The Best Days are Dog Days by Aaron Meshon

The Best Days are Dog Days is the newest picture book from Aaron Meshon, author and illustrator of the fantastic TOOLS Rule!. Meshon's brightly detailed illustrations (which would be perfect hanging on the walls of any kid's room, or living room for that matter) are worth the price of the book alone, but he is a great writer as well and his stories always bring a new, creative perspective to the subject. With The Best Days Are Dog Days, Meshon parallels the busy day of a toddler and the family's French Bulldog. I think it's fair to call them siblings. . .

One thing that I noticed with my own children and interacting with babies while working as a bookseller is that babies love to see pictures of babies. And toddlers love to see images of their daily lives. While this can be a little dull to the person reading the book, Meshon finds the perfect way to make these mundane (but, fun) tasks humorously engaging for little and big readers alike. Pup and Sis do everything together. Their day begins, Sis on the right side of the page and Pup, the narrator, on the left, with a stretch. Meshon captures the dog stretch perfectly, and Sis's little puppy-themed pjs are very cute. Breakfast is followed by a trip to the parks, both kid and dog. They make friends, play in the water and, together at the same time, chase a squirrel. A potty break is another moment of subtle humor in this already very funny book. A tandem bike, with a toddler seat and a dog basket, make getting around this very cool city (Seattle? Vancouver? St. Paul?) entertaining. Back home again and exhausted, it's bath time then time to brush the teeth for yet another awesomely hilarious two-page spread.

Kids and dogs are a pretty common pairing in picture books, but Meshon brings a very fresh approach to it. Of course this is the perfect book for new parents who have been practicing on their dog for a few years, but really, any little one will love this book with its familiar themes and cheerful colors. Buy this book today! Buy two - one for your own family and one to give as a gift!

Source: Reveiw Copy


Bob the Artist by Marion Deuchars

Marion Deuchars is the force behind the Let's Make Some series of books that inspire creativity in kids and adults. Visit the site to give Deuchars's projects a try or read my reviews of her books  Let's Make Some Great Fingerprint Art
and http://www.books4yourkids.com/2013/12/lets-make-more-great-placemat-art-by.html"target="_blank">Let's Make More Great Placemat Art. Now, with Bob the Artist, Deuchars has written and illustrated her first picture book and of course it's about creativity!

I find Deuchars's illustrations crisply engaging and always charming. Her hand lettering adds to that charm, almost inviting readers to write their own story, which works wonderfully in Bob the Artist. Bob is a red-beaked-blackbird with skinny legs. Legs so skinny that the other birds laugh and laugh when they see Bob. 

This brings Bob down so he tries to do something about his legs. Exercise, clothes as camouflage and some serious sausage eating to nothing for Bob's legs. Then, Bob happens to visit a gallery where he is INSPIRED!

Bob takes his inspiration from Henri Matisse and Jackson Pollock, decorates his beak and heads back out into the world. This time the other birds greet him with appreciation and awe and Bob feels good about himself again - good enough to even walk the world as himself sometimes!

Bob the Artist can be a book with a message and it can also be a book that is beautiful to look at, fun to read and a creative inspiration, which is how I like to read it, and how I hope you will, too!

Source: Review Copy


52 - Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton, 329 pp, RL 4

A few years ago I gleefully discovered The 13 Story Treehouse written by Andy Griffiths and illustrated by Terry Denton. These two Australians are the geniuses who created the hands-down-best-ever (sorry Dr. Seuss) silly-rhyming primers, The Cat on the Mat is Flat and The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow. These two books are rarely on the shelves of my school library and I have three copies of each. They are perfect for new readers who want a chapter book but aren't quite ready for one and they are also perfect for older kids reading below grade level because they are eye-catching and don't look like baby books... With the creation of The Treehouse Series these two really deserve some kind of medal for creating completely engaging books for that appeal to all readers, but especially reluctant readers, boys, and struggling readers.  These books are an easy sell, but when called upon, I will tell kids they are like a cross between the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and the cartoon show Phineas and Ferb.

