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1. The Cat with Seven Names - an audiobook review

(My review of The Cat with Seven Names, as it appeared in the April, 2014, edition of School Library Journal.)

Johnson, Tony. The Cat with Seven Names. 1 CD. 15 min. Recorded
Books. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490602479. digital

PreS-Gr 2— A plump, seemingly stray cat wanders occasionally into the home of an older librarian. She names her visitor Stuart Little. At an elderly neighbor's home, he receives the moniker Kitty-boy, while a lonely Mexican man names him Placido for his "singing" voice. A homeless vet calls him Dove, for the peace he brings. Only the cat is lacking his own voice in this heartwarming story of a busy neighborhood, full of unconnected adults. Each character has his or her own first-person narrator, each distinctly different. The Hispanic man peppers his speech with Spanish words, as he first meets "Placido" on a day when it rains gatos y perros. Humorous wordplay abounds throughout, in which the cat is the common fixture in the lives of seven adults and a young girl. When the cat has a near accident, the full cast calls out seven different names, as each rushes to save the feline that has befriended them all; and through the cat, they befriend each other. The Cat with Seven Names will be sold with and without its corresponding picture book. Consider purchasing the set. Absent illustrations, the steady stream of elderly and adult voices may not be enough to hold a child's attention.

Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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2. The QwikPick Papers: Poop Fountain - a review

Angleberger, Tom. 2014. The QwikPick Papers: Poop Fountain! New York: Abrams.

(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher)

A bi-racial, Jehovah's Witness girl; a poor boy from the trailer park; a nerdy Jewish boyall victims of school bullying.

Sounds like a perfect trio of protagonists for a serious book of realistic fiction, doesn't it? But it's notnot really. These are the founding members of Tom Angleberger's hilarious new creation, the QwikPick Adventure Society, which makes its debut in a new series, The QwikPick Papers.

So, what do this Jehovah's Witness, Jew, and very poor kid have in common? At first, only that each has nothing to do on Christmas Day.  Marilla and Dave don't celebrate Christmas and don't enjoy spending time at home.  Lyle's parents have to work at the QwikPick convenience store all day. But don't feel sorry for them.  It's the perfect day for a secret mission to visit the Poop Fountain, an antiquated aeration device at the town's waste water treatment plant.

Written as an illustrated "report" by the QwikPick Adventure Society, this novel of only 135 pages, Poop Fountain! is stomach-churning disgusting at times, and hilariously funny at others.  That's why kids will love it, but it's not why you should.

You should love it because Angleberger has proved again (as in the Origami Yoda series) that he can tackle sensitive subjects with charm and  a good deal of humor.

     Everybody else was talking about the Super Bowl coming up that weekend, but we all agreed that it was stupid and football was stupid and the Redskins' mascot was stupid.
     Unfortunately, Jeremy heard me saying something and hollered down the table, "Hey, if we wanted any of your crap, I'd beat it out of you."
     "Shove it, Jeremy," said Dave, which was the nicest thing anyone had ever said in my honor.
     When it was time to go, Marilla said, "Hey, if you want, I'll save this seat for you tomorrow."
     That was when, without them even knowing it, Marilla and Dave became my best friends.

Other reasons for you to love Poop Fountain!, "shout-outs" to
  • The Hoboken Chicken Emergency
  • Fred Astaire
  • The Princess Bride (the movie)
  • the BBC
Coming to a bookshelf near you in May, 2014.  Can't wait 'til May?  It's on NetGalley now.

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3. National Library Week

It's National Library Week! 

I encourage you not only to celebrate and patronize your library, but also to consider become an advocate for libraries and librarians.   Below are some of the ways you can help your favorite library.

Take an interest in any of the following:
  • @yourlibrary, The Campaign for America's Libraries, whose goal is "to promote the value of libraries and librarians."
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services, whose mission is "to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. ... IMLS supports the full range of libraries, including public, academic, research, special and tribal, and the full range of museums including art, history, science and technology, children’s museums, historical societies, tribal museums, planetariums, botanic gardens and zoos." 
  • Your child's school library. Ask questions about your child's library. Is it staffed by a professional librarian? What is its annual book budget? How often do students have an opportunity to visit the library? Let school administrators know that the school library is important to you and your child.
  • Your school's library. Are you a teacher? Your school's media specialist can work with you to ensure that your students have the resources and skills they need for important projects. Make it a point to meet with your school's librarian or media specialist on a regular basis.
  • Your professional organizations.  Are you a librarian? The American Library Association or your state's library association are your "voice" to the general public. Support them and they will support you.
Don't just take my word for it.  Listen to Judy Blume. 

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4. Picture Book Roundup - Wordless edition

It's been ages since I've done a picture book roundup!  Here are two wordless masterpieces.

