Showing posts from February, 2016

Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein, 278 pp, RL 4

In the summer of 2013 I enthusiastically reviewed Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. While there wasn't much of a set up for a sequel, I was equally excited to read Grabenstein's next book, again with superb cover art by Gilbert Ford, The Island of Dr. Libirs. Set on an island, and not in a library, The Island of Dr. Libris, is rich with literature, mystery and adventure. So, I am especially happy to be reading and reviewing Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics - especially since now I am a librarian and I can feel a sense of pride and connection with the outpouring of library and librarian love in Grabenstein's newest book.
I have to say that I think that Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics is a stronger, more meaningful book that Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, reminding me in many ways of a childhood favorite I continue to love as an adult, Ellen Raskin's, The Westing Game. There is a game, a mystery, and benevolent benefactor…

Tiger and Badger by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Mary Louise Gay

Tiger and Badger, written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Mary Louise Gay, perfectly, powerfully presents (in both words and pictures) the intense emotional highs and lows of toddlerhood and friendship in a way I haven't seen before in a picture book. Best of all, there are no adults to stop Tiger and Badger from experiencing these highs and lows and learning to work through them on their own.
Tiger and Badger are best friends, enthusiastically so. This enthusiasm can swing from love to hate without much to tip the scales. When Tiger sits in Badger's chair and eats two of her orange slices, they manage to work things out, helped along by the presence of Bad Monkey, Tiger's stuffie. 

But, when the two decide to take a break from playing to enjoy an ice pop, the scales tip again. There is only one ice pop. The frenzied fight over the ice pop (it IS a red ice pop, after all) is comparable to the Tasmanian Devil taking off. And, in this swirling whirlwind, Bad Monkey gets to…

The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie by James Kochalka, 128pp, RL 2

James Kochalka's Glorkian Warrior and his best buddy Super Backpack debuted in The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza. In this epic space adventure, the Glorkian Warrior successfully delivered a pizza to himself. In the second book in the series, The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie, the Glorkian Warrior is once again his own worst enemy, but this time he has an actual foe - fellow warrior, Buster Glark.
After Buster Glark takes out the the pie factory destroying space snake that he was trying to put an end to, the Glorkain Warrior and Super Backpack find their way home where they are greeted by Gonk, a mini-me version of the Glorkian Warrior and a lime green baby alien who affixes himself firmly to GW's head and makes a sucking sound.

Some serious absurdity ensues, including rearranging the furniture by flipping it upside down, a poke in the eye for Gonk, a consultation with Mr. Elbow and backpack for Gonk made from the house phone. The gang head out for Glork Patrol but, of …

Officer Panda: Fingerprint Detective by Ashley Crowley

Ashley Crowley's debut picture book, Officer Panda: Fingerprint Detective is pretty clever and out of the ordinary, if the illustrations call to mind the widespread influence of Oliver Jeffers. Crowley begins his book with a map of Officer Panda's Patrol Plan and ends this first book in a projected series with a page of "fun facts" about fingertips

There's not much to the story in Office Panda, and don't expect too much serious sleuthing either. But, Crowley's mixed media illustrations are fun to peruse, with fingerprints incorporated into the designs.

Upon noticing an unusual fingerprint as he cycles off from the police station at 3pm, the start of his shift. Office Panda questions a farmer in his field, some pandas playing in a park and even a deer in the woods as the fingerprints pile up. Arriving him, Officer Panda sees even more fingerprints all over his house! Getting to the bottom of things, Panda points his finger straight off the page and at the re…

Alan's Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis

Alan is an alligator with impeccable personal grooming skills and an a gift for scaring his neighbors. After all, he comes from a "long line of very scary alligators" and is "known throughout the jungle for his scaring." But, Alan has a secret.

Alan's Big Scary Teeth is the second picture book from British author and illustrator Jarvis and I love it! I love looking at the richly layered, humorous illustrations, I love reading it out loud and all the voices it allows me to do and I love the way that Alan recasts himself after a dramatic event.