Three years and three books later, it is definitely worth revisiting this superb series and the silly main characters, Andy and Terry. Yes, the author and illustrator made themselves the stars of their own books, and rightly so. These books are still highly illustrated, happily, often veering into graphic novel territory. And what has been going on as the boys have been adding thirteen levels to their treehouse every year? Of course, as the treehouse grows the amazing accoutrements increase. A bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool and a marshmallow-shooting machine that follows you around and feed you when you are hungry are just a few of the fun features of the treehouse. Now, 39 stories later, the treehouse includes a chainsaw-juggling level, a rocket-powered-carrot launcher, a lifesized snakes and ladders game, a Ninja Snail training academy and a state of the art, high tech detective agency that hopefully will help them find their missing publisher, Mr. Big Nose.

Yes! Things do happen in the Treehouse Series! It's not all fun, game, gags and gadgets! First of all, Andy and Terry are always facing a deadline, with a new book due to their publisher - and yes, there is a 65 Story Treehouse on the horizon (and already available in Australia!) In the last book, Terry invented a "Once-upon-a-time" machine that will write and illustrate books for them but this time around they are back to doing it themselves, among other things, like celebrating Andy's birthday. If you have never cracked the spine of any of the Treehouse Books, I strongly suggest you do. It will brighten your day, and then someone else's, whether you share it, give it or just laugh together, these are the most fun a lot of kids will have with a book.

Coming in 2017!!!???!!!

Source: Review Copy


Shrunken Treasures: Literary Classics, Short, Sweet, and Silly by Scott Nash

Fairy tales are a passion of mine and I am fortunate enough to have 30 students, a different grade every day, for ninety minutes each morning. Across all the grades, in one form or another, I spend a lot of time reading fairy tales out loud and I never fail to be surprised by the rapt attention that I get from every child. I think, in part, they love hearing the fairy tales because they are familiar with them. With this in mind, why not make children familiar with literary classics? Jack and Holman Wang are doing this with their charmingly clever Cozy Classics board books and now Scott Nash, author and illustrator of the superb  The High Flying Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate, which has a very classic feel of its own, brings us Shrunken Treasures: Literary Classics, Short, Sweet and Silly. While it took me a while to find the value in introducing children to classic works of adult literature, seeing the endless interest my students have in fairy tales made me think these creative adapters are on to something!

Nash begins Shrunken Treasures with an introduction to in invention that he calls the "Versizer." A "marvel of squishy science," the Versizer can transform "lengthy novels, myths and epic poems into delightful nuggets of nonsense." Nash assures readers that the Versizer does no damage to the original text, as it can be un-shrunk at any time. Finally, he urges readers to "recite and sing" these shrunken treasures until they are "old enough to read the more weighty classics" themselves.

Short, sweet, and silly is exactly what these nine poems are. And Nash is very creative. Moby Dick is to be recited/sung to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," Jane Eyre to the tune of "Three Blind Mice." Nash begins his retelling of The Odyssey with, "No wussie was Ulysses," a refrain repeated throughout the poem. My favorite poem in the whole book, and the final, is Remembrance of Things Past, which reads as follows:

                    I dipped a sweet cake in my tea
                    And a whole world came back to me.

The accompanying illustrations is brilliant as well, showing M(arcel) with a world of things floating just above his head. Of course kids won't get this, but you will have fun explaining it to them!

Source: Review Copy


Cozy Classics: Pride & Prejudice, Moby Dick and War & Peace by Jack & Holman Wang

Last year I reviewed Epic Yarns, a trilogy of board books by brothers Jack and Holman Wang. Each book tells the story of the Star Wars saga using only twelve words and twelve adorably, masterfully felted scenes. Normally, this is the kind of board book I would pass on, but the Wang brothers are so creative with their vision and their felting and the miniature scenes are so intriguing that I couldn't resist. Now, Cozy Classics, the Wang's first series of board books is being reissued - three a year, along with two new board books a year - and they are just as good, if not better than the Epic Yarns.

The Wang brother, both dads, actually started this series as a way to teach words to their very young children. I bristled a little when I first heard about the Cozy Classics, but once I read them I fell in love. And, having spent the last two years working as an elementary school librarian and watching as fairy tales and Greek mythology grab the interest of my students over and over, I have come to believe that introducing kids to he classics - even if they are the adult classics - is actually a good thing. There is a reason that the classics are still read and loved, in part because, like fairy tales, their stories are timeless. And, if an author can pare down a classic and make it both palatable and comprehensible for kids while maintaining the universally appealing aspects of the story, why not?

