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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 7,833
1. Koko's Kitten

Koko's Kitten. Francine Patterson. Photographs by Ronald H. Cohn. 1985. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Koko's full name is Hanabi-Ko, which is Japanese for Fireworks Child.

Premise/plot: Koko's Kitten is a nonfiction picture book for elementary-aged readers. Though the book is called "Koko's Kitten," the picture book biography (of a gorilla) tells much more than just that one little snippet of her life. It tells of how Koko was/is the subject of a special project, how she started learning sign language, the special bonds she's formed with the humans in her life, etc. The climax of this one, is, of course, how she came to have a kitten of her own.

My thoughts: I remember learning about Koko in the 1980s. And I had fond but vague memories of Koko's Kitten. I remembered she had a kitten. A kitten named All Ball. I remembered that the kitten died and she wanted a new kitten. It turns out I remembered only *some* of this one. I still like it. But it is more wordy than I remembered.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. This Is My Dollhouse

This is My Dollhouse. Giselle Potter. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is my dollhouse. It used to be just a cardboard box. But then I painted bricks on the outside and divided the inside into rooms and made wallpaper with my markers and it became almost like a real little house.

Premise/plot: Readers meet an imaginative young girl who loves, loves, loves to play with a dollhouse she created by herself. Readers also meet her friend, Sophie, who has a store bought dollhouse. The two do work out how to play together despite their differences.

My thoughts: I could relate to this one! For me and my sister, it was Barbie doll houses. (She had one. I didn't. She had a *real* refrigerator, mine was out of blocks. She had a *real* bed, mine was an egg carton.) I loved the celebration of imagination AND friendship. I loved the focus on PLAY. Part of me does wonder if kids are allowed enough PLAY time and encouraged to PLAY creatively. I think there is a huge difference between PLAYING and playing on. (I want to play ON the computer. I want to play ON the ipad.)

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship

Louise and Andie. The Art of Friendship. Kelly Light. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Art, this is the BEST day ever! I'm so excited to meet our new neighbor. I hope she loves art too.

Premise/plot: Louise and Art are back in a second book! (Though the focus is on Louise and not her adorable, little brother Art!) Louise and Andie, the girl next door, become good friends quickly. But things don't stay wonderful long, soon, these two realize they have artistic differences. Can this friendship be saved?!

My thoughts: Loved this one. I did. I really loved it!!! It is so important--no matter your age--that you learn how to resolve conflict! I love seeing this friendship endure the stress of a big argument. I love that these two are able to work things out and really come to know and appreciate each other better.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Echo Echo

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Josee Masse. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]


First sentence: Ancient Greece: an age of marvelous myths, gone, but not forgotten. Heroes that rise and fall.

Premise/plot: This is the third collection of reverso poems by Marilyn Singer. The first two were: Mirror, Mirror and Follow, Follow. Both of those were fairy tale inspired poetry collections. This third book is inspired by Greek mythology.

So what is a reverso poem? A poem that is both read top to bottom, and bottom to top. The two 'versions' of the poem might tell completely different stories! Word order and punctuation can accomplish a LOT. Much more than I ever thought about!!! Most of the reverso poems in this collection have two narrators. For example, with "King Midas and His Daughter," the first poem is from the daughter's perspective (top to bottom), and the second poem (bottom to top) is from the King's perspective.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it as much as the previous volumes. But. It's been a few years since I've read them, and, I'd have to reread all three closer together to truly decide which is my favorite. I can tell you that I do like Greek mythology. (Thanks in small part to Edith Hamilton and good old Percy Jackson.)

I think my favorite poem might be "Pygmalion and Galatea."
Wondrous!/ How/ life-/ like! There is nothing in this world/ so perfect. Oh, these lips, hands, eyes!/ The artist/ is in love with/ his creation./ Let a heartfelt wish be granted,/ kind Venus:/ Only you could make this stone breathe!
Only you could make this stone breathe!/ Kind Venus/ let a heartfelt wish be granted./ His creation/ is in love with/ the artist./ Oh, these lips, hands, eyes--/ so perfect!/ There is nothing in this world/ like/ life! How/ wondrous!
*The book does have at least one typo. And I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't chosen to share it. I would have just auto-corrected in my head without thinking twice. "There is nothing is this world." I include it here just in case it hasn't been caught yet and fixed already for future editions.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Picture Book Monday with a review of A Warm Winter

I love seasonal picture books, because I love the way they connect us with what is going on outside at this particular moment. They connect us to a rhythm that is bigger than the one that many of humans seem to follow. Today's picture book takes us into a snowy, wintry landscape that is beautiful and stark. On the pages we meet a determined little mouse who is trying to collect firewood so that he can keep his family warm.

