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Books for Kids and Teens Book reviews of titles for children and young adults. Books are received from Library Thing publishers and NetGalley publishers. Books are also read and reviewed from the local library. All reviews are subject to reviewer's opinion and not the publisher or author
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1. #717 – If An Elephant Went to School by Ellen Fischer & Laura Wood

After a brief, thankfully, lupus flare-up, I am pleased to bring you a wonderful picture book from the talented team of Ellen Fischer and Laura Wood. I think you will smile and enjoy a laugh with this wonderful follow-up to If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant 

Cover-Elephant_700
If an Elephant Went to School

Written by Ellen Fischer
Illustrated by Laura Wood
Mighty Media Kids 8/11/2015
978-1-938063-61-9
32 pages Age 3—7

“Would an elephant learn the ABCs if she went to school? No way! She would learn how to use her trunk as a nose, a straw, a hand, and a hose! Through a series of questions and answers, readers learn about animals and their unique behaviors. And in the end, you might find yourself asking what you would learn.” [press release]

Elephant Spread final_2

Review
If an Elephant Went to School utilizes ten different animals to showcase what each would not learn in school, and then what it might learn based on that animal’s abilities, needs, and nature. The back cover asks:

“If a platypus went to school, would she learn to play the violin? NOT LIKELY! But what would she learn?”

“A platypus can’t play a violin,” young readers are bound to say. But what would a platypus learn in school?

“A platypus would learn to dive to find her food. NO SNORKEL NECESSARY.”

Kids will love learning what these animals—elephant, owl, zebra, frog, eel, bee, skunk, caterpillar, and platypus—would learn in school, while laughing at what it would not—could not—learn. Each “not learn” is something that a child will learn in school. For preschoolers, If an Elephant Went to School is a wonderful introduction into what they will encounter when kindergarten and first grade roll around. Older children will enjoy learning about these animals and poking fun at their own education.

Elephant Spread final_1

If an Elephant Went to School is a wonderful read a-loud book that encourages listener participation. With its winsome illustrations, If an Elephant Went to School is a funny, delightful read that children will want to go through on their own after a first reading. I think this charming follow up to If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant, will have kids wanting to read—or listen to—If an Elephant Went to School several times. Reading this enjoyable, educational, and entirely humorous picture book should not press on any parent’s nerve while reading multiple times. If an Elephant Went to School—a truly fun giggle-book—should be a wild bullseye for booksellers.

I have not had the privilege of reading If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant (book 1 in the series), though I would love to do so. I am also hoping that this picture book series from Mighty Media Kids (formerly Scarletta Kids), will continue with its fun pokes at the wild kingdom, while teaching youngster about wildlife. For me, If an Elephant Went to School earns an A+!

Wait, you say I only listed 9 animals, not 10?! You are correct. The tenth animal is YOU!

IF AN ELEPHANT WENT TO SCHOOL. Text copyright © 2015 by Ellen Fischer. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Laura Wood. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Mighty Media Kids, an imprint of Mighty Media Press, Minneapolis, MN.

Purchase If an Elephant Went to School at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunes BooksMighty Media Kids.

Learn more about If an Elephant Went to School HERE.
Teacher’s Guide can be found HERE.  (forthcoming)

Read my friend Eric’s excellent review of If An Elephant Went to School  HERE.

If you live near Greensboro, NC, plan to meet Ellen Fischer at the If An Elephant Went to School 08/15 Release Party.
Information can be found HERE.

Meet the author, Ellen Fischer, at linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/pub/ellen-fischer/66/640/779
Meet the illustrator, Laura Wood, at her website:  http://laurawoodillustration.com/
Find more interesting picture books at the Mighty Media Kids website:  http://mightymediapress.com/

Mighty Media Kids is an imprint of Mighty Media Press.

If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant: Learn more HERE.  Purchase HERE.  View Illustration Samples HERE.

ArmadilloCover_web_1060

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: If an Elephant Went to School, by Ellen Fischer & Laura Wood, and received from Mighty Media Kids, (an imprint of Mighty Media Press), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Series Tagged: animal behaviors, Ellen Fischer, If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant, If an Elephant Went to School, Laura Wood, Mighty Media Kids, New for Summer 2015, school

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2. #716 – Painting for Peace in Ferguson by Carol Swartout Klein

61iNCsPKdSL
Painting for Peace in Ferguson
Written by Carol Swartout Klein
Treehouse Publishing Group      2/21/2015
978-0-9963901-0-1
52 pages       Age 6+

“Painting for Peace in Ferguson is the story of a community coming together, hundreds of artists and volunteers, black and white, young and old, to bring hope and healing to their community using the simplest of all tools—a paintbrush. Written in child-friendly verse, the actual artwork painted on hundreds of boarded up windows in Ferguson, South Grand and surrounding areas illustrates the story. The art ranges from simple, childlike drawings of love and peace to challenging and compelling calls for social change. The effect on the town’s landscape and its people was remarkable: turning fear into hope, frustration into inspiration, and destruction into creation. . . . when people reach out to each other across lines that divide us and work together, remarkable things happen. A single paintbrush can paint one picture but thousands working together can transform a community.” [back cover]

Painting for Peace - 2nd ed. - low res_page31_image8

Review
The paintbrush became a tool of hope in Ferguson. Artists young and old, amateur and professional, armed with a paintbrush came together to transform the boarded up windows of a community that had imploded upon itself in grief and anger. Painting for Peace in Ferguson captures those mostly now gone images inside a children’s book that is not, and should not be just for children.

3

The images range from simple black and white messages of hope to murals compelling a need for social change. From single boarded up windows to complete storefronts, (and the broken windows and doors of City Hall), told the story of Ferguson, Missouri uniting behind strong ideals: loving one another and coexisting in peace.

2

With over 140 artworks painted over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the images in Painting for Peace in Ferguson are powerful testaments to the human spirit and resiliency. Children likely find the events of Ferguson confusing. Painting for Peace in Ferguson possesses the wonderful ability to help foster understanding and discussion, not just with children but also with adults, many of whom are also struggling to comprehend the events that disrupted their lives and communities.

5

300 artists and volunteers created paintings in the City of St. Louis’s communities of Ferguson, Dellwood and South Grand. Such a gargantuan effort showers inspirations of hope, peace, and love among those communities and all who read Painting for Peace in Ferguson.

Painting-for-Peace-Ferguson-website-RyanArcher

If there is any drawback to Painting for Peace in Ferguson it is the text, with inconsistent rhyme patterns and the occasional slanted rhyme. The attempt to rhyme may be based on a false belief that children’s books need to rhyme to attract and hold a child’s attention. The Ferguson story would have been better served in simple and straightforward prose. Still, the message of Ferguson is clear and not easily forgotten, nor should it be.

“In the small town of Ferguson
In 2014
Some people did things that
Were meaner than mean

“Some people were mad
Some people were sad
But everyone, everywhere
Felt pretty bad :(

“But when morning came
Folks took one look around
And said we don’t like
The looks of our town”

7

Painting for Peace in Ferguson has the power to ignite many a discussion from those with elementary children to those between adults. The symbol of hope and peace is one children should learn and embrace, but it began with the hundreds of artists who descended upon Ferguson in a united belief that Ferguson—and the country as a whole—can heal and grow.

9

In this regard, Painting for Peace in Ferguson is a picture book like no other and belongs on the collective landscape for years to come as a reminder that communities need not implode in anger and grief—though greatly justified—when there is a better, more productive and satisfying option of healing in hope and peace—as in South Carolina these past few weeks. Author Carol Swartout Klein is a native of Ferguson.

PAINTING FOR PEACE IN FERGUSON. Text copyright (C) 2015 by Carol Swartout Klein. Illustrations copyright (C) 2015 by Rachel Abbinanti, et al. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Treehouse Publishing Group, St. Louis, MO.

Purchase Painting for Peace in Ferguson at AmazonBook DepositoryBook’s Website.  (Available in paperback 8/04/2015) **Proceeds from the sale of Painting for Peace in Ferguson are donated to youth arts and small business recovery in North St. Louis County.

Learn more about Painting for Peace in Ferguson HERE.
Resources for Parents & Teachers can be found HERE and HERE.
Coloring Pages for Kids can be found HERE.

Meet the author, Carol Swartout Klein, with her biography HERE.
Painting for Peace in Ferguson Website:  http://www.paintingforpeacebook.com/
Painting for Peace in Ferguson Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/paintingforpeacebook
Find more picture books at the Treehouse Publishing Group website:  http://www.amphoraepublishing.com/treehouse-publishing-group/

Treehouse Publishing Group is an imprint of Amphorae Publishing Group

AWARDS
2015 IPPY Outstanding Book of the Year—Peacemaker

ABOUT PAINT FOR PEACE ST. LOUIS
     The riots following the grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown case left storefronts along the main streets of Ferguson and the South Grand neighborhood of Saint Louis, Missouri with broken windows. When the businesses were boarded up the next day, they appeared closed and unsafe, furthering the economic hardship and community despair.
     Hundreds of local artists responded almost immediately by volunteering their time to help the businesses and beautify the affected blocks. Hundreds of gallons of paint were donated by individuals and businesses as far away as Massachusetts, and an online fund drive quickly raised nearly $1300.
     Tom Halaska, who grew up in North St. Louis and now owns the Art Bar at 2732 Cherokee Street on the Southside of St. Louis City, is the driving force behind the effort known as Paint for Peace StL. He maintains all the donated supplies in storage at the Art Bar and continues to be a matchmaker between boarded businesses anywhere in the region and volunteer artists. (© http://paintforpeacestl.org/)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, CAROL SWARTOUT KLEIN
     Painting for Peace - 2nd ed. - low res_page31_image202Carol Swartout Klein grew up in Ferguson, got her first set of jacks from the Ferguson Woolworths store (now the Ace Hardware store), got her first driver’s license at what was the Ferguson Department store (now BMI Fitness), graduated from McCluer High School and got married at Ferguson Presbyterian Church.
     She was so inspired by witnessing the spirit of hundreds of volunteers coming together to bring hope to a community in shock, she wanted to capture the story. Painting for Peace in Ferguson is the result. A journalist and marketing professional by training, she saw how healing the process of creating the artwork was for all those involved. As the community came together to help others, the artists, business owners and volunteers helped themselves, creating new connections she hopes will continue to create a positive environment of hope and peace. (©Peregrine Book Company)

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Painting for Peace in Ferguson, by Carol Swartout Klien, and received from Treehouse Publishing Group, (an imprint of Amphorae Publishing Group), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Poetry Tagged: artists for peace, Carol Swartout Klien, communities transformed, Ferguson Missouri, Painting for Peace in Ferguson, peace initiatives, racial divides, racism, Treehouse Publishing Group

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3. Candlewick Press Trifecta

Today, I have three wonderful picture books from Candlewick Press, including a Caldecott Medal Honor Book. I really believe you will enjoy these three selections as much as I enjoy them. So, without any further ado–there is still way too many boxes to empty before I can say I’m moved in–her are the three Candlewick Press picture books.

First up:  Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

cover sam dave dig hole
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press      10/14/2015
978-0-7636-6229-5
32 pages      Age 4—8

“Sam and Dave are digging a hole, and they will not stop until they find something spectacular.” [inside jacket]

Continue reading –>

Next:  Yak and Gnu

yak and gnu cover
Yak and Gnu

Written by Juliette MacIver
Illustrated by Cat Chapman
Candlewick Press      6/09/2015
978-0-7636-7561-5
32 pages       Age 4—8

“Yak and Gnu are friends dear and true. Yak has a kayak, Gnu a canoe. Down the river they go, singing:

“No one else
But you and me
Can float a boat
Or sail the sea.”

But wait! What’s that? A goat in a boat, a calf on a raft, and a whole flotilla of gorillas! Now their song is all wrong. With so many other friends afloat, can Yak and Gnu still sing their sea song for two?” [inside jacket]

Continue reading –> 

Finally, but certainly not least:  I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard

star on mrs bensons blacboard cover
I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard

Written & Illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann
Candlewick Press     6/09/2015
978-0-7636-6514-2
32 pages     Age 4—8

“Rose wants to get a star on Mrs. Benson’s blackboard, but sometimes her mind wanders, she doesn’t always know the right answer, and her reading-aloud voice is too quiet. When it’s time to make a thank-you card for an artist who visited her class, Rose makes an amazing card—but also covers herself and her desk in paint and supplies. Will Mrs. Benson be able to see her creativity and passion through all that mess? Is it possible to get a star for something other than answering questions and having a tidy work space?” [inside jacket]

Continue reading –> 


Filed under: Children's Books

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4. #715 – I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard by Jennifer K. Mann

star on mrs bensons blacboard cover
I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard

Written & Illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann
Candlewick Press     6/09/2015
978-0-7636-6514-2
32 pages     Age 4—8

“Rose wants to get a star on Mrs. Benson’s blackboard, but sometimes her mind wanders, she doesn’t always know the right answer, and her reading-aloud voice is too quiet. When it’s time to make a thank-you card for an artist who visited her class, Rose makes an amazing card—but also covers herself and her desk in paint and supplies. Will Mrs. Benson be able to see her creativity and passion through all that mess? Is it possible to get a star for something other than answering questions and having a tidy work space?” [inside jacket]

Review
Poor Rose, she tries to answer the questions Mrs. Benson asks the class, she tries to read aloud in a strong voice, and she tries her best to keep her desk neat and tidy—even getting to school early to clean it up. No matter what Rose tries to do, she never gets a star on Mrs. Benson’s blackboard and boy, does Rose want that star. Rose’s attention span is not what it should be. She would rather doodle and daydream. Then an artist named Mr. Sullivan talks to the class about art and being an artist. Afterward, Mrs. Benson asks her students to make thank you cards for Mr. Sullivan. Rose decides to make a “super-gigantic card with paintings on both sides.” It is a beautiful card. But when Rose was finished making her card, her desk was a BIG mess! And Mrs. Benson has just called out Rose’s name in that big, deep voice teachers use when someone is in trouble. Will Rose ever get a star on Mrs. Benson’s blackboard?