I know it seems crazy to think that a classic work of literature can be distilled down to twelve words, but the Wang brothers really know their cannon. And, if you are intimately familiar with any of the classics they felt, I think you will agree with me.

Also, think of how fun it could be to read the Cozy Classics with your little ones and fill in bits of the stories that are appropriate and interesting to them? And, if you like this idea, be sure not to miss the fantastic Shrunken Treasures: Literary Classics, Short and Sweet by Scott Nash. Nash playfully illustrates nine classics from Western literature that have been sent through the "Versizer," a "marvel of squishy science" that transforms lengthy works into short, silly poems.

Here's a glimpse at more Cozy Classics 
to come this year and next!

Source: Review Copy


The Whale by Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow

The Whale is the debut picture book from Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow, published by Big Picture Books, an imprint of two of my favorite picture book publishers, Templar Company Limited and Candlewick Press. As the name suggests, Big Picture Press is dedicated to publishing highly illustrated books with the belief that, "books should be visually intelligent, surprising and accessible to readers of all age, abilities and nationalities." I think they are doing a stellar job carrying out this mission, but you can judge for yourself by clicking here.

The first thing you notice about The Whale, besides the generous trim size and thick, luxurious pages, are the illustrations. They are immediately engrossing and completely compelling. The opening pages show two industrious kids, separately preparing to prove that the giant whale, spotted by two children fifty years ago, is not a hoax. A two page illustration of town's newspaper, the Cape Chronicle, tells some of the story.

Back on their boats, we see the boy and girl preparing their equipment and their boats to document the existence of the whale. There is almost a steampunk feel to these pages, with  gadgets and gears everywhere. The two head out and, absorbed in their mission, crash into each other. Angry at first, they quickly team up to complete their mission when they spot the mysterious whale on the horizon. The final pages of The Whale are the Cape Chronicle again, telling the story of the two adventurers and revealing a surprising secret as well!

The Whale is amazing, an immersive experience that must be experienced. This is horrible reviewing, but you really have to see this book for yourself to appreciate just how magical and meaningful it is! I can't wait to see what Vita and Ethan Murrow do next, together or on their own!

 Source: Review Copy


Waiting for High Tide by Nikki McClure

A new book from Nikki McClure is always something to get very excited about, especially Waiting for High Tide. McClure's unique paper cut illustrations are always filled with astonishing detail and loving attention to the natural world. Waiting for High Tide feels like the ideal combination of the two, pair with generous text that tells the story of the rewards of patience and the rewards of the sea.

The narrator of Waiting for High Tide is frustrated. It's low tide, and a stretch of mud makes swimming impossible, especially because it could mean getting stuck and being rescued by Grandma. But, the day is not all bad. The narrator, Mama, Papa and Grandma are going to build a raft using a big log that drifted to shore after a storm. And, while the prospect of the raft is definitely exciting, the wait, both for the high tide to arrive and the raft to be completed, is filled with amazing, miraculous explorations of nature and what the sea has presented, like gifts on the shore.

In fact, Mama says to the narrator, "The sea provides," and the beach always provides. A pirate's treasure includes clam shells, crab parts, three dead jellyfish and a heron feather along with, "tiny bits of plastic rope, a soggy shoe that doesn't match any in my collection" and a "true score - sunglasses with one lens one and the other covered with barnacles. Now I have barnacle vision!" The pink sunglasses and barnacle vision add a nice touch to Waiting for High Tide. The splash of pink from the glasses and the intimate look at the barnacles adds a true naturalist's vision to the story. Simple sketches alongside the text help to bring to life McClure's colorful writing. The narrator begins this passage saying, "I walk along a ribbon of barnacles that stripes the upper beach. They cover the big rocks here that the waves can't tumble." Finishing the passage with, "But the best part about the barnacles is the noise they make. Miles and miles of tiny plates shifting about make a crackly , squizzling sound. Maybe they tell stories of all they saw with that one eye as the swam about the world? What will I see? What will I tell?," McClure beautifully ties together the life of the barnacles with the building and eventual launching of the raft.

When I worked for a literary agent a few years ago, I learned that the standard length of a picture book is 1,500 words, preferably less. It is such a treat to read a longer book like Waiting for High Tide! Even better, it is a true joy to read a picture book that incorporates an engaging story and facts about nature so seamlessly.

Source: Review Copy