. According to Fuddles. Then one day Fuddles wakes up from a nap, he goes into the kitchen, and he sees that there is a puddle on the floor. Worse still there is a little dog that goes with the puddle. A dog that barks and drools, and makes puddles. Fuddles is “disgusted” and he wants nothing to do with the dog.
Unfortunately, Puddles does not seem to understand how much Fuddles dislikes him. The little dog follows Fuddles everywhere, even to the litterbox. Fuddles hardly gets a break from the little pest and one day, when Fuddles catches Puddles eating his food, the cat loses his temper. He has had enough, and so he yowls and is so frightening that the dog runs away and he stays away. Fuddles is “delighted.” He has got rid of the dog pest and now life can settle down and go back to the way it was.
All is well until Fuddles gets himself into a dreadful situation; a situation that means that he needs help and he needs it quickly.
Many of us hate it when change comes into our lives, especially when that change brings inconveniences and perhaps a little chaos with it. What we often don’t realize is that change can actually be a good thing; it can bring unexpected gifts with it that we did not even know about.
With wonderful touches of humor and an appreciation for human (and cat) nature, Frans Vischer brings us a third Fuddles story that will delight readers of all ages.
Many adults and children in the Unites States can remember where they were on September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked targets in the United States using commercial airplanes. What we sometimes don't realize is that the ripple effects of the tragedy spread far from our shores to people all over the world, many of whom were profoundly effected by what happened.
Today's title is a novel in blank verse that takes us to Japan where a young girl, a half Japanese and half American girl, is facing a lot of personal problems of her own in the months leading up to the September 11th attacks. The appalling events of that day add to what is already a painful situation, and we see, through her eyes, how violence damages people's ability to hope, and takes away their ability to feel safe.Somewhere Among
Simon and Schuster, 2016, 978-1-4814-3786-8
Ema lives “between two worlds.” Her father is Japanese and her mother is American, and sometimes being “half this / half that” is not easy to manage. Though her mixed heritage makes her life interesting at times, the fact that she is different also means that at times she feels “alone / on an island / surrounded by multitudes / of people.”
Every August Ema and her mother go to California for a month to spend time with Ema’s maternal grandparents. This year is going to be different. Ema’s mother is pregnant and it has been a very hard pregnancy with scares and all-day-long morning sickness. Her mother has lost babies in the past and so this time they are going to be very careful, which means that the family is going to go and stay with Ema’s paternal grandparents, Obaachan and Jiichan, until the baby is born. Thanks to these new arrangements Ema will miss six months of fifth grade in her school, she and her Papa will not be having a vacation by the sea, and she and her Mom will not being to California.
Ema and her parents travel to western Tokyo to Obaachan’s house, and it isn’t long before Obaachan stars fussing, criticizing, and complaining. She likes everything to be just so and she has very strong opinions about how things should be done. Often she does not understand that Ema’s mother, being an American, does things differently. For example, Mom does not like to use bath water that other people have used, and she prefers western cakes to Japanese desserts. The differences between the two women creates tension and this tension only becomes worse when Ema’s father goes back to the city. Commuting to and from his parent’s home simply isn’t going to work and so Ema and her mother are going to have cope being in Obaachan’s world as best they can. Ema often wishes that she and her mom could be back at home, even though home is only a small one-room apartment. At least the TV is not on all day long, and at least there they don’t have to deal with Obaachan and her persnickety, old-fashioned ways.
The summer is hot and hard on everyone but when school starts things get even harder for Ema. There is a boy at school, Masa, who goes out of his way to make Ema miserable. He hits her, steals the NASA space pen that Grandpa Bob gave her, trips her, and is generally disagreeable as much as possible. Ema is not sure how she is going to cope with this and then something happens that makes everyone forget about the little things. Terrorists attack the Twin Towers in New York City and in two other places. Mom is distraught, Ema is upset, and everyone is in shock over what has happened. Ema, Papa and the grandparents all worry that the anxiety and distress that Ema’s mother is experiencing will hurt the baby. How can all the hurt, both in their home, and in the wider world, not affect them? Ema wants to protect her mother but it would seem that there are some things that she cannot prevent. Sometimes Ema wishes she could escape the world and go out into space where she won’t have to “see or hear or feel / any more sadness.”
This remarkable book takes us into the life of a Japanese child whose world is in a state of flux. The things that make her feel safe and secure are taken away from her and then, just to add to her distress, the attacks on 9/11 take place. Written in blank verse, this extraordinary narrative is touching and often painful, but ultimately Ema comes to learn something very valuable that she is able to pass on to the grownups in her life. Anyone who has had their life disrupted by change and loss will appreciate what Ema goes through.
In 2013 a wordless picture book called Journey came out and it caused quite sensation in the children's book world. In this debut book Aaron Becker tells the story about a little girl who uses magic crayons to go on an adventure. In his next book, Quest, the little girl goes on another journey, one that is packed with even grander adventures, and this time she has a companion with her. Today's picture book is the final title in the trilogy, and just like the first two books in the series, it is wonderfully rich and suitable for anyone who loves beautiful art and storytelling.
Wordless Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Candlewick Press, 2016, 978-0-7636-7730-5
One day a little girl tries to get her father to spend some time with her, but he is so busy working at his drafting table that she finally gives up, goes downstairs, and uses her magic red crayon to draw a doorway on her bedroom wall. Her father finally realizes that she has gone and so he goes downstairs to investigate, which is when he sees the red door in her bedroom.