9780763665142.int.1

I love this story. Every kid wants that gold star on their paper, or in Mrs. Benson’s classroom, on the blackboard. Rose in no exception, but the harder she tries the more she figures she’ll never see a star beside her name on Mrs. Benson’s blackboard. I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard is an inspiring picture book for those kids who find they operate much easier from the right side of their brain. The illustrations are beautiful and capture the classroom setting with a multicultural group of students. The illustrations are a combination of ink, gouache, and digital collages. The gentle humor depicts Rose’s predicament as she tries and tries to please her teacher and get that elusive star. Rose’s thank you card expresses the joy of those children who lean toward the artistic and I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard is a testament to the value of being different in a world that values rules and order.
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I WILL NEVER GET A STAR ON MRS. BENSON’S BLACKBOARD. Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer K. Mann. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Purchase I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard at AmazonBook DepositoryCandlewick Press.

Learn more about I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard HERE.

Meet the author & illustrator, Jennifer K. Mann, at her website:  http://www.jenniferkmann.com/
Find more picture books at the Candlewick Press website:  http://www.candlewick.com/

AWARDS
Starred Review—Publishers Weekly

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, by Jennifer K. Mann, and received from Candlewick Press, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: artistic expression, being different, Candlewick Press, classroom, I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard, Jennifer K. Mann, order, value

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5. #714 – Yak and Gnu by Juliette MacIver & Cat Chapman

yak and gnu cover
Yak and Gnu

Written by Juliette MacIver
Illustrated by Cat Chapman
Candlewick Press      6/09/2015
978-0-7636-7561-5
32 pages       Age 4—8

“Yak and Gnu are friends dear and true. Yak has a kayak, Gnu a canoe. Down the river they go, singing:

“No one else
But you and me
Can float a boat
Or sail the sea.”

But wait! What’s that? A goat in a boat, a calf on a raft, and a whole flotilla of gorillas! Now their song is all wrong. With so many other friends afloat, can Yak and Gnu still sing their sea song for two?” [inside jacket]

Review
Best friends Yak and Gnu love to sail the seas. Yak rows a black kayak, while Gnu rows a blue canoe. Together, they row and sing their favorite song. But then, much to Yak and Gnu’s surprise, a goat in a boat yells hello. Yak and Gnu are no longer the only two who sail the seas. The happy-go-lucky pair of friends—best of friends—recover nicely, rationalizing that with the goat in a boat, Yak in his kayak, and Gnu in her canoe, there are only three who can sail the seas. They adjust their song:

“Yippee-ai, Yak!
Who-hoo, Gnu!
There’s nobody else
Like me and you.
(Well, only goat.)”

But then, there on a raft is a laughing calf and in that sail boat is a snail. What is going on? Yak and Gnu find more and more animals who can sail the seas, be it in a sailboat, a raft, an outrigger, cruiser, kayak, or canoe. Each new discovery causes Yak and Gnu to reevaluate and adjust their song. Finally, with the seas afloat with dozens and dozens of sea-worthy animals and their vessels, Yak and Gnu must come to terms with the fact that they are not the only ones who can sail the seas. But what about their wonderful song? What happens to that? You must read Yak and Gnu to find out.

9780763675615.int.1

Yak and Gnu is hilarious. Young children will love all the animals and the way each sails the seas. Along with Yak and Gnu, children can count the number of animals, helping Yak and Gnu adjust their song. The repetitive song will also help young children as they begin to read and phonetically sound out words. Soon, kids will be singing the song, without the book. More likely, kids will be asking for Yak and Gnu at bedtime, story-time, and most every-time it is time to read. The illustrations are beautifully rendered in watercolor and ink. The rhyming text has that sing-song quality that makes reading a picture book a joy. Yak and Gnu was authored by Juliette MacIver who loves to make young children laugh. Her previous book is entitled, The Frog Who Lost His Underpants (also illustrated by Cat Chapman). That title makes me want to read the book. Yak and Gnu is no different. This hilarious tale celebrates the simple friendships of childhood and the joy of laughter.
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YAK AND GNU. Text copyright © 2015 by Juliette MacIver. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Cat Chapman. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, Australia.

Purchase Yak and Gnu at AmazonBook DepositoryWalker BooksCandlewick Press.

Learn more about Yak and Gnu HERE.
Classroom Ideas can be found HERE.

Meet the author, Juliette MacIver, at her website:  http://www.juliettemaciverauthor.com/
Meet the illustrator, Cat Chapman, at her website:  http://catchapman.tumblr.com/
Find more picture books at the Candlewick Press website:  http://www.candlewick.com/

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, by Juliette MacIver & Cat Chapman, and received from Candlewick Press and Walker Books, Australia, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: animals, Candlewick Press, Cat Chapman, counting, friendships, hilarious, joyful, Juliette MacIver, rhyming story, singing, Walker Books-Australia, Yak and Gnu

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6. #713 – Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

cover sam dave dig hole
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press      10/14/2015
978-0-7636-6229-5
32 pages      Age 4—8

“Sam and Dave are digging a hole, and they will not stop until they find something spectacular.” [inside jacket]

Review
The premise of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole is simple:  the two boys are on a mission to find something spectacular and are determined to dig until they find something. They could find a dinosaur bone or maybe dig all the way to China. Along with Sam and Dave is their dog (no name). When the boys fail to find something after digging a hole “so deep their heads were underground,” Sam and Dave change course and dig sideways, then they split up and dig up on a diagonal, then back down again until, tired from digging, the two boys fall asleep. All the while Sam and Dave find nothing, until . . .

9780763662295.int.1

I enjoyed Sam & Dave Dig a Hole immensely. This is a delightful book young children, especially young boys, will enjoy. The humor is subtle—just under the surface (pun intended). While Sam and Dave dig, with their dog keeping a watchful eye, their cat sits atop the hole looking in at the boys’ progress. You will need to look closely at all the detail, in every item, in each relatively sparse spread, but if you do, the payoff is a huge laugh. The illustrations are engagingly simple, rendered digitally and in colored pencil by Caldecott Medal winner Jon Klassen. Sam & Dave Dig a Hole is about persistence, the willingness to change course, and finding the spectacular where you are and where you go. Sam and Dave exert a tremendous amount of energy trying to find something spectacular. They finally find it, and learn that the journey can be just as spectacular as the “thing” they are yearning to find.

Has something been out of your reach and you wonder if you should keep trying? If so, read Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, because sometimes what seems out of reach is closer than you think. Perfect for story time readings and afternoon fun.

SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE. Text copyright © 2014 by Mac Barnett. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Purchase Sam & Dave Dig a Hole at AmazonBook DepositoryCandlewick Press.

Learn more about Sam & Dave Dig a Hole HERE.
A Story-Hour Kit can be found HERE.
“Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen Make a Book” transcript found HERE.

Meet the author, Mac Barnett, at his website:  http://www.macbarnett.com/
Meet the illustrator, Jon Klassen, at his website:  http://jonklassen.tumblr.com/
Find more picture books at the Candlewick Press website:  http://www.candlewick.com/

AWARDS
Caldecott Medal Honor Book
E. B. White Read Aloud Award
Irma S and James H Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature
Wanda Gág Read Aloud Book Award
New York Times Best Seller
New York Times Notable Book
Washington Post Best Children’s Book of 2014
PBS Best Picture Book of 2014
Guardian Best Book of 2014
Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of 2014
Kirkus Best Book of 2014
Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014
Globe & Mail 100 Best Books of 2014 Selection
Huffington Post Best Picture Book of 2014
BuzzFeed Best Picture Book of 2014
Association for Library Service to Children Notables Selection
Toronto Public Library First & Best Book of 2014
Reading Today Best Picture Book of 2014
Junior Library Guild Selection

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen, and received from Candlewick Press, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Caldecott Medal Honor Book 2014, Candlewick Press, diligence, Jon Klassen, joy-in-the-journey, Mac Barnett, persistance, Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

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7. #712 -If You Were a Dog by Jamie A. Swenson & Chris Raschka

cover lg.
If You Were a Dog
Written by Jamie A. Swenson
Illustrated by Chris Raschka
Farrar Straus Giroux BYR        9/30/2014
978-0-373-33530-4
40 pages              Age 3—6

“If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be? Would you be a sod that goes ARRRROOOOOOO? Or maybe you would be a sharp-toothed dinosaur that can CHOMP, STOMP, ROAR! Perhaps you might want to be a hopping frog that goes BOING, BOING, RIBBET! But maybe you would want to be the best kind of animal of all. Can you guess what that is?” [inside jacket]

Review
Using sparse text, including exuberant onomatopœia, and characteristics specific to the animal on the spread, Swenson asks young children how they would act if they were a dog, a cat, a bird, a bug, a frog, and a dinosaur. Each two-spread animal begins its question with a recognizable formula:

“If you were a . . . would you be a . . . ?”

For example, the first animal is the dog.

dog am combo “If you were a dog, would you be a speedy-quick, lickety-sloppy,
scavenge-the-garbage,
frisbee-catching,
hot-dog-stealing,
pillow-hogging,
best-friend-ever sort of dog?”

The following spread always asks one final question:

dog 2  combo“Would you howl at the moon?  Some dogs do.”

Youngsters will love the questions, especially each of the activity-type characteristics in If You Were a Dog. While not written in rhyme, the text flows nicely. The individual characteristics are ordered such that the similar suffixes following each other. Raschka’s illustrations are child-like in form, yet lively, and capture the text and the reader’s (listener’s), imagination. Young children will not only contemplate how they would act based on the given charactersitics, but are bound to come up with their own. I like anything that activates and stretches a child’s imagination and If You Were a Dog fits that bill nicely.

The final three spreads in If You Were a Dog acknowledge that we cannot become any animal we want, but we can imitate those around us. Besides, kids are told, the best animal to be is yourself.

IF YOU WERE A DOG. Text copyright (C) 2014 by Jamie A. Swenson. Illustrations copyright (C) 2014 by Chris Raschka. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers—an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, New York, NY.

Purchase If You Were a Dog at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesMacmillian Children’s Publishing Group.

Learn more about If You Were a Dog HERE.
You can find the CCSS-Aligned Discussion and Activity Guide HERE.

AWARDS
Junior Library Guild selection

Meet the author, Jamie A. Swenson, at her website:  http://www.jamieaswenson.com/
Meet the illustrator, Chris Raschka, at his twitter page:  @ChrisRaschka
Find more children’s books at the Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR website:  http://us.macmillan.com/mackids
Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR is an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 225

Full Disclosure: If You Were a Dog, by Jamie A. Swenson & Chris Raschka, and received from Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR, (an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book Tagged: animal traits, animals, being oneself, Chris Raschka, creativity, Farrar Straus Giroux, If You Were a Dog, imagination, Jamie A. Swenson, self esteem

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8. #711 – What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig! by Emma J. Virján

coverWhat This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig

Written & Illustrated by Emma J. Virján
HarperCollins Children’s Books
05/12/2015
978-0-06-232724-6
32 pages      Age 1—3

“What this story needs is a pig in a wig on a boat with some friends having fun in the sun–So come on board! Join Pig on an exciting boat ride where she discovers that life is a lot more fun with more friends.”[back cover]

Review
NOTE: This review is a tad unusual. It mixes my traditional review format with interview questions asked of the pig in a wig.
What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig will instantly remind you of dear ole Dr. Seuss. The author employs fast-paced writing combined with simple, but effective, rhymes young children will love to hear and repeat. The narrator sends Pig, wearing a stunning pink wig—what is with that wig—sailing the moat in a boat. Why would a pig wear a wig? Well, I asked Pig and she said (rather emphatically),

“Wigs are fun and I’m a pig that loves to have fun!”

