Today’s guest reviewer has pets — a cat and a gerbil to be exact.
So when she decided that another cat would be a good thing, others in our family were not convinced.
“You already have a cat,” said her dad.
“Another cat means more cat hair,” said her older sister.
But Sonia would not be dissuaded. She made a list of reasons another cat was a good idea. (See the photo in the lower right.) She shared the merits of cats. She drew pictures of cats. She dreamed about cats.
Eventually, her persistence won out, and Sunny joined our family.
Sonia’s story is remarkably similar to Prudence’s as described in Prudence Wants a Pet (Roaring Brook Press, 2011) by Cathleen Daly and Stephen Michael King.
Prudence desperately wants a pet. Her parents say no for all the usual reasons. Prudence decides to take matters into her own hands and tries out a branch, a twig, a shoe, a tire and her baby brother as possible pets.
Let’s just say none are ideal.
Things look hopeful when her parents say she can get a packet of sea buddies. But the buddies don’t move or even have faces.
It is the final straw. Prudence takes to her closet in despair.
Which leads to her parents having a whispered conversation.
I won’t share the ending, except to say everyone involved is happy. And that’s always a good thing.
As an aside, this is totally my kind of picture book. It has the sort of dry, understated humor that I like with a lot of heart just below its surface.
The writing is well done. And, I love how the illustrations only show the parents’ legs and arms.
Now, let’s see what animal-loving Sonia had to say.
Our reviewer: Sonia
Things I like to do: Play with my new cat, Sunny. Play with water. Make concoctions. Play with sidewalk chalk, draw, sleep and eat.
This book was about: A girl who wants a pet, but her parents don’t want one. They think it’s too much work.
My favorite part was: When Prudence got a pet that was a cat.
I was worried when: She lost Twig.
I was surprised when: She used her little brother as a pet.
My favorite words or phrase in the book was: “Dad broke the branch into little bits and put them on the woodpile.”
My favorite picture in the book is: When she’s hugging the kitten.
Three words that describe this book: “Pet.” “Meow.” “Branch.”
Other kids reading the book should watch for: Her begging for a pet. The small specks in the fish bowl. And, when her little brother turns green.
You should read this book because: If you want a pet, it shows you how to get one. (Sonia’s best tip from her own personal experience? “Say you’ll clean the cat litter.&rdq
Spirals have always been one of my favorite shapes.
Once, at some corporate training sessions I had to endure, everyone had to pick a favorite shape.
Then, the presenter proceeded to analyze people based on which shape they chose. People who chose circles were dependable, people who chose squares were organized.
When the presenter got to the spiral, she said, “You really don’t want to have ANYTHING to do with these people. They’re a little crazy.”
That was reassuring.
But I feel better knowing that if I’m crazy, so are a lot of beautiful things in nature. Many of them are described in Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011) written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes.
The book has been well received. It has won too many honors to list here, but highlights include starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, The School Library Journal and Horn Book Magazine. It also was a highly commended title by the CCBC.
But let’s see what an actual reader thinks. Take it away, Angela!
Today’s reviewer: Angela
Things I like to do: Swim, color in coloring books, play outside with my daddy and my friends, plant flowers, jump rope, watch movies and ride my scooter.
This book was about: Different things in nature that have spirals either on their bodies or when they curl their bodies to make spirals.
The best part was when: I found all the different animals in the artwork on the pages.
I smiled when: The two Asian elephants were lined up, and the front elephant picked up a branch in its trunk to make a spiral. Then the second elephant made a spiral out of its trunk to hold the front elephant’s tail.
I was surprised when: The European hedgehog curled up to protect itself from a red fox.
This book taught me: There are spirals all over in nature that I never noticed before. I learned a lot from this book. Did you know the rose is a spiral and so is a chrysanthemum?
Three words that best describe this book are: “Colorful.” “Interesting.” “Educational.”
My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “A spiral reaches out, too, exploring the world. It winds around and around.”
My favorite picture in this book is: The two pages that have a lot of flowers on them.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: All the fine detail in each of the paintings. All different things from nature are hidden in the artwork on all the pages.
You should read this book because: You will enjoy the cool artwork and wonderful words. You will learn all about spirals and how they are hidden in nature.
Thanks, Angela! Very nicely done.
If you’d like to learn more about author Joyce Sidman, you can visit
My Dadima Wears a Sari (Peachtree, 2007) written by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi is a lovely picture book about a granddaughter asking her grandmother why she always wears a sari.
The grandmother patiently answers the questions. She explains why she likes saris and the many ways a sari can be used. (As an umbrella! Or a basket!) She also shares some of her favorite saris and the stories behind them, and even explains how to wear one.
