Showing posts from December, 2015

Ask Me by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Suzy Lee

Bernard Waber's posthumously published Ask Me is a gem of a book. And Waber's text is perfectly paired with Suzy Lee's illustrations. Ask Me is more of a moment than a story, with no real plot or revelation. As an adult reading Ask Me, it may feel like a memory to you - from your own childhood or from your children's. A father and daughter head out on a walk, the daughter gently commanding her father to, "Ask me what I like." He responds, his words in a faded blue - no quotation marks are used. The girl's answers sometimes lead to more questions and sometimes lead to her reply, "Ask me what else I like." Her answers are perfectly childlike and never coy, syrupy or clearly an adult trying to write a child's voice. Which is why reading Ask Me feels like a memory - you know you have heard these questions asked and answered before, maybe even by your younger self.

Sometimes when asked if she likes a thing, as with ice cream cones, the little girl…

In a Village by the Sea by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu

Muon Van and April Chu'sIn a Village by the Sea is the kind of book that always makes me wonder what kind of working relationship the author and illustrator have. Whatever kind of communication the two shared during the illustrating of this book, Van's text is a strong, poetic foundation upon which Chu hangs her elegant, detailed, inviting illustrations.

In a Village by the Sea is a circular story with a rhythmic, almost nursery rhyme pace, calling to mind "The House that Jack Built." It begins, "In a fishing village by the sea there is a small house. In that house, high above the waves, is a kitchen." At sea, a father and fisherman weather a storm while at home in the kitchen, his wife and baby await his return. Linking the two and moving the story forward are the family dog and a creative cricket. As noodle soup steams over the fire in the kitchen where the mother cooks and the sleeps child stretches and yawns, "tucked in the shadows is a dusty hole,&…

The Perfect Gift for the Writer in Your Life! The Children's Picture Book Writers & Illustrators Conference, January 23 & 24, 2016

If you have ever thought about writing or illustrating a picture book or you have a manuscript that you are working on, you definitely need to sign up for Book Passage'sChildren's Picture Book Writers and Illustrators Conference at the end of January. I've been to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustratorssummer conference in Los Angeles twice and it was an experience I'll never forget - and I am nether a children's book writer nor illustrator. As you might imagine, the community of people who create, publish and agent children's books is a wonderful one and the opportunity to be in this creative environment is stimulating and enriching, whatever your level of interest and activity. The conference, hosted by the fantastic independent bookstore Book Passage, is in Corte Madera in Marin County - just across the bay from San Francisco and next to Northern California's Wine Country. Definitely a win-win!
Check out the information here or view th…

Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead 287pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE

Rebecca Steadis the author of four books, two of which, Liar & Spyand the Newbery Medal winner, When You Reach Me, I have reviewed here. When You Reach Me is a book that will stay with me the rest of my life. I shy away from making Top 5 or Top 10 lists, but I know that every time I see the cover for this book I will feel a thud of emotion and recall what a powerful experience reading that book was. And I know that I will have the same experience in the future after reading Stead's new novel, Goodbye Stranger. Stead is a gifted writer and a masterful storyteller. She reminds me of one of the few novelists for adults I consistently read and always find gratifying, Kate Morton. Morton's novels, which are rich with compelling characters, weave stories from the past and present, revealing the connection between the two at the end of the story and always delivering an emotional punch, one that has made me gasp out loud before. While Morton - and Stead's - novels are anythin…

Search and Spot Animals! by Laura Ljungkvist

Search and Spoth Animals! by Laura Lungkvist, Swedish artist and designer, is the perfect book for little listeners, and just plain fun to look at. Adults will appreciate Ljungkvist's attention to design and color palette, her illustrations often having the feel of a sophisticated wallpaper.

Ljungkvist begins in the city with a pretty tough challenge - find 10 cats looking out their windows. From there, readers search for seven specific dogs amidst a sea of dogs, some illustrations and some from photographs. Search and Spoth Animals!alternates between easy finds with larger images and harder finds on pages packed with details, like the forest page where you need to find rabbits and squirrels and the page filled with bugs. There is always more than one challenge per page, making Search and Spoth Animals!fun that can be spread over several readings.

Follow-the-Line Books by Laura Ljungkvist:

Great Look-and-Find books byBritta Teckentrup

Where's the Pair

Odd One Out

Source: Review Copy

Who Done It? by Olivier Tallec

Olivier Tallec has published over sixty children's books in his native France and a handful of them, like the brilliant Waterloo and Trafalgar, have made it across the Atlantic. Happily, his very creative and stealthily hilarious Who Done It? has been published here. The book, which is almost 12 inches tall and only 6 inches wide, needs to be turned horizontally to be read. Each two page spread asks a questions then provides a line up of possible suspects.

