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Showing posts from January, 2016

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

I had never heard of the British author and poet A. F. Harrold before I encountered The Imaginary at a bookstore just before Christmas but I was definitely familiar with illustrator Emily Gravett, a longtime favorite of mine (read my reviews of her picture books here.) Gravett's playful, detailed style is perfectly paired with Harrold's engrossing, creative, slightly creepy story of a girl, her imaginary friend and the fiend who is trying to eat him, making The Imaginary a truly stand out book.
Amanda Primrose Shuffleup has an incredible imagination. And, when she opens up her wardrobe door one rainy evening to hang up her wet coat and finds a boy named Rudger, her imaginary world gets even bigger. From landing a spaceship of alien planets (the thorn bushes in the backyard) to a hot air balloon that lands them in the "sticky, steamy South American jungle" to a "complex of caves, deep and dark, that stretched out for unknown miles underneath the stairs," Aman…

The Most Wonderful Thing in the World by Vivian French, illustrated by Angela Barrett

Prolific British picture book author Vivian French teams up with the reigning Queen of the art of the fairy tale, Angela Barrett to create The Most Wonderful Thing in the World, a contemporary story that feels like a classic fairy tale.
The story begins, "Once, in the time of your grandmother's grandmother, there was a kingdom." Looking very much like Venice, Italy, the kingdom sits on a lagoon dotted with islands. The king and the queen are very proud of their kingdom and of their daughter, Lucia. Realizing that she will someday rule the kingdom, they determine that they must start the search for a husband who will reign with her. They send a letter to Wise Old Angelo who lives on the smallest island in the kingdom to ask exactly what they should do. Angelo thinks long and hard and tells the king and queen that they must find the young man who can show them, "the most wonderful thing in the world," and has his grandson, Salvatore, hand deliver this missive.


Luci…

Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion by Dominique Roques, illustrated by Alexis Dormal

Anna Banana and her band of stuffed animals are back! And this time, they are hungry. Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion starts off with Pingpong, the penguin, who is as hungry as a bear. And he wants chocolate cake. Of course things get out of control, and quickly. My favorite spread, below, finds Fuzzball energetically, if not efficiently (or cleanly) stirring the batter with verve. 
Meanwhile, Pingpong is still hungry. Fortunately, Grizzler has headed into a different room to bake, alone. Intrigued by his process, they sneak after him when he retreats to bake another cake . . .
Only to discover that Grizzler has been visiting the bakery! They all head back to Anna Banana's idyllic house on a tree lined street where they manage to scrape some batter into a pan and bake another cake.
The comic book format of Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion makes the action all the more expressive and the expressions of the characters even more hilarious. Anna and her gang are completely…

A Tiny Piece of Sky by Shawn K. Stout, 319pp, RL 4

A Tiny Piece of Sky by Shawn K. Stout is set in Hagerstown, Maryland in 1939 at the start of summer. I love a great historical fiction novel and Stout delivers a story that is filled with interesting people, places and events with an omniscient narrator and direct addresses to the reader sprinkled judiciously throughout. While the climax of  A Tiny Piece of Sky wasn't quite as dramatic as I had anticipated, it didn't make it any less memorable or enjoyable.
Frankie Baum is the youngest of three sisters with an impressive scab collection that she is hoping to expand over the long, hot summer months. Joan, the second sister, is headed out to Aunt Dottie's farm for the summer and Elizabeth, the oldest, always has her nose in a book. It's up to Frankie to tend to their pony and former rodeo star, Dixie, and hook her up to the cart and take her out for a spin. But, before Frankie can even settle into missing her sister, Mr. Baum has a surprise for the family that will keep t…

The Terrible Two Get Worse by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrated by Kevin Cornell, 215pp, RL 3

A year ago saw the debut of The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett, Jory John and illustrator Kevin Cornell. A standout for being laugh out loud funny (not as common a trait in kid's books as you might expect), The Terrible Two began the story of Miles, new kid in Yawnee Valley and master prankster, and his nemesis, Niles, the rule-following, goody-two-shoes, sash-wearing School Helper. The Terrible Two took a terrific turn when (SPOILER ALERT) it turned out that the angelic Niles was actually the secret prankster challenging Miles's status. The two teamed up, repeated the prankster's oath and shared a secret handshake before going on to pull off the greatest prank at Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy ever against their favorite target, Principal Barkin. Niles, Miles, Principal Barry Barkin, and his entitled son Josh are back in The Terrible Two Get Worse, along with Principal Barkin's father, retired Principal Bertrand Barkin.
The new school year seems to be off to a …

How the Sun Got to Coco's House by Bob Graham

How the Sun Got to Coco's House is the fifth book by Bob Graham that I have reviewed now, and each one is as magically universal as the next. A picture book by Graham can go all the way around the world and never leave a single room. And, perhaps because of the nature of the stories he tells, Graham can tell the same story over and over, making it new and enchanting every single time.