  • Becker, Aaron. 2013. Journey. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Harold and the Purple Crayon for a new generation.  Beautiful!

  • Kim, Patti. 2014. Here I Am. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press. 
An insightful story of a young boy's experience in emigrating from Asia to the United States.

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5. Molly Danger - comics in audiobook?

Recently, I reviewed an audiobook version of a comic book.  It sounded crazy to me, but it works!  Below is my review as it appeared in the April/May 2014, issue of AudioFile Magazine.


Jamal Igle

Read by Olivia DuFord, Robin Miles, Lance Roger Axt, and a Full Cast

Crunch! Kaboom! Pow! A superhero action comic in audiobook format? Yes! With sound effects including crashing cars, screaming citizens, beeping computers, and whirring helicopter rotors, AudioComics brings this new series to life with a full cast of narrators. Likable Molly Danger is a super strong, immortal 10-year-old alien who is never far from action. Orphaned when her parents' ship crashed to the earth, she was recruited by the Danger Action Response Team (D.A.R.T.) to fight the evil Supermechs, who threaten Earth. Quiet music accompanies Molly's sad and lonely backstory scenes, while techno pop and suspenseful music highlight battle and chase sequences. Multiple narrators and excellent special effects make it easy to follow this fast-moving audio comic. L.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

Children • 1 hr. • Audio Program • © 2013

Copyright © 2014 AudioFile MagazineReprinted with permission.

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6. Lulu's Mysterious Mission - a booktalk

I'm still working my way through all the books I picked up at the ALA Midwinter Meeting.  Lulu's Mysterious Mission is the third installment in this illustrated, chapter book series.  I don't know why I never got around to reading the first two, but I'm making it up with a booktalk and a book trailer.  Enjoy!

Viorst, Judith. 2014. Lulu's Mysterious Mission. New York: Atheneum.
(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher - artwork not final)

Lulu's Mysterious Mission - a booktalk

Lulu's parents are going away on vacation, and they're doing the heretofore unthinkable, they're going without Lulu! When she meets her babysitter, the militant, Ms. Sonia Sofia Solinsky, and eats her first bean-and-beet omelet (a "taste" of things to come), Lulu begins to hatch some desperate plans.

Eeny meeny miney mo,
That babysitter’s got to go.
Sooner, not later,
Fast, not slow.
That babysitter's got to go.

Funny with frequent asides by the author, Lulu's Mysterious Mission will appeal to humor fans, ages 6-10. Oh, and, yes, there may be a mysterious mission.

On a bookshelf near you, beginning April, 2014.

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7. The Mad Potter - a review

Greenberg, Jan and Sandra Jordan. 2013. The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius. New York: Roaring Brook.

This book, recognized as a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, one of 2013's most distinguished informational books, is a photo-filled biography of George E. Ohr, a master of art pottery. A colorful character and far cry from the reticent or taciturn artist stereotype, Ohr was a self-proclaimed,
 "rankey krankey solid individualist," the "Greatest Art Potter on Earth," and "born free and patriotic, blowing my own bugle."

George E. Ohr pottery workshopSadly, his bravado did not serve him well in his lifetime, as one fan wrote,

"Mr. Ohr is by no means a crank, but is a naturally bright, even brilliant man, who has been led into the belief that the way for him to attain publicity is through the channel of preposterous advertising, and the signs which he placed round Biloxi do him more harm than good."
Still, he was confident in his own mastery of his craft, and future generations came to recognize that he was indeed brilliant.  The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art was built in his honor, and houses a permanent exhibition of his work.

The Mad Potter is a narrative chronology and includes a history of the museum, instructions on how to create a clay pot, extensive Notes, Bibliography and Picture Credits, and my favorite - "How to Look at a Pot," a useful interpretation of the language and method used in describing and evaluating pottery.

A fascinating glimpse into an artist's life, the art of pottery, and the nature and mindset of the art-collecting world.

Want to see the works of George Ohr?  There is a Pinterest board titled, "George Ohr & His Biloxi Pottery," dedicated to displaying photos of George Ohr and his creations.  Be sure to take a gander.

Today is Nonfiction Monday, and also the final day of our KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month celebration.  Please be sure to catch up on all of the wonderful posts!


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8. It's Friday

Happy Friday!
It's been a very long and busy week for me (and I've been sick with bronchitis), but things keep moving on, and so will I.  Here's your news for Friday.

I'm blogging at ALSC today.  I hope you'll check out,  "You know you're a children's librarian when ...

Our annual celebration of Women's History Month and literature for young people continues.  Today features artist Jill McElmurry and her new book, The Tree Lady, which I reviewed earlier.  Please check out all the wonderful author, artist and librarian posts at KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month!

And finally, it's STEM Friday, the weekly roundup of posts dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in children's literature.  

Have a great weekend.

