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<<May 2015>>
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1. Publisher Anita Eerdmans on Roger Is Reading a Book

roger is reading a bookIn our May/June 2015 issue, we asked publisher Anita Eerdmans about the bespectacled, bowtied — and strangely familiar-looking — protagonist of Roger Is Reading a Book. Read the review here.

Horn Book Editors: We’d like to know: Is that Roger our Roger?

Anita Eerdmans: Yes and no. In the original Dutch, the main character is called simply Neighbor (Buurman). One of our acquisitions team members objected to the impersonal nature of it and suggested we give Neighbor a name — maybe something alliterative with the title. Something like… “Roger.” Those of us who know Roger Sutton were immediately struck by the character’s uncanny likeness (bowtie and all). And so to our great delight, “Neighbor” became “Roger” (with thanks to the Belgian publisher, De Eenhoorn, who allowed the change).

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


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2. May Notes

The May edition of Notes from the Horn Book is on its way! An interview with Last Stop on Market Street illustrator Christian Robinson kicks it off, followed by

  • more picture books celebrating grandmas
  • picture-book musician biographies
  • intermediate fantasy with a hint of creepiness
  • historical fiction for teens

may 2015 notes

Read the issue online or subscribe to receive the monthly Notes from the Horn Book newsletter — along with Nonfiction Notes and Talks with Roger — in your inbox. For more recommended books and interviews, check out the newsletter archives.


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3. Book & Me | Comic #4

Book & Me #4 by Charise Mericle Harper

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4. Marcia Brown, 1918-2015

brown_stonesoupWe were saddened to hear about the death of author-illustrator Marcia Brown this week at the age of ninety-six. The winner of three Caldecott Medals — for Cinderella in 1955, Once a Mouse in 1962, and Shadow in 1983 — she was also recognized with a whopping six Caldecott Honors (including her indelible Stone Soup in 1948). She was awarded the Regina Medal in 1977 and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1992.

Writings by and about Brown frequently appeared in The Horn Book Magazine. Here is a sampling:

“Distinction in Picture Books” by Marcia Brown (1949)

1955 Caldecott Medal Acceptance by Marcia Brown

“My Goals as an Illustrator” by Marcia Brown (1967)

Letter, with illustration, from Marcia Brown to Bertha Mahony Miller (undated)

“Marcia Brown and Her Books” by Alice Dalgliesh (1955 Caldecott Medal profile)

“From Caldecott to Caldecott” by Helen Adams Masten (1962 Caldecott Medal profile)

“Marcia Brown” by Janet A. Loranger (1983 Caldecott Medal profile)


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5. Book & Me | Comic #7

Book & Me #7 by Charise Mericle Harper

Previous | Next (May 14)


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6. Everybody wants to be Press Here

When Hervé Tullet‘s Press Here came out in 2011, reviewer Lolly Robinson wrote that its ingenious interactivity “gives the iPad a licking.” Following a similar no-screen-needed interactive model is this lovely pair of books:

matheson_tap the magic tree    matheson_touch the brightest star
Susan Dove Lempke wrote of Tap the Magic Tree in the January/February 2014 Horn Book Magazine, “Perhaps inspired by the very popular Press Here, this is winsome in its own right and stylishly designed.” Its more bedtime-oriented companion book, Touch the Brightest Star, is reviewed in our May/June issue.

Here are a few brand-new arrivals with Press Here–like directions to tap, shake, rub, and blow on the pages:

yoon_tap to play

glass_do you want to build a snowman

bird_there's a mouse hiding in this book
What’s that saying about “the sincerest form of flattery?” 😉


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7. Happy Earth Day!

schrefer_endangered199x300It’s Earth Day! To celebrate, we’ve updated our Earth Day reading list with new books about the beauty of our world and ways to help protect it, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine. Check ‘em out, then let us know what you’re reading today in the comments.


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8. WWF Together app review

wwf together menuWith Earth Day‘s 45th anniversary celebration yesterday, it seems a good time to review the World Wildlife Fund’s lovely awareness-raising app WWF Together (2013).

