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Results 1 - 25 of 1,116
1. #823 – Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood & Claudia Rueda

Here Comes Valentine Cat Series: Here Comes Cat Written by Deborah Underwood Illustrated by Claudia Rueda Dial Books for Young Readers    12/22/2015 978-0-525-42915-9 88 pages     Ages 3—5 Junior Library Guild Selection “Cat is no fan of VALENTINE’S DAY, especially when it brings a new dog to the neighborhood. “Ouch. I’m sorry, Cat. …

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2. #822 – Chuck and Woodchuck by Cece Bell

Chuck and Woodchuck Written & Illustrated by Cece Bell Candlewick Press    3/08/2016 978-0-7636-7524-0 32 pages    Ages 4—8 “When Caroline’s classmate Chuck brings a woodchuck to show-and-tell, Woodchuck is so funny, their teacher says he can come to school every day! Woodchuck is friendly to everyone, but he’s especially sweet to Caroline. He gives her Chuck’s hat …

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3. StoryMakers | Mike Curato’s Little Elliot Books

STORYMAKERS Mike Curato Featured Image

Mike Curato’s Little Elliot books are fast becoming a favorite of children and parents alike. The author and illustrator has created a little polka-dotted elephant with a big heart. The Little Elliot series — Little Elliot, Big CityLittle Elliot, Big Family; and Little Elliot, Big Fun — is heavily influenced by the zeitgeist of the1930s and conveys wonderful messages about family and friendship.

Mike Curato and MerryMakers president Clair Frederick joined StoryMakers host Rocco Staino to talk about the series of Little Elliot books and the huggably soft plush products created by the toy maker. Little Elliot is one of the newest members of the MerryMakers family.

We’re giving away three (3) signed copies of Mike Curato’s Little Elliot, Big City; Little Elliot, Big Family; and a MerryMakers plush toy. Enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All entrants must reside in the United States and be at least 13 years old.

Watch Mike Curato read Little Elliot, Big City on “Read Out Loud,” then download the activity kit!

Read Out Loud Little Elliot Books

ABOUT THE LITTLE ELLIOT SERIES

Little Elliot Books: Little Elliot, Big City CoverLittle Elliot, Big City
Written and illustrated by Mike Curato
Published by Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers

Amid the hustle and bustle of the big city, the big crowds and bigger buildings, Little Elliot leads a quiet life. In spite of the challenges he faces, Elliot finds many wonderful things to enjoy like cupcakes And when his problems seem insurmountable, Elliot discovers something even sweeter a friend.

Little Elliot, Big FamilyLittle Elliot Books: Little Elliot, Big Family Cover
Written and illustrated by Mike Curato
Published by Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers

When Mouse heads off to a family reunion, Little Elliot decides go for a walk. As he explores each busy street, he sees families in all shapes and sizes. In a city of millions, Little Elliot feels very much alone-until he finds he has a family of his own.

Little Elliot Books: Little Elliot, Big Fun

Little Elliot, Big Fun
Written and illustrated by Mike Curato
Published by Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers
Available August 2016

In this third story of Little Elliot and Mouse, the friends head off in search of adventure . . . and lots of fun. Little Elliot, the polka-dotted elephant, and his friend Mouse go to the amusement park to see the sights and ride the rides water chutes, roller coasters, carousels, and more. But Elliot isn’t having much fun the rides are too wet, too fast, too dizzy, and just plain too scary until Mouse figures out a way to help him overcome his fears. Together, Mouse and Little Elliot can do anything.

Worm Loves WormWorm Loves Worm Cover Written by J. J. Austrian with illustrations by Mike Curato
Published by Balzer + Bray

Perfect for fans of And Tango Makes Three and The Sissy Duckling, this irresistible picture book is a celebration of love in all its splendid forms from debut author J. J. Austrian and the acclaimed author-illustrator of Little Elliot, Big City, Mike Curato. You are cordially invited to celebrate the wedding of a worm . . . and a worm. When a worm meets a special worm and they fall in love, you know what happens next: They get married but their friends want to know who will wear the dress? And who will wear the tux? The answer is: It doesn’t matter. Because Worm loves Worm.

ABOUT MIKE CURATO

Via mikecurato.com

Mike loves drawing and writing almost as much as he loves cupcakes and ice cream (and that’s a LOT!). He is the author and illustrator of everyone’s favorite polka-dotted elephant, Little Elliot. His debut title, Little Elliot, Big City, released in 2014 to critical acclaim, has won several awards, and is being translated into ten languages. The follow up book, Little Elliot, Big Family, was just released in October, 2015, and has received several starred reviews. At least two more Little Elliot books are forthcoming. Meanwhile, Mike had the pleasure of illustrating Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, which is available January 5, 2016. He is also working on several other projects, including his first graphic novel. Mike lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

CONNECT WITH MIKE CURATO
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4. Be A friend – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Be A Friend Author & Illustrator: Salina Yoon Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, January 2016 Themes: individuality, imagination, friendship Ages: 3-7 Opening: Dennis was an ordinary boy …who expressed himself in EXTRAORDINARY ways. Synopsis: Dennis is an ordinary boy who expresses himself in extraordinary ways. Some children do show-and-tell. Dennis mimes his. … Continue reading

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5. The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett, 224 pp, RL 4


I had never heard of the British author and poet A. F. Harrold before I encountered The Imaginary at a bookstore just before Christmas but I was definitely familiar with illustrator  Emily Gravett, a longtime favorite of mine (read my reviews of her picture books here.) Gravett's playful, detailed style is perfectly paired with Harrold's engrossing, creative, slightly creepy story of a girl, her imaginary friend and the fiend who is trying to eat him, making The Imaginary a truly stand out book.

Amanda Primrose Shuffleup has an incredible imagination. And, when she opens up her wardrobe door one rainy evening to hang up her wet coat and finds a boy named Rudger, her imaginary world gets even bigger. From landing a spaceship of alien planets (the thorn bushes in the backyard) to a hot air balloon that lands them in the "sticky, steamy South American jungle" to a "complex of caves, deep and dark, that stretched out for unknown miles underneath the stairs," Amanda and Rudger go everywhere and do everything together. And Amanda's mother, while she can't see Rudger, is perfectly accommodating, serving him bowls of cereal and making room for him in the backseat of the car. And, while Amanda can be careless with Rudger's feelings from time to time and very self-absorbed, Rudger wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Rudger - and Amanda's - worlds are turned upside down when Mr. Bunting arrives at the front door, claiming to be conducting a survey about, "Britain today. And children." His strange behavior is disconcerting enough, but what's more disturbing is the fact that he has a miserable looking girl with him who can see Rudger. Mr. Bunting and his gloomy imaginary friend are after something, and they seem to turn up everywhere Amanda and Rudger go until their relentless pursuit puts Amanda in the hospital and Rudger Fading from existence and in a strange kind of imaginary friend limbo.