A Warm WinterA warm winter
Feridun Oral
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Minedition, 2015, 978-988-8341-29-0
One cold winter’s day Little Mouse leaves the comfort of his nest to go out into the snow to find some firewood. Trailing his red scarf, which is very long indeed for such a small animal, Little Mouse finds twigs, pinecones and sticks until he has a huge pile.
   Little Mouse ties up the pile with his scarf, rests a little and then he tries to pull his load across the snow. There is no way the pile is going to budge. Little Mouse is just too small to pull so much weight.
   Little Mouse asks his friend Rabbit for her help. Even when they “join forces” they cannot move the massive pile of firewood. The animals then ask Fox if they can borrow his sled, which he is quite happy to lend them. The firewood is piled on the sled and they all start pulling, but “the pile simply would not budge.”
   There is only one thing left to do; the animals are going to have to wake up Bear to ask for his help. The weather is getting bad and if they don’t get indoors soon everything will soon be buried.
   Bear, being a good fellow, is happy to help his friends, even though they woke him up. Together the four animals pull and pull until something very unexpected happens.
   This wonderful snowy picture book celebrates friendship, and shows to great effect how wonderful it is when people (or animals) work together to help one another.

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6. Peppa Pig and the Day at Snowy Mountain

Peppa Pig and the Day at Snowy Mountain. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Peppa and George wake up one day and look out the window. IT'S SNOWING! Hurrah! They can't wait to go outside.

Premise/plot: Peppa Pig and her family (Mummy, Daddy, and George) spend a LOVELY day on Snowy Mountain skiing, skating, and sledding. Adventures and misadventures are had by all. Many characters are there on the mountain too. (For example, Madame Gazelle, Miss Rabbit, etc.)

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. If you have seen an episode or two of the television series you know exactly what kind of comedy to expect. Peppa sings a song. Mummy and Daddy pig end up covered in snow. And there's a lot of laughing. For example, when Peppa and George want to sled down the mountain but don't have a sled, Peppa decides that DADDY PIG makes a good sled. Away they go.

Overall, this one is worth the read IF you already love Peppa Pig.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes

Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes. Jennifer L. Holm. Illustrated by Matthew Holm. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was Christmas Eve. And Babymouse was putting out cookies for Santa. Babymouse! Mmf. I couldn't wait! They looked so tasty! (Sigh.) I certainly hope Santa likes Christmas crumbs.

Premise/plot: This picture book takes readers BACK to a time to when Babymouse (the star of a very popular graphic novel series) was LITTLE. After Babymouse "accidentally" eats Santa's cookies, she decides to do something different...and instead of baking more cookies...she decides to bake him cupcakes. But will all go according to plan?

My thoughts: I love Babymouse. I do. I think this is a fun introduction to Babymouse for younger readers. As you might have guessed, Babymouse's imagination was ACTIVE even way back when.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Six Dots

Six Dots. Jen Bryant. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov. 2016. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: On the day I was born, Papa announced me to the village: "Here is my son Loo-Wee!"

Premise/plot: Six Dots is a picture book biography of Louis Braille. It is probably best for older readers because there is a lot of text.

Here's one of my favorite quotes, "I didn't want people to feel sorry for me. I just wanted to read and to write on my own, like everyone else."

The end papers include the braille alphabet, just not in braille. (It would have been great fun if the braille alphabet and the quote by Helen Keller, "We the blind, are as indebted to Louis Braille as mankind is to Gutenberg." had actually been in braille so readers--of all ages--could feel Braille for themselves.)

My thoughts: I liked this one. It is a very personal, compelling story.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. I Am Jane Goodall

I Am Jane Goodall. Brad Meltzer. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am Jane Goodall. On my first birthday, my father bought me a cuddly toy chimpanzee named Jubilee.

