Summer Reading

This summer NY state libraries are hosting programs around the theme of "superheroes". You can find grade-level summer reading lists here. For more reading lists, check out ALSC. Also, Barnes & Noble is challenging children in grades 1-6 to read eight books this summer and keep a reading journal. Readers can turn in their journals before Labor Day to receive a free book (from a selected list). More info here and here.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Noisy Bird Sing-Along

Noisy Bird Sing-Along
by John Himmelman
32 pages; ages 3-8
Dawn publications, 2015

I love leaving the windows open all night. We listen to the chorus of frogs, and the gentle whoo-whoo-whooing of the owls. There's only one problem...

The morning birds are SO NOISY! Like the birds in this book. Look at that cover - you know that this book is going to be a lot of fun to read. And sure enough, John Himmelman takes us on a wild auditory field trip. We meet Robin who wakes us up with his "Cheery up? Cheery-oh!" call. And the Barred owl - he's the one constantly asking "who cooks for you?" And for hockey fans who are already missing the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs, there are the White-throated sparrows that sing, "Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada".

Not only does Himmelman share the birds' songs, he also provides tidbits about where each bird takes its meals. Chickadees hunt for bugs in trees, while hummingbirds zip from flower to flower poking their lo-o-ong beaks into blossoms and slurping up the nectar. After we are introduced to all of the birds, Himmelman brings them together in one noisy chorus.

I love that he includes back matter: a page of fun facts about each of the birds, as well as handy advice about birding, feeding, and pishing. Sounds like "fishing" but instead of casting with a rod, you make pssh-pssh-pssh noises to call out curious birds. Click here to listen to all of the bird songs.

Today we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Monday, June 29, 2015


by Tim Hamilton
32 pages; ages 4-7
Holiday House, 2014

If you're looking for some beach reading - and you're not afraid of pirates - this might be a good choice. It's a bit zany, and features Tim Hamilton's wonderfully cartoonish drawings.

Eddie lives with his dad and his dog in Halibut Bay. It's a nice enough place, but people have cold heads because they don't have hats.

One day Eddie and his dog are off for some fishing. But dad stops them in their tracks. You have chores to do, he says. And by the way, watch out for pirates. So Eddie sets off and everything seems to be going well... BUT...

And therein lies the story. Eddie tries to do what he is told, BUT.... He tries to bake a cake. He tries to clean up. He wraps the presents. He's getting everything ready when Pirates show up! He realizes that his gifts won't do: he's wrapped up socks BUT...

the pirates don't need a pair of socks. How will they put socks on a wooden leg? Eddie does some quick thinking and comes out ahead. He solves the problems and makes everyone, even his crabby aunt, happy.


Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Over on a Mountain, Somewhere in the World

Over on a Mountain: Somewhere in the World
by Marianne Berkes; illus by Jill Dubin
32 pages; ages 3-8
Dawn publications, 2015

This book will not only have you singing along, but checking an atlas, globe, or whatever mapping app you might have. It's downright fun and a great addition to the "Over in" series that Marianne Berkes has been adding to over the years.

I like it because it's a world tour of mountain ranges - and it has animals from every region. Plus Berkes includes a handy map in case you don't have a globe at hand. Plus it's a counting song... so it's win-win all around.

The illustrations are beautiful cut paper, filled with texture and detail.

All the animals in the book act the way that Berkes portrays them. Snow leopards leap, bald eagles soar, and penguins waddle. And they live in the mountains as shown in the book. But they don't have as many babies as in her rhyme!

There is wonderful back matter for parents and curious kids. Berkes includes mountain facts, reveals the "hidden" mountain animals, and provides more information about the animals featured in the book. There's also an entire page of "tips from the illustrator" - what fun for the budding artist! And, at the back there is music and words for the song in case you're chosen to lead the next sing-along.

Today's review is part of the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. Even though "perfect picture book Friday" is on summer break, you can still check out recent posts at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Bird is a Bird

A Bird is a Bird
by Lizzy Rockwell
32 pages; ages 3-7
Holiday House, 2015

One bird is fancy. Another is plain.
But a bird is a bird.

Because, as Lizzy Rockwell shows us, there are some things all birds have in common. They all have beaks - even though some beaks are huge and fat, designed for eating fruit and others are thin and sharp, designed for spearing frogs.

