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Results 26 - 50 of 16,866
26. 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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27. 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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28. 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.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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29. 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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30. 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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31. 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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32. 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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33. 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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34. 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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35. 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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36. 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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37. 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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38. Secret Tree Fort by Brianne Farley


Brianne Farley's debut picture book, Ike's Incredible Ink, is an incredible story about creativity. And, while Farley's fantastic second book, The Secret Tree Fort, is also about creativity and imagination, it has such a different feel and style that it almost made me do a double take. As someone who reads hundreds of picture books every year and follows the careers of new author/illustrators, it is surprising and exciting to see a new book that doesn't look remarkably similar to the previous one. Farley's illustration style still has a collage-y, textured feel, but the presence of humans in this book and a richer color palette, especially the vibrant imagined creatures, feels new and intriguing. 


Based on the title alone, I knew that The Secret Tree Fort was a book I wanted to read. A story about a secret tree fort can go in a hundred different directions, but the story Farley chooses to tell is one that will resonate with readers and linger in memories long after the covers are closed. Two sisters are sent outside to play. Big sister parks herself under a tree to read a book. She also ignores her little sister's pleas to play. Completely frustrated, the little sister blurts out, "FINE! I HAVE A SECRET TREE FORT AND YOU'RE NOT INVITED!"



And then she begins to build this secret tree fort - in her imagination - telling her sister about all the amazing details as she builds. The fort is well stocked - there is a marshmallow and chocolate compartment, maps and walkie talkies. And  it is also protected against attacks. There are different signal flags to call for backup. There's a crow's nest that affords an ocean view and a secret tunnel with an underwater viewing area where you can hang out with whales and play board games together. Best of all, the whole secret fort is made of candy. . .




Does this secret fort woo big sister away from her book or start an epic "Yes, it is," "No, it isn't" fight between the siblings? Or maybe both? You'll just have to read The Secret Tree Fort yourself to find out. Even better, buy it for a child you know and love!


Source: Review Copy

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39. No, Dorothy, you aren’t in Kansas… W.I.T.C.H.

The Occult Activism of 1960s Group WITCH is Still Relevant

This article popped up on the feed the other day, and I was reminded about the presence of and representation of witches throughout time, in a society that has pretty much commodified witchcraft into a visual and figurative only culture, i.e. Halloween, rather than a metaphoric one. The W.I.T.C.H. group was collective performance, an agitation and ripple to the world of conventionality. They aligned their ideals through direct actions, mailings, printed matter, and spoken activism. Like many other political aggregates of the time, we are fortunate to have propaganda ephemera validating action and disruption:

W.I.T.C.H. card

W.I.T.C.H. Women’s Liberation [Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell], c. 1969, mailing list card [#9011]

“We promise to love, cherish, and groove on each other and on all living things. We promise to smash the alienated family unit. We promise not to obey. We promise this through highs and bummers, in recognition that riches and objects are totally available through socialism or theft (but also that possessing is irrelevant to love)….We pronounce ourselves Free Human Beings.

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40. A Firetruck Named Red by Randall de Sève, illustrated by Bob Staake


With A Fire Truck Named Red, Randall de Sève and Bob Staake are perfectly paired for a superb picture book that easily could have been overly sentimental in less talented hands. A birthday present gone (almost) wrong becomes a journey and an adventure that connects a boy and his grandfather and opens up a whole new world of play.



With his birthday approaching, Rowan has his eyes on a shiny new ladder truck with all sorts of nifty features. This is not the fire truck he gets. Instead, he gets Red, his grandfather's well-loved toy truck. Papa tells Rowan all about Red, but Rowan is "busy trying not to cry." As Rowan and his Papa spend time in his garage fixing up Red, Papa tells him about all the adventures he and Red used to have. As Papa's stories get more and more spectacular, Rowan is more and more engrossed - and maybe even just a bit excited and happy.