Premise/plot: I Am Jane Goodall is a picture book biography of Jane Goodall for young readers by Brad Meltzer. It uses text and speech bubbles throughout to give details of her life and her work. It is packed with plenty of information, and a great message or two.

My thoughts: I found this one slightly problematic. Not because of the text itself necessarily. But because of the illustrations. Jane Goodall is illustrated exactly the same throughout the book. It doesn't matter if she's one or eighty. As a one year old, she's got white hair pulled back in a ponytail. As an adult working in the jungle, she's the exact same height as when she's one and in a baby carriage. She's surrounded by ADULTS, during ADULT WORK, supposed to be one of the best, most qualified, most experienced in her field, and she's the size of a toddler. Why is this okay?!

That being said. I found the text interesting enough.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. The Lost Gift

The Lost Gift. Kallie George. Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. 2016. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One windy Christmas Eve, four little animals huddled on top of Merry Woods Hill. They were so excited, they barely felt the cold. They were waiting for Santa to fly by on his sleigh.

Premise/plot: Four animals (Rabbit, Deer, Squirrel, and Bird) are super-excited to see Santa fly past on his sleigh. But when Santa drops a present in the woods--by mistake--the animals have a decision to make. Will they find the present and help the present get delivered? Or will they let it be since it doesn't concern them?

My thoughts: I really loved this story! I loved how the animals worked together to get the present delivered to the new baby at the farm. I loved how glad the animals were to see the baby receive the present and open it! I loved how their thoughtfulness was rewarded by Santa, who always knows.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Lucky Lazlo

Lucky Lazlo. Steve Light. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Lazlo was in love. He bought a rose from the flower-seller. The last red one--how lucky!

Premise/plot: Lucky Lazlo follows the adventures--or misadventures--of a young man, Lazlo, in love. His love is starring in a play, Alice in Wonderland. In fact, she's the star of the show, Alice. The show is premiering on a Friday at the Peacock Theater. This picture book is a comedy. The simple act of buying a flower for the one you love becomes a chaotic, hilarious riot of a book. And it all starts with a CAT who snatches Lazlo's rose.

My thoughts: I thought this one was charming even before I read the author's note. But. After reading the author's note, it went from "really like" to LOVE. Light has taken a LOT of theater superstitions and woven together a story that uses just about all of them--for better or worse! And his illustrations are both simple and complex. His use of color is simple, understated. But his use of detail is very complex indeed.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Will's Words

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed The Way You Talk. Jane Sutcliffe. Illustrated by John Shelley. 2016. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Dear Reader: We have to talk. I have failed you. I set out to write a book about the Globe Theatre and its great storyteller, William Shakespeare. About how the man was an absolute genius with words and wove those words into the most brilliant and moving plays ever written. But that's just the trouble. You see, I wanted to tell you the story in my own words. But Will Shakespeare's words are there, too, popping up all over the place. It's not my fault. Really. Will's words are everywhere. They're bumping into our words all the time, and we don't even know it.

Premise/plot: Sutcliffe's picture book for older readers does a great job introducing readers to the sixteenth century theatre. And her emphasis on "Will's Words" shows the relevance Shakespeare still has in today's world. It is part narrative. But on each spread, she focuses on words--phrases--Shakespeare either invented himself (coined) OR kept alive (sustained) through the longevity of his plays. She uses the word or phrase in her narrative, and then explains it. Each word is explained and/or defined. Sometimes this includes "what it meant then, what it means now." But she also always includes: WHERE it came from--which play, which act, which scene.

Words include:

  • for goodness' sake
  • what's done is done
  • too much of a good thing
  • outbreak
  • excitement
  • of a sudden
  • wild goose chase
  • fashionable
  • money's worth
  • hurry
  • with bated breath
  • a sorry sight
  • heart's content
  • well behaved
  • send him packing
  • good riddance
  • love letter
  • laugh oneself into stitches
  • foul play
  • make your hair stand on end
  • cold-blooded
  • hot-blooded
  • bloodstained
  • dead as a doornail
  • seen better days
  • into thin air
  • amazement
  • the short and long of it
  • not budge an inch
  • eaten out of house and home
  • green-eyed monster
  • household words

My thoughts: I really loved this one. It is for older readers. I don't think the typical preschooler is going to care about the word origin of the phrase "dead as a doornail." But for older students (mid-to-upper elementary on up) what a treat!!! Be sure to watch the Horrible Histories music video about Shakespeare!
 


