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1. By the Great Horn Spoon

By the Great Horn Spoon! Sid Fleischman. 1963. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: A sailing ship with two great sidewheels went splashing out of Boston harbor on a voyage around the Horn to San Francisco.

Premise/plot: Jack Flagg, our young hero, runs away from home--with his butler, Praiseworthy--to seek his fortune (literally) in the 1849 California Gold Rush. While the two set out with enough money to pay for their passage aboard a ship, the two are robbed while buying their tickets. They decide to stowaway though not for the entire voyage. They turn themselves into the ship's captain. They tell their story and prove willing to work. While working, one of them comes up with a genius way to catch the thief whom they are sure is on board. This is just the first sign that this team is unstoppable and that together they are in for a lot of adventure, danger, and FUN. The book chronicles their journey on the ship, and, in California. There's more comedy than drama. Which I think is overall a good thing. It's good to be kept smiling. And while this one may lack intensity and edge-of-your-seat suspense, it has a lot of feel-good adventure.

My thoughts: I may have a soft spot for this one because I spent so many hours playing Goldrush. I liked the comedy. I liked the friendship. I loved the resolution. How the two were working so hard so they could head back East to save the family home. And well, I won't spoil it. But it's lovely!

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. The Thank You Book, by Mo Willems: A terrific finale for Elephant and Piggie (ages 4-8)

It's almost the end of the year for us, and kids are starting to think about how hard it is to say goodbye to favorite teachers. I wish I could give every teacher a copy of The Thank You Book, Mo Willem's terrific finale for his Elephant and Piggie series.

This is a must-read series; kids of all ages love the friendship and banter between Elephant and Piggie, especially 1st graders who are venturing into reading independently.

The Thank You Book
from the Elephant and Piggie series
by Mo Willems
Disney-Hyperion, 2016
Your local library
ages 4-8
*best new book*
Gerald and Piggie are best friends. They help each other, they play with each other, and they give each other advice--plenty of it. Piggie is outgoing, and Gerald is cautious. Piggie tends to be head-strong, while Gerald tends to be a worrier. This combination creates plenty of laughs, and it lets kids see different sides of their own personalities.

Kids love reading Elephant and Piggie books aloud--the whole story is told through dialog which bubbles over with emotion. As my friend Carrie Gelson wrote in her Goodreads review,
"This series has transformed many a little reader. It has given the gift of expression, confidence, laughter and fun. And it ends with gratitude."
Gerald and Piggie have starred in twenty five books(!!) together. For their finale, Piggie decides to thank everyone. She's so happy, that she's thanking of all her friends, "everyone who is important to me." But Gerald is worried that she might forget someone...someone very important.
"Thank you all for being great friends!"
Willems creates tension with ease, as Gerald gets more and more upset. Readers are just sure that he wants Piggie to thank HIM, but Willems pulls out the perfect surprise ending.
"You are forgetting someone! Someone VERY important."
In a delightful twist, Gerald turns to Piggie and reminds her that they need to thank their readers. “We could not be ‘us’ without you,” says Gerald. Piggie joins in, adding, “You are the best!” Talk about a moment that melts my heart, each and every time I read it. Willems honors the hard work that young readers do in bringing stories to life, and he does so with joy, humor and heart.

As a teacher and a librarian, I want to thank every child who's shared their reading lives with me, every parent who's entrusted their child to me, every author who's shared a bit of themselves with us through their words. Thank YOU, Mo Willems, for bringing so much joy to all of us, helping us create so many teachable moments, so many wonderful conversations.

Head on over to ThankoRama.com to download, print, and fill out your own #ThankoRama speech bubbles. Teachers, definitely check out The World of Elephant and Piggie Teaching Guide.

Thank you, my blog readers, for sharing the joy of reading with me and with all the kids in your lives! The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion. 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

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

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

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

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

Source: Review Copy

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4. StoryMakers | Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson

STORYMAKERS - Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson (Peg + Cat) Featured Image

We’re trying to make math cool … It’s for everybody
and it’s everywhere. It’s a part of your life.
— Billy Aronson

Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson are the team behind the award-winning PBS series “Peg + Cat”. Peg is a little girl whose life is a big math problem, which she solves with her best friend, Cat. Her world looks like math as the backdrop is graph paper and various items are made from simple shapes. The animated television series Peg + Cat has won seven Daytime Emmy Awards including Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Program, Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation (Jennifer Oxley), and Outstanding Writing in a Pre-School Animated Program.

Parents and teachers who want to continue the STEAM fun offline can turn to the Peg + Cat books written by the series creators. In this episode of StoryMakers Rocco Staino, Billy Aronson, and Jennifer Oxley discuss the creative vision for the series and several themes central to the  series of books. Fun, simple mathematics, diversity, and a seamless flow are essential to the success of the books and television series.

Oxley and Aronson offer encouraging messages about mathematics that will inspire children, parents, and teachers alike.

We’re giving away three (3) sets of books for this episode of StoryMakers. Each set includes a of copy of Jennifer and Billy’s picture book, PEG + CAT: THE PIZZA PROBLEM and PEG + CAT: THE RACE CAR PROBLEM. The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM on June 7, 2016. ENTER NOW!

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StoryMakers - Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson (PEG + CAT) Pinterest Image



Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem
Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem - Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson
By Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson
Published by Candlewick Entertainment

What do fractions have to do with pizza? The stars of the Emmy Award winning animated series “Peg + Cat” serve up a delicious new episode.
It’s lunchtime at Peg’s Pizza Place. Peg and Cat are excited to take their first order from the Teens only to learn that some of their customers want a whole pizza while one of them wants half a pie. How can Peg and Cat make half a pie when they don t know what “half “is? Luckily, Ramone and Mac are there to help, with a slice up the middle of the pizza. As more customers come in, things get entertaining, with Peg singing a jazzy song and Cat doing a dance. But soon there’s another problem: four orders, but only two and a half pizzas left. Peg is totally freaking out until Cat reminds her that when it comes to halves and wholes, it’s all in how you slice it.