The book is full of familial love as the grandmother passes on traditions and memories. It also include a glossary to identify some Hindi words used in the text and a step-by-step guide to putting on a sari properly.
Today’s reviewer, Aria, wasn’t familiar with saris before reading this book, but she is now.
Let’s hear what she has to say.
Our reviewer: Aria
Things I like to do: Climb trees — it’s one of my favorite hobbies. I also like to swim.
This book was about: Dadima and her two grandchildren and how they always wanted to know why she wears a sari.
The best part was when: They were all looking in the mirror. That was the best part — with the saris.
I smiled when: When I saw the younger one of the granddaughters ask, “What if we were out in the jungle?”
I was surprised when: The book kept me thinking. I wanted to see what her three favorite saris were. It kept me curious.
This book taught me: How you can wrap a sari and the special way to do it. It’s a very big piece of material.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Beautiful.” “Curious.” “Illustrations.” (Aria noted that the book has beautiful illustrations.)
My favorite part of the book: All the colorful words. Especially when she was describing the gold sari she wore for her wedding.
My favorite picture in the book: The one on the last page where they’re smiling in the mirror.
Other kids reading this book should look for: The illustrations.
Thank you, Aria!
You can learn more about author Kashmira Sheth by visiting her website. You also can read this interview .
You can learn more about illustrator Yoshiko Jaeggi by visiting her website. You also can read this review of another book she illustrated.
It’s never easy being the new kid in school.
Everyone else already has friends. They know where to sit at lunch and how to line up for recess.
And being the new kid in school can be even more difficult if you’re not like everyone else to begin with.
This is the case in Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2011) by David Mackintosh.
Marshall is a new student and he’s just a little different. He’s always dressed up. He has sensitive skin. He’s very precise about his school supplies. And the food he brings for lunch looks like something astronauts might eat in outer space.
The other kids watch him from afar and wonder. But when Marshall throws an atypical birthday party and invites the entire class, they discover that different doesn’t necessarily mean bad.
Now, let’s hear from today’s guest reviewer, Liam. Liam says the best birthday party he ever went to was his friend Matthew’s. He had an egg hunt in his basement with teams.
Our reviewer: Liam
Things I like to do: Be outside. Run and jump over things.
This book was about: A kid named Marshall Armstrong being new and completely different than other kids. Other kids didn’t like him. It turns out well because of his birthday.
The best part was when: When the other kid gets mad about going to Marshall’s birthday party.
I smiled when: At that same part.
I was surprised when: Nothing surprised me. This is the second time I’ve read it. I remember everything from before.
This book taught me: I’d like to know more about the space food Marshall eats.
Three words that describe this book: “New.” “Different.” “Friends.”
You should read this book because: To find out that things can work out fine if you’re new or something.
This book reminds me of one of my all-time favorite picture books — Odd Velvet by Mary Whitcomb. It follows the adventures of a new girl in school who’s not anything like her classmates.
You can learn more about David Mackintosh by visiting his website.
Rodney Rat is a small rodent who can’t say his r’s. No matter how hard he tries, they come out sounding like w’s.
Despite this, Rodney is a happy fellow. In Wodney Wat’s Wobot (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011) by Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger, Rodney likes going to school, has good friends, and for his birthday, he gets a wonderful wobot.
I mean a ronderful robot. Or a wonderful robot. Whatever.
When Rodney pushes a button on the robot’s nose and speaks, the robot repeats what Rodney says … but the robot pronounces all the letters correctly.
Rodney is thrilled. He takes the robot to school with him where it’s very helpful when Rodney wants to order ribs and rice for lunch.
But then, Camilla Capybara, the biggest and meanest rodent around, comes back to school and resumes her reign of terror. Just at that time, the batteries in Rodney’s wonderful robot start to fade.
And, somehow, without meaning to, Rodney finds the one thing that Camilla is scared of.
Will it be enough to save the day?
Let’s hear from today’s guest reviewer, Ben!
Today’s reviewer: Ben
Age: Just turned 5.
I like: Candy, having soccer practice, super heroes.
This book was about: A robot.
The best part was when: Rodney had a birthday cake made out of cheese on the first page.
I laughed when: Camilla teased Rodney with her tongue out.
I was worried when: The robot ran out of batteries.
I was surprised that: Camilla the Capybara came back!
This book taught me: Not to tease people and to be nice.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: Camilla. Because she was teasing and sticking her tongue out.
Three words that best describe this book: “Rodney.” “Robot.” “Worried.”
My favorite line or phrase in this book: “Nananana na na. someone’s got a stutter.” and “Something’s wrong with my wobot.”
You should read this book because: Of the robot. And because Camilla is mean.