The app introduces sixteen endangered species from around the world, each characterized with a quality emphasizing its uniqueness: e.g., panda (“charisma”), elephant (“intelligence”), marine turtle (“longevity”), tiger (“solitude”). Each animal receives its own interactive “story,” comprised of stats (population numbers in the wild; habitat; weight and length; and “distance from you,” the user, if you enabled your iPad’s location services), spectacular high-def photos, information on threats to its survival, and conservation efforts (particularly WWF’s). Tap an info icon at a photo’s bottom corner to trigger a related pop-up fact — did you know gorillas live in stable family groups, or that bison have been around since the ice age? Many of the stories also include “facetime” (close-up videos with narration) and/or educational activities. At the conclusion of each animal’s section is an opportunity to share it via email or social media and to explore symbolic adoption options.

wwf jaguar menu

wwf together jaguar stats

In addition to truly gorgeous photographs and video of these endangered animals, a cool animated-origami design element illustrates the text throughout. Disappointingly, every time I tried to access the (real-life) origami folding instructions from the app, it crashed — which may well be the fault of our iPad. But they’re easy enough to find and download (for free, although email registration is required) on WWF’s website.

From an unobtrusive menu along the left side, you can access a globe — also with a “folded paper” look — which shows locations of all of the featured species for a global perspective and supplies information on additional endangered species. A news section frequently updates the app with current information. Soothing acoustic music by Copilot rounds out this informative and moving app.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later) and Android devices; free. Recommended for intermediate users and up.


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9. Spring has sprung (at last!)

In Boston we’re still having as many chilly days as nice ones, but spring is indisputably (finally) here… and the the winter of our public transit discontent is a distant-ish memory. (The MBTA kindly gave free rides all day Friday to thank passengers for their patience during the winter. For more on that mess, see Shoshana’s hilarious Bostonian dystopia, “Diverted.”)

Two more signs of spring spotted near our office:


geese (and the ubiquitous goose poop) in the Simmons quad

sailboats on the charles

sailboats on the Charles River

Here are all of our “signs of springtime” posts (with recommended books):


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10. Not-so-new New Yorkers

I know this is not news, but, boy, there are a lot of New Yorker covers lately that were done by people (men) who are also illustrators. (Because my husband never throws them away, we’ve got a lot lying around.) Here’s an array.

(Top) Kadir Nelson and Harry Bliss; (Bottom) Christoph Niemann and Liniers.

(Top) Kadir Nelson and Harry Bliss; (Bottom) Christoph Niemann and Liniers.

Three covers by Barry Blitt.

Three covers by Barry Blitt.


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11. Signs of springtime: construction

A late addition to our “signs of springtime” list: ’tis the season for construction!


This is right near our office on The Fenway, but cranes are popping up like crocuses all over Boston.

Here are some recent construction books for preschool- and early primary-aged kids (particularly vehicle-obsessed ones!), recommended by The Horn Book Magazine.

building our houseJonathan Bean draws on his childhood memories to demonstrate the process of one family building its own house in his 2013 BGHB Picture Book Award–winning Building Our House. A little girl narrates the engaging and warm account; the steps are broken down into captions for half-page panels, while moments of greater import, such as setting the corners for the foundation, receive full- and double-page spreads. Family and friends make not just a house but a cozy home. (Farrar, 2013)

dotlich_what can a crane pick upWhat can a crane pick up? According to Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s What Can a Crane Pick Up?, anything and everything. Dotlich’s energetic, smoothly rhyming text is well matched with Lowery’s childlike mixed-media illustrations. The images of happy, friendly-looking machines (and animals, planets, and underpants) are irresistible; the playful hand-lettered verse is full of silly surprises. Mike Lowery’s subdued palette balances the wacky scenes of smiley cranes taking on the challenges. (Knopf, 2012)

fleming_bulldozer's big dayOn his “big day,” Bulldozer practically flies across the construction site; he can’t wait to invite all his friends to his party. He starts with Digger: “Guess what today is!” But everyone appears too preoccupied with work to guess the answer to Bulldozer’s question. Poor Bulldozer: “‘No games.’ He sniffed. ‘No friends. No party.’” Of course, there is a party; everyone has secretly been working on constructing a giant birthday cake, which Crane hoists up, candles blazing. Birthday surprises, cake, and construction vehicles — little bulldozers will lift their blades up high for Candace Fleming and and Eric Rohmann’s Bulldozer’s Big Day. (Atheneum, 2015)