If you venture to Pig’s website—and I do suggest you do—you will find Pig is not simply a pink wig gal.

im5

Back to the story: One by one, the narrator adds a menagerie of interesting, kid-friendly animals to the boat in the moat. A frog, a dog, and a goat on a log join Pig in her wig. But there are more. A rat, wearing a cool hat, sits on a trunk—belonging to an elephant—with a skunk, who is with a mouse in a house. I was beginning to wonder what other animal could possibly be added to the small boat in the moat, when Pig yelled at the narrator. I asked Pig why she stopped all of the narrator’s fun. I thought it was very exciting having rhyming animals set sail. Pig had a different point of view:

“It was getting crowded, too crowded — a frog, a dog, a goat on a log,
a rat in a hat on a trunk, with a skunk, in a house, with a mouse AND
a panda in a blouse? It was more than my little, pink boat could handle.”

Pig is right, the small boat is crowded. So, beginning with the Panda—she performs a cannonball—the narrator reverses course, sending the animals out of the boat and into the moat. Once they leave, the narrator changes the story:

“What this story needs
is a pig in a wig,
on a boat,
in a moat,
having fun,
in the sun,
on her own . . .”

Now, all alone in her boat, Pig is sailing the moat. I think Pig is lonely and realizes she enjoyed her new animal friends. So the pig in a pink wig called for her new friends to return. Taking charge of the narration, Pig decides what the story needs . . .

im 1

Pig in a Wig, is a fun story young children will love to hear. The rhyming is simple, yet smart and witty. Kids will be reciting Pig in a Wig and, hopefully, figuring out their own rhyming group of friends. The illustrations are clean and engaging. Many pages hold surprises, such as a pig snout rug, Frog doing a hand-stand, and Dog and Goat holding hands. Dr. Seuss would love Pig in a Wig, which happens to be the same size as an iconic Dr. Seuss book. The simple story will charm young children during story time at school or a library. What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig is so much fun to read I hope to see Pig in new stories.

I asked one last question, wondering, with all those charismatic animals on board, who is Pig’s favorite passenger. She said,

“Well . . . none were my favorite at the beginning, as they were all getting
in my way of having fun in the sun! At the end though, ALL of them were
my favorite, with Goat on his log being my extra, extra favorite.”

WHAT THIS STORY NEEDS IS A PIG IN A WIG. Text and illustrations copyright (C) 2015 by . Reproduced by permission of the publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, NY.

Purchase What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig at AmazonBook DepositoryApple iBooksHarperCollins Children’s Books.

Learn more about What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig HERE.
There are Coloring Sheet HERE
An Activity Guide HERE
And a Teacher’s Guide HERE

Pig in a Wig’s website:  http://emmavirjan.com/pig-in-a-wig/
Meet the author/illustrator, Emma J. Virján, at her website: http://www.emmavirjan.com
Find more engaging picture books a the HarperCollins Children’s Books website:  http://www.harpercollins.com/

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 453     

Full Disclosure: What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig, by Emma J. Virján, and received from HarperCollins Children’s Books, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: beginning readers, Dr. Seuss, Emma J. Virján, HarperCollins Children’s Books, phonetics, Pig in a Wig, repetition, rhyming picture book, swimming in a moat, What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig!

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9. Happy Fourth of July! Giveaway winner.

Hi everyone!
Moving day finally arrived this past weekend–one long day that has, thus far, lasted 96 hours (and counting). While everything is moved, my living space is boxish. The cats are not thrilled with all the booms and bangs of neighborhood fireworks, which, strangely, go off all day and night. For a state that has made fireworks illegal, there are a lot of fireworks going off.

Moving is never much fun, but I was fortunate to have hired a company that sent two energetic, polite, and very professional movers. Anyone interested in another’s cannot-fit-into-new-home stuff, a yard sale is . . . wait, I have a garage now . . . a garage sale will be held near the end of August. By then, I should have most of the boxes opened and sorted. Until then, the cats are enjoy climbing the stacked boxes and furniture and tromping in the empty boxes. Lucky cats.

Baby Girl (grey) and Theo (white) enjoy the familiarity of the bedroom.

Baby Girl (grey) and Theo (white) enjoy the familiarity of the bedroom.

Those who made a move after 15 years in one place will understand my current living situation. Those who have not, the pictures should help.

One side of living room.

One side of living room.

Kitchen:  big metal square is a built-in fridge (doesn't work).

Kitchen: big metal square is a built-in fridge (doesn’t work).

New Refrigerator:  ice maker not hooked-up, but still dispenses ice.

New Refrigerator: ice maker not hooked-up, but still dispenses ice.

The house was built in the 1940’s and has plaster walls, not drywall. All new to me and proving to be a challenge. “Just where is that stud?” Love the backyard, which is divided into 1/3rd front and 2/3rds back (fenced in), with the entire yard privacy fenced. Molly, a nine-year-old rescue dog, will be moving in once I have a living room. She loves the fenced in portion. The rescue yard does not have grass, so this was new for her.

Anytime you move into an older home, all sorts of problems seem to surface. This has led to some Bad News/Good News:  Basement leaks/but getting water-proofed. Bathroom is a mess. Last owner actually used double-sided table (Scotch tape) to keep shower wall attached to the wall. It didn’t work. Good news is the bathroom is being made over next week. Old tub out, walk-in shower in. Everything will be changed except the toilet (already new). A built-in oven across from the new fridge (doesn’t work), is getting pulled next week and a pantry built in that space. I even got to start a garden. Nothin fancy this year: tomatoes, peppers, radishes, carrots, and lettuce.

Reviews will be back on track after the July 4th holiday. I have a new writing room.

My new "writing room."

My new “writing room.”

This has been a rough year for me and book reviews have suffered for it. Things are going to turn around. I know it.  Enjoy the weekend’s activities, the food, festivities, family, and friends, and stay safe. See you after the 4th.

Oh, congratulations to Julie Harms Moen! Julie won the Guardian Herds tote bag and all the goodies inside it.


Filed under: Special Event Tagged: bathroom makeovers, boxes-upon-boxes, giveaway winner, moving day, old houses, rescue dogs

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10. Win A Doodle! Hooray!

Sue Morris @ KidLitReviews:

Another chance to win an authentic Mike Allegra doodle. Your cost? One vacation story, preferably a worst vacation story. Check it out!

Originally posted on heylookawriterfellow:

IT IS TIME FOR A CONTEST!

Here’s your chance to win an official Mike Allegra custom made doodle!

But first, a word from Giddy Happy Mike:

This is the cover of the July 2015 issue of Highlights for Children.

Highlights coverIsn’t it great? I especially like this part:

Highlights cover detailThat’s my story!

“Harold’s Hat,” is in the latest issue of Highlights (which is awesome)! And the editors decided to promote it on the magazine’s cover (which is awesomer)!

The issue arrived in my mailbox on Saturday. My son took one look at it, turned to me and said, “You are so cool.”

Best Fathers’ Day Present Ever.

The entire magazine is fantastic, by the way (Highlights is always fantastic). So be sure to pick up a copy for the little ones in your life. OK?

Thank you for indulging me. Now where was I? Oh, yes…

THE WIN A DOODLE…

View original 448 more words


Filed under: Children's Books

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11. #710 – The Korean War: an Interactive Modern History Adventure

cover

The Korean War: An Interactive Modern History Adventure

Series: You Choose Books
Written by Michael Burgan
Consultant: Raymond L. Puffer, PhD
Capstone Press      8/01/2014
978-1-4914-0357-0
112 pages      Age 8—12

“It’s 1950 and the Communist country of North Korea has invaded its neighboring country of South Korea. The United Nations has stepped in to help South Korea by providing weapons and soldiers. Nearly all of these soldiers come from the United States. Will you:

1. Serve as a pilot in Korea with the U.S. Marine Corps?
2. Lie about your age to enlist as a 16-year-old member of the U.S. military reserves?
3. Join in the fight for your country as a young South Korean man?

Everything in this book happened to real people. And YOU CHOOSE what you do next. The choices you make could lead you to survival or to death.” [back cover]

Review
It is June 25th, 1950. Communist leader Kim I1 Sung controlled northern Korea. He wanted the entire country under his rule. Sung crosses the 38th parallel—dividing north from south—to lead a surprise attack on South Korea with China and the Soviet Union’s help. The United Nations agreed to support the south, sending troops from the United States and 15 other nations—but mostly soldiers came from the U.S. You join the fighting, but how? Are you a Marine pilot, a U.S. reservist, or a South Korean civilian? Choose wisely, as your fate depends upon it.

38th parralel korea

Did you choose the pilot?
Your first major decision is an extremely important decision: do you fly the F4U Corsair fighter plane you know how to pilot, or do you learn how to fly the more dangerous military helicopter? If you choose helicopters, your commander, Colonel Morris (not made up), gives you a choice between a copter requiring sand bags to keep it balanced, or one that can experience engine problems and cannot fly as far as the other copter. How brave are you?

Did you choose to trick the U.S. and join up at age 16?
The first year of reservist training is fairly easy and you are looking forward to the next year when the Korean War begins. You are now a full-time Marines, but without the full Marine training. A sergeant gives you a choice: do you get more training or do you think you are ready to fight? Think about this, as the decision could mean you never return home . . . alive.

Did you choose to be a South Korean civilian, ready to fight for your homeland?
You decide to volunteer, a rather rare event as most South Korean soldiers are merely grabbed off the street. You train with the Americans and then partner up when sent to the line. At one point you are captured by the Chinese, lectured on communism and its value for the entire Korean peninsula, and then told you will fight with the Chinese, not against them. Do you join or do you refuse?

Korean War2A good way to get a feel for the fighting and the awful choices—none great—soldiers were forced to make is by reading The Korean War: An Interactive Modern History Adventure. This book is not a textbook-type read in that major facts are given for rote memory. Kids will find this more interesting than mere facts making The Korean War: An Interactive . . . a good adjunct text for teachers. While helping readers understand ground forces and air support decisions and the possible outcomes, the book also includes emotional responses to the fighting and choices of war. Kids will get the usual firing of bazookas, machine guns, and rifles; and the throwing of grenades, the dropping of bombs, and worst of all, napalm, yet the most important are the soldiers feelings and how those feelings affected their choices in these real stories.

Kids will learn the difference between an armistice versus a peace treaty, including North Korea’s instance that the war is not over, though fighting stopped 62 years ago. Up against unbelievable odds, South Korea has kept control of their country. The Korean War may not be the first war kids think of, but it should be in their brain’s history department. I really like these interactive books. I hated history, but these books make history come alive which heightens my interest. I had thought a peace treaty had been made. I also had not realized how influential the Chinese were to the North Korean campaign.

Korean War3

If an old gal of . . . well it’s impolite to ask . . . can enjoy these You Choose Books, kids certainly will enjoy them. And if I can learn a thing or two, so will kids. While not a fun subject, The Korean War: An Interactive Modern History Adventure held my interest, got me thinking, and has me wanting to know more about the Korean War. The same will happen to kids who read this inventive, yet real life, account of the Korean War.

The author included a time-line of the war, a “Read More” section, a glossary, bibliography, and an index.

THE KOREAN WAR: AN INTERACTIVE MODERN HISTORY ADVENTURE. Text copyright © 2015 by Michael Burgan. Reproduced by permission of Capstone Press, an imprint of Capstone, North Mankato, MN.

Purchase The Korean War: An Interactive . . . at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesCapstone.

Learn more about The Korean War: An Interactive . . . HERE.
Meet the author, Michael Burgan, at his Capstone bio:  http://www.capstonepub.com/consumer/authors/burgan-michael/
Find more You Choose Books at the Capstone Press website:  http://www.capstonepub.com/

You Choose Books
World War II Pilots  (reviewed HERE)
The Vietnam War
War in Afghanistan
The Berlin Wall
Hurricane Katrina
The Making of a Social Network

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 699


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Historical Fiction, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, You Choose Series Tagged: armisitance, Capstone Press, interactive reading, Michael Burgan, military, Raymond L. Puffer PhD, The Korean War: an Interactive Modern History Adventure, US Marines, War, war planes and helicopters, You Choose Books

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12. #709 – Frankie Dupont and the Science Fair Sabotage by Julie Anne Grasso

Frankie-Dupont-and-the-Science-Fair-Sabotage-by-Julie-Anne-Grasso
Frankie Dupont And The Science Fair Sabotage
Written by Julie Anne Grasso
Illustrated by Alexander Avellino
Published by J. A. Grasso       5/11/2015
978-0-9873725-9-8
230 pages    Age 8—12

“Frankie Dupont is less than impressed when he has to attend the Sustainable Science Fair with Kat and Amy. Upon his arrival, he learns that Amy’s brothers have had their robotics chip stolen Keen to recover the chip, Frankie questions the kids in the competition, but everyone seems to have a motive. When baffling clues start rolling in via “Snap-Goss” instant messages, Frankie realizes it will take all of his detective muscles to solve this case.” [back cover]

Review
Frankie Dupont and the Science Fair Sabotage is the third book in the Frankie Dupont series. This time around, mom and dad are going away for the weekend, leaving Frankie in charge of the detective agency. When he is called to the Sustainable Science Fair, he finds Angus and Archie in angst over their robotic chip, stolen sometime after arriving at the fair. Frankie swoops into action. He finds the twins entry into the fair, or rather just the twins, causes equal angst among the other student entries. Angus and Archie have pranked each of the contestants and none of them are friendly toward the boys. Each contestant has a reason to sabotage the twin’s entry, though none will admit they stole the chip. Frankie becomes more confused the longer he tries to figure out the culprit. If each kid had a reason to take the robotic chip, how does he decide which is the guilty party?