Thank you, Ben!
This book is a follow-up to Hooway for Wodney Wat.
If you’d like to learn more about author Helen Lester, you can read this interview. (My favorite quote from it is, “I don’t think the thrill of turning a page to see what happens next will ever go out of style.”) Or, you can visit Helen’s website.
If you’d like to learn more about illustrator Lynn Munsinger, check out this
Most people today can’t remember a time when women weren’t allowed to vote.
Marching with Aunt Susan (Peachtree, 2011), written by Claire Rudolf Murphy and illustrated by Stacey Schuett, takes young readers — and their parents — back to the days when Susan B. Anthony was leading the suffrage movement that would eventually lead to women having the right to vote in 1920.
The book follows Bessie, a girl who already sees some inequity in how she and her brothers are treated. For instance, why can’t she hike with her father?
What makes his book interesting is that Bessie really existed and really met and corresponded with Susan B. Anthony.
So what did a a girl living in 1896 think of the campaign for women’s votes?
Let’s hear from Eden, today’s guest reviewer.
Today’s reviewer: Eden
Things I like to do: Draw. Dance. Swim. Play soccer.
This book was about: How women wanted to vote and some men didn’t want them to.
The best part was when: Bessie got to meet Aunt Susan and help out with the people in the factory who couldn’t go to school. I also liked the newspaper articles at the front and the back of the book.
I was surprised when: Her dad didn’t let her go hiking. Just boys got to.
This book taught me: That a long time ago, women couldn’t vote.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Vote.” “Women.” “Brave.”
My favorite picture in the book is: When they are marching with the sign. And, when Bessie helps paint the sign with her friend, Rita. I like how you can see the brush strokes in a lot of the pictures.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: What’s happening in the present and what happened in the past.
You should read this book because: It teaches you stuff about the past. It also has some really good pictures. And, it’s based on real people.
Thank you, Eden!
If you’d like to learn more about Claire Rudolf Murphy, visit her website.
If you’d like to learn more about Stacey Schuett, visit her website.
Emma Turner loves to read and write. And more than anything, she’d like a real, store-bought book of her own.
But her family doesn’t have money for extras. They move from place to place picking crops. There is a collection of coins in a hard-times jar, but it’s only for when the family runs out of something before payday.
So Emma writers her own stories on brown paper and helps her family pick apples — hoping that one day there will be enough for her to buy a book.
The Hard-Times Jar (Frances Foster Books, 2003) by Ethel Footman Smothers and John Holyfield shares how Emma discovers a treasure trove of books when she goes to school and sees the library. But the books are so tempting she brings a few home, even though her teacher said they needed to stay at school.
What happens to Emma when her mother and the teacher find out?
Let’s ask today’s guest reviewer, Grace.
Our reviewer: Grace
Things I like to do: Ride my bike and swim.
This book was about: A girl who had a hard-times jar. Her mom said she couldn’t pick apples any more, and her mom said she had to go to school. And she felt squiggly. Her new teacher showed her around. Everyone was a different color than her, but there were books. She broke the rules and took some books home even though the teacher said not to. She was reading them and her mom found the books. She made her bring them back and tell the teacher, and she did. When she got home, her mom said she was proud of her and gave her quarters from the hard-times jar.
The best part was when: She got the quarters from the hard-times jar.
I smiled when: She was checking on her little sister, and she was all cuddled up in the box. I also smiled when she wrote the story about the lizard.
I was surprised when: She took the books home from the library. She hid them in her sweater.
This book taught me: To not take stuff home when the teacher says to keep it at school.
Three phrases that best describe this book are: “Hard-times jar.” “Apple orchard.” “Creamy buttermilk skin.”
My favorite picture in this book is: When they are all looking at the hard-times jar.
You should read this book because: You can learn to not just take stuff. And that it’s good to be honest with each other.
Thank you, Grace! (By the way, Grace says that if she came into some extra cash, she would buy chapter books.)
If you’d like to learn more about the author, check out Ethel Footman Smothers’ biography.
If you’d like to learn more about the illustrator, check out John Holyfield’s website.
Birdie’s Big-Girl Dress (Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011) chronicles a young fashionista’s search for the perfect ensemble to wear to her birthday party after she discovers that her favorite dress no longer fits her.
First, Birdie’s stylish mother takes her to a boutique. It’s full of dresses of every type. But none of them are just right.
Eventually Birdie ends up in her attic looking at clothes and accessories from her grandparents. She and her dog, Monster, try many combinations before finding just the right outfit in the nick of time.
Today’s guest reviewer enjoyed the book — especially determining what she would have chose to wear if she were Birdie.
Let’s give it up for Trinity!