The father goes through the door and finds himself in a beautiful forest where lamps hang from the trees. His daughter’s red ball is sitting at the end of a wooden dock. The father picks up the ball, which is when a self-propelled boat sails up the river. The man gets on board and by the light of the moon he travels to a fantastic city. He can see his daughter, who is sitting in a little red rowboat, on the river ahead of him.
When the father finally catches up with his daughter she is with a boy, the king of the land, and a beautiful purple bird. The girl is clearly upset with her father for his neglect earlier and she has no interest in trying to make up with him. Just then the boat the father arrived in opens up and soldiers come out of it. They threaten the king, who responds by using a yellow crayon to draw a sword. The king tries to defend himself, but one of the soldiers uses a special device to suck up the sword, the yellow crayon, and the other crayons the king has. The king and the magical box are then whisked away by the enemy.
The boy quickly draws a large purple gryphon with his crayon and then he and the girl and her father climb on the animal’s back. They fly in pursuit of the kidnappers. They are close to the enemy when one of the soldiers opens the device to suck up the gryphon. The boy is captured by the enemy, but the purple bird, father and daughter fall through the air and land in the water far below. How are they going to save the king and the boy now?
This is the third book in a trilogy that tells the story of a pair of children who use magic crayons to travel to a world that is full of marvels and adventures. Once again the children are called upon to save the day, but this time the girl’s father also has to redeem himself in the eyes of his daughter, who is clearly sorely disappointed in her parent.
Readers of all ages are going to thoroughly enjoy this rich and exciting wordless picture book.
For many children a new school year has started and they are getting used to new schedules and teachers, and making new friends. When they get home many children chatter away busily, telling their grownups about the things that they did during the day.
In today's poetry picture book you will meet a little cat who has some wonderful school stories to share with his mother when he gets home.
What a day it was at school!
Illustrated by Doug Cushman
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
HarperCollins, 2009, 978-0060823375
The school day is over and the little cat heads home. When he gets there, he and his mother sit at the table and the little cat has some milk and cookies. As he sips and snacks, the little cat tells his mother about his day, the details of which are all noted down in his journal. Now the journal is full of stories and commentaries that we get to read.
In the first one we get to hear about how put upon the young cat feels because his “backpack weighs a thousand pounds.” Sometimes it is so heavy that he tips backwards and has to stop and rest by leaning against a wall. No matter how much he pleads, his teacher refuses to let him “lighten” his load.
In another entry we hear about how the cat and his friends had a loud and rambunctious time making music together. They shook maracas, beat drums, tooted on kazoos, and played every noisy percussive instrument that they could get their paws on. They had a wonderful time, and to them the sounds they made were “so sweet.”
The cat also tells us about a field trip that he went on the day before. This year the field trip was “really special” because they visited a factory “To watch candy being made / And saw a million lollipops / On colorful parade.” They saw so many fabulous things, and got lots of samples to try. One can only imagine what the experience was like for their teacher and for the people who worked at the factory.
During library time the little cat read a book about knights. Having a powerful imagination he began to imagine that he was the one who was a “knight / On a powerful steed.” He would be the kind of fellow who would “conquer a dragon” and “vanquish a troll.”
Children are going to thoroughly enjoy this collection of poems. Each poem is accompanied by amusing illustrations, and together they capture moments in a little cat’s school day, some of which are everyday sort of events, and some of which are deliciously outrageous.
Learning how to deal with problems is a vital skill to have. The funny thing is that many of us have no clue what to do when things go wrong. We wring our hands, have a panic attack, moan and groan, or burst into tears. We try to run away from our problems, or pretend that they are not there. Needless to say, none of these strategies improve our situation in the slightest.
Today's picture book will help readers of all ages to better understand how to deal with a problem. The narrative is beautifully presented without being preachy or pedantic. The story is supportive and it helps readers to think about their problems in a new way.What do you do with a Problem?
Compendium Inc, 2016, 978-1-943200-00-9
One day a little boy finds out that he is saddled with a problem, a problem that he does not like, did not ask for, and does not want. He has no idea what he is supposed to do with the problem or what it wants, and not surprisingly he would like it to go away. He tries shooing it, scowling at it, and even ignoring it but nothing works.
The thing about problems is that they can cause a lot of new problems. People worry about them, and get anxious that their problem will do something to them or change their life in some dreadful way. The worry builds on itself and unfortunately this only makes the problem bigger.
No matter what the little boy does his problem can always find him, and the more he tries to avoid it “the more I saw it everywhere.” The problem is taking over his life!
No matter how old you are problems can get the better of you. They worry at you and make you so miserable that you start to feel as if your life is just one big, uncontrollable problem. Thankfully the author and the illustrator of this remarkable book understand exactly what this feels like, and they offer readers support that is simple and yet profound. It turns out that problems contain something special and surprising.
For most of us humans, the process of getting our food is relatively simple. We go to a shop or a market and buy what we need. For animals, this process is more complicated. Food has to look for , which can take hours or days. If the animal eats meat, a prey animal needs to be caught and killed.
In this poetry title children will find unique poems that explore what animals eat. The sometimes 'ick' worthy poems combine humor and facts to give children an entertaining and educational experience.What’s for dinner:Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World
Illustrated by David Clark
Charlesbridge, 2011, 978-1-57091-472-0
Animals spend a lot of their time looking for food. After all, if they don’t forage or hunt for their meals they will “croak,” and therefore “finding food / is no joke.” Some of the things animals eat might not seem at all palatable to us, but to them they are vital, and no doubt delicious as well.