Illustration2SFS correction 4 May 2015

The mystery is not terribly complicated, still Grasso, whose writing improves with each new story, does a great job keeping the reader with Frankie. Kids will not figure out the culprit much sooner than Frankie will. After three outings, the characters remain fresh. Frankie has lost the arrogance he had during the Lemon Festival Fiasco, yet he is still clueless regarding Amy’s admiration. Frankie’s best friend and cousin Kat, who has been his sidekick through the first two stories, is less involved in the mystery of the stolen chip. Frankie’s main motivation comes from Inspector Cluesome, whom Frankie is determined to outwit.

Kids will enjoy the Science Fair Sabotage. The science fair projects are interesting. One has a house built out of stevia-made sugar cubes and another using scrap aluminum to build a working guitar. The ideas of conservation and recycling are clear in the science fair entries, though I would have liked to have read more about why this fair came about, which could have lead to an indepth conversation about these important issues.

Illustration3SFS

The Science Fair Sabotage will entertain readers. The short chapters, divided by student entry, will keep reluctant readers interested. The end works out fine, with Frankie finding the culprit, the science fair going on as planned, and a winner announced. The culprit is not who readers will expect, so keep you eyes peeled to the clues. The Science Fair Sabotage is a fine addition to the Frankie Dupont series.

Next up for Frankie, Kat, and Amy (seems they might have become a team), is a luxury cruise in Frankie Dupont and the High Seas Adventure, scheduled to release in September 2015.

Awards for the Frankie Dupont Series
2014 Wishing Shelf Independent Book SILVER for Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor. (book #1)

FRANKIE DUPONT AND THE SUSTAINEABLE SCIENCE FAIR. Text copyright © 2015 by Julie Anne Grasso. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Alexander Avellino. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Julie Anne Grasso, Australia.

Buy The Sustainable Science Fair at AmazonBook DepositoryAuthor’s Store.

Learn more about The Sustainable Science Fair HERE.
Free Activity Booklet is HERE.
Meat the author, Julie Anne Grasso at her website:  http://whenigrowupiwannawriteakidsbook.blogspot.com.au/
Meet the illustrator, Alexander Avellino, at his website:  http://www.alexanderavellino.com/

Also by Julie Anne Grasso
Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor (review)
Frankie Dupont and the Lemon Festival Fiasco (review)
Adventures of Caramel Cardamom #1: Escape from the Forbidden Planet
Adventures of Caramel Cardamom #2: Return to Cardamom (review)
Adventures of Caramel Cardamom #3: Stellarcadia
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
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Review section word count = 433
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Full Disclosure: Frankie Dupont and the Sustainable Science Fair by Julie Anne Grasso & Alexander Avellino, and received from the publisher, Julie Anne Grasso, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonies in Advertising.


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: Alexander Avellino, conservation, ecology, Frankie Dupont, Frankie Dupont and the Science Fair Sabotage, Julie Anne Grasso, mystery, recycling sustainability, science fairs

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13. Win—Win—Win A Bunch of Great Guardian Herd Stuff!

CHECK THIS OUT!
GuardianHerd_3_final cover
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NO!

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SERIOUSLY,

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CHECK THIS OUT!!

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GuardianHerd_3_final cover
This is the new Guardian Herd #3: LANDFALL cover.

Landfall is the final installment . . . maybe . . . (I hope not) . . . of The Guardian Herd series.

Unfortunately, you must wait until next February 2, 2016 to get your hands on this beautiful cover.

How cruel, isn’t it, to reveal a cover you can’t touch for 8 months. Well, I cannot wait . . . must not wait . . . I shall not wai . . . okay, I will wait, but only because it is worth the wait and because the story comes with the cover. Ah, the story. What is Landfall all about?

“It has been many moons since Star received his starfire power. He has gone from being born a dud—unable to fly and shunned by the five herds of Anok, including his own—to becoming a strong yearling, ready to lead his own herd as an over-stallion. But now he will face his toughest challenge yet. Nightwing the Destroyer, Star’s eternal rival, is amassing an army to destroy him and all of Anok. The only way for Star to defeat him is to learn how to fight like a warrior—without using his starfire. For if he uses his power, even to heal, Nightwing will know where to find him.

“As the threat of war looms over Star’s head, he can’t help but wonder if the current peace among the united pegasi is strong enough to defeat the powerful Destroyer once and for all.

“With increasingly difficult challenges and brand-new areas of Anok to explore, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez will thrill readers with this epic and exhilarating third installment of The Guardian Herd series.”

WOW!

But hold on—there is more.

The Guardian Herd Series cover has inspired readers all over the country. Here is some of the amazing art fans have created to show their love of the series.

© Danielle A.

© Danielle A.

© Isabella T.

© Isabella T.

© Jennifer D.

© Jennifer D.

© Mary W.

© Mary W.

© Ruby K.

© Ruby K.

© Abby P.

© Abby P.

As if this Guardian Herd cover and those kids’ pictures are not exciting enough, I am pleased as punch-ing herds to have a partial glimpse at Guardian Herd author Jennifer Lynn Alvarez’s interview with the cover artist, David McClellan. Most of you know about Jennifer. Here is a little about David:

david_mcclellan_at_desk.

David grew up near Portland, Oregon. He studied illustration at Brigham Young University in Utah. In addition to illustrating books, David works as an artist for Disney Interactive Studios, where they make the video game, Disney Infinity. David lives in Utah with his wife and four boys.

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Interview and Art Tips with David McClellan

How did you become the cover artist for The Guardian Herd series?

The art director at Harper Collins had hired me before, but on a completely different kind of subject matter. As she considered me for this job, she asked if I was any good at painting animals and asked for some examples, and I told her that I was okay, but that I was probably weakest at horses. Of course, horses were exactly what she needed. And she agreed with me that my horses were not my best work, but for some reason she took a chance on me anyway. I immediately went and got some books on horse anatomy and started trying to figure it out. In hindsight, I think I was probably equally bad at drawing all animals. It’s just that horses are animals that humans are really familiar with, and have such specific proportions and musculature, that people can always tell when artists get them wrong. If you draw a dog wrong, you can just say it’s a different kind of dog.

 Please describe your process, from conception to delivery, for creating a Guardian Herd book cover. 

The art director gives me a description of what they want to see on the cover as far as characters and what kind of setting they want. Then I do several sketches to try and turn all those elements into a composition, taking into account where the title and author’s name will be. Those first sketches are usually so rough that no one else would understand them. Lately I have been doing those kinds of sketches on my phone. I then pick out a few that have the most potential and make more finished sketches of those ideas to send to the art director.  She will then review the sketches with the editor and author and then either ask for changes or give the go ahead on the one that they like best. Then I will do color studies and work out the big picture before rendering any details.  

I will have to do research and gather reference materials, in this case, lots of pictures of horses and wings. I have used toy horses for reference too since the photos usually don’t have the right kind of lighting.  So sometimes I set up the toy horse with some makeshift paper wings to help me figure out what the shadows need to do. Then, from that point on, it’s just a lot of hours of painting time to refine and finish it off.

© 2015 David McClellan

© 2015 David McClellan

Your perspectives on the covers are dramatic! Can you give readers any tips on how to draw interesting pictures?

As far as perspective goes, on both of these Guardian Herd covers so far I have dropped the horizon line lower so it feels like you are looking up at Star, which makes him feel more heroic. There are so many potential answers to the question of how to make interesting pictures. Coming up with an interesting idea that is worth the time spent creating it is certainly crucial. Doing several rough sketches to get at the best possible idea helps. Making your image clear and legible helps. For example, it helps to have a clear focal point that is the most important thing in your picture and then have all the other elements complement rather than compete with that main focal point.

© 2015 David McClellan

© 2015 David McClellan

I believe that contrast is a big key to making things interesting. Our brains naturally look for contrast to make sense of things. And not just contrast of light and dark but just about everything you can think of has an opposite that you can use to set it apart and make it stand out. Of course, not everything should stand out. Only the important things. But if you want something to feel light, surround it with some dark. If you want something to feel big, put something small next to it. Try to keep variety in your shapes and not make everything too similar or monotonous.

Do you have any specific tips/advice on how to draw horses and feathers?

Well, start by getting the best reference materials you can get. You may not be able to see all that you need to understand in a photo of a horse, so a book on horse anatomy or a diagram of the muscles of the horse can be helpful. With feathers, it seems to be a little like drawing fingers or hair. If you are drawing a hand, it works best to mass in the fingers as a group first before trying to depict each individual finger. And with hair, it’s the same thing. You draw the mass of hair and then define only as many strands of hair as you need to in order to show that it’s hair and no more.

With the feathers, start with the shape of the wing as a solid mass with the structure of the bones underneath in mind, and then add the feather detail on top of that foundation. And remember that you don’t have to define each feather with equal importance. Pick a few main ones to be the ones that tell the story.

Can you recommend any software programs that budding artists might want to learn?

I really only work in Photoshop for my illustration work, although I sketch in the Sketchbook Pro app on my phone. I have messed around with the Brushes and Art Rage apps on my iPad. I think the kids probably know better than I do what the cool new painting apps are. I always recommend that kids get really good with real pencils and paints before getting into digital art because I think that foundation really helps.

Partial Interview Reprinted with permission from Jennifer Lynn Alvarez. For more information on The Guardian Herd Series please visit The Guardian Herd series website. To read the entire interview, gallop—or fly—on down to the tour dates and sites. (But don’t go yet, there is “One More Thing.”)

You can see more of David’s work at mcclellanart.com and on Instagram:  @mcclellan_art 

Now for the author of The Guardian Herd series. Just in case you have been living in a WIFI-less barn, here is a little about the author, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

JenCalvin2.

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Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is the author of The Guardian Herd: Starfire, StormboundLandfall and The Pet Washer indie book series. She lives in Northern California with her husband, three children, and more than her fair share of pets, including horses.

Here is how you can, dare I say must, follow Jennifer:
Author website: www.jenniferlynnalvarez.com
Twitter:  @JenniferDiaries
Facebook    Pinterest    YouTube    Google+
Instagram: @jennifer_lynn_alvarez
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Guardian Herd #3: LANDFALL releases in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats on 02/02/2016.

You can pre-order a copy at Amazon or Barnes&Noble.

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If you would like to see more of the cover reveal tour—who knows what else you might learn—check out these sites:
June 15th—Middle Grade Mafioso  (running entire interview with David McClellan)
June 16th—Kid Lit Reviews
June 17th—This Kid Reviews Books  (Interview with Audio Book Narrator)
June 18th—Beachbound Books  (Interview with Guardian Herd Character)
June 19th—Doodles Doodles Everywhere  (Artist Interview Debut in India) 
June 20th—Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
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ONE MORE THING.

Really, there is one more thing, and you really need to pay close attention to this part. To be sure you’ll hear, I’ll yell it out:

“HERE IS THE GIVEAWAY MENTIONED IN THE POST TITLE!”

To enter for a chance to WIN a Tote Bag Prize you MUST leave a comment (with your full name and email address IF your name does not link to a website or blog).

Here is the Tote:

FRONT

FRONT

BACK

BACK

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Oh, wait . . . I forgot to open it up. Ooh, inside are the prizes!

The winner will receive:
starfire book 1.

A signed paperback of book #1 STARFIRE (reviewed HERE)
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A poster of the LANDFALL cover. GuardianHerd_3_final cover

Character trading cards (sorry, no image, but Stormbound is reviewed HERE)

AND, to carry home all this swag, you get to keep the actual Guardian Herd Tote!

.        .        Prize Tote Front.
That is one good prize package.

Ready to win? Leave a comment.
(Winner will be announced in a future post.)

Stay tuned, a review of LANDFALL will be here as soon as, well, Ms. Alvarez sends a review copy.


