Showing posts from January, 2015

Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff, pictures by Vincent x. Kirsch

Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch is a fantastic new non-fiction picture book that is sure to appeal to kids.
As always with the best narrative non-fiction, I am impressed by the author's ability to take an aspect of history or science and make it palatable and comprehensible for young listeners. As someone who has never enjoyed reading non-fiction, I feel comfortable assuming that I am as difficult to engage as your average eight-year-old. And I am not ashamed to admit that the word "gingerbread" in the title of Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolutionis exactly what made me pick it up. Happily, Rockliff does  a fine job telling the story of Christopher Ludwick and his heroic acts of patriotism. And, as often happens when I read a book of this nature, I find myself even more deeply affected by the Author's Note than the book itself,…

Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson & Brigette Barrager

Rare is the princess picture book that I find worth reviewing here. In fact, I even find the "anti-princess" picture books not worth mentioning. However, I LOVE fairy tales and I couldn't resist  reading Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, with illustrations by Brigette Barrager. Clarkson takes four well known fairy tale princesses and imagines them fed up with their lot and ready to move on and out into the world. She tells their stories in verse, a form I am (probably overly) critical of. I would rather read solid prose than clunky verse that has me pausing and pondering, slowing me down as I am reading out loud. However, Barrager has a winning illustration style (which is a bit toned down in Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups) that deserves, along with her other works, attention.

A "Once upon a time" intro tells us that there were four "fairy tale misses" who were so tired of "dwarves, witches, prin…

The Messy Monster Book by Rachel Ortas

The Messy Monster BookbyRachel Ortashad me with the title alone. Even better, I discovered that Ortas is the co-creator and Creative Director of OKIDO, a very cool art and science magazine for kids. Follow the link above and you can see a sample of the bi-monthly, which is packed with activities (experiments, songs, recipes and crafts using cutouts from the magazine and found items) and stories for creative kids and parents and, of course, Ortas's fantastic illustration style and mascot Messy Monster, who you can see in super cute animated form in a video at the end of this review.
The Messy Monster Bookis interactive, with pages to color and even cut out, but it is also a story with a narrative. Messy Monster and (human) friends Zoe and Felix invite readers to use their imagination and jump right into the book by adding a self-portriat to the page, as seen below.

Platoo, Doodle Cat and Cutty Cat guide readers through the book with Platoo, who says, "Together we are going to th…

Animalium curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom, 112 pp, RL: 2

Animalium, curated byKatie ScottandJenny Broom, is the newest, biggest book from the fantasticBig Picture Press and is the first in their "Welcome to the Museum" series of books. It has also made many "best of 2014" book lists. There are hundreds of books about animals out there for kids, but Animalium is set apart - and far above  -from the rest because of the museum concept employed in this book. Honestly, regardless of the concept and text, Animalium is a book that you/kids will find yourselves poring over again and again. Eventually you will get around to reading the words . . .

Animalium begins with a preface from Dr. Sandra Knapp of the Natural History Museum in London, and moves on to the "Entrance." Here we learn that each chapter of Animalium "represents a different gallery of the museum, focusing on one class of animal" with the classes arranged in "evolutionary order to show how the animal kingdom has developed over time. See for …

Blown Away by Rob Biddulph

I fell in love with Blown Away, the debut picture book by Rob Biddulph after only a few page turns. First of all, Biddulph, the award-winning art director for the Observer magazine, has written a rhyming picture book that I actually like! His text is haiku like at times, short bursts of well chosen words. It never feels forced, as so many rhyming stories do, and its simplicity suits the somewhat stoic faces of Biddulph's utterly charming characters. The comparisons with Oliver Jeffers'sillustration style are unavoidable, especially with the presence of solemn penguins. However, Biddulph makes the style his own, incorporating a bit of collage along with the texture of a canvas into his marvelously detailed illustrations. Sadly, I could find only two interior images, along with a few adapted illustrations, to share with you here.

Blown Away begins in the Antarctic with Penguin Blue and his new kite. It's a very windy day and soon Penguin Blue is being pulled high into the air…

The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, 203 pp, RL 4

**This book really got my wheels spinning and I found that I had a lot to say about it before even getting to the plot. Skip to the third paragraph if that is what you came for...**
Despite my love of girl detectives and historical England, I have to admit that I felt a bit more skeptical than excited when The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone arrived at my door, even if it is perfectly illustrated by a favorite of mine, Kelly Murphy. For the most part, my skepticism came from a college infatuation with Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley and George Gordon Byron that peaked with the viewing of a Ken Russell movie titled Gothic. In the movie, which takes place at Byron's villa in Switzerland, Mary, Shelley, Byron, Mary's half-sister Claire Clairemont and Dr. Polidori spend a stormy evening indoors telling ghost stories. From these stories, Mary was inspired to write Frankenstein, the first work science fiction, and Polidori T…