Showing posts from April, 2014

Miss Emily, by Burleigh Mutén, illustrated by Matt Phelan, 134 pp, RL 3

Burleigh Mutén, children's book author, member of the Emily Dickinson International Society and volunteer at the Dickinson Homestead, seems perfectly poised to bring us Miss Emily, a verse novel that weaves historical, biographical and poetic threads throughout the story of a nighttime adventure among friends. Add to this the wonderful illustrations of Matt Phelan and you have  a beautiful, exciting novel that straddles the worlds of poetry, history and biography.
To set the story and give context to the appearance of the recluse, Emily Dickinson, Mutén begins Miss Emily with an introduction and a list of the main characters and their stage names. The star of the show, MacGregor Jenkins, is the son of the pastor, brother of Sally and neighbor of the Dickinsons - both Emily, residing in her childhood home, known as the Homestead, and Ned and Mattie Dickinson, children of Emily's brother, Austin, residents of the Evergreens, a home built next door to the Homestead for Austin and …

President Taft Stuck is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath is the newest book from Mac Barnett, a favorite of mine, who has teamed up with another favorite of mine, Chris Van Dusen!
Before the story even starts, Barnett's humor in is fine form. The jacket flap of President Taft is Stuck in the Bathreads, "George Washington crossed the Delaware in the dead of night. Abraham Lincoln saved the Union. William Howard Taft got stuck in the bathtub and then got unstuck. This is his story." As Barnett's author's note tells us, Taft's tub story may not have actually happened at all, but there are hard, cold porcelain facts that Taft had specially made bathtubs installed in the White House, the battleship USS North Carolina, his private yacht, the Mayflower and in the Presidential Suite at the Hotel Taft, where he moved after leaving office. But, as Barnett says, whether or not Taft actually got stuck in the bath, "more than a century later, this is the story we're still telling. And…

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust, by Loïc Dauvillier, Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo, translated by Alexis Siegel, 76 pp, RL 3

Holocaust Remembrance Week began yesterday, and I am grateful to have a graphic novel like Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust, written by Loïc Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano and colored by Greg Salsedo, to mark it. Remarkably, Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust manages to present many of the aspects of this horrific period in the history of humanity in subtle but powerful ways while at the same time focusing on aspects that make this a story that certain children as young as second or third grade can read and begin to understand, while also framing it in a way that gives it power in the present. Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust is ultimately a hopeful story that, told through the eyes of a child, weighs the cruelty and persecution of the Nazis with the bravery and generosity those who resisted.

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust begins in the present day. Unable to sleep, Elsa finds her grandmother, Dounia Cohen, alone, looking through …

TOOLS RULE! by Aaron Meshon

With TOOLS RULE, Aaron Meshon packs a one-two punch and adds a much needed book about a subject very popular with little listeners to the shelves. First off, every little kid loves tools and Meshon's book has a huge cast of them, big goofy eyes and all. Add to this a cheerful "we can build it" attitude and you definitely have a winner. On top of it all, Meshon's brightly colored, cartoonish illustrations make TOOLS RULE a visual feast kids will want to pore over again and again.
A busy day for the tools begins with getting organized, T-Square calling role. Meshon manages to slip in tons of puns that will give the adults reading TOOLS RULE a good laugh, while the various expressions of the cast of tools will give listeners a smile.

It takes a bit of effort to get all the tools on board, but once they decide to build a shed around the workbench (he's to heavy to move) the action and the noise really take off.

Sometimes the anthropomorphizing of tools gets a little wei…

Pip and Posy: The Bedtime Frog

Pip and Posy: The Bedtime Frog by Axel Scheffler is not the first PipandPosy I have reviewed. Back in 2012 I reviewed Pip and Posy and the Scary Monster. I usually don't revisit a series, but Scheffler's books are so absolutely charming that they are worth reviewing again and again. And, as always, I feel the need to remind you thatAxel Scheffler is the frequent illustrator of books by the wonderful British picture book author Julia Donaldson. This team is best known in the US for The GruffaloThe Gruffalo's Child and one of the best Halloween books out there that can be read any time of the year, Room on the Broom

In Pip and Posy: The Bedtime Frog, the friends are having a sleepover at Pip's house. Posy packs her bag and rides the bus to Pip's where they play cars, farm and Pirates in the Hospital.

They eat spaghetti and have a bubble bath. After brushing their teeth and reading a funny story, it's time for bed. 

When the light goes off, Posy finally realizes …

Gorilla by Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne has long been a favorite picture book author and illustrator of mine. Click here for a review of his 2012 book, How Do YOU Feel? that also includes a list of most of Browne's books and a mini-bio of his character Willy. If you know anything about Browne, you know that he frequently employs a surrealistic illustration style where gorillas and chimpanzees often stand in for humans. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Gorilla, which won the 1983 Kate Greenaway award, the equivalent of the Caldecott.

Browne's picture books often shine a light on the darker corners of childhood, from loneliness to anxiety to taking someone for granted. Retreating into imagination offers respite to Browne's characters, and there is always a loving connection at the end of his books. In Gorilla, we meet Hannah, who loves gorillas. She reads books about them, watches television shows about them and draws pictures of them - but she has never seen a real gorilla.

Hannah asks her fat…

Run, Dog! by Cécile Boyer

Go! Fetch! Run! Jump! Catch! Good dog! Yellow, Red, Pink, Blue, Grey. Boyer uses almost as many colors as she does words in her book Run, Dog! Starting on the endpapers, a bouncy red ball gets the dog of title on the run.

Some of the pages inRun, Dog!are narrower than most, making it a flip book of sorts as well as speeding up the action. 
The bouncy red ball takes the dog through many scenes, from the playground to a backyard picnic to a park bench where a romantic moment is about to happen - until the dog runs by after the ball. The humans in the story are all seen in silhouette, many traditional, but a few with modern touches like earbuds, hoodies and baseball caps. 

A romp through the zoo and a tear through a busy street lead to the dog's owner, sitting under a tree and reading a book. A pat on the head and the two hop on a scooter and ride off the endpapers.
Boyer's book is great fun to read, the kind of book that is read over and over, the images that make up the narrative f…