Our reviewer: Trinity
Things I like to do: Draw, ride my scooter, go outside.
This book was about: A little girl with a favorite dress. But it gets too small. She looked at stores for a new dress for her birthday party, but she couldn’t find one. Then, she looked in the attic and found something perfect.
The best part was when: She had her party and a really pretty dress.
I was surprised when: She was wearing the vest. It was kind of funny that she mixed and matched.
I smiled when: When the dog was under her gauzy gown. When was wearing the flowered hat and the vest and the dress.
I was worried when: She didn’t find a new dress at the store.
Three words that best describe this book: “Stylish.” “Birthday.” “Dress.”
My favorite line or phrase in this book: “Monster felt so dapper.”
My favorite picture in the book: The page where all the dresses in the store are lined up. They all look so pretty even though none of them are right for her.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: To see if they see her friends on the street and in the store and at Birdie’s party.
You should read this book because: You can’t always wear your favorite dress. You’ll grow out of it.
The book’s author, Sujean Rim, knows something about dressing up. She’s worked as a shoe and accessory designer as well as an illustrator.
This book is a follow-up to Birdie’s Big-Girl Shoes. If you’d like to learn more about Sujean, read this interview.
Everybody is good at something.
And if people are lucky, they have family and friends who support their talents and interests.
But, sometimes, that doesn’t happen.
Such is the case for the little matador, the hero in Julian Hector’s picture book The Little Matador (Hyperion Books, 2008). His parents are famous bullfighters, and they want him to follow in their footsteps.
But the little matador doesn’t see the point. He’d much prefer to draw — especially animals. And he’s good at drawing, too. His parents try to dissuade him, but when he persists in drawing, they march him down to the stadium so he can face his first bull.
What happens then? Let’s hear from Ella, today’s guest reviewer.
Today’s review: Ella
Things I like to do: Swim, play tennis and ride my bike.
This book was about: A little matador whose parents want him to bullfight. He wants to draw instead.
The best part was when: The bull frog was acting like, “He’s stronger than ME?”
I smiled when: The animals posed so the little matador could draw them.
I was surprised when: The little matador wouldn’t fight the bull. I would have run if it was me. Bull horns can hurt. Especially if they end up in your tushie.
This book taught me: You should do what you want. You should be what you want.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Funny.” “Creative.” “Happy.”
My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “After all, nobody wants to see a matador draw.”
My favorite picture in this book is: When the bull is charging at the little matador.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: The little matador’s drawings.
You should read this book because: It’s funny. I think other kids would like it a lot.
Julian Hector wrote the text and drew the illustrations for this book. Want to learn more about him? You can:
Come On, Rain! (Scholastic, 1999) by Karen Hesse and Jon J. Muth is a beautiful book all the way around.
It’s premise is simple enough. It’s a sweltering, oppressive summer day in a series of sweltering, oppressive summer days, and Tessie and her mother have just about had it with the heat.
Tessie is convinced it will rain.
At first, that seems like wishful thinking, but then the reader sees that Tessie has picked up some clues her mother has missed. So when the rain comes rushing down and everyone dances in the street, it’s a well-earned triumph for Tessie.
Hesse’s language is beautiful. Tessie’s voice is spot-on. And Muth’s illustrations gorgeously convey the heat and the rain’s blessed relief. I also loved the diverse neighborhood he created with all the residents waiting and hoping for the same thing.
What else makes this book cool? Or hot?
Let’s ask today’s reviewer.
Things I like to do: Ride my bike, draw, play baseball. And, I like getting wet.
This book was about: A girl who wanted rain to come and she kept saying, “Come on, rain!” and it came and she got her friends and they danced in the alleyway and then their moms came running out to join in the dancing.
The best part was when: The rain came.
I smiled when: The rain came.
I was surprised when: Most people would be surprised when the rain came, but I knew it was coming.
Three words that best describe this book: “Rain.” “Hot.” “Pouring.”
My favorite line or phrase in this book: ” ‘We sure did get a soaking, Mamma,’ I say. And we head home, purely soothed, fresh as dew.” I also liked all the words describing the rain sounds.
My favorite picture in this book: The one of their feet all running down the street chasing each other in the rain.
Others kids reading this book should watch for: When the rain starts to come.
You should read this book because: It’s surprising and funny.
Thank you, Maria!
If you’d like to learn more about Karen Hesse, who won the MacArthur Fellowship in 2002 and is most well-known for her Newbery Award-winning young adult novel Out Of The Dust, check out this biography.
If you’d like to learn more about Jon J. Muth, who wrote and illustrated the 2006 Caldecott Honor winning Zen Shorts, watch this video interview.
