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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: readalouds, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 24 of 24
1. Fusenews: “Rich. Famous. That’s all I’ve got”

  • We’re diving right in today.  Check out this killer poster:

Censorship

Now if you’re one of the lucky ducks living in NYC, or will be there on the date of 4/16, you now have your marching orders.  This is an event held at Bank Street College of Education and in wracking my brains I can’t think of anything more timely.  You can see the full listing of the events here.  Wish I were there.  Go in my stead, won’t you?


 

  • New Podcast Alert: This one sports a catchy moniker that will strike some of you as familiar.  Kidlit Drink Night (which would also make a good name for a band, a blog, or a dog) is the official podcast of one Amy Kurtz Skelding.  There’s a bit of YA cluttering up the works, but enough children’s stuff is present to make it worth your pretty while.  Do be so good as to check it out.

  • Hey!  Hey hey!  The Eric Carle Honorees were named, did you see?  And did you notice that amongst them Lee & Low Books was named an Angel?  Such fantastic news.  A strong year of nominees.

 

  • So Phil Nel shared something recently that I’d like you to note. There is apparently a Tumblr out there called Setup Wizard which consists of the, “Daily Accounts of a Muggle I.T. Guy working at Hogwarts.” Phil suggests reading them in order. I concur. Thanks to Phil for the link.

 


  • I have lots of favorite blogs, but Pop Goes the Page clearly belongs in the upper echelon.  Two posts by Dana Sheridan (the Education & Outreach Coordinator of the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University) caught my eye recently.  Dana, as you will recall, is responsible for my little toilet paper tube profile picture on Twitter.  Well now she’s used her knowledge of all things cardboard to create the world’s most adorable subway system complete with Broadway posters.  In a different post Dana, in partnership with The Met Museum’s Nolen Library (the one for the kids), shows a killer display on taking care of your books.  It doesn’t necessarily sound interesting, until you see how they magnified a book eating buggy.

  • So the other day I’m talking up Evan Turk and his new book The Storyteller, as per usual, and I mention to a librarian that the guy not too long ago did some killer sketches of Chicago blues musicians.  Naturally she wanted to see what I was talking about.  After all, I practically live in Chicago these days, so if there’s a talented illustrator going about making Chi-town art, it’s well worth promoting.  I took her to Evan’s blog and there, beautiful as all get out, is the art.  Then I thought I might share it with you as well.  This is just a tiny smidgen of what he has up so go to his blog to see more. The sheer talent of it all floors me.

Blues1

Blues2

Blues3


 

  • Do you know who is awesome?  Sharyn November, former Viking editor, is awesome.  So awesome, in fact, that she has her own brand of tea.  You can buy this tea, if you like.  I’ll put its description right here:

“sdn tea was created specifically for the punk goddess of children’s publishing, Sharyn November. This deity, who is all sharp angles, quick wit, and extraordinary fashion, is a fiery force of nature–literally and figuratively. She already has her own time zone, so it’s high time she has her own tea. This blend is strong and highly caffeinated. Almost impossibly fruity on the nose, it tastes of warm spice and goes extremely well with a piece of chocolate and a cigarette.”


 

  • Do school librarians yield higher test scores?  You may have always suspected that was the case but a recent study out of South Carolina now has some facts so that you can put your money where your mouth is.  Are you a school librarian in need of justifying your existence to your employer?  You can’t afford not to read this SLJ piece.

 

  • I dunno.  I get Neil Patrick Harris playing Count Olaf in the new Netflix series of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  That makes sense to me.  It’s Dr. Horrible without the songs.  Sure.  But Patrick Warburton as Snicket?  Last time we had Jude Law, and I’m pretty sure that was the right move to make.  Puddy as Lemony Snicket seems to lack the right panache.

 

  • In America we have our Newbery and Caldecott Medals.  In England it’s all about the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards.  And unlike the States, they create shortlists.  Those shortlists have just been released for 2016 and (also unlike the States) they nominate books outside their nation.  So Canadians like Jon Klassen and Sydney Smith have a fighting chance.  I agree with Travis Jonker, though.  The alternate title for Sidewalk Flowers was a surprise.

 

  • On the old To Do list: Meet Jan Susina, the Illinois State English Professor who also happens to be an expert on children’s literature.  In a recent interview he produced this marvelous mention of Beatrix Potter: “Potter once said, ‘Although nature is not consciously wicked, it is always ruthless.’ Peter Rabbit is a survival story, not a cute bunny story.”  How perfectly that quote could have worked in Wild Things.  Ah well.  The entire interview is well worth your time, particularly his answer to the question, “What is the greatest secret in children’s literature?”  The answer will surprise you.  Thanks to Phil Nel for the link.

 

  • This Saturday I’ve a Children’s Literary Salon at 2:00.  Yet a couple months ago I hosted Jeff Garrett who spoke about his work with the Reforma Children in Crisis Project.  You can imagine how pleased I was to hear that ALSC will be donating $5,000 to the project as well.  Fantastic news.

 

  • Daily Image:

I was dumpster diving in the donation bin this week when an old book caught my eye.  Hate to say it, but this thing seriously disturbs me.  They just don’t make ’em like this anymore (phew!).

YourWonderfulBody

Run, girl, run!!  Or rather . . . skate, girl, skate!

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2. Current Read-Aloud: Ace, the Very Important Pig

Ace the Very Important Pig by Dick King-Smith
Ace, the Very Important Pig by Dick King-Smith.

Ace is a descendant of that famous sheep-herding pig, Babe, we all know and love. Unlike the other farmyard animals, Ace can understand people talk. This leads to just the kind of comic intrigue we enjoy. Lots of fun character-voice potential, too. Her Lowness, Megan the Corgi gets my best Queen Victoria impression, naturally. (Er, that is, Queen Victoria as portrayed in the Horrible Histories English Monarchs song.)

Trying a little experiment here: I’ll leave this post pinned at the top of the blog until we finish the book. Check below for new posts! (P.S. If you’d like to sign up for email delivery of my posts, there’s a link in the sidebar.)

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3. Our Week in Books, October 10 Edition

Bonny Glen Week in Books #5

Our past few weeks have been a swirl of doctor appointments and deadlines. I had to skip a few of my weekly Books We’ve Read roundups because usually I put them together on weekends, and my last three weekends were quite full! Three weeks’ worth of books is too many for one post, but I’ll share a few particular standouts…and next Sunday I’ll be back on track with my regular “this week in books.”

Mordant's Wish by Valerie Coursen Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon Possum Magic by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas

Mordant’s Wish by Valerie Coursen: a family favorite, now sadly out of print (but available used). This is a sweet story with a chain-reaction theme. Mordant the mole sees a cloud shaped like a turtle and wishes on a dandelion for a real turtle friend. The windblown seeds remind a passing cyclist of snow, prompting him to stop for a snow cone—which drips on the ground in the shape of a hat, reminding a passing bird that his dear Aunt Nat (who wears interesting hats) is due for a visit…and so on. All my children have felt deeply affectionate about this book. The domino events are quirky and unpredictable, and the wonderful art provides lots of clues to be delighted in during subsequent reads. If your library has it, put it on your list for sure.

Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon. Review copy provided by publisher. A strange, snoozing beast shows up in the backyard, and the kids don’t know what it is. They ask around but the adults are busy, so they hit the books in search of answers. All the while, the sloth sleeps on. The fun of the book lies in the bold, appealing art, and in the humor of the kids’ earnest search unfolding against a backdrop of clues as to the mysterious creature’s identity. Huck enjoyed the punchline of the ending.

Possum Magic by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas. I’ve had this book since before I had children to read it to: it was one of the picture books I fell in love with during my grad-school part-time job at a children’s bookstore. Fox and Vivas are an incomparable team—it was they who gave us Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, which I described in 2011 as perhaps my favorite picture book of all time, an assertion I’ll stand by today. Possum Magic is the tale of a young Aussie possum whose granny works some bush magic to make her invisible, for protection from predators. Eventually young Hush would like to be visible again, but Grandma Poss can’t quite remember the recipe for the spell. There’s a lot of people food involved (much of it unfamiliar to American readers, which I think is what my kids like best about the book).

Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild  Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Rilla and I finished Dancing Shoes, our last Saturday-night-art-date audiobook. Now we’re a couple of chapters into Swallows and Amazons. She’s a little lukewarm on it so far—so many nautical terms—but I suspect that once the kids get to the island, she’ll be hooked. The Ransome books were particular favorites of Jane’s and I’m happy to see them get another go with my younger set.

The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt  Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne  dear committee members by julie schumacher

After Charlotte’s Web, I chose Natalie Babbitt’s The Search for Delicious as our next dinnertime readaloud (for Huck, Rilla, and Wonderboy). We’re nearing the climax now and oh, this book is every bit as gripping as I remember from childhood. The kingdom is about to erupt in war over the question of what food should define “delicious” in the Royal Dictionary. The queen’s brother is galloping across the kingdom spreading lies and fomenting dissent, and young Gaylen, the messenger charged with polling every citizen for their delicious opinion (a thankless and sometimes dangerous task), has begun to discover the secret history of his land—a secret involving dwarves, woldwellers, a lost whistle, and a mermaid’s doll. So good, you guys.

My literature class (Beanie and some other ninth-grade girls) continues to read short stories; this month we’re discussing Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” and Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” In November we’re doing Around the World in Eighty Days, so I’ve begun pre-re-reading that one in preparation. But I also found myself picking up a book I read, and didn’t get a chance to write about, earlier this year: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. The fact that I’ve read it twice in one year is probably all the endorsement I need give: with a TBR pile is taller than the Tower of Babel, I really shouldn’t be spending any time on rereads at all. :) But there I was stuck in a waiting room, and there it was on my Kindle, calling me. It’s an epistolary novel—you know I love those—consisting of letters (recommendations and other academic correspondence) by a beleaguered, argumentative university writing professor. His letters of recommendation are more candid and conversation than is typical. He’s a seriously flawed individual, and he knows it. But his insights are shrewd, especially when it comes to the challenges besetting the English Department. I thoroughly enjoyed this book on both reads.

Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace  Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery  Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis

Beanie finished Betsy and the Great World and is now reading Betsy’s Wedding (Rose insisted, and I fanned the flames) and Rilla of Ingleside, as our 20th-century history studies take us into World War I. Don’t Know Much About History continues to work quite well for us as a history spine, a topics jumping-off place, especially given the way it is structured: each chapter begins with a question (“Who were the Wobblies?” “What was the Bull Moose Party?”) that serves as a narration hook for us later. Then we range into other texts that explore events in more depth or, as with the Betsy and Rilla books above, provide via narrative a sense of the period. I probably don’t have to tell you I’m pretty excited about getting to include Betsy and Rilla in this study. Rilla of Ingleside is one of my most beloved books. The fact that my youngest daughter’s blog name—which I use nearly as much as I use her real name—is Rilla is probably a good indication of how much this book (and Rainbow Valley) means to me.

Illustration School Lets Draw Happy People  Illustration School Lets Draw Plants and Small Creatures  Illustration School Lets Draw Cute Animals

My late-September busy-ness put me in a bit of a slump with my sketching progress—it’s really the first time I’ve dropped the ball on my practice since I began just over a year ago. This week I pulled out our Illustration School books (Beanie and Rilla found them under the tree last Christmas) and decided that whenever I feel slumpy, I’ll just pick a page in one of those, or in a 20 Ways to Draw a book (we have Tree, Cat, and Tulip) and follow those models. It’s an easy way to get some practice in and there’s something satisfying in filling a page with feathers, mushrooms, or rabbits—even when I make mistakes. Which I do. A lot.

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This roundup doesn’t include much of the teens’ reading, and nothing from Scott although he has racked up quite a few titles since my last post. I’ll get the older folks in next time. And I suppose it goes without saying that these posts also provide a bit of a window into our homeschooling life, since I try to chronicle all our reading—a large part of which is related to our studies. If you’re curious about what resources we’re using (especially the high-schoolers, about whom I get the most queries via email), you’ll find a lot of that information here.

Speaking of which: any favorite WWI-related historical fiction you’d like to recommend?

Related:

   Books We Read This Week - Here in the Bonny Glen Books We Read This Week - September 13 Bonny Glen Week in Books Sept 6 2015

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4. Our Week in Books, November 1 Edition

Bonny Glen Week in Books #6

Happy November! Just a quick list (no commentary) for this week’s books recap—my weekend is running away again.

The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Family Read-Alouds:

I finished The Search for Delicious. The kids were glued to every page. Stay tuned for a Periscope in which I will discuss what book I chose for our next read-aloud and how I arrived at this choice. I’ll also talk a little bit about how I approach character voices.

Speaking of doing voices, Scott just started reading the first Harry Potter book to Rilla. His Dumbledore is magnificent.

 No That's Wrong by Zhaohua Ji Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas

This Orq. He cave boy. The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree

Some of the picture books we enjoyed last week:

Ninja Baby by David Zeltser and Diane Goode

No, That’s Wrong! by Zhaohua Ji and Cui Xu

Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas (links to pdf)

The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan & Jan Berenstain

This Orq (He Cave Boy) by David Elliott. We received a copy of this book from a friend at Boyds Mills Press and it became an instant hit. I booktalked it on Periscope on Thursday, if you’d like to hear more about why we fell in love with it. (The link will take you to katch.me where my scopes are archived, or you can scroll to the bottom of this post and watch the replay there.)

bestloveddoll rowan of rin dorothywizardinoz

What Rilla read:

The Best-Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill

Several Oz graphic novels (see this post for more about why they’re her favorite books)

Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda (in progress)

Around the World in 80 Days Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

What I read:

“The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allen Poe for a class I’m teaching

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne (in progress), also for the class — this is Beanie’s reading list, too

Marine theme

Beanie also read:

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

I know I’m forgetting something. And I forgot to ask Rose for her list at all!