This limbo, which the imaginaries call the Agency, is housed in a library - the one place with enough imaginings housed inside of it to keep the imaginaries alive until they can find a new human. Rudger makes a few missteps before he figures out how to get to Amanda and save her and himself, but not before a very harrowing, sinister battle in Amanda's hospital room. It turns out that Mr. Bunting can only be fed by the, "slick, slippery slither of fresh imaginary." For Mr. Bunting, just as "imaginaries needed t be believed in to go on, so he needed to eat that belief to keep himself going." Not since I read Neil Gaiman's Coraline and the Other Mother, have I been so creeped out by a character in a book.





The Imaginary is an absolutely fantastic, unforgettable book. Harrold's writing is superb and the rules by which the imaginary friends exist and cease to exist make sense. He creates a world immediately and efficiently - there is no part of The Imaginary that I felt could have been edited down, which is not the case with most books I read. Harrold is also gifted at capturing the way children think and talk. There is an especially fascinating and funny turn in the book where Rudger, in his efforts to get to Amanda, takes on the job of being the imaginary friend to her classmate, Julia Radiche. However, since Julia is doing the imagining, Rudger is now Veronica, who needs to get used to wearing a dress and having long hair. Emily Gravett's illustrations, which are black and white, mostly, with perfect pops of color here and there, bring to life Harrold's writing in a way that makes this book all the more memorable. 

And did I mention what a beautiful book The Imaginary is? From the slightly smaller trim size to the fantastic endpapers to the thick pages, this book calls out to be picked up and enjoyed!

Originally published in the UK in 2014, The Imaginary is newly out in paperback there with this intriguing new cover!


Source: Purchased

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6. StoryMakers | Angela Dominguez

STORYMAKERS Angela Dominguez Featured Image

Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita and Knit Together author and illustrator Angela Dominguez creates heart-warming tales about family and togetherness. Angela Dominguez is a two-time recipient of the American Library Association’s Pura Belpre Honor (2014 and 2016).

It’s kind of a love letter to my mom.
— Angela Dominguez on “Knit Together”

Angela’s picture books are rooted in the themes of family, tradition, and friendship. Several of her books including Maria Had A Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita; Let’s Go, Hugo; and Knit Together pull from relationships with family members and artifacts from her childhood. A wind-up toy inspired French bird Hugo. Angela’s memories of wanting to be a skilled knitter like her mother led her to write a book to remind children they can be talented in their own way. An aunt’s interest in indigenous cultures informed the writing of a version of Mary Had a Little Lamb with a Peruvian twist.

Angela’s books aren’t only an option for children growing up bilingual; they are excellent for those who want to expose young readers to the Spanish language and Latino culture.

Aspiring illustrators will enjoy hearing about Angela’s process and seeing what a book looks like from start to finish.

We’re giving away three (3) sets of books from Angela Dominguez. Each set includes signed copies of Maria Had a Little Llama and Knit Together. Enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All entrants must reside in the United States and be at least 13 years old.

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Knit TogetherKnit Together Cover
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers

From an award-winning illustrator comes a sweet story of mothers and daughters, drawing and knitting, and learning to embrace your talents just right for Mother’s Day. Drawing is fun, but knitting is better because you can wear it Knitting isn t easy, though, and can be a little frustrating. Maybe the best thing to do is combine talents. A trip to the beach offers plenty of inspiration. Soon mom and daughter are collaborating on a piece of art they can share together: a special drawing made into a knitted beach blanket. For every mom and daughter, this is an arts-and-crafts ode creative passion and working together.

Santiago StaysSantiago Stays Cover
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Harry N. Abrams

Dominguez presents a humorous and endearing portrait of a stubborn French bulldog and a determined little boy.

Maria Had A Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una LlamitaMaria Had A Little Llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita Cover
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Henry Holt & Company

Everyone knows about Mary and her little lamb. But do you know Maria? With gorgeous, Peruvian-inspired illustrations and English and Spanish retellings, Angela Dominguez gives a fresh new twist to the classic rhyme. Maria and her mischievous little llama will steal your heart.

Let's Go, Hugo! CoverLet’s Go, Hugo!
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers

Hugo is a dapper little bird who adores the Eiffel Tower — or at least his view of it from down here. Hugo, you see, has never left the ground. So when he meets another bird, the determined Lulu, who invites him to fly with her to the top of the tower, Hugo stalls, persuading Lulu to see, on foot, every inch of the park in which he lives instead. Will a nighttime flying lesson from Bernard the Owl, some sweet and sensible encouragement from Lulu, and some extra pluck from Hugo himself finally give this bird the courage he needs to spread his wings and fly?

Marta! Big & SmallMarta Big and Small Cover (August 23, 2016)
Written by Jennifer Arena, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Roaring Brook Press

Marta is “una nina,” an ordinary girl . . . with some extraordinary animal friends. As Marta explores the jungle, she knows she’s bigger than a bug, smaller than an elephant, and faster than a turtle. But then she meets the snake, who thinks Marta is “sabrosa” tasty, very tasty But Marta is “ingeniosa,” a very clever girl, and she outsmarts the snake with hilarious results. With simple Spanish and a glossary at the end, this fun read-aloud picture book teaches little ones to identify opposites and animals and learn new words.

COMING IN 2016

How Do You Say/ Como Se Dice Cover How Do You Say? Como Se Dice? (November 8, 2016)
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Henry Holt & Company

Hello “Hola.” Some people speak Spanish. Some people speak English. Although we may not speak the same language, some things, like friendship, are universal. Follow two young giraffes as they meet, celebrate, and become friends. This bilingual tale will have readers eager to meet new friends and “amigos.”

COMING IN 2017
Sing Don't Cry CoverSing Don’t Cry
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Published by Henry Holt & Company

Pura Belpre Honor winner, Angela Dominguez, based this musically driven story on her beloved grandfather. Her abuelo always encouraged her to stay positive and carry on.

ABOUT ANGELA DOMINGUEZ

Via AngelaDominguezStudio.com
Angela was born in Mexico City, grew up in the great state of Texas, and lived in San Francisco. She’s the author and illustrator of picture books such as Let’s Go, Hugo!, Santiago Stays, Knit Together, and Maria Had A Little Llama, which received the American Library Association Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. When she is not in her studio, Angela teaches at the Academy of Art University, which honored her with their Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013. She also enjoys presenting at different schools and libraries to all sorts of ages. Angela is a proud member of SCBWI, PEN America, and is represented by Wernick and Pratt Literary Agency.