Almost everyone has had a moment where they realize what a small spot in the universe they actually hold.
For some people, that’s a relief. There’s much less pressure. For other people, that realization inspires them to work harder to try and leave their mark, no matter how small.
For the little boy in Light Up the Night (Hyperion Children’s Books, 2011) — a picture book written by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine — that realization is part of an amazing trip throughout space.
But the boy doesn’t leave everything behind. His favorite blanket turns into a rocket to take him on his journey and bring him safely home.
Now, let’s meet Matthew, today’s guest reviewer. He says he would be very interested in going into space, seeing the entire world from above, and possibly meeting some aliens.
Take it away, Matthew!
Our reviewer: Matthew
Things I like to do: Use the computer, play on the iPod, draw and read.
This book was about: Stuff inside of stuff, inside of stuff, inside of stuff. (Editor’s note: This is a great way of describing a cumulative story, which this book is!)
The best part was when: The boy saw the planets and the sun.
This book taught me: About hemispheres.
My favorite words or phrase from the book: “Stars so bright they light up the night in my own little piece of the universe.”
My favorite picture from the book: When the blanket turnes into a rocket!
Three words that best describe this book are: “Space.” “Repeating.” “Night.”
Other kids reading this book should watch for: The aliens with all the eyes.
You should read this book because: It’s interesting.
Thank you, Matthew!
Want to learn more about Jean Reidy?
Let’s not forget illustrator Margaret Chodos-Irvine.
Wisconsin author Janet Halfmann has written a lot of picture books. More than 30, in fact.
That’s why we’re declaring this “Janet Halfmann Week” on Read, Write, Repeat.
Today, Will joins us to talk about Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish.
This nonfiction picture book follows a starfish through a normal day. It features the starfish’s almost continual search for food and its efforts not to be eaten itself. There is drama, fun information about marine life, and enough interesting details to make you say, “Ewwww.”
Janet’s clear, informative text and Joan Paley’s bright, eye-catching illustrations make this a very engaging read. (The illustrations are a collage, using hand-painted papers from which Joan cuts shapes to create bold and colorful illustrations.)
Before he begins the review, Will would like to go on record as saying that he would rather not eat any of the things the starfish considers eating in this book — like mussels. He much prefers pizza with sausage and pepperoni toppings.
With that duly noted, take it away, Will!
Our reviewer: Will
Things I like to do: Play sports like football, baseball and basketball, lift weights, watch the Green Bay Packers.
This book was about: A starfish and the sea and how it got away from a bird that wanted to eat it.
The best part was when: The starfish fell into the sea and away from the bird.
This book taught me: Starfish can grow back their rays, or legs, in a year if they lose one.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Star.” “Fish.” “Interesting.”
My favorite picture in this book is: The picture of all the stars in the night sky. And the picture of the seaweed. There’s lot of detail.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: Things about starfish that they didn’t know before. Like that a starfish eats by pushing its stomach outside its body.
You should read this book because: You will learn something.
Thank you, Will!
This book is doing well.
- It won the Wisconsin Writers Tofte/Wright Children’s Literature Award.
- It also is a Washington Children’s Choices Picture Book Award Finalist.
Want more resources?
There are lots of different ways to be loud.
And Deborah Underwood shares many of them in her picture book The Loud Book (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011).
On each page, Underwood lists a different kind of loud. (“Crowded swimming pool loud.” “Burp during quiet time loud.” “Uncle Alexander’s old car loud.”) And, Renata Liwska provides beautiful illustrations of a variety of animals experiencing the noise.
This book is a follow-up to 2010′s The Quiet Book by the same author and illustrator. That book was a New York Times best-seller, so there’s the perfect book for any child in your life, no matter what their natural volume inclination.
Now, let’s turn things over to today’s guest reviewer, Jazzy. She says the loudest thing she’s ever done is scream. But only because her older sisters were teasing her.
Our reviewer: Jazzy.
Things I like to do: Play with my friends. Color. Paint.
This book was about: Loud things.
The best part was: The page that said “Ant loud.” Because ants were on her apple and she was crying and it was funny.
I smiled when: I saw the page that said “Deafening silence loud.” Because I like cookies.
I was worried when: It was raining and everyone was in the pool.
I was surprised: By the page that said “Garage avalanche loud.” Because avalanches usually have snow.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Loud.” “Crackle.” “Pop.”
My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “Oops loud.” Because they accidentally hit a baseball through a window.
My favorite picture in this book is: When he dropped his lunch tray.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: The Quiet Book that this author also wrote.
You should read this book because: Sometimes you need to be loud. Even if you’re usually quiet. Sometimes, you need to scream out.”