Filed under: Special Event Tagged: cover reveal, David McClellan, giveaway prize pack—tote bag and more, Guardian Herd  fan art, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, LANDFALL, Starfire, STORMBOUND, The Guardian Herd, The Pet Washer

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14. #708 – National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 by Nat. Geo Society & Nat. Geo Kids Magazine

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National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016
National Geographic Society & National Geographic Kids Magazine
National Geographic Society        5/12/2015
978-1-4263-1921-1
352 pages         Age 8—12
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“This New York Times bestseller is packed with incredible photos, tons of fun facts, crafts, activities, and fascinating articles about animals, science, nature, technology, and more. New features include a special section on animal friends; an updated “Fun and Games” chapter filled with all-new games, jokes, and comics; a new “Dino Myths Busted” feature; all new weird-but-true facts, crafts, and activities; a new special “15 Facts” feature in every chapter; updated reference material, and much more! And, this is the only kids’ almanac with mobile media features that allow kids to access National Geographic videos, photo galleries, and games.” [publisher]

Review
National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016—Wow, where do I start? Color blasts out from every page. The photography is as spectacular as National Geographic photography has always been—brilliant, intimately detailed, knock-you-off-your-feet fantabulous. Divided into ten sections, the Kids Almanac 2016 begins with a section on interesting things happening in 2016, and then it explores the usual topics of history, culture, science, geography, nature, and animals. The almanac also includes a section on green technology and its effect on Earth, and a section about exploration and survival. Most likely, a favorite for kids will be the section on games. Actually, the Kids Almanac 2016 contains a game throughout the entire 350 pages. In each chapter is a clue. Find all ten clues and you can open up digital extras.

dino mythsIn reading the Kids Almanac 2016, I think National Geographic has covered all the subjects kids will find interesting and all those they need to know about. Adults can get a lot out of this almanac as well. There is a tremendous amount of information in this relatively small book. I loved the animal topics, of which there are many. Kids interested in dinosaurs will find a prehistoric timeline, nine “Bet you didn’t know” facts, and myths. Each section ends with a quiz on that section’s subject. When you cannot get to a place, or want to know what is happening in different places around the world, the Kids Almanac 2016 is a tremendous aid. Kids can also dig a little deeper in subjects they love and learn about subjects they never thought about or thought were dull. There is not one tedious word or picture in the Kids Almanac 2016. Here are a few subjects I found to be amazing:

“Secrets of the Blue Holes”
Animal photography and how to get the shot.
“The Wonders of Nature: the Oceans”

Worlds Wackiest Houses”

“Worlds Wackiest Houses”

“16 Cool Facts about Coral Reefs”
The jokes and comics in Fun and Games
Orangutan to the Rescue (Survival Story)”

What would a National Geographic book be without its gorgeous maps? The Kids Almanac 2016 has plenty of maps and flags. I think the National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 is a must read, if not a must have, for kids, especially middle graders who will learn a lot without realizing they are learning. The Kids Almanac 2016 is fun, exciting, and interesting. The pages are colorful, the photographs and images extremely detailed, and the subject matter is diverse.

volcanosThough kids are just now beginning to enjoy their summer school breaks, the Kids Almanac 2016 will keep them reading through the summer, which will help kids during their next school year, make them more informed about their world. Parents concerned about the books their kids read will have not one worry about this almanac. Every word, every subject, and every article is kid-friendly. The National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 is an interesting read that will keep kids hooked long past summer vacation.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS ALMANAC 2016. Text and images copyright © 2015 by National Geographic Society. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, National Geographic Society in partnership with National Geographic Kids Magazine, Washington DC.

Purchase National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 at AmazonBook DepositoryNational Geographic.

Kids! Join the National Geographic Kids Book Club HERE!
Teachers and Librarians can find additional information at: http://www.ngchildrensbooks.org
National Geographic Educational site is HERE.

Learn more about National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 HERE.
Check out the National Geographic Society website: http://www.nationalgeographic.com
Find other National Geographic books at: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/books
Learn more about the National Geographic Kids Magazine at the website: http://www.kids.nationalgeographic.com

Kids Almanac 2015 
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 496

nat geo kids almanac 2016


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: and animals, culture, fun, games, geography, going green, history, liss instructive information, maps, National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016, National Geographic Kids Magazine, National Geographic Society, nature, science

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15. #707 – Oddfrey Joins the Team by Dave Whamond

oddfrey joins team cover HERE

Oddrey Joins the Team
Written & Illustrated by Dave Whamond
Owlkids Books 8/15/2014
978-1-77147-061-2
32 pages Age 4—8

“When Oddfrey decides to join her school’s soccer team, she brings a new and unexpected approach to teamwork! On the day of the big game against the Quagville Crushers, nothing is going right—until Oddfrey comes up with a slightly unusual idea. Never afraid to be herself, Oddfrey devises a plan that gives her teammates the strength to be themselves, too. When they all use their individual talents to work together as a team, the results are extremely satisfying—and highly exuberant!” [book jacket]

Review
Oddfrey Joins the Team is the third Oddfrey book (Oddfrey, Oddfrey and the New Kid). According to the publisher, Oddfrey “marches to the beat of her own drum.” With a daisy sprouting from the top of her head, Oddfrey certainly looks odd. I like Oddfrey for a few reasons. First, she likes sports, although her idea of “sports” is sometimes odd. Oddfrey prefers to combine different sport to make a new game. For example, she kicks a basketball into the hoop, rather than shooting it, and bounces a football off her personal sized trampoline, rather than throw the ball to her helmeted dog. Oddfrey’s dog—spotted with big, beautiful, and excited eyes—sticks by her side, always ready to join in her fun. Which brings me to the second and third reasons I like Oddfrey: she does her own thing and she has a pooch for a pal.

04-05_OddreyJoinsTheTeam

I also like Oddfrey because she thinks outside of the soccer sidelines. I only know the basics of soccer: run back and forth after a ball and kick the ball into opponent’s net, which happens less often than one would think. Maybelline—new kid from book 2—asks Oddfrey to join the school’s soccer team—the Picadilla Bees. Maybelline is the star of the team, mainly because she hogs the ball, leaving the other kids to run back and forth. Oddfrey approaches soccer as she does other sports: in her own way. The players are confused and the coach is dismayed, as Oddfrey combines soccer with ballet. Between sending her shoe flying on an attempted kick, balancing on top of the ball, and cart wheeling down the field, Oddfrey does score a goal—GOOOAL!!!—by butt-bumping the ball into the net. Yes, Oddfrey is her own little gal.

12-13_OddreyJoinsTheTeam

The next game is the BIG GAME against the Quagville Crushers. The Bees practice hard. Milton karate-chops the ball down the field (Maybelline: “Just kick it!”). Earl head-bumps the ball (Maybelline: “Use your head, Earl!”). Maybelline gives everyone advice—where is the coach?—even to her friend Oddfrey. Following rules is not in Oddfrey’s skill-set. Poor Maybelline-the-Star, she cannot get it together in the BIG GAME. The Bees are falling fast to the Crushers. Oddfrey puts on her thinking cap and realizes the team name “Bees” must mean something—and it does. Oddfrey uses this to get her team buzzing. What is “Plan Bee,” you ask. Well, you know I can’t say, but read Oddfrey’s new story, Oddfrey Joins the Team, to find out. You’ll do a lot of laughing as you find the answer and read—and see—the exciting conclusion.

22-23_OddreyJoinsTheTeam

The illustrations are action-packed, with details running from spread-to-spread. But you don’t need to like soccer to enjoy Oddfrey Joins the Team. Oddfrey’s pals are interesting in their own right, and the story has less to do with soccer and more to do with ingenuity, friendship, teamwork, and . . . well, if I said the last feature, you might figure out the ending. Both girls and boys will enjoy Oddfrey and her stories. Older kids will also find much to love and enjoy about Oddfrey. Humor runs in both the illustrations and the text, making Oddfrey Joins the Team fast-paced, deliciously funny, and a great story hour book. Oddfrey’s individuality, imagination, and ingenuity are great traits for a character, real or human. Having read Oddfrey Joins the Team a few times, I am ready to skip to the library, Oddfrey-style, and read the first two books in Oddfrey’s, I mean Mr. Whamond’s quirky series.

ODDFREY JOINS THE TEAM. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Dave Whamond. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Owlkids Books, Berkeley, CA, and Toronto, ON.

Purchase Oddfrey Joins the Team at AmazonBook DepositoryOwlkids Books.

Common Core Guidelines HERE
Learn more about Oddfrey Joins the Team HERE.
Meet the author, Dave Whamond, at his twitter:  https://twitter.com/davewhamond
Find more picture books at the Owlkids Books website:  http://www.owlkidsbooks.com

ALSO BY DAVE WHAMOND

Oddrey_cover_large

Oddfrey —-A 2012 Texas 2×2 Selection

Oddfrey and the New Kid

Oddfrey and the New Kid

My Think-a-ma-Jink ----Won the Blue Spruce Award

My Think-a-ma-Jink —-Won the Blue Spruce Award

Reality Check----Syndicated Cartoon Strip

Reality Check—-Syndicated Cartoon Strip

      

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 594

oddfrey joins the team


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Series Tagged: children’s team sports, courage to be yourself, Dave Whamond, friendship, imagination, individuality, ingenuity, My Think-a-ma-Jink, Oddfrey, Oddfrey and the New Kid, Oddfrey Joins the Team, Owlkids Books, Reality Check, soccer, teamwork

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16. #706 – Beach House by Deanna Caswell and Amy June Bates

am cover
Beach House
Written by Deanna Caswell
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
Chronicle Books       5/12/2015
978-1-4521-2408-7
32 pages      Age 4—8

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“A long, long drive.
It’s been a year
of dreaming, waiting.
Summer’s here.
“In a funny and moving celebration of family, vacations, and the joy of the sea, Deanna Caswell and Amy June Bates capture the essence of summer—sand castles, tide pools, starry evenings—and the love that warms every moment.” [book jacket]

Review
Well, if you are not fond of overcrowded pools or swimming deep within them to find fantasy and fish of questionable species (review of Pool here), then maybe traveling to the ocean, staying in a summer home, and breathing in the salt air is more to your liking. If so, then Beach House is the perfect picture book to kick off your summer.

After a long drive—“Are we there yet?—the family arrives at the beach house for their summer vacation. The sea beckons, but the car needs unloaded, and the suitcases unpacked.

“Doors fly open.
End of the road.

“To the beach!”
“Not yet—unload.”

Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Amy June Bates. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

So many bags, so much stuff. Amazing one family needs this much for a vacation from daily life. Fun waits as the clothes are hung and shoes arranged. The youngest son and his faithful pal look hopefully out the window at the beach and the water. Then the magic words that get everyone moving. Suits are on, and dad is loaded down with every imaginable beach toy and towels. The family hits the beach. The two kids gleefully run into the water with the puppy right behind them. The toddler plays in the sand, making castles and other sand-filled joys. After a full day of sun, sand, and water, the family cuddles up to a roaring fire for dinner and then the comfort of baths and soft beds. Tomorrow will be another day on the beach. The text, written in rhyme, easily flows off the tongue, fluently rhyming for readers and listeners alike.

bates - dad loaded down

I love the illustrations which overflow with intimate detail. The younger boy, pulling his wagon full of sand toys, has the glimpses of a diaper popping out of the top of his swim trunks. He is obviously a toddler. Another favorite scene has the two older kids—a boy and a girl—in the water playing. Dad is tossing the girl up and into the water. The boy has his hands cupped around his mouth, yelling at mom, who is on the beach with the toddler. I can hear him saying, “Hey, Mom! Mom! Look at me!”

The watercolor and pencil illustrations exude summer on a soft, white, sandy beach that keeps the ocean where it belongs, allowing just a wave or two onto its shore. I am reminded of summer vacations with my family. Five of us crammed into a small cottage, swimming all day, eating ice cream bars on the stoop, and watching my older sister wash the paper plates—a joke I was too young to understand, or even remember without photographic evidence. Beach House brings out memories, or maybe, it will give you pause—a small suggestion—to plan that family getaway.

running into water full spread large

BEACH HOUSE. Text copyright © 2015 by Deanna Caswell. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Amy June Bates. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase Beach House at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesChronicle Books.

Learn more about Beach House HERE.
Meet the author, Deanna Caswell, at her website:  http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/
Meet the illustrator, Amy June Bates, at her website:  http://amyjunebates.blogspot.com/
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 453

beach house


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Amy June Bates, Beach House, Chronicle Books, Deanna Caswell, family time, ocean cottages, relationships, sand castles, summer vacations, swimming

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17. #705 – Pool by JiHyeon Lee

cover

Pool

By JiHyeon Lee
Chronicle Books      5/01/2015
978-1-4521-4294-4
56 pages      Age 3—5

“What happens when two shy children meet at a very crowded pool? Dive in to find out! JiHyeon Lee’s masterful story of a chance encounter takes readers on a journey that reminds us that friendship and imagination have no bounds.” [book jacket]

Review
Pool arrives just in time for summer. Pool wordlessly tells the story of one young boy going to a public pool to find it is crowded. Actually, barely an inch exists between swimmers. He sits on the side of the pool, probably contemplating what to do. Then he dives in and goes below the legs of all those swimmers. Down into the depths of the pool, the young boy meets all sorts of curious water-living creatures. Crazy big-eyed fish, long L-shaped fish, and even a fish resembling a toucan exist down below those swimmers.

Most importantly, the young boy meets another swimmer his own age. The two explore all the life below the other swimmers. Schools of bluefish swarm the young boy, who looks uncertain. The brave outlook of the young girl must give him confidence, as they fearlessly swim among fish with many sharp teeth and come eye-to-eye with a huge whale. As the two swim up for air, the fish follow causing a riotous exit from the water by the other swimmers.