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 Comments on Will's Words, last added: 12/29/2016
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13. Walk This World At Christmastime

Walk This World At Christmastime. Illustrated by Debbie Powell. 2016. Candlewick. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Walk this world at Christmastime. Let's take a stroll around the world, to all four corners of the globe. Peek through windows, open doors, watch as Christmastime unfolds.

Premise/plot: Readers "visit" many different countries at Christmastime. Each two-page spread takes readers to a new destination. The stops include Canada and the United States; Mexico, Bolivia, and Brazil; Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia; Spain, France, Italy, and Greece; Holland, Austria, and Germany; U.K., Sweden, Norway, and Finland; Poland, Ukraine, and Russia; Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, and India; China, Japan, and the Philippines; Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa. Each two-page spread features a riddle, of sorts, asking readers to guess where they are. Each two spread also features a LOT of flaps to open. Behind each flap is a fact.

Some of the things we learn on this journey:
  • During Las Posadas, children dress as Mary and Joseph and go from house to house asking to be let in.
  • Leave out your shoes to get presents from the Three Wise Men.
  • Calabar Carnival, in Nigeria, is Africa's biggest street party. Get ready for parades, masquerades, and dancing.
  • An old Greek custom, recently revived, is to decorate real and model ships with lights at Christmastime.
  • In Holland, leave out your clogs for Saint Nicholas. Don't forget a carrot for his horse!
  • A Nutcracker doll is a traditional German gift.
  • The first Christmas card was sent in the U.K. in 1843.
  • In Russia, Father Frost brings children presents, accompanied by the Snow Maiden.
  • In Iraq, Christian families light a bonfire and recite passages from the Bible.
  • In India, banana trees are decorated for Christmas.
  • The Chinese give gifts of apples on Christmas Eve.
  • In Samoa, people feast on December 24, then go to church, dressed in white, on Christmas Day.
My thoughts: This one is packed with information. I definitely found it interesting. I'm not the biggest fan of lift-the-flap books. But I think this one works.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Merry Christmas!



Seems I've developed a habit of drawing Santa puppies each year.

Last year, we adopted a gorgeous puppy from the RSPCA and my brain had turned to puppy pulp from adoration. So, it was only natural I would draw a Santa puppy.

This year, I'm illustrating a picture book, featuring the cute fur-character above. Everyone else was wearing Santa hats and I didn't want the puppy to feel left out. This sweet, heartwarming Christmas story, written by Lili Wilkinson, will be published in time for Christmas 2017 by Allen and  Unwin.

I'm currently up to the exciting colour stage of the picture book and have spent this week preparing and experimenting. Ignorant onlookers may call this part of the process, procrastination.

I've been working out my character colour palette, making my own texture brushes using pastel, pencil and watercolour, and experimenting with some new brushes I recently purchased from Kyle T Webster. I'm having so much fun procrast... I mean, preparing.

The deadline is fast approaching, so I'll be busy working on this book for the entire school holidays. My children have had to make their own fun at home so far. The inside of our house has turned into a paper jungle of lanterns, snowflakes and streamers dangling from windows, ceilings and fans. My husband and I pretty much have to crawl around on our hands and knees, so that we don't tangle ourselves up in it all. FYI - children design Christmassy lands for child height people only.

Our house is feeling festive at least.

Merry Christmas!

A small section of some final drawings from the book.

A small section of my children's paper jungle.



3 Comments on Merry Christmas!, last added: 12/29/2016
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15. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Christmas Eve Tree

Christmas is less than a week away, and people all over the world are putting up and decorating their Christmas trees. There is something magical about seeing a tree, decorated with tinsel and ornaments, its lights shining in the darkness. Today's picture book is about a Christmas tree that ends up lightning up Christmas for those who need the light the most.