In this book young readers will see how animals of different species are connected through their need to eat. One of things that we humans forget sometimes is that all animals are part of a food chain. Perhaps we forget because we are at the top of our chain most of the time. In the poem Food Chain
, we see how a butterfly gets eaten by a lizard, which gets eaten by a garter snake, which then gets eaten by a roadrunner. Every animal has a place in a chain, and every food item that they eat has its place as well.
We may think that animals that eat dead things are disgusting, but in fact their dining choices serve a very useful purpose for the rest of us. The vulture for example, who is “No dainty vegetarian,” loves carrion, and this is a good thing too because if they didn’t disease-ridden dead bodies would be lying all over the place.
Nighthawks and little brown bats both love to eat insects, and they have different strategies to catch their preferred dinners. Both animals hunt at night or in the early evening and they catch their meals on the wing, swooping, and in the case of the bat scooping, the insects out of the air.
Some animals have come up with quite complicated strategies to get their food. When it is hungry the wood turtle goes around “Stompin’ its feet / and slammin’ its shell.” All the commotion causes worms to “pop up / to see who’s jamming,’” which is when the turtle eats the worms.
Children who have a fondness for things that some would consider unsavory are going to love this book. The interesting thing is that a great deal of information is wrapped up in these poems. For readers who would like to know more about the animals mentioned in the book, the author provides notes at the back of the book that are packed with more facts.
Not long ago I had a day when everything seemed to go wrong. The hose attacked my ankles and I fell over. The dishwasher dumped water all over my feet. A stack of books fell over onto my toes, which hurt a lot. On and on it went until I began to seriously consider climbing into bed and staying there for the rest of the day. At least in bed I would be safe!
Today's picture book is about a charming little badger character who has a bad day, a day full of little calamities.The day everything went wrong
Illustrated by Amelie Jackowski
Translated by David Henry Wilson
North South, 2015, 978-0-7358-4209-0
One morning Badger wakes up and he decides that today he will only do “things I enjoy doing.” It is going to be his special day. As soon as he gets out of bed he knocks over his bedside lamp, but thankfully it does not break.
In the best of moods Badger sits down to have his breakfast, which is when he knocks over his cup and it falls to the floor and shatters. Badger is very upset because the cup was his favorite one. Badger then decides that he wants to draw a picture, but he can’t find his colored pencils anywhere. He cannot help feeling rather upset that his day, which was going to be “such a treat” is going so wrong. Perhaps he will be better off in his yard where he always has fun.
While Badger is playing outside he trips and knocks over the wheelbarrow, cutting his knee in the process. Dear me! Badger needs to do something to turn his rotten day into one that is not so full of accidents, and so he heads off to find his friends. Maybe if he leaves home his day will improve.
It turns out that Badger is not the only one having a bad day. Raccoon’s clothesline has broken, Stag has lost his ball, Squirrel has a scratch, Rabbit’s fishing line is tangled, Fox’s front door is blocked, and Mouse cannot figure out how to bake a cake. The bad day seems to be touching everyone in the forest.
Everyone has bad days sometimes, days when nothing seems to go right and when one wishes one could go back to bed. In this charming picture book we meet a badger who is having just such a day and who does his best to turn a bad day into a good one. Children who are having (or have had) a bad day of their own will really appreciate why the animals in the story are so upset.
I used to consider the idea of a novel written in verse rather intimidating. How could such a thing work? Wouldn't it be hard to read? Then, some years ago I read a wonderful mid-grade novel in verse and I became a staunch fan of this storytelling form. In fact, much gleeful rubbing of hands takes place when a new novel in verse arrives at my house.
Today's poetry title is a novel in verse that moved me so much that I felt compelled to read it twice in one day. There is so much to be found in the words, and so much to consider as one comes to understand what Garvey's life has been like.Garvey’s Choice
Boyds Mills Press, 2016, 978-1-62979-740-3
One of Garvey’s favorite things in life is books, in particular ones that are full of science fiction stories that transport him to distant galaxies. Unfortunately, Garvey’s dad does not appreciate Garvey’s love of books. In fact he is scornful of his son’s interest in books and constantly comments that Garvey should play sports, and that he should roughhouse the way he did with his dad. Being active in this way is the “normal” thing for a boy to do. He constantly tries to turn Garvey into “someone I’m not.”
Garvey’s father’s disdain and lack of understanding makes Garvey seek refuge in food and sweet drinks, and so he has gained weight. His father’s words cut into Harvey, and were it not for his mother, his big sister, and his best friend, Jo, Garvey would be completely alone.
Garvey’s already difficult life gets a lot worse when he goes back to school in the fall. He is teased and bullied about his size and he takes refuge in hummed songs so that he can drown out the cutting words of his persecutors. For Garvey, his own music, or the music he hears around him, soothes and makes his inner pain less acute.
One day Garvey asks his father about his grandfather and learns that his grandfather was a strong silent type too. It is no surprise then that Garvey’s father is not exactly chatty. He also learns that his father and grandfather connected by talking about football, and Garvey realizes that maybe this is why his father so much wants Garvey to be interested in football too.
