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Results 1 - 25 of 16,854
1.



I don't usually have the time to review follow up books in a series, but Emma Virján's Pig In a Wig series of beginning to read books is such a find that I want to call it to your attention as often as possible. The illustrations are bright and colorful with fantastic picture clues and the gently rhyming stories are always entertaining and just silly enough to keep kids reading over  and over.


In What This Story Needs is a Munch and a Crunch, the Pig in a Wig plans a picnic for all her friends. As before, the phrase, "What this story needs," appears often in the text, which is never more than a sentence per page. In fact, the book has only five sentences total! Emerging readers will find this book engaging and feel success at the end, which comes quickly. The story arc follow the picnicking animals as they eat and play and then, as the skies grow dark, find a new place to picnic. These books are a staple in my school library and I can't wait to see what the Pig in a Wig does next!












Source: Review Copy

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2. The Thank You Book by Mo Willems




I didn't intend to review Mo Willem's The Thank You Book, the 25th and final book in the Elephant & Piggie series that began in 2007. I first encountered these books as a bookseller and story-time-reader while working at Barnes & Noble. I wasn't a big fan of Willems's Pigeon books, mostly because I found them challenging to read out loud. I quickly discovered that Elephant & Piggie books were a joy to read out loud and had mass appeal, from little kids to parents to even teens! Then my youngest son started learning to read and my appreciation of what Willems was doing deepened immensely. You can read all about that experience HERE. I want to take this time to tell you what a deeply satisfying end to a series The Thank You Book is and share my experiences with Elephant & Piggie as an elementary school librarian and, of course, say THANK YOU to Mo Willems!



Willems's The Thank You Book is both a wrap-up and a genuine thank you to readers. While spending time with Gerald and Piggie is always a treat, I remember how exciting it was to pick up a new Elephant & Piggie book over the last nine years and find a new character in the story. Snake from Can I Play, Too? is probably my favorite. All these characters are back in The Thank You Book and on the endpapers! And, in a really awesome wink, Pigeon appears in the pages (and not just the endpapers) of The Thank You Book! Piggie apologizes for not including him in their books, to which Pigeon (in his own font) responds, "That is what you think!" The Thank You Book reads like the best ending to a long running television series possible. Readers get to revisit old friends and familiar story lines while also seeing their favorite characters do what they do best one last time.



I am finishing up my second full year as an elementary school librarian. More than 80% of the students at my school are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 65% of them are reading at grade level and 55% of them are English language learners. When I took over my library it had languished through more than a year of substitute librarians cycling in and out of the space and several years of a diminished or non-existent book buying budget. There were just a few Elephant & Piggie books on the shelves and they were not circulating. Taking advantage of my employee discount at Barnes & Noble one last time, and taking advantage of the generosity of my amazing principal, I bought a copy of every book in the series and began reading them out loud to my students - all grades. Gerald and Piggie became instant celebrities in the library. Today, we have at least three copies of each book in the series on the shelves (in their own special section) and they are always almost all checked out. They are a staple for my first graders, but I especially love checking them out to the kindergarteners. Technically, I'm not supposed to check books out to the kinders, but it's hard to say "no" to those adorable little faces. And I absolutely love telling them to look for Pigeon at the end of the book -and in all of Willems's books! Sometimes I have to nudge the second and third graders away from Elephant & Piggie, or encourage them to get one book at their reading level and one E&P. And, happily, I occasionally get older students checking these books out to read to younger siblings. 

Willems's books have become a common thread for all of my students. As I read The Thank You Book over and over, about 25 times in all to all grades, I choked back more than a few tears. I explained to the students that this would be the last Elephant & Piggie book and their disappointment and shock was always audible. They didn't always understand why I was sad that this was the last book, but when I told them it was like saying, "Goodbye," to two good friends who were moving away, the lightbulbs went on - just like Piggie's often did. Having had two years now to inspire my students to read by hooking them with Willems's humor, I am looking forward to seeing our reading scores rise. And, while I am sad to think that there will be no more new books from Gerald and Piggie, I look forward to whatever it is Mo Willems does next, and I especially look forward to getting to share it with my students! THANK YOU, MO WILLEMS! Your books have made a difference in my life and the lives of my students.

Source: Purchased

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3. Poetry Friday: Just lost when I was saved by Emily Dickinson

Just lost when I was saved!
Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!

Therefore, as one returned, I feel,
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some sailor, skirting foreign shores,
Some pale reporter from the awful doors
Before the seal!

Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by eye.

Next time, to tarry,
While the ages steal,-
Slow tramp the centuries,
And the cycles wheel.