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9. I Even Funnier - an audiobook review

Below is my review of I Even Funnier: A Middle School Story, as it appeared in the March, 2014, edition of School Library Journal. I loved it!

PATTERSON, James & Chris Grabenstein. I Even Funnier: A Middle School Story. (I Funny Series, Bk. 2). 3 CDs. 4 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2013. $18. ISBN 9781478925156.

Gr 3–7—Wheelchair-bound Jamie Grimm is working on new material for his upcoming entry in the regional finals of the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic Contest. Patterson and Grabenstein pay homage to the timeless comedy of Abbott and Costello, Groucho Marx, and other greats, while introducing new jokes that speak directly to the middle school experience. Though it will date the series more quickly, references to trendy Vegas casinos and comedians such as Ray Romano, Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Wright, and Chris Rock give the book an air of hip relevancy. Can Jamie find humor in his bullying cousin, Uncle Frankie's medical emergency, and confusing relationships with Gilda Gold and "Cool Girl?" Yes, he can. And if you're wondering if a heavily illustrated comedic novel can make it as an audiobook, that's a yes, too. Young Frankie Seratch is perfectly cast as the narrator of this heartfelt and very funny look at middle school and family relationships. Seratch ensures that the humor comes across as intended, without a hint of mockery or maliciousness. A PDF companion file of the book's illustrations is included on disc three.


Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.

Note: I did not read or listen to the first book in the series, and had no trouble getting up to speed with the characters and story.

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10. Art Detective: Spot the Difference! a review

Remember when the Summer Reading theme was "Be Creative?" If you have an artistic inclination, those were the days - with painting, sculpture, and other creative arts in the forefront!  With the continued focus on the CCSS, and the upcoming science-driven theme of "Fizz, Boom, Read!", art runs the risk of being lost in the shuffle.  Thankfully, there is an effort to combine them - turning STEM into STEAM - adding Art to the traditional Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Here, however, is a book that's all art - specifically, painting.  Enjoy!

Kutschbach, Doris. 2014. Art Detective: Spot the Difference! New York: Prestel.

With the help of a cartoon dog named Charlie, readers explore famous paintings in an attempt to convict an art forger.

Hello! My name is Carl, but my friends call me Charlie the Sleuth.  I'm a detective who solves art crimes, and right now I'm working on a very difficult case.  It's about a shady artist and his forgeries - paintings he offers for sale that aren't really what they appear to be.   ...   Do you think you could help?  

... and with that, the reader (now an art detective) begins a page-by-page quest to spot the differences between famous paintings and forgeries.  Some are humorous.  In "The Sunday Stroll" by Carl Spitzweg, the portly father in the forgery sports a Pinocchio nose and a baseball cap.  Others are more subtle - the color of a parasol, insects in the tall grass.  In all, nineteen paintings (and their accompanying "forgeries") are presented, including VanGogh, Gaugin, Rousseau, and Cézanne. Each has 15-25 differences.

What makes this book so wonderful is that it invites a deep exploration of each painting.  Is greater realism produced by the blemish on a Cézanne melon?  Does the addition of a bird in Passarro's "Place du Théâtre" detract from the hustle and bustle of Parisian citizens? These are not questions that kids will answer, but subconsciously, they may begin to see them. The reader cannot simply flip through the pages.  If he does, the forger will not be found. By noting each mistake, he is compelled also to notice the aesthetic produced by the artist's choices.

The final pages offer thumbnails of each painting with the differences marked by X's.  A note is included about each painting, it's painter, and noting its current location.

Enjoy the search!

This book is marked with the seal of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), indicating that its paper was derived from "responsible sources."  This is the first time I've seen this logo.  I hope to see it more often!

Don't miss today's Nonfiction Monday postings, and be sure to catch up on all of the great posts on 
Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month

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11. Baseball Animals - a review

Whether or not you buy MLB's position that Opening Day is March 22, 2014 in Australia (Sorry Australia, baseball "down under" just doesn't feel right), baseball season, will soon be here. Opening Day for the US and Canada is March 31.

If you are a baseball fan, are raising a young baseball fan, or are trying to connect with a young baseball fan, here's the book for you - a marriage of baseball and animals!

Jordan, Christopher. 2014. Baseball Animals. Plattsburgh, NY: Fenn/Tundra.

Which MLB team shares its name with a songbird that loves acorns?
This blue, black and white bird is thought to be responsible for spreading the oak tree across North America.

If the beautiful photograph of my favorite bird on a stark white background doesn't give you the answer, just turn the page to reveal a full-page action shot of a Toronto Blue Jays batter. (Sorry that I don't know which one. Since they beat the Phillies in the 1993 World Series, I refuse to pay attention to the Blue Jays. We fans have long memories.)