My boys are both enjoying:

The Magic Tree House books — they’re both working their way through the series. It’s such fun to see them side by side with their coordinating books. :)

Light & Shade Conversations with Jimmy Page Swag by Elmore Leonard Comfortably Numb Inside Story of Pink Floyd Enduring Saga of the Smiths

Things Scott has recently read:

Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page by Brad Tolinski

Swag: A Novel by Elmore Leonard

Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd by Mark Blake

The Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths by Tony Fletcher

News!

I’ve launched a series on Periscope. I’m calling it “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something True” — this will be a regular feature in which I do my favorite thing: talk about books. A family favorite (that’s the “old”), a new gem, a library book, and a nonfiction title. I tried out the format last week and I think it’s going to work nicely! Here’s the first installment. I’ll announce future editions here and on Twitter.

Related:

   Books We Read This Week - Here in the Bonny Glen Books We Read This Week - September 13 Bonny Glen Week in Books 5

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5. Periscope: The biggest decision of my week

Popped onto Periscope today to discuss readalouds, including how I approach character voices. You can catch the replay at katch.me (or watch it below). I dust off my Scottish accent around minute 27. :)

Picture quality seems a bit dodgy–sorry about that. It looked fine on my screen during the recording!

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6. Press Release Fun: Shortlist for an Early Literacy Development Award

This is the kind of award librarians should know about and don’t tend to. For anyone searching for good picture book readalouds, this list is invaluable. Read on:

Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy Announces 2016 CLEL Picture Book Awards Shortlists

CLELBellDenver, Colorado, December 15, 2015 – Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) announces the Shortlist titles for the 2016 CLEL Bell Picture Book Award. The CLEL Bell Picture Book Awards are a national award designed to recognize picture books that provide excellent support of early literacy development in young children.

The Shortlist includes 25 titles- five books in each of the five categories representing an early literacy practices: Read, Write, Sing, Talk and Play. Research shows that engaging children in these practices builds language skills and prepares children to become successful readers.

Winning titles, one from each category, will be announced on February 5, 2016. The shortlists are:

Read:

Books for Me! by Sue Fliess; illustrated by Mike Laughead (Two Lions), The Boy & the Book by David Michael Slater; illustrated by Bob Kolar (Charlesbridge), Where Are My Books? by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Duncan the Story Dragon by Amanda Driscoll (Random House), Sloth Slept On by Frann Preston-Gannon (Sterling?s Childrens Books)

Write:

Around the World: Follow the Trail by Katie Haworth; illustrated by Craig Shuttlewood (Little Bee Books), By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman (Viking Books for Young Readers), How to Draw a Dragon by Douglas Florian (Beach Lane Books), Inside this Book (are three books) by Barney Saltzberg (Abrams Appleseed), Knit Together by Angela Dominguez (Penguin Group)

Sing:

Hiccupotamus by Steve Smallman; illustrated by Ada Grey (Tiger Tales), Mother Goose’s Pajama Party by Danna Smith; illustrated by Virginia Allyn (Doubleday Books for Young Readers), Nose to Toes, You Are Yummy! by Tim Harrington (Balzer + Bray), Cock-a-Doodle-Doo-Bop! by Michael Ian Black; illustrated by Matt Myers, (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), Music Class Today! by David Weinstone; illustrated by Vin Vogel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR))

Talk:

One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck; illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail (Atheneum Books), A Fish to Feed by Ellen Mayer; illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu (Star Bright Books), Can You Whoo, Too? by Harriet Ziefert; illustrated by Sophie Fatus (Blue Apple Books), BAH! Said the Baby by Jennifer Plecas (Philomel Books), I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty; illustrated by Mike Boldt (Doubleday Books)

Play:

Tickle Monster by Edouard Manceau (Abrams), On the Ball by Brian Pinkney (Disney Hyperion), Bob and Flo by Rebecca Ashdown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Little Baby Buttercup by Linda Ashman; illustrated by You Byun (Nancy Paulsen Books), Book-O-Hats: A Wearable Book by Donald Lemke; illustrated by Bob Lentz (Capstone Young Readers)

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7. Fusenews: Chicken pox for the soul

We begin today with a mild pet peeve of mine.  Here we go.  You see this lovely new paperback edition cover of the book Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me?  Well I had great affection for the original story, though I was relatively lukewarm on its first cover.  The original jacket just sported an image of the moon with a little astronaut sticking in a flag.  Clearly they wanted to spice things up a bit.  I don’t blame them.  Lots of great books see a second life in paperback when they go with a more contemporary photographed look.  That said, this particular book’s new cover suffers from a current trend I’ve found in some children’s jackets.  It is a whatever-you-do-don’t-make-the-kids-think-the-book-is-historical cover.  Now look at it.  Look long and hard.  Is there anything about the hair or dress of these two kids that screams 1969 to you?  You might argue “well, is there anything that looks absolutely contemporary?” and you’d be right.  But they’re definitely fudging the time period.  This will happen from time to time.  A bit of historical fiction will end up faking its cover to look contemporary, for all sorts of reasons.  Generally you can get around this if you shoot the photo close up (as with Frances O’Roark Dowell’s Shooting the Moon) or the characters backs (though I’m still pretty sure the hair on Doris Gwaltney’s WWII novel Homefront was a bit suspect).  Still and all, though I peer at this new Neil Armstrong book with a suspicious eye (shouldn’t Muscle Man McGinty be wearing glasses anyway?) it’s still loads better than the original back of the jacket for A Friendship for Today by Patricia McKissack.  There you saw two pairs of legs wearing jeans (on girls in the American South in the 1950s) and Airwalk sneakers.  Airwalks were established in 1986, folks.  My oh me oh my.  Nice book, though.

  • Ah!  It’s that time of year again.  Time for Lee & Low to hand out their New Voices Writers Award.  As they say, “LEE & LOW BOOKS, award-winning publisher of children’s books, is pleased to announce the eleventh annual NEW VOICES AWARD. The Award will be given for a children’s picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500.”  You can see more information here if you’re interested.
  • The blog Looking Backward recently

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8. What the Ladybug Heard

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What the Ladybug Heard by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Lydia Monks

All of the animals on the farm make their own type of noise, except for the little ladybug.  She never says anything at all.  That is until she hears two robbers planning how to steal the farm’s prize cow.  They know just where each animal on the farm sits and what noises they make so that they can find their way in the dark without alerting the farmer.  So the ladybug heads to the farm, tells the animals about the robbers, and comes up with a cunning plan to foil them.  Told in a wonderful romping rhyme and rhythm, this book has immediate appeal.

Donaldson has a great ear for rhythm and rhyme, never pushing it too far to become annoying.  She weaves in humor effortlessly.  The premise for the book is very clever, mixing animal noises with a barnyard mystery and a silent witness.  Monks’ illustrations are done in mixed media which makes them visually interesting.  The painted sheep has a wooly coat that is a photograph of wool.  The bushes around the farm are either photographs of leaves or fabric.  There is just enough of the mixed media to still have a very cohesive feel. 