Who played with the mean cat? That one is pretty easy to spot. So is the question, Who ate all the jam? Nevertheless, it is fun to pore over the perps. Who didn't get enough sleep? Who forgot a swimsuit? and Who is shy about dancing? are a bit more subtle and require some closer looking. Even when you spot who done it, it's still fun to keep looking at the animals and kids on the page - there is always something to see. My favorite in Who Done It? - Who couldn't hold it?
Source: Review Copy

GLOW: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights by W. H. Beck

I absolutely love GLOW by W. H. Beck, both for the subject matter and the playful way in which she presents it. Beck introduces readers to the word bioluminescence then walks them through the natural world, on land an in water, examining creatures that have this rare quality as well as the hows and whys as to their glow. GLOW, which is filled with stunning photographs on a black background, works on two levels, making it perfect for a wide age range of listeners and readers. Text in a larger font is informative and inquisitive while smaller text provides more details older readers will find intriguing, like the names of the creatures and why they make light.

Beck informs readers early on that the majority of bioluminescent animals live in the water because sunlight can't reach very far under the waves. On the page with the glowing sucker octopus, seen above, the smaller text lets readers know that water covers two-thirds of the earth and that 80% of all life forms are found in the …

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

I had been seeing glimpses of Mother Bruce by Ryan T Higgins here and there on the internet and kept meaning to get a copy. The cover art alone is eye catching, not to mention the title. Once I finally got my hands on a copy, I was not disappointed! Mother Bruce is a hilarious book that is a joy to read out loud, which I did repeatedly last week, to everyone from the pre-kinders to the fifth graders, and I'm going to read it again this week. The one downside is that, when I read out loud, I don't always get a good look at the pictures and Higgins's illustrations are magnificent. They evoke so many things, from graphic novels to comic strips to animation to landscape painting, and the facial expressions and body language of Bruce and the geese are priceless. 
Best, of all, Mother Bruce is such a smart, clever book. Higgins's premise brilliant and the way he tells his story is very engaging. Bruce is a bear who is a grump. But, he is a grump who has a fondness for one thi…

The Bear Report by Thyra Heder

I fell in love with Thyra Heder in 2013 when her book FraidyZoowas published. FraidyZoo bursts with creativity, imagination and familial love that you rarely see expressed so authentically in a picture book. With Bear Report, Heder delivers yet another magnificent picture book that is filled with imagination and playfulness.

Using panels, full page illustrations, few words and an icy blue palette, Heder tells the story of Sophie, a kid who cuts some corners on her homework so that she can watch television. Her class is studying the Arctic and she has been asked to find three facts about polar bears. With increasing sloppiness, she writes, "they are big. they eat things. They are mean." Then she skips off to the living room.
Olafur is a polar bear who is short for his age and ready to take Sophie on a journey. She's reluctant at first, but once she agrees the magic begins. Heder has a superb author's note at the end of The Bear Report that adds to the wonder of this boo…

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu, 40pp, RL 3

It's pretty cool that, on the 200th anniversary of her birth, there have been three books (fiction, graphic novel and narrative non-fiction) published featuring Ada Lovelace. Ada Byron Lovelace is the person considered by many to be the inventor of computer programming and also the daughter of notorious romantic poet Lord Byron. She's also a wonderful role model in this age of GlodieBlox, STEM and Rosie Revere, Engineer. Happily, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by April Chu, the third book featuring Ada Lovelace to be published this year, is a biographical picture book that is accessible to readers of all ages. Chu's illustrations are filled with life and movement (and Ada's loyal cat by her side for most of the book) and call to mind the work of Brian Selznick. Add to this the fact that Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is published by Creston Books, a relatively new publisher dedicated to putting out a broad ra…

Secret Coders Book 1: Get With the Program! by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes, 88 pp, RL 4

Binary code. Computer programming. New town and new school. Gene Luen Yang, graphic novelist extraordinaire, is great storyteller, whatever subject he focuses on. Yang moves with ease from literary historical fiction like Boxers & Saints, to superheroes, like The Shadow Hero, Avatar, the Last Airbender and Superman, and on to everyday life, like Level Up, American Born Chinese, and The Eternal Smile. As a former high school computer science teacher, who made comics at night, Yang is a big supporter of teacher kids to code at an early age and his newest graphic novel series, Secret Coders: Get With the Program!, created with Mike Holmes, bringing what Yang calls a "Saturday morning energy" to it, does just designed to do just that. There is even an excellent websitefor the book filled with great instructional videos, coding activities, including a downloadable file that lets you create Little Guy, the robot from the book, on a 3D printer!
Stately Academy, the setti…