Staake illustrates Papa's stories in sepia tones, and the glasses and round nose make Papa and his younger self immediately recognizable. As Papa's stories get bigger and bigger, the sepia toned illustrations of his memories take up more and more page space until finally, magically, wonderfully, Rowan is pulled into the memories. Where Papa and Red were a team, now Papa, Red and Rowan are a trio. A Fire Truck Named Red ends with Papa handing over a shiny, spiffed up Red  to a smiling Rowan who thinks to himself, "We could be a great team." The final illustration shows that indeed, they are.


Source: Review Copy

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41. An After Bedtime Story by Shoham Smith, illustrated by Einat Tsarfati, translated by Annette Appel



I am so absolutely in love with An After Bedtime Story, written by Shoham Smith and illustrated by Einat Tsarfatit, translated by Annette Appel. With illustrations that feel like an update on Hilary Knight's classic style (in fact, I think that Nina could very well be what Kay Thompson's Eloise was like as a toddler) and a story that I am sure was written just for me, although about 10 years too late, An After Bedtime Story is sure to become a classic among a certain set of (lovingly permissive) parents. I never did get the bedtime routine down, even with my third and lots of sleep-training books, and can totally relate to Nina's very tired parents. . .



Written in rhyming couplets, An After Bedtime Story opens with an adorable little girl, tucked into bed and sleeping, her parents on either side of her doorway, ready to sneak off. Nina calls them back for one more kiss, and they oblige, of course. But, instead of falling back to sleep, Nina is off and running down the hall, her parents sitting on her bed, bewildered, frustrated and clearly approaching exhausted. But how can Nina sleep? There are guest over and a party happening in the living room. And boy, does Nina know how to party. After hugs from all the aunties and uncles, she hits the dessert cart hard. From there, it's the drinks - fizzy pink lemonade, perfect for the pink and yellow palette that makes the black ink lines of the illustrations pop. Mom and dad try to reign her in. They count down, but before they can give Nina an ultimatum, her baby brother is standing in the hallway, blankie (and toy sword - after all, little brother is wearing a Viking helmet) in hand.







Einat Tsarfati's illustrations are brilliant! They are modern and humorous, but also feel like a timeless representation of life with toddlers. Every page is rich with details, and you will pore over An After Bedtime Story again and again taking them in, from the pet pug who is in a cone-collar for unknown reasons to Nina's bedroom, strewn with toys, including a cradle with a robot tucked in for the night and toy T-rex charging a Barbie-type doll. An After Bedtime Story is one that parents and kids will laugh at together every time they read it, and maybe it might even lead to some peaceful nighttime resolutions?

Source: Review Copy

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42. This is not a picture book! by Sergio Ruzzier





While This is not a picture book! is only the fourth book I have reviewed by Sergio Ruzzier, I have read many more, including his work with the wonderful Eve Bunting and Emily Jenkins, and I have to say, his newest is my favorite and closest to my heart. This is not a picture book! reads like a love letter to everyone who believes in the transformative power of reading, and it is one that I will read often, to myself and out loud to my students.




This is not a picture book! begins with Duck happily discovering a book, well before the title page. Elation turns to frustration when Duck realizes that there are ONLY WORDS in this book! Bug arrives and asks if Duck can read this offensive book with no pictures, to which Duck replies, "I'm not sure." Up until this page, Duck, the book and Bug are shown on a white background. When Duck answers, the two page illustration shows the white background on the left hand side, with a crevasse and colorful terrain on the verso. A log bridge connects the two, and as Duck walks across it, muttering, "Words are so difficult," and the journey of decoding and learning to read begins!


And what a journey it is! The landscape changes as Duck reads words that are funny, sad, wild and peaceful. While This is not a picture book! is about reading books without pictures, Ruzzier's illustrations are perfectly paired with the spare but powerful text and, as always, his world is one that I love to visit. Colorful curiosities abound as Duck and Bug walk and read, and visual clues that help emerging readers decode. In the final pages of This is not a picture book!, Ruzzier captures perfectly how I feel when I read a good book, "All these words carry you away and then they bring you home where they stay with you forever." And, in a brilliant design touch, the front endpapers of This is not a picture book! are a spread of text, mostly garbled, and, if you have pre, emerging  or struggling readers at home, I strongly encourage you to skim it closely. Reading is like breathing for me - I rarely think about it. Skimming the front endpapers with decodable sight words sprinkled here and there helped me understand what so many of my students experience when they open a book. It is good to be reminded of the challenge. The endpapers of This is not a picture book! is worth reading as well! It is the story of Duck and Bug and the book that they find. It is yet another testament to Ruzzier's gift as a writer. He can craft a powerful picture book with less than 100 words and he can write a picture-less story that is equally engaging, using the words to paint the pictures in the head of the reader.

