Showing posts from October, 2015

The Glass Sentence AND The Golden Specific by S. E. Grove, 528 pp, RL 5

The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove is an ambitious, original novel that draws comparisons to the standard bearer of high fantasy for children's literature, Philip Pullman'sHis Dark Materials trilogy which begins with The Golden Compass. In fact, Megan Whalen Turner, author of the superb quartet which starts with The Thief says that not since The Golden Compass has she seen such "an original and compelling world built inside a book." And, while the compliments and comparisons are warranted, I share the "quivery receptivity" and tentative enthusiasm that Gregory Maguire expressed for this book in his review of The Glass Sentence in the New York Times on June 13, 2014. Grove brings many truly amazing concepts and creations to the table, but sometimes what she does and where she goes with them don't quite do reckon with or live up to the promising world she builds and the potentially compelling plot she sets in motion. Regardless, I am hooked. I can't ge…

Felix Stands Tall by Rosemary Wells

Rosemary Wellsis one of a handful of picture book author/illustrators, along with the magnificent Kevin Henkes, that I discovered more than twenty years ago when my first child was born. Wells and Henkes, both of whom are also gifted  writers of chapter books for older readers, have this remarkable insight into children and the emotional ups and downs of being a little kid. Their picture books combine empathy, compassion and intelligent humor (as well as great vocabulary) with meaningful stories that never get old. Happily, two decades later, both Wells and Henkes continue to create wonderful picture books that I am always excited to read, even if my daughter can't sit in my lap to listen anymore...
With Felix Stands Tall, Wells revisits Felix the guinea pig. When Fiona asks if she can be Felix's best friend and he agrees,  she tells him it's settled - the will be in the talent show at the Guinea Pig Jubilee and they will win first prize! She goes on to tell Felix that they…

Animal Planet Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia, 304 pp, RL 3

My older son, now eighteen, grew up with DK books and videos about everything from trees and volcanoes to planets, the human body and death. As a bookseller who got to see the whole range of encyclopedic books being published for kids, nothing every came close to the crisp visual style of DK and the engaging way text is presented on the page. The best part of DK books for children is that they are the perfect segue to the DKbooks for adults, which provide a more in depth examination of subjects. With this prejudice, it takes a lot for me to look at, let alone recommend, an encyclopedia by any other publisher. However, Animal Planet, in partnership with Time Inc. Books, has put together Animal Planet Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia, a visually attractive, fact filled book that is worth the price and sure to make kids smile - and read.

At 304 pages, Animal Planet Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia is packed with information on over 2,500 animals and over 1,000 color photographs. Animal Planet…

The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, 89 pp, RL 2

Last year I reviewed and loved Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale and superbly illustrated by LeUeyn Pham and I am so excited to be reviewing the second book in the series a year later, The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party. The way I see it, with Princess Magnolia, the Hales and Pham have created a character and series that hits all my literary sweet spots: a high interest chapter book that is a perfect bridge between leveled readers and chapter books, a character who is all things - a princess with her own unicorn and a secret double life fighting monsters. Magnolia can go from wearing a pouffy pink gown and tiara while having tea with the Duchess Wigtower to a black booted, masked and caped crusader with a scepter that turns into a staff for battle and Pham brings her to life with vivid, action filled panache. Best of all, the Princess in Black books are sweet and playful and not the least bit saccharine. 

In The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Part…

I Am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

I AM HENRY FINCH is the latest picture book from Alexis Deacon Viviane Schwarz, a duo known for creating thoughtful, slightly off-kilter, deep but silly picture books. And thinking about all three of these books in conjunction, A Place to Call HomeCheese Belongs to Youand now I AM HENRY FINCHare all, in some ways, about communal living, or participating in a community, which is an uncommon for picture books.

Henry Finch lived in a great flock of finches that "made such a racket all day long, they really could not hear themselves think." Unfortunately for the finches, sometimes, like when the Beast comes, they need to be able to think, to focus and to act. But this is the way it always was.