harper_go go go stopCharise Mericle Harper’s quirky Go! Go! Go! Stop! stars two traffic lights and a fleet of construction vehicles. Little Green shouts “GO!”, and Bulldozer, Dump Truck, Mixer, and friends get to work. But without a way to not go, things threaten to spiral out of control. Then a red “stranger” rolls onto the site, and disaster is averted — eventually. Harper’s action-packed illustrations feature cheerful trucks in colorful cartoonlike scenes. Lively dialogue adds to the storytime fun. (Knopf, 3–6 years)

low_machines go to workIn Machines Go to Work by William Low, each of six small vignettes introduces one or two machines (e.g., TV news helicopter); pose a question (“Is there an accident ahead?”); and, through foldout flaps, offers a (reassuring) answer (“No, a family of ducks is crossing the road”). This design, along with terrific sound effects, encourages listeners to join in. Digital art brightly colors each page with slightly impressionistic tones. (Holt, 2009)

machines go to work in the cityMachinery-loving preschoolers are first introduced to a particular situation involving vehicles, from a garbage truck to a tower crane to an airplane in companion Machines Go to Work in the City. What happens next? Lift a flap (which provides an extended scene of the problem at hand) and find out. Just as they did in Machines Go to Work, Low’s painterly illustrations display the drama and excitement of a bustling cityscape.

meshon_tools ruleA diligent T-square rallies its fellow tools to get to work building a shed in Aaron Meshon’s Tools Rule! One helpful illustration shows the tools, strewn about the lawn, but with captionlike arrows to identify what’s what. Meshon’s lively text is full of tool-centric wordplay; a detailed note describes his process for creating the digitally colored mixed-media illustrations of smiley tools with a can-do attitude. (Atheneum, 2014)

demolitionIn Sally Sutton’s Demolition, a demolition crew tears down an old building, sorts scraps of material, and hauls the debris off to make room for a new construction project, revealed at the end to be a playground. The rhyming text, full of onomatopoeia and muscular action words, captures the excitement and energy of big trucks hard at work. Brian Lovelock’s meticulous illustrations give the job site a suitably dusty patina. (Candlewick, 2012)

sutton_constructionSutton and Lovelock offer a builder’s-eye view of a construction project with Demolition companion Construction. The rhyming text’s onomatopoeia and action verbs capture the site’s sounds; cleanly rendered illustrations feature heavy machinery, tools, and men and women hard at work. Listeners will enjoy guessing what the new building will be before the reveal: “The library’s here for everyone. / Ready… / STEADY… / READ!” (Candlewick, 2014)


sturges_construction kitties_300x300Four indisputably cute overall-clad kitties don hard hats and hop into colorful earthmovers to dig, move, push, and smooth dirt at a construction site in Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges’s Construction Kitties. Shari Halpern’s irresistible gouache illustrations do the heavy lifting here, channeling Byron Barton’s style (strong black lines, rich hues) but with more subtlety of color. With its bold images and straightforward text, this book would make a good storytime choice.


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12. Solve the Outbreak app review

solve the outbreak menuWork your way up the Center for Disease Control’s ranks from trainee to master “disease detective” by uncovering the causes of disease outbreaks in Solve the Outbreak (CDC, 2013).

Every chapter presents background on a fictionalized outbreak and five clues, each followed by a multiple choice question to narrow down the outbreak’s source. The clues are supplemented with patient profiles and charts of data, notes on the diseases’ characteristics, tips for avoiding the featured disease, maps and stock photos, and clear definitions of unfamiliar terminology. After each chapter’s fifth Q&A, receive the “results” with your points and achievement badges — and hopefully a promotion! There’s also an opportunity to read about the real case(s) that inspired that chapter’s outbreak mystery.

As you investigate the cases, you’ll learn about specific diseases — culprits include E. coli, lead poisoning, West Nile Virus, Legionnaire’s disease, and norovirus — and their transmission as well as methods for tracking and containing outbreaks. The tone is light and engaging (e.g., snappy CSI-worthy chapter titles such as “Up Sick Creek” and “Connect the Spots”) without minimizing the dangers of disease epidemics or the importance of preventative measures.

solve the outbreak spring break

Earn a perfect score solving the twelve outbreak cases in level 1 (don’t worry; you can do-over as much as needed) to access the four cases in recently added level 2 and earn specialist honors.