Source: Review Copy





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43. Stay Private! Be sure to cross all your t’s and dot your i’s…

Living in a time of unprecedented information surveillance, also lends itself to an unbelievable amount of information privilege for much of the “democratized” world. We feign emotions with character smiley faces and iconography as our communications float rapidly over a network of intangible speeds, sometimes coated with an algorithm of encryption and sometimes, not. Identity is, at best, both catastrophic and creative. So as we celebrate and converse about National Privacy Week, it is sort of interesting to think about privacy, not only in the way we might shroud our communications, but also in terms of economics, commodity and modality.

In the early 19th century, the postal system was financially demanding for some people [not unnecessarily unlike today] *and* was the scarcity of paper. Tom Standage writes in the Victorian Internet [1998]: “In the nineteenth century, letter writing was the only way to communicate with those living at a distance. However, prior to 1840, the post was expensive. Postal charges grew high in England due to the inflationary pressure of the Napoleonic Wars. Different from the way mail operates today, the burden of payment fell to the receiver, not the sender; prepayment was a social slur on the recipient. One had to be financially solvent to receive a letter. If the recipient could not afford to pay for a letter, it was returned to sender. Any reader of Jane Austen’s Emma (1815) knows that to save costs, cross writing was common — a writer turned his or her letter horizontally and “crossed” (or wrote over) the original text at a right angle rather than use an additional sheet of paper. Folded letters with a wax seal may look quaint, but like cross writing, this was also a pre-1840s cost cutting measure since that same missive, posted in an envelope, would receive double charge.”

A cost-cutting measure indeed, however, and not insignificant it created a system of visual encryption one might employ for secrecy, but also as a device of post-modernity and compositional ingenuity. In 1819, John Keats constructed a crossed letter discussing both the merit of prescriptive living for labor workers, only to be written over at an angle by his poem, Lamia, about a man who falls in love with a snake disguised as a woman. “The non-linearity of meaning is generated as an excess against the unidirectional drive of information, like the snakes that weave around the staff of a caduceus or the turbulent wake of a forward-moving ship; meaning is the snake and the wake of information.” [1] Quite a metaphor to create, as a perception of romanticism, in era of rapid change.  Sound familiar? When in doubt, think smart, choose privacy.

We have a suite of 19th century letters in our collection of cross-writing, or “cross-hatching,” check out the images:

[cross-writing] [cross-writing] [cross-writing]

#chooseprivacy

[1] Livingston, Ira. Arrow of Chaos: Romanticism and Postmodernity.

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44. Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti

Both Madison (Mads) and Billy have their futures ahead of them - futures heavily shaped by their mothers. And, perhaps, by each other. But when the story starts, when their stories first intersect, only one of them is present: Mads, when her morning swim leads her straight into the path of a body, a woman who has taken her own life: Billy's mother.

Though the premise outlined above may sound grim, Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti is buoyed by hope: hope for better days, hope for positive change. The story is led by two characters who struggle to take control over their own lives while they search for reasons or answers related to recent events. Written in third person, the book flips back and forth between Billy and Mads, allowing the reader to see both perspectives - which is especially interesting when they are in the same scene, so the dual narrative allows us to be privy to both characters' thoughts. The third person style also permits a cool omniscient element, with occasional phrases directing the reader's attention to something - almost like a finger pointing, "Look there," "Remember this moment later" - that are more like gentle nudges than pushy wink-wink moments.