Peg + Cat: The Race Car Problem - Jennifer Oxley & Billy AronsonPeg + Cat: The Race Car Problem
By Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson
Published by Candlewick Entertainment

Peg and Cat, stars of their own Emmy Award winning animated TV series, zoom into a picture book and put math skills to the test in a lively racing adventure. Peg and Cat have built an amazing car out of things they found lying around. They’ve named her Hot Buttered Lightning (since she’s built for speed), and they plan to win the Tallapegga Twenty. If they can make it out of the junkyard, that is. It’s a good thing Peg knows the best shape to use to make wheels and how to count laps to see who is ahead. And it’s lucky that Cat reminds Peg to keep calm when she’s “totally freaking out.” Will Peg and Cat be the first to complete twenty laps and win the Golden Cup? Or will it be one of their quirky competitors? Count on Peg and Cat to rev up young problem-solvers for an exciting race to the finish.


Jennifer Oxley was born in Hollywood, California and caught the filmmaking bug early – she made her first film at the age of seven. Since then she has directed fifteen short films for Sesame Street, as well as the award-winning adaptation of Spike Lee and Tanya Lewis Lee’s children’s book, Please, Baby, Please.

Her latest film, The Music Box, was acquired by The Museum of Modern Art for their permanent children’s film collection. Her work in children’s television includes directing and artistic credits. Jennifer is the recipient of an Emmy Award for her role as director on Little Bill, and she created the look and animation style of The Wonder Pets!, which won an Environmental Media Award and the prestigious Japan Prize.

Most recently Jennifer teamed up with Billy Aronson to create Peg + Cat for PBS Kids, and is co-founder of 9ate7 Productions.

Source: 9ate 7 Productions

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Billy Aronson is a playwright and writer. Aronson is probably best known for creating the original concept behind the Tony award-winning rock opera Rent. He’s written several plays and musicals. Also, he’s written for popular children’s shows, and cartoons including Courage the Cowardly, Codename: Kids Next Door, The Backyardigans, The Wonder Pets, and Beavis and Butthead.

Aronson attended Princeton University. He counts several plays by Shakespeare, Looney Tunes, and The Brothers Grimm among his influences. Billy Aronson is a co-creator of Peg + Cat for PBS Kids, and is co-founder of 9ate7 Productions, with Jennifer Oxley.

Learn more about his playwriting, television work, and  here.

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Host: Rocco Staino | Executive Producer: Julie Gribble | Producer: Kassia Graham

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5. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan -- story full of distinct voices (ages 9-12)

Many of my students are drawn to realistic fiction because it gives them a chance to immerse themselves in someone else's story. In fact, a recent study has shown that reading literary fiction helps improve readers' ability to understand what others are thinking and feeling (see this article in Scientific American).

Laura Shovan's novel in verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, is full of distinct voices that prompt us to think about different students' unique perspectives. It's one my students are enthusiastically recommending to one another.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
by Laura Shovan
Wendy Lamb / Random House, 2016
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Eighteen fifth graders keep poetry notebooks chronicling their year, letting readers peak into their thoughts, hopes and worries as the year progresses. Fifth grade is a momentous year for many students, as the finish elementary school and look ahead to all the changes that middle school brings. This year is particularly full of impending change for Ms. Hill's class because their school will be demolished at the end of the year to make way for a new supermarket.

Through these short poems, Shovan captures the distinct, unique voices of each student. The class is diverse in many ways--racially, ethnically, economically, and more. At first, I wondered if I would really get to know the different students since each page focused on a different child; however, as the story developed, I really did get a sense of each individual as well as the class as a whole. Shovan creates eighteen distinctive individuals--with personalities and backgrounds that we can relate to and envision. And these experiences shape how each individual reacts to the year.

I particularly love novels in verse because they allow readers a chance to see inside character's thoughts without bogging the narrative down in too much description. As researcher David Kidd said (in this Scientific American article), literary fiction prompts readers to think about characters: "we’re forced to fill in the gaps to understand their intentions and motivations.” This is exactly what ends up being the strength of Laura Shovan's novel.

The funniest thing, for me personally, has been the shocked look of many of my students when I show them this cover. You see, our school is called Emerson Elementary School. "This is a real book?!?!" they say, incredulously. I know my students will particularly like the way these students protest the plans to demolish their school, bringing their protest to the school board.

As you can see in this preview on Google Books, this collection of poems slowly builds so readers get a sense of each student in Ms. Hill's fifth grade. The poetry feels authentic, never outshining what a fifth grader might write but always revealing what a fifth grader might really be thinking.

I highly recommend the audiobook for The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. The diverse cast of Recorded Books brings alive each character. This would make a great summer listen, or a great read-aloud for the beginning of the school year.

The review copy for the audiobook was purchased from Audible and for the print copy it was borrowed from my local 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

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6. Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! by Melanie Walsh

Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! by Melanie Walsh

| Storytime Standouts

Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! by Melanie Walsh

Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! written and illustrated by Melanie Walsh
Picture book about a child with Asperger’s Syndrome published by Candlewick Press

Written from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome

, Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! is a cheerful, positive and reassuring picture book that explains how Isaac’s thoughts and behavior sometimes differ from those of his friends. Well-suited to preschool-age children or early primary classroom use, bright, bold illustrations are visually appealing and will be easily seen and interpreted in a group or classroom setting.

Friends, family members and classmates will discover that children with Asperger’s Syndrome may have different interests, energy levels and ways of interacting than others do. For example, they may like to bounce rather than play team sports or they may fidget with a toy in order to relax and listen in class. They may have difficulty understanding jokes or some in social situations. Insights are shared matter-of-factly, with respect for both the Asperger’s child and a child who does not have Asperger’s.

Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers! spread

Using meaningful examples and fun illustrations, Walsh helps young readers to understand that children with Asperger’s Syndrome have strengths including a great memory for facts, curiosity and a heightened awareness of sounds. She also shows the special relationship an Asperger’s child can have with pets and family members.

A great addition to a personal or professional library, end papers include a list of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome links.

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! at Amazon.com

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! at Amazon.ca

Read our reviews of other picture books about Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

Storytime Standouts Shares Asperger Syndrome and Autism Picture Books

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    7. Best Friends for Frances

    Best Friends for Frances. Russell Hoban. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. 1969/1994. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

    First sentence: It was a fine summer morning, so Frances took out her bat and ball. "Will you play ball with me?" said her little sister, Gloria. "No," said Frances. "You are too little." Gloria sat down and cried. Frances walked over to her friend Albert's house, singing a song: Sisters that are much too small To throw or catch or bat a ball Are really not much good at all, Except for crying.

    Premise/plot: It was easy for Frances to dismiss Gloria as an unworthy playmate, but when Albert (and later Harold) dismiss Frances, well, Frances learns that sometimes a sister can be a friend--a best friend. It's summer and Frances loves to play with her friends. One day Albert rejects Frances because it's his "wandering" day. And the next day, Albert and Harold reject Frances because she's a girl, and girls can't play baseball as well as boys. But Frances is not to be stopped. Even if it means playing with her little sister, she'll show Albert what is what! If Albert wants a no-girls-allowed club, then she'll start a no-boys-allowed club.
    "Do you want to play ball?"
    "All right," said Gloria.
    "If any boys come, they can't play," said Frances, "and I think I will be your friend now."
    "How can a sister be a friend?" said Gloria.
    "You'll see," said Frances.
    "For frogs and ball and dolls?"
    "Yes," said Frances.
    "And will you show me how to print my name?" said Gloria.
    "Yes," said Frances.
    "Then you will be my best friend," said Gloria. "Will it just be today, or longer?"
    "Longer," said Frances. (20-21)
    My thoughts: I do like this one. But Frances isn't always nice in this one. Then again neither is Albert. Or Harold. The only one that is nice all the time is Gloria.

    Text: 3 out of 5
    Illustrations: 4 out of 5
    Total: 7 out of 10

    © 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    8. Friends Stick By You When You Run Into Hot Water, or Out of It

    by Sally Matheny
    Friends Stick By You When You're In or Out of Hot Water
    Occasionally, I underestimate the amount of help I'll need for a project, and later find myself struggling. 

    When our first daughter got married, I thought it wouldn’t take long to clean a reception venue designated for 155 people, especially if friends chipped in on the effort.

    My assumption was wrong on two accounts. I assumed people would stay and help with the clean up. Our friends assumed we had a clean-up team in place, and since they weren’t asked to stay, they did not. It was my fault. 

    Plus, I should have realized if I find a home for five difficult to clean, then a space for 155 would be challenging! Nonetheless, God was merciful and we completed the job with a few family members.

    But, when our second daughter began planning her wedding reception, I knew we had to do things a bit differently. My aches and pains had increased greatly in the three years since the last wedding. I’d need more assistance on all fronts.

    Three relatives and a friend were coaxed into helping decorate for the reception while another friend and I worked on floral centerpieces and bouquets. Two more families helped with the baking. My wonderful mother took charge of pressing all the table linens. Thankful for my dear friends and family, I thought I had all the reception bases covered. Right down to the servers and a clean-up crew.

    Three servers were designated for the buffet and two other people were in charge of clearing dirty dishes from the tables. Two more delegates were to run the rented china and glassware through the commercial dishwasher. Impressed with my planning, I imagined a beautiful, snag-free reception.

    Eh. Even the best-laid tables can go awry.

    Don’t get me wrong. It was a beautiful reception. The food tasted delicious and the fellowship delightful. However, pretty early in the evening we were in “hot water.”

    Even though we tried to think through all the logistics in advance, we still encountered a few hurdles. It soon became evident the salad bar and the buffet line would go more smoothly and move quicker with more servers.

    The dish-washers were needed to help serve food. And later, the original food servers and the two collectors of dirty plates were desperately needed to help the initial two dish-washers.

    Apparently, after the meal began, the facility ran out of hot water.
    Then, after a few loads, the commercial dishwasher broke down. My diligent plan for a smooth evening was in a heap of “hot water” for the lack thereof.

    Even the best-laid tables can go awry.

    However, if my friends panicked, I didn’t see it. No one made the comment, “You said I’d only have to collect dirty plates—no one said I’d have to wash them.” No one high-tailed it out the back door. In fact, they didn’t even tell me about the simmering situation in the kitchen until the evening was almost over.

    After the guests gave the bride and groom a sparkler send-off, we gave our guests good-bye hugs and wished them well. Then, I went to the kitchen to see if we were in knee-deep or barely treading water. 

    To my surprise, my sweet friends—all of them—the catering crew, servers, dish-washers, and plate collectors were in there smiling and chatting away. They rinsed what food they could from the plates and stacked them for washing later, when the hot water hopefully returned. I knew they had to be exhausted. I hugged each of them and told them how much I appreciated them. 

    They only had one request—wedding cake! 

    My friends could have left, but they stayed. They worked with what they had to make the best of a tough situation. I love my friends. Moreover, I must add my love for my family as well.

    When I left the kitchen, there they were, already busy clearing and breaking down tables. And not just the ones I had asked in advance to stay and help. God opened the floodgates. Grandparents, siblings, cousins. My heart swelled with gratitude. Not just for the family and friends God has blessed me with, but especially the ones with whom He has blessed my daughter and her new husband.

    One of my greatest joys was watching their friends. Most of them had a one-to-three hour drive ahead of them and it was already almost nine o’clock in the evening. When I came out of the kitchen to help clear tables, there stood a troop of college kids and recent graduates. I never expected them to stay. 