A few of the Q&As are gimmes; here’s an example from “Midterm Revenge,” the case of college students with a stomach bug:

“What should you do now?

  • Tell the sick students to stop partying so hard and go to class
  • Keep the sick students in the same area until their symptoms are gone
  • Find out if others are sick as well”

But overall, the information is solid, the mysteries are satisfying, and the format promotes both critical thinking and understanding of the scientific method. An “About the CDC” section and interspersed links to the CDC’s website provide additional health tips and contextual information on the CDC’s mission and programs.

If (like me) you liked American Museum of Natural History’s The Power of Poison app, give this one a try. Solving the cases will have you feeling like legendary disease detective George Soper — or possibly just feeling a little more germophobic than before.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later), for Android devices, and on the web; free. Recommended for intermediate users and up.


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13. Book & Me | Comic #2

Book & Me #2 by Charise Mericle Harper

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14. Book & Me | Comic #3


Previous | Next (May 7)


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15. Synthia Saint James at Simmons

(Say *that* three times fast!)

Next week, visual artist, author, and illustrator Dr. Synthia Saint James will be on the Simmons College campus as the Eileen Friars Leader-in-Residence. Right now some of her art is being installed along the hallway outside the Horn Book office. It’s lovely and thought-provoking — lucky us!




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16. Snow White app review

snow white menuThe latest in Nosy Crow’s series of fairy-tale adaptation apps (which includes The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk) is Snow White, released last week. Snow White employs the same winning formula of the other series entries: cheerful illustrations and animation; witty humor; well-integrated interactivity; straightforward navigation; charming narration by an all-child cast; and pop-up dialogue balloons extending the text.

This more-silly-than-scary retelling sticks to the traditional story but ages it down for its preschool and primary audience. Snow White is sent away by the queen’s huntsman with no real threat of his actually harming her, and there’s no mention of eating a heart, human or otherwise. Though Snow White is afraid during her wanderings through the forest, she is accompanied by a friendly fox. Her warm welcome at the dwarves’ home is never really in question. The evil queen attempts to kill Snow White with a poisoned piece of stinky cheese (“It’s kind of you to offer, but I don’t really like stinky cheese,” Snow White politely declines) and a poisoned cupcake before landing on the mostly-successful apple. Rather than the prince’s kiss, Snow White is awakened by the (traditional but now less-common) dislodging of the apple piece from her throat. The queen is imprisoned rather than killed.

snow white dwarves

snow white and the queen

In many scenes, the user is invited to assist Snow White, the dwarves, or the evil queen with tasks such as picking flowers, washing dishes, mining gems, or mixing up a poisonous brew. The characters encourage the user through each tasks (although their prompting can get a bit old — I’m matching socks as fast as I can, okay?!); sound effects indicate when the task is completed. A few of these activities subtly reinforce concepts of counting, colors, etc. The interactive moments smartly take advantage of the device’s capabilities, e.g., rocking the device rocks baby Snow White to sleep (be careful: the microphone may pick up sounds that wake her), the magic mirror reflects the user’s own face using the camera.

As in the series’ other apps, Snow White cleverly blends a contemporary sensibility into the fairy tale. The dwarves’ names are Bernard, Bob, Bill, Basil, Boris, Brian, and Barbara; music options at Snow White and the prince’s wedding feast include calypso and Bollywood. A few references to brushing teeth and choosing healthy snacks seem both very current and a little weirdly didactic.

“Read and play” and “Read by myself” options, plus a map of scene thumbnails, allow the user to progress through the app at her or his own pace and revisit favorite sections of the story.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $4.99. Recommended for preschool and primary users.


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17. Signs of springtime: bunnies

Like bikes, bunnies have returned to the Simmons campus! (And not just chocolate ones left over from Easter baskets.)


Third-grade teacher Stacy shares her thoughts on using rabbit-themed reading with her students over at Lolly’s Classroom.