I read Jarvis's debut picture book, Lazy Dave, and, while I was drawn to the the illustrations and the idea of a sleepwalking dog, in the end, Dave's somnambulist ways reminded me too much of the Curious George formula - unsupervised character gets up to no good but saves the day in the end and wins the appreciation of his human. With Alan's Big Scary Teeth, I think that Jarvis has taken another somewhat familiar…

Flashback Four: The Lincoln Project by Dan Gutman, 240pp, RL 4

Although his is a prolific and much loved author, I had not read any of Dan Gutman's books until my son and I started reading The Genius Files together in 2014. We were both immediately hooked by Gutman's sense of humor and I was especially impressed with the amount of fascinating factual information he packed into his books. Taking a cross country trip from California to Washington D.C. in a motorhome with their parents, twins Coke and Pepsi (of course there is a funny, interesting story behind their names) see some of the stranger (real) sites in the U.S., like the Pez Museum, the world's largest ball of twin and the House on the Rock in Wisconsin. With his new series, Flashback Four, Gutman brings the same sense of humor and way with the fact to this story of four twelve-year-olds from Boston who get the chance to travel through time, with great cover art by Scott Brundage. For years I have wondered why no one has taken the formula of the Magic Tree House books and appl…

Baking with Kids: Make Breads, Muffins, Cookies, Pies, Pizza Dough and More! by Leah Brooks, photographs by Scott Peterson,

I love to cook and bake as much as I like to read recipes and peruse cookbooks with beautifully photographed delights. Working at a bookstore for almost 20 years, I had plenty of opportunity to peruse (and purchase) cookbooks but it was next to impossible to find a cookbook for kids that I would buy and use with my own kids or recommend to customers. Part of this is because of my particular taste in cookbooks but also because the reality is that there just isn't that much you can really cook with an average kid - or have your average kid cook alone. And, while I am always lookout for good cookbooks for kids as well as cookbooks for adults that might also have kid potential, I have only reviewed a handful of cookbooks here in the last eight years. Because of this, I am thrilled to have found Quarry Books, publisher of fantastic cooking, art, science and gardening books FOR kids! They also have a great line of doodle and drawing books that I hope to review here soon. I reviewed Nood…

Dinosaur Rocket by Penny Dale

Dinosaur Rocket! is the fourth book in British author and illustrator Penny Dale's dinosaur-transportation series and I just had to review it because, well, dinosaurs in space!

Dale's text is energetic, with a sing-song-y pace. While she keeps her text simple, her illustrations are filled with details that little listeners will love. Reading Dinosaur Rocket!, I almost forgot that this was a dinosaur book as I was poring over every page. My favorite, which I couldn't find an image of, is the dinos boarding the capsule after taking the long elevator ride up to the top. A helicopter hovers nearby and emergency vehicles, hangars and buildings can be seen on the ground below - a great perspective. Once on the moon, there is all sorts of equipment for doing research, lunar rovers and some laughing, "playing and floating in space! Floating in space and playing soccer!" Dale keeps a sense of playfulness throughout that young readers will love. 

Dale ends Dinosaur Rockets!

My Wild Family by Laurent Moreau

My Wild Family is yet another extraordinary picture book in translation, this time brought to us by Chronicle Books, another fine importer of foreign children's books. Laurent Moreau, an author, illustrator, artist and graphic designer has a background in print making that is evident in his bold lines and limited color palette. With My Wild Family, Moreau takes readers on a tour through the narrator's family album that is also a bit like a walk through the zoo.

She begins by telling us, "I have a very special family." Her older brother is "strong and respected. (Just don't upset him.)" By listing only the qualities of the animal/family member and never mentioning the actual animal by name, Moreau turns My Wild Family into a fun guessing game for younger readers as well. Our narrator ends the book with these words, and a delightful illustration of herself, "My family is truly special. And me . . . well, you might say I'm unique too. And you? What…

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Frank Morrison is a story of competition, friendship, and teamwork framed by a homecoming celebration for three-time Olympic gold medal winner, Wilma Rudolph. 

It's 1961 in Clarksville, Tennessee, Wilma Rudolph's hometown and Alta is practicing to be the fastest women in the world. Then Charmaine shows up, "strutting hard enough to shame a rooster" with "brand-new, only been worn by her shoes with stripes down the sides and laces so white they glow." Charmaine's daddy went uptown to buy them and they are just like Wilma Rudolph's. Alta doesn't have a "shoe-buying daddy" and her sneakers have holes in the soles.

An instant rivalry leads to a challenge. Alta knows that shoes don't make you fast - after all, Wilma wore a "leg brace and a flour sack dress before she got big." The girls race, feelings are hurt and knees are skinned. But, when it…