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Lucky Lazlo by Steve Light

Lucky Lazlo by Steve Light is a visual delight, as are all his picture books. With his newest book, I also learned a lot about theater traditions from the author's note at the end of the book that sent me back to the beginning to read all over again with a new eye.

Lazlo is in love. He buys the last red rose - how lucky! - from a flower seller and heads to the theater where the girl he loves is starring in Alice in Wonderland at the Peacock Theater. But in front of the theater, Lazlo runs into some bad luck. A cat steals his rose and the chase is on!


Through the stage door and into the backstage where everyone is getting their costumes on, across the orchestra pit, over the prop table and beyond, the chase continues. The cat breaks a mirror - cringe - but drops the rose when he sees a mouse to chase. Lazlo snatches up the rose, a big smile on his face, and he steps onto a stray croquet ball that sends him rolling across the stage to cries of, "Bravo! Bravo!" In the end, th…
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Frogkisser by Garth Nix, 384 pp, RL 4

The fantasy novels of Garth Nix were a large part of my daughter's reading when she was a kid, in part because she loved fantasy but also because his works were widely praised. Somehow, I never got around to reading anything by Nix until now! And it was the high praise of YA author and editor extraordinaire, David Levithan, that made me buy Frogkisser! without a second thought. Levithan compared it to a favorite of mine from my adolescence, William Goldman's The Princess Bride. The comparison is apt, and I have no doubt that for a new generation of young readers, Frogkisser! will be their version of The Princess Bride - a book they will remember always, return to occasionally and, if they are lucky, the next Rob Reiner will make an equally beloved movie of the book.
In the kingdom of Trallonia, Princess Anya's favorite place is in the library with Gotfried, a librarian who had been training to be a wicked sorcerer before realizing it didn't suit him as he have "ver…

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, 176pp, RL 4

I love kid's books and the people who create them. However, I've found that kid's books about the people who create kid's books are not always exciting or interesting to read. Perhaps it is the subject, or maybe the author/illustrator, or likely a marvelous combination of both that make Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet is a joyful, fascinating, beautiful book to read and look at. Sweet, who has an engaging collage style of illustration, makes personal artifacts like handwritten (and typed) letters, poems and stories, journals and brochures part of this vibrant, beautiful book. In fact, taking this quote from White, "I fell in love with the sound of an early typewriter and I have been stuck with it ever since," finds her visual theme for the book, giving it a (elevated) scrapbook feel.

Maybe I had some preconceived ideas about the childhood and life of the man who wrote Charlotte's Web and made The Elements of Style an essential text, b…

Flora and the Chicks by Molly Idle

I adored all three of the Flora picture books written and illustrated by Molly Idle. Without words, and with the clever use of gatefolds, Idle dances readers through ups and downs of friendship, collaboration, compromise and joy as the wonderfully round, elegantly funny Flora takes the stage. I was a little sad when the Flora trilogy ended last year, but I am SO HAPPY to see her back on the page with Flora and the Chicks. And this time Flora is in a board book and counting chicks.


From one to ten, Idle dances the balletic Flora, wearing overalls the same color as the mama hen, across the page. When the hen leaves the nest, Flora takes a peek, discovering a hatchling. Gatefolds open to show surprises as the chicks hatch, explore and play with each other and Flora. The white background adds to the theatrical feel of the story as Flora moves across the pages, the chicks not far behind. Flora and the Chicks is the perfect addition to any board book collection!

More Flora!

Flora and the Flami…

Gary by Leila Rudge

With her second authored and illustrated picture book, Leila Rudge proves that she has a true gift for telling stories about fitting in and standing out, an often overworked theme in picture books. With her debut, A Perfect Place for Ted, Rudge told the story of Ted, a "smart dog with his own sweater" who tries everything to get noticed, finally finding his perfect place as a friend to Dot, a girl with a house full of cats. With Gary, Rudge creates a racing pigeon who can't fly, like the rest of his flock, but has big dreams of travel.

Gary is just like the other birds in his flock, but on race day he stays home because he can't fly. But, he has a taste for adventure, a keen ear and a growing scrap book. Perched nearby, Gary listens as his flock-mates discuss wind direction, flight paths and waypoints the night before a race, recording all this in his scrapbook.


A series of mishaps leaves Gary stranded in the city, his flock mates flying off to race. But, Gary has his …

Motor Miles by John Burningham

Effortless is the singular word I would use to describe both the stories and illustrations of John Burningham, who turned eighty last year and won his first Kate Greenaway Medal (the British Caldecott) in 1963. Somehow, he takes elements from everyday life like a difficult dog, a boy named Norman and a neighbor who likes to tinker and the next thing you know - Motor Miles!  

Miles "was a very difficult dog." He did not come when he was called, refused to go for walks and didn't like his food, or the rain or other dogs. And he barked too much. While Miles really liked were car rides and sitting in the cafe. But Alice Trudge, Norman's mother, and Norman couldn't take Miles to the cafe day after day. Happily, their neighbor, Mr. Huddy knew exactly what Miles needed - a car of his own.


Miles has many driving lessons and is finally ready to hit the road. One morning, Alice can't take Norman to school and, in a moment of desperation all parents can relate to, she let…

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan, 296 pp, RL 4

Holly Goldberg Sloangarnered praise for her novel Counting by 7s in 2013. When her newest novel, Short crossed my path I was excited to read her work. I love a well written novel with a first person narrator. Finding that in a middle grade novel is a challenge, but when done right it can be amazing. When not done right, it can be irritating and forced, among other things. As an adult reader of middle grade fiction, I struggle when the narrator, often some thirty-five years younger than me, possesses more wisdom and insight than I currently do. However, when I am able to channel my eleven-year-old-reader self, she usually loves this kind of voice, which is the voice of Julia Marks in Short.
Julia Marks is a very complete character, and Sloan brings her to life on the page. Julia is short for her age, but she never says the "s" word out loud. She can wear the same clothes year after year because she just doesn't grow that much. However, even at the start of Short, being sho…