Pool_wallpaper_hires

I love Pool. Pool exemplifies the power of the imagination and the pull of kindred spirits into friendship. Pool shows the boy’s problem-solving skills as he decides to go below the swimming feet where there would be room to actually swim. Those above him crowd the water too tightly to even move, let alone swim. Below the surface, this resourceful boy meets another young swimmer and the two find ways to enjoy the water and themselves. Are those fish real? It’s anyone’s guess whether those crazy-looking fish are real or the figment of the young swimmers’ imaginations. Last out of the pool is an inner tube wearing young swimmer, who looks back upon the now quiet and still water. If you saw what this youngster saw, you just might believe.

Pool is perfect for any summer day, rain or shine. Lee used oil pastels and colored pencils to create the beautifully crafted spreads. As the young boy swims below the crowded surface, his trunks turn from a dull grey to a dark blue. The further he descends, the brighter the spreads. I think the message is that one must go beyond the ordinary, innertube crowd to see the wonders of the world and, when finding friendship, enjoy the time together in those wonders you share. Staying on the surface, with the crowd, is safe but often lonely. Pool is Lee’s first picture book. I hope she continues to publish. Her work is collector worthy.

Next time you go swimming, try going down to the depths of your imagination. You just might meet your kindred spirit.

Pool_Interior1.jpg

POOL. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by JiHyeon Lee. Copright © 2015 by Chronicle Books. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase Pool at AmazonBook DepositoryChronicle Books.

Learn more about Pool HERE.
Collect Wallpapers no.1 and no.2
Meet the artist, JiHyeon Lee at her pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/kooshles/ji-hyeon-lee-south-korean-illustrator/
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

Originally published in South Korea in 2013 by Iyagikot Publishing.

top book of 2015 general
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 353

Pool

 


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Chronicle Books, collector-worthy picture books, imaginative, JiHyeon Lee, Korean born children’s authors and illustrators, Pool, splendid, summer, swimming

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18. #704 – Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips

Today’s review is a bit different from the usual fare here on Kid Lit Reviews. I received a young adult book last year, which I do not review, because I firmly believe YA does not mix well with picture books and middle grade fare. I set it aside. Last night, needing a break from reading kid’s books and packing boxes, I picked up that book, simply titled Crazy. Crazy is Linda Vigen Phillips debut into children’s lit. Written in verse, the story is a fast read. The story shines a light on mental illness and, though set in the 1960s, is every bit as relevant today as it was then. Crazy moved me and I hope it moves you.

crazy coverCrazy

Written by Linda Vigen Phillips
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers     10/06/2014
978-0-8028-5437-7
314 pages         Age 12+
A Junior Library Guild Selection for 2014

“Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance. But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from a mental illness. No one in Laura’s family will talk about her mother’s past hospitalizations or increasingly erratic behavior, and Laura is confused and frightened. Laura finds some solace in art, but when her mother, also an artist, suffers a breakdown, Laura fears that she will follow in her mother’s footsteps. Left without a refuge, can she find the courage to face what scares her most?” [book cover]

Review
15-year-old Laura’s mother suffers from bipolar disorder and the family suffers right along with her, as most often happens. The author took parts of her own life, apparently having a mother who also suffered from mental illness. In the sixties, where the story takes place, mental illness carried much stigma so families kept this very secret. A lot of effort went into hiding the ailment from others. Kids never brought friends home to play or for sleepovers. If the family member was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, the family’s secret keeping went into high alert.

Now this may sound crazy in itself, but people outside the family secret did treat kids and adults with a mentally ill family member differently—poorly, often as if the craziness could rub off the family and onto them. Many people did not consider mental illness a medical disorder. Instead, mental illness was a problem of attitude, disposition, and a weakness of the will. Thus, mentally ill people could cure themselves by changing their attitude and their disposition by just acting normal. “If they would just do this or do that, they would be fine in no time,” was the basic attitude of most people.

The mother was a brilliant artist when younger, but gave it up. Laura encourages her mother to paint again, thinking it might help her mother regain her sense of self and thus act more normal. Instead, her mother has a “nervous breakdown.” Now Laura blames herself because she encouraged her mother to paint and, in her mind, the act of painting again caused her mother to collapse. Being a gifted artist in her own right, Laura is terrified that she will tumble into the same black hole her mother has. At one point, Laura even believes she is on her way, and in great fear and despair, refuses to paint, despite a contest deadline looming near.

NERVOUS BREAKDOWN

“If you’ve ever been there
when a lightbulb gets real bright
just before it blows out,
then you know what it was like
around here when things got extremely crazy,
right before they shipped Mama off
to the nut house.

“It’s all my fault
for suggesting
she take up painting again.
That’s what she was doing
that day I came home
to such a mess.
She was trying to paint on canvas,
not ceramics,
and maybe,
well, maybe she just forgot
how to do it
and it frustrated her real bad.
I could see she was beside herself
with frustration.

“I never should have suggested it.

“Maybe that’s why she put her hand
on the hot stove last night
and didn’t even smell
the burning flesh.
Now on top of her craziness
she has a bandaged hand.”

The problem in the sixties, as it was in the fifties, and every decade past, was a lack of information. Even today, though much enlightened, some still attach a stigma to mental illness. Books like Crazy help change these views by looking to the next generation. Laura, having been kept in the dark by her family (Laura is not old enough to understand), knows little about her mother’s illness. She understands mom is crazy, as she lives with the craziness each day. Laura watches her mother sit in a chair all day, staring at nothing in particular and worrying about everything (JFK’s assassination occurs), then watches her mother in crazed action, with energy that overflows and keeps her moving for days.

Laura gives up her own artistic talent to maintain her sanity, but it does not work. Laura feels herself falling deeper into a hole she cannot comprehend. Despite asking what is specifically going on with her mother, no one will explain. Not understanding, Laura’s mind works herself into her own despair. Overloaded with a sick mother, keeping secrets, and normal teen angst Laura works herself into believing she is beginning the slow descent into craziness. Her father has closed himself off, in his own attempts to deal with an ill wife he dearly loves, so Laura does not get the support she needs from him. Her older sister is busy with her own family, having married young. Laura’s friends are in the dark, though would most likely be a great support system for her, if she was not so afraid to tell them.

Crazy does a great job describing mental illness fifty years ago and an even better job of describing a kid who must live with a mentally ill parent. The writing is easy to read and a fast read, since most of the verse deals with Laura and her thoughts, rather than visual descriptions. It works. I think an advanced middle grader could read Crazy and enjoy the story along with a new understanding of mental illness. Crazy was difficult to put down, even for an hour. I read the 314 pages in one evening. The story is that compelling and that interesting. I needed to know how Laura was going to deal with her mother’s illness. Would she ever return to painting? Could she ever tell her friends? Would Laura really descend into darkness, herself, as she imagines is happening? Will anyone ever speak truthfully and answer Laura’s questions? I just had to know.

Laura tries to protect herself from a mother she does not understand and friends who might abandon her if they knew her secret. I enjoyed this emotionally stirring story. Crazy drew me into the story immediately with the powerful writing. The author does a great job leading the reader down the path she wants them to walk. Laura is a credible character and one in which many kids will see themselves. Laura will have your empathy, but it will take time to understand the other characters’ motives. The story rolls out perfectly. I know this because I have a brother with bipolar disorder. In a group setting, Crazy can easily lead to a great discussion. I recommend Crazy for advanced readers age 12 and up, including adults.

You can purchase Crazy at AmazonEerdmans Books.

Discussion Guide is HERE.
Learn more about Crazy HERE.
Meet the author, Linda Vigen Phillips, at her website:  http://www.lindavigenphillips.com/
Find more picture books at the Eerdmans Books for YR website:  http://www.eerdmans.com/YoungReaders/

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers is an imprint of Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co.

CRAZY. Text copyright © 2014 by Linda Vigen Phillips. Copyright © 2014 by publisher, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Grand Rapids, MI.

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 864

crazy


Filed under: 5stars, Book Excerpt, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: 1960s JFK assassination, bipolar disorder, Crazy, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, emotional, high school angst, Linda Vigen Phillips, mental illness, powerful

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19. #697 – Kid Presidents: True tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents by David Stabler & Doogie Horner

KidPresidents_final_300dpiKid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents

Written by David Stabler*
Illustrated by Doogie Horner
Quirk Books    10/28/2014
978-1-59474-731-1
216 pages    Age 8—12
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EVERY PRESIDENT STARTED OUT AS A KID

“Forget the legends. Ignore the tall tales. The kids who grew up to be president weren’t superheroes. They had regular-kid problems just like you. John F. Kennedy hand hated his big brother. Lyndon Johnson pulled pranks in class. Barack Obama was bothered by bullies. And Bill Clinton was crazy clumsy (he once broke his leg jumping rope). Kid Presidents tells all of their stories and ore with full-color cartoon illustrations on every page. History has never been this much fun!” [book jacket]

Review
Kid Presidents tells the story of sixteen presidents including George Washington—who never chopped down a cherry tree—and Barack Obama—who received a gibbon ape as a gift. Every president had a childhood filled with the same things as kids today. They had friends, though one had none. Some had trouble in school or trouble at home, and at least one was an extremely angry young boy. Some were well-liked, good students, and helpful at home. Despite decades between them, “boys will be boys.”

Abe and his sister were forced to sleep on a floor covered with corncobs and straw.

“Abe and his sister were forced to sleep on a floor covered with corncobs and straw.”

Ulysses Grant, at age eight, made a bad barter for a horse. He told the seller the most he could pay ($25), and, of course, $25 became the seller’s asking price. Word spread fast and kids started calling Ulysses “Useless.” Ulysses did not barter as his father instructed him, but being called Useless was cruel, as kids often are. Teachers could be cruel, as Herbert Hoover found out on his report card comment section:

“A fat little boy, always reading.”

John F Kennedy’s teacher was not thrilled with him,

“Jack studies at the last minute,
keeps appointments late,
has little sense of material values,
and can seldom locate his possessions.”

Kennedy sure doesn’t sound like presidential material, but sure enough, he became president number 35. Kid Presidents will make you laugh more often than not, and when not laughing, you will be grinning. Our past presidents, and our current, had normal childhoods. They schemed and dreamed just like kids today. Some were poor, some rich, but most where in-between. These presidents, as boys, did dumb things, held odd jobs, and had weird nicknames. Here are a few:

Accident-prone:  Jimmy Carter shot his sister and Dwight Eisenhower stabbed his brother in the eye.

Clumsy:  Harry Truman broke his collarbone—while combing his hair and Rutherford B. Hayes fell into hot coals—while putting on his pants.

Pranks (or bad boys?):  Andrew Jackson moved outhouses, so the owner couldn’t find it, and John F. Kennedy stole people’s milk and then sold it back to them.

Nicknames:  Barack Obama was “the Little Duck,” Gerald Ford was “Junie,” and John F. Kennedy was “Rat Face.”

(There is more to each of the above, but those stories are for you to read.)

Barack Obama

Kid Presidents has a childhood tale for sixteen presidents, but there are snippets about many more, if not all. Kid Presidents makes for an entertaining, and often hilarious, read. Kids will love reading about the crazy stunts, fights, pranks, and physical problems these boys overcame and then went on to become an American president. If those boys could accomplish this, so can any boy—or girl—who reads this book. Even if becoming president is not their goal, reading Kid Presidents should help kids understand that childhood, good or bad, silly or sad, boring or brilliant, will have less affect on their future as adults than they may believe. “Permanent Records” don’t have the permanency as adults may tell you. If they did, Lyndon Johnson might not have served five years as president. Johnson was class clown, the cut-up who got into so much trouble, his father’s first words upon returning home often were,

“Well, what has Lyndon done today?”

The illustrations in Kid Presidents enhance each of the stories. The images of young boys-soon-to-be-presidents are also funny, often cartoonish, and always entertaining. A second edition of Kid Presidents, with stories covering those presidents missed in this edition, would be a nice follow-up. 

YOU as President!

YOU as President!

*real name is Robert Schnakenberg

KID PREIDENTS: TRUE TALES OF CHILDHOOS CROM AMERICA’S PRESIDENTS.Text copyright © 2014 by David Stabler. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Doogie Horner. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Quirk Books, Philadelphia, PA.

Purchase Kid Presidents at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesQuirk Books.

