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Showing posts from September, 2016

Mervin the Sloth is About to Do the Best Thing in the World by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Ruth Chen

I'm kind of done with meta picture books, but I will never be done with sloths, especially sloths named Mervin. Happily, Mervin the Sloth Is About to Dothe Best Thingin the World is a really fantastically fun meta picture book. Colleen AF Venable, graphic novel designer for the excellent FirstSecond by day and graphic novelist by night, makes her picture book debut with the help of illustrator Ruth Chen.


Mervin the Sloth Is About to Dothe Best Thingin the World begins with Mervin, center page, slowly moving to the right with each page turn, as the title drops in from the top of the book over the course of a few pages. A red panda, Mervin's friend, strolls onto the scene, taking excited notice of the falling title. More and more friends arrive, all speculating about the best thing in the world that Mervin is about to do. Flying? Digging? Gazelling (which is not even a word, as bird points out)? Is Mervin going to fight a shark? Turn into a robot? Do all our homework? Invent a ti…

Benny and Penny in How to Say Goodbye by Geoffrey Hayes, 32 pp, RL 2

Benny and Penny in How to Say Goodbye is the sixth book featuring these bickering siblings and, as always, Geoffrey Hayes captures the intense and fleeting emotions that young children feel and how they make sense of the world around them perfectly. And, as always, his illustrations are marvelously charming and the natural world that the mice live in gently beautiful. Hayes's graphic novel series is perfect for emerging readers looking for something beyond Frog & Toad and Amelia Bedelia.

In How to Say Goodbye, Hayes has his mice brother and sister encounter death. While playing together in the fall leaves, Penny finds a salamander she named Little Red. She knows that it is dead, having a grasp of what death it. Benny reacts with anger, throwing the salamander into the bushes.

Penny gets help from Melina and the two make plans for Little Red, Benny skulking around the edges of their activities. As the they prepare for the burial, Benny and Penny have memories of Little Red, each …

The Inquisitor's Tale, or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly, 384 pp, RL 4

In 2010, A Tale Dark and Grimm the debut novel by Adam Gidwitz, captured my attention and that of many other readers, young and old. Gidwitz is a master story teller and his reworking of the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, many of them less than well known, is marvelous. I was thrilled when my son shared my enthusiasm for this book and even more excited when I discovered that reading it out loud was a great way to entice my students, many of whom are reluctant and/or struggling readers, to persevere with a longer book. True to his story telling nature, Gidwitz is back with The Inquisitor's Tale, a manuscript illuminated by Hatem Aly and like no other children's book I have read before.
Set in 1242 and echoing the structure of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, The Inquisitor's Tale finds an (initially) unnamed narrator at the Holy Cross-Roads Inn, a day's walk north of Paris. It is the perfect night for a story as a group gathers around the rough wooden table, stick…

Jedi Academy: A New Class by Jarrett Krosockza, 176 pp, RL 4

Jeffrey Brown authored the first three books in the Jedi Academy series, two of which I enthusiastically reviewed here. This trilogy is HUGELY popular in my school library and a fantastic alternative to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Before that, Brown wrote a trilogy of Darth Vader, a comics series that imagines Vader's life as father to Luke and Leia. Brown's new series debuted in August and features prehistoric siblings Lucy and Andy as they deal with typical kid stuff while also being filled with scientific information and facts about pre-history. 


Jedi Academy was too good to let go, and quite smartly, Scholastic has tapped Jarrett Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady series of graphic novels. Jedi Academy: A New Class finds young Victor Starspeeder making a midyear transfer from the Jedi Academy at Obroa-skai, where he has had a series of mishaps to the Jedi Academy at Coruscant. Victor decides that he is going to start keeping a journal of his time at Jedi Academy because that is …

Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World by James Sturm, 40 pp, RL 2

Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World by James Sturm is my new favorite book. I fell in love with TOON Bookswhen I discovered them in 2008, just around the time my youngest was learning to read. Having been through this process with my two older children, I was not looking forward to the tired old leveled readers that we were left to slog through after classics like Frog & Toad, Little Bear and Poppleton. Françoise Mouly and her quest to bring engaging, marvelously illustrated graphic novels into the world of beginning readers has meant that there are now over 50 fantastic books to take your new reader from sight words to chapter books. 
















If you have read even a few beginning readers, you know that unlikely friends and the complexities of friendship are the staple of this genre. With Ape and Armadillo, Sturm has created the only duo who could even remotely rival Frog and Toad. And an armadillo! How many armadillo characters are there in kid's books to begin with? Happily, the ti…

What's a Banana? and What's an Apple? by Marylin Singer, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

Marilyn Singer, author of many wonderful picture books and books of poetry for children, and Greg Pizzoli, superb illustrator and author of picture books and non-fiction picture books, have teamed up for two books that are perfect for toddlers and emerging readers. What's a Banana? and What's an Apple? combine Singer's silly, sing-song-y rhymes with Pizzoli's playfully silly illustrations for two very fun books.


Singer begins What's a Banana? like a playground chant, "You can grip it and unzip it. You can mash it with a spoon. You can trace it. Outer-space it - make believe that its' the moon." Pizzoli's illustrations show a boy, a girl, a dog and a cat, doing all these things with a banana, which is sometimes actual size and more often oversized, adding to the silliness. What's a Banana? wraps up with a reminder not to forget that it's a fruit.
What's an Apple? follows a similar path, although focuses a bit more on this versatile ingred…