Billy and Mads, both post-high school and both innate caretakers, have found jobs they love: Billy works at a no-kill animal shelter and literally rescues dogs, while Mads babysits a baby girl that she wishes she could protect from the world. But neither of them are happy at home. Billy now lives with his grandmother, a woman full of cruel remarks and judgements about her late daughter, while Mads is staying with her aunt, uncle, and cousin for the summer while she takes real estate classes at Bellevue Community College - all part of her mother's plan for Mads to become her working partner the second she passes the licensing exam.

But once Mads and Billy meet, once their lives collide, their futures change. Or is it that their options change, and their true futures reveal themselves? It is not easy to alleviate the burdens of the abandoned or create a map for the lost. It takes courage to face the ogres of depression and loss. With strength of spirit combined with gut instincts and personal truths, Mads and Billy find their way out of the deep and onto their next journey.

Check out my reviews of other Deb Caletti novels, including The Nature of Jade and The Queen of Everything.

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45. Poetry Friday: In the Beginning by Harriet Monroe

When sunshine met the wave,
Then love was born;
Then Venus rose to save
A world forlorn.

For light a thousand wings
Of joy unfurled,
And bound with golden rings
The icy world.

And color flamed the earth
With glad desire,
Till life sprang to the birth,
Fire answering fire,

And so the world awoke,
And all was done,
When first the ocean spoke
Unto the sun.

- In the Beginning by Harriet Monroe

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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46. Best Books of April 2016

April 2016: 7 books and scripts read

Genre Fiction Pick
The Demonists by Thomas E. Sniegoski

YA Fiction Pick
Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti

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47. Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony

Several years ago, I tuned into the Tony awards telecast eager to find out whether Ragtime was going to beat The Lion King. (It didn't.) I made my new boyfriend watch the whole thing with me, even though he didn't care at all about the results. The next day at his work, his colleagues were talking at lunch about what they had watched on television the night before. "Anyone watch the World Cup?" someone asked. Several people had. "How about the NBA Playoffs?" Again, a lot of murmurs of agreement. My boyfriend said, "Hey, did anyone watch the Tonys?" Dead silence.

I've always loved that story because I think it's a fairly good representation of the Tonys in popular culture. They have a very limited audience- you have to physically go to New York and see the original productions. You really can't tell who is going to win Best Choreography if you listen to the cast album. This is completely different from the Oscars, because you can see the nominated movies anywhere.

Also, that boyfriend is now my husband, and I still make him watch the Tonys with me every year. 

This year, I'm particularly excited to find out how Hamilton will do at the Tonys. Let's start with this question: How many Tonys can Hamiltonactually win?

It's eligible for the following 13 categories:

1. Best Musical
2. Best Book of a Musical
3. Best Original Score
4. Best Orchestrations
(These four categories can only be won by new musicals).

5. Best Direction of a Musical
6. Best Choreography
7. Best Scenic Design of a Musical
8. Best Costume Design of a Musical
9. Best Lighting Design of a Musical
10. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
11. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
12. Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
13. Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
(These nine categories can be won by either new musicals or revivals- which means the field is much larger for these awards.) 

The current record is held by The Producers, which won 12 Tonys and was nominated for 15. The Producers won every single category for which it was nominated, which is a rather incredible acheivement. The three nominations that The Producers didn't win were in the acting categories because multiple actors from the show were nominated for the same category. The one category it didn't win, is also the only one it wasn't nominated for:  Leading Actress. 

The Tony Administration committee has ruled on eligibility for certain parts in Hamilton, and whether they belong in the Lead or Featured Actor categories. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr.  and Phillipa Soo will all be considered in the Lead categories.

If Hamilton gets nominated in all thirteen categories- then it is within striking distance to go for the record. The Producers only had three eligible performer categories, but with the decision to put Phillipa Soo as a Leading Actress, Hamilton now has all four performer categories available.

Also, don't be surprised if it receives more than thirteen nominations. Hamilton is likely going to have the same problem as The Producers. If multiple actors get nominated in the same category (which I would expect), it won't be possible for Hamilton to win all of its nominations. 

How many possible Tonys could Lin-Manuel Miranda personally go home with? If he was nominated for every available category andhe won all of them, I see four Tonys on the list above that could wind up on his mantel. Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical and Best Orchestrations (which he collaborated on). The award for Best Musical is given to the producers- and he didn't produce the show. But the possibility of seeing the same person win both the composing and writing awards and an acting award and an arrangement award- that is a phenomenal and exciting possibility.