Get this into your farm storytime and also for any insect unit or story time.  It is a winner of a read, just be prepared for plenty of animal noises and ask the audience to help!  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt.

Also reviewed by Pied Piper Picks.

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9. Review of the Day: What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson

What Animals Really Like
By Fiona Robinson
Abrams Books for Young Readers
$15.95
ISBN: 978-0-8109-8976-4
Ages 4-8
On shelves now.

I’m sitting in a room with other children’s librarians. Together, we are attempting to determine what the best children’s books of a given year are. It’s late in the publishing season and we haven’t a lot of time left when one of us walks in with Fiona Robinson’s What Animals Really Like. None of us are familiar with Ms. Robinson’s work (though we’ve heard nice things about The 3-2-3 Detective Agency) so our expectations are pretty low. The librarian who has the book, though, informs us in no uncertain terms that this is one of the best of the year. She then proceeds to read it aloud. Ladies and gentlemen, there are few finer pleasures that being read a picture book that works. I don’t care if you’re 5 or 55 or 555. Everyone likes storytime and many people like learning about great new picture books through readalouds. By the time the librarian was done it was unanimous. We were in love with What Animals Really Like and ready to join Fiona Robinson’s fan club, should someone ever feel the urge to start one. And trust me, after this book gains a bit of a following, folks are going to be lining up around the block to start organizations in honor of its author/illustrator. You want a surefire storytime gem? Baby, I got your back.

Maestro Herbert Timberteeth has written a brand new song going by the name of “What Animals Really Like”. For this one time performance he has assembled a chorus of some twelve different groups of animals. At the start, all goes according to plan. The lions reluctantly sing, “We are lions, and we like to prowl.” Next a tepid, “We are wolves, and we like to howl.” “We are pigeons, and we like to coo.” Finally, “We are cows, and we like to . . . dig.” There stand the cows holding various digging accoutrements and looking very pleased. Herbert, suffice to say, is not amused. He’s even less amused when the warthogs suddenly declare mid-song that they like to blow enormous bubbles. As the book continues, more and more animals start to sing what they really like to do, rather than what society expects them to. And though it causes him some serious stress, Herbert eventually lets everyone sing what it is that they really like, even though it doesn’t rhyme or, sometimes, make a lot of sense.

I’m a sucker for any book that upsets expectations. Kids are so used to picture books that allow them to guess the rhyme that when they encounter a book that turns that idea on its head they’re initially flummoxed, and then soon delighted. Not many picture books have the guts to do this. The best known, to my mind, is Mac Barnett’s Guess Again!, which takes the idea to its logical extreme. What’s nice about Robinson’s book is that while it’s not as downright goofy as Barnett’s, the upset expectations serve the story. In a way, all readers are automatically placed in the shoes of Herbert Timberteeth. We may not iden

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10. Review of the Day: Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds

Creepy Carrots!
By Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Brown
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
$16.99
ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3
Ages 4-8
On shelves now

A children’s librarian is half media specialist, half psychic. It isn’t enough to have to know the books in your collection. You have to know what that pint-sized patron standing before you REALLY wants when they say they want “a scary book”. For a while there I had this very persistent three-year-old who would beg me for scary fare and wait as I dutifully pulled picture book after picture book for him. After a while I’d begin to wonder what would happen if I actually gave him what he said he wanted. What if I’d handed him Alan Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark)? Would it have scarred him for life? Fortunately the shelves of your average children’s room abound with titles that are “scary” enough for a small fry. The trick is to find something that manages to balance the funny and the frightening in equal measures, never overplaying its hand. Had Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds been available when I met that kid, it would have been the first thing I’d have pulled from the shelf. With pitch perfect illustration by the increasingly talented Peter Brown, this beautifully shaded creation is a great example of how to get the tone of a picture book exactly right. Strange and wonderful and weird in all the right places.

Jasper Rabbit. You average everyday hare. Jasper has a penchant for carrots. Stands to reason. He’s a rabbit. Every day he plucks them from the Crackenhopper Field. Never has a care in the world either. But one day Jasper has a suspicion. Carrots in his tummy he understands, but carrots in his bathtub? In his bedroom? In the tool shed? Seems that Jasper is being stalked by vegetation. Without realizing it, Jasper Rabbit is crossed out of his everyday existence and into . . . the carrot zone.

Before we get into anything else, let’s talk text. As difficult as it may be, I tried reading this book without paying attention to the accompanying illustrations (no small feat) to get a sense of what author Aaron Reynolds is doing here. What I discovered when I went through it on a word alone basis was that Reynolds has penned a really good readaloud. There’s a great inherent drama to lines like, “Jasper was about to help himself to a victory snack.. when he heard it. The soft… sinister.. tunktunktunk of carrots creeping. He turned… but there was nothing there.” This passage is just begging to be read aloud with Vincent Price-esque cadences. The inherent ridiculousness of creeping carrots being scary is paired with the rather effective “tunktunktunk” sound. It reminded me of the sound of the dead son in that old short story The Monkey’s Paw. It speaks of unnatural slowness, always creepy to kids who move at lightning speeds themselves. Reading this book you hit that dichotomy of potentially frightening and potentially funny over and over until, at last, you reach the end. The book’s finale is one of those twist endings that some kids will get while others just enjoy the visuals. I love a picture book with a good twist, and so do child audiences. Particularly when they don’t see where the story is going.

It’s interesting that though Reynolds has specialized in child lit noir for years (his Joey Fly Private Eye comic books practically typify the genre) there’s nothing ostensibly noir-ish about the text for Creepy Carrots! Just the same, Peter Brown saw something atmospheric there to be plundered. The decision was the right one and Brown cleverly culled from not a single noir source but from many. There are hints of Hitchcock, Wells, Twilight Zone, and other influences (Vertigo being the most direct reference of them all). The result is a picture of psychosis running rampant. Kids are naturally afraid that there might be monsters under their beds, so they understand paranoia. Only a few books think to take advantage of that fact. Meet one of the few.

Atmospheric black and white, when done right, yields picture book gold. Think about the Caldecott Honor winner The Spider and the Fly as illustrated in a 1920s movie house style by Tony DiTerlizzi. Brown’s work isn’t wholly black and white, of course. He allows himself a single color: orange. This is a deep dark orange though. One that goes rather well with the man’s copious shading. Previous Brown books like The Curious Garden had fun with the borders, filling them with creeping smog around the edges. In Creepy Carrots! the borders now teem with encroaching darkness. Each picture is enclosed in a black border that seeps a foglike substance into the images. It’s like watching a television show or a movie where you know something’s gonna get the hero sometime. You just don’t know when.