If you’d like to learn more about Deborah Underwood, you can visit her website or read this interview.
If you’d like to learn more about Renata Liwska, you can visit her website.
THIS JUST IN! There are plush animals that go along with The Quiet Book and The Loud Book. They are adorable. See them here!
There are all kinds of families.
But no matter who they’re made up of or where they’re located, most families have at least one adult who periodically has to go to work and be away from loved ones.
Monday is One Day (Scholastic Press, 2011) by Arthur Levine is a warm, lovely picture book that celebrates a wide variety of family situations.
It walks young readers through a week, counting down the days till mom or dad or grandma or grandpa will be home from work and ready for dedicated family time.
As part of the journey, children see how different families designate various days of the week. (“Wednesday is halfway day.” Or, “Friday is last-tie day.”)
They also see the similarities of all families whether they’re led by one parent or two, are located in a rural or urban setting or consist of grandparents or same-sex parents.
When my daughters were younger, they used to ask me, “How many days until a mommy-daddy day?” Having a book like this would have helped us track the time until we were all together again.
Today’s guest reviewer, Bryanna, has a big family. There’s her mom and dad, her older brother, her younger sister and her younger brother.
Bryanna’s favorite thing to do with her family is go on a picnic. And, her favorite day of the week is Friday, because she likes attending church and having spelling tests.
She was happy to share her take on this book.
Today’s reviewer: Bryanna.
I like: To draw, color and paint.
This book was about: The weekends.
The best part was: When it was blue day, and they splashed in the puddles.
I smiled when: I saw how much everyone loved each other.
Three words that describe this book are: “Loving.” “Kind.” “Sweet.”
My favorite line or phrase in the book is: “Each day I count the ways I love to be with you.”
This book taught me: Every day, you should love your family.
My favorite picture was: The one that showed all the families together on the weekend.
If this book sounds at all intriguing, you absolutely must watch this video of Arthur Levine discussing how his son, Max, inspired the story.
And then, if you’d like to learn more about Arthur, read this interview.
If you’d like to learn more about illustrator Julian Hector, visit his website and then read this interview he did about the book.
So, what’s your favorite day of the week?
I read a lot of children’s books.
And thanks to Twitter, my writing friends and the Internet, I have a pretty lengthy list of books that I’ve heard a good buzz about requested through interlibrary loan. And, I’m always happy when I sit down to read one of them.
But, I still love browsing through the children’s section of my local library and discovering a gem of a book I haven’t heard of before.
That’s what happened a few weeks ago when I found Earth to Clunk
(Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011) a picture book written by Pam Smallcomb and illustrated by Joe Berger.
It shares the story of a boy whose teacher tells him to write a letter to a pen pal named Clunk who lives on another planet. The boy doesn’t want a pen pal, so along with his letters he sends odd items from Earth that he hopes will scare Clunk away. But Clunk counters with some unlikely objects of his own, and an unusual friendship is formed.
Allow me to gush for just a moment. This book is hilarious. Hil-ar-i-ous. In a very dry, deadpan way. Pam Smallcomb’s text is funny by itself. My favorite line is, “I’m sending Clunk an electric toothbrush, a toilet plunger, and a string of Christmas lights. He will be so confused he’ll never send me another thing.”
But when illustrator Joe Berger adds in a lot of clever details in the artwork, the story just takes off. This is a picture book that merits multiple readings just to pick up on everything that’s going on.
But enough from me. Now, let’s hear from today’s guest reviewer.
Our reviewer: Sonia
I like: Snuggling with my cat, playing with my gerbil and making art.
This book was about: Having a pen pal from another planet.
The best part was when: He sent his big sister to Quazar.
I smiled when: The zoid fell in love with his big sister.
I was worried when: He didn’t get a package from Clunk for a while.
I was surprised when: He didn’t want a pen pal at first and was mean to him.
This book taught me: If you ever send your big sister away, she’ll always come back.
My favorite line or phrase in the book is: “I’m sending Clunk my big sister. THAT will teach him to have a pen pal from Earth.”
My favorite picture was: When his sister comes back to earth with a disgusting glob of something on her head.
Three words that describe this book: “Clunk.” “Zoid.” “Forps.”
Other kids reading this book should watch for: All the packages that go back and forth between Quazar and Earth.
You should read this book because: It’s really funny.
Sonia has a pen pal in London, England who she’s just started writing to. She says if she had a pen pal on another planet, she’d send these items:
• An apple. “Because I like them.”
• A cat. “But not my cat — another cat — so my pen pal could see how affectionate kitties can be.”
• My big sister. (I guess no explanation is nee
What does it mean to be a good person?
That’s the question considered in Estie the Mensch (Random House, 2011) a picture book written by Jane Kohuth and illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger.