The Christmas Eve TreeThe Christmas Eve Tree
Delia Huddy
Illustrated by Emily Sutton
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Candlewick Press, 2015, 978-0-7636-7917-0
Years ago a grove of Christmas trees was planted. One of the little fir trees was blown sideways into its neighbor by the wind and did not grow properly. When the trees were harvested the little fir tree, which was “stunted” and “tangled with its neighbor” was taken to the big city. The other trees were bought and placed in a cathedral, in the middle of a square, on the stage “at a grand Christmas ball,” and in private homes where children and their families decorated them for the festive season. The little fir tree and its bigger partner ended up in a store. On Christmas Eve the big tree was bought and taken away and the little fir tree was now all alone.
   A poor boy came into the shop to warm up and he asked a store clerk, who was about to throw away the little tree, if he could have it. The clerk “handed it over,” and some time later the boy, with the tree ‘planted’ in a cardboard box full of beach mud, was sitting under the arch of a railway bridge, in the large cardboard box that served as his home. With a coin that a passerby dropped in his hat the boy bought some candles and matches and he decorated the little tree with the candles, creating a little pool of Christmas spirit in a rather bleak place.
   The boy was joined by other homeless people and a tree performer and soon they were all sharing Christmas songs, which drew more and more people to the little tree. Though the tree’s surroundings were very humble, it felt as if it would “burst with happiness” because for a while the hard circumstances of the boy’s life did not matter. For a while the tree gave the boy and many other people joy.
   In this beautiful picture book readers will find a story that is sure to become a firm favorite with readers of all ages. This is the kind of book that families will keep on their shelf and bring out every holiday season to share and enjoy.

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16. The Christmas Eve Tree

The Christmas Eve Tree. Delia Huddy. Illustrated by Emily Sutton. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A forest of Christmas trees stretching over the hills. That's where the story begins. There the little fir tree was planted, but planted carelessly, so that when the wind blew strong it fell sideways onto its neighbor and had no chance to grow.

Premise/plot: This is the story of a 'crooked' and 'unwanted' Christmas tree. He is wanted. He is even needed by a young boy, a homeless boy, who plants the tree in a cardboard box, and prepares another box to be his bed for the night. Soon the tree and the boy are bringing hope and joy to a lot of people as both remind people of what the season is all about.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I do think it is probably for older children--as opposed to preschoolers. It is definitely on the text-heavy side. But. The story is lovely and hope-filled. This is exactly the kind of story that would be an animated short.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Stowaway in a Sleigh

Stowaway in a Sleigh. C. Roger Mader. 2016. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was the darkest hour of night when Slipper heard strange footsteps in the house.

Premise/plot: Slipper the cat is curious about her new acquaintance, Mr. Furry Boots. She sneaks unnoticed into his bag. After some adventures at the North Pole--she loves Ms. Furry Boots too--she begins to long for home.

My thoughts: Oh, how I loved this one. LOVE. The text is simple and sweet. But it was the illustrations that left me smitten. Cat-lovers need this one. NEED. It is perfectly perfect.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. The Nutcracker (Golden Book)

The Nutcracker. Rita Balducci. Illustrated by Barbara Lanza. 1991. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Once there was a little girl named Clara whose family was having a wonderful party on Christmas Eve.

Premise/plot: Rita Balducci adapts the story of the Nutcracker for a Little Golden Book. The illustrations are by Barbara Lanza.

My thoughts: This one avoids being text heavy. The adaptation is just right. It isn't too simple. It isn't too complicated. There are enough illustrations to balance the text. And the pacing seems really well done perhaps because there are just a handful of sentences on each page. The illustrations really seem to sweep you away into a magical dreamland.

This is a great way to introduce younger children to the ballet, perhaps before they attend their first performance of it!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. How Many Sleeps Til Christmas

How Many Sleeps 'Til Christmas? Mark Sperring. Illustrated by Sebastien Braun. 2014. Tiger Tales. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: One winter morning, before the sun had even woken, Little Pip climbed out of bed, padded across the floor, and "PSSST!" gave Daddy Grizzle a gentle nudge....