One day at school Jo encourages Garvey to join the chorus club. Garvey goes around humming all the time anyway so why not. In Jo’s opinion Garvey’s voice is “choice,” and he should “let others hear it.” Garvey is afraid to try chorus for a while, but finally he gets up the courage to go to a club meeting. Afraid to the bone he still manages to show the people in the club what he can do and he is accepted promptly. Suddenly Garvey’s life opens up and there is joy in it. The singing is wonderful, and he even makes a new friend, a boy called Manny who, like Garvey, has a father who disapproves of him.
Though Garvey’s new hobby makes him happy, he refuses to tell his parents about it. What if his father disapproves? Surely it is safer not to give his father more ammunition to use against him.
Written using a series of tankas, a Japanese poetry form, this incredible novel in verse takes us into the life of a unhappy boy who, as we ‘watch,’ finds a new interest that has a profound effect on his life. Nikki Grimes captures to perfection the way in which music can transform a person, and how it can open doors that have always been firmly closed before.
At the back of the book the author tells us a little about tankas and how they are written.
Many children are put off when they see a book that is full of words. They want pictures to look at, not words! After all, how can words possibly take the place of pictures. In today's picture book we meet a young duck who has this reaction when he finds a book that has no artwork in it. As the story unfolds, the duck discovers something rather remarkable about words, something that opens up a whole new world to him.This is not a picture Book
Chronicle, 2016, 978-1-4521-2907-5
One day a duckling finds a book and, full of expectation, he picks it up. When he opens the book he discovers that the book has no pictures in it, only words. What is the point of a book that has no pictures in it! The duckling then gives the book a hefty kick, but he does not stay angry for long. After all, it’s not the book’s fault that it is picture-less. Feeling a little bad about his behavior, the duckling picks the book up and apologizes for his outburst.
Then a little caterpillar comes along and asks the duckling what the book is. The duckling explains that it is a book “with no pictures,” and the insect then asks if the bird can read what the words say. The duckling is not sure if he can, but he starts trying to figure the words out even though it is not easy for him to do so. He finds words that are funny, and words that are sad. There are even words that “carry you away...”
In this marvelous picture book a little duckling discovers that a book that does not have pictures is actually quite a miraculous thing. Words take more work to figure out than pictures, but in the end the work is worth it. Children are going to love the way this narrative ends, and they may even begin to think about what it is going to be like for them when they can read books, word-filled books, for themselves.
The opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Games takes place today in Rio, and so I thought it would be fitting to bring you a book that celebrates the games. In this title, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork are combined to show readers why the Olympic Games came into being and what it is like to participate in them.
G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet
Illustrated by Doug Bowles
Nonfiction and Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 11
Sleeping Bear Press, 2011, 978-1585364626
Long ago in ancient Greece, wars between the city-states were a common occurrence. The only time peace could be guaranteed was every four years, when the citizens of the city-states would lay down their arms for a month and come together to compete as athletes. The games were hosted in the town of Olympia, and the men who won the races and other events were given an olive wreath to wear.
The modern Olympic Games came into being because Baron Pierre de Coubertin felt that the “a modern version of the Olympic Games would foster peace between nations.” Because of his efforts, there has been a summer Olympic Games every four years since 1896 except in 1916, 1940, and 1944, which were, ironically, all years when the world was being torn apart by war.
In this fascinating fact-packed alphabet book, Brag Herzog tells us about the Olympic Games from A to Z. Beginning with Ancient Greece on the A page, he goes on to tells us about Baron Pierre de Coubertin on the B page. On the “C is for all the countries page,” we learn that in 2008 two hundred countries sent athletes to the Summer Olympics. Next is D for decathlete. On this page, we learn that for two days decathletes who up to the daunting task compete in ten events. These events include shot put, long jump, high jump, and running.
For each of the topics explored in this book, the author gives us a poem that introduces the subject. He supplements this with a more in-depth section of text. Young children will enjoy the hearing the poems and looking at the art, while older readers will be interested in reading the longer text sections. This format makes this book suitable for readers of all ages, from age 6 and up.
This is one of the titles in a series of alphabet books published by Sleeping Bear Press.
On August 6th, 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Thousands of people died that day, and many thousands died in the months and years that followed from their injuries, radiation sickness, and cancer. One of these people was a little girl called Sadako. Her story is now famous, and it has touched the hearts of people all over the world. Today I have her story in picture book form, and it is presented in a way that makes this true story accessible to children.Sadako’s Cranes
Translated by Kate Westerlund
Minedition, 2015, 978-988-8341-00-9
One sunny August day in 1945 a little girl called Sadako and her pet cat were playing by the bank of the river. They lay on the grass, eat rice balls, and tried to catch crickets. Then a big black cloud drifted over everything and with the cloud came “fire and heat.” The cloud destroyed everything around them, and when it passed “Nothing was left but gray ash.”
The years went by and people began to think less about that terrible day and the black cloud. Life went on. Then Sadoko became sick and she had to go to hospital. They learned that the black cloud was responsible for her illness. Sadoko’s brother told her about a legend that said “If you fold 1,000 paper cranes, you’ll get to make a wish.”
Sadoko wanted to get well so she started folding paper cranes. Making the cranes made her happy but doing so also tired her out. Sadoko’s cat kept her company, and tried to keep her spirits up by telling her “stories about things I knew she loved.”