    God always takes my assumptions and uses them to teach me. Sometimes He teaches me through the tough love of consequences. Other times it's lessons of mercy and grace. But one thing I'm learning is to trust Him with all things. 

    “What can we do to help?” one of my daughter's friends asked.

    Knowing some had a good distance to travel; I told them they needed to get on the road. They weren’t lightly responding out of politeness.

    One said, “But we’re not going to do that. We’re fine. We want to help. So tell us what we can do.”

    They wouldn’t budge until I began sharing ways they could help.
    That’s when this mama’s heart was blessed beyond measure. Just as God had led me to choose wonderful friends, so too had He led my daughter.

    It's encouraging to know your child has friends
    who will stick by her even when the days
    aren't so sweet.

    It’s encouraging to know my daughter and her husband have the caliber of friends who will stick by them in the future. When they run into hot water…or out of it, whatever the case may be.

    0 Comments on Friends Stick By You When You Run Into Hot Water, or Out of It as of 4/25/2016 9:56:00 PM
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    9. Sticks and Stones - a review

    Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper

    Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2016
    (Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley)

     "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

    This adage has been told to innumerable children, but in Elyse's case, words do hurt. Elyse has a rare condition called cognadjvisiblitis, or CAV. When she hears nouns or adjectives describing her, they appear as black words on her arms and legs.

    In elementary school, Elyse could count on her best friend Jeg, the kindness of young children, and the assistance of teachers and school administrators to ensure that only positive words would appear on her skin, HAPPY, CUTE, SMART. These words were not only complimentary, they were non-irritating. Unkind words surfaced dark, large, and bold - causing extreme itching and discomfort.

    Middle school behaviors cannot be controlled so easily. First, she is dumped by her boyfriend, and then she loses Jeg to the cool girls clique. No one can ensure that only positive adjectives find their way to Elyse's ears. It's no wonder that she takes to wearing long sleeves and pants, regardless of the season.

    Things begin getting both better and worse as Elyse follows the advice she finds written on mysterious, but mostly encouraging, blue notes. The notes exhort her to compete for the school's coveted position of class trip Explorer Leader, but the contest exposes her to social situations that aggravate her CAV. Her nervous mother takes her, yet again, to the doctor renowned for, but mostly ineffective in treating CAV,

         "People go to meetings, I said. "And take walks. It's not that crazy."

         Dr. Patel scooted closer to get a better look at my words. DUMB was still there. So were IDIOT, LOSER, STUPID, UNLOVABLE, WORTHLESS, and FREAK, the whole crew. They were going in all different directions, and some were bigger than others, but they were all thick, dark, mean, and itchy, and felt like ridiculously scratchy clothes-the ones that also have ridiculously scratchy tags-I couldn't ever take off. 

    While the postulate of a school choosing a class trip leader in reality-TV-style, seems a bit far-fetched, the underlying middle school drama rings true, and the book's unique premise of CAV will give readers pause for thought.

    Sticks and Stones offers more than just middle-school angst and coming-of-age experiences. Similar to the lives of real children who deal with name-calling everyday, Elyse's story is not one of overcoming this adversity, but of living with it. Elyse's story is a reminder that not all things can be made "right," but we should all take care that we do not contribute to making things "wrong."

    (An added bonus: it's a mystery - who is writing those blue notes?)

    This is a debut novel for former teacher and school librarian, Abby Cooper.  She's off to a great start.  Look for this one in July, or pre-order a copy.

    0 Comments on Sticks and Stones - a review as of 4/25/2016 8:16:00 AM
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    10. Bee & Me by Alison Jay

    beemecover A hopeful tale of friendship and flower power, Alison Jay‘s wonderful wordless picture book Bee & Me opens with a young girl startled by a buzzing bee.

    No-one likes to be stung and it looks like the bee might be all over before the story’s even begun. Fortunately, a crack in the door of curiosity and bravery opens up the way for an joint adventure bringing plants and flowers across the grey city, delivering beauty and benefits to all city inhabitants, whether honey bees or humans.

    Variations on similar theme may be familiar from The Bee Movie, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown or perhaps Big City Bees written by Maggie de Vries and illustrated by Renné Benoit but what Jay brings afresh to this optimistic, reassuring and galvanising story are the glorious details in her beautiful and textured illustrations, often using multiple panels per page, thereby blurring the boundaries between picture book and graphic novel.

    Many layers of storytelling run parallel to the main plot. Repeat readings will lead you into the lives of several city inhabitants, when you peer through apartment windows, watching what happens as time passes and the plans of the girl and her bee blossom. It made me think of a recent discussion I had with author Phil Earle, in relation to his fabulous Storey Street series, where he talked about his firm belief that there is story worth hearing behind every door (or in Jay’s case, through every window). A further strand in Jay’s fabric of storytelling follows the growth of friendship between the girl and another young resident in her block of flats, as if distilling how nature can save us from loneliness and make us feel re-connected once more.

    Bee & Me 9781910646052 spd 6
    Worldwide, bees are in decline. Because of their role as pollinators, we need bees, and bees – facing the threat they now do – need us. This upbeat, optimistic, can-do example of how children are able to make a real and beneficial difference to their world will hopefully inspire a new generation prepared to make a difference.


    Enthused by Bee & Me the girls and I set about creating lots of Bee Seed Tape to give away to all our fellow allotmenteers. Seed Tape is a strip of biodegradable material with seeds already imprinted in it, evenly spaced and super easy to use for speedy planting.

    First we dyed (organic) toilet paper, spraying it with natural food colouring.


    When the paper was dry, we stuck on seeds using a thick flour/water paste (as thick as possible, so that the moisture in it didn’t encourage the seeds to germinate). We chose to use seeds for sunflower and borage because bees love these plants and the seeds are large enough to handle easily.


    Once our seed tape was dry we turned it into bees. Our bee body (which was designed to double up as a plant label) was made from a lollipop stick on which the seed types written on it.