CONNECT WITH ANGELA DOMINGUEZ
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7. What's The Most Outrageous Experience You've Shared With A Friend?



This week’s Tuesday’s Question is: 'What's The Most Outrageous Experience You've Shared With A Friend?’ -Sorry, it's a week late-

As stated in my last post, my computer, "Sam" was admitted to the hospital last Monday for minor surgery. I thought I'd have him home in time to publish a question by now, but that didn't happen. -As it turned out I had to pay a few costly repairs before Sam was discharged.- 


I know it sounds goofy to name your computer, but I think I’m technologically advanced or maybe even a visionary, ‘cause Computer Technicians are beginning to remind me of doctors, which makes sense, seeing how computers are the twenty first century's version of the television set. 

One of these days, we'll depend on our Computers Techs. as much as we do our Physicians and Veterinarians, so I decided my computer should have a name, gender, and a tons of personally.

Anyway, that is why I’m publishing my weekly post, ‘Tuesdays Question’ so late in the day a week later, I'm sorry, I apologize for the delay and for missing my blogging buddies posts. -Thanks for your patience.-   

Alright, with that out of the way, all you have to do is answer the following question and feel free to comment to each other. If you have a blog/website I will link your answers back to your blog/website. 

Also, there is a possibility that your answer will be published in a separate post. This is something new, I used to post all comments, but now I've decided to surprise you. Either way, I will link back to your site.    

Alright, if you haven't already left, here's this weeks question again: "What's The Most Outrageous Experience You've Shared With A Friend?" 

Here are a few examples: Something you saw or experienced in public, watched on film, places you’ve been to visit, etc…

The one person in the world who knows your outlandish, wild, free-spirited side is your best friend/friends.- Because they know and love you for who you are.-  

For instance, when I was about thirteen and in junior high school, my best friends’ father referred to me as “Trouble,” instead of “Ann.”

I think great friends find themselves in crazy situations because we share an unconditional love that encourages us to be ourselves. 

If love is the grandest gift ever bestowed upon mankind, then friendship is one of its finest ingredients-

My answer: 

When I was sixteen- In 1977- my father bought me a 1966 Chevrolet Malibu and boy could that car fly. To make a long story short, the city had just finished building a new interstate through Baton Rouge and we were more than happy to try it out, you know make sure it was safe for everyone else. 

Oh, I've never told my son this story, especially when he was a teenager because you would not believe what we did. One of us would sit in the backseat directly behind the drivers seat, then hop on the interstate and punch the wheel to the floor, and I mean literally to the floor. 

Then, when we got a steady speed going, we'd count 123 quickly and switch seats. In other words, if I was in the back, she would slide over to the passenger side, then I would jump in the drivers seat and continue driving. 

Every time I remember us doing that I say a little prayer for us as well as our children who would have never been born if this prank among many others had ended in a bad way. Especially, since we took the future fathers of our children were one many of our trial runs. 

Thank God for large and small miracles. 

Alright, that's my outrageous experience shared with a friend, what is yours?  

  

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8. Mouse Scouts 1 and 2

Mouse Scouts. Sarah Dillard. 2016. Random House. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What a cute start to a new series for young readers! I found Sarah Dillard's Mouse Scouts to be a delight. The book introduces us to two friends: Violet and Tigerlily. Both are in Mouse Scouts. To clarify, they are newly promoted from being Buttercups to being Acorn Scouts. The book introduces us to other mouse scouts, and their scout leader, Miss Poppy. By the end of the book, they'll have the opportunity to earn their first (presumably of many) badge. The badge they're aiming for? The "Sow It and Grow It" badge. Readers may learn along with Violet and Tigerlily a few facts about gardening.

I enjoyed this one. I did. It was a simple, straightforward story for young readers. I like the characters. And I really liked the illustrations. This is one series book that was genuinely pleasant to read, even as an adult.
Mouse Scouts: Make A Difference. Sarah Dillard. 2016. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I was so glad to have the opportunity to review both books in this new series by Sarah Dillard. After reading the first book in the series, I was ready to continue on with the series. The book stars Violet and Tigerlily. These two friends don't always agree perfectly on every little thing, but, they have a way of coming together when it really, truly matters. It was just a fun treat for me to spend time with these two again, and to get another opportunity to get to know the other scouts as well.

In this one, the mice are attempting to earn the "Make A Difference" badge. I was able to guess what one of their projects would be, but, I was pleasantly surprised by an additional way they all came together to make a difference. I wasn't expecting that at all!

Overall, both books are super-easy to recommend. I think both books will appeal to young readers--girls especially in first and second grade. 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. #812 – Too Many Carrots by Kay Hudson

Too Many Carrots Written & Illustrated by Katy Hudson Capstone    2/1/2016 978-1-62370-638-8 32 pages    Ages 3—5 “Rabbit loves carrots. In fact, he loves them so much that they are crowing him out of his cozy burrow. When his friends offer help, Rabbit happily accepts. But will too many carrots cause too much trouble …

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10. Read Out Loud | Bear Snores On

Bear Snores On Featured Image

Bear Snores On is the first book in Karma Wilson’s series about Bear; a huggable and loyal friend, connoisseur of popcorn, and avid swimmer. It’s that time of the year and Bear has gone to sleep for a long time. What happens when several of his woodland friends happen upon his warm lair?

Bear Snores On is a great book you can use to teach young readers about seasons, hibernation, friendship, and sharing. There are so many big lessons in one small book!

Karma Wilson’s reading of Bear Snores On was filmed during Angie Karcher’s Rhyming Picture Book Revolution Conference (RPBC). The purpose of the RPBC is to educate and support authors who write rhyming picture books.

KidLit TV’s Read Out Loud series is perfect for parents, teachers, and librarians. Use these readings for nap time, story time, bedtime … anytime!

Bear Snores On main image cover

Parents and Educators: Click here to download free Bear Snores On activities!
Explore books written by Karma Wilson including more books about Bear!

ABOUT BEAR SNORES ON


Bear Snores On
Bear Snores On Cover (Illustrated by Jane Chapman) – One by one, a whole host of different animals and birds find their way out of the cold and into Bear’s cave to warm up. But even after the tea has been brewed and the corn has been popped, Bear just snores on! See what happens when he finally wakes up and finds his cave full of uninvited guests — all of them having a party without him.

 

ABOUT KARMA WILSON
Via karmawilson.com

Karma Wilson grew up an only child of a single mother in the wilds of North Idaho. Way back then (just past the stone age and somewhat before the era of computers) there was no cable TV and if there would have been Karma could not have gotten it. TV reception was limited to 3 channels, of which one came in with some clarity. Karma did the only sensible thing a lonely little girl could do…she read or played outdoors.