With How the Sun Got to  Coco's House, the sun is the main character. Graham begins, "It had to start somewhere. While Coco slept far away, the sun crept up slowly behind a hill, paused for a moment, and seemed to think twice . . ." The sun skids giddily, touching a fisherman's cap and, "with the help of the wind . . . blew it off!" The sun tumbles, makes shadows, balances on the wing of a plane, "just for young Lovejoy, off to visit his grandma."
The sun shines on Jung Su and her mother, trekking through the woods before it catches Kosha and his father on the way …

Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato

The Publishers Weeklyreview of Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato, begins, "How do you explain a revolution to a young audience?" This is how - with a sweetly simple story (with sweetly simple illustrations) about two worms in love. What amazes and surprises me most about Worm Loves Worm is how subtle message that love is love and how powerful the excitement and joy (along with preconceived ideas) of a wedding is. Austrian and Curato achieve the nearly impossible accomplishment of creating a picture book that teaches, or, more precisely (hopefully) opens minds and shifts perspective, while also being a wonderfully illustrated, engaging story.
Two worms fall in love and decide to get married. The officious Cricket steps in saying, "You need someone to marry you. That's how it's always been done." This is a refrain he will repeat often over the course of Worm Loves Worm as other bugs get involved in the wedding planning. Beetle insis…

2016 ALA Award Winners

I thought I try something different (and hopefully easier) this year for my post of the ALA Award winners: a Pinterest Board. Not sure if it was the timesaver I wanted it to be, but I hope you enjoy it as much if not more!

       Follow books4yourkids.com's board 2016 ALA Award Winners on Pinterest.


Reviews of these ALA Winners coming soon: 
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B Gone Crazy in Alabama The Ghosts of Heaven

Reading Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Christian Robinson, Out Loud

More than a review, what follows are my thoughts on a picture book winning the Newbery, my experience reading Last Stop on Market Street to my students, and how this changed and shaped my understanding of and experience with this book.
A week ago, Last Stop on Market Street, a picture book by YA author Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson, won the Newbery award. Traditionally, this award is given to novels, although this is not specified in the criteria, which states that the award be given to the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." Last Stop on Market Street also, very deservedly, won a Caldecott honor, an award given to the "most distinguished picture book for children." I received a review copy of this book when it came out and, as sadly sometimes happens with great books, I read it but didn't get around to reviewing it. When I heard that Last Stop on Market Street won the Newbery, I did a double take, rereadin…

Yard Sale by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Yard Sale, written by Even Bunting and illustrated by Lauren Castillo begins, "Almost everything we own is spread out in our front yard. We are moving to a small apartment." Yard Sale is a rare picture book that addresses socioeconomic status, and, working in a school where almost 90% of my students qualify for free lunch, I am grateful for it. 

Over the course of the day Callie experiences a range of emotions as she sees the things she has grown up with leave her life. Chagrined, she watches as a woman talks down the price of her headboard because "someone has put crayon marks on it." Callie made those marks to show how many time she read Goodnight Moon


She is angry as she sees a man loading her bike into his truck. Her father rushes over, explaining to her that they have to sell her bike - there is no place to store it and no place to ride it at their new apartment. Callie tells her friend Sara that they have to move because it's "something to do with mo…

Mouse Scouts written and illustrated by Sarah Dillard, 128 pp, RL 2

With Mouse Scouts, Sarah Dillard has created a series that my 8-year-old self would have gone bonkers for. Besides fantastic stories about best (but opposite) friends Violet and Tigerlily and their adventures with their Mouse Scout troop, Dillard's books are filled with fantastic illustrations, maps, songs, and passages from the very important Mouse Scout Handbook, including a very doable chapter on how to make a duty chart. There is just so much going on in these tiny, mousey little books!  

In the first book we meet Violet, a quiet mouse who is prone to nervousness, and her best friend since their first day as Buttercups, Tigerlily. Tigerlily is the opposite of Violet, boisterous and talkative. Violet and Tigerlily are on the verge of becoming Mouse Scouts, but Violet is nervous that they won't make the cut. Happily, they become Mouse Scouts and, under the guidance of Miss Poppy, they, and their fellow scouts, embark upon their first project: earning their "Sow It and Gr…

My Two Blankets written by Irena Kobald, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

My Two Blankets is a stunningly powerful debut picture book about the experiences of immigrating to a new country by Irena Kobald. Kobald is a multilingual Austrian immigrant to Australia who teaches aboriginal children in Australian outback communities. The children she teaches use English as a fifth language. My Two Blankets was inspired by a friendship that developed between Kobald's daughter and a Sudanese child. Working in a school near the Mexican border, the majority of my students are immigrants or the children of immigrants. I have read My Two Blankets over and over to students from all grades and the way that Kobald and Blackwood bring this experience to the page resonates with them, whether it is their personal experience or not - it could be their parents' experience, their cousin's or their grandparents'. And, as someone who has never experienced this kind of challenge, Kobald and Blackwood made this experience immediately tangible for me as I read this am…