Premise/plot: Little Pip is a young cub who is so super-excited about it being almost-Christmas that he wakes his dad (Daddy Grizzle) up every morning convinced that Christmas is HERE at last. Every day, Daddy Grizzle tells him how many "whole sleeps" until Christmas. They are able to fill their days with fun and exciting Christmas-y activities.

My thoughts: I found this one ADORABLE. In part, perhaps, because of the illustrations by Sebastien Braun, but also because of the super-fun-and-adorable twist at the end of the book!!! True, I'm not sure that bears actually celebrate Christmas. But Little Pip and Daddy Grizzle are just adorable together. Love the enthusiasm and joy this one conveys throughout.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Picture Book Monday with a review of Sleep Tight Farm

This morning I woke up to find that it had snowed in the night. The trees and shrubs in our garden, and the grape vines in the vineyard looked as if they had been tucked up under a cozy, fluffy eiderdown. I was grateful that I had managed to get everything ready for the colder months in time, though the baby olive trees in their pots still need to be put under cover so that they don't freeze.

Getting a farm ready for the winter is not an easy task, and in today's picture book you will get to spend some time with a family who spend many busy days putting their farm to bed for the cold season.


Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for WinterSleep tight farm: A farm prepares for winter
Eugenie Doyle
Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Chronicle Books, 2016, 978-1-4521-2901-3
It is December and the days are getting shorter and darker. The big hay and corn fields are empty, the trees are bare, and all is quiet, but at the farm the people are busy; it is time to put the farm “to bed” for the winter.
   Out into the cold morning they go to cover the strawberry plants with hay so that they will be protected from “winter’s frosty bite.”  Raspberry plants are also prepared for the winter, their canes cut back so they cannot be cracked by wind and snow.
   The last of the fall vegetable crops, kale, carrots, beets and potatoes, are harvested and stored in the barn. The hay was brought in weeks ago and now Dad goes out into the field to plant a cover crop so that the fields are replenished before the next season.
   Wood is chopped so that the house will be kept warm through the winter months, and the chicken coop and bee hives are winterized so that the chickens and bees will be warm and safe. This is much to do before the farm and it people can take a well-earned rest.
   In this wonderful picture book we see how the members of a family work together to get their farm ready for winter. There is a lot of work to be done, and at the same time there is a lot of gratitude to offer up for all that the farm has given the family in the spring, summer, and fall. The farm has been good to them and they have not forgotten this.
  

                                              

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21. The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker. Niroot Puttapipat. 2016. Candlewick. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was Christmas Eve, and Clara and her little brother, Fritz, were bursting with excitement.

Premise/plot: A picture book retelling of The Nutcracker. This one is for older readers primarily for two reasons. First, it is text-heavy. Second, it features an intricate pop-up. I don't think it would hold the attention of preschoolers anyway, even without the pop up!

My thoughts: I liked this one. I found the illustrations to be striking. Not bright and bold. Not warm and cozy. But strikingly atmospheric. (A lot more black than what you might be expecting.) They are very beautiful, and invite you into the story.

The story itself is what you'd expect from a retelling of the Nutcracker.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on The Nutcracker as of 12/14/2016 5:10:00 AM
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22. Merry Christmas Mom and Dad

Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad. (Little Critter) Mercer Mayer. 1982. 24 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: I wanted to make Christmas very special, just for you, so I made a Christmas wreath. I wanted to decorate some Christmas cookies just for you, but I couldn't stop tasting them. I wanted to find a Christmas present just for you, but there were too many toys to look at.

Premise/plot: Little Critter tries really hard to make Christmas really, truly special for his Mom and Dad. But, as you'd expect, things don't always go according to plan. Is it the thought that counts?!

My thoughts: I love and adore Little Critter. I loved this one cover to cover. My favorite: "I wanted to wrap the baby's present just for you, but the tape was too sticky." It is a fact, by the way, that I was banned from using tape!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 Comments on Merry Christmas Mom and Dad, last added: 12/29/2016
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23. Guest Post: Carolyn Dee Flores on Achieving Deeper Color in Illustration Using Oil on Cardboard

By Carolyn Dee Flores
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Illustrators bear witness.


Nothing could be more important.

One hundred years from now, when someone wants to know what it was like to be a seven-year-old girl in New York City on her birthday – or what it was like to be a Mexican-American child growing up in Texas – they won’t go to a reference book and look it up. They will look at a picture.

