Friday, April 29, 2016

Big Cat and Hippos in the Yard...

 Big Cat
by Ethan Long
32 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2016

Meet Big Cat. He's a real member of the family. He naps, hugs... he can even fly (with help from one of his people). But mostly, Big Cat has fun.

Each spread of this book presents a single easy-to-read sentence that begins, "Big Cat can...." The story comes in the various activities that Big Cat gets caught up in - some not by his choice. Illustrations are large cartoons that don't distract from the text.

Not only is is a great book for early readers, it's a good model for budding young authors who want to write a story about their own pets.

A Hippo in Our Yard
by Liza Donnelly
32 pages; ages 4-7
Holiday House, 2016

Mom, we have a hippo in our yard. 

I love the way this book begins - with a simple statement of observation. Of course, mom doesn't believe Sally, who takes lettuce out to feed the hippo. Sally returns a moment later to pester her father.

Dad, we have a tiger in our tree!

I also like that the story is told entirely through dialog, with Sally's voice in red type and other family members in black. Even though it's not an "easy reader", this is a book that young readers could pick up on. There's lots of repetition, with Sally saying "Come see!", the sentences are short, and the illustrations show what is happening in the text. And while her family members don't believe her, Sally has reason to say there are wild animals in the back yard.

This is a great book to read before, after, or while driving in the car to the zoo.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Yaks Yak

Yaks Yak ~ Animal Word Pairs
by Linda Sue Park; illus by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
40 pages; age 4-7
Clarion Books, 2016

Yaks yak.
Bugs bug bugs.
Flounders flounder.

This is a book crammed with wordplay: animals and the things they might do, if they lived in Linda Sue Park's universe. Yaks would sit around talking. Bugs would annoy their buggy friends. And flounders (a flat kind of fish) would flail helplessly because that's another definition of "flounder".

It's a simple structure - noun + verb - made more fun because both noun and verb are the same word.

What I like: The improbability of it. The imaginative illustrations of steers in bumper cars "steering" and crows boasting (crowing) about their accomplishments. And that there's a glossary that defines where the animals' names came from and the meaning of the "action" word. For example: a "kid" is a child, but "kid" also means to joke.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Skunk on a String

Skunk on a String
by Thao Lam
40 pages; ages 4-7
Owlkids Books, 2016
theme: imagination, adventure, animal tale
It's really hard to begin with opening lines from a wordless book, so I'll begin with the first lines from the jacket blurb:
It's a Bird!
It's a Plane!
It's a ... Skunk??

This is a tale of adventure and intrigue that begins when a hapless skunk finds himself tied to the string of a balloon. Perhaps he was watching the parade, or perhaps he wanted to join in... but he finds himself floating up, up, and away. Past apartments and construction sites, through the zoo, into traffic, under water until - finally - he lands on the tip top of a Ferris wheel. When he unties himself he realizes that he misses flying.

What I like about this book: Usually I avoid wordless books, but this one caught me by surprise. I think it's the art: gorgeous collage work using textured papers in a variety of dots and stripes and florals. The illustrations are a visual feast, and one can spend a lot of time exploring details. The other thing I like: the story is so well told by the artwork that you don't need to struggle to say what's going on. 

Beyond the book:
Check out the book trailer- it's a lot of fun.
Imagine a balloon ride.  If you grabbed on to the string of a balloon and went floating up, up, up, where would you go? What would you see? Make a map or draw a picture to show your adventure.

Play with paper art. Make some collages using different kinds of paper. Maybe you'll want to use papers found in the recycling bin, or bits of wrapping paper too small to be useful. Or maybe you'll want to buy some patterned origami or scrapbook paper for your picture. Think about ways to add texture: handmade papers, corrugated cardboard, sandpaper, patterned duct tape... Have fun and create art to tell a story from your own adventure. 
Today we're joining PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Jumping Off Library Shelves

It's National Poetry Month, so I'm featuring poetry on my blogs. Last week it was about animals hiding. Now it's about books that are...