Each baseball page features the team's logo, a full-page action photo taken at the ballpark, and some team uniform trivia.  Did you know that the Cardinals (often called the Redbirds) were not named for the beautiful bird, but rather for the color of their original uniforms? Their uniforms were cardinal red. So, presumably they are named after the traditional color of a Catholic cardinal's cassock.  Now that's a great baseball trivia question!

Fun and informative, this is a must-have for little baseball fans. I don't know why someone didn't think of it earlier!  An Appendix of MLB Teams and Logos rounds out the book - featuring all of the teams - even those sans animals on their logos.

Advance Reader Copy supplied by LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

In addition to being St. Patrick's Day, today is Nonfiction Monday.  Be sure to stop by the Nonfiction Monday blog for all of today's featured books.

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12. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot - in color!

Pilkey, Dav. 2014. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. New York: Scholastic. Illustrations by Dan Santat.

While at ALA Midwinter, I picked up an Advance Reader Copy of Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. I know what you're thinking - that's not a new book, that was published ages ago!  Yes, but it's back again, and this time in full color, with glossy pages and new "mini-comics" inside.

All of the Ricky Ricotta books will be reissued with new illustrations, and two brand new books are planned for January and March of 2015.  A big campaign is in the works ... stay tuned.

Read an excerpt and see the new illustrations on Scholastic's new Ricky Ricotta web page.

Coming to a bookshelf near you on April 29, 2014.

BTW, my Advance Reader Copy went home with a very happy young boy, one of my best readers. He was looking for my library's "checked-out" copy of the original Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot. Imagine the smile on his face when I gave him a new, as yet unpublished, full-color copy! (Luckily, I had read it at lunchtime.)

The original Ricky Ricotta artist, Martin Ontiveros deserves credit for helping to create a series that captured the imagination of a nearly a generation of children.  Dan Santat will refresh the series for the next generation.  Long live Dav Pilkey!

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13. The Night Gardener - a review

A short review today.  I rushed to finish, as I knew the kids in my book club would surely want to get their hands on it last week.  I was right.

Auxier, Jonathan. 2014. The Night Gardener. New York: Amulet.

Set in England aground the 1840s, The Night Gardener features an Irish gal with the gift of  blarney, her10-year-old brother with a lame leg and stout heart, a mysterious storyteller, and a strange family inhabiting a creepy mansion on an island in the middle of the sourwoods.

Separated from their parents and forced to flee Ireland due to famine, Molly & Kip have no choice but to accept employment with the Windsor Family, the only inhabitants of the only home in the sourwoods,

At the far end of the lawn stood Windsor mansion.  The house had obviously been left vacant for some years, and in that time it seemed to have become one with the landscape. Weeds swallowed the base. Ivy choked the walls and windows. The roof was sagging and covered in black moss.
But strangest of all was the tree.
The tree was enormous and looked very, very old. Most trees cast an air of quiet dignity over their surrounding. This one did not. Most trees invite you to climb up into their canopy.  This one did not. Most trees make you want to carve your initials into the trunk. This one did not. To stand in the shadow of this tree would send a chill through your whole body. 
Even Molly's indomitable spirit and knack for storytelling cannot shield Kip and the young Windsor children from the horrors that lurk within the shadow of the giant tree.

Historical fiction and horror intertwine in this absolutely gripping story. With similarities to Claire LeGrand's The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Night Gardener is the stuff of nightmares.

Coming to a bookshelf near you in May, 2014!


My Advance Reader Copy was thrust upon me by none other than the wonderfully funny, Tom Angleberger (of Origami Yoda fame), who insisted that I read it.  Thanks, Tom!

Also by Jonathan Auxier, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, which I reviewed in 2011.

The book's cover was drawn by Patrick Arrasmith and designed by the talented Chad Beckerman, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing a while back.

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14. The Winter Prince - an audiobook review

One of the things that I love about reviewing books for School Library Journal and AudioFile Magazine is the opportunity to review titles that I might not otherwise choose.  For example, Code Name Verity is such a popular title, but I don't read a lot of YA books and hadn't picked it up - but I was given the assignment of reviewing a new audio version of an older Elizabeth Wein book, The Winter Prince.

Below is my review as it appeared in the February/March 2014 edition of AudioFile Magazine.

Elizabeth E. Wein
Read by Basil Sands

Basil Sands's impassioned delivery brings new life to this 1993 book steeped in Arthurian legend and mystery. The ongoing struggle between Medraut, the eldest and bastard son of the king, and Lleu, the kingdom's legitimate heir, is intensified by Sands's dramatic and measured narration. Medraut, the story's narrator, speaks with gravity and a heavy sense of foreboding, while Lleu sounds youthful and often petulant. One finds a small fault in the voicing of the scheming Queen Morguase, whose portrayal is neither as menacing nor as enchanting as the story demands. What begins as a battle of strength and knowledge between brothers ends as an intense and compelling battle of mind and will--with the fate of a kingdom at stake. Wein is also the author of CODE NAME VERITY.