Fair play to Brown with his carrots too. As you can see from the cover alone, he takes care to make them funny and scary all at once. They have a random smattering of gappy teeth like jack-o-lanterns, crossed eyes, and a variety of tops. They’re like The Three Stooges in vegetable form, only more intimidating. Brown also makes the rather interesting decision to give much of this book a cutout feel. His style consists of drawing in pencil on paper and then digitally composing and coloring his images. The result is that he can give his scenes some real depth. That first shot of Jasper sitting merrily amongst the carrots really makes it look as if he’s cut out from the scene, nearer the audience, much like the tufts of the trees behind him. And finally there’s Jasper himself. You’d think the book would just feature the regular emotions like happy and frightened, but Brown does a lot more than that. The scene where Jasper laughs at himself for being so ridiculous to think that the carrots were following him is a triumph of mixed emotions. Worried eyes, smiling mouth, uncertain eyebrows, and hubris-filled ears. Beautiful stuff.

Though it has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween, thanks to its black, white, and orange palette (to say nothing of its subject matter) expect to see this book read aloud in many a Halloween storytime for years and years to come. There are worse fates. I would simply remind everybody that scary books aren’t seasonal. That kid who requested them of me asked me for them month after month, never tiring of what I put before him. Kids love to be scared within the safety of their parents’ arms. Happy endings and gorgeous art are just a nice plus at that point. More fun than it deserves to be and thrilling to the core, expect to be asked to read this one over and over again and to willingly acquiesce so that you can pick out more details on a second, third, fortieth reading. A masterpiece of the scary/funny balance.

On shelves now.

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Other Blog Reviews: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Professional Reviews: A star from Kirkus

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Don’t believe me when I say Peter Brown was influenced by certain noirish folks?  Then get it straight from the horse’s mouth:

4 Comments on Review of the Day: Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, last added: 9/28/2012
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11. Review of the Day: Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light

HaveSeenDragon1 300x267 Review of the Day: Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve LightHave You Seen My Dragon?
By Steve Light
Candlewick Press
$16.99
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6648-4
Ages 2-6
On shelves April 8th

When I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan I would get this little thrill every time my city appeared in a children’s book. Which is to say, every time it was mentioned in Horton Hatches the Egg. Honestly, for all that it had a cool name it really didn’t come up anywhere else. New York kids must be rather jaded in this regard. Anytime a city book is set somewhere other than Manhattan or Brooklyn, they probably scratch their little heads in confusion (I can attest to this personally as my two-year-old calls any and all cities she sees in books “New York City” and will not be corrected). As a NYC transplant I’d probably mind this more if it weren’t for the fact that so many of these books are so doggone splendid. Take Steve Light’s latest, Have You Seen My Dragon? A riot of miniscule details, numbers, colors, familiar city elements, and a magnificent, fantastic creature always hidden in plain sight, Light gives us a city dragon worth remembering long after the pages are turned.

You would think it would be difficult to mislay a dragon. You would be wrong. When our story begins a young boy is asking a doorman whether or not he’s seen his dragon. “No? I will look for him.” Never you mind that if the boy merely turned his head 90 degrees to the left he’d see his ginormous pet sniffing an understandably wary pup. From here it’s a race across the city. Everywhere the boy goes the numbers go up. The dragon perches atop a hot dog stand where they are selling “2 Hot dogs”. It peers down from a roof at the “3 Buses” below. It gets a quick drink from one of the “5 Water towers.” On the endpapers you can see the circuitous path the dragon takes through a slightly compacted lower Manhattan until, at last, the boy spots him in Chinatown, smiling widely from between the “20 Lanterns”.

HaveSeenDragon2 300x134 Review of the Day: Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve LightThere is a perception out there that it is near impossible to publish a black and white picture book in today’s market. This may be so, but Light comes pretty darn close to doing so. Though there is a different color for every number in the book, most of what you’re seeing is just good old-fashioned pen and inks. More to the point, the man has gone rather wild in his details. I haven’t seen intricate work at this level since I read Mark Alan Stamaty’s picture book cult classic Who Needs Donuts? Whether he’s detailing the myriad wires that curl around the sewer pipes below the street or paying homage to the detailing on St. Patrick’s Cathedral, there’s a method to the man’s madness. Now add in the fact that Light isn’t afraid to go vertical with his two-page spreads and that he occasionally gets incredibly creative with his perspective (the “8 Fire hydrants” two-page spread is an exercise in internal logic) and you have a rather beautiful affair. Little wonder that he chose to only dot the pages with color. It’s lovely to watch how the artist uses these colors to direct your eye across the page.

If the name “Steve Light” has been triggering some kind of latent amnesia in your cranium, it probably has to do with his board books with Chronicle Books. Let me tell you right now that if you have not read Trucks Go, Trains Go or Diggers Go aloud to a small child then your life, nice as it is, is little more than a pale hollow shell of what it might someday be. In those three books Light used bright, thick paints to convey an array of vehicles. He then gave each and every one of them original, amazing sounds, ideal of reading aloud either one-on-one or to a large group. Have You Seen My Dragon differs widely from that series in terms of look and feel. But what it does have in common is the age of the audience (toddler heaven is what we have going on here) and the read aloud potential. Good readalouds are rarities. For every 100 picture books published in a given season, maybe four of them are titles you’d like to test on a group of squirmy squirmers. And this, ladies and gentlemen, should be one of those four. It’s simple and interactive and I can already hear a room of small fry screaming at you as to where the dragon is “hiding”.

There may be the occasional New York child that complains that the buses in the book are purple when, in fact, our buses are no such of a thing. Meh. I say purple buses would be a heckuva lot more fun, so if Mr. Light wants to bestow that particular hue to them, let him. And that goes for the blue subway cars as well. Slightly more problematic are the “monkeys”. You will find that for the number 6 one is supposed to find “6 Monkeys”. The zoo picture is, if you follow the map, sort of supposed to be the Central Park Zoo, but it doesn’t really resemble it. That’s okay too. Artistic liberties I am a-okay with. Far more of a problem is the fact that the monkeys in question have no tails. Yup, what we’re dealing with here is a page of six apes. It’s a classic Curious George problem and not one that sinks the book or anything. Still, wouldn’t mind a tail or two on those primates. It would be just the thing.

All told, I see a lot of New York City picture books in a given year. This one goes beyond our city’s borders. It’s the kind of book that’s going to appeal to any kid that’s drawn to the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan area. The words “New York City” never even appear in the text, allowing a lot of young readers to simply think of the location as an everycity. Lithe and lovely, overflowing with good will and copious details, expect the sentence, “Have you seen Have You Seen My Dragon?” to appear on the lips of parents and children everywhere. Because if you haven’t seen it, now’s the time.

On shelves April 8th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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6 Comments on Review of the Day: Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light, last added: 1/22/2014
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12. Piles o’ Books

If you, like me, missed Kidlitcon this past weekend, Leila has a delicious recap & link roundup for you at Bookshelves of Doom. I haven’t been since 2010, the Minneapolis gathering, and I had many a pang of longing as the tweets and FB updates came rolling in. But it was delightful to see so many of my blog-pals having what was clearly a Very Good Time.