- Emily Dickinson

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

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4. More-igami by Dori Kleber, illustrated by G. Brian Karas



More-igami is the debut picture book from Dori Kleber, illustrated by longtime favorite G. Brian Karas. More-igami is a fantastic picture book for so many reasons. The main character shows perseverance or, grit, to use the hot new word in the world of education, as he struggles to master a skill. More-igami is a marvel of diversity in a picture book, featuring African American, Asian and Hispanic characters. But, best of all, More-igami is just a really great story with marvelous illustrations that is a joy to read our loud.


Joey loves all things folded, from maps to accordions to tacos to, of course, foldaway beds. When Joey's classmate, Sarah, brings her mother to school to teach the class how to make origami cranes, Joey's mind is blown. Mrs. Takimoto tells Joey that she can teach him the folds, but if he wants to be an origami master, he'll "need patience and practice." No problem! Joey practices everywhere with everything, including folding the $38.00 he found in his mother's purse. Frustrated and out things to fold, Joey heads to the restaurant next door because "fajitas always made him feel better." There, he finds a place to practice folding and help out Mr. Lopez. Even better, he finds a new friend to share his talent with - as long as she has patience and is willing to practice!

Karas's illustrations are perfectly matched to Kleber's text, which wonderfully, simply shows the frustration and determination that Joey possesses. The hand drawn texture of Karas's illustrations add to the creative feel of More-igami, which will undoubtedly inspire readers to do some folding of their own, especially since there is a two page spread at the end of the book that shows you how to fold an origami ladybug!

Source: Review Copy

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5. You’ll see us…coast to coast…

Coral Gables,FL-Venetian Pool-Linen

Coral Gables,FL-Venetian Pool-Linen

About a month away before Lux Mentis ventures to Coral Gables, FL for Rare Books and Manuscripts Section/ACRL Conference 2016! Lux Mentis is sponsoring a seminar:

“Common Sense, Charm, and a Glass of Wine: Successfully Navigating Donor Relations in Special Collections”

Stay tuned for exciting catalogs furthering our manifesto of vice and debauchery and if you are lucky, a print version (while supplies last!).

Follow the marauders on Instagram: instagram.com/luxmentis/

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6. BLOCKS by Irene Dickson



I absolutely adore BLOCKS by Irene Dickson! I often consult Kirkus Reviews to see what they think of a book and occasionally their reviewer will sum up a book so perfectly I have to quote, and that is the case with BLOCKS. Of Dickson's book, Kirkus succinctly writes, "A cleverly simple book builds skills as well as towers."





Ruby builds with red blocks on the verso, Benji builds with blue blocks on the recto. They parallel play until Benji borrows a red block and a tussle follows. And the structures they have built come crashing down. Ruby even loses a shoe. Both children look stricken and the tension is palpable. Dickson does so much with few words and bold illustrations in BLOCKS. Even if you can see it coming, it is exciting to see the conflict and the resolution in this wonderful picture book. And, while Dickson could have ended BLOCKS with Ruby and Benji happily building together, a final page turn reveals Guy with his green blocks.

As a parent, I find so many teachable moments in BLOCKS. As a librarian who just won a grant that has brought three different sets of blocks (Kapla, Magnatiles and TEDCO Blocks & Marbles) into the library, I especially am grateful to have this book to pull off the shelf when the battles begin...

Source: Review Copy


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7. Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle


Molly Idle is the brilliant creator (and choreographer) of the first two books about Flora, an expressive, if not always graceful, little girl who seems to find herself frolicking with birds of all shapes and sizes. Flora, in a swimsuit, swim cap and flippers, has danced with a flamingo. Flora has skated with a penguin. Now, in Flora and the Peacocks, Flora faces her greatest challenge - dancing with not one, but two peacocks.


For this dance, Flora has a fan and two elegant partners. As with the first two books, clever flaps change the plot of these wordless picture books with just a flip. Flora's fan and the tails of the peacocks flip and flap to change the tone as the three try to orchestrate a dance that leaves no one out. 





As you might expect, there are jealous moments, frustrating turns and even some stomping off stage. But, Flora and the peacocks find a way to dance together by the end of the book, which culminates in a magnificent gatefold that opens to a huge 18 by 33 inches. Besides being gorgeously illustrated, all three of Idle's Flora books are examples of masterful design and paper engineering that make these stories so readable and memorable. It's hard to capture all of the magic of the Flora books in words. Happily, Chronicle Books, the publisher of these excellent books, has made a book trailer!


Source: Review Copy

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8. A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman, illustrated by Corey R. Tabor


A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman with illustrations by Corey R. Tabor has the feel of an instant classic. Hoffman's rhyming journey of imagination is paired perfectly with Tabor's layered, playful watercolor illustrations and pencil drawings that have a hint of magic to them. Best of all, A Dark, Dark Cave has one of my favorite things to do with kids at the center of the story!

As the "pale moon glows," a sister and brother go spelunking. Hoffman repeats the refrain, "a dark, dark cave," throughout the text, creating a gentle suspense that builds with each page turn while Tabor's illustrations blend the real with the imaginary in a satisfying way that keeps readers guessing - are these two REALLY in a dark, dark cave all by themselves?