I have an image in my head from when Norah Jones won so many Grammys in the same night that she could barely hold them all. I keep thinking about this picture every time I think about what a photo of Lin at the end of the Tonys might look like. 

In The Heights was nominated was for 13 Tonys and won 4. Lin-Manuel Miranda was personally nominated for two: Best Score (which he won) and Best Actor (which he lost). (As a footnote, I'll mention that In the Heights was also nominated for Best Sound Design, a category that no longer exists.) But Hamilton is a whole different ball game. It's a hit, it's a hit, it's a palpable hit. A crazy lottery, standing room only, sold out forever hit. A show doesn't have to be a monster hit like Hamilton to win Tonys, but it doesn't hurt. 

For me, a lot of the drama is going to be in the Actor categories. Ignoring the other shows for a moment- if it was a match-up between just Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (Burr)- who would win? (Oh, the irony, given that the show itself is a matchup between Hamilton and Burr.) Common sense probably tells us Lin, but I have to say that Leslie was show-stoppingly phenomenal. 

What about the Featured Actors? The ensemble work was all exceptional and it is difficult to rank one above another. If I absolutely had to, I would say Daveed Diggs (Lafayette/Jefferson) and Chris Jackson (Washington) were truly standouts. So was Jonathan Groff (King George III), even through he was only on stage for a few moments. Okieriete Onaodowan (Mulligan/Madison) was also terrific, but there may not be enough room in the nominations. 

On the actress side, both Phillipa Soo (Eliza) and Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica) were outstanding, so I'm glad they won't have any other competition in their categories from within the show, unless Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy/Maria Reynolds) gets nominated as a Featured Actress.

We can't ignore those other shows forever. Here's a listof eligible new shows that will be vying very hard not to be shut out.

The Tony nominations will be announced on Tuesday, May 3 and the Tony Awards will be on Sunday, June 12.

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Wait for it.

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48. The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Jon Klassen, 244 pp, RL 4


I have read more books by the very talented Kenneth Oppel than I have reviewed here and I really need to do something about that. Oppel's superb Silverwing Saga was one of the first books I reviewed when I started in 2008. Oppel's intriguing Airborn Trilogy got my non-fiction loving son through some challenging middle school book reports and The Boundless is definitely one of the best stories on a train that I have ever read, especially because it begins with a sasquatch sighting as the construction of a railroad that stretches from one end of Canada to the other nears completion.


While Oppel is gifted at writing fantasies that are firmly set in reality, fueled by zeppelins bigger than the Titanic and a 987 car train that is almost seven miles long, his newest novel, The Nest, unfolds on a much smaller scale - at home - and is every bit as suspenseful - and thoughtful - as his grand scale fantasies. The first time Steven dreams of creatures with, "pale gossamer wings and music that came off them, and the light that haloed them," it is ten days after his brother is born. These creatures tell him that they have come to help the baby, who has been born with serious congenital health issues which narrator Steven details with the vague grasp of a child who has not been told everything. 

Anxious and with OCD tendencies, an imaginary friend and a recurring nightmare in which a dark shape is standing at the foot of his bed, this overwhelming uncertainty in the form of the new baby intensifies for Steven when a strange type of white wasp builds a nest on the eaves near his bedroom window. The angels in the dream turn out to be the same white wasps that are building a nest on the side of Steven's house. And, in his dreams, the Queen speaks to Steven, telling him that her drones are building a nest where a new baby, a perfect baby will grow. When it is ready, if he agrees, Steven will help them replace the damaged baby with the new one and happiness will return to his family. The Nest unfolds at a cautious pace that matches Steven's anxieties. The Queen's assurances of good intentions and even better solutions seem reasonable, equaling Steven's desire for security at home. The Nest takes a dark turn when Steven comes to understand the true nature of the swap the Queen is proposing and the slow-simmering suspense of the story begins to boil. The climactic scene of The Nest is intense and very real, yet another testament to Oppel's ability to blend reality and fantasy in a meaningful way.