Learn more about Kid Presidents HERE.
Book’s website:  http://kidpresidents.com/
Meet the author, David Stabler, at his facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/davidkstabler
Meet the illustrator, Doogie Horner, at his twitter page:  https://twitter.com/DoogieHorner
Find more middle grade books at the Quirk Books website:  http://www.quirkbooks.com/

Read an excerpt  HERE.
Educator’s Guide  HERE.     
Quizzo Event Kit  HERE.
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 625

kid presidents


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: 978-1-59474-731-1, american presidents, childhood tales, David Stabler, Doogie Horner, Kid Presidents: True tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents, Quirk Books, Robert Schnakenberg

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20. #698 – Jack and the Wild Life by Lisa Doan & Ivica Stevanovic

cover_Jack_and_the_Wildlife-330

#02 Jack and the Wild Life

Series: The Berenson Schemes
Written by Lisa Doan
Illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic
Darby Creek         9/01/2014
     144 pages    Age 9—12

“After a wild plan by his parents left Jack stranded in the Caribbean, the Berenson family decided to lay out some rules. Jack’s mom and dad agreed they wouldn’t take so many risks. Jack agreed he’d try to live life without worrying quite so much. Then Jack’s parents thought up another get-rich-quick scheme. Now the family’s driving around Kenya. An animal attack is about to send Jack up a tree—alone, with limited supplies. As Jack attempts to outsmart a ferocious honey badger and keep away from an angry elephant, he’ll have plenty of time to wonder if the Berenson Family Decision-Making Rules did enough to keep him out of trouble.” [book jacket]

Review
The Berenson family adults are constantly trying to find an easy way to make a fortune, conjuring up one odd scheme after another. Jack is the one that pays the price for these awful plans, while his parents wander through life unaware of most everything around them, including their missing son. This makes for many comical situations and gives the series its heart. This time, the Berensons fly to Africa, Jack in tow, because, as Dad tells Jack,

“Your mum and I have invented a brand-new kind of tourism . . . a surefire moneymaking opportunity.”

going to kenyaThey plan to build a tourist camp where people can live like a real Maasai tribe. Using mud, sticks, grass, and more mud, Jack’s parents plan to build the Maasai mud-huts tourists will gladly rent to experience tribal life (and a fence to keep out the lions). The best part of their plans, the two adults believe, is they need no money to build their attraction—Mother Nature supplies the materials. Jack is not thrilled. He finally had a “normal” life, a home, parents who held down real 9-to-5 jobs, and a new friend—Diana. Once summer began to fade into fall, Jack’s parents could no longer do that “grind.” But this time things will be different: Jack’s parents will plan ahead, not take any risks, and not lose Jack. Changing their ways proves more difficult than the parents thought, as things do not go as planned, risks are taken, and, well, Jack . . . he ends up in a tree.

Poor Jack, now he is in Africa, stuck up a tree, while his parents—yet to realize Jack flew out of the rented Jeep—are trying to find the guide for their new camp. Jack must protect himself from animals on the ground and the ones that can get past the fence he built around the tree. He sleeps in the tree, eats in the tree, and fears for his life—and the life of Mack, Diana’s stuffed monkey—in the tree. The last time his parents had a get-rich-quick scheme, Jack feared for his life on a deserted island. (#1 – Jack the Castaway reviewed here).

jack pageThe Berenson Schemes is a wonderful series, especially for kids that wish they could take control. With roles reversed, Jack acts more the parent, setting rules and following through. Meanwhile, Jack’s parents act more like spoiled, unruly children, who care about themselves first and Jack second. They do love their son, but cannot get it together as adults. In book #2, Jack and the Wild Life, the family has new decision-making rules in the hopes that Jack’s parents will be parents that are more responsible. As Jack makes a tree-bed out of duct tape and reads his Kenya guide, he thinks maybe the rules are not working as he had hoped they would.

I love the black and white illustrations. Stevanovic does a great a job of enhancing the story, giving readers a view into Jack’s situation and his emotions. I wish I had more images to show readers. The full-page illustrations are fantastic and have been in both books. By the end of the story, Jack’s parents may see the errors of their ways and promise Jack they will try harder to change . . . until the next edition, when they tire of being adults, devise a new scheme, and hook Jack into their plans. The Berenson Schemes #2: Jack and the Wild Life is great fun and I look forward to each new scheme and Jack’s consequences for merely being his parents’ child. Kids will love the mayhem Doan creates and the magic in Stevanovic’s illustrations. Book #3: Jack at the Helm, released this past March, 2015.

JACK AND THE WILD LIFE (THE BERENSON SCHEMES #2). Text copyright © 2014 by Lisa Doan. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Darby Creek, Minneapolis, MN.

Purchase Jack and the Wild Life at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesDarby Creek.

Learn more about Jack and the Wild Life HERE.
CCSS Guide for Teachers HERE.
Meet the author, Lisa Doan, at her website:  http://www.lisadoan.org/
Meet the illustrator, Ivica Stevanovic, at his website:  http://ivicastevanovicart.blogspot.com/
Find more middle grade books at the Darby Creek website:  http://bit.ly/DarbyCreek

Darby Creek is a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

The Berenson Schemes

#1 – Jack the Castaway

#1 – Jack the Castaway

#2 – Jack and the Wild Life

#2 – Jack and the Wild Life

JACK AT THE HELM 3

#3 – Jack at the Helm

 

 

 

#01 – Jack and the Castaway 2015 IPPY Gold Medalist for Juvenile fiction

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 518

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Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: Africa, Darby Creek, family, get-rich-schemes, Inc., Ivica Stevanovic, Jack and the Wild Life, Jack at the Helm, Jack the Castaway, Kenya, Lerner Publishing Group, Lisa Doan

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21. #699 – Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer & Holly Clifton-Brown

cover
Stella Brings the Family

Written by Miriam B. Schiffer
Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Chronicle Books      3/05/2015
32 pages     Age 4—8

“Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day cerebration but what’s a girl with two daddies to do? It’s not that she doesn’t have someone who helps her with her homework or tucks her in at night. Stella has her Papa and Daddy who take care of her and a whole gaggle of other loved ones who make her feel special and supported every day. She just doesn’t have a mom to invite to the party. Fortunately, Stella finds a unique solution to her party problem in the sweet story about love, acceptance, and the true meaning of family.” [book jacket]
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Review
Stella’s teacher at Elmwood Elementary School announces a celebration for Mother’s Day and each student can invite a “special guest.” Jonathan, Leon, and Carmen are inviting their mothers. Howie even has two mothers to invite! Stella does not have a mother. Her classmates wonder—without a mother—who reads to her at night, helps her with homework, and kisses her when she gets hurt. Stella has many people who do those things. She has her Papa and Daddy, Nonna, Aunt Gloria, Uncle Bruno, and Cousin Lucy. Jonathan suggests inviting them all, but Stella is not sure. On party day, Howie is there with his two mothers and Jonathan is with his grandmother (mom is away in the army). The party is a big hit and everyone has a great time.

kids table

Stella Brings the Family delves into what a family consists of today. No longer simply mom and dad plus kids, today’s configurations of families can be anything that consists of people loving and caring for each other. That can be mom and dad plus kids, or a mom and child, a grandmother and grandchild, even two dads and a daughter, like Stella’s family. Stella Brings the Family is not a book about homosexuality. It does not try to explain why Stella has two dads or anything about the two dads, except that they love Stella.

invite daddy papa stella

What Stella Brings the Family is, is a celebration of family and a celebration of acceptance. None of the kids—or special guests—care about the kind of family each child is a member of, but rather that each child has someone who reads to them at night, helps them with homework, and kisses them when they get hurt. Kids will recognize themselves and their friends in Stella Brings the Family. Debut author Schiffer keeps the story’s focus on Stella, who stands out thanks to her curly red hair.

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The watercolor illustrations beautifully render the multicultural and multigenerational family members. The kids’ invitations, with their drawings of family members, are terrific. The invites look like how someone Stella’s age (6—8) would write, though just a little better than most that age might draw. Clifton-Brown elicits the emotional story clearly through Stella’s expressions. At day’s end, the worn out teacher rests her head on her desk. Stella tells her things will not be as hectic for Father’s Day . . . she will just bring two dads, not the entire family. While not a huge twist or a big laugh, the ending is sweet, just like the story.

STELLA BRINGS THE FAMILY. Text copyright © 2015 by Miriam B. Schiffer. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Holly Clifton-Brown. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase Stella Brings the Family at AmazonBook DepositoryChronicle Books.

Learn more about Stella Brings the Family HERE.
Meet the author, Miriam B. Schiffer, at her Young Children column:  http://bit.ly/ReadingChair
Meet the illustrator, Holly Clifton-Brown, at her website:  http://www.hollycliftonbrown.co.uk/
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 384

stella brings the family


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: 2 dads, 2 moms, Chronicle Books, family composition, Holly Clifton-Brown, Miriam B. Schiffer, multicultural, multigenerational, Stella Brings the Family

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22. #700 – Jars of Hope by Jennifer Ray & Meg Owenson – CBW Winners

9781623704254
Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust

Written by Jennifer Roy
Illustrated by Meg Owenson
Capstone Press          8/01/2015
978-1-62370-425-4
32 pages         Age 9—12

“Amid the horrors of World War II, Polish social worker Irena Sendler worked in the Warsaw Ghetto for Jews. When the Nazis began shipping Jews out of the ghetto in cattle cars, Irena started smuggling out babies and children to give them a chance to live. She hid babies in places like laundry piles, a carpenter’s toolbox, or a potato sack, and she helped older children escape through underground sewer tunnels. After the children were out of the ghetto, Irena found safe places for them with foster families or in convents. Irena kept records of the children she helped smuggle away and when she feared her work might be discovered, she buried her lists in jars, hoping to someday reunite the children with their parents.” [publisher]

Review
Irena Sendler is one of the unsung heroes of World War II. She is not in history books and few know about her work. Jars of Hope begins with Irena as a young child, hearing words from her father that would stay with her forever. She asked her father,

“Are some people really better than others?”

Irena’s father replied,

“There are two kinds of people in this world, good and bad.
It doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor, what religion or race.
What matters is if they are good or bad.”

In World War II, the Jews were not the bad guys and Irena decided to help those that were suffering the most . . . children. With the help of some trusted friends, the group smuggled 2500 children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. One good example was Antoni, who was allowed to drive his truck in an out of the ghetto. Together, he and Irena smuggled babies out in the back of the truck. Many cried. Antoni had a unique solution: Shepsi. Shepsi, Antoni’s talented sidekick, rode along in the front seat of the truck. With one touch of his paw by Antoni, Shepsi began barking, drowning out the baby’s cries. Eventually Irena joined Zegota, a secret group of Polish adults who helped the Jews with aid and rescue. Zegota helped Irena place children in foster homes and convents, but that association also got her arrested.

9781623704254_spd

The illustrations are emotional and stark, a reflection of the time, and yet beautiful. The images immerse readers into the 1940s and the realities of Irena’s work. I especially like the image of children climbing out of the sewer with only a flashlight shining down upon them as a guide. The young girl hoisting herself up onto the ground struck home, making the era come alive for me. The author includes an Afterword adding more about Irena’s life, a glossary, and an Author’s Note explaining why she wrote Jars of Hope.
What Irena Sendler went through to save so many others is beyond heroic. She put her life in danger every day, but thought nothing of it because others needed her help. Such a selfless spirit is rare. Irena dangerously kept a list of the children she rescued, believing every child deserves to know their real name—many received new, Catholic names upon rescue—and she wanted to reunite as many families as possible. The lists went into jars, and buried for safety.

Jars of Hope, and other books like it, should be in classrooms. Irena Sendler, her selfless aid of so many Jewish children is worth remembering. She is a hero, but much more than that, if there were just an appropriate word. Jars of Hope is a beautiful, dangerous story of hope at a time when all hope seemed lost, and of courage, in a time and place where courage barely survived. Jars of Hope is a must read for older children and adults. Jars of Hope also belongs in every school library.

JARS OF HOPE. Text copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Roy. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Meg Owenson. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Capstone Press, North Mankato, MN.

Pre-order Jars of Hope at AmazonBook Depository— Capstone Press.

Learn more about Jars of Hope HERE.
Meet the author, Jennifer Roy, at her website:  http://jenniferroy.com/
Meet the illustrator, Meg Owenson, at her website:  https://meganowenson.wordpress.com/
Find more picture books at the Capstone Press website:  http://www.capstonepub.com/

Capstone Press is an imprint of Capstone.

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 502

jars of hope

DON’T LEAVE JUST YET!
We have WINNERS!!

Children’s Book Week Winners

Monday – The Luck Uglies (Book #1) by Paul Durham & Pétur Antonsson
Winner:  Robin Newman

Tuesday – Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay
Winner:  Lauren Tolbert Miller

Wednesday – Dress Me! by Sarah Frances Hardy
Winner:  Susanna Leonard Hill

Thursday – Fork-Tongue Charmers (Luck Uglies #2) by Paul Durham
Winner:  Erik Weibel

Friday – FRED by Kaila Eunhye
Winners:  C. L. Murphy & Mike Allegra

Congratulations to all the winners!


Filed under: 5stars, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Picture Book Tagged: Capstone, Capstone Press, courage, heroes, Jars of Hope, Jennifer Ray, Jewish children, Meg Owenson, selflessness, Warsaw Ghetto, World War II, Zegota

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23. #701 – The Trapper Twins Go to War (with each other) by Geoff Rodkey

rodkey_tappertwins_pob The Tapper Twins Go to War (with Each Other)

written by Claudia Tapper with Geoff Rodkey
Little, Brown and Company     4/07/2015
978-0-316-29779-0
236 pages     Age 8—12

“This brand-new series by a popular screenwriter is a pitch-perfect, contemporary comedy featuring twelve-year-old fraternal twins, Claudia and Reese, who couldn’t be more different…except in their determination to come out on top in a vicious prank war! But when the competition escalates into an all-out battle that’s fought from the cafeteria of their New York City private school all the way to the fictional universe of an online video game, the twins have to decide if their efforts to destroy each other are worth the price.