A light appears in the darkness, revealing that, in fact, the sister and brother are in a blanket cave! As a kid and a parent, building blanket forts is definitely one of my all-time favorite things to do. We even build blanket forts on rainy days in my library. But, sadly, for this sister and brother, the bright light means Dad coming in and asking them to find a more quiet game because the baby is sleeping. This could easily have been the end to A Dark, Dark Cave. Happily, it is not. There is one more imaginary adventure in store for these siblings, and more marvelous illustrations (and a change in palette) from Tabor!

I hope you will seek out A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman, who worked with preschoolers for over 35 years before writing this book, and Corey R. Tabor, making his picture book debut. I read hundreds of new picture books a year (and almost as many old ones) and it is truly rare to find a book of this kind!



 Look for Fox and the Jumping Contest 
illustrated AND written by Corey R. Tabor 
Coming October 2016!





Source: Review Copy

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9. Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle, 314 pp, RL 5




Having been a bookseller for so many years, I am very familiar with Lauren Myracle and her two very popular series, the Winnie Years and the Internet Girls, which, told entirely in texts, emails and IMs, was especially innovative and popular (and prescient) when first published in 2004. But, having a proclivity for fantasy, it took me until now to finally read one of Myracle's books. The blurb for Wishing Day grabbed my attention immediately. On the third night of the third month after her thirteenth birthday, every girl in the town of Willow Hill makes three wishes: the first is an impossible wish, the second is a wish she can make come true herself and the third is a wish made from her deepest, secret heart.

Natasha Blok is the oldest of three sisters born in under three years. In fact, her sister Darya is in seventh grade with her. Ava, their youngest sister is in sixth grade. As Wishing Day opens, Natasha is at the ancient willow tree, planted by her grandmother many times removed, the woman who started the wish tradition. Her aunts, Vera and Elena, are steps behind her, waiting anxiously for Natasha to make her wishes. Natasha's mother Klara disappeared eight years earlier, leaving her father sinking into sadness and silence and her aunts moving in to raise their nieces. Of course Natasha wants her mother back, but she also wants to be kissed and she secretly wants to be somebody's favorite.

Myracle weaves a story rich with characters. Natasha is a typical big sister, stepping in and caring for her siblings after her mother vanishes. Yet, she also let a distance grow between herself and Darya, who, with a head of red, shiny curly hair, a flair for fashion and a firm disbelief in magic of any kind, especially when it comes to the Wishing Tree. And, an even deeper secret than her three wishes is hidden under her mattress. Natasha is a writer, albeit a writer who has yet to finish a story. As Wishing Day unfolds, Natasha learns more about her mother's life before she disappeared, finishes writing her first story and kisses a boy. She also has her deepest secret self revealed when her sisters discover her writing and enter it in a local contest, is not kissed by the boy she thinks she wants to kiss her and might not even want to be kissed at all and, most surprising, discovers that she IS someone's favorite.

Myracle weaves in a thread of magic - beyond the Wishing Tree itself - in the character of the Bird Lady, an eccentric, ancient legend in Willow Hill who has a sparrow nesting in her fluff of grey hair. The Bird Lady appears every so often to utter cryptic words to Natasha, who begins finding meaningful notes around town. The ending of Wishing Day will leave you wondering and wanting more (especially more answers) and, quite happily, there is more to come because this is an intended trilogy! I suspect that the next two books will focus on serious, gorgeous, skeptic Darya and the ethereal, playful, free spirit Ava as Natasha's sisters turn thirteen and make their own wishes.

Source: Review Copy

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10. Poetry Friday: Study by D.H. Lawrence

Somewhere the long mellow note of the blackbird
Quickens the unclasping hands of hazel,
Somewhere the wind-flowers fling their heads back,
Stirred by an impetuous wind. Some ways'll
All be sweet with white and blue violet.
    (Hush now, hush. Where am I?-Biuret-)

...

Somewhere the lamp hanging low from the ceiling
Lights the soft hair of a girl as she reads,
And the red firelight steadily wheeling
Weaves the hard hands of my friend in sleep.

- selected lines from Study by D.H. Lawrence

Read the entire poem here.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

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11. Before I Wake Up by Britta Teckentrup


Before I Wake Up . . . is the fifth book I have reviewed by Britta Teckentrup and her illustrations are as magically wonderful as ever. A simple rhyming text follows a girl through her nighttime, dreamworld adventures, a protective, comforting lion at her side.