    The seed tape was wrapped around the lollipop and held in place with some black ribbon to create bee stripes. Ping-pong balls and pipecleaners were used to create bee heads, and instructions for planting the seed tape were stuck onto black cardboard wings (you can download the template here if you’d like to use ours) threaded on to the black ribbon.


    Now it was time to share and plant our bee-friendly seeds so off to the allotment we went:


    Here’s the seed tape rolled out before we covered it up with soil.


    I don’t think I’ve ever seen such fun seed labels before!

    A bit of water and now we just need to wait!


    Whilst making our Bee Seed Tape we listened to:

  • Shakin’ up The Pollen by Scribble Monster
  • Busy Bee sung by Arthur Askey – a favourite of mine from when I was little!
  • Bees, Butterflies & Bugs by Sir Jerry
  • Bee Bom by Anthony Newley
  • Monty Python’s Eric the Half-a-Bee

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading Bee & Me include:

  • Using out-of-date seeds to create mosaic artwork. Seeds and seed pods come in the most spectacular range of shapes and sizes and are great fun for using as an art material.
  • Going on an after-dark walk around the neighbourhood to look in windows. Can you spot, as in Bee & Me, someone reading a book? Someone painting a picture? Someone knitting, (extra points for these) tossing a pancake or writing a story on a typewriter? What tales could be behind these glimpses into the lives of others?
  • Adopting a small public space in your street (perhaps by a verge or under a tree) and planting some flowers or herbs to brighten up the lives, not just of bees, but also of your neighbours? Be inspired by Todmorden’s community herb gardens or London’s Guerilla Gardeners (with examples from around the world).

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

  • How we made a bee hotel and read Whose Garden Is It? by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Jane Dyer
  • How we threw seed bombs around our neighbourhood and read Mabel’s Magical Garden By Paula Metcalf
  • The day we planted meatballs instead of seeds, in celebration of Findus Plants Meatballs by Sven Nordqvist
  • beetapeextras

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

    1 Comments on Bee & Me by Alison Jay, last added: 4/25/2016
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    11. Picture Book Roundup - kind, find, and confined

    It's been a while since I've done a picture book roundup.  Here are three that struck my fancy:

    Kind. This boy is the best!

    Have you seen Elephant? 

    Written and illustrated by David Barrow.
    Gecko Press, 2016

    A kind young boy plays hide-and-seek with his elephant friend and takes care to keep the game going, despite the fact that his friend is a very poor hider! Have you seen Elephant? is bright and cheerful and funny, and above all - kind. This is the first book I've seen from Gecko Press and the first by David Barrow. I love it!

    Confined? Can the colortamer catch them all?

    Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color

    Written and illustrated by Julia Denos
    Balzer Bray, 2016

    Bright, bold, and expressive, Swatch is a color tamer - trapping and using colors in the most fantastic of ways. A bold and fearless artist, no color had escaped her artistic eye ... no color but one,
    "Morning came, and there it was, fast fading and fierce, the King of All Yellows, blooming in the sidewalk crack in spite of the shadows. Swatch was ready .... At last, Yellowest Yellow would be hers."
    Or would it?

    This is the first book that Julia Denos has written as well as illustrated. I would love this book even if my favorite color were not the hero of the story!

    Find. Where is that cat?

    Spot, the Cat 

    Illustrated by Henry Cole
    Little Simon, 2016

    A beautifully detailed, wordless book - more than just a seek-and-find, it follows the path of an adventurous cat in the city and the boy who wants to find him. Join the young boy and search the city for Spot, the cat.

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    12. Booked--Kwame Alexander scores again with this novel in verse (ages 10-14)

    I am ridiculously excited to share Booked with kids, friends and librarians. Kwame Alexander hits the sweet spot again, this time scoring a goal with his mix of soccer, family, first crushes, friendship and poetry.

    by Kwame Alexander
    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
    Your local library
    ages 10-14
    *best new book*
    Nick loves soccer, whether it's playing futsol with his best friend, dreaming of playing professionally, or staying up late playing FIFA online. What Nick hates are books. More specifically, he hates that his dad makes him read his own dictionary of unusual words.

    Kwame Alexander has crafted a novel that is fast to read, full of wordplay and humor, and leaves you thinking. I love the way he captures the bantering between Nick and his mom, as well as between Nick and his best friend Coby. Right from the beginning, he shows how kids play with words in smart, sophisticated ways. My students love telling jokes, and will love seeing if their friends get this. Just see if they see why this is such a funny way for Nick to introduce his dad, the linguistics professor:
    "In the elementary school spelling bee
    when you intentionally
    misspelled heifer,
    he almost had a cow."
    As Nick struggles with his parents' impending divorce, bullying at school and figuring out how to talk to the girl of his dreams, he discovers that words and poetry can actually be cool. A great follow up to The Crossover!

    Want to read more? Check out this terrific NPR interview with Kwame from this weekend:
    How To Get Kids Hooked On Books? 'Use Poetry. It Is A Surefire Way'
    -- NPR radio interview, April 3, 2016
    I'm so jazzed to share this that I've already placed an order for 15 books (!!) with my favorite local bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's, and I will be sharing these with friends tomorrow. I hope to share soon how kids respond to Booked. My sense is that Booked will resonate more with middle school students than elementary students, but I do think many 5th graders will enjoy and relate to Nick's struggles.

    The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 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

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    13. The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat

    invisiblecatcover Utterly bonkers and enormously fun for all that, full of wackiness, crazy inventions, tight corners and one seriously big (and invisible) problem to solve, The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat by Paul Tobin (@PaulTobin) with illustrations by Thierry Lafontaine (@ThierryArt) has had me and my eleven year old giggling with delight.

    It’s a madcap tale of one bright Nate Bannister, who – rather admirably – makes a conscious effort to keep his life interesting; every Friday the 13th he chooses to do three things which are either a challenge or likely to bring some adventure. This year this includes creating an enormous, invisible cat who does indeed make life rather more exciting… by going on the rampage.