This tale is based on the true story of a real little girl. Sadako Sasaki was living in Hiroshima, Japan, when an atomic bomb was dropped on that city on August 6, 1945. As a result of the radiation, Sadako, like so many other people who lived in Hiroshima, developed leukemia. She heard about the legend of the paper cranes and began to make as many of the origami creations as she could.
By telling the story from the point of view of a cat, the author and illustrator of this beautiful, moving tale adds a layer of intimacy to what is already a powerful story. At the back of the book she tells us a little about the real Sadako and her legacy.
One of the things that makes nursery rhymes so appealing are the colorful characters that feature in them. Often the characters do wonderfully strange and amusing things that make us laugh when the rhymes are read to us. In today's poetry title we encounter some of the most charming characters that live in the world of nursery rhymes.The people of the town: Nursery-Rhyme Friends for You and Me
Selected and illustrated by Alan Marks
Charlesbridge, 2016, 978-1-58089-726-6
Nursery rhymes are packed with colorful characters; men, women, and children who do all kinds of things that delight us and often make us laugh. In this marvelous collection, Alan Marks pairs his wonderful artwork with some carefully selected nursery rhymes so that we can get to know a few of these nursery rhyme individuals. Some of them will be familiar to us, but some will be newcomers whom we have never even heard of.
Our visit with the people living in the nursery rhyme town begins with Gregory Griggs. This fellow has a staggering twenty-seven wigs, and he wears them to impress the people in his town. The problem is that he has no idea which of his wigs he likes best.
Then there is Mary whose pet lamb follows her to school one day. This is, of course, against the rules and so the teacher makes the lamb leave. The lamb, being a determined little creature, stays nearby and waits for its little mistress to appear. The children cannot understand why the lamb loves Mary so much, so the teacher explains that it is because “Mary loves the lamb, you know.”
As the pages turn we encounter the grand old Duke of York who marched his men up and then down the hill. There is Dr. Foster who stepped into a puddle “Right up to his middle,” and Little Bop Peep who lost her sheep. There are little stories that make us laugh, and some that are delightfully peculiar. There are descriptions of things that people do, and finally there are rhymes that sooth and make us want to fall asleep.
Graphic novels have been around for a long time, but English language titles in this genre that are suitable for younger readers are a more recent phenomenon. Thankfully First Second books and other publishers are now creating many wonderful graphic novels for children and young adults. There are books that are suited to readers who are just starting their reading journey, and there are also books for readers who are comfortable with complex and rich stories.
Today's picture book title is a mostly wordless graphic novel that young children will find captivating. In the story there are robots, a strong-willed, tool-wielding little girl, and plenty of action-filled adventure. What more can one ask for.Little Robot
First Second, 2015, 978-1-62672-080-0
One day a little girl sneaks out of her trailer home and she sets off to explore. She sees the other kids going to school, she plays on the swing set in an old man’s yard, and then she goes to a place where lots of old cars are piled up. She finds an old set of tools in a belt, which she takes and slings across her shoulder. Then she sees a box floating in a stream. She pulls the box out of the water, opens it, and finds out that it contains a strange metal canister. When she presses a button on the top of the canister it starts to open up.
The little girl runs away to hide in an old car and watches as the canister opens up some more and then turns into a robot; a not very coordinated robot that tips over on its back when it tries to walk. It lies there with its legs flailing until the little girl takes pity on it and helps it get back on its feet. When the robot tries to walk again it falls flat on its face. Clearly the little machine needs help figuring out how to walk, and the little girl is the one who gives it that help. She also teaches the robot that a cat is not something to be afraid of, and that flowers are alive.
What the robot and the little girl don’t know is that a machine in the factory knows that one of the robots is missing and a large and rather terrifying retrieval robot has been sent to find it.
The next day the little girl and her new friend explore together again. The robot turns out to be very good at skipping stones and the two of them have a wonderful time.
On the third day the little girl and the little robot have a falling out when the little robot seems to prefer hanging out with a broken down car than with her. The girl walks away in a huff. Luckily for the little robot the little girl sees something that makes her think that perhaps something is amiss. She runs back to her mechanical friend just in time to rescue him from being captured by the enormous retrieval robot. They manage to get away from the terrible machine, but their troubles are far from over. The machine is not going to give up without a fight.
This delightful mostly wordless graphic novel tells the story of a special friendship We meet a courageous little girl whose skills with a wrench and screwdriver helps her to do something special. She is the quintessential heroine, and when they get to the end of the story readers will most certainly be left with a warm, fuzzy feeling in their hearts.
When I was growing up, not many writers were creating poetry for young readers. We are very lucky that there are so many marvelous poets today who are busy scribbling away so that our children have many volumes of poetry to choose from when them go to a library or a bookshop. I love seeing the new books appear on the shelves, but every so often I like to turn back the clock and go back to collections of poems that were written long ago. Today's poetry book is just such a title.Early Moon
Illustrated by James Daugherty
Mariner Books, 1978, 978-0156273268
Over the centuries, many people have tried to explain what poetry is, and more often than not they end up posing new questions instead of answering the original one. Carl Sandburg, who was a marvelous poet, felt that “If poems could be explained, then poets would have to leave out roses, sunsets, faces from their poems,” which would be a terrible shame. These things and many others “have mystery, significance, and a heavy or light beauty, an appeal, a lesson and a symbolism that stays with us long as we live.” Perhaps it is better that poetry cannot be explained. Perhaps we should just enjoy it and leave it at that.