Teckentrup begins, "Before I wake up, I float through my dreams . . . imagining worlds. Never ending it seems." The rhymes sometimes feel forced, but the illustrations are so unique and marvelous that it is easy to overlook. The girl and her lion travel by sky and by boat, over and under water, in and out of woods and jungles. Teckentrup establishes a dream landscape in a variety of ways. Sometimes the narrator is seen multiple times on a page, sometimes she seems to float across the page. As morning approaches, the palette lightens with it. Dark blues and blacks shift to oranges, reds and eventually yellows. The final page shows the narrator, tucked beneath a sunny yellow quilt with a toy lion snuggled at her side, ready for the new day.


While I am a big fan of Teckentrup's style, I think that my favorite thing about Before I Wake Up . . . is the book itself. Published by Prestel, an internationally renowned publisher of art, architecture, photography and design books, appealing to "all those with a passion for visual culture." Holding Before I Wake Up . . . in my hands, this is evident. This gorgeously designed book (it's trim size is square!) is printed on thick matte paper with a sturdy paper-over-board cover and stitched binding that makes reading it a multi-sense experience. Before I Wake Up . . . is a memorable book that children will cherish, but also one that makes a beautiful gift.


Source: Review Copy

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12. Where's the Elephant? by Barroux



I opened the cheerfully colored,  creatively illustrated Where's the Elephant? by French children's book illustrator Barroux expecting a fun look-and-find book and got so much more. Where's the Elephant? is indeed a look-and-find book, and it is not always easy to find the elephant and his companions, a parrot and a snake, but it is also a subtle lesson on deforestation and loss of habitat that affects so many of the world's animals.



Where's the Elephant? is a journey through time and space.  The book begins with an expanse of blue ocean with the tip of a lush island seen at the edge of the opposite page. A two page spread that shows a lollipop colored forest (can you find the elephant? Snake? Parrot?) But a page turn shows a clearcut starting. A few page turns later, and it's very easy to spot the elephant and his friends because their habitat has been taken over by houses and roads. Huddled in the few trees left, the wild animals eventually find themselves caged in a zoo.


But, bars can't hold them for long. Soon they are making their way to a new island, a new habitat. Hopefully one that will stay wild.




Barroux ends Where's the Elephant? with the story behind the book. During a visit to Brazil five years ago, he saw parts of the Amazon rain forest set on fire to clear the way for the production of soybeans. This inspired him to look for a way to talk about deforestation in a picture book. Inspiration came to him at the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2014 and this amazing book is the brilliant end result. Little listeners will enjoy looking and finding while older readers will be inspired to ask questions and learn more about this serious subject.

Source: Review Copy



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13. A Brave Bear by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Emily Hughes



A Brave Bear pairs prolific author Sean Taylor with Emily Hughes, a new illustrator I've been wanting to review for a while now. Hughes's illustrations are a story in their own, but Taylor's narrative makes A Brave Bear a memorable story about a falling down and getting up again that parents will find sweet and young listeners/readers will relate to instantly. And, A Brave Bear also makes a fantastic Father's Day gift!



A Brave Bear begins before the title page with the words, "Everything was hot" and an illustrations of two bears in their den. The language of A Brave Bear continues on in this simple way, with the little bear narrating. Papa Bear says, "I think that a pair of hot bears is probably the hottest thing in the world." Little Bear suggests they cool off in the river and the pair begin the long trek downhill. There are grassy parts, bushy parts and jumping parts. Jumping over the rocks, Little Bear says, "I think a jumping bear is probably the jumpiest thing in the world." But Papa Bear cautions him to take small jumps. Of course Little Bear takes a tumble and gets hurt, but Papa Bear knows just what to say and do and the two make it to the river where Little Bear declares that a "pair of wet bears is probably the wettest thing in the world." As they walk home, the sun is glowing, the air is glowing and, "even tomorrow is glowing."


With A Brave Bear, Taylor has written a story that perfectly captures one of the many moments of childhood that are major to the little person experiencing it, but easily surmountable to the adult standing by. The subtle empathy, compassion and calm that Papa Bear shows is especially meaningful and is sure to resonate with readers. And rare in a picture book. Thank you, Sean Taylor and Emily Hughes for this gem! 

Source: Review Copy




More books by the spectacular Emily Hughes!











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14. Grandad's Island by Benji Davies



Benji Davies new picture book, Grandad's Island, is a wonderful story of friendship, adventure, imagination and saying goodbye. I especially love that Grandad's Island is a book that can be read and understood on more than one level. Davies's illustrations have a cinematic feels and are packed with colors and details that will bring you back again and again, as will the charming characters of Syd and Grandad.


A gate at the bottom of Syd's backyard leads right into Grandad's and the two are clearly as close as two peas in a pod. When Syd drops by for a visit and can't find Gradad anywhere, he finds him in the attic where, surprisingly, there is a big metal door that opens onto the deck of a huge ship!



The pair head out to sea and, after a pleasantly long journey, they reach an island. After disembarking, the two head into the jungle where they turn an old shack on stilts into the perfect vacation house.