    Fortunately Nate has a loyal friend (indeed, his only friend), Delphine, and together they try all sorts of things to stop the crazy cat from destroying their neighbourhood. Inventions galore and smart thinking abound, but it’s not at all straight forward, because the Red Death Tea Society (ominous baddies of the most evil variety, who just happen to have astonishing tea brewing skills) are set on preventing Nate and Delphine from saving the day.

    This riotous book, ideal for 9-12s, celebrates being a little bit different and being curious and clever. Brilliantly, it does this with a great dose of silliness and laughter, so it always feels exhilarating and never sanctimonious. Pacey, eccentric, highly imaginative and with characters and a story line likely to appeal to both boys and girls, I’d suggest How to Capture an Invisible Cat to anyone who loves off-the-wall adventure and thinking outside the box.

    There’s something very mysterious about the Red Death Tea Society and so we couldn’t resist having a go at making up some tea they might enjoy. We gathered our tea making ingredients; a mixture of warm spices (cinammon, cardomum, cloves, star anise), fresh herbs (rosemary, sage mint), citrus zest (lemon and orange) and sugar lumps, plus small muslin squares to make the teabags (alternatively you could make teabags out of coffee filters using these instructions, or be inspired by this tea bag themed pinterest board).


    Deciding on tea flavours was a bit like mixing up magic potions.


    Once the flavours were carefully selected, the muslin squares (about 12cm long on each side) were tied up with red thread, and a tea bag label was stapled onto the thread (using a knot to hold it in place).


    M designed the logo for the teabags, but if you’d like to use them you can download them here (pdf).

    Once all our teabags were ready, we made boxes for them:


    (Again, if you’d like to re-use the logo, here it is in a large size, idea for using on boxes.)

    We filled some our boxes up (you’d better watch out, in case you find one on your doorstep!)…


    But we also had to brew some tea for ourselves:


    And of course, a cup of tea without a biscuit is no good, so we made some invisible cat cookies.


    Yes, you may be able to see them, but this is only because they contain that magical invisible cat de-cloaking device (spoiler alert): peanut butter. (Here’s the recipe we used.)

    Whilst making tea and eating peanut butter cat biscuits we listened to:

  • Scat Cat by Eric Herman and the Invisible Band
  • Peanut Butter by The Liverbirds (do watch this!)
  • Invisible Friends by Dog On Fleas

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading How to Capture an Invisible Cat include:

  • Making inventions! You could design them using carbon paper to get the look (that old fashioned blue ink), or in 3D with lots of junk salvaged from your recycling bins.
  • Playing around with invisibility. I’ve gathered some crafts and activities which explore invisibility here.
  • Thinking of three things which would make your life more interesting and attempting to achieve one of them! They don’t need to be quite as crazy as Nate’s ideas – you could decide as a family to learn a new language or skill, try a new cafe or just asking your local librarian for a book recommendation. And if you want to know when all the Friday the 13ths are – here’s a handy table.

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

  • Picture books about tea parties
  • A rather less ominous cat/tea party (how to make a cat cafe)
  • A selection of family friendly books about tinkering – great for inspiring inventions!
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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher and this post is the final part of a blog tour that’s been travelling around the world:

    Monday, March 21 — Daddy Mojo (US)

    Tuesday, March 22 — Nerdy Book Club (US)

    Wednesday, March 23 — Jenuine Cupcakes (US)

    Thursday, March 24 — This Kid Reviews Books (US)

    Friday, March 25 — Fiction Fascination (UK)

    Monday, March 28 — Gobblefunked (ANZ)

    Tuesday, March 29 — MumtoFive.com (ANZ)

    Wednesday, March 30 — Playing by the Book (UK)

    InvisibleCat_TourBanner (00000002)

    4 Comments on The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat, last added: 3/30/2016
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    14. Happy Feline Friday!

    Happy Feline Friday! Steve of Burnt Food Dude started Feline Friday. A fun meme that is simple to join and fun to post.

    All you have to do is post a picture, drawing, cartoon, or video of a cat, then visit Steve's blog, go to the top of the menu bar and click on the Feline Friday Code.    
    Paste the code under your cat picture, add you name and link and join in the fun. It's a great way to meet other bloggers and see a variety of adorable cats and kittens being themselves. You can even post a photo of your own feline when he/she is not looking. :) Have a spectacular day! 

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    15. Mango and Bambang: Tapir All at Sea

    mangobambangcoverBooks for newly fluent independent readers often have great pace (to entice just one more page turn) and lovely characterization (encouraging growing kids to explore their own unfurling wings), but books for this age group with turns of phrases and fine, fine threads of words which make your heart sing are quite unusual.

    And yet, Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea written by Polly Faber (@Pollylwh) and illustrated by Clara Vulliamy (@ClaraVulliamy) has all of this, plus buckets more. Illustrated on every spread with immense charm, humour and warmth, and with an overall design to make small hands hug it close to their heart, this little hardback is everything you’d dream of, if trying to come up with something to foster an association of sheer joy and enchantment with books.

    Mango Allsorts and her best friend Bambang (a friend who just happens to be a tapir) are looking for a new hobby, and would you believe it, but it turns out that after failures with ballet and baking, flamenco dancing hits the spot. 

    Bambang, however, doesn’t get the chance to attend many lessons before an escapade involving climbing trees (there’s nothing a tapir can’t do when it comes to snaffling cake), a diamond engagement ring and a devious neighbour result in Bambang being put behind bars, not just once, but twice! Will the friends be able to use Bambang’s new dancing prowess and Mango’s clever problem-solving skills to save the day? Or could it be that their very partnership is put in peril as a result of Bambang’s newly discovered skill?