Half way through the novel as Steven nears an important turning point, his babysitter Vanessa, a college student, shares an insight into human existence. "Lots of people have broken bits," she says, sharing that she has a genetic kidney disease that will affect her later in life. "Sooner or later, we're all busted-up in some way." Holding his sleeping brother against his chest, Steven thinks, "Sometimes we really aren't supposed to be the way we are. It's not good for us. And people don't like it. You've got to change. You've got to try harder and do deep breathing and maybe one day take pills and learn tricks so you can pretend to be more like other people. Normal people. But maybe Vanessa was right, and all those other people were broken too in their own ways. Maybe we all spent too much time pretending we weren't." Fantasy or not, middle grade novel or not, this has to be one of the most profound thoughts I've read in a long time. 

Source: Purchased



Other excellent books by Kenneth Oppel:











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49. The Best Days are Dog Days by Aaron Meshon



The Best Days are Dog Days is the newest picture book from Aaron Meshon, author and illustrator of the fantastic TOOLS Rule!. Meshon's brightly detailed illustrations (which would be perfect hanging on the walls of any kid's room, or living room for that matter) are worth the price of the book alone, but he is a great writer as well and his stories always bring a new, creative perspective to the subject. With The Best Days Are Dog Days, Meshon parallels the busy day of a toddler and the family's French Bulldog. I think it's fair to call them siblings. . .



One thing that I noticed with my own children and interacting with babies while working as a bookseller is that babies love to see pictures of babies. And toddlers love to see images of their daily lives. While this can be a little dull to the person reading the book, Meshon finds the perfect way to make these mundane (but, fun) tasks humorously engaging for little and big readers alike. Pup and Sis do everything together. Their day begins, Sis on the right side of the page and Pup, the narrator, on the left, with a stretch. Meshon captures the dog stretch perfectly, and Sis's little puppy-themed pjs are very cute. Breakfast is followed by a trip to the parks, both kid and dog. They make friends, play in the water and, together at the same time, chase a squirrel. A potty break is another moment of subtle humor in this already very funny book. A tandem bike, with a toddler seat and a dog basket, make getting around this very cool city (Seattle? Vancouver? St. Paul?) entertaining. Back home again and exhausted, it's bath time then time to brush the teeth for yet another awesomely hilarious two-page spread.



Kids and dogs are a pretty common pairing in picture books, but Meshon brings a very fresh approach to it. Of course this is the perfect book for new parents who have been practicing on their dog for a few years, but really, any little one will love this book with its familiar themes and cheerful colors. Buy this book today! Buy two - one for your own family and one to give as a gift!




Source: Reveiw Copy

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50. Bob the Artist by Marion Deuchars




Marion Deuchars is the force behind the Let's Make Some series of books that inspire creativity in kids and adults. Visit the site to give Deuchars's projects a try or read my reviews of her books  Let's Make Some Great Fingerprint Art
and http://www.books4yourkids.com/2013/12/lets-make-more-great-placemat-art-by.html"target="_blank">Let's Make More Great Placemat Art. Now, with Bob the Artist, Deuchars has written and illustrated her first picture book and of course it's about creativity!




I find Deuchars's illustrations crisply engaging and always charming. Her hand lettering adds to that charm, almost inviting readers to write their own story, which works wonderfully in Bob the Artist. Bob is a red-beaked-blackbird with skinny legs. Legs so skinny that the other birds laugh and laugh when they see Bob. 




This brings Bob down so he tries to do something about his legs. Exercise, clothes as camouflage and some serious sausage eating to nothing for Bob's legs. Then, Bob happens to visit a gallery where he is INSPIRED!



Bob takes his inspiration from Henri Matisse and Jackson Pollock, decorates his beak and heads back out into the world. This time the other birds greet him with appreciation and awe and Bob feels good about himself again - good enough to even walk the world as himself sometimes!

Bob the Artist can be a book with a message and it can also be a book that is beautiful to look at, fun to read and a creative inspiration, which is how I like to read it, and how I hope you will, too!

Source: Review Copy


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