One reason I couldn’t be there is because I was engaged to speak at SCBWI-San Diego on Saturday. (The other reason is because I have a hundred children and am therefore Always Broke. You know how it is.) I’m happy to say my SCBWI talk seemed to go over very well. The topic was Middle-Grade and Chapter Books, two categories of children’s publishing I can speak about with considerable enthusiasm. What’s more fun than speaking to a full house about your very favorite books? The crowd was wonderful, with really smart questions afterward. The only thing that could have made it more fun would have been having the Kidlitcon crowd there. :)

Sunday felt amazingly luxurious: nothing was required of me but to read. This was convenient, as the nominee tally in my CYBILs category is currently 100 novels, with more contenders coming in every day. Only two more days, guys, until the public nomination period closes. People are starting to compile lists of worthy books that haven’t yet been nominated; you can find links to those posts here.

Speaking of piles of books, the younger set and I finished The Boxcar Children over the weekend (it’s a mighty quick read) and today it fell upon to me choose the next readaloud. Sometimes I know EXACTLY what book I want to reach for next, and other times I have option paralysis. Today was the latter sort of occasion. I got Rose to go around the house with me, pulling likely candidates off shelves, and when we had a comfortable stack, I decided on a Jane-Rose-Beanie favorite, Rowan of Rin. Chapter one was well received. I’ve never read this one aloud before, and there’s always a risk—some great books just don’t make great readalouds. But so far, so good. So gripping!

readalouds

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13. Thursday reading notes (plus happy anniversary to us)

It’s our 21st wedding anniversary (though we begin our official count from our first date, five years earlier) and San Diego celebrated with RAIN, which you know is a huge big deal here these days. Glorious.

I can’t find our copy of Winnie the Pooh. Where is it hiding? So after Pooh Corner (sans final chapter) I had to (eventually) give up the search and pick something else. I’ll get Pooh from the library, I guess. IT’S JUST I KNOW IT’S RIGHT HERE UNDER MY NOSE SOMEWHERE. I bought a boxed set of Milne way back before we got married (we’d been an item for three years, though, so you know I was envisioning a house full of rugrats by then…Ingleside, to be precise) because my part-time job during grad school was at a children’s bookstore and I felt compelled to take full advantage of the employee discount. Hmm, someday I should comb our shelves for all the books I bought that year. Dear Mr. Blueberry, I remember that for sure, and every single L.M. Montgomery title I didn’t already own. I had Anne and Emily but not Pat, Jane (Jane!!), The Story Girl, or Valancy. (Valancy!!!!) Nor any of the short story collections, and I recall deciding it would be worth living on ramen for a while in order to procure every last morsel of LMM. I was right.

(Total digression: one of these days I need to do a post on LMM books in order of perfection. It might kill me to pick a #1, though. The bottom of the list is a piece of cake. Sorry, Kilmeny.)

ANYHOO. Back to the temporarily abandoned Pooh Search. In lieu of the silly old bear, I reached for McBroom. I wanted something fast-moving and full of laughs. Plus we’ve been reading Tall Tales this spring (I love the Mary Pope Osborne collection) and was in the mood for more wild yarns. Let’s see, in three days I think we’ve devoured five McBroom books. Started with McBroom Tells the Truth, of course, and then (in order of whatever the kids picked next) McBroom and the Big Wind, McBroom the Rainmaker, McBroom Tells the Truth, and McBrooms Ear. I hope they pick McBroom’s Zoo next–that’s my favorite. Our copy is the one I had when I was a kid, with the sturdy Scholastic book club binding.

Sid Fleischman’s language–his rich, hilarious, colorful turn of phrase–is simply unbeatable. And every whopper McBroom tells is funnier than the last. Oh, such good stuff.

***

As for my own reading, I’m halfway through Blackout and am FINALLY keeping all the dates and locations straight (more or less). And things are beginning to go crackerbots for Polly, Mary, Eileen, and Mike…You know, one of my favorite things in life is when I’m enjoying a book so much I can’t wait for bedtime (the only time of day I can count on a chunk of dedicated reading time…all the other minutes must be stolen, snatched, and squoze-in).

***

I meant to fill this post with throwback pictures in honor of our anniversary, but Scott just got home with a celebratory pizza. Photos, schmotos.

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14. Delicious, Found

I’m taking Jane back up the coast to college this weekend, so I probably won’t get my Sunday book recap posted. So here’s a (less comprehensive) midweek update instead. This has been a week for finishing, it seems! Charlotte’s Web, Dancing Shoes, and Vanessa and Her Sister.

Huck was furious with E.B. White over Charlotte’s death. FURIOUS. “Why did he have to write it that way?” he stormed. “He could have made it go different.”

In other words, to quote Annie Wilkes from Misery: Cockadoodie.

misery

By the next evening, his ire had subsided a bit. I read the final chapter over dinner (I’ve been feeding Huck and Rilla before the rest of the family, netting a little extra read-aloud time). Listening intently while poking shredded carrots through his bread-and-salami—don’t ask me, I’m just the narrator—he interrupted the penultimate paragraph to say, in a dreamy, Fern-like tone, “But this book should never end. It should go on forever.”

I know that feeling, my boy. Not about this book specifically, I have to admit—knowing what was coming, and knowing that this would likely be the last time I read Charlotte’s Web aloud to my own children, I had a lump in my throat through the final few chapters and it was something of a relief, albeit a bittersweet one, to make it through the Last Day and leave the fairgrounds behind. Goodbye, Charlotte, you good writer and true friend. Goodbye, Charlotte’s daughters.

play with your food
Goodbye, very odd open-faced sandwich.

The next day, yesterday, presented me with a grave decision. What, pray tell, is the right book to choose after the epochal experience that is Charlotte’s Web? I pondered many options—the Rilla-shelf is, of course, full of possibilities. But this book has big shoes to fill. And a Huck-and-Rilla book is not the same thing as a Rilla-book. I pulled a dozen contenders off the shelf, considering.

At last I made a choice, and judging from the rapt reactions to the prologue and first chapter, it was a good call.


(current cover / proper cover)

The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt.

Unlike many (most?) of the books on the Rilla-shelf, this isn’t one I’ve reread a dozen times. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve revisited it since age eleven or so. But I’ve never forgotten it, the impact it had on me—Babbitt does that to one, of course. You never get over Tuck Everlasting. And I’ve never stopped thinking about conflicting perspectives and the strife that can result when people dig in too deeply to an opinion and don’t try to see others’ point of view. A thousand times in my life, I’ve taken a drink of cold water on a hot, thirsty day and flashed back to the cover of this book, or to an illustration near the end. It defined “delicious” for me.

(Hint: it does not involve a sandwich stuck full of carrot bits. But Huck may have a different perspective on that.)

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15. Mouse Was Mad

Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban, illustrated by Henry Cole.

Mouse is hopping mad.  Until Hare tells him he looks “ridiculous.”  But when Mouse tries to hop like Hare, he tumbles into a mud puddle.  Mouse is now even angrier.  Stomping mad, in fact.  Bear arrives and shows him how he should be stomping.  But when Mouse tries, it doesn’t have the same earth shaking effects.  In fact, it’s much more Mouse-shaking and Mouse falls into another mud puddle.  Now Mouse is screaming mad.  Bobcat tries to show Mouse how to really scream, but Mouse, you guessed it, falls into another mud puddle.  The book resolves with Mouse being so angry he can’t even move.  Now the other animals are impressed and try to be just as still with limited success.  Is that a smile readers see on Mouse’s face?