Estie is a shy girl who is much more comfortable hanging out with animals than humans and enjoys nothing more than pretending to be everything from a dog to a monkey to a fly. Most of the time, her family enjoys her antics, but sometimes, when they’ve had enough, they say, “Estie, be a mensch.”
“Mensch” is a Yiddish term that means to be human. But not just any human, rather, a person of integrity and honor.
Estie isn’t sure exactly how to do this. Until a day at the zoo. After amusing a friend by imitating everything from a snake to an ostrich, Estie discovers that, in some situations, acting like a kind human being is the best thing to do.
Holly says she trioes to be a mensch in the ballet and hip-hop dance classes she takes. Not only does she try to be friendly to her classmates, she also walks like a lady.
Holly also shared her other thoughts about the book. Take it away, Holly!
Our reviewer: Holly
Things I like to do: Dance, swim and play with my dogs — Mystic and Pepper.
This book was about: A little girl named Estie who liked animals and acted like them. Her parents always told her to, “Be a mensch,” or to behave like a lady. She went to the zoo with her grandma and her grandma’s friend and a boy named Petie. She acted like the animals there and made Petie laugh. Then Petie dropped his ice cream and Estie scooped some off her cone to give to him.
The best part was when: When Estie acted like all the animals in the zoo. But she really couldn’t stretch her neck as far as an ostrich does.
I smiled when: She gave part of her ice-cream to Petie.
I was worried when: Petie dropped his ice cream. I thought he would be upset and just sit and cry, but Estie helped him.
This book taught me: Not to be afraid of animals. To love the animals you love. Oh, and to share.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Fun.” “Creative.” “Adventurous.”
My favorite line or phrase in the book: “Estie, be a mensch.” Her mom and dad said it all the time.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: What they can do to be nice to animals and to your friends.
You should read this book because: It teaches you some words in a different language. You can learn more about sharing and animals.
If you’d like to know more about author Jane Kohuth, you can visit her webpage , read this interview or read this other interview.
If you’d like to know more about illustrator Rosanne Litzinger, you can read her biography.
Here are some other reviews of Estie:
By: Pat Zietlow Miller,
Blog: Read, Write, Repeat.
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He’s a boy with a book. And the book is called The Gentleman Bug (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010) by Julian Hector.
The book is about a quiet, refined, small-town bug who loves reading. When a beautiful lady bug comes to town, she doesn’t seem to notice the gentleman bug. So he tries to spiff up his style to gain her attention.
Of course, things go horribly wrong. But then, they both discover that they have a love of books in common. And that’s all it takes for their friendship to be sealed.
Austin says it’s important for people to be gentlemanly toward each other. He says he is a gentleman because, “I help people. When other people make fun of them, I stick up for them.”
Austin also says that it’s important for people to be themselves and not to try and change just so they fit in better with others.
Here’s what else he had to say about this book:
Our reviewer: Austin
Things I like to do: Lift weights, read, play basketball and skateboard.
This book was about: A bug who was a gentleman and liked to read. Everyone made fun of him, but he didn’t care. Nothing could bother him when he was reading. Then he met a lady bug. She liked to read too, but didn’t tell him. Then, they read together every time they met.
The best part was when: The gentleman bug and the lady bug met.
I smiled when: The gentleman bug was all dressed up and looking in the mirror.
I was worried when: The gentleman bug bumped into someone else at the restaurant and everything spilled all over.
I was surprised when: The lady bug arrived.
This book taught me: To read and really not care what other people might say. I should say, “I don’t care what you think. This is me and nobody can change me.”
Three words to describe this book are: “The.” “Gentleman.” “Bug.”
My favorite picture in the book was: The last page where they are reading books together.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: How to be a gentleman.
You should read this book because: It’s a nice book. And you can learn a lot from it.
Julian Hector wrote the text and drew the illustrations for this book. Want to learn more about him? You can:
Oh, by the way, I won this nifty book in a giveaway sponsored by Mike Jung, a book blogger whose own book – Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities – comes out lat
Most of the kids who review books for this blog really like talking with me about the books they’ve just read.
But today’s guest reviewer, Will, might win the prize for being the most excited.
He started talking to me about Herve Tullet’s Press Here (Chronicle, 2011) before we’d even sat down.
“This is a neat book,” he told me as we walked down the hall. “It has, like, actions.”
It does, indeed.
At first, the book looks deceptively simple. It’s white with dots. But, as Will shows, that’s more than enough to engage a reader. Readers press, shake, clap and push their way through the book. After each action, they turn the page and see what the dots have done.
And it holds up to multiple readings. Will read the book to me, and even though he’d done it all before, he was happy to do it again.