    Joyous, open-hearted and very funny, these tales of Mango and Bambang are simply brilliant. A charismatic exploration of friendship, with a dash of quirkiness and oodles of wit, along with endearing illustrations (reminding me of Joyce Lankester Brisley and her Milly Molly Mandy books) that really draw out the beauty of the stories, Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea is utterly delightful. My girls and I are really hoping that this second set of tales featuring Mango and Bambang won’t be the last.


    If you spend any time at all hanging out with Clara Vulliamy you’ll very quickly learn that she is the Queen of Secret Haberdashery Supplies. I know of no other author or illustrator who has such an eye for beautiful ribbons, notions and buttons. With this in mind the girls and I wanted to create something Mango and Bambang-y which Clara herself (and, of course, Polly too) might enjoy making and thus we came up with the idea of designing flamenco costumes. This quickly developed into puppets of Mango, Bambang and friends all dress up in flamenco finery.

    Generous as ever, Clara allowed the girls and me to adapt some of the images from Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea to create paper dolls which we cut out and stuck on cardboard (you can download them here as a single pdf file).


    Then we designed our flamenco costumes, colouring in the dolls and adding ribbons and trims, flowers and fans.



    Finally our friends were ready to dance!


    And dance we all did:

    Whilst making our puppets and dancing with them we listened to:

    Other activities which might work well alongside reading Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea include:

    • Making a sailor’s cap like Bambang wears. Here’s a video tutorial (just swap the blue paint for red!)
    • Baking sticky ginger cake. My very favourite sticky ginger cake comes from Argos Bakery in Stromness, but as that’s a bit far for many of us to travel, here’s a recipe from Delia, and another from Nigella
    • Creating your own Museum of the Unusual. Of course, I wouldn’t encourage you to be as mean as Dr Cynthia Prickly-Posset, but starting a collection of things you find weird and wonderful (without resorting to stealing them from your neighbours!) is a fun idea. Maybe your museum will be full of strange shaped stones, or bizarre things you’ve found down the back of the sofa… If you’re looking for some display ideas for your museum, you might find inspiration in past museums we’ve created here, here and here


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

    3 Comments on Mango and Bambang: Tapir All at Sea, last added: 3/17/2016
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    16. The Tortoise and the Soldier : A Story of Courage and Friendship in World War I written and illustrated by Michael Foreman

    It's the early 1950s and office boy Trevor Roberts just wants to be a full-fledged reporter for his hometown paper, the Lowestoft Journal, but so far, he only get reporting jobs once in a blue moon, and usually not very interesting.  One March morning, Trevor is sent out to see if Mr. Friston's tortoise has woken up from his winter hibernation.  Little did Trevor know that that would be the beginning of a long friendship and a wonderful article for the newspaper.

    Slowly, over a series of weekends, Trevor peddles out to the two converted railroad cars that Henry Frisson's lives in and hears the story of how he acquired his tortoise, whom he named Ali Pasha, during World War I.  Told in a series of flashbacks and using his saved wartime memorabilia, including his diary, Henry recalls wanting to see the world as a boy, and joining the Royal Navy hoping to realize his dreams.  But shortly after, WWI breaks out and Henry's ship, HMS Implacable, heads straight for Gallipoli.  There, Henry finds himself on shore and in the trenches, charged with the duty of removing wounded and dead soldiers from the battlefield, ironically in the company of the Turkish soldiers they were fighting with.

    It is in the midst of fighting one day that Henry is knocked down into a shallow crater by a shell blast, followed by a hard object hitting his head.  It turned out to be a tortoise whom Henry befriends while waiting for the fighting to end.  Henry decides to rescue the tortoise and sneaks it on to the HMS Implacable, hiding it in his battleship station, the Number Two Gun turret.  Because Henry found his tortoise on the Gallipoli Peninsula, which was part of the Ottoman Empire then, he decides to name it Ali Pasha, after one of its rulers.

    From Gallipoli, the HMS Implacable heads to the Suez Canal, and eventually back to England.  And Ali Pasha go home with Henry, where the two lived out their days together.

    I always know that when I pick up a Micheal Foreman book, I am going to like the story and the artwork equally and The Tortoise and the Soldier is no exception.  Here is a wonderful, lifelong story that begins on the battlefield of one of the worst campaigns in WWI and continues of over 70 years.

    And though the center of the story is about Henry and Ali Pasha, there is a lot of story relating to Henry's family, his school days, his brothers fighting in Europe, and mostly centrally, his relationship with the other sailors assigned to Number Two Gun turret.  Foreman subtly shows the reader how important it is to be able to not just get along with those who live in such close proximity to one, but also how much better it is if you really like each other and work together.  As Henry tells Trevor, his shipmates would bring Ali Pasha treats from their own meals in the hope that he would bring them luck.

    Perhaps the best message a young reader can take away from this story, is that the enemy, in this case the soldiers from Turkey, are really at bottom no different from Henry and his mates, a important discovery he makes during a short cease fire to collect the dead.

    This is a very pleasant story, one told for the most part with a light touch, but make no mistake about it, Foreman doesn't sugar-coat what happens in war, on the sea and in the battle field.  Recognizing oneself in the enemy, and realizing how deadly war is are both good reasons for kids to read this book.  But so is the enduring friendship between man and tortoise.

    The Tortoise and the Soldier is historical fiction based on the lives of the real Henry Friston and Ali Pasha.  Foreman includes information, photos and other artifacts about both man and tortoise, as well as his own personal story knowing Henry during WWII.   But it is Foreman's own watercolor illustrations that really enhance and give depth to the tale he is telling:
    Henry meets Ali Pasha
    This is a wonderful story that is sure to appeal to many middle grade readers.

    This book is recommended for readers age 9+
    This book was borrowed from the NYPL

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    17. Wonder Woman at Super Hero High, by Lisa Yee

    This super cutie book showed up in the post the other day, and I promptly snagged it to take it home. I constantly on the look-out for all things super hero, and when there is a girl power theme, I'm all for it.  Plus, Lisa Yee?  I'm all in.

