Showing posts from June, 2017

Dream by Matthew Cordell

Some picture books mean more to parents than the children they are reading them to. Some picture books give parents the opportunity to say important, meaningful things that might be too hard to verbalize. So, in that way, picture books that seem like they are more for parents than kids, like Dream by Matthew Cordell, truly are for parents and kids. Just be sure to find the right time to read a book like Dream out loud to your little wonders, or, even better, read it regularly, on a special day(s) and talk about it. Dream is a great conversation starter!
Cordell's poetic text follows gorilla parents, starting on the night they become parents. They gaze at their baby and wonder, "Who would you be? Who would we be?" Then, the narrator, speaking for both parents, shares a dream in which their baby's life unfolds and they see all that lies ahead for their offspring. 
Before the text of Dream begins, we see a hand clutching a paintbrush. And, in the first pages, we see these…

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez, 56pp, RL 3

There are not enough superlative adjectives to describe Nightlights by Columbian-born Lorena Alvarez. And, compliments must be paid to publisher Nobrow Pressfor giving this magnificent graphic novel the beautiful attention to design it deserves. Nightlights is picture book size, large for a graphic novel, with a cloth spine binding and raised, glossy accents on the front and back covers. Just holding this book in your hands, you know you have something special.
I thought that Disney movies had ruined girls with big round eyes for me forever, but Alvarez's wide-eyed protagonist Sandy is downright irresistible. Sandy loves to draw, and the creations that fill the pages of her sketchbook are a charming mix of the natural world and mythical creatures. At night in bed, Sandy's imagination takes flight even further. Alvarez's illustrations of these flights, two-page spreads, are stunning. I wanted to dive into the pages. At her strict Catholic school where she is taught by nuns, …

Bea Garcia: My Life in Pictures by Deborah Zemke, 144pp, RL 2

Being the librarian at a school with a population that is 90% Latinx and 75% English language learners, I am always on the lookout for  high interest, low level books with a diverse cast of characters. While it is getting easier to find high interest books in a second and third grade reading level range, it is still a challenge to find books with main characters that are not white. Happily, Deborah Zemke's new series Bea Garcia delivers both! Bea Garcia: My Life In Pictures begins, "The book you are holding in your hands is my life. I draw pictures of everything in it." This book is Bea's book, her doodle-diary, and there are fantastic line drawings on every page. My Life in Pictures begins with Bea telling readers a bit about herself, from her exuberant creativity, which sometimes results in drawings of dancing elephants on the walls and mustaches on the television that match up perfectly with Wendy the Weather Woman, to everything about her best friend Yvonne. Zemk…

Welcome to My House by Gaia Stella

Welcome to My House: A Collection of First Words by Gaia Stella, and Italian author and illustrator, is the kind of picture book I love. One review called it a "domestic taxonomy," and that fits perfectly. Welcome to My House is a visual list of everything you would find in a house, grouped by commonalities. There are two page spreads that shows, "Everything for sitting," and "Everything that brightens," along with "Everything for tinkering," and "Everything for organizing." Readers are also treated to, "Everything that passes time," and, "Everything that shows time passing," and, best of all, "Everything that gets lost. "Items on the page are labeled, for the most part...
Welcome to My House: A Collection of First Words begins with a narrator greeting readers and introducing herself as, "Olga." She asks, "Can you find me? I live with my family on the second floor of the pale green apartment …

The Gumazing Gum Girl! Chews Your Destiny and Gum Luck by Rhode Montijo, with Luke Reynolds, illustrated by Rhode Montijo, 128 pp, RL 2

I put a paperback copy of The Gumazing Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny by Rhode Montijo on the shelves of my library a couple of years ago and it became a fast favorite, so much so that I ordered three library bound copies to keep up with the interest, wear and tear. I spent last year being asked, "When is the next Gum Girl book coming?" Happily, book 2, Gum Luck, is here! 

There are so many great things about Gum Girl, I almost don't know where to start. With Chews Your Destiny, Montijo hits three important points for my students, the majority of whom are Latinx, English language learners, and reading below grade level: high interest, low reading level, a Latina main character (as well as Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout) who gets superpowers and, of course, that thing all kids love - gum. In book one, Chews Your Destiny, Gabby Gomez loves chewing gum so much that she falls asleep chewing it, only to wake up covered in gum. Of course her mom bans the bubble gu…

The Masterpiece Adventures Book 3: Trouble at School for Marvin & James by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, 104 pp, RL 1.5

Seven years ago I reviewed Masterpiece by Elise Broach with illustrations by Kelly Murphy and I loved it. Three years ago I was very happy to review The Miniature World of Marvin & James, the first in a chapter book series based on the middle grade novel.  Since then, I started work as librarian in an elementary school with a book collection that was severely lacking in Bridge Chapter Books and this was one of the first ones I added to the shelves. Since it's been three years, I wanted to make sure that this fantastic series is fresh in the minds of anyone who has an emerging reader looking for high interest books.
In book three, Trouble at School for Marvin and James, James invites Marvin to come to school with him. Art class is first and Marvin is an artist! Together, they use chalk pastels and create an amazing picture of a monarch butterfly. Everything is going well until lunch in the cafeteria and a huge sneeze sends Marvin flying into the trash along with all the leftover…

