Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from May, 2016

What This Story Needs is a Munch and a Crunch by Emma J. Virján, RL 1

I don't usually have the time to review follow up books in a series, but Emma Virján'sPig In a Wig series of beginning to read books is such a find that I want to call it to your attention as often as possible. The illustrations are bright and colorful with fantastic picture clues and the gently rhyming stories are always entertaining and just silly enough to keep kids reading over  and over.

In What This Story Needs is a Munch and a Crunch, the Pig in a Wig plans a picnic for all her friends. As before, the phrase, "What this story needs," appears often in the text, which is never more than a sentence per page. In fact, the book has only five sentences total! Emerging readers will find this book engaging and feel success at the end, which comes quickly. The story arc follow the picnicking animals as they eat and play and then, as the skies grow dark, find a new place to picnic. These books are a staple in my school library and I can't wait to see what the Pig in …

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

I didn't intend to review Mo Willem'sThe Thank You Book, the 25th and final book in the Elephant &Piggie series that began in 2007. I first encountered these books as a bookseller and story-time-reader while working at Barnes & Noble. I wasn't a big fan of Willems's Pigeon books, mostly because I found them challenging to read out loud. I quickly discovered that Elephant &Piggie books were a joy to read out loud and had mass appeal, from little kids to parents to even teens! Then my youngest son started learning to read and my appreciation of what Willems was doing deepened immensely. You can read all about that experience HERE. I want to take this time to tell you what a deeply satisfying end to a series The Thank You Book is and share my experiences with Elephant &Piggie as an elementary school librarian and, of course, say THANK YOUto Mo Willems!


Willems's The Thank You Book is both a wrap-up and a genuine thank you to readers. While spending time…

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

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

Joey loves all things folded, from maps to accordions to tacos to, of course, foldaway beds. When Joey's classmate, Sarah, brings her mother to school to teach the class how to make origami cranes, Joey's mind is blown. Mrs. Takimoto tells Joey that she can teach him the folds, but if he wants to be an origami master, he'll "need patience and practice." No problem! Joey practices everywhere with everything, including folding the $38.00 he foun…

BLOCKS by Irene Dickson

I absolutely adore BLOCKS by Irene Dickson! I often consult Kirkus Reviews to see what they think of a book and occasionally their reviewer will sum up a book so perfectly I have to quote, and that is the case with BLOCKS. Of Dickson's book, Kirkussuccinctly writes, "A cleverly simple book builds skills as well as towers."




Ruby builds with red blocks on the verso, Benji builds with blue blocks on the recto. They parallel play until Benji borrows a red block and a tussle follows. And the structures they have built come crashing down. Ruby even loses a shoe. Both children look stricken and the tension is palpable. Dickson does so much with few words and bold illustrations in BLOCKS. Even if you can see it coming, it is exciting to see the conflict and the resolution in this wonderful picture book. And, while Dickson could have ended BLOCKS with Ruby and Benji happily building together, a final page turn reveals Guy with his green blocks.

As a parent, I find so many teachable…

Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle

Molly Idle is the brilliant creator (and choreographer) of the first two books about Flora, an expressive, if not always graceful, little girl who seems to find herself frolicking with birds of all shapes and sizes. Flora, in a swimsuit, swim cap and flippers, has danced with a flamingo. Flora has skated with a penguin. Now, in Flora and the Peacocks, Flora faces her greatest challenge - dancing with not one, but two peacocks.
Flora and the FlamingoFlora and the Penguin
For this dance, Flora has a fan and two elegant partners. As with the first two books, clever flaps change the plot of these wordless picture books with just a flip. Flora's fan and the tails of the peacocks flip and flap to change the tone as the three try to orchestrate a dance that leaves no one out. 




As you might expect, there are jealous moments, frustrating turns and even some stomping off stage. But, Flora and the peacocks find a way to dance together by the end of the book, which culminates in a magnificent ga…

A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman, illustrated by Corey R. Tabor

A Dark, Dark Caveby Eric Hoffman with illustrations by Corey R. Tabor has the feel of an instant classic. Hoffman's rhyming journey of imagination is paired perfectly with Tabor's layered, playful watercolor illustrations and pencil drawings that have a hint of magic to them. Best of all, A Dark, Dark Cave has one of my favorite things to do with kids at the center of the story!
As the "pale moon glows," a sister and brother go spelunking. Hoffman repeats the refrain, "a dark, dark cave," throughout the text, creating a gentle suspense that builds with each page turn while Tabor's illustrations blend the real with the imaginary in a satisfying way that keeps readers guessing - are these two REALLY in a dark, dark cave all by themselves?
A light appears in the darkness, revealing that, in fact, the sister and brother are in a blanket cave! As a kid and a parent, building blanket forts is definitely one of my all-time favorite things to do. We even build bl…

Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle, 314 pp, RL 5

Having been a bookseller for so many years, I am very familiar with Lauren Myracle and her two very popular series, the Winnie Years and the Internet Girls, which, told entirely in texts, emails and IMs, was especially innovative and popular (and prescient) when first published in 2004. But, having a proclivity for fantasy, it took me until now to finally read one of Myracle's books. The blurb for Wishing Day grabbed my attention immediately. On the third night of the third month after her thirteenth birthday, every girl in the town of Willow Hill makes three wishes: the first is an impossible wish, the second is a wish she can make come true herself and the third is a wish made from her deepest, secret heart.
Natasha Blok is the oldest of three sisters born in under three years. In fact, her sister Darya is in seventh grade with her. Ava, their youngest sister is in sixth grade. As Wishing Day opens, Natasha is at the ancient willow tree, planted by her grandmother many times remo…

Before I Wake Up by Britta Teckentrup

Before I Wake Up . . . is the fifth book I have reviewed by Britta Teckentrupand her illustrations are as magically wonderful as ever. A simple rhyming text follows a girl through her nighttime, dreamworld adventures, a protective, comforting lion at her side.

Teckentrup begins, "Before I wake up, I float through my dreams . . . imagining worlds. Never ending it seems." The rhymes sometimes feel forced, but the illustrations are so unique and marvelous that it is easy to overlook. The girl and her lion travel by sky and by boat, over and under water, in and out of woods and jungles. Teckentrup establishes a dream landscape in a variety of ways. Sometimes the narrator is seen multiple times on a page, sometimes she seems to float across the page. As morning approaches, the palette lightens with it. Dark blues and blacks shift to oranges, reds and eventually yellows. The final page shows the narrator, tucked beneath a sunny yellow quilt with a toy lion snuggled at her side, rea…

Where's the Elephant? by Barroux

I opened the cheerfully colored,  creatively illustrated Where's the Elephant? by French children's book illustrator Barroux expecting a fun look-and-find book and got so much more. Where's the Elephant? is indeed a look-and-find book, and it is not always easy to find the elephant and his companions, a parrot and a snake, but it is also a subtle lesson on deforestation and loss of habitat that affects so many of the world's animals.


Where's the Elephant? is a journey through time and space.  The book begins with an expanse of blue ocean with the tip of a lush island seen at the edge of the opposite page. A two page spread that shows a lollipop colored forest (can you find the elephant? Snake? Parrot?) But a page turn shows a clearcut starting. A few page turns later, and it's very easy to spot the elephant and his friends because their habitat has been taken over by houses and roads. Huddled in the few trees left, the wild animals eventually find themselves cag…

A Brave Bear by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Emily Hughes

A Brave Bear pairs prolific author Sean Taylorwith Emily Hughes, a new illustrator I've been wanting to review for a while now. Hughes's illustrations are a story in their own, but Taylor's narrative makes A Brave Bear a memorable story about a falling down and getting up again that parents will find sweet and young listeners/readers will relate to instantly. And, A Brave Bear also makes a fantastic Father's Day gift!


A Brave Bear begins before the title page with the words, "Everything was hot" and an illustrations of two bears in their den. The language of A Brave Bear continues on in this simple way, with the little bear narrating. Papa Bear says, "I think that a pair of hot bears is probably the hottest thing in the world." Little Bear suggests they cool off in the river and the pair begin the long trek downhill. There are grassy parts, bushy parts and jumping parts. Jumping over the rocks, Little Bear says, "I think a jumping bear is probab…

Grandad's Island by Benji Davies

Benji Davies new picture book, Grandad's Island, is a wonderful story of friendship, adventure, imagination and saying goodbye. I especially love that Grandad's Island is a book that can be read and understood on more than one level. Davies's illustrations have a cinematic feels and are packed with colors and details that will bring you back again and again, as will the charming characters of Syd and Grandad.

A gate at the bottom of Syd's backyard leads right into Grandad's and the two are clearly as close as two peas in a pod. When Syd drops by for a visit and can't find Gradad anywhere, he finds him in the attic where, surprisingly, there is a big metal door that opens onto the deck of a huge ship!


The pair head out to sea and, after a pleasantly long journey, they reach an island. After disembarking, the two head into the jungle where they turn an old shack on stilts into the perfect vacation house.

Syd and Grandad explore the island, paint and swim and clearly…

Otters Love to Play by Johnathan London, illustrated by Meilo So

Otters Love to Play is the fantastic new non-fiction picture book from Johnathan London, author of the Froggy series of picture books, and Meilo So. It's hard not to love otters, in part because they are so playful, and London and So perfectly capture this - and many other fascinating facts about otters - in this highly readable book.


Otters Love to Play employs a format that I love in a non-fiction picture book because it allows me to read it to all audiences. A larger font at the top of the page delivers broad information about the subject while a smaller font at the bottom of the page provides detailed facts. Backmatter includes an index and further information about otters. Otters Love to Play begins with a lakeside scene, So's illustrations are the perfect mix of bleeding watercolors and tight pen and ink sketches that bring both the otters and the forest to life over the course of four seasons. On the very first page, I learned that otters often use the abandoned dens of …