Showing posts from May, 2017

South by Daniel Duncan

South is the debut picture book from British author and illustrator Daniel Duncan. South is the story of a lone fisherman who finds an injured bird and helps it to heal. Knowing the bird can't survive in the icy ocean where he earns a living, the fisherman returns the bird to its proper, sunnier, habitat. A seemingly simple story, yet, the visual and verbal storytelling Duncan employs in South makes for a deeply meaningful, moving picture book readers will linger over. 

While his words might be straightforward and spare, Duncan fills every page with detailed illustrations that give depth to the story. From the framed photos and memorabilia on the walls of the fisherman's cabin (including a snap of a happy family) to the belongings piled on top of his cabin, like luggage on top of a station wagon, loaded up for family vacation, you know there is a story within this story. And, while the fisherman has a bushy beard and mustache covering half of his face, his eyes are full of emot…

Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular by Mayim Bialik, PhD, 192 pp, RL 5

**I really love this book and have a lot to say about it, so you are in for a long review. Also, knowing that many of you may order this book without seeing it, I want to share the details of what is covered
In the nine years since I started reviewing children's books, I have yet to review one about puberty because I have yet to find one worth sharing - until now. As the mother of a daughter, a longtime children's bookseller and someone who is interested sharing the best in kid's books with others, I am always on the lookout for a book like Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular by Mayim Bialik, PhD. When my daughter was headed into puberty way back in 2003, The Care and Keeping of You, part of the American Girl Advice Library, was the best (and almost only) book worth buying. Still in print, updated and now with many, many valuable companion books, The Care and Keeping of You is the perfect starter book to introduce girls to their bodies and the changes ahead,…

The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman, 355 pp, RL 5

The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman is a layered, richly detailed work that is a blend of historical fiction, museum mystery and  magic that readers will love to sink their literary teeth into. I was describing The Metropolitans to a coworker who wanted to know what I was reading and she replied, "Oh! Like The DaVinci Code for kids!" While I haven't read the book or seen the movie, I suppose they are similar. Goodman's book involves a hidden ancient text and the race to find it before an act of terrorism strikes a major city. Similarities, or no, what I love most about The Metropolitans is the diversity in the four main characters, the hunt throughout the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the way that Goodman weaves the King Arthur legend into her story. And, because of the many details, ideas, history, literature, and art that are included in this book, I gave it the rare "Reading Level 5" distinction. The Metropolitans is not a book you breeze through, not a …

The Prince and the Porker by Peter Bently, illustrated by David Roberts

The Prince and the Porker by Peter Bently and David Roberts is a perfectly rhyming, deliciously illustrated take on Twain's The Prince and the Pauper. However, instead of poverty, this non-royal comes from the pen, the pig pen. As always, Roberts's illustrations are filled with details, from patterns and prints to gowns and garlands, to chaise lounges and china bowls, telling their own stories. Keep your eye out for the white mouse that pops up on every page! The Prince and the Porker also is a marvelously designed book with a bookcase and endpapers that are a must-see.
Pignatius was, "passing the palace one day when he saw ten fresh buns left to cool on a tray." He tries to eat just one, but soon crumbs are all that's left on the tray. Things spiral from there, as Ignatius cannot curtail his appetites. Fleeing through the castle, he finds himself in the Prince's chambers where he quickly slips into disguise and is surprised to find that, when the wig goes on,…

5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel, illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller and Boya Sun, 256 pp, RL 4

The Sand Warrior is the much-anticipated first book in the 5 Worlds graphic novel series which has five creators. Mark Siegel, author and editorial director of my favorite graphic novel publisher, :01Books, and his brother Alexis Siegel head up the writing team with Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun. The Sand Warrior thrusts readers into the realm of the Five Worlds, starting on Mon Domani, the Mother World, a pastel colored, gently curving, planet.
We first meet Oona Lee, a student at the Sand Castle in the capital city of Chrysalis where she is training to be a sand dancer, although she seems to be the clumsiest student there. It is the eve of Beacon Day, which is when Oona's big sister and possibly the best sand dancer ever, disappeared. There is one Beacon on each of the Five Worlds, left there by the ancient Felid Gods for unknown purposes. There is also a legend about the lighting of the long-dark Beacons, a legend that could save the Five Worlds, which are experie…