Playing outdoors was fun, but reading was Karma’s “first love” and, by the age 11 she was devouring about a novel a day. She was even known to try to read while riding her bike down dirt roads, which she does not recommend as it is hazardous to the general well being of the bike, the rider, and more importantly the book. Her reading preference was fantasy (C.S. Lewis, Terry Brooks, etc…) and historical fiction (L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, etc…). Those preferences have not changed much.

Karma never considered writing as a profession because her mother was a professional writer which made it seem like boring and mundane work. At the age of 27 she realized that she still loved well written children’s books of all kinds, from picture books to young adult novels. By that time Karma was a wife and the mother of three young children. Trips to the library with her children were a combination of emotions…when they got a good book there was fun to be had by all, but so many of the books weren’t what her children wanted to listen to.

Read more about Karma, here.

CONNECT WITH KARMA WILSON
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ABOUT JANE CHAPMAN

Jane Chapman writes and illustrates children’s books. Her work is published under her real name, and Jack Tickle; her pseudonym.

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11. Dead Boy - an audiobook review



Below is my review of the audio book version of Dead Boy by Lauren Gale and read by Robbie Daymond.  Great plot with some unexpected turns.
GALE, Laurel. Dead Boy. 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $35. ISBN 9781101916827. digital download.

Gr 5-7–Crow was once a regular boy who played baseball and had friends and loving parents. But now, he’s dead. At first, being dead wasn’t so bad, but then his rotting flesh began attracting maggots. He couldn’t eat or sleep. His parents divorced. His mother will tell him only that his parents “wished him back to life,” but what kind of life? He’s trapped in a house kept purposefully cold to slow the putrefaction of his flesh. When Melody and her father move in next door, she and Crow become secret friends against the wishes of their parents. Together, they begin to unravel the terrible secret of his parents’ wish. Their forbidden friendship will be tested as they face a series of deadly challenges in their quest for the truth. Though the book’s description promises humor, narrator Robbie Daymond’s presentation of Crow is morose and forlorn. His cheerful portrayal of Melody offers the only break from the macabre atmosphere. VERDICT - Not for the squeamish, this one will be best for middle school fans of ghoulish favorites like The Night Gardener (Abrams, 2014) or The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (S. & S., 2012). [“A great recommendation to middle grade fans of dark humor”: SLJ 7/15 review of the Crown book.]

  Copyright © 2016 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.

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12. The Shadows of Sherwood, by Kekla Magoon

Robyn is a tinkerer.  She loves building things with her dad, but since her dad's job has taken up most of his time lately, Robyn is on her own.  One night after Robyn sneaks out as usual to head to the junkyard to find a voltage adapter for a project, things seem a bit off.  Usually dodging the guards and scaling the fence are fun endeavors, but this night the guards are more soldier-esque than usual.  And this time when she made it over the fence, there was a dog.

Luckily Robyn is a prepared girl, and has a pocket full of bacon to keep the dog at bay. True, the bacon was orignally for Robyn's friend Barclay who calls the junkyard his home, but Robyn is thankful she packed it.

It turns out that changes are afoot in a much more far ranging way than just upped security in the junkyard.  This night comes to be called the Night of Shadows, and what it is is a coup.  The standing government and all of the members of parliament are rounded up and/or killed. Robyn's father works for the government.

When she races home, she finds a horrifying sight.  Her empty house is in shambles and her parents are gone.  All that is left is a puddle of blood in the kitchen. Robyn is a wanted girl.

Now Robyn is forced to try to remember all of the warnings her father gave her that she only half listened to.  The ones that started with "If anything ever happens to me and your mother...".  Upon hearing strangers back in her house she takes the few items from her safe and takes off into the forest.

What comes next is an adventure that will keep readers up well into the night.  Solitary Robyn must learn that sometimes it's okay (and necessary) to trust others. Her group of friends must learn to live by their wits and manage to help others who may not be so resourceful along the way.

Magoon has reimagined the world of Robin Hood in an alternate time period and has woven in technology and the idea of the big brother very well.  Readers do not need to be familiar with the original tale to have a rip roaring time, but the ones who are familiar will likely be pleased with the reimagining of many of the main characters.  Magoon has also woven in moon lore as an aspect of the world building that brings an air of fantasy to the whole story.

I cannot wait for the next installment of this exciting story!

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13. #805 – The Good Dog by Todd Kessler & Jennifer Gray Olson

The Good Dog Series: The Good Dog, #1 Written by Todd Kessler Illustrated by Jennifer Gray Olson Coralstone Press      10/26/2015 978-0-9898085-0-7 96 pages     Ages 3—10 “When little Ricky Lee finds a puppy on the side of the road, he takes him home and names him Tako. Ricky’s parents say that they …

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14. Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White | Book Review

Charlotte’s Web is is one of the best-selling children’s books of all time. It is about a barnyard pig named Wilbur that can talk, a barn spider named Charlotte that can write, and a young girl named Fern that stands up for her beliefs.

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15. Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat

stanleycover300pxLet me introduce Stanley to you.

He’s a cat.

He’s a generous friend to many.

And he loves to knit.

But what happens when he has to choose between his passion and his pals?

Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat by Emily MacKenzie (@emilymackenzie_) is all about the dilemma you face when you have to decide what really matters to you. Stanley is wild about wool, barmy about yarn and just can’t stop the click-clack of his knitting needles. He makes all sorts of lovely jumpers, scarves and more for his friends, but when he runs out of wool just when he needs it most (for a knitting competition) what’s he to do? Will he demand his gifts back, in order to re-use the wool? Will he find a way to follow his dream and yet avoid disappointing his friends?

Emily MacKenzie’s tale of enthusiasm and eccentricity is joyous and upbeat, illustrated with all the energy Stanley puts into his knitting. Funny (knitted elephant trunk tubes, anyone?), vibrant (all the alluring colours you’d find in a wool shop) and feel-good, Stanley’s spirited creativity is infectious and inspiring.

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And inspired we were! Taking our lead from Stanley and a hot air balloon he knits we decided to have a go at making our own woolly dirigibles.

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Our first balloons were made by gluing lots and lots of strands of different wool onto card (we used PVA glue and card rather than paper so everything held together a little better).

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When all the glue was dry we flipped the card over and drew two shapes – a large circle (by drawing around a bowl), and a basket shape – before cutting them out and joining them together with a bit of hot air balloon rope (ie more wool). Finally we drew Stanley so he could fly in our balloons as they floated gently over our kitchen table (suspended from the ceiling with a little bit of thread).

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If you don’t feel like drawing your own Stanley, Emily has very kindly created one you can print off and cut out:

Right click to save and the print out!

Right click to save and the print out!