I Wrote You a Note by Lizi Boyd

Lizi Boyd is an author, illustrator and designer. A few years ago, I reviewed her book Inside Outside and loved it. Her newest book, I Wrote You a Note, is absolutely charming, both story and illustrations. And the design, with the bookcase that looks like the birch bark the note is written on, along with the thick, creamy pages and beautiful endpapers is delicious! Boyd begins I Wrote You a Note, "I wrote you a note. Did you find it?" This question will be repeated throughout the book as the note is discovered by an array of animals. A mother duck uses the note as a raft for her ducklings to rest on. A spider uses it as a bridge. A squirrel folds the note and makes a book but, "squirrels don't sit still for very long," and soon enough the note is tossed aside and the squirrel is up a tree.
A snail, a mouse, a dragonfly, a rabbit and a goat all find the note as well until we see the real recipient of the note and, finally, the contents of the note. A beautifully …

The Quest to the Uncharted Lands by Jaliegh Johnson, 352 pp, RL 4

The Quest to the Uncharted Lands is the third book inJaleigh Johnson's World of Solace trilogy. It's rare that I have the time to read - and review - all three books in a trilogy. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of trilogies I have reviewed here, with a few more where I reviewed only the first book in the series. Johnson's trilogy stands out because each book is set in a different part of the world she created and each one features a new, strong girl character with different talents. In The Mark of the Dragonfly, thirteen-year-old orphan Piper Linny is living in Scrap Town Number Sixteen, which is as grim as it sounds. She risks her life scavenging debris from meteor storm, debris that brings artifacts from another strange world (that sounds much like ours...) to Solace. These artifacts are sold, often ending up at the Archivist's Stronghold, located in the neutral territory of Ortana, which is tucked between the warring kingdoms of Merrow and Dragonfly. Th…

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland, colors by Hilary Sycamore, 224 pp, RL TEEN

Scott Westerfeld, author of so many great YA books like the dystopian Uglies series and the steampunk Leviathan series, kicks off a graphic novel series, his first, with Spill Zone. The spill zone of the title refers the city of Poughkeepsie which, overnight, became a deadly terrain that was immediately quarantined, fenced off and guarded by the military. Three years later, the city is a "waking nightmare, home to unearthly and lethal dangers" that Alex Puvilland and colorist Hilary Sycamorebring to the page with chillingly eerie, technicolor illustrations. Three years later, Addison and her little sister are living on the outskirts of the city in the house that once belonged to their parents, who were lost the night of the "event." To support herself and her sister, Addie puts on her leathers, packs her camera and rides her dirt bike into the spill zone to photograph the chaos, which appears to part nuclear accident, part supernatural phenomenon, part multi-dimensi…

Skyfishing by Gideon Sterer, pictures by Poly Bernatene

Skyfishing by Gideon Sterer is a story of imagination, magnificently illustrated by Poly Bernatene. What makes Skyfishing truly special is the grandfather-granddaughter relationship that evolves as the story unfolds.  Narrated by the granddaughter, Skyfishing begins at a cabin by a lake where Grandpa is packed and ready to move. Grandpa brings every one of his fishing poles, but there is nowhere to fish in his new home. His granddaughter tries to entertain and distract him as fall turns to winter, but nothing works. When spring comes, an idea blossoms. The two head out onto the fire escape with fishing rods and they catch . . . a "Flying Litterfish."
Grandpa shares the rules for fishing and soon the pair are reeling in all sorts of "fish," from "Laundry Eels" to "Chimefish." They move on to bigger challenges in deeper waters, challenges that require, "patience, practice, and study." The city becomes their ocean and they decide to seek th…

IF FOUND PLEASE RETURN TO ELISE GRAVEL by Elise Gravel, translated by Shira Adriance

IF FOUND PLEASE RETURN TO ELISE GRAVEL lets readers see inside the marvelously creative, colorful sketchbook of this wildly imaginative and funny artist. It is also a challenge to young artists to face their fears by making "ugly drawings" and to draw all the time. Gravel begins her book telling readers, 
At night, when my daughters are asleep, I draw in my black notebook. I draw complete nonsense. Whatever comes to mind. With markers, gouache, watercolour, lead pencils, or just ordinary pens. Even with my kids' pencils.
When I draw in my black notebook, it feels good - it's as if I let out all the ideas that are bouncing around my head. Ridiculous ideas, crazy ideas, bizarre ideas.
I never critique the drawings in my black notebook. I give myself the right to fail, to mess up, to create ugly drawings. I'm kind to myself. In my notebook I do what I want.
Exactly the encouragement and advice every young (and old) creative spirit needs to set pen, pencil or paintbrush …