“Told as a colorful “oral history” by the twins and their friends, and including photos, screenshots, chat logs, online gaming digital art, and text messages between their clueless parents, The Tapper Twins is a hilariously authentic showcase of what it’s like to be in middle school in our digitally-saturated world.” [publisher]

Review
Claudia and Reese, age 12, twins, are at war, with each other. Who started the war depends on whom you ask, Claudia or Reese. They cannot agree on anything. Claudia decides, after the war is over, to document what happened. She writes using all at her disposal, including photos, interviews, online screenshots, and her mostly-absent parents’ phone text messages. I love her description of her and Reese,

“We are, unfortunately, twins. I am twelve years old. Reese is six.”

Reese interjects whenever he can. Like any war, it starts when one side (Reese), accuses the other side (Claudia), of doing something wrong (farting in the sixth-grade cafeteria), which harms others (a few sixth-grade princess sensibilities, many noses, and Jens—Claudia’s secret crush). Embarrassed and angry at such a terrible accusation—she claims innocence—Claudia is out for revenge. The War has begun. 

TAPPER TWINS GO TO WAR (spread 1)

Claudia tries several ways of embarrassing her brother, but Reese does not embarrass easily. Claudia begins by placing a large, dead, stinky fish in Reese’s backpack, but even after several days, and others complaining of the awful smell, Reese doesn’t notice. When he learns of the fish, he fires back. Then Claudia returns his fire, and back-and-forth, until someone is tragically hurt. The fighting is both online and off for some digital-age humor. Claudia also allows others to comment in her “Officially True History of the War between the Trapper Twins (Claudia and Reese).” These interjections into Claudia’s history of war help the story gel into a humorous middle school tale. Readers meet Claudia’s secret Norwegian crush (Jens), the twins’ Upper East Side private school friends, the snobby Princesses, and the twin’s parents.

TAPPER TWINS GO TO WAR (spread 3)

Rodkey, who wrote the excellent Chronicles of Egg series (reviewed here: bk1, bk2, bk3), knows his readers well and understands how siblings fight. I loved the first book of this new series, which delves into cyberbullying as part of the twins’ fighting. Even though Claudia writes the history, she comes off as the antagonist, rather than the victim she sees herself to be, making it easy to favor Reese. Still, the sibling fighting feels natural, not forced. That the twins are more alike than they believe and never really lose their sibling-love is also true to form. If you have siblings, you just might recognize yourself in either Claudia or Reese.

The Trapper Twins will have readers laughing, happily rolling their eyes, and smiling throughout its witty story. Those who like the Dork series, or the Aldo Zelnick Alphabet Novels (example here), will love The Trapper Twins even more. The Trapper Twins series continues this September with book 2: The Trapper Twins Tear Up New York. The prologue and first chapter are at the back of this book to give you a taste of the next. I cannot wait to continue this series. I love Rodkey’s writing and his wit.

THE TRAPPER TWINS GO TO WAR (WITH EACH OTHER). Text copyright © 2015 by Geoff Rodkey. Illustrations and photographs (except where noted) copyright © 2015 by Geoff Rodkey. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY.

Purchase The Trapper Twins Go to War at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesHachette Book Group.

The Trapper Twins made the New York Times Bestseller List at #14!
Learn more about The Trapper Twins Go to War (with each other) HERE.
Read an Excerpt HERE.

Meet the author, Geoff Rodkey, at his website:  http://geoffrodkey.com/
Meet the illustrator, The Trapper Twins book website:  http://www.tappertwins.com/
Find more middle grade books at the Little, Brown and Company website:  http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/kids/

Little, Brown and Company is part of the Hachette Book Group

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 413

trapper twins go to war 2015 bk 1 little brown company

 


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Favorites, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: Brown and Company, Chronicle of Egg, family relationships, Geoff Rodkey, Hachette Book Grou, humor, Little, New York City, private schools, sibling fighting, The Trapper Twins Go to War (with each other), The Trapper Twins Tear Up New York, twins

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24. #703 – Ten Playful Tigers (A Back-and-Forth Book) by Beth Schwartz and Lynn Seresin & Luciana Navarro Powell

cover
Ten Playful Tigers: A Back-and-Forth Counting Book

Series: Back-and-Forth Books
Written by Beth Schwartz & Lynn Seresin
Illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell
Capstone Young Readers     8/01/2015
978-1-62370-236-6
  22 pages       9″x8″      Age 1—4.

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“One two three, how many tigers do you see? Count along as one little tiger turns into ten playful tigers (and their mama!). Then start again by counting the butterflies beginning with ten. Little hands and little eyes will delight to explore these sturdy interactive board books from front-to-back and back-to-front. Award-winning team Betty Schwartz and Lynn Seresin have created charming, tactile two-in-one experiences for the littlest learners” [back cover]

Review
Cute little tigers, with big wide eyes and long striped tails, will indeed charm little kids as they count from one to ten and then ten to one (actually, the butterflies begin with eleven, for the smart, observant, little kid). The tiger at number 1 simply walks into the tall grass with one butterfly trailing behind. Turn the page and there are two tigers, greeting one another. With each new turn of the thick and sturdy glossy pages, a new tiger joins in with its siblings. The tigers have a fun morning (or afternoon) doing all sorts of things that will energize young children: climb trees, play in the water, do tricks, play soccer, follow-the-tiger, tumble about, and roar with all the might of a little tiger. These playful tigers will definitely amuse young children.

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After a rough and tumble morning (or afternoon), the ten tigers take a nap with mama, making Ten Playful Tigers the perfect bedtime story. Upon waking, kids can count the butterflies from ten (eleven) down to one and then blast off into the rest of their day. Kids will also like turning the pages with the die-cut holes and rubbing Mama-tiger’s orange and black striped fur. Counting from ten to one involves counting the number of holes containing butterflies—on the left side of the spread—and then adding in the one or two butterflies flying elsewhere on the half-spread. Large purple numbers guide kids as they count.

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The oversized book may be too large for some little hands, but with help this should not be a hindrance. The illustrations are beautiful, fun, and lively. Even the butterflies change shape and color, seemingly having their own group fun. I especially love the spread with the, wait a minute . . . one, two three, FOUR roaring tigers. They each have four pointy teeth and one large mouth, which when opened wide, makes their nose and eyes seem to scrunch. Ten Playful Tigers is the perfect board book for young children learning how to count.

But wait, there’s more. Once you can count up to ten and then back down to one, it is time to leave the tigers and butterflies for a more ferocious beast—dinosaurs!   Keep reading->
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TEN PLAYFUL TIGERS (A BACK-AND-FORTH BOOK). Text copyright © 2015 by Beth Schwartz & Lynn Seresin. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Luciana Navarro Powell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Capstone, North Mankato, MN.

Purchase Ten Playful Tigers at AmazonBook DepositoryCapstone.

Learn more about Ten Playful Tigers HERE.
Meet the author, Beth Schwartz, her website:
Meet the author, Lynn Seresin, at her website:  bit.ly/LynnSeresin
Meet the illustrator, Luciana Navarro Powell, at her website:  http://www.lucianaillustration.com/
Find more picture books at the Capstone Young Readers website:  http://www.capstonepub.com/

Capstone Young Readers is an imprint of Capstone.

Other Back-and-Forth Books
Busy Little Dinosaurs (alphabet)   (reviewed here)
Puppies, Puppies, Everywhere! (opposites)
You’re it, Little Red Fish (colors)

PLUSHop, Hop, Bunny (reviewed here)
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 339

Ten Playful Tigers (A Back-and-Forth Book)

 


Filed under: 5stars, Board Books, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Series Tagged: Back-and-Forth Books, Beth Schwartz, Capstone, Capstone Young Readers, counting, counting 1-to-10 and then 10-to-1, experiential learning, humor, imagination, Luciana Navarro Powell, Lynn Seresin, rote learning, Ten Playful Tigers, tigers

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25. #702 – Busy Little Dinosaurs (A Back-and-Forth Book) by Beth Schwartz and Lynn Seresin & Luciana Navarro Powell

cover
Busy Little Dinosaurs: A Back-and-Forth Alphabet Book

Series: Back-and-Forth Books
Written by Beth Schwartz & Lynn Seresin
Illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell
Capstone Young Readers        8/01/2015
978-1-62370-234-2
22 pages        9″x8″       Age 1—4
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“Busy little dinosaurs, as a rule, agree it’s fun to go to school! Follow dinosaurs through an alphabet of activities from A all the way to Zzzzzz. But wait—you’re not done! Go back to A and name the things that start with the letters along the way.” [back cover]

Review
Busy Little Dinosaurs will teach young children their ABCs in an unconventional manner. Each spread contains a four-line verse of rhyme and somewhere in that rhyme is a word with the letter or letters for that spread, going from A to Z. For example, the second spread is for the letters “Gg,” “Hh,” and “Ii.”

Dinos gather together,
hang a flag from a tree,
and imagine they’re pirates,
that sail the high seas.”

At the top left of each spread, in various colors, are the next letters in the alphabet. It would be easy enough to learn the alphabet by learning the letters while ignoring each verse and illustration, but that would not be much fun. The dinosaurs are doing all sorts of imaginative activities, many of which young children could also enjoy. In the above verse, the orange dinosaur looks at a map while wearing a pirate’s hat. The green dinosaur wears glasses and is looks over a different type of map, while the third dinosaur peers through a telescope—“Land Ho!”

Young children will have loads of laughs learning the alphabet with Busy Little Dinosaurs. The colorful, sturdy pages are glossy and wipe off kid-gunk with ease. The “A” dinosaurs enter school with their backpacks and big smiles. Throughout the day, the dinosaurs have a tremendous amount of fun as they enjoy many activities: play instruments, exercise in gym class, play soccer, paint, eat lunch, read books, and take a nap. All make for a rather decent kindergarten day.

Once those dinosaurs awake, they can flip back through the pages and, well, this part is actually a little tricky.

“Now go back to the cutouts
for surprises and fun.
Guess the letter things start with
and then you are done!”

The first spread is now letter “Z,” and in the cutout is a picture of a zebra fish—the object begins with the letter Z. On spread “Y,” the cutout is over the orange body of the yawning dinosaur. This could be the word “yawning” beginning with the letter Y, though not an object. “Ww and Xx” opens to a bookworm or a worm reading—begins with the letter W. But then “Tt, Uu, Vv” opens on the color purple on the dinosaur’s nose. I cannot think of anything beginning with the letter t, u, or v for this “object.” The spreads repeat this pattern of object then body color until the child is back to the front off the book. I love the idea, but do not understand what object each color represents, especially if the letter of the object is one of the letters of the spread, though that was not specified. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to get an object in one cutout for two spreads. This does give a child the chance to use his or her imagination when deciding what object the colors might represent to them. Unfortunately, as a back-and-forth book, Busy Little Dinosaurs works well going forward and half the time in reverse.

Despite this problem, Busy Little Dinosaurs is a fun, imaginative, interesting, and colorful learning experience for young kids. Learning the ABCs in this manner is more beneficial than simply reciting the alphabet repeatedly until learned. Rote learning is never as much fun as experiential learning. I would highly recommend Busy Little Dinosaurs for teaching young children their alphabet. I believe, learning in this manner—non-rote learning—helps kids learn faster and remember what they learned longer. Busy Little Dinosaurs will have young children excited to learn the alphabet—and that is the best way to learn.

BUSY LITTLE DINOSAURS (A BACK-AND-FORTH BOOK). Text copyright © 2015 by Beth Schwartz & Lynn Seresin. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Luciana Navarro Powell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Capstone, North Mankato, MN.

Pre-order Busy Little Dinosaurs at AmazonBook Depository—Capstone.

Learn more about Busy Little Dinosaurs HERE.
Meet the author, Beth Schwartz, her website:
Meet the author, Lynn Seresin, at her website: http://bit.ly/LynnSeresin
Meet the illustrator, Luciana Navarro Powell, at his/her website: http://www.lucianaillustration.com/
Find more picture books at the Capstone Young Readers website: http://www.capstonepub.com/

Capstone Young Readers is an imprint of Capstone.

Other Back-and-Forth Books
Puppies, Puppies, Everywhere! (opposites)
Ten Playful Tigers (counting)   (reviewed here)
You’re it, Little Red Fish (colors)

Plus – Hop, Hop Bunny (reviewed here)
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 603

Busy Little Dinosaurs (A Back-and-Forth Book)

 


Filed under: 4stars, Board Books, Children's Books, Series Tagged: ABC's, alphabet, Back-and-Forth Books, Beth Schwartz, Busy Little Dinosaurs, Capstone, Capstone Young Readers, dinosaurs, experiential learning, humor, imagination, Luciana Navarro Powell, Lynn Seresin, rote learning

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