Our next plan was a little more ambitious.We wanted to create a 3-D hot air balloon and so this time we dipped our wool in PVA glue before draping it over a suspended balloon.

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Whilst the gluey wool dried (it took a couple of days – though if it’s summer where you are the process might be a whole lot speedier) we made our basket. I cut vertical lines down the side of a plastic pot and the girls then wove wool strands in and out of the tongues of plastic, gradually covering the entire pot.

We attached the basket to the woolly balloon and then popped the balloon….

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It didn’t work out quite how I had hoped, but we were still smiling at the result and hopefully Stanley was too!

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Whilst making our balloons we listened to:

  • Hot Air Balloon by Vanessa Trien
  • The Knitting Song by Liz Simcock (great lyrics, especially if you are a knitter)
  • Mr. Stanley by John Hiatt (a lovely bit of blues)

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat include:

  • Making pompoms. Stanley the Knitting Cat makes lots of pompoms and if you’ve never made them before with the kids, here’s a good place to start, via Red Ted Art.
  • Yarn Bombing. If street art or brightening up your neighbourhood appeals to you and your kids this activity might be just the ticket. Find inspiration in this Time Magazine gallery, or via Knit the City
  • Scribbling with exhilaration! The endpages of Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat are filled with lots of unruly wool, with wild scribbles across the page. Why not let the kids go crazy and see how quickly they can fill a page with loose pieces of “wool”?

  • If you liked this post you might like another post by me: Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz & Margaret Chamberlain & a whole host of other knitting themed picture books

    knittingbook

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    4 Comments on Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat, last added: 1/13/2016
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    16. Tuesday's Question: "What Would You Like Me To Know About You,?" and, "What Would You Like To Know About Me?"



    Hello, welcome to Tuesday's Question. I've been searching for a question all day that I haven't already asked since I began posting Tuesday's Question in 2007.

    Over the years, and stretches between posts, I've tried to ask original questions, (If there is such a thing.) in an effort keep the questions fresh, as well as authentic.

    Hence today, in keeping with that tradition, instead of answering my own question, I'm going to answer your questions and vice-versa. Make sense?

    I hope so...'cause here goes...

    Alright, let's see how well I do at clarifying this...here's the first question: "What Would You Like Me To Know About You,?"and, "What Would You Like To Know About Me?"


    These questions were hard to phrase, for one thing they include personal pronouns which are tricky and hard to clarify, especially, when there are two questions for each of "us" to ask one another.  

    Basically, all of us can ask whatever question we wish, of course that's not to assume that your inquiry will be answered, but I will certainly give you my best answer.

    And now, when I think about it, I suppose I should answer the first question:

    "What Would You Like Me To Know About You?" 

    I would like you to know that I love people, to write, and to laugh, but many of you already know this about me. I'm sure you may have more questions, because whereas I'm open, I'm also intensely private. But, do not let this detour you; ask away, o.k.?  

    I hope these questions will be fun to answer and will help create and enrich friendship. 'Cause, what would we do without friendship, and if it isn't fun, why do it?

    Thanks for visiting, and I hope you will return often. :))))

    Brag tag.
    Feel free to copy, paste, and link a "Tuesday's Question" Brag Tag your favorite Tuesday's Question on your blog/website.

    (Note:) Your answers may appear within a post with a link to your blog or website. This is to help promote the blogs/websites who participate. If you do not own a blog or website or for any reason do not wish your answer to appear in a post, please inform me by e-mail, or in your comment. Your wishes will be respected.)
    Please know that, every word of every comment is greatly appreciated. :)))))    




    0 Comments on Tuesday's Question: "What Would You Like Me To Know About You,?" and, "What Would You Like To Know About Me?" as of 1/1/1900
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    17. #804 – The Story of Diva and Flea from Mo Willems & Tony DiTerlizzi

    The Story of Diva and Flea “As Told” by Mo Willems “As Shown” by Tony DiTerlizzi Hyperion Books for Children    10/13/ 2015 978-1-4847-2284-8 80 pages      Ages 6—8 “Diva, a small yet brave dog, and Flea, a curious streetwise cat, develop an unexpected friendship in this unforgettable tale of discovery. For as long as …

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    18. The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

    beekleThere’s a land far away where imaginary friends come into being and wait to be imagined by a real child. But what if a real child never imagines you? Might you remain stuck, forever in limbo?

    The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat (@dsantat) follows one imaginary friend as he decided to take action into his own hands venturing bravely forth to seek a real friend to play with (and to name him). The real world is a strange place, with muted colours and tired people failing to see joy or find fun around them. But then our still un-named imaginary friend recognises a flash of colour in the rush-hour crowd – an old imaginary friend from the land of their birth, and follows the creature. Will this lead him to a real friend? And just how do you make friends when you’ve not had a friend before and don’t know where to start?

    Santat’s tale about our desire to find friendship, the difficulties we can encounter along the way, and the joy and joint adventuring it can bring is full of charm and hope. It’s gentle, optimistic and beautiful. It also happens to be award-winning, and not just any old award: Almost exactly a year ago, The Adventures of Beekle won the most prestigious picture book award in the US – the Randolph Caldecott Medal.

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    UK publishers, Andersen Press, are now bringing this gorgeous book to the UK market. Yes, it’s true that those of us with UK/Eire addresses can get hold of just about any US book thanks to online ordering, but many brilliant US-published children’s books never make it main stream here (i.e into schools, into public libraries, into highstreet bookshops) because they aren’t published by “local” publishers and are therefore not straightforward for organisations to order (or even to find out about). I find this especially frustrating with graphic novels and children’s non-fiction, genres in which I think the US is a world leader.

    Why do some books make it across the Atlantic when others don’t? To my eye there is a decidedly American flavour to the illustrations in The Adventures of Beekle, something to do with the slightly soft focus, polished animation feel to the imagery. Differences in illustration fashion clearly aren’t necessarily a problem. And yet if we look at which Caldecott winners have made it to the UK, we see that it’s surprisingly few; of the past 20 winners, I think only 5 have been picked up by UK publishing houses.

    As it happens, the 2016 Caldecott Medal winner us being announced TODAY (January 11). Will it be a book that makes it across to the UK?

    [I do encourage you to follow the announcements of all the ALA Youth Media Awards, of which the Caldecott is just one. If you’re on Twitter, you might use #ALAyma to find out about the winners. You can also watch the announcements as they are streamed live http://ala.unikron.com/2016/]

    Either which way, The Adventures of Beekle is a delightful, heart-warming story about friendship, courage and reaching out. I’m really pleased that thanks to its UK publishers it will now find its way into many more homes, schools and libraries on this side of the pond.