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18. Everywhere dragons

…at least, everywhere in the March/April Magazine! These four new dragon-themed books are all reviewed in that issue, offering something for dragon fans of several different age groups. Consider them additions to our dragon-centric fantasy booklist.

florian_how to draw a dragonFor preschool- and primary-aged kids, there’s author/illustrator Douglas Florian’s How to Draw a Dragon (Simon/Beach Lane, April 2015). Less a how-to guide than a celebration of creativity — and dragons, of course — it gives both practical drawing advice (“Draw your dragon’s pointed spines / using lots of jagged lines”) and Florian’s patented poetic silliness (“Dragon fire has reds and yellows, / and it’s good to toast marshmallows”). Mixed-media collage art with a childlike sensibility rounds out this appealing book.

yep_dragon's guide to care and feeding of humansAuthor Laurence Yep knows his dragons. He hilariously revisits the topic in his latest book for intermediate readers, A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans (Crown, March 2015), cowritten with Joanne Ryder and illustrated by Mary GrandPré. Refined Miss Drake and her scrappy new pet Winnie are having a power struggle over Winnie’s training: Winnie (a human) seems to think she is the owner and Miss Drake (a dragon) is the pet. They continue to butt heads, but there are more important things at stake — a magical creature called a pemburu could destroy San Francisco unless the pair can stop it.

Two dragon-themed YA sequels appear in this issue:

Shadowhartman_shadow scale Scale (Random House, March 2015) is the sequel to Rachel Hartman’s 2013 BGHB Fiction Honor Book Seraphina. Seraphina and a fellow half-dragon (or ityasaari) named Abdo search for others like them. They hope that, together, the psychically talented ityasaari will be able to establish a dragon-proof psychic defense. In their travels, Seraphina and Abdo learn to their horror that malevolent half-dragon Jannoula is manipulating the minds of many ityasaari. Plenty of suspense and a thoughtfully developed dragon-centered world make this a captivating read.

johnston_prairie fireE. K. Johnston’s gripping Prairie Fire (Carolrhoda Lab, March 2015) picks up where The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim left off: Owen and his friend Siobhan have graduated from high school and enlisted in the Oil Watch, helping to defend carbon resources from dragons. However, life in the Oil Watch is not exactly what they anticipated: they are stationed at a remote and dangerous location, and burns Siobhan sustained in the first book compromise her abilities.

For even more dragon-themed YA, see this list.


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19. Shh! We have an author event!

The other night, Martha Parravano and I attended an “Ink and Drink” at Candlewick Press for visiting author Chris Haughton. Boston was a stopover for Haughton, an Irishman who lives in London, on his way to Mississippi to accept the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for Shh! We Have a Plan, which received a starred review in the November/December 2014 Horn Book Magazine. His other books include Little Owl Lost and Oh No, George! and he developed a snazzy-looking app called Hat Monkey.


Haughton started as a graphic designer, then got hooked in to People Tree, a fair trade organization specializing in fashion/textiles and gifties. He talked about his time in Nepal, including co-founding a free-trade carpet and knitwear organization called Node that works with an adult education and support center to train and employ women, many of whom are domestic violence survivors or otherwise victims of oppression. This little guy — a George hand puppet (from Oh No, George!) — is one of the projects.


Just when you thought he couldn’t get any more big-hearted, he also created the artwork for a hospital children’s ward. And he read Shh! We Have a Plan aloud to us. And all with an Irish accent. The evening was lots of fun. Thanks for hosting, Candlewick!



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20. April’s Notes issue

In our April edition of Notes from the Horn Book, we’re celebrating National Poetry Month by chatting with poet Nikki Grimes about her new picture book, Poems in the Attic. Other goodies in this issue:

  • more poetry books for primary and intermediate readers
  • spring-y picture books about birds
  • grrl-power intermediate and middle-school fiction
  • YA about teen boys facing tough challenges

april 15 notes

Read the issue online or subscribe to receive the monthly Notes from the Horn Book newsletter — and its supplement Nonfiction Notes — in your inbox. For more recommended books and interviews, check out the newsletter archives.


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21. Boston-area kidlit events for April: seeing stars

There are a ton of star-studded children’s lit events coming up later this month in the Boston area. Here are some highlights:

yolen_you nest here with meMother-and-daughter team Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple will read and sign their new picture book You Nest Here with Me at The Blue Bunny in Dedham on Saturday, April 11th, at 11:00 am.

bartoletti_hitler youthSusan Campbell Bartoletti will lead two multigenerational book discussions based around her books at middle schools in reading. The first session (at Parker Middle School on Wednesday, April 15th, at 12:00 pm) will focus on the theme of youth in Nazi Germany. The second session (at Coolidge Middle School on Thursday the 16th at 8:15 am) will focus on the Irish Potato Famine.