Syd and Grandad explore the island, paint and swim and clearly have a wonderful time. Then Grandad tells Syd that he is thinking of staying on the island. "But won't you be lonely?" Syd asks.Grandad assures him that he doesn't think he will. Syd sails the ship home, and the trip seems much longer without Grandad. Back at home, Syd visits Grandad's house and hears a tapping at the attic window, where an envelope is sitting on the ledge. A toucan can be seen flying away. The final illustration shows the contents of the envelope - a painting of Grandad and a new friend, an orangutan.



This might seem like a simple story, but it is the details of Davies's illustrations that add depth to it. Grandad is an explorer, a traveller, and his house shows that. Books, plants, keepsakes and paintings (of and island that looks quite a bit like the one they travel to), done by Grandad show that he has had a rich life. It's also clear how much Grandad loves Syd, even if he is saying goodbye to him. Syd heads home with Grandad's hat on his head. Older readers might see Grandad's Island as a story of saying goodbye to a loved one and the special memories that are left behind. But, whatever story readers takeaway from Grandad's Island, it will be one that is full of joy, love and an appreciation for life.

Source: Review Copy


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15. Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault



I first learned of artist Louise Bourgeois as a freshman at art school, although I did not learn about the role of fabric in her life. However, even if you know nothing about the art and life of Louise Bourgeois, Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois is a must-have picture book biography that is a stunning work that illustrates the links between childhood, creativity and artistic inspiration. Author Amy Novesky has written several picture book biographies of artists, from Billie Holiday to Geogria O'Keefe to Me, Frida, a book about Kahlo's time in America with Diego Rivera. Novesky's biography is brought to life beautifully by a favorite of mine,  Isabelle Arsenault.

Born outside of Paris in 1911, Louise and her siblings were raised by a river. As a child, she spent much of her time in nature, sometimes spending the night in a tent, lulled to sleep by the "rhythmic rock and murmur of river water." Arsenault's illustrations immediately bring to life this idyllic world, layering in a woven feel to her artwork that echoes both Bourgeois's heritage and future work. Novesky's well crafted, poetic text makes Bourgeois's experience and artistic influences immediately understandable.




Louise's family restored tapestries and her mother would often work outside in the sun, "her needle rising and falling beside the lilting river, perfect, delicate spiderwebs glinting with caught drops of water above her." When Louise is twelve, she learns the family trade as well and decides that drawing is "like a thread in a spider's web." Novesky incorporates passages from Bourgeois's diary into Cloth Lullaby, which are printed in red.



Louise comes to think of her mother, who is her best friend, as a spider, "Deliberate . . . Patient, soothing . . . Subtle, indispensible . . . And as useful as an araignée (spider.)" Louise's father would bring home cloth scraps from his travels and her mother would take the two halves of cloth, reweaving them to make a whole. Louise heads to the Sorbonne to study mathematics, but the death of her mother leaves her feeling, "abandoned and all alone. A thread, broken." 


Louise turns to art. First painting, then sculpture. As a tribute, she creates giant spiders made of bronze, steel and marble that she names, Maman (mother). Eventually, Louise begins to sculpt in cloth, using fabrics from her life - childhood clothing, her new husband's handkerchiefs, napkins from her wedding trousseau - to make books. Novesky writes, "Weaving was her way to make things whole." Bourgeouis spends the last years of her life weaving her childhood memories into works of art. 


Novesky's authors note is wonderful, putting Bourgeois's career into context, including the prestigious retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern art when she was seventy-one. More quotes, photographs of the artist and her work as well as sources make learning more about the artist a must. Arsenault's illustrations bring to life a world that I'm sure readers will want to know more about. Cloth Lullaby is a book that I know I will be reading over and over, taking in the beauty and the sadness of the childhood that inspired a creative life, and inspired this superb book.

Source: Review Copy

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16. Poetry Friday: My true love hath my heart by Sir Philip Sidney

My true love hath my heart, and I have his,
By just exchange one for another given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss,
There never was a better bargain driven:
My true love hath my heart, and I have his.

His heart in me keeps him and me in one,
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:
He loves my heart, for once it was his own,
I cherish his because in me it bides:
My true love hath my heart, and I have his.