Copyright © 2014 AudioFile MagazineReprinted with permission.

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15. Women's History all year long!

The 4th annual celebration of Women's History Month and literature for young people begins today at

The blog is maintained by me and fellow librarian blogger, Margo Tanenbaum
 of The Fourth Musketeer, and is a collaborative resource 
of inspiration and information  created by authors, artists, librarians and book bloggers.

This year, we have a new look, and if you prefer, you can find links to the blog's posts on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter!

Please check the blog often during Women's History Month!  You won't be disappointed.

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16. The Boy on the Wooden Box - an audiobook review

Below is my starred review of The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible on Schindler's List, as it appeared in the February, 2014, edition of School Library Journal.

LYESON, Leon. The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible … on Schindler's List. 4 CDs. 4:15 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. $46.75 ISBN 9781470369439. Playaway. Digital download.

Gr 4-9--In an intimate look at one family on Oskar Schindler's famous "list," Leyson's (born Leib Lezjon) memoir (S & S, 2013) begins with his earliest memories of his poor but idyllic life in a Polish village. His large Jewish family was short on money, but never on love or a sense of purpose and belonging. They eventually move to Krakow, a city that Leib finds enchanting. When the Nazis invade, however, life becomes desperate for the 10-year-old protagonist, his parents, sister, and three brothers. By sheer happenstance, Leib's father becomes a worker for Schindler, beginning a chain of improbable events that leads to Leib's survival, despite pogroms, ghettos, and Nazi work camps. Young Leib's feelings of fear, dread, and despondency are relayed simply. Narrator Danny Burstein speaks in decorous, measured tones, yet sounds conversational. The words have power, no embellishment is necessary. Despite the horrific subject, Burstein imparts Leyson's peaceable nature and even delivers a natural-sounding laugh or chuckle when relating the rare bright spots. Leyson here shares only his own memories and does not speculate or pontificate on the larger story. If he does not know the fate of a relative or friend, that uncertainty, too, is part of his story. Randomness, luck, and split-second actions that delineated life and death--these are the truths of the Holocaust, and of those on Schindler's list. A moving and heartfelt conveyance of Leyson's gratitude to his family and to Oskar Schindler.

Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.

The Boy on the Wooden Box was recognized as an Honor Book for Older Readers in the 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Awards.

Visit today's roundup of nonfiction books for young people at the Nonfiction Monday blog.

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17. Claude at the Beach - a review

Smith, Alex T. 2014. Claude at the Beach. Atlanta: Peachtree.

Popular in the UK, with numerous books, Claude is a relative newcomer to the US. Claude at the Beach is the 3rd US release of this delightful, illustrated chapter book series about an imaginative dog and his best friend, Sir Bobblysock, an appropriately named sock.

The humor is immediately apparent when we learn that,

"Claude lives in his house with two people who are too tall to fit on this page. They are called Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes, and they both have very shiny shoes and neat ankles."

When the Shinyshoes head off to work, Claude sets out for adventure - this time to a French beach, where he will fashion makeshift bathing trunks from some sticky tape and Mr. Shinyshoes' underpants, rescue a bather from a shark, and meet up with a band of pirates - all with relatively more sensible Mr. Bobblysock in tow.

Illustrated pen and ink drawings in shades of black and red. Great fun.

Look for this one on shelves in March, 2014.
Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher.  (If you have a NetGalley account, you may be able to get a copy of this one)

Publishers Weekly review

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18. Caminar - a review

Brown, Skila. 2014. Caminar. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

While many other families in Carlos' rural Guatemalan village are large and boisterous, he and his mother live alone.  He's not yet a man.  He's afraid of the dark. He listens to his mother.

Guerilla Rain

They came

in rain,
the end
of wet
season, when
rain was
no longer

it beat
our roof,
turned floor
to mud,
washed off
the army

they came
in rain.
We huddled
inside, waited
for earth
to stop
its          slide.

They came,
sacks          empty
bellies         empty
guns            full.


They marched
right through
our town,
made their
way into
the jungle.

And when
the last
of them
had been
sucked in
by thick
green arms,

the rain
After the rebels pass, his mother knows that the soldiers will be back, and she tells him,

Unsure of who is the enemy, the rebels or the army's soldiers, Carlos heads for the place where he is most comfortable, the trees. In the cover of the trees, he makes his way up the mountain toward his grandmother's village.  When he meets up with guerilla fighters, he must make the biggest choice of his life.

A debut novel in verse, Caminar is a rural boy's perception of a sad time in 1981, when the fighting between Guatemalan rebels and soldiers (which, according to the author's note claimed 200,000 lives over the course of time), disrupted his village of  Chopán forever. In Carlos' fictional Chopán, where the people still speak indigenous languages, there is disagreement.  Are the guerilla fighters Communists, rebels, freedom fighters? Are the Guatemalan soldiers oppressors, liberators, defenders?  To non-Spanish-speaking, non land-owning villagers, it matters not.  In the end, they are both the enemy.

