Showing posts from April, 2012

a meal of the stars: poems up and down, by Dana Jensen with illustrations by Tricia Tusa

a meal of the stars : poems up and down by Dana Jensen with illustrations by Tricia Tusa is a unique book of poems. I am a huge fan of Tricia Tusa's art work and you can read a fantastic interview (from 2008) with her and see some of her work as well as her studio by visiting Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Tusa's delightful illustrations add so much to the Jensen's playful poems, which are very visual themselves. As you might have guessed from the title, these untitled poems are meant to be read from the bottom up sometimes and from the top down others. Waterfalls, kites, ladders, elevators, giraffes, ferris wheels and balloons on strings are the subject matter here. They speak best for themselves, so enjoy these spreads from this wonderful book. These creative, fun poems will surely inspire readers to write and illustrate some up and down poems of their own!

Stowaway, by Karen Hesse with illustrations by Robert Andrew Parker, 315 pp, RL 4

I suppose one of the perks of knowing almost nothing about history is that I can go into reading a work of historical fiction for young readers with almost the exact same collection of knowledge as the intended audience has, which basically means no preconceived notions and, more often than not, no real idea of how the book will end. I guess I do have the advantage (over kids) of knowing that a book I am about to read is based on real historical figures, places and events and being able to place their achievements and losses in historical perspective, despite my shoddy knowledge of the history of the world. And, while I did know that Captain Cook and his ship Endeavor were real, I had no idea where he sailed to and what the significance of his voyage was. With this in mind, I might suggest that readers begin Stowaway by the always amazing Karen Hesse, at the end of the book. The Afterword will provide readers with a solid grasp of the time, place and people in the story and the factua…

Dragon, Robot, Gatorbunny, presented by Calef Brown, all ages

Calef Brown, poet, painter and all around funky creator, is now a doodle book maker! I didn't intend for that sentence to be so rhyme-y, but Brown and his new book, Dragon, Robot, Gatorbunny, just inspire that kind of playfulness. For an overview of Brown's work, click here and for a sampling of his poetry, click on poem titles: Snails and Skeleton Flowers. For details on Dragon, Robot, Gatorbunny, read on!
The introduction to Dragon, Robot, Gatorbunny begins, "Hello! Hello! Calef Brown here. May I tell you something? I love to draw! It's my favorites thing to do, anytime, anywhere. I sketch and doodle with pens, pencils, markers and brushes. I usually start with an outline, or a simple shape - a circle, a triangle, maybe a funky trapezoid.  Then it's time for lots of lines - thing lines, thick lines, zigzags, loops. Eyes and noses. Ears and mouths, wings and paws. Whiskers. Fins. Wheels?" He goes on to encourage artists to "jump right in! Follow some of…

The Poetry (and artwork) of Calef Brown

Calef Brown plunged into the world of kid's books with Polka-Bats and Octopus Slacks: 14 Stories, published in 1998, which my kids received as a gift that year, and what a great gift it was. Be sure to visit for more about Calef's great books for kids and fun stuff. Brown's colorfully crazy illustrations are perfectly paired with his poems, which have titles like "Kansas City Octopus," "The Bathtub Driver" and "Sleeping Fruit." Calef Brown's work is reminiscent of the work of the band They Might Be Giants, if they were poets, not musicians, and, of course, if they could illustrate their own work...

Brown has a way with an absurd rhyme and, as my father-in-law inscribed in the copy of Polka-Bats he gave to my kids, Brown's books will introduce you to the "fun and mystery of words!" In his book, Tippintown: A Guided Tour, Brown takes you through a town, in rhyming verse, of course! From the top of Tippinoggin M…

Skeleton Flowers, poem and art by Calef Brown

Skeleton Flowers
Late October showers
bring delicate skeleton flowers.
A ghostly sight
on Halloween night,
they softly glow for hours.

by Calef Brown from Polka-Bats and Octopus Slacks

If you like the taste of this poem, be sure not to miss Hallowilloweenn: Nefarious Silliness from Calef Brown!

Fish, written by Gregory Mone, 241 pp, RL 4

I have to confess, Jake Parker's fantastic artwork for the cover of Fish by Gregory Mone caught my eye right away. Also, believe it or not, there are very few works of historical fiction featuring pirates that I have come across in my years as a children's bookseller. On top of that, at 241 pages Fish is perfect for high reading younger readers and reluctant older readers. But, best of all, Fish is fast paced, well written and filled with great (and wicked) characters! 
Maurice Reidy begins his life during a raging flood on a not-so-properous farm in Ireland, one of nine children. One day, while bathing at the lake, one of Maurice's older brothers cruelly throws him out in to the depths of the water. Surprisingly, Maurice does not drown but instead experiences a burst of joy as his body finds its home in the water, thus earning Maurice the nickname "Fish." Although competent, Maurice is slow and disinterested in the farm work that he and all his siblings are req…

The Tree that Time Built, selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston, illustrated by Barbara Fortin, 206 pp RL 3

The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science and Imagination selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, the currentNational Children's Poet Laureate and Linda Winston, a cultural anthropologist and teacher, has re-opened a door for me that I thought I had shut firmly. I was a child of the perfect age when Shel Silverstein'sWhere the Sidewalk Ends was first published in 1974. I still remember the day I was given that book and how I clasped it to my chest while alternately reading all the poems out loud to the nearest pair of ears. I bought A Light in the Attic when it was published in 1981 and gobbled it up. I even studied poetry in college and wrote my senior thesis on a book of poetry as well as writing my own poems. But, by the time I had started a family and found a career, I didn't have the time, energy or interest to keep reading poetry. although I made diligent efforts and purchases. I bought Falling Up in 1996 when my oldest was three, of course. Because I…

Fake Mustache, written by Tom Angleberger and illustrated by Jen Wang, 196 pp, RL 3

Tom Angleberger has to be the greatest author to come along in a while when it comes to writing books for kids who just don't want to tackle the 400 page fantasy novels that have been so popular for the last decade or more. His books The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda and the sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back are excellent alternatives to Diary of a Wimpy Kid for those of you who don't want your young readers to dip their toes into that pond. For those of you with kids already hooked on Jeff Kinney's series, Angleberger's books are perfect (although much better, in my humble opinion) for fans of the Wimpy Kid series. Then, there is Angleberger's fantastically funny Horton Halfpott OR The Fiendish Mystery of Smudgwick Manor OR The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset, a historical romp packed with characters with Dickensian names and Monty Python-esque proclivities and a mystery, too. Angleberger's books are all under 200 pages, sometimes silly, some…

The Poetry (and artwork) of Douglas Florian

Douglas Florianhas written and illustrated over 30 books of poetry for children. His poems are often playful, sometimes a little dark depending on the subject matter, and his artwork is always a bit dream-like and entrancing and very visually satisfying. Florian'sartist's statement is a poem in itself, beginning, "My drawings are abstract regressionist. They are old but behave like little children." I think that is a wonderful place to start talking about his work... Florian has chosen many different themes to dwell upon artistically, all of them very kid friendly. His books include poetic and playful titles like Laugh-eteria, Beast Feast, Insectlopedia, Dinothesaurus, Mammalabilia, Autumnblings, and are filled with short but succinct poems that perfectly conjure up the subjects they are exploring, like The Rhea, from Beast Feast.
The Rhea
The rhea rheally isn't strange - It's just an ostrich, rhearranged.

Many of Florian's books are available in paperback…