Illustrators, we must:

See with our fingers.
See with our hands.
See with our pencils.
So much depends upon it.

The world “literally” depends upon it!

The process for the bilingual picture book – A Surprise for Teresita/Una Sorpresa Para Teresita, written by Virginia Sánchez-Korrol (Arte Publico, 2016) – I knew I needed to concentrate on community. I looked at 10, 000 photographs of New York City. I’ve been to New York City before – so I tried to remember it and “breathe” it in. A Surprise for Teresita is about a little girl in a Nuyorican (Puerto-Rican/New York) neighborhood.

I loved the idea of the tropical Puerto Rican culture splashed against the New York City buildings and brownstones.

I got to work immediately.

I made models from foamboard.



I ordered a snow cone machine.

I studied the difference between “snow cones”, “raspas”, and “piraguas.” Delicious!

It became obvious to me that my color palette was going to be “snow cones.”

But … there was a dilemma.

How to capture the intense color I needed, using only the mediums of pencil and watercolor?

The answer: I couldn’t.

I needed oil paint - the brilliant color of oil paint!

So … encouraged by my mentors - Caldecott winner Denise Fleming and Caldecott winner E.B. Lewis – I set out to create a new illustration process.

And, thankfully, it worked!

Here is what I did:

The Problem:

1. Oil paint takes five months to a year and a half to dry.

2. Oil paint on a “raw” surface, such as untreated cloth or cardboard, tends to bleed and is very difficult to control.


The Solution:

1. Liquin medium. “One stroke” at a time. I squeeze each tube of oil paint separately onto my palette. I dip my brush into each color. Then I dip it into the Liquin. I mix the colors as I paint, directly on the cardboard.


2. After each application, I clean the brush, and start again.

3. Similar to “watercolor technique,” I use the “cardboard” as my “white.” In the close-up of Teresita (below) – the highlights in Teresita’s hair are cardboard showing through.


4. As I paint, the oil seeps deep into the cardboard.

5. The cardboard remains wet for weeks “on the inside” - but the “skin” of the painting dries within four and a half hours! It is ready to scan immediately!

This process enabled me to paint A Surprise for Teresita without bleed, quickly, and using the saturated colors that I desperately wanted! All the difference in the world!


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24. It’s that time of year

If you are like us, shopping is tops on your to-do list this season. Finding the perfect present can be tricky and so here are a few of our favorites that are perfect for the little reader in your family.

Snowy books for a cold winter’s day

Have you read The Mitten more times than you can count? Tuktuk: Tundra Tale by Robin Currie is a fun take on the familiar story.

tuktuk_187As the sun begins to set, arctic animals scurry to prepare for six months of darkness and cold. Tuktuk the collared lemming is almost ready for the long winter night – all he needs is warm fur to line his nest. When one furry kamik (boot) slips off an Inuit driver’s sled, Tuktuk is in luck! But as he drags it home, Putak the polar bear, Aput the arctic fox, and Masak the caribou eye this little lemming’s prize and want it for their own. Can Tuktuk outwit the other animals and convince them that one furry kamik is no good for anyone bigger than a lemming?

When ancient creatures are a favorite, try Wandering Woolly! Andrea Gabriel’s love of woolly mammoths blends a variety of extinct animals with  a tale of getting into trouble and trusting your instincts.

WandrngWoolly_187Little Woolly leaves her mother behind as she chases a toad down to the river. When the glacial ice breaks, she is swept away in the rumbling, rolling water. Now alone, the mammoth calf struggles to survive. She must sneak past cave lions, bears, saber-toothed cats and humans. Exhausted and afraid, she must even hide from stormy weather as she fights her way back to her herd. How can she find them? Will she ever get back?

It’s a Mystery!

Whether it is a contest for the most dangerous beast in all the land or a  race to find the thief, these two books will keep kids guessing until the end.

mostdangerous_187Dangerous animals from all over the world gather for the Most Dangerous Animal of All Contest. Snakes, spiders, sharks . . . who will the winner be? Deadly poison, huge teeth, razor -sharp horns, and fearsome feet are just a few of the ways that animals kill. Predators mean to kill. Prey simply defend themselves. And yet, the unexpected most deadly-animal doesn’t mean to harm at all!

