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Showing posts from March, 2017

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…

Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina, 96pp, RL 3

During my decades as a bookseller and my time as assistant to a literary agent who represents children's book authors and illustrators, I  told anyone who would listen (and even a few publishers I had contact with) that the world needs a Latina Junie B. Jones - a second grade reading level book series with a main character with a cultural heritage other than white, middle class American. Now, as the librarian at a school with a student population that is 83% Hispanic, most of which are the children of immigrants and travel to Mexico to see family often, I tell my students that they need to grow up and write these books. With Juana & Lucas, Columbian nativeJuana Medina takes a step down that path.


Juana definitely gives Junie B. a run for her money when it comes to precocity. She has a big creative streak and strong opinions about many things. She loves her dog, Lucas (who, interestingly is not a big part of this first book - probably a marketing decision add an American soundin…

Scholastic Story Play Books: Dinosaurumpus!, Snuggle Bunny, Shoe-la-la! and I Love You Becuase Your'e You

If you know a family that is about to, or just, welcomed their first child, run out and buy all four of these brand new StoryPlay books for them immediately! Scholastic has created a fantastic new line of books for little listeners that is the perfect bridge between concept board books and longer picture books. StoryPlay books are as much for parents as they are for children, incorporating prompts to engage readers with the story and each other as well as two pages at the end of the book that include ideas for activities, games and more, all relating to the book. The StoryPlay books are,
vetted by a rotating team of educators. StoryPlay books are curated to help young readers and listeners develop pre-reading skills, reading comprehension, problem solving abilities, social skills, and memory strength. A burst on the back cover of each title specifies which thematic or developmental area (among them socialization, emotions, self-expression, and science) the book shines a spotlight on.
Ha…