Friday, June 14, 2019

Badger's Perfect Garden

Badger’s Perfect Garden
by Marsha Diane Arnold; illus. by Ramona Kaulitzki
32 pages; ages 4-8
Sleeping Bear Press, 2019

theme: gardening, nature, friendship

One spring morning, Red Squirrel found Badger surrounded by dozens of jars.
The jars were filled with seeds. The seeds looked hopeful, just like Badger.

Badger wants to plant a perfect garden. That means getting the soil perfectly smooth. And planting perfectly straight rows. All of this takes a lot of time, but finally Badger’s garden is planted. All he needs is rain…. but then a HUGE storm washes away the seeds.

All is lost. Or is it?

What I like about this book: I love the idea that Badger is planting seeds that he has collected from local plants. And that his friends help him plant the garden. (As a gardener, I have yet to plant perfectly straight rows or get my soil perfectly smooth.)  Having your garden washed away by a severe storm is becoming a more likely event these days, but I was a bit astonished that Badger didn’t head back out and replant.

That doesn’t matter, though, because what happens is even more fun. As most of us know (when we stop to think about it) seeds will grow wherever they find themselves. But what I really liked was that "the seeds looked hopeful!"

Beyond the book

Plant a garden. One year a skunk dug up a section of our yard (searching for beetle larvae). My kids turned the now grassless area into a flower garden. Here are some resources for gardening with kids: How to Plant a Garden, and Gardening Basics (with lots of info).

Seek flowers that are native to your region. Check with your local county extension, or find a list of native plants at National Wildlife Federation and Xerces Society

Go on a flower walk to learn more about what’s growing in your neighborhood. Here’s a list for a scavenger hunt.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast

Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast
By Sophie Gilmore
32 pages; ages 5-8
Owlkids Books, 2019

theme: kindness, animals, imagination

There once lived a child the crocodiles called Little Doctor.

Little Doctor treats the creatures with care, bandaging and splinting and washing off scrapes and cuts. Then one day Big Mean shows up. Big Mean is every bit as big as her name implies, and when Little Doctor tries to take her temperature, Big Mean resists. But Little Doctor persists… and accidentally lands inside Big Mean’s big, toothy mouth – where she discovers something important. I don’t want to spoil this wonderful and sweet story, so please, please find a copy and read it for yourself. You’ll definitely want to read this story again and again.

What I like love about this book: The story seems so simple, and yet is a mile deep. It is about persistence, compassion, and respect. It also alludes to our human impact on the creatures who share this planet with us. I like that this story is inspired by a real-life crocodile doctor in the author’s family. And I really like the illustrations. They show us a lot about Little Doctor's life, from the way she dresses to the cool skeleton hanging from the ceiling of her room. They invite you to spend time on the page, poring over every detail.



Beyond the book:

Learn more about crocodiles here and here

Make a crocodile – you'll find a collection of many croc-crafts for kids here.

Plastic pollution is killing marine wildlife – even crocodiles. Learn more here. And here’s a list of ways you can reduce your use of plastic.

My colleague, Maria Marshall reviewed this book a couple months ago – you can find her thoughtful comments here.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some crocodilian nonfiction.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review F&G provided by the publisher.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure


Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure
by Alex T. Smith
208 pages; ages 8-12
Peachtree, 2019

Mr. Penguin is a dapper gent, what with his hat and bow tie and satchel. He has just started a new business: Professional Adventurer. But it wasn’t going according to plan and he’s down to his last fish finger sandwich.

“It was supposed to have been nonstop Adventures—people ringing up with mysteries for him to solve, missing diamonds to find, jungles to run through under a shower of poison-tipped darts….” Instead, his phone stayed silent. And if he didn’t get an Adventuring job soon, there would be no more crabsticks!

Fortunately, the phone rings! Mr. Penguin’s services are required to find a Lost Treasure somewhere in the Museum of Extraordinary Objects. Accompanied by his sidekick, a karate-kicking spider named Colin, Mr. Penguin heads off on a crazy Indiana Jones-style quest.