Jumping Off Library Shelves    
by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illus. by Jane Manning
32 pages; ages 5 & up
WordSong, 2015

Theme: libraries, reading, imagination

Morning pours spoons of sun through tall windows…. hovers over crumbs, small supper scraps left by those who opened books last night…

Libraries are wonderful places – you never know what you might find jumping off the shelves. In this anthology of fifteen poems, you’ll find everything from breakfast to adventure.

What I like about this book:

A library can be a refuge, a treasure-house, a portal to adventure. And all you need is a plain, pocket-sized piece of plastic to access its riches. A library card can be …more powerful than a hundred apps. There’s a poem about magic, one about reading with a dog, and one about the secret life that goes on in libraries after midnight. I also love the poets included in this anthology: Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Nikki Grimes, X.J. Kennedy, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and more.

Beyond the book: Visit the nearest library. What does it look like? How big is it? How many steps does it take to walk all the way around the outside? What is the door like?

If you don’t have a library card, get one. It is a ticket to the universe. You’ll probably need a photo ID and proof of where you live.

Take a field trip through the library. Make a map of what you discover. What do the ceilings look like? What about the floors? (our library has glass floors in the stacks so light can travel from one level to the next)

Have a library adventure. Here are 25 things you can do in a library besides check out books.

Do a library scavenger hunt – but make sure you let the library staff know what you are doing. You can download a list here.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) over at  Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Friend for Mole

A Friend for Mole
by Nancy Armo
32 pages; ages 2-6
Peachtree Publishers, 2016

theme: friendship, animal story

Mole was quite fond of his cozy burrow. He liked his soft bed of leaves, the warm smell of the earth, and the quiet darkness all around.

One day, Mole heard laughing and shouting up above. He decided to see what was going on...

 What I like about the book: I love the variety of creatures frolicking atop Mole's burrow. I like that Mole is afraid of the light and he meets a young wolf who is afraid of the dark. And there they are, thrown together by accident. So they do what anyone under those circumstances would do: silly things... like chasing scary imaginary monsters away. Most of all, I love the illustrations! Doesn't the cover just make you want to pop your head out of your burrow and check out what's going on? 

Beyond the book: Nancy Armo has lots of fun activities over at her website. There you'll find a maze, word search, coloring page, finger puppets. If you click on her gallery link, you'll find a wall covered with lovely illustrations.

Find out something about moles here.

Get to know the star-nosed mole in this video.

Here's a cool mole fact: moles can tunnel up to 18 feet in an hour.

Make a stuffed mole. Easy pattern and directions  here.

 Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) over at  Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Green Bean!

Green Bean! Green Bean!
By Patricia Thomas; illus. by Trina L. Hunner
32 pages; ages 4 – 9
Dawn Publications, 2016

It's getting close to gardening season...

Theme: gardening, growing


Green bean. Green bean.
And freckles and speckles.

     Freckles and speckles.
     Soon a root and a shoot 

From seed to sprout to plant, this is the story of how beans grow and survive to adult “bean-hood”. 

What I like: The structure. For example, here’s a short bit about the stems growing up a trellis of poles:

Wind roars. Rain pours.
But staked tight, stands right.

            Staked tight, stands right.
            But rabbit could grab it.

I love the way that each page starts with the last line from the previous page.

Beyond the Book:  The girl in this story planted scarlet runner pole beans. There are many kinds of pole beans - I plant rattlesnake beans. Look through a seed catalog for interesting or unusual bean names.

Bean seeds are beautiful  - some are speckled, some splattered like a"paint" pony, and some look like penguins. Cut out pictures of bean seeds and make a collage. OR use bean seeds and other seeds to make art.

Watch seeds sprout. Put different kinds of seeds on a damp paper towel. Slide that into a plastic bag (a gallon ziplock is perfect) and watch them begin to sprout and grow roots. Look at them with a magnifying lens - and draw what you see.