So pause here.
And then, read what else Will had to say about this book.
Our reviewer: Will
Things I like to do: Art and video games. Sometimes, I play with my brother.
This book was about: It’s funny. It’s sort of an activity book. It isn’t boring. You can do it over and over again. I liked that the book seemed like it was talking to you. In that way, it reminded me of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
The best part was: It reminds me of dancing. Especially when you had to push really hard and shake the book. My favorite part was the clapping.
I smiled when: It says to try it again at the end of the book. I said, “Maybe.”
I was surprised when: The pages went black and the dots got so big.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Funny.” “Active.” “Surprising.”
My favorite line or phrase in the book is: “That’s enough.”
Other kids reading this book should watch for: The funny sentences. The surprising things that happen. The dots can really do stuff.
You should read this book because: You don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s a seriously good book.
If you’d like to see the book in action, watch this book trailer.
You also can read this interview with Herve Tullet.
Wisconsin has a lot of cows.
And while I’ve never owned one myself, I’ve certainly seen herds of them grazing as I’ve driven down the highway. I’ve even met several up close and personal at various dairy-themed school, summer camp and community events.
Even in the bustling metropolis of Madison, Wisconsin, one can’t escape cows completely. Once a year, there’s a Cows on the Concourse event where cows are brought in to graze around the state capital building and meet their adoring public.
And, an annual Dairy Expo featuring all things bovine draws enough traffic that entire lanes of the beltline are dedicated to its attendees.
Today’s guest reviewer doesn’t live on a farm, but she’s certainly familiar with cows. That’s why she enjoyed Phyllis Alsdurf’s picture book It’s Milking Time (Random House, 2012). The book is a warm and wonderful look at life on a dairy farm. It features a girl and her dad milking their herd of cows — every morning and every night.
Cows are collected from the field, led into the barn, fed, milked and cleaned up after. Then, the milk is sent to the dairy where it’s turned into butter, cheese or the the milk most of us buy at the grocery store. Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher’s artwork is cozy. The cows seem like family friends. And the Holstein-inspired end papers are beautiful.
Now, let’s hear from Dharma.
Today’s reviewer: Dharma.
I like: Math, going to the children’s museum, my reading buddies and watching “Dancing With the Stars.”
This book was about: A girl’s job milking cows.
The best part was when: She named the calf Buddy.
I laughed when: They said they tapped the cows on the rear ends to keep them moving.
I was surprised when: The girl shoveled manure into the gutters.
This book taught me: You can skim cream off fresh milk.
My favorite line or phrase in the book was: “We swat rumps to keep them moving to the same places every time.”
Phyllis Alsdurf, the author, grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm. She even dedicated this book to her father and one of his favorite cows, Jay-Jay.
Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, the illustrators, have illustrated more than 35 books. You can visit their website to see more of their work. You also can read this interview to learn more about how they work together.
If you know kids who love animals or crafts, Fur and Feathers (Sylvan Dell, 2010) might be just the right picture book for them.
The book, written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein, features Sophia.
She’s a helpful little girl who offers to sew exactly the right coat for each of her animal friends after they lose their fur, feathers and scales. Animals line up to explain what they need and why. (Polar Bear needs white fur to stay warm and hide in the snow. Fish needs scales, but with slime. Snake needs scales too, but dry ones.)
Today’s reviewer, Danni, was fascinated by Sophia’s efforts to give every animal just what it required.
Here’s what she had to say:
Today’s reviewer: Danni
I like: Tacos, swimming, panda bears, chocolate, ice cream and going to the park.
This book was about: Animals that lost their fur and stuff. And a little girl who helped them.
The best part was when: Sophia saw the polar bear at the zoo with the heart behind her ear.
I laughed when: The penguin had to put on a dress.
I was worried when: I saw the snake and thought it might be poisonous.
I was surprised that: The fish could stay out of the water for that long.
This book taught me: Dreams are really fun.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: The animals in all of the funny outfits.
Three words that describe this book are: “Animals.” “Sophia.” “Losing their coats.”
My favorite line or phrase in the book was: “That bear has a red heart behind her ear.”
You should read this book because: It is fun, and animals put on clothes.
Thank you, Danni!
Janet Halfmann and Laurie Allen Klein previously teamed up for another book, Little Skink’s Tail , that explores the various kind of tails different animals need.
You can find out more about Janet at her website. You also can read this interview.
And, you can learn more about Laurie at hers. You also can read this interview.
This is the second Janet Halfmann book Danni has reviewed. She also shared her thoughts in this review of Good Night Little Sea Otter.
Janet has two other recent releases, both with animal themes. Check out
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