What I like about this book:

The wacky characters, from Edith the pigeon lady to Mrs. Bones and her brother Montague.

The clues, including a carved saber-toothed ostrich tusk.

An X that literally marks the spot!

I like how Alex Smith uses color to help tell the story. Most pages include illustrations in black, white, and orange – great penguin colors. But as the adventurers descend into the darkness of the basement, the pages are gray with white text.

I like that there are lessons to learn. If a large knobby tree trunk floats by at exactly the same time you need to cross a river, you might want to check for teeth!

And I like that there is always a way to save the day, though it will invariably require a personal sacrifice. So carry extra candy bars – or fish finger sandwiches, as the case may be.

Beyond the Book: Have some fun with these Mr. Penguin activity sheets!

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Becket List

The Becket List: A Blackberry Farm Story 
by Adele Griffin; illustrated by LeUyen Pham
208 pages; ages 7 - 11
Algonquin Young Readers, 2019

Rebecca Branch is a city kid, born and bred. From subways to sidewalks, she knows how to navigate her habitat. But now that third grade has ended, her family is moving to the country to live with Grandma at Blueberry Farm. Family includes mom and dad, who are veterinarians, older sister, Caroline, who is on the cusp of teendom, and Rebecca’s twin brother, Nicholas, who is his own person.

Rebecca is looking forward to being a country kid. She wants to get a “country dog” even though Mr. Fancypants has been a faithful canine companion. And she decides to change her name to Becket because, she points out to her family, “Rebecca doesn’t fit me…”  Still, she does bring some of her old life with her, like an entire moving box filled with penguins. The stuffed kind, not the live, fishy, flippery kind.

One of the things Becket does is start a list about How To Be a Country Kid. The other thing she does is shout out “beautiful alerts” to remind people to enjoy the natural beauty around them.

Becket wants to be of use, so she adopts farm chores: feeding Grandma’s donkey, mule, and 97 chickens – including the mean Lady Godiva. There’s summer camp, a lemonade business, and tractor-driving lessons. But mostly, there’s a story about family and friendships and growing up.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle , so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Birds! Birds! Birds!

themes: birds, family, don't give up

Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly!
by Ann Ingalls; illus. by Rebecca Evans
32 pages; ages 3-8
Dawn Publications, 2019

Why should I walk? I can fly.
I've made up my mind to try.

A little bird. A big sky. And mama's nudging him out of the nest. This is a mistake - he's sure - why can't he fly like ... chickadees, for example. And not being able to fly puts him in danger!

What I like about this book: It's told in first person, from the baby Robin's point of view. Who knew first flight could be so scary? For sure, kids will identify with his timidity in embracing something so drastically different.

If the text doesn't get you soaring, the illustrations will. They are bursting with humor and do a wonderful job revealing the Robin's emotions. Maybe it was fated that Rebecca Evans create the art for this book - when she was a first grader she rescued two injured baby sparrows and helped them learn to fly.

I also like that there's back matter: a "fact or fiction?" page, some thoughts about teaching baby birds to fly, and STEM activities.

Ruby's Birds
by Mya Thompson; illus. by Claudia Davila
36 pages; ages 3-7
Cornell Lab Publishing Group, 2019

School's out. Mom and Dad are at work.

Ruby's home with grandma and Alex, the parrot. She's bored. But downstairs neighbor, Eva, asks if she wants to go to the park. They walk past the one with slides ... all the way to Central Park. To the woods, where Eva looks up and listens. Turns out that Eva's on a mission to find a Golden-winged warbler, and enlists Ruby's help.

What I like about this book: The birds that illustrator Claudia Davila sneaked onto each page - you have to search for them! I like that Ruby learns how to identify the warbler and shares her knowledge.

Of course, there is back matter! That's where you'll find more information about birds in the city. There's a handy list of birds that are in the book - birds you are likely to find in your town or city. And there's "Ruby's Tips for taking a nature walk"!

Beyond the Books:

Draw a Bird. It could be a robin (here's one way to draw a robin) or a pigeon (here's how to draw a pigeon like Mo Willems). Or you can download coloring pages from Why Should I Walk? to use as inspiration.