Until one night when Henry Finch wakes up in teh quiet of the night. He has a though AND he actually hears it! This is the thought that he has: I AM HENRY FINCH. I THINK. AM I THE FIRST FINCH EVER TO HAVE A THOUGHT?In the silence, Henry hears his thoughts and thinks more thoughts, one of w…

The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents: Macbeth AND The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents: Romeo and Juliet written by Ian Lendler, art by Zack Giallongo, colors by Alisa Harris

The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review series by Ian Lendler and Zack Giallongo is going to do for Shakespeare what George O'Connor has done for Greek mythology with his Olympians series. Last year they debuted, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents: Macbeth, and now, as promised by the peacock at the end of Macbeth,The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review: Romeo and Juliet has arrived!

The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents: Macbeth takes a pretty intense, adult play about a thirst for power, a prophecy and more than a few murders and, miraculously, makes it kid appropriate. As The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents: Macbeth begins, there is a quick set up where readers see a pink, tentacle-y arm unlocking cages all over the zoo and the audience taking their seats while seagulls hawk "Peanuts! Earthworms! Ice cold bananas!" and, "Carrion, rotting carrion!" Panels, sometimes strategically placed, allow glimpses of the audience and their reactions as the play un…

Boo! by Leslie Patricelli

I discovered Lelise Patricelli and her amazing board books about 10 years ago when my youngest was a year or so old. I have reviewed many of her books since then and wanted to revisit her unique sense of humor and illustration style, and her irrepressibly spazzy little baby-in-diapers character with her newest board book, BOO!

It's Halloween and our fearless diaper-baby is excited and busy! Picking pumpkins, getting covered in pumpkin goop, picking a costume and trick-or-treating with Dad are all on the agenda in BOO! Patricelli works wonderful images of all things Halloween into the story. There are fantastic two-page spreads of different Jack-O'-Lantern carvings and costumes to consider. In the end, baby and Dad go as ghosts, making for some very cute cuddling (or clinging in fear) scenes as the two head out into the night. Of course, the night ends happily with a candy bonanza and a happy baby!
Souce: Review Copy

The Dead Family Diaz: A Story of Family, Fiestas, and Friendship by P. J. Bracegirdle, illustrated by Poly Bernatene

The Dead Family Diaz: A Story of Family, Fiestas, and Friendship by P.J. Bracegirdle with illustrations by Poly Bernatene is a fantastic and fun addition to the woefully small selection of kid's books about El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico on November 1. For Mexicans, and many Americans, the Day of the Dead is a time to remember and appreciate friends and family who have died. At the graves of loved ones, altars laden with favorite foods and other items, especially the bright orange marigold flowers, are made to welcome the souls of the dead. There is singing and dancing and celebrating. Colorful skeletons,  delicately gorgeous tissue paper banners called Papel Picados and special candies make the day vibrantly festive rather than frightening.

The Dead Family Diaz: A Story of Family, Fiestas, and Friendship weaves the worlds of the dead and the living together in a story told from the perspective of Angelito (also the name for th…

Tacky and the Haunted Igloo by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

I don't know WHY I've never reviewed one of the many, fantastic Tacky the Penguin books here before now. I guess Tacky just seems like the kind of character that everyone already knows about, like Skippyjon Jones or Fancy Nancy. But a Halloween book from the perfect pair of Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger, authors of many other superb picture books, is reason to review Tacky and the Haunted Igloo!
Halloween is approaching and the residents of Nice Icy Land have decided to turn their igloo into a HAUNTED igloo! Goodly and Lovely handled the decorations and Angel, Neatly and Perfect worked on the treats. Tacky's contribution? Sampling the treats. When time came to choose costumes for the Big Halloween Night they all dressed up as things they were afraid of.

Except Tacky. Tacky could not think of anything he was afraid of. He headed off to a thinking place to consider his options. Tacky misses out on all the fun - and the frights when three big ghosts show up to the party. When…