Hinds_romeoGraphic novelist Gareth Hinds (who has an article coming up in the May/June magazine) will be signing at The Blue Bunny at 6:30 pm on Friday, April 17th.

lambert_crow of his ownFrequent HB contributor Megan Dowd Lambert will give a presentation called “Looking at the Whole Book: Exploring A Crow of His Own” with the book’s illustrator, David Hyde Costello. The event will take place at The Carle Museum at 1:00 pm on Saturday, April 18th, and is free with museum admission.

scbwi 2015 conferenceThe New England SCBWI Conference 2015: “Think Outside the Crayon Box!” will be held Friday, April 24th, through Sunday, April 26th, at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel.

jerry_pinkney smCaldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney will give the fifth annual Barbara Elleman Research Library (BERL) Lecture on the theme of “Art as a Manuscript” at The Carle Museum on Saturday, April 25th, at 2:00pm.

david diazPinkney’s fellow Medalist David Díaz will be giving a series of children’s art workshops on Wednesday, April 29th, to celebrate Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros. He’ll be at the BPL’s Connolly Branch at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm and at the East Boston Branch at 3:30 pm and 4:30 pm.

williams-gracia_gone crazy in alabamaCSK winner Rita Williams-Garcia will discuss and sign Gone Crazy in Alabama, the final book in her trilogy about the Gaither sisters, at Wellesley Books at 7:00 pm on Thursday, April 30th.

Also on Thursday the 30th at 7:00 pm, Newbery Medalist Lois Lowry wraps up a month of The Giver–centric programming for West Roxbury Reads with a lecture and Q&A at the West Roxbury Branch library.

Dazzling, right? And that’s just a sampling! Head over to our monthly events calendar for all the details and for even more great upcoming events.


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22. Hat Monkey app review

hat monkey menuLet me say straight out that I don’t like monkeys. But I set my personal primate feelings aside to look at app Hat Monkey (2014), trusting in both creator Chris Haughton and developer Fox & Sheep — whose Nighty Night I liked a lot — to provide an enjoyable experience. Happily, the breakdancing, “meep-meep!”-ing Monkey soon won me over.

The app opens with Monkey dancing to surf jazz music, then offers a simple menu (scene selection, language options, a link to info about Haughton’s books, and a link to download more Fox & Sheep apps). From there the app begins a prompt-and-activity structure (“Monkey is coming! Can you open the door?”) that continues throughout the app as Monkey makes himself at home.

hat monkey hiding

“Monkey is hiding. Can you find him?”

The illustrations feature stylized shapes and a limited palette of hot pinks, purples, and oranges in high contrast with Monkey’s royal blue.

What could easily be familiar Pat the Bunny territory instead takes a meta, super-modern direction. After the prompt “Can you send Monkey a text?” choose one of four emoji to send to Monkey — who’s busy reading Haughton’s picture book A Bit Lost, by the way — and watch his cute and funny responses.

hat monkey text   hat monkey reading
(Send the banana, and Monkey surreptitiously licks his phone.) Other prompts include giving Monkey a high-five, learning Monkey’s sweet dance moves, talking to him on the phone using your device’s microphone, and playing saxophones together. The app ends with reading Monkey a bedtime story (Haughton’s Oh No, George!, of course) and turning off the light, sending him off to contented, lightly snoring sleep.

Preschool- and early-primary-perfect humor — including a more-endearing-than-gross fart joke — is communicated through all the app’s elements: the deadpan text; the illustrations; the animations, especially in the movements of Monkey’s huge, expressive eyes; and sound effects. Read a making-of blog post by Haughton here.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $0.99. Recommended for preschool and early primary users.


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23. Review of Fiete: A Day on the Farm app

fiete on the farm menuIn Fiete: A Day on the Farm (German developer Ahoiii, December 2014), children help sailor Fiete — star of his own previous, self-titled app — and his farmer friends, Hein and Hinnerk, throughout their busy day. The home screen shows the three in a boat. The sky is blue, the hills are rolling, the birds are chirping. Entering the app, it’s early morning; there’s a lit lighthouse in the background, and the boat is gently rocking. Touch the large alarm clock icon and you’re taken to the sleeping men’s bedroom — it’s time to wake them up (their gentle snores are audible along with the ticking alarm clock and birds; it’s really quite peaceful). There are no instructions, so you have to figure out what to do. Swiping at each farmer a couple of times seems to do the trick — each wakes up smiling and ready to start the day. First task completed!