- Sir Philip Sidney

Note from Bartleby.com:

This ditty first appeared in Puttenham's Art of English Poetry, 1589, to illustrate the Epimone, or the love burden. The following year it was inserted in the Arcadia, with the six additional lines quoted below:

His heart his wound received from my sight,
My heart was wounded with his wounded heart;
For as from me on him his hurt did light,
So still methought in me his hurt did smart:
Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss,
My true love hath my heart and I have his.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

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17. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown, 269 pp, RL 3



You may know Peter Brown as the illustrator, and often author, of many wonderful picture books, including the brilliant, Children Make Terrible Pets. Brown has written his first novel, The Wild Robot, and it is phenomenal. As I read the first page to myself, I thought, "I HAVE to read this out loud to my students." I knew they would love it as much, and as immediately, as I did, but I also knew that this book would make us all think and talk and ask questions, and it has. I stopped reading, took the book to school, and read it out loud to first and second graders the next day. But I could not wait to finish it. At home, reading before bed, I pored over the pages, stopping often to think to myself, "Man, I love this book," and, "This book is amazing." When  I finished reading The Wild Robot I paused, took a breath, thought about it and then wrote a letter to the author, which is something that I do once or twice a year when I really am floored by a book. The Wild Robot called to mind almost instantly a book that I have long considered a top five favorite and one of the first books I reviewed here, Abel's Island, by William Steig. Both books feature non-human characters in alien environments, learning to survive and also learning what it means to be alive and what it means to be connected to others.

The Wild Robot begins with a storm at sea and a cargo ship losing its load. Some of this cargo, crates containing the Rozzum Unit 7134, reach and island where all but one are smashed against the rocky shore. Activated by a raft of playful otters, the robot becomes operational, springing to life, so to speak. The first several chapters of The Wild Robot follow Roz as her programming (Survival Instincts) kicks in and she navigates the island she has come to live on. The only environment she has ever known, she learns what she can about the island and its inhabitants, initially through observation. It is a wonder to read on as Roz experiences, observes, grapples and evolves.

Soon, the animals of the island take notice, and react, to Roz's presence, as benign as she is, and yet another fascinating layer to this story unfolds. Roz is alien and the animals shun her, but she still manages to continue to observe and learn from them. She tries to connect with them, but most attempts fail. Until she unwittingly orphans a goose egg. Roz takes it upon herself to see that this life, too, does not end. For this, she needs the help of her island animal community. And for this, they, sometimes grudgingly and often with a barter in mind, come to her - and the goslings's - aid. Roz evolves, from alien to parent to protector and unifier. Her presence on the island disrupts the natural world and possibly changes it forever, and that is something else to think about.

Brown does not shy away from the brutality of nature (although he is gentle with his presentation) or the brutality of humans (here, not so gentle - parents of sensitive children be forewarned) and for this I love The Wild Robot even more. The Wild Robot is a book you and your children will  ever forget.


Source: Purchased


Books by Peter Brown!



 


















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18. Otters Love to Play by Johnathan London, illustrated by Meilo So





Otters Love to Play is the fantastic new non-fiction picture book from Johnathan London, author of the Froggy series of picture books, and Meilo So. It's hard not to love otters, in part because they are so playful, and London and So perfectly capture this - and many other fascinating facts about otters - in this highly readable book.



Otters Love to Play employs a format that I love in a non-fiction picture book because it allows me to read it to all audiences. A larger font at the top of the page delivers broad information about the subject while a smaller font at the bottom of the page provides detailed facts. Backmatter includes an index and further information about otters. Otters Love to Play begins with a lakeside scene, So's illustrations are the perfect mix of bleeding watercolors and tight pen and ink sketches that bring both the otters and the forest to life over the course of four seasons. On the very first page, I learned that otters often use the abandoned dens of beavers, muskrats and woodchucks!


Of course, Otters Love to Play focuses on the playful way that learn to survive in the wild, from developing agility and speed to strengthening family bonds. London engages reader with facts like the size of an otter at birth (about as big as a candy bar) and with onomatopoeic words that capture the energy of these creatures. Otters Love to Play is the perfect first non-fiction book to introduce little listeners to, as well as a book that emerging readers and solid readers will love to tackle on their own!

Source: Review Copy


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19. Poetry Friday: Our Little House by Thomas Walsh

Our little house upon the hill
In winter time is strangely still;
The roof tree, bare of leaves, stands high,
A candelabrum for the sky,
And down below the lamplights glow,
And ours makes answer o'er the snow.

Our little house upon the hill
In summer time strange voices fill;
With ceaseless rustle of the leaves,
And birds that twitter in the eaves,
And all the vines entangled so
The village lights no longer show.

Our little house upon the hill
Is just the house of Jack and Jill,
And whether showing or unseen,
Hid behind its leafy screen;
There’s a star that points it out
When the lamp lights are in doubt.

- Our Little House by Thomas Walsh

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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20. Platypus by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Mark Jackson




I have been fascinated by the platypus since I was a kid. I tried to get my kids interested in them but, despite the fact that we are frequent visitors to one of the best zoos in the world and they were able to buy a small plastic replica of one, it was always really hard to find books on the platypus - and see it in person - making it hard to feed that interest. Now, with PlatypusSue Whiting has written a picture book that follows this secretive animal throughout its day while also adding fascinating facts along the way. Mark Jackson's illustrations perfectly suit this mysterious and rarely seen creature with his broad strokes and muted pallet.