 

DeductiveDetective_187Someone stole a cake from the cake contest—who could it be? Twelve animal bakers are potential suspects but Detective Duck uses his deductive reasoning skills to “quack” the case. After all, the thief left hairs behind so the thief wasn’t a bird. Follow along as he subtracts each suspect one at a time to reveal just who the culprit was. This clever story will have children of all ages giggling at the puns and the play on words. Key phrases for educators: subtraction, deductive reasoning, animal adaptations, puns/play on words.

When you can’t get enough rhythm and rhyme

Head to faraway places and meet unique animals as readers sing-song their way through these two books!

RainforestPAPERBACK with flapsImaginations will soar from the forest floor, up through the canopy and back down again, following the circle of life. The jungle comes alive as children learn about the wide variety of creatures lurking in the lush Amazon rainforest in this clever adaptation of the song “The Green Grass Grew All Around.” Search each page to find unique rainforest bugs and butterflies hiding in the illustrations. Delve even deeper into the jungle using sidebars and the “For Creative Minds” educational section, both filled with fun facts about the plants and animals, how they live in the rainforest and the products we use that come from the rainforest.

AnimalPartners_187From the “crocodile’s dentist,” to the “mongoose spa,” Animal Partners takes a whimsical look at symbiotic relationships of animals large and small. Although many animals live in groups of the same kind, here you will learn how some animals form unique partnerships with different species. After all, don’t we all need a little help from our friends?

We hope this list makes your holiday shopping easier. Visit our online store for great deals on these titles with the code HOLIDAY30.

 

 

 


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25. New Voice: David A. Robertson on When We Were Alone

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

David A. Robertson is the first-time children's author of When We Were Alone, illustrated by Julie Flett (Portage & Main Press, Jan. 6, 2017)(available for pre-order). From the promotional copy:

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things about her grandmother that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and wear beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family?

As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where everything was taken away.

When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, a story of empowerment and strength.

What first inspired you to write for young readers?

So much of my writing is aimed at creating social change, especially in the area of relations between First Nations people and non-First Nations people.

I believe that change comes through education; what we learn from history, and its impact on contemporary society. In Canada, we have a long history of mistreatment concerning the First Nations people. As Canadians, we need to learn about this history. So, my work tries to educate in this way.

In terms of young readers, I believe that change comes from our youth. These are the people who shape our tomorrows, and they need to walk into tomorrow informed on the important issues and histories. If they do, we’ll be in a pretty good place.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

graphic novelist-writer of Irish-Scottish-English-Cree heritage
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada looked at the history of the residential school system, and its impact, and from that research, including residential school survivor testimony and documentation, it came up with a list of recommendations.

One of those recommendations was that the residential school system’s history needed to be taught in school as early as kindergarten.

When I saw this, I recognized that there weren’t many resources for teachers (i.e. books) that addressed the residential school system for younger learners.

So, I set out to write one, and that’s how When We Were Alone came about.

I wanted kids at that young age to learn about the system in a way that they could understand and engage with.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing the text to life?

For me the challenges mostly involved sensitivity and appropriateness. This is a difficult history to tell, especially to younger learners. So, I needed to tell the story in a good way.

It took a lot of research and consultation, it took finding the right rhythm in the passages to connect with readers, and we needed to find the right illustrator, too, which we did in Julie Flett.

Of course, writing these stories always has a psychological effect on you as the writer, too. Understanding that the kids you are writing about really went through these things is tough. But knowing that kids will be learning and growing and sharing makes it worth it.

What model books were most useful to you and how?

Also illustrated by Julie Flett
I have the benefit of having five children. So, I’ve read my share of children’s books. This helped in terms of finding a good structure for When We Were Alone, and rhythm.

These two things are very important, and there are certainly some commonalities in books that really work in terms of how they are told, not just what is told in them.

What advice do you have for beginning children’s-YA writers?

Read a lot of children’s books, or YA books. Figure out styles, structures, approaches from the best. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to write a good story that really connects with your reader.

It always comes down to reading first, and then hard work and a bit of skill.

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