Featuring different types of poetry, including one styled after Marilyn Singer's unique "reverso" poems, Skila Brown often employs "concrete" effects, using spacing to punctuate a feeling or mood.  Poetry is an excellent vehicle for delivering a complex and nuanced book on a disturbing topic to a young audience. Brown deliberately leaves space for reflection between the leaves.

A Note from the Author, Glossary, Q&A with the Author, and Acknowledgments help to round out the historical aspects of the story. Best for middle-grade readers.

Review copy supplied by the publisher.  Due on shelves in March, 2014.

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19. Yes, it's a book - but throw it out!!

Yes, books are wonderful.  Books are precious.  Books should be treasured...but some belong in the trash!

* attribution below
If you're reading this, chances are good that you're a teacher, librarian or caregiver; and as such, you're in an important position.  You're someone to whom children look for answers.  They also look to books, and therein lies a problem.  Not all books are good books.  A good book today may be a bad book tomorrow.
Allow me to illustrate.

In first grade, my daughter borrowed a book about the moon from her school library.  It concluded with the inspirational sentiment, "someday men will go to the moon."  She thought this a wonderful suggestion, until I explained to her that men had already been to the moon numerous times and had now set their sights on Mars.  I don't care how true the rest of the book may have been, it belonged in the trash.  It may have been a good book in the 1960s, but it is (or should be) garbage now.

If yours is not a special focus library and your primary patrons are children,  hyper vigilance is in order when deselecting old nonfiction books - particularly biographies. Kids believe what they read.

Currently, we're in the "perfect storm" of biography assignments.  Between President's Day, Black History Month, the new Common Core State Standards, and Women's History Month coming up fast, the biography shelves see more action this time of year than any other.

I gave mine a good, hard look the other day, and here are some things I discovered.

If this is on your shelf,
it's time to replace it ....

with this.
Same author, same book,
updated information.

The President of the United States - He's a very popular choice for assignments, but some of my books were written soon after his first election.  Plenty of things have happened since then, and plenty of new biographies have been published.  Unless the older titles offer a unique perspective not present in other books (the road to the White House, the story behind a particular speech or inaugural address, his childhood), they can go.

Still have this one on your shelf?
This was published in 2010,
 and appears to be in need
 of an update, no?

Justin Bieber (and other trending musicians, singers, and such) - They're young, they change rapidly (remember Hannah Montana?), their stories are incomplete.  If the person is still popular and your book is more than two years old, it's time for a new one.

A quick check of WorldCat.org
 shows that 368 libraries are still shelving this 2002 book
featuring A-Rod in a Texas Rangers uniform!
How much has changed since then!!

Sports teams and stars -Yes, it's nice to have a book on the shelf for each team, but kids believe what they read in books.  Don't give a child a book that says Curt Schilling plays for the Boston Red Sox. You may remember it as yesterday (heck, I remember him as a Phillie!), but to a child, it's old news.  Players change teams often.  If a book doesn't reflect a player's current team or a team's current players, get a new one or do without.  Again, if it has a unique historical perspective, that's a different story.  I'm speaking of the general formulaic style books on teams and players.

As a general rule, if the subject of your book is deceased, you may be safe with an older title.  If she's still living an active, productive life, look for a new edition.

Happy President's Day!  Buy yourself a new book.

* Niteowlneils at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

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20. 1 Cookie, 2 Chairs, 3 Pears: Numbers Everywhere - a review

Brocket, Jane. 2014. 1 Cookie, 2 Chairs, 3 Pears: Numbers everywhere. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner.

This is a simple counting book from one to twenty, that features bright photographs of everyday items.  It's eye-catching, simple and attractive - showcasing the many ways that each number can be represented,

7 Can you count how many eggs in the bowl?
How many fruits in a row?
How many socks in a box?
That's right, seven.
The focus here is simple.  There are an infinite amount of ways in which any number may be represented, and numbers may be found everywhere!

For you teachers, here are the reading levels:

Reading Level: 2
Interest Level: PreK-2
Ages: 4-8
Guided Reading: I
Lexile Level: 430

In the same way that many rural folks may not relate to the city streetscape images of Tanya Hoban's books, many lower income children may not relate to the images in 1 Cookie, 2 Chairs, 3 Pears.  Lines of trendy and colorful French macarons, brightly-colored polka dot socks packaged neatly in a box (1 for each day of the week), and artist quality oil pastels (as opposed to crayons) are not typical purchases of an average family.  I don't mention this as a criticism, only as a comment.  City kids are typically taught the sights and sounds of the farm, just as farm kids are taught the sights and sounds of the city.  A child's exposure to the world writ large should not be limited by where she lives or what her parents can afford. Do expect, however, that some kids will know the familiar refrigerator magnets, fallen leaves and school clock, but will not have an immediate connection with embroidered tablecloths, needlepoint, fresh cherries, and perfectly decorated cupcakes and confections. Still it is, as I said, eye-catching, simple and attractive.  Take a look for yourself.  The publisher offers a "Look Inside"

It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
See all of today's STEM book reviews at the STEM Friday blog.