Written in the two-level text style that I really like, Whiting sets the scene with this fantastic first sentence, "Beyond the snaking bend in the creek where the water lazes in a still green pool, a scraggly gum tree perches on the edge of the bank." Platypus already feels mysterious, and we haven't even seen this monotreme (an egg-laying mammal, a word I learned in the backmatter of Platypus) yet! The secondary text on the first page of Platypus tells readers that this creature is one of the most puzzling animals, so much so that when British scientists first studied it in 1799 they thought it was a fake.



Platypus continues on as the platypus, who is always moving, forages for food about twelve hours a day, storing fat in its tail - a thick, firm tail is a sign of a healthy platypus. Their sensitive bills act like radar and they store it in pouches in their cheeks. Mainly nocturnal, the platypus returns to his burrow and sleeps most of the day. Whiting cover nesting and egg-laying on a single two page spread, but goes into more detail (with illustrations) about the life of the platypus once it hatches from the egg, which is a big part of what makes this mammal so interesting. The backmatter also includes an index and more puzzling facts about the platypus.

Platypus is a great read out loud, but I think it is best discovered independently and read in the spirit of wonder that this monotreme inspires!

Source: Review Copy

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21. Follow the Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So



Follow the Moon Home is a unique picture book written by environmental advocate Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau, acclaimed children's non-fiction (and fiction) author Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Meilo So. A curious book, I sat with Follow the Moon Home and thought about it for quite a while before writing this review. Because I was just wrapping up a week of reviews of non-fiction picture books about animals, I thought maybe Follow the Moon Home was a book about a real group of children who organized the community in an effort to protect hatchling turtles, but reading the backmatter and searching the internet proved this wasn't the case. While fifth graders from ninety-six schools in South Carolina successfully organized to make the loggerhead turtle the state reptile, the specific "Lights Out for Loggerheads" effort in Follow the Moon Home is fictional. Although fictional, Follow the Moon Home is packed with fantastic non-fiction information in the backmatter. Truly, Follow the Moon is a book about community and community action as well as a message to all of us to value the insights and inspirations of our children. As Cousteau writes in a note to parents and teachers, "Too often, adults see kids only as volunteers for environmental projects, as participants rather than seeing them as critical thinkers capable of solving any number of problems." Follow the Moon is a blueprint in story form for kids and adults, gently showing us all how to listen and how to take action and the perfect book for any teacher or school using a project based learning curriculum and seeking to incorporate character education and community participation into everyday learning.


Viv's family moves to town just in time for get to join a summer school class. The second page of Follow the Moon Home is not to be missed by adult readers - teachers or parents - as it shows Viv's teacher with a lesson plan for a class project centering on community action. The story moves at a fast pace and the authors are focused. Running into a classmate on the beach (the pudgy Clementine  - thank you Meilo So, for illustrating a girl with a body shape like mine when I was a kid!) Viv learns about loggerhead turtles and the struggles that the hatchlings face in their journey back to the ocean. Soon, the two are sharing their thoughts and ideas with the class and a community project is coming to life!



The authors detail the steps the class takes to educate and bring together the community and gain their support as the story unfolds. Their classroom becomes the Loggerhead Lab and readers see clearly how the kids develop a plan to fix a problem and gather together to make it happen. The school where I am a librarian is a project based learning school where character education and community connections are the foundations of our curriculum. As the librarian, I am constantly asked for books - at all levels - to support this and they are very rare. I am so thrilled to be able to add Follow the Moon, with its great story and invaluable, inspiring back matter to the shelves. Thank you to Philippe Cousteau, Deborah Hopkinson and Meilo So for creating this invaluable book!

Source: Review Copy

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22. The Real Poop on Pigeons! by Kevin McCloskey



Kevin McCloskey was inspired to create the fantastic We Dig Worms! when his wife, a librarian, asked him for a "fun worm book." The result is truly a very fun, informative book that is both a graphic novel and beginning reader. Now, McCloskey takes on another sort of under appreciated creature, the pigeon, with The Real Poop on Pigeons!

McCloskey begins The Real Poop on Pigeons! with a conversation between two people in the park. As the title suggests, this book begins with the universally held idea that pigeons are rats with wings that make a huge mess with their poop. But, a parade of kids dressed as pigeons - weird, but also really cute - set these two adults straight.

Carrier pigeons, who race without stopping and can go faster than a car, are the first in the species to start this look at the maligned bird. A few pages about the anatomy and history of pigeons also reveals that they mate for life! Breeding and the many amazing pigeons that result from it are examined next. 