    ***************

    Especially taken by the illustration below of a tree full of leaves / stars, we were inspired to set up a piece of guerilla public art in the name of Beekle and everyone who could do with a bit of good cheer:

    Pages from Beekle UK INTERIOR anglo1000px

    Using air-drying clay, some cookie cutters and letter stamps we created a whole host of starry leaves to hang in a tree by our favourite playground. We stamped each tree with a friendly, encouraging message, hoping to raise a smile amongst those who come across the starry leaves.

    beekle1

    Once dry…

    beekle2

    …we threaded them with string…

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    …visited our favourite playground…

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    …and hung up our good wishes to all.

    beekle1

    beekle2

    We’re hoping visitors to the playground will find the stars and take one they like home, spreading Beekle good wishes around the local community!

    beekle6

    Whilst making starry leaves we listened to:

  • Imaginary Friend by The Mighty Buzzniks
  • My Imaginary Friend by ScribbleMonster & His Pals
  • My Imaginary Friend by The Sunflowers

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading The Adventures of Beekle include:

  • Making your own Beekle out of marshmallows. This Picturebook Life shows you how. Found via this pinterest board dedicated to the book.
  • Reading Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers, and Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson, both of which are lovely picture books about friends who others can’t see.
  • Designing a playground (you could use images from this Pinterest board to inspire you and your kids) or making a Chinese dragon (there’s a stunning one in The Adventures of Beekle and I imagine recreating something similar using precut coloured paper circles as scales. Alternatively you could make concertina dragons like we did here.)

  • If you liked this post you might like this related post:

  • Confessions of an Imaginary Friend and making our own dictionary of imaginary words
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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

    2 Comments on The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, last added: 1/11/2016
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    19. Stína

    stinaIt’s unseasonably warm in my part of the world at the moment, and here at Playing by the book we’re all longing for crisp days, with snow and ice and sparkle and the sort of mint-fresh air which gives you the magical ability to breathe out puffs of microscopic diamonds. Dreaming of a proper winter, we’ve really enjoyed stepping into the world of Icelandic author and illustrator Lani Yamamoto with her new book, Stína.

    Stína appears to live alone in a cabin (you can easily imagine she is a good friend of a slightly grown-up Pippi Longstocking). She’s inventive, clever, capable and resourceful, able to solve her every day problems with flair and charm. But as winter sets in, she becomes a prisoner in her own home: Stína really hates the cold and finds it ever harder to leave the warmth of her bed, even though she’s curious about the white landscape and children playing – apparently unperturbed by the bitter cold – she can see through her window.

    This is a delightful tale of unexpected friendship and of being brave and imaginative enough to try doing something you couldn’t believe you could do. It’s about being a person not defined either by stereotypes (Stína has her own tool box but also sews and knits) or your own expectations of yourself (Stína is afraid of the cold, but doesn’t let it stifle her curiosity) and it is uplifting, empowering and heart-warming.

    stina1

    Stína is also simply but beautifully produced. A cloth cover and black line drawings enhanced by a restricted, primarily blue and green palette give this stylish book a homespun and yet stylish feel. The positive, can-do attitude of Stína, the way she makes friends and the story’s quiet exploration of the benefits of being open and brave make this a book it’s a real delight to share.

    stina2

    Whilst Stína is very much a story book, one of the reasons it appeals so much to all of us at Playing by the book is that it is also part activity book. There are instructions for finger knitting (an activity Stína teachers her new friends), and a hot chocolate recipe. Taking our lead from our new favourite heroine we set about trying to invent the yummiest hot chocolate ever experienced in the Playing by the Book Household.

    hotchocolate1

    We drew up a list of potential ingredients:

  • Cocoa
  • Hot Chocolate powder
  • Milk
  • Double cream
  • Squirty cream
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Chilli flakes
  • Cardamom
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Mini marshmallows
  • A vanilla pod
  • Sprinkles
  • Broken up bars of milk chocolate and dark chocolate

  • Each person got to create their own recipe using whatever they liked from the list. Rigorous taste testing was then carried out, assessing our hot chocolates, not only for general yumminess but also for interesting ingredients and unusualness.

    hotchocolate2

    Essentially this was like a “potions” making activity, but entirely edible (or drinkable) and with lots of lip and finger licking.

    hotchocolate3
    My personal favorite turned out to be a recipe using a good dash of cream and a pinch of cinnamon, though J preferred the version she created where the hot chocolate was stirred with a vanilla pod and M liked her version with a tall tower of squirty cream and lots of spices.

    hotchocolate4

    A simple but very satisfying after school winter activity! Indulgent and imaginative, I can only encourage you to set up your own hot chocolate testing laboratory!

    Whilst empirically researching hot chocolate we listened to:

  • Hot Chocolate by Recess Monkey
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! sung by Dean Martin
  • The Little Holly Tree by Ange Hardy. Just such a lovely wintry song.

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading Stína include:

  • Recycling your old duvets – homeless shelters and animal sanctuaries may accept them, if they are in reasonable condition and machine washable.
  • Planning some snow games just in case it gets cold enough to bring what everyone one in this home really wants for Christmas. Games we love include painting snow with water tinted with food colouring or even tempura paint, making giant coloured ice marbles with balloons, or stocking up on maple syrup ready for making sugar snow.
  • Trying out ARM knitting. Stína does some finger knitting, but have you ever tried using your arms instead of knitting needles?

  • If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • Some things are worth waiting for: Snow by Samuel Usher
  • Is it snowing yet? 2 winter reads shimmering with hoarfrost
  • Snowflakes, Seedheads and CBeebies
  • stinaotherreads

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    2 Comments on Stína, last added: 12/10/2015
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    20. The Big Book of Hugs: A Barkley the Bear Story | Dedicated Review

    The lessons The Big Book of Hugs provides are useful and very important, and the warmth it radiates is a rare quality that children will instantly respond to.

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    21. How to Find Gold

    howtofindgoldI wanted a brilliant book to start the new year with and I’ve unearthed real treasure with How to Find Gold by Viviane Schwarz (@vivschwarz), out later this week in the UK.

    Anna is a girl with an inspirational can-do attitude. She decides she wants to find gold with her friend (a crocodile) and refuses to be put off or to give up, simply because the task might be risky or hard to achieve.

    Issues which might seem like problems to some are acknowledged by young Anna, but they never put her off her stride. Instead, her positive take on life, her ability to see opportunities rather than obstacles and the power of her imagination enable her and Crocodile to have tremendous fun looking for (and indeed finding) gold, even if (or partly because?) it is dangerous and difficult.