Little People, BIG DREAMS Series: Coco Chanel and Frida Kahlo by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illsutrated by Ana Albero & Gee Fan Eng, RL 2

A few months ago I reviewed two books in the Little People, BIG DREAMSseries, non-fiction picture books introducing children as young as five to great women in history. At first, this concept seemed strange to me. Creating biographies for children is always a challenge, taking large ideas and making them bite sized, but after reading my first book in the Little People, BIG DREAMS series I immediately understood the value of these books. It's never too early to introduce children to important people and the idea that they all started off as children and the possibilities could be endless. Gabrielle Chanel is a perfect example of this. When we first see her, she is at the blackboard in a convent school writing, "To be irreplaceable one must always be different." Learning to sew in school, Gabrielle performed as a singer by night and her fans started calling her Coco. When Coco, "finally went to be, she dreamt in shapes and patterns, She wanted to make so many things!&q…

Today I Feel . . . : An Alphabet of Feelings by Madalena Moniz

Today I Feel . . . by Madalena Moniz is an absolute, must-have book. Yes, it teaches the ABCs, but, more importantly, Today I Feel . . . is a primer for emotions. Emotions are a tricky thing to explain or describe to toddlers, but Moniz's book gets the ball rolling, the conversation started.

Today I Feel . . . begins, "A is for adored." Any little listener, at least one who is first born, will recognize the wall of pictures with only one subject. The illustrations are not always straightforward expressions of the emotion in question, but they are evocative of the feeling in ways that toddlers will be able to relate to.

Of the letters and emotions that are my favorite in Today I Feel . . ., "Original," in which we see the little boy protagonist making handprints all over the recto side of the page, the "O" on the verso created with the same handprints. I love the illustration, but this is also an example of an abstract concept explained in a way a child …

So Many Feet by Nichole Mara, illustrated by Alexander Vidal

So Many Feet by Nichole Mara, illustrated by Alexander Vidal is a standout board book that takes an interesting angle on the usual animal book for children. Vidal's bright, bold illustrations of animals are sure to grab little reader's interest, while Mara's text describes their feet and the special features that give each animal different abilities.

From the ostrich, with his "Fast Feet," and two strong toes that allow him to run fast to the "Snow Feet" of the polar bear that spread wide, keeping him from sinking in the snow, Mara shares interesting facts in simple language that toddlers will understand.

Mara and Vidal end So Many Feet with a two page spread showing all the featured animals in one place. The texts asks readers, "Can you feet jump, walk, and creep? Can they dance? Can they hang? Can they stick? Can they dig and scratch?" and more, ending with the question, "What can your feet do?" So Many Feet is sure to fascinate and …

A Good Day for a Hat by T. Nat Fuller, illustrated by Rob Hodgson

A Good Day for a Hat by T. Nat Fuller and illustrated by Rob Hodgson is SUCH a fun book. I hope that doesn't sound like faint praise. Not every book is fun to read out loud or fun to listen to, but A Good Day for a Hat is definitely both. There is just something about a hat and a picture book... In fact, I compiled a small selection of hat picture books I have reviewed and a few other popular hat picture books.
A Good Day for a Hat begins with Mr. Brown who, as he is leaving his house determines, "This is a good day for a hat," donning a lovely purple bowler with a flower in the brim. But, when he steps outside . . . Every time Mr. Brown steps outside, something calls for a new hat. And, Mr. Brown seems to have a hat for every occasion, from snow to a parade to a flock of magical white rabbits loose on his lawn. In fact, if you look closely (and this is such a great addition to ANY picture book, the hidden character on each page) readers might notice a white rabbit with a …