The end papers of this book are great.  At the front, they show Mouse gripped by utter rage and in the end we can see him being oh-so happy.  Urban has created a wonderful mix of emotions, humor, and repetition that will be embraced by toddlers and preschoolers.  Her repeated dunking of Mouse in mud is great fun, offering the predictability that young children look for.  It is also very effective against the unpredictable emotion of anger.  The humor works well as a foil for that emotion.

Cole’s illustrations are very effective, showing Mouse really, really angry, tail twitching as he watches the others do demonstrations.  The facial expressions of the animals are very evocative of emotions.  Mouse seems to have an infinite number of angry looks that range from simmering peevishness to outright fury.  Cole cleverly builds the tension before each fall into the mud with a series of illustrations showing Mouse just before the fall, in mid-air, and finally and delightfully covered in mud.

Highly recommended for storytimes on emotions or mice, this book is a winner of a read aloud and will have all of the children in your group enthralled.  It can also be used as a book to get children moving, since you can have children stomp, hop, and yes, even scream.

(Reviewed from copy checked out from public library.)

This book has been well-covered by the kidslitosphere.  Too many places have mentioned it to list here!

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16. One Fine Trade

One Fine Trade retold by Bobbi Miller, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

A retelling of the classic folktale style of trading for something worse and then reversing the trading to finally get what you set out for.  In this version, Georgy Piney Woods is a peddler.  His daughter asks him to trade her horse so that she can get a silver dollar to buy her wedding dress.  So he trades the horse for a cow, the cow for a dog, the dog for a stick.  Sounds worse and worse, doesn’t it?  But never fear, a solution, unexpected and wonderfully complex, is on its way.  I wouldn’t want to spoil the tale and tell you the ending though!

Miller excels at writing in a traditional way.  Her words evoke a history of folktales without effort.  It is filled with great folksy sayings like “How-do!” And the text is made for reading aloud with its partial sentences that really read like someone is speaking.  Miller has also added lovely descriptive passages about the land Georgy is passing through on his travels.  Daisies are a-dancing, gators are a-splashing, and catbirds are a-mewing.  Hillenbrand takes these passages and brings the entire story to life.  His art is friendly and folksy, with an angular horse, deep darkness of swampland, and one amazingly large stick.  Each character he draws has its own feel and style, which is quite a challenger in a book with such a series of people appearing.

A great read-aloud version of the folktale and well worth trading a horse for!  Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Fuse #8 and Shari Lyle-Soffe.

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17. Lousy Rotten Stinkin’ Grapes

Lousy Rotten Stinkin’ Grapes by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Barry Moser

The pair who collaborated on The Three Silly Billies is back with a twist on Aesop’s fable this time.  When fox can’t reach the grapes on his own, he asks bear to help.  Fox stands on bear’s head, but that doesn’t work either.  Beaver is added to the quest for the grapes, but his tail flip doesn’t help.  Porcupine arrives and joins the stack of animals to no avail.  All of the animals try to offer advice, but fox will have none of it.  Possum is finally added to the tip of fox’s nose, but that doesn’t work either.  In the end, the other animals are full of ideas of they alone could have gotten the grapes.  But fox is such a snit by that point that he marches off, leaving the others to enjoy the “lousy, rotten, stinkin’ grapes” without him.

Palatini’s tone is spot on.  The lumbering bear is written in a way that makes him a delight to read aloud, the voice bumbling along slowly.  Fox is frenzied, the other animals befuddled.  The juxtaposition of all of the voices is great fun to read aloud.  The writing is perfectly paced as well with each idea building on the next and the anticipation of success a great tension builder.  Moser’s illustrations are large and funny.  Fox being launched into the air again and again is a real hoot, as are the doubtful looks on the other animals’ faces. He uses white space with great effect to emphasize the distance between fox and grapes.

A read aloud with action, humor and animals!  What more could anyone want?  Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

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18. The Squirrel's Birthday


The Squirrel's Birthday and Other Parties by Toon Tellegen. Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg. Boxer Books. September 2009. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: A collection of short stories about animals, squirrel, ant, whale and others in a Wood, in the Ocean.

The Good: Simple stories with the logic of childhood. Squirrel has a birthday; he invites people by writing invitations on beech bark. The wind delivers the invitations and the acceptances.

Squirrel bakes cakes for those invited: He baked a rough bark cake for the elephant and a small, moldy willow cake for the woodworm. He thought deeply and then baked a cake made only of water for the dragonfly. It was a strange, gleaming cake and he put it to one side under the twigs of the rosebush.

Everyone comes to the party and eats their cakes, gives presents, and then, of course, they dance. The other stories are equally fun and full of whimsy; a whale who hides in the Ocean but comes to a party on the beach and dances; a snail who builds a second story to his home. Things that make perfect sense to a child.

Letters to Anyone and Everyone by Toon Tellegen. Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg. Boxer Books. November 2009. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: Animals write letters to each other. And to tables. And to themselves. And the sun.

The Good: The short, semi-intertwined stories continue. The stories and language are magical: "But the squirrel and letter noticed nothing of that. They slept and dreamed of words and sweet ink."

The ideas behind them continue to be inventing, entertaining, serious. The tortoise wakes up one morning in a hurry and doesn't know what to do to stop being in a hurry. The elephant keeps climbing trees and falling. Parties are had, cakes are eaten.

While these books will work best as a read-aloud, one on one with a young child, these will also make some learning-to-read young readers very happy. Those readers who like small books, the rich feel of the paper, and the quasi fantasy world where bees have shops that sell things for a fortune and memories can be kept in a box.

Take a peak for yourself and see Boxer Books' website and illustrations from both books. Ahlberg's illustrations have details to pore over; something small to be discovered on each page.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

2 Comments on The Squirrel's Birthday, last added: 10/2/2009
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19. Have You Ever Seen a Sneep?

Have You Ever Seen a Sneep? by Tasha Pym, pictures by Joel Stewart

Does a Sneep steal your picnic the minute you turn your back?  Does a Snook ruin your quiet time by being so loud?  Have you swung out over the water and landed in a Grullock’s throat?  Have you been surprised by a Floon?  Chased by a Knoo?  You haven’t? 

This funny and charming fantasy features a boy who lives in a land filled with creatures we have never seen before.  They are humanoid but strange with purple skin, large beaks, and many legs.  It is a great juxtaposition of a normal boy in what seem to be normal settings doing normal things and then an unusual creature arrives and the entire scene shifts.  Pym’s rhymes are effortless as they swing readers through the book.  Stewart’s art suits the subject perfectly with its gentle feel combined with wacky characters in wild colors. 