Learn more about the birds living in your town or city. Need info? Check out Celebrate Urban Birds and Feathered Friends for activities and identification.

Learn to identify birds by their songs and calls. Here's a "tweet cheat sheet" for Eastern Birds, and here's one for Western Birds - by amazing cartoonist, naturalist, and science writer Rosemary Mosco.

Take a close look at a feather. If you find feathers on the ground, spend some time looking at them. Draw their shape and color them. Try to figure out who lost a feather. The best way to examine a feather is to get a chicken feather or other feather from a craft store so you can spend time looking at it with a magnifying lens. Here's a feather activity guide. (note: it is illegal to collect and keep feathers you find on the ground. You can draw them and, if you have a hand lens with you, take a closer look at them.)

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copies provided by the publishers.

Friday, May 10, 2019

How to Care for your T-Rex

How to Care for Your T-Rex
Ken Baker; illustrations by Dave Coverly
36 Pages, Ages 4-8
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), 2019

themes: pets, love, humor

When you take good care of your T-Rex, your T-Rex will take good care of you.

Like any other pet, a T-Rex requires the right sort of care and feeding. Exercise is an important part of their daily routine, because they sure do eat a lot – 300 pound of meat a day! From rise-and-shine to brushing teeth and goodnight stories, this book gives handy tips on caring for your reptilian companion.

What I like about this book: I love the cartoony art – it is so fun. And I love the speech balloons that add dialog without all that bothersome “he said, she said.” But most of all, I like the situations that T-Rex and his boy find themselves in. Like trying to teach T-Rex a few simple tricks that any dog worth its salt knows. Sit. Shake. Roll over. And other stuff you should teach it, like manners. And some things you simply can’t teach it, like how to rescue a cat from a tree.

But you know what I really like? I’ll wait while you take a guess…
I really like that it has Back Matter: a bunch of T-Rex facts that will delight any kid and surprise parents who haven’t kept up on dinosaur research.

Beyond the Book:

Can you run as fast as a T-Rex? Figure out how fast you can run. Then convert it into miles per hour. A T-Rex can run 12 miles per hour. Can you keep up?

Check out the trailer for the book here.

What do you think a baby T-Rex looked like? Draw a picture. Then check out this video from the American Museum of Natural History.
 
We're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It's a weekly event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review ARC provided by the publisher.

Friday, May 3, 2019

How to Walk an Ant

How to Walk an Ant
by Cindy Derby
40 Pages; ages 4-8
Roaring Brook Press, 2019

theme: imagination, bugs

My name is Amariyah, and I am an Expert Walker.

As in, she walks things. But not dogs. Not goldfish either. Amariyah walks ants – and she’s going to share her top tips so you, too, could walk ants for fun and profit!

What I like love about this book: I appreciate the matter-of-fact approach Amariyah uses. Step one, find an ant. Step two, politely introduce yourself. I see that this is where I have gone all wrong. Not once in my entire life have I properly (and with best manners) introduced myself to an ant.

I like the footnotes – yes, you most certainly can have footnotes in a picture book!

I like that Amariyah carefully explains how to secure a leash so as to not harm the ant. Not around the antennae, but between the thorax and the head. Not sure where that is? No problem – Appendix 2 illustrates ant anatomy. Yes, you most certainly can include appendices in a picture book!

I love that Amariyah calculates estimated ant travel times and touches on the potential problems of entanglement when walking multiple ants. It’s like herding cats, only with more legs.

But what I really love is that Amariyah encounters another insect walker, and after a tragic accident (resulting in bug burials) they start a joint venture. And yes! there is Back Matter.

Beyond the Book:

Go on an Ant Walk - with no strings attached. Just find some ants and follow them. You might want to draw a picture of what your ants look like (what color they are, how many legs, whether they have big heads with scary jaws). Definitely make a map to show where your ant goes. 
 
How many kinds of Ants live in your neighborhood? Here's an ant chart to help you out.

Make up a song for walking ants (or any other animal)... 

More ant activities here!

We're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It's a weekly event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review ARC provided by the publisher.