The poems in this collection will certainly give the reader joy. They are divided into categories, which are: Pictures of today, Children, Wind and Sea, Portraits, Birds and Bugs, Night
, and End Thoughts.
On these pages we will meet a worker who “painted on the roof of a skyscraper,” and for him the people below “were the same as bugs.” We meet Dan, an Irish setter puppy who finds a sheltered corner where there is “all / sun and no wind.” Here Dan lies “dozing in a half sleep.” We hear about the people “who go forth before daylight,” the policeman, the teamster, and the milkman, who work while others are still asleep in their beds.
Then there are the poems that capture special moments in time, each of which is significant in a unique way. In the poem Soup the narrator tells us about how he saw a man who was eating soup. The man was famous and was mentioned in the papers that day. Thousands of people talked about him, but to the narrator he was just a man “Putting soup in his mouth with a spoon.” In Splinter we capture that moment when “The voice of the last cricket” is heard when the first frost touches the land. The insect’s song is like a goodbye, a “splinter of singing” in the cold air.
This is a wonderful collection that will appeal to both children and adults. There is something here for everyone. On the pages readers will find little touches of childhood, descriptions, stories, odes to things lost, and so much more.
Sometimes the people we love the most, our friends and family members, like to do odd things. Sometimes they have strange hobbies or habits that don't really make sense to us, but we go along for the ride because we care about them and want to be with them. In this picture book a dog goes on a very strange journey with his hedgehog friend. He does not quite understand what the hedgehog is doing or why he is doing it, but he goes on the trip all the same.Buddy and Earl go exploring
Illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
Groundwood, 2016, 978-1-55498-714-6
Buddy has had a long day and he is looking forward to snuggling down on his bed for a good night’s sleep. Buddy’s people put Earl the hedgehog in his nice new cage, and then they turn off the light and go to bed. Buddy closes his eyes and is just nodding off when Earl tells him that he is going on a trip.
Buddy is very fond of Earl and does not really like the idea of his friend going off for an indefinite period of time, but Buddy does his best to be brave and he says goodbye to Earl and wishes him “Good luck!” Earl then climbs into his exercise wheel and starts running. He runs and runs and when he stops he sees that the place he has come to “looks eerily similar to the place I just left.” Which is not surprising.
Earl is thrilled when he sees that Buddy is with him in the ‘new’ place. After all, “Exploring is always more fun if you do it with a friend.” Together they set off to explore, with Earl’s very fertile imagination leading the way. Somehow, in the kitchen, they encounter a silvery lake, they eat a feast, Buddy saves a “lovely lady hedgehog trapped in the jaws of a monster,” and in turn Earl saves Buddy from another monster.
In this second Buddy and Earl book, Earl once again let’s his imagination run wild, and though Buddy is a rather literal dog, he goes along for the ride. Children will find it not to laugh out loud when they see how Earl takes the most ordinary of things and turns them into something wonderful. Best of all they will love seeing how the two very different friends stay true to each other no matter what.
When I was growing up on the island of Cyprus, summer was all about going to the beach. Here in Oregon we have lots of beaches, but only nutters venture into the water because it is so cold. Sunbathing isn't really an option either much of the time because it is too chilly. Still, the beaches are beautiful and we all enjoy walking and tide pooling, and my husband spends hours looking for rocks.
Since summer is now officially here, I thought I would kick things off with a beach book. Enjoy!Mr. Hulot at the beach
NorthSouth, 2016, 978-0-7358-4254-0
It is a sunny day at the seaside and Mr. Hulot is going to spend some time on the beach. He has a deck chair, an umbrella, a tennis racket and everything else a gentleman might need for such an expedition. He buys a newspaper and then heads for the sands, where he fights with the deck chair for a while trying to get it to cooperate. Which it does. Sort of.
As he reads his newspaper, an inflated beach ball lands on Mr. Hulot. Some people might get upset by a disturbance of this sort, but Mr. Hulot does not mind. He kicks the ball to the little boy it belongs to and, in the process, Mr. Hulot’s shoe comes flying off and lands in the water. He manages to rescue the shoe (using his shrimping net) and then puts it on top of his umbrella to dry.
A passing seagull sees the shoe and decides that it is just what it needs. It swoops down and carries off the shoe, with Mr. Hulot in hot pursuit. Causing a great disruption at the hotel, Mr. Hulot climbs up onto the roof of the building to retrieve the shoe, only to find that the seagull has laid some eggs in it. There is nothing for it. Mr. Hulot returns to the ground shoe-less.
One would think that this escaped would be more than enough of an adventure for one man to have during a sojourn at the seaside, but Mr. Hulot is not your average man and so more misadventures lie in wait for him after he returns to the beach.
Inspired by the work of the French comic actor and filmmaker, Jacques Tati, David Merveille brings Tati’s wonderful Mr. Hulot character to life in this, his second, Mr. Hulot book. The story is wordless and takes readers on a wonderful series of mishaps that are sweetly funny.
All too often, when we read a story or a piece of poetry, we have no idea who the author is or what kind of life he or she lived or is living. I chose to review today's poetry book because it gives readers some poems to read, of course, but it also gives readers a picture of what the poet who wrote those poems was like. I found that this format helped me appreciate the poems all the more.