    Together the friends search high and low, sailing the seven seas and facing terrible monsters before finding a chest full of treasure in a sunken wreck. But having found the treasure do they keep it? What is more valuable to them? Piles of gold to have and to hold or the wonderful experiences they’ve shared by together being brave, hopeful and believing in themselves?

    goldinterior1

    In some regards, this outstanding picture book echoes Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch, both conveying an inspiring message that anything is possible if you allow yourself to really go after your dreams. Both also happen to feature black girls, though in neither instance is this what the books are about. Their messages are much more universal – about having fun, about self-belief, about letting your imagination take flight to fruition.

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    Schwarz’s tale is full of humour, both in her words and imagery. The looks of determination and delight on Anna’s face, the unassuming dead-pan delivery of her decisions, her friend’s (mostly) calm absorption of Anna’s apparent impetuosity – all will make you smile.

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    Schwarz also uses colour brilliantly to intensify the adventure these two undertake. Monochrome real life is contrasted with a richly vibrant hunt for treasure.

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    Courageous, joyous and imaginative, Anna is a hero to enliven us all. This funny manifesto for adventuring with friends, for embracing challenges, for not giving up on looking for gold, whatever form it takes for you is outstanding. I can’t think of a better way to start my reading year, or yours.

    Of course we were chomping at the bit for our own treasure hunt having read How to Find Gold but first we had to ensure there were plenty of gold coins to find in amongst the hoard of jewels.

    We took inspiration from our box of coins from around the world, choosing those with designs on them which we especially liked.

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    We then placed these coins under gold confectionery wrappers (thin golden tin foil) in order to transfer their designs to the foil.

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    We also designed our own coins, using golden embossing paper and kebab sticks.

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    Next up we melted lots of chocolate and dropped dollops onto the foil (flipped over, so the gold side was face down).

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    An hour or two in the fridge later and we had our first glimpse at how our hoard of golden dubloons was coming along…

    chocolatemoney

    All that was left was to wrap the edges of the foil around the hardened chocolate to complete our chocolate coins and amass our amazing pile of gold:

    goldcoins

    Making our own treasure was definitely as much fun as finding it!

    Whilst making money we listened to:

  • Treasure Chest by The Dreamtree Shakers
  • Don’t bring me gold by Funky Mama
  • And a favourite of mine – Treasures by Seasick Steve

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading How to Find Gold include:

  • Creating your own treasure maps. CBeebies has a video tutorial that’s a good starting point if you’ve never used an old teabag before, and for some starter ideas about what to put on your map, this collection of treasure maps on Pinterest might spark your imagination.
  • Making chests to store your treasure in. Free Kids Crafts shows you how to turn an old shoe box into a pirate’s treasure chest, but there are lots more ideas (including edible ones!) on this pinterest board.
  • Bringing your own crocodile friend to life. Krokotak shows you how to make very handsome paper alligator, which I think it is perfectly all right to reconsider as a crocodile :-)
  • Being brave enough to try doing something difficult or risky. This is a tricky one of course. But the kids and I have talked about what we could try that is a bit tricky, a bit dangerous but which might be quite an adventure and we’ve agreed that this weekend we’re going to try jumping off the high diving boards at the swimming pool for the first time!

  • If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • The Story of Money written by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura plus how we used coins to learn some geography
  • Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen plus how we dug for treasure in our own back garden
  • The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle plus how I created a treasure hunt for my kids which helped them learn to read a map of our local neighbourhood
  • moretreasurehuntideas

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    3 Comments on How to Find Gold, last added: 1/4/2016
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    22. Book Review- Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

    First post of 2016! I'm starting as I hope to go on, with a review. Enjoy!
    Title: Because You'll Never Meet Me
    Author: Leah Thomas
    Series: N/A
    Published: Bloomsbury Children's Books
    Length: 344 pages
    Source: Publisher
    Other info: This is Leah Thomas's debut. A sequel,  currently Nowhere Near You, should come in 2017.

    Summary: Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.
    A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

    Review: Ollie is allergic to electricity-contact with devices means he'll have a seizure, or it will short out. Moritz was born without eyeballs and he has a pacemaker. And they live on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Still, they form a friendship, writing letters to each other, talking about their present and past.

    I got sent this by the publishers. I didn't know what to expect, but the blurb looked good.
    The story is told through the letters between Moritz and Ollie. Both write totally differently, reflecting their contrasting personalities. I think Ollie's style was more engaging, it is, for the most part, more enthusiastic, while Moritz is more controlled. However they're both styles that make you want to read on to learn about the characters, as they tell you about their struggles to interact with society, and their attempts to make it work.

    Most of the book is telling us about the lives of the boys, separate from society for different reasons, but trying to interact. We meet friends like Liz, Fieke, and Owen, who help our main characters develop. I really liked watching Moritz and Ollie change, especially Ollie, as they both become more confident to do things on their own. Favourite moment- Moritz being taught how to read ink on paper.

    When we do learn about their history, which seems quite late considering its focus in the blurb, for me, it's very out of the blue. I liked that we got a lot of coming of age and different stories, and this ending... I didn't see it coming, and it's a bit of a genre shift. Then again, I guess all the references to Daredevil does bring in some elements of it early...  I still prefer the friendship/growing up differently element of this story.  However, I did like the very ending, and the fact that you wonder about the stories of the other people who would be involved. I didn't see it coming, and There's a lot that could be written, in fanfic or by Thomas, or can be left open to your imagination.



    Overall: Strength 4 tea to a story about an unusual friendship between two characters you love to watch.

    Links: Amazon | Goodreads |  Foyles

    0 Comments on Book Review- Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas as of 1/1/1900
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    23. #800 – The Inventor’s Secret by Suzanne Slade & Jennifer Black Reinhardt

    The Inventor’s Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford Written by Suzanne Slade Illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt Charlesbridge Publishing    9/08/2015 978-01-58089-667-2 32 pages   Ages 7—12 “Thomas was curious about electricity—invisible energy that flowed and stopped, sizzled and popped. “Henry was curious about engines—machines that chugged and purred, hiccupped and whirred. “When Thomas …

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    24. Confessions of an Imaginary Friend

    So there’s this book that you think is award-winningly brilliant. That hits every button. That leaves you feeling whole and happy and now bonded in a quiet but lifelong way to the story.

    Then along comes another book, with a very similar premise and it’s hard to give this second book the mental space you rationally know it could deserve. When a first book seems perfect in every way, even the optimist that I am finds it hard to have hopes for a second book that purports to cover similar ground.

    It doesn’t help when that first book is exquisitely produced and illustrated, with rich, thick paper and fabulous illustration, the sort that rarely graces and enriches novels for young people. And the cover of second book is reminiscent of a hugely popular series, great for encouraging readers to gobble up books but which has no pretensions to being anything with any literary, philosophical or high aesthetic value (which is of course fine, but here I’m highlighting how two potentially very similar books appear to be very different).