You’re taken back to the early-morning landscape where, swiping horizontally, the sun rises in the background and a rooster crows. The farmers are outside and on the dock (they give you a wave).

fiete on the farm dawn

Touch the rooster to complete the next task: gathering eggs. Swipe a hen to get her to stand up, then use your finger to guide the egg down into an outstretched farmer’s hand (if you miss, the egg falls, crack, but to no ill effect).

Next it’s activities such as virtually pulling carrots, shearing sheep (fun!), sawing a tree trunk with Fiete (really fun!), picking apples (and rescuing a cat from the apple tree), milking a cow (in all honesty, a little weird), and, finally, loading each of the items into its proper delivery truck at the end of the day before settling in around a campfire.

fiete on the farm sheep

There are no written instructions anywhere in this “intuitive interactive app,” but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of things. It’s all very low-key and low-stress; the sound effects are quiet nature noises, and background movement is generally of the gentle swaying-in-the-breeze variety. The visuals are all rounded shapes and subdued colors (until the glorious pink sunset); it looks like the digital equivalent of cut-paper collage, with a bit of European edge to keep things from being too sleepy and bucolic. Wherever Fiete goes next, digitally, little kids will likely want to follow.

Available for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch (requires iOS 4.3 or later), and Android devices; $2.99. Recommended for preschool users.


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24. Update: Francisco and Robert Jiménez School

jimenez_the circuitBack in February I interviewed my mom Gretchen, who’s an instructional aide in Southern California’s Santa Maria–Bonita School District, about her campaign to name the district’s newest elementary school in honor of Dr. Francisco Jiménez. Dr. Jiménez is an author, recipient of a 1998 BGHB Award, and an alum of the area’s schools. And, as he has poignantly chronicled in his book The Circuit and its sequels, he was a migrant farmworker child, like many of the district’s current students.

Who better, my mother asks, to recognize as a champion for these children than someone who has walked in their shoes?

Last night the school board’s naming committee met to hear spoken arguments for the three names on the short list of proposals, narrowed down from about eighty. The nomination for Dr. Jimenéz was combined with that for his late brother, Robert Jiménez — who also attended SMBSD schools and was a beloved employee of the district for decades. Bill Libbon worked with the Santa Maria Boys and Girls Club for forty years and recently retired from his position as its executive director. Santa Maria police officer Mark Riddering, who died of ALS in 2008, was instrumental in bringing the D.A.R.E. drug prevention program to Santa Maria schools. Choosing which of these influential community members to honor must have been difficult, but ultimately the committee unanimously voted to christen the new elementary school “Francisco and Robert Jiménez School.” The school will open in August.

Given that the school will have a dual immersion English/Spanish program, it seems especially fitting to name it after the Jiménez brothers. As Spanish speakers in English-only schools, and with their education spotty due to their many moves, their English bilingualism was hard-won.

It’s also good timing to celebrate both brothers, honoring the memory of Robert Jiménez (who passed away in December) and the literary accomplishments of Francisco Jiménez (whose fourth memoir series entry, Taking Hold, pubbed last week.)

Congratulations to the Jiménez family!


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25. T for two

Reading through the fiction reviews section of the May/June Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Transformations, I’m struck by the sudden urge for tea. One lump or two, protagonists?


Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff: “I didn’t do it on purpose, obviously,” says twelve-year-old Trent Zimmerman. “Kill Jared Richards, I mean.”

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge: “Eleven-year-old Triss Crescent wakes up confused after a terrifying accident.”

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman: “Twig Fowler and her mother keep to themselves so that their neighbors in Sidwell, Massachusetts, won’t discover their secret.”

Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt: “On the first day of school, September 1, 1948, eleven-year-old Tate P. Ellerbee learns that her class will be writing to pen pals.”

Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr: “Young narrator Trille’s best friend is his next-door neighbor, Lena, almost nine, perhaps best described as a more-realistic Pippi Longstocking.”

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente: “He lives an unhappy, bewildered life as ‘Thomas’ until Tamburlaine, a fellow Changeling, reveals her magical abilities and encourages him to find his own.”

t logo


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