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Showing posts from May, 2018

An Atlas of Imaginary Places by Mia Cassany and Ana de Lima

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An Atlas of Imaginary Places by Mia Cassany and Ana de Lima an unforgettable picture book that is sure to spark creativity in anyone who reads it, young or old. A narrator invites readers to explore the make-believe world s/he dreams of every night, "places that will surprise and inspire you." While the text isn't quite as vibrant and fanciful as de Lima's illustrations, it does provide thought provoking descriptions and explanations of the curiosities on each page that will add to the enjoyment. In the Jungle of Changing Spots, animals change their coats every time someone sneezes. The Sleeping Whale will never wake up, not until, "all the city's inhabitants fall into a deep sleep on his back at the same time." But not to worry, no city is ever completely asleep. And, while the whale sleeps, his snores cause, "heaps of fish to rain down on the city." I especially love the color and curiosity of this illustration. Then there is the strange fores…

Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook by Iva-Marie Palmer, illustrated by Marta Kissi, 304 pp, RL 4

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Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook by Iva-Marie Palmer, awesomely illustrated by Marta Kissi, is exactly the kind of book you want your kids to read. Gabby Garcia is at that point in her life (seventh grade) when kids are figuring out who they are, trying on new personas, and maybe making a few bad choices along the way. Gabby thinks she has herself figured out, and she does - until life throws her a curveball. Her playbook (which, she emphasizes IS NOT a diary) truly is that. It is about, "Goals and Actions and Results," and is filled with baseball card stats about herself, her family and friends, inspirational quotes and mottoes (Gabby's is: "The main thing is to care. Care very hard, even if it is only a game you are playing," - Billie Jean King) and strategies and imaginings. Gabby has the level of self-awareness and positive mindset that I want my own children - and students - to have and recognize in others. 
Gabby is the starting pitcher for the Luther …

Sparks! by Ian Boothby & Nina Matsumoto, 189 pp, RL 4

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SPARKS! by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto, with color by David Dedrick, has to be one of the funniest kid's graphic novels I've read in a while. This makes sense, since Boothby has been writing comedy for TV and radio since he was a teenager and has also written comic books for The Simpsons and Futurama, to name a few. And these two know cats and how intelligently hilarious they can be. At one point, one cat says to another, "I'm going outside to eat and throw up some grass." If you have cats, obviously you'll get this. To begin with, a robotic litter box tells the story of August, Charlie and Sparks, the hero-dog-robot-suit they use to rescue those in need. In a flashback, readers learn that August and Charlie first met in a laboratory where they were being experimented on. In one of the best lines ever, the friendly robotic litter box would roll into the lab holding a tray of canned cat food and saying, "Feeding time. Also, is anyone needs to poop, let …

Los Angeles is . . . written by Elisa Parhad and illustrated by Alexander Vidal

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Los Angeles is . . . by Elisa Parhad uses rhyming couplets to travel the city, from the coast to the canyons, LAX to Union Station. Alexander Vidal, illustrator of the board bookSo Many Feet brings a chunky illustration style and a muted palette that is warm without being baked by the Southern California sun. I grew up in Los Angeles and spent my first two years of college there and Los Angeles is . . . definitely captures the unique, fun, enchanting aspect of the city, even making a drive into downtown look delightful. I especially love the endpapers of Los Angeles is . . ., which shows the eclectic architecture of the (more upscale, to be sure) neighborhoods of the city, day and night. And, for a book with less than 50 words, the author and illustrator do a decent job representing the important contributions that Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have made to the city of Los Angeles and the ways Mexican-Americans continue to shape and influence the character of the city.
Source: Review …

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

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Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall is everything that is wonderful and perfect about picture books, including a trim size that suits its subject. Her colorful, vibrant illustrations draw you in and her out of the ordinary story keep you reading and thinking about her book long after you have turned the last page. Hello Lighthouse reminds me of the books from my childhood that left the most lasting impressions on me - those of Richard Scarry. Blackall's book gives readers an inside glimpse into a world that is unknown and yet comfortably familiar at turns. Best of all, there are cutaway scenes (and other great round perspectives) of life in a lighthouse, something Scarry was great at. For a glimpse into the inspiration and creation of Hello Lighthouse (it started with a lithograph - a cutaway of a lighthouse - that Blackall purchased at a flea market) don't miss this interview at Seven Impossible Things.
Blackall's story of a lighthouse keeper is also the story of a lightho…

Story Box: Create Your Own Fairy Tales by Anne Laval

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Story Box: Create Your Own Fairy Tales by Anne Laval is another marvelously designed,  creativity inspiriting product for kids (and adults) from LaurenceKing. Founded in 1991, Laurence King Publishing is recognized as one of the leading publishers of books and gifts on the creative arts, evident in the subject matter and production of everything they do. Scroll to the end of this review for past reviews of other story-telling-creativity-boosters. The twenty two-sided puzzle pieces in Story Box: Create Your Own Fairy Tales make for many plots and outcomes. There are two official "start" pieces and three "end" pieces, but you can really start and end anywhere. With a king, castle, princess, witch, peasant boy, beanstalk, wolf and woods, Laval captures the classic tropes we expect when we think of fairy tales. However, her illustrations also are absent of the black and white, good and evil extremes that fairy tales often contain. The witch, despite her black hat, point…

Bob by Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead, illustrated by Nicholas Gannon, 200pp, RL 3

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Told in chapters that alternate voices, Bob by Wendy MassRebeca Stead, with illustrations by Nicholas Gannon, is a gentle mystery layered with themes of friendship, memory and magic. And, being a mystery, it is challenging to write a review of this rare and marvelous book without giving too much away. In the interest of sensitive readers, a paragraph at the end of this review will reveal the mystery. It's been five years since Livy, now almost eleven, visited her grandmother in Australia and her return comes with anxiety and an instant stomachache. Since the birth of her sister, Beth Ann, Livy can't tolerate being separated from her mother. But, part of her family's visit means being left alone with Gran on her now drought-plagued farm while Livy's mother and the baby travel to visit old friends. What Livy doesn't remember is that she has an old friend of her own waiting in the closet of her mother's old bedroom. Dressed in a poorly-made chicken suit is a short,…

The City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott and Robin Robinson, 224 pp, RL 4

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The City on the Other Side, written by Mairghread Scott and marvelously illustrated by Robin Robinson is a uncommon story set in San Francisco, a few years after the great earthquake of 1906, featuring Latinx and Filipino main characters. Crossing the Veil between the world of the humans and the world of the fairies where the Seelie and Unseelie Courts are at war.
Isabel is being raised by the help while also trying to live up to the standards of a "woman of breeding," as dictated by her mother. When her mother leaves for Europe, Isabel is sent to spend the summer with her father, a sculptor with a studio in seaside woods of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Distracted by his work and not used to having her around, Isabel's father doesn't seem to notice when she wanders into the woods and does not return. There Isabel crosses the Veil and finds a dying fairy from the Seelie Court, tasked with delivering a powerful amulet to the Seelie warrior tasked with finding the disappeared princ…