    Nevertheless, you sit down and make a stab at the second book. Then your 11 year old daughter steals the book mid-read and won’t give it back till she’s done. As it turns out, she really likes the book, and a swift, unbroken two hours later – she returns it to me saying that I really HAVE to read it. I complain that I was reading it. That it was her that stopped me (even thought deep down I know that my own expectations / hopes / fears for the book had been preventing me from really getting going with it).

    But now, thoroughly chastised by my daughter, I give myself over to this second book.

    And I fall down a rabbit hole.

    And I find myself holding my breath with slightly anxious anticipation. Each page turn could yet prove my initial fears right, feeding disappointment I had almost become resigned to expect. And yet each step towards the end actually brings wonderful warmth, and a growing sense of doubly delicious delight because I really had not expected or allowed myself to hope for it.

    This second book turns out to be exceptional.

    Incredibly beautifully written, with wisdom and wit in equal measure, this book manages to be both highly philosophical and hugely funny at the same time. It works as a compass for its readers to discover something of who they are and how they (choose to) fit into the world. It revels in the power of the imagination. It asks lots of questions and delivers immense satisfaction without ever providing all the answers. A paradox, perhaps, but one which speaks of the huge skill and unpatronising attitude of its generous author.

    So almost 500 words into my review I should tell you the book’s title and author I guess. Fortunately, it’s worth waiting for:

    confessions-of-an-imaginary-friend-9781471145513_lgConfessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jacques Papier as told to Michelle Cuevas is the story of an imaginary friend, the real children he spends time with and what takes place when those children no longer need their imaginary friends. (You can perhaps guess that the first book I was alluding to above is the outstanding and glorious The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold, with illustrations by Emily Gravett [my review]).

    How do you work out precisely who you are? Or who you want to be? This is at the heart of Confessions of an Imaginary Friend, and applies equally to the real children in the novel as to the eponymous imaginary friend Jacques Papier (to say nothing of the living, breathing reader…). And this gently philosophical novel has a huge heart; it reminded me of R. J Palacio’s Wonder in its thoughtful, gentle exploration of kindness and (un)selfishness. Cuevas writes lightly but richly, with pace (lots of very short chapters help to create this) and a strong sense of style, not shying away from startling descriptions and evocative language, the beauty of which you don’t often find in novels for the pre-teen crowd. It delights me to see that just before Christmas, Confessions of an Imaginary Friend was named the Big Issue’s Kids’ Book of 2015.

    Teachers could do so much with this book. Its quick chapters and laugh out loud humour make it perfect for a class read-aloud. Its language and genre (a memoir) offer many opportunities for readers to enrich their own writing. The playfulness of the book ensures that younger children (say 7+) will have fun will it, whilst older children (say 10+) may equally enjoy chewing over what it means to be real vs imaginary, present vs invisible, and how the boundaries are not always as clear cut as we may think.

    I’m not sure that there’s any such thing as a book which appeals to each and every possible reader. Certainly, the bittersweet contemplation of some of life’s bigger questions in Confessions of an Imaginary Friend won’t appeal to all in equal measure (though I do wonder if perhaps an attempt to reach a slightly different audience is behind the drastically different style of the UK cover as compared to the US edition) but my 11 year old and I really loved this book and hope it reaches many homes during 2016.

    Inspired by Jacques Papier’s musings on words which don’t exist, M set about creating a list of her own new words to fill some of the lexical gaps she’s wishes didn’t exist. Together we designed a little dictionary cover for her to use:

    dictionarycover

    (You can download it here – A4, and then fold it in half and half again to create a mini dictionary you and your kids could fill in with your own missing words.)

    writingdictionaryentries

    M set to creating the words she misses in her life, finessing their presentation by looking at OED dictionary entries for the format, and getting help from her Dad with phonetic transcriptions (he teaches these things to university students).

    dictionaryinside

    Whilst playing at being imaginary lexicologists we listened to:

  • Fun to Pretend by Istvan & His Imaginary Band
  • Our Imaginary Rhino by Justin Roberts
  • Imaginary Friend by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – the lyrics of this go so well with the early chapters of Confessions of an Imaginary Friend.
  • What words do you wish existed? What words have you adopted from other languages because they express something for which there is no word in English? What words have you / your kids / your parents made up over the years which are now firmly part of the family patter?

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

    1 Comments on Confessions of an Imaginary Friend, last added: 1/7/2016
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    25. 2016 Mock Newbery, part 3: Enchanted Air & Fish in a Tree (ages 9-13)

    We read to get to know other characters, but at the same time we read to get to know ourselves. Some of my students really want to get inside and feel what the characters in books are going through. Enchanted Air and Fish in a Tree appealed to readers who like heartfelt, emotional stories.

    Enchanted Air
    Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
    by Margarita Engle
    Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2015
    Google Books preview
    Your local library
    Amazon
    ages 10-14
    In this memoir in verse, poet and novelist Margarita Engle writes about her childhood growing up in Los Angeles and visiting her grandmother in Cuba. My students talked about how they felt that Engle almost had a twin living a whole life in each country, that she had twin homes--feeling at home both in Cuba and in the United States. Her heart was in both places.

    Although this is a very touching story, some students felt that it was too slow. The plot didn't hook them, and so I think it was harder for them to connect to the character and her emotions. I wonder if this is a book better appreciated by a slightly older reader, or one that would benefit from more discussion with a group so students can unpack some of the ideas about immigration, identity and home.
    Fish in a Tree
    by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
    Nancy Paulsen / Penguin, 2015
    Google Books preview
    Your local library
    Amazon
    ages 9-12
    Aly Nickerson has changed schools nearly every year: seven schools in the past seven years. With each new teacher, she acts out and dodges questions to cover up the fact that she cannot read. Letters and words dance on the page. Aly's confusion and anger touched my students, but it was really her journey that made them recommend this to friends with earnest enthusiasm.
    "I thought that the characters were strong because I felt what they felt. The author could evoke their feelings." -- Rebecca
    student responses (click to enlarge)
    Students talked right away about how Lynda Mullaly Hunt helped them understand the range of Aly's complex emotions, feeling empathy but never pity. Aly's friends were all interesting, distinct characters. While adults might wonder why Aly's previous teachers never noticed her dyslexia, my students just loved her relationship with Mr. Daniels.
    "I like how the book showed that just because you are different doesn't mean you can't shine." -- Norah
    This is a book that will continue to touch students for years to come.

    The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Simon & Schuster and Penguin, but we have also purchased additional copies for our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

    ©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

    0 Comments on 2016 Mock Newbery, part 3: Enchanted Air & Fish in a Tree (ages 9-13) as of 1/8/2016 2:46:00 AM
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