All birds have wings. While some flap and glide high in the sky, others swim and dive in the ocean. And all birds begin life as an egg.

But wait! Insects have wings and they aren't birds. Snakes lay eggs, and they aren't birds. So what is it about birds that makes them different from all the other animals?

Feathers! And those feathers help birds survive. Using detailed illustrations and text that is poetic and simple enough for a beginning reader, Rockwell shows us what makes birds "birds".

Check out Rockwell's book about gardening ~ Plants Feed Us ~  along with some beyond the garden activities. Today we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What James Said & author interview

What James Said
by Liz Rosenberg; illus. by Matt Myers
32 pages; ages 4-8
Roaring Brook Press

This is a book I chose by its cover. Who can resist Matt Myers's bright splashes of color and wonderfully drawn characters?

There's another reason, too.... I met author Liz Rosenberg a few years back, and always enjoy reading her stories. And this one is everything I want in a kid's book: It's fun. It's touching. It makes you slow down and consider how you treat your friends - even when you're mad.

The main character is a little girl who, on the very first page, declares: "I'm never talking to James again." They are in a fight. You see, James told Aiden who told someone else who told someone else who.... eventually told her something that made her mad, mad, mad.  And so she's not talking to James any more. They are in a fight. Even if James doesn't know it. Even if he asks "are you OK?" or slides her favorite treat onto her desk.

This is such a delightful tale of a typical childhood experience, and I love how Rosenberg reveals their realization that that true friendship can survive a misunderstanding. She was gracious enough to answer Three Questions.

Sally: What inspired this story?

Liz: How easy it is for people to misunderstand each other. As a little girl, I was always getting into "fights" with my best friends - I think girls are even more inclined to these dramas than boys. In a school situation it's so easy to unwittingly start a game of he-said-she-said "telephone", where what was really said gets garbled the further the gossip spreads. And I'd never really seen a picture book about that, but I think it's a very real and vital part of our experience. Then, too, I've been through rough patches as an adult. I've had some experience feeling like "I'm never talking to so-and-so again". Then, of course, you do - and if you're lucky the friendship is stronger than ever.

Sally: Your characters seem like kids we'd find in the local elementary school. Is there a secret to creating "real" characters?

Liz: I'm still a child at heart. I'm pretty darned childish - and of course I have children. I like being around children. That makes it easier to see you children "really are".

Sally: How closely did you work with the illustrator, Matt?

Liz: Matt and I had worked together on Tyrannosaurus Dad (2011), So I thoroughly trusted him - and my editor, the wonderful Neal Porter. There was no need for collaboration... everything is there in the story. I love every single choice that Matt made.

Liz just finished her final revision of her next book - a YA biography of LM Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables. "She led a fascinating, touching life, a life of checkered brightness and darkness," says Liz. "And she was one of my favorite authors as a child. Still is. So this biography is a debt of love. Maybe all real writing is."

I just finished listening to the recorded book,  Anne of Green Gables, so I can't wait to read Liz's biography on the author! 

If there were "perfect picture book Friday" today, we'd be there. But even though it's PPBF summer break, you can still check out recent posts at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksAdvanced review copy from the publisher.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Two early readers perfect for summer

Looking for some new "easy readers" for just-getting-to-read-on-their-own kids who can't wait for Summer Reading? Here's two - hot off the press from Holiday House. Even though they may look like they have nothing in common, they do: both feature a main character who meets with success in unexpected ways. These "I like to read" stories are are written in simple language that will appeal to newly independent readers.

3, 2, 1, Go!
by Emily Arnold McCully
24 pages; ages 4-8

Ann and Bess are playing "school". Min wants to join them, but "you are not ready," says Ann. She draws a line in the sand and tells Min that she may not step over it. When Min leaves, Ann and her friend get back to their game.

But Min isn't a quitter. And she doesn't let anything as thin as a line stop her from joining in the play. So she gathers things: a board, some rope, a tube... then with a fun mix of rocket science and make-do, Min finds a way to join her friends. Without stepping across any lines.

by Kate Parkinson
24 pages; ages 4-8

Grace wants to dance. She tries. She gives it everything she has. But truth is: Grace was not made for dancing - at least not that kind of dancing.

She does, however, have other talents. She loves to draw. And that gives her an idea. A really BIG idea that lets her be part of the dance recital with her friends, but doesn't require a tutu or ballet slippers.

Review copies provided by the publisher.