E. E. Cummings: A Poet's Life
For ages 12 and up
Clarion Books, 2006, 978-0618568499
Many of us imagine that poets are gentle souls who are quiet, bookish people living safe and secluded lives. Edward Estlin Cummings was not such a person at all . It is true that he began to write poetry from a very early age, and he did read a great deal, but he also believed that it was essential for a person to experience life to the fullest. He therefore traveled a great deal, he was a red-cross driver during World War I, and he insisted that he should do his duty when he was called up to be a soldier during that same war, even though he was a pacifist. Summings also left the comfort of his home in New England to live in Greenwich Village in New York City, where he could share in the lives of fellow writers, painters, poets, and thinkers. He did not want a life of safety and sameness. He wanted to feel and discover, he wanted to stretch himself.
And this is just what he did. He also stretched the boundaries of poetry in ways that no one had seen before. Estlin changed all the rules, removing punctuation, capitalizations, the form of the words on the page, and so much more. He challenged his readers to look at the words in a whole new way and he made them think about his ideas. Some people loved what he created. Others could not stand his radically different concepts. Why, they asked, did he make his words slide across the page in that messy way? Why did he use the lower case i all the time? Estlin had his reasons, and he was part of a movement that was challenging people to look at poetry, writing, and art in a new way.
This wonderfully written title gives readers a thorough and often startling picture of the life of E.E. Cummings, and it also give readers a picture of an era; of a time of great change when people of all kinds were looking for new ways to express themselves. The author makes great use of Cummings' poems to demonstrate what he trying to do with his writing, and thus she gives her readers a taste of the poet's work at different points in his life.
Well written, and very carefully researched, this book is an excellent example of how a biography for older children should be crafted and presented.
Most of us have something about our bodies that we don't like, that we wish we could change. Our hair is too straight/curly. Our legs are too fat/skinny. Our lips are too plump/thin. In this book you will meet a bird who, thanks to the remarks of others, thinks his legs are too thin. You will also see how, thanks to a fortuitous visit to an art gallery, the bird finds a very unique solution to his problem.Bob the artist
Laurence King, 2016, 978-1-78067-767-5
One day Bob the bird decides to go for a walk. It is a beautiful day and he sets off in good humor on his “fine legs.” Unfortunately, Bob seems to be the only animal who thinks his legs are fine. Cat thinks that they are skinny, and Owl thinks that Bob has a “funny stick walk.” Worse still the other birds all make comments about how “puny” Bob’s legs are. Not surprisingly, all this teasing makes Bob feel rather blue. He decides that what he needs to do is to do lots of exercise to make his legs bigger.
Bob goes to the gym and he diligently lifts weights, runs, and does yoga poses. When that does not work, he tries eating a lot to gain weight, but, as so often happens, the weight ends up all around his middle and none of it goes into his thin legs.
Bob finally determines that the only thing to do is to hide his legs under clothes, but the leg warmers, skirts, and coats just make him feel “ridiculous.”
Bob then visits an art gallery. The colors and designs that he sees on the canvasses inspire him to do something unique and creative about his leg problem.
Children are going to love seeing how Bob finds a wonderful, and colorful, solution to a problem that makes him very unhappy. Art therapy comes in many forms and this one is truly unique.
When I was a child I lived in a country that was being torn apart by a civil war. Often my parents were busy trying to work, trying to find supplies, trying to figure out what to do next, and I had to spend a lot of time alone. I think those times would have been easier to bear if there had been another child around to share my fears with.
In today's poetry title we see how two sisters lean on each other during hard times. They squabble of course, but mostly they help and support one another. Together they are better able to face an uncertain future and loneliness.Amber was Brave, Essie was Smart
HarperCollins, 2004, 978-0060294601
Amber and Essie are sisters, and though they have their differences they are very close. Their mother works long hours, and so they only really spend time with her on Sundays, which is her full day off each week. On the other days, after school, they go to a neighbor’s house for two days and a cousin’s house for two days. On Saturdays they are mostly take care of each other, which they are pretty good at doing.
Some time ago Amber and Essie’s father was arrested for forging a check and now he is in prison. Times have been hard ever since. Sometimes the phone bill doesn’t get paid, and often there really isn’t a lot to eat in the apartment. The girls do the best they can, taking refuge in their bed when it is cold or when they are sad, curled up against each other so that they are like a “Best sandwich” with Wilson their teddy bear between them.
Using a series of poems, Vera B. Williams take us into the lives of two little girls. We see the good times and the painful ones, and it isn’t long before we start hoping that Amber, who isn’t afraid of the rat that lives behind the wall, and Essie, who can cook toasted cheese sandwiches, will get the happiness and security that they deserve. This special book serves as a powerful celebration of siblinghood.
Nature is full of beauty. It is also full of fascinating stories that describe the ways in which plants and animals have adapted over time to perfectly fit into their environment. These stories have always captivated me, which is why I was drawn to today's poetry title. In this book readers will find poems and real-life stories about the plants and animals that make their homes in meadows.Butterfly Eyes and other secrets of the meadow
Illustrated by Beth Krommes
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 12
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006, 978-0618-56313-5
The first touches of dawn’s light touches the plants and the trees in the meadow. In this time of “almost-light,” something lies on leaves, grass blades, spider webs, and on the wings of insects. When the sun’s warmth touches these things, the drops start to disappear. What are these “jewels of the dawn?”
At this same time of day a creature waits to be warmed by the sun, for only with that warmth can it start to move, to “flex” and loosen, and to prepare for that first leap of the day. What is this creature?