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21. Love is in the air - books for Valentine's Day and every day

Every February I eagerly peruse the new crop of Valentine's Day books, hoping for something new to add to my list of storytime favorites.  This year, my two favorites aren't Valentine's Day books at all.  They're books about love. And, they're not exactly new - both have old copyright dates, but have just been republished in new formats. In any case, here they are!

  • Sheehan, Monica. 2010. Love is You & Me. New York: Simon & Schuster. 

A darling, rhyming book about love between the reader and a special someone - friend, pet, brother, mother - it doesn't matter.  It's all about love!
It's just us two ... without a care.
It's what we give ... and the times we share.
The illustrations of a dog and mouse are simple, playful and joyful.  Perfect for sharing!

Note: The dedication page contains an illustration of a heart-stamped envelope, an inkwell and pen, and a mouse whose eyes urge you to fill out the envelope's "To:" and "Love:" fields, and give this book to someone you love.

  • Willis, Jeanne. 2005. Never Too Little to Love. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.  Illustrated by Jan Fearnley.
A novelty book with heavy pages of varying sizes, Never Too Little to Love tells the story of Tiny Too-Little.  He's a mouse in love with somebody, but too small to reach her,
He's too little, even on tiptoes on a teacup,
He's too little, even on tiptoes on a cabbage, 

He stacks items higher and higher. The page size shrinks smaller and smaller, each building on the page before it - ever-reaching toward the top of the book. Despite stacking all manner of household items, he cannot reach his intended and falls with a crash à la The Cat in the Hat or Ten Apples Up on Top. Such an obstacle cannot stop true love, however.  All is made well when, in a final "pop-up" page, his beloved bends down to kiss him.  She's a giraffe. Lovely watercolor illustrations are gently humorous.

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22. Monday Morning Miscellany v.7

Despite (or because of) the groundhog's prediction of six more weeks of winter, I'll be trying to keep busy. Here are some things to look forward to:

February is Black History Month, and we're fortunate that resources abound.

Be sure to check out The Brown Bookshelf each day.
From their website:
"The Brown Bookshelf is designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers. Our flagship initiative of is 28 Days Later, a month-long showcase of the best in Picture Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult novels written and illustrated by African Americans."

Also, check out the US government's African American History Month site.  It features a page "for teachers" with links to useful resource sites, including the Library of Congress.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, begin in a few days!  Break out your globes, your Russian folktales, and some books on skating and skiing.  The Olympics is a great storytime theme.

February has Valentine's Day.  I'll be posting tomorrow about my new favorite books.  In the meantime, check out my old favorites in a previous post on Storytime Favorites for Valentine's Day.

To My Valentine [1890]
 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Washington, D.C. 20540
USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

Today is Nonfiction Monday.  All of the Nonfiction Monday posts (including this one), are now collected at the new Nonfiction Monday blog.  Be sure to check it out.

And finally, looking forward ... next month is Women's History Month.  For the 4th consecutive year, fellow librarian and blogger, Margo Tanenbaum of the Fourth Musketeer, and I will be hosting and curating the blog, KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month!  Each post in March will feature noted authors, illustrators, librarians and book bloggers including Gretchen Woelfle, Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, Mary Ann Scheuer and more. (See the blog's sidebar for the complete list of scheduled contributors.)  It's going to be an awesome month!  We do have a few dates still open.  If you have a unique idea, book, or essay related to children's literature and women's history, and you would like to see it featured on our blog, please contact me or Margo as soon as possible before all dates are taken.

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23. ALA Youth Media Awards

I just returned from ALA Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia (one of my favorite cities and home of my favorite baseball team!).  It was a great day, and I picked up many new and hopefully wonderful books, as well as some favorites and award winners.

This morning was the annual announcement of the American Library Association Youth Media Awards - a highlight in the year of every children's librarian.

I was pleased that I had read most of the award winners, and many of the honor books.  Below are links to my reviews of three of today's distinguished winners. I wish I had reviewed them all!  Congratulations to all of the ALA Youth Media Award winning authors and illustrators as well as the librarians who worked all year to choose them!

The complete list of award winners can be found at http://www.ala.org/alsc/2014-alsc-media-awards.