Highly recommended for preschool or toddler storytimes.  Children will love the fact they are being asked if they have seen such a creature themselves.  Adults reading aloud will find the pacing impeccable.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

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20. Snore, Dinosaur, Snore

Snore, Dinosaur, Snore! by John Bendall-Brunello

Three little dinosaurs wake up from sleeping on their mother’s spiny back.  But their mother is still asleep.  She doesn’t move when they prod and pinch her.  She just continues to snore.  They try tickling, clawing and elbowing her.  More snores.  Then they roll her over and slide her down a hill!  Snores.  After rolling down and splashing into a muddy puddle, she just might be waking up.  But they won’t be sure until those snores turn into ROARS!

Simple and perfectly paced for a toddler audience, this book has the appeal of dinosaurs mixed with silliness and giggles.  The little dinosaurs are mischievous.  Children will delight in the thought of rolling a mother down a hill and into mud.  And the reaction at the end is just loud and surprising enough to cap off this fun romp of a book. 

Appropriate for ages 2-4, this book will be welcomed by young dinosaur enthusiasts and should not snore for long on any library shelf.  Not with little dinosaurs around! 

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

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21. All The World


All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marlee Frazee. Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. 2009. Picture Book. Caldecott Honor Book.

The Plot: A family is at the beach: "rock, stone, pebble, sand/ body, shoulder, arm, hand/ a moat to dig/ a shell to keep/ All the world is wide and deep." The family goes about its day and a host of other characters are depicted. At the end, they are together, one community, one world: "Everything you hear, smell, see/ All the world is everything/ Everything is you and me/ Hope and peace and love and trust/ All the world is all of us."

The Good: Really, it would be easier to say what isn't good.

Um, except it's all good.

The poem itself is deceptively simple; describing a day in the children's lives, but also describing all of us. It shows what we share and have in common.

The illustrations (pencil and watercolor) reflect the text and deepen it. They are full of details; each time you read the book, you see something new, a new connection. When does part of one scene appear in another? What people appear and reappear in the illustrations? It's more than a guessing game, a searching game. It underscores how we are all connected.

The family and people in the book reflect our world: different colors, different shades, different ages. It's not a big deal, in that it's not part of the text or done with a "look! look! look!" feel; it is a big deal because we need to have and see multicultural families in books, and yay, here is a beautifully illustrated one with two children of color on the cover.

I hesitate to say "what a great message," because message books are usually heavy handed. This is not; so I'll say, this book has meaning, and truth, and inspiration. It has reassurance and love.

Video and curriculum guide at author's website.





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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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22. Review of the Day: Joha Makes a Wish by Eric A. Kimmel

Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale
By Eric A. Kimmel
Illustrated by Omar Rayyan
Marshall Cavendish
$17.99
ISBN: 978-0-7614-5599-8
Ages 4-8
On shelves now

There was a time, best beloved, when folktales and fairytales were common. Every other season they filled the publishers’ lists and librarians bought such books in droves. My own library’s children’s room contains a large and impressive folktale section, where parents can grab anything from your standard Snow White tale to perhaps a lesser known story like Anansi and the Moss-covered Rock. That particular folktale, by the way, is by one Eric A. Kimmel, a man who has spent much of his life finding and retelling classic folktales from a variety of different cultures for the American audience. Sadly, I estimate that in 2010 the number of folktales published for kids will, if we’re lucky, come to about ten. Max. And of those ten, how many will be any good? Well, at the very least you can count on Joha Makes a Wish. Adapted by the aforementioned Mr. Kimmel and illustrated by the too-little-known Omar Rayyan, Joha is one of those stories that remind you why we like folktales so much in the first place. They amuse, they inform, and they give us glimpses into cultures other than our own. In this particular case, the Middle East.

On a trip to Baghdad our hero Joha attempts to take a nap against an ancient wall. This doesn’t go so well, though, when the wall collapses behind him, revealing a stick and a scroll that proclaims, “You have found a wishing stick.” Delighted, Joha wishes for new shoes, only to find his old ones gone. A wish for the stick to disappear glues it to his hand. A wish to ride a donkey finds him carrying the animal instead. And you can pretty much guess what happens when he attempts to remove the sultan’s wart. After an encounter with a clever merchant the two realize that he’s been holding the stick upside down. Joha returns to the sultan to remove the copious warts, then finds his stick co-opted by the greedy ruler. Riding a small donkey away at the end, Joha speculates whether or not he should have told the sultan how to use the stick. In the end, it’s evident that he did not.

In his Author’s Note at the start of the book, Kimmel explains a little bit about your classic Joha tale. Joha’s a fool character, much like Jack in European tales. Kimmel ties him into a couple other characters, including Sancho Panza, suggesting that Cervantes got the idea for Sancho when he heard the Joha stories that circulated when he was in a Turkish prison. In Jewish tales, your fool character is either a schlemiel or a schlimazel. In this particular story, Joha is clearly on the schlimazel side of things. He’s a victim, until he can take charge of his problem and then foist it onto someone else. You sympathize with the guy, but at the same time there’s a certain bit of schadenfreude watching him carrying a donkey or fleeing from the authorities on foot.

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23. The Cow Loves Cookies

The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Marcellus Hall

Told in a jaunty rhyme, this book shows life on a farm through a funny, quirky lens.  Farmer feeds each animal every day.  The horse eats hay.  The chickens eat chicken feed.  The geese eat corn.  The pig eats slop.  The dog loves doggie treats.  As each animal is introduced along with the food it eats, the chorus chimes in with “the cow loves cookies.”  Then with each new animal, the previous ones are added to the rhyme, forming a fun, cumulative tale.  In the end, the reader will be pleased to find out exactly how the cow got a taste for cookies. 

This book is made to read aloud with its great rhymes that never grow stale and the wonderful rhythm that is built into them.  Even better, there is that chorus line that children will love to help repeat.  Hall’s illustrations echo the light-hearted tone of the text with their free flowing style and friendliness.  They are also large enough to work well with a group of children.

Add this one to your storytime reads for barnyard books.  Perhaps even concluding the stories with some cookies, you know that the children love cookies!  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.

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24. Where Is Tippy Toes?

Where Is Tippy Toes? by Betsy Lewin

In the morning, everyone knows where Tippy Toes the cat is.  Even the mouse is aware Tippy Toes is right outside his mouse hole.  But once night falls, Tippy Toes sneaks around, blending in.  In fact, only one person knows where Tippy Toes disappears to late at night, but readers are invited to find out!  A very child-friendly format with cut-outs on the heavy pages that will have children engaged immediately, this book is sure to be enjoyed by fans of Spot.

Lewin keeps the words to a minimum here, using just enough rhyme to be enjoyable and just enough verse to keep the story moving.  It is an ideal amount of text for toddlers who will love the rhythm of the verse, they rhymes, and the game of turning the pages to find Tippy Toes.  Lewin’s illustrations are done in strong lines and bright colors that will work well with a group of children.  The pages are heavy enough and sturdy enough to withstand checkouts at a public library too.

Add this one to your collection of books to pull out when the toddlers get squirmy.  It is sure to get them settled again and ready to listen.  Appropriate for ages 1-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.

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