When they read the text that follows these two poems, readers soon find out that the “jewels of the dawn” are drops of dew, and the creature who so needs the warmth of the sun is a grasshopper. We learn what dew is, and why the grasshopper is sluggish until it is warmed up.
In the next poem we encounter some small sleeping creatures that are furry and that have long ears. As they sleep they have their “Paws folded close beneath whisker and chin.” Not far away is another creature that is already up and about. He trots through the meadow, on a mission. What are these animals?
On the next page we learn that the mysterious “He” we met a moment ago is a fox, and the sleeping bundles of fur are baby rabbits that are safe from foxes and other predators in their nest of grasses and fur.
In this wonderful poetry picture book the poet offers readers two poems in which she describes something, and then she poses the question “What am I?” or some version of that question. She then answers the questions on the next spread, and thus we learn about all kinds of wonderful things that can be found in a meadow in summer. Among other things, we learn that spittlebugs create nests of spit that look like little patches of foamy bubbles, and that monarch butterflies are immune to the toxins in milkweed plants. In fact, their caterpillars are even able to safely eat the leaves.
Some of the poems in this beautifully illustrated collection rhyme and some do not. There are concrete poems and poems that seem to hop and skip back and forth across the page. In fact the poems come in so many wonderful forms that readers never know what is going to come next.
This rich and powerful gathering of poems and prose will give readers a sense of the wonder that the author clearly feels for nature.
When I was young I read a lot of fairy tales. I was given a collection of books written by Ruth Manning Sanders that were full of stories about giants, witches, fairies, ogres and other baddies. I loved those books and I was particularly fond of the tales where the baddies turned out not to be so bad after all. In today's picture book you will encounter the softer side of some baddies, the side that emerges at the end of the day when they are tired and in need of comfort and friendship.Good Night, Baddies
Illustrated by Juli Kangas
Simon and Schuster, 2016, 978-1-4814-0984-1
The sun is setting and the baddies in the kingdom, worn out by all the bad things that they have done that day, head for the castle that they call home. In ones and twos a giant, an evil queen, a dragon, wolves, witches, a troll, a gnome and others arrive on foot, and through the air. As they enter the castle, they share their news. Did the giant catch Jack the giant killer? Was a treasure that was stolen found?
After a meal is eaten together in fellowship and harmony, the various baddies head off to prepare for bed. The queen takes off her crown and puts on her pajamas. She puts away her poisoned apple, which she will give to Snow White on “another day.” The troll, who has spent so much time waiting for the three goats gruff under his bridge, is having a long bubble bath.
Dressed in their pajamas, Rumpelstiltskin and a wolf settle in front of a crackling fire to read a story, “one that’s sweet, not grim or gory.” One of the other baddies gives the dragon a drink.
When it is time for bed, the witches check under the giant’s bed to make sure that there are no princesses there. After all, they don’t want their large friend to be scared and therefore sleepless.
Most of us are used to booing and hissing at the baddies that we encounter in fairy tales. We route for Little Red Riding Hood, and are pleased when the wicked queen fails to kill Snow White. In this picture book these same baddies that we love to hate are presented to us in a different light. They are tired and weary baddies who, now that their daily baddie work is complete, want the same comforts of home that the rest of us like to enjoy. Children will be tickled to see wolves behaving politely at the dinner table, and a gnome waiting to have a bath, a rubber ducky under his arm. They will find themselves feeling sorry for the giant who is afraid of princesses under his bed, and be comforted by the ways in which the baddies look after one another. It would appear that even baddies have a side that is not-so-bad.
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There is something incredibly soothing about reading poetry. As it is not prose, the form of writing we are most used to, we tend to take our time with poetry, slowing down our reading so that we can take in the words. Of late the news has been full of awfulness of the worst kind and I have found myself taking refuge from the headlines by reading novels that are written in verse. For a while at least I get a break from violence, anger, frustration, and loss. For children, perhaps today's poetry book will offer a similar little break from the tension that is rippling through our world.The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
HarperCollins, 2005, 978-0060737764
One of the best ways to help children engage with poetry is to create poems that make them laugh, or poems that engage the imagination. Jack Prelutsky is a master when it comes to writing poems that contain just the right amount of delightfully silly fun to keep children coming back for more. He also paints pictures with his words to such great effect that children are also drawn to his gentler, more lyrical poems as well.
In this poetry collection, animal and human characters do all kinds of delightful things, the kinds of things that children will enjoy reading about. We begin with a quintet of frogs (wearing red shorts with red suspenders) and a quartet of pigs (in purple vests) who are on a stage. They are singing to an audience of chickens and ducks, all of whom are sitting “upon their nests.” One would think that the noise would scare the birds away, but they are delighted by the croaky and oinky “serenade.” So much so in fact that they “laid enormous spangled eggs / and quacked and clucked with pride.”
In I went to a store
we meet a fellow who goes to a store where the storekeepers don’t have any of the things he wants. Instead, they sell him things that he really does not need at all. For example, instead of selling him a pear and a plum they sell him a drum, and instead of some cheese he ends up with a lamp. Clearly this is the kind of store that he should avoid in future!
Then there is Sarah Small who grows all kinds of clothing in her garden. There are galoshes “short and tall,” as well as “Shirts of yellow, hats of red.” If you need pajamas, sweaters, ties, or mittens, shoes or stockings, this is the place to come, for Sarah Small has them all.
This is a book where there is something for everyone, and for every mood. Readers will enjoy dipping into to this poetry collection, and they will come back to it again and again.