Grow a Book Nook – a shady place to read or nap in the heat of summer. You can grow one by making a tipi trellis of long poles. Plant pole bean seeds around the base of the tipi. As they grow, help them “find” your tipi frame.

Today we're joining PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill'ssite. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Whose Hands are These? and Author Interview!

Winner! Keila wins the give-away for Shmulik Paints the Town. Congratulations! And now to the book of the day...

Whose Hands Are These?
By Miranda Paul; illus. by Luciana Navarro Powell
32 pages; ages 4-9
Milbrook Press, 2016

Theme: community helpers, growing up

Opening: Hands can wiggle, hands can clap.

Hands can wrap and flap and tap.

But hands can help, too. What can they do? Turn the page to find out! This book shows how people living in your community use their hands to help each other.  Some people use their hands to raise vegetables while others use their hands to slice and dice those veggies. Some create art while others fix engines.

What I like: Not only does Miranda introduce youngsters to a diversity of jobs, but she does it with rhythm, rhyme, and panache. This book is just plain fun to read out loud. What’s even more fun: every page is a riddle. Can you guess the answer before you turn the page?

Beyond the Book: There are so many ways to help other people. What will your hands do.... help around your house? Can you wash vegetables or sweep a floor? Sort silverware? Fold socks? Do something to help the people you live with.

... to help the earth? Could you turn out the lights when you leave a room, or ride your bike instead of asking for a ride? Here are some things kids are doing to help the planet. 

... to help other people?  Maybe you can wash a neighbor's car or mow their lawn. Maybe you can make sandwiches for homeless people or help another kid at school with homework. Think of something you can do, and make a plan.

Miranda Paul helped me by answering Three Questions!

Sally: What inspired this book?

Miranda: I got the idea because I'd been talking a lot at the time about all the different jobs I'd done (note: Miranda has worked in a zoo, at a store, as a teacher, and now a writer). Originally I called the manuscript "Helping Hands". My husband is one of those people who can fix just about anything, and I think it's amazing what hands can do. 

Sally: How did you decide whose hands to include in the story?

Miranda: They had to be ones that I could rhyme with! I wrote a few extras that didn't make it into the book (and I'll be sharing those top-secret ones with schools that I visit!).

Sally: I love that you have more information at the back of the book. Talk about why you included "back matter".

Miranda: I love back matter—because the book doesn't end so fast! I also love back matter because I'm a lifelong learner. I included back matter in Whose Hands Are These? for a number of reasons.
  •  The publisher, Millbrook Press (Lerner), sells heavily to school and library markets. I consider the book a tool for teachers and librarians and wanted to make it the best tool it could be for a unit on community helpers.
  •  Since each occupation gets only one spread of spot illustrations (hands) and a half-spread in a single setting, it was important to explain the diversity and range within each job. An example is farmers—who are depicted on a small family farm in the illustration, but many farms today are large-scale and work with heavy machinery and I wanted to speak to that. In fact, as the back matter points out, "There are more than 200 farm-related careers, including fishing, selling, or delivering farm products, and managing parks and forests."
  •  When I tell kids some of the steps to becoming a writer, they're fascinated. And yet, many jobs have even more interesting pathways! I tried to include some of the steps or education needed to become each kind of community helper. I even learned through the process that many referees have to pass a test on the rules of their game before they can work at a professional level.
  •  In the author's note, I share a thought with kids that it's OK if they don't know what they want to be, and that it's all right to be more than one thing. There's no need for them to have anxiety about not knowing what they want to do, or switching their mind. People can be community helpers in more than one way.

You can find out more about Miranda at her website, where she has a trailer for Whose Hands Are These? Last summer I reviewed her book Water is Water. You can read that review here.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) over at  Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. On Monday we'll join the folks over at Nonfiction Monday. Review copy from the author.