John Newbery Medal

DiCamillo, Kate. 2013. Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated AdventuresSomerville, MA: Candlewick. (Illustrated by K.G. Campbell) (click for review)

Sibert Medal

Roth, Susan L. and Cindy Trumbore. 2013. Parrots Over Puerto Rico. New York: Lee & Low.  (click for review)

Schneider Family Book Award and Sibert Honor

Bryant, Jen. 2013. A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin. New York: Knopf.   Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. (click for review)

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24. The Witches - an audiobook review

 I recently reviewed a new audiobook copy of Roald Dahl's, The Witches. The main characters are the grandson, Grandmamma and the Grand High Witch.  Imagine trying to narrate The Witches while adhering to Roald Dahl's detailed description of the witch's voice,

"You may rrree-moof your gloves!" she shouted. Her voice, I noticed, had that same hard metallic quality as the voice of the witch I had met under the conker tree, only it was far louder and much much harsher. It rasped. It grated. It snarled. It scraped. It shrieked. And it growled.  ...
"You may rrree-moof your vigs!" snarled The Grand
High Witch. She had a peculiar way of speaking. There
was some sort of a foreign accent there, something
harsh and guttural, and she seemed to have trouble
pronouncing the letter w. As well as that, she did
something funny with the letter r. She would roll it round
and round her mouth like a piece of hot pork-crackling
before spitting it out. "

Such is the task for reader, Miranda Richardson, who does a superb job.  Below is my review (reprinted with permission) as it appeared on the AudioFile Magazine website:

Roald Dahl

Read by Miranda Richardson

Actress Miranda Richardson narrates the story of an orphan boy who learns about witches from his grandmamma, then accidentally stumbles upon their annual meeting--with disastrous consequences involving a "Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker." Richardson is tremendous as the Norwegian grandmother, her young English grandson, and the terrifying Grand High Witch. She switches seamlessly between accents and the voice of the witch, whose peculiar manner of speech is described by Dahl in great detail. The story is punctuated judiciously with sound effects. The rattling of chains fastening doors, the tinkling of a dropped bottle, the skittering of mice, and the screaming of frightened hotel guests are just a few examples of sounds that add energy and excitement to this classic tale of scary fun. L.T.

© AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: DECEMBER 2013]

Children Ages 8+ • 4.5 hrs. • Unabridged • ©1983
Trade Ed. • Penguin Audio • 2013CD ISBN 9781611761863  $25.95 • Four CDs  DD ISBN   multiple sources
(review copy provided by AudioFile Magazine)

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25. Parrots over Puerto Rico - a review

Roth, Susan L. and Cindy Trumbore. 2013. Parrots Over Puerto Rico. New York: Lee & Low.

I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to nonfiction books about the natural world, I prefer photography to artistic renderings.  Of course, there are always exceptions.  Jim Arnosky's, Thunderbirds (Sterling, 2011) and Martin Jenkins', Can We Save the Tiger? (Candlewick, 2011) come to mind.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico, however, is an extraordinary exception. Using highly detailed collage art, and employing many textured and brightly colored materials, Susan L. Roth has created a book that accurately portrays the colors of the island and evokes the stunning beauty of the endangered parrots of Puerto Rico. Designed to be read "portrait style," the collages cover about 2/3 of each double-spread layout.  Cindy Trumbore's narrative appears in a simple black font in the bottom third of the collage against a plain, complementary-colored background.

As stunning as it is, the artwork is not the only thing to love about Parrots over Puerto Rico. An astute teacher's dream, Parrots takes a holistic view of the parrots' rapid decline and slow slog back to viability in the wild.  As the story of the American Bison is forever entwined with the story of American Westward expansion, the Puerto Rican's parrot story is entwined with that of the Tainos, the Spaniards, and the Americans, as well as that of invasive species, and natural disasters like Hurricane Hugo.

Existing for millions of years on the island of Puerto Rico, they once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and by 1975, had dwindled to only 13.

Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock or parrots as green as their island home.  If you look up from the forest, and you are very lucky, you might catch the bright blue flashes of their flight feathers and hear their harsh call.
These are Puerto Rican parrots.  They lived on this island for millions of years, and then they nearly vanished from the earth forever.  This is their story.

An Afterword contains photographs and information on the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program.  Also included is a timeline of Important Dates in the History of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican Parrots, and Author's Sources.
Among others, Parrots Over Puerto Rico can boast of these awards:

  • Starred Reviews in: Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, The Horn Book Magazine
  • Original Art 2013, Society of Illustrators
  • Books for Youth Editors' Choice 2013, Booklist 
  • Junior Library Guild Selection

You can see a preview of Parrots Over Puerto Rico on Lee & Low's website, however, it doesn't do the book justice, as the preview is in landscape mode, while the actual bound book reads lengthwise.  Still, it's worth a gander.

 Check out this short video if you'd like to see an actual Puerto Rican parrot.

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