McCloskey, who is also teaches illustration at Kutztown University, takes a few pages to talk about Pablo Picasso, who, as a child, cleaned out his father's pigeon coop and loved the birds so much that he named his daughter Paloma, which is pigeon in Spanish. I also learned that pigeons are in the same family as my favorite extinct bird, the dodo!
I really should wrap up my review of The Real Poop on Pigeons! but there are so many fascinating facts that McCloskey cleverly includes in his book, it's hard to stop. I'll end where he does, with that perennial question, "How come we never see baby pigeons?" You'll have to read The Real Poop on Pigeons! to get the answer, and when you do you just might find clues to the next subject of McCloskey's book...

Source: Review Copy 





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23. A Goofy Guide to Penguins by Jean Luc Coudray & Philippe Coudray, 36 pp, RL 1.5


If you have read any of Philipe Coudray's Benjamin Bear books, then you know that his is as master of absurdist humor and visual gags. And his newest book, A Goofy Guide to Penguins, created with his twin brother, Jean Luc, a cryptid enthusiast who enjoys visiting the forests of North America in his search for Big Foot, is equally silly, but with back matter that contains, "100% GENUINE, REAL FACTS ABOUT PENGUINS!"

A Goofy Guide to Penguins is also yet another fantastic TOON BOOK, which means that that this is both a graphic novel and a leveled reader! For my reviews of all the amazing TOON BOOKS that have been published since they started in 2008 HERE. Each page of A Goofy Guide to Penguins has a two panel spread. The first panel posits a question (asked by penguin a penguin chick perched outside of the panel) - or an assumption - about penguins and the second panel answers it.

One of my favorite pages shows penguin parents with their eggs - one has two eggs and the other has one. The first penguin chick tells readers that some parents "brag when they have twins." The second panel tells us that others "just wait until the eggs hatch," and shows the two parents with new chick. The penguin who waited to brag now has two chicks emerging from one egg. Knowing that the author and illustrator are twin brothers, this really tickles me. And, while the back matter did not tell me if two chicks can actually hatch from one egg, I did learn that the temperature inside a 10 penguin huddle can reach 74 degrees and that a male Emperor penguin loses up to 40% of his body weight during the incubation period for an egg.

The mix of humor and facts in A Goofy Guide to Penguins is definitely a new kind of non-fiction book for me. But, especially considering the intended audience of this book, I think it works magnificently! I hope that the Coudray brothers team up for another non-fiction book in the future, especially one that highlights Jean Luc's love of cryptozoology!


Read reviews of all three Benjamin Bear book HERE




Source: Review Copy




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24. A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long


A Nest Is Noisy is the fifth nature book from author Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrator Sylvia Long. I have long been a fan of this award winning series of books, both for the creative way that Aston presents the information and the gorgeous, richly detailed illustrations from Long that bring it to life and am happy to finally be able to share it here.



Aston draws readers in with her poetic text, starting with the title. But a nest isn't just noisy, a nest is also a "nursery of chirp-chirping . . . buzzing, squeaking, peep-peeping, bubbling babies." Each page begins with, "A nest is . . ." followed by fantastic adjectives. In fact, these books can also be used for language arts lessons, Aston's tet is so rich with descriptive words.

Two paragraphs of information about the egg laying animals and insects who have built the nests follow. Everything from the foamy nest of the African gray tree frog to the papery nests of hornets and wasps to the adobe nests of the American ovenbirds is included here. And every bit of it is fascinating! Aston ends A Nest Is Noisy with these words, "A nest is noisy . . . buzzing, swishing, rustling, flapping and humming with babies . . .but only until they are ready to fly, swim, or crawl away. Then a nest is . . . quiet." A final two page spread shows and names the nest building creatures, a perfect way to end the book.


More books in the Nature series!







Source: Review Copy

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25. Fabulous Frogs by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Tim Hopgood


A conservation biologist by day, Martin Jenkins is also the author of several children's books about animals. With Fabulous Frogs, Jenkins and illustrator Tim Hopgood bring us a look at frogs from all over the world that can read like a playful picture book and a fun, fact filled book at the same time.



Jenkins's perspective with Fabulous Frogs is fantastic. Even before the title page, he gets some frog facts out of the way, covering that most fascinating aspect of a frog's life, the metamorphosis from egg to tadpole to frog. I applaud this. These are facts that most kid's know before even opening a book about frogs and it leaves Jenkins and Hopgood 32 pages to explore some of the more than 5,000 different kinds of frogs in the world.



Besides variety, Jenkins also highlights curious qualities, like the African grey tree frogs that build their nests, which are made of foam, in branches hanging over ponds and streams. Then there is the male Darwin frog who, "snaps up the eggs just before they hatch and keeps the tadpoles in a special pouch in his throat." Frog hibernation, something that fascinates me, is also covered, as are the jewel-like South American poison arrow frogs.



I especially like how Jenkins ends his book, telling readers that his favorite frog is the, "medium size, greeny-brown one that sits o the lily pad in my backyard pond!" Fabulous Frogs also includes an index and a few more illustrations of frogs that didn't make into the book!

Source: Review Copy







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