    Wonder Woman has lived on Paradise Island with her mother her whole life, and she has been happy there. But Wonder Woman actually goes behind Hippolyta's back and applies to Super Hero High. It's not that Wonder Woman wants to leave home and her mother, but she does want to spread her wings and figure out who she is.

    Wonder Woman is ecstatic when she finds out she is accepted, and is even more thrilled when her mother lets her go.

    The thing is, Wonder Woman hasn't exactly been around the block. Have you ever met someone who takes everything literally?  Well, that is Wonder Woman to a "t"!  When she is told to get a clue she goes looking for one! Imagine moving from Paradise Island to being roomies with vlog obsessed Harley Quinn?

    Permeating the school are the regular high school cliquey concerns, but what is on the minds of everyone is the upcoming team selection for the elite Super Triathlon Team.  Whispers around the hallways say that Wonder Woman was recruited for this very task, and that she's a shoe in.  Wonder Woman is starting to believe it too, because someone is leaving her nasty notes encouraging her to leave the school.  Can Wonder Woman live up to her mother's standards while figuring out the ropes of high school?

    Readers meet so many characters along the including Beast Boy, Bumblebee, Star Sapphire, Cheetah, Frost, Golden Glider, Katana, Green Lantern, Red Tornado, Crazy Quilt, Hawkgirl among others.  I was grateful for an internet search or two to figure out who is who.  Perhaps a back-matter listing of characters and attributes would be helpful.

    Overall, this is a super fun start to a series that will fill a gap.  While the characters are over the top in a comic book way, their larger than life characteristics obviously fit the occasion.  Even though the books are branded as DC SuperHero Girls, boys will pick up these titles as well.  The pages are filled with plenty of action and drama, and I can't wait to see what comes next!

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    18. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle | Book Review

    A Wrinkle in Time is a classic novel from award-winning novelist Madeleine L'Engle.

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    19. 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.


    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.


    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.


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    20. 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

    0 Comments on The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett, 224 pp, RL 4 as of 1/29/2016 3:54:00 AM
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    21. 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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    22. 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


    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.


    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.

    Website (Mike Curato) | Website (Little Elliot) | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

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    23. #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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    24. #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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    25. An invitation to the ball – a guest post by Katherine Woodfine

    Today sees the publication of one of the books my girls and I have most eagerly been awaiting this spring – The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth by Katherine Woodfine. It’s the second novel featuring two terrific, daring and delightful Edwardian detectives, Sophie and Lil, as they solve a new mystery involving East End gangs, sparkling jewellery with a curse upon it, and powerful and dangerous aristocrats. Masters of disguise, Sophie and Lil get to pass themselves off as debutantes enjoying their first season in London’s high society, providing plenty of opportunities for dressing up and a little bit of mischievous fun at the same time as cracking a puzzle that’s been a problem even if Scotland Yard.

    It’s with great pleasure that I today welcome the book’s author, Katherine Woodfine to share with us some of the background information she learned about social events like afternoon tea and fancy dress balls whilst researching The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth.


    “The London Season was jam-packed with parties, balls, events and dinners – so much so that many a debutante found herself completely exhausted by the frenzy of social activity! In The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth we follow Veronica and her debutante friends to some of these events – from garden parties to afternoon tea gatherings, grand dinner parties, and of course, coming-out-balls.

    Balls were an especially important part of the London Season. They usually began later in the evening – guests might have already attended a dinner party or another event. During the Season, balls were typically held in grand London houses, where guests would dance, eat a delicious supper, and perhaps stroll out onto a terrace to cool off between dances. 

    On arrival at these balls, young ladies would be given a dance programme: a small card listing all the evening’s dances, with a tiny pencil attached. They then had to wait patiently by the side of the dance-floor with their chaperones, hoping for a young man to approach and ask them to dance – young ladies were never allowed to ask men to dance with them! He would then write his name in the appropriate space on her dance-card. Most debutantes would dread being left to sit on the sidelines, and their great hope would be to fill their dance-card up as much possible before the dancing actually began.

    A dance card to fill up at the ball! Illustration © Júlia Sardà

    A dance card to fill up at the ball!
    Illustration © Júlia Sardà

    The most important of all the dances was the supper-dance, because after this, a young lady’s partner would take her through to have supper, meaning that they would have chance to spend more time together. But even this was not really an opportunity to talk privately with a potential suitor: even whilst chatting over supper, a debutante knew that her chaperone was always watching! The sharp eyes of Edwardian high society were always on the look-out for even the slightest signs of improper behaviour.

    As well as more traditional balls, the Edwardians enjoyed themed dances such as the Royal Caledonian Ball, where men dressed in Highland attire and everyone danced Scottish reels. They also loved fancy-dress balls – though their costumes are perhaps a little different to those we might wear at a fancy-dress party today!

    In The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, Veronica’s coming-out-ball has a fancy dress theme, which gives Sophie and Lil the chance to disguise themselves and go undercover for some investigation amongst London’s society set. Here they have a chance to see a grand Edwardian ball for themselves – but it doesn’t take them long to discover that they are not the only people at the ball who have secrets to hide…”


    A little bit of glamour, lots of intrigue, excitement, quick thinking, confident heroines – all of these are wonderful ingredients in The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth. Thankyou Katherine for creating such enjoyable and thrilling stories to share. Our only problem is that now the long wait for the third book in the series beings…

  • Here’s Playing by the Book’s review of the Sophie and Lil’s first adventure, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow
  • Follow Katherine on Twitter @followtheyellow
  • Find out more about Katherine on her website: http://katherinewoodfine.co.uk/
  • Follow Katherine’s blog: http://followtheyellow.co.uk/
  • 0 Comments on An invitation to the ball – a guest post by Katherine Woodfine as of 2/24/2016 7:40:00 PM
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