Friday, June 5, 2020

Such a Good Boy!

This month Sally’s Bookshelf is Going To the Dogs! So of course I'm starting with one called Such a Good Boy! Because, really, how could I resist? Look for doggy books all month long.

theme: dogs

Such a Good Boy
by Marianna Coppo
48 pages; ages 5 - 8
Chronicle Books, 2020

This is Buzz. Come here, Buzz! Good Boy.

Buzz has a good life. He lives in a fancy house, eats nutritious food, and is pampered well cared for. He takes his people for walks every day, and on Sundays he gets to go to the dog park! As long as he stays on a leash… because those other dogs could be mean or scary. And then one day, Buzz finds the right door open and he’s free!


What I like about this book: I love that Marianna Coppo asks really important questions, like what does it mean to be a “good boy?” And what sorts of considerations go into life-altering decisions such as whether to return home or explore the outside world? And I like the end pages: the front endpapers are filled with trophies and doggy toys; the back papers are filled with sticks, puddles, and adventure.

Yoga Animals: A Wild Introduction to Kid-Friendly Poses 
by Paige Towler
32 pages; ages 4 - 8
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2020

While not a dog story, this book does introduce kids to the Downward Dog pose, along with several other “wild” yoga poses. Rhyming couplets, paired with photos of animals, will have kids bending and stretching, reaching and curling, and definitely moving. A great companion for quarantine, because yoga doesn’t take much room. Plus, it helps reduce stress – something we can all use. Kids will learn to bend like a gorilla, balance like a flamingo, slide like a cobra, and stretch like a puppy.

Beyond the Books:

What does it mean to be a “good” dog – or kid? What are the sorts of things that are considered “good” behavior in your home?

Design a park for dogs to play in. What sort of things would you want in a park if you were a dog? If you need some ideas, check out these dog parks.

Stretch like a puppy. If you have never done a downward dog pose, here’s how to do it. And sure, go ahead and bark! Such a gooood boy!

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 29, 2020

Perfect bedtime stories

These two books from Chronicle are perfect bedtime reads. Quiet enough to relax, but with enough curiosity to make you think.

theme: family, friendship

Over the Moon
by James Proimos; illus. by Zoey Abbott
44 pages; ages 3 - 5
Chronicle Books, 2020

When a baby floats down a river, she doesn’t think about her place in the world.

And when two wolves sit on the river’s edge, it’s a pretty good bet that one of them is thinking about dinner. So what happens when a baby floats by? The wolves scoop her up and take her home and “teach her about good and evil, dark and light, right and wrong.” Even though one of the wolves is still thinking about dinner.

What I like about this book: This is such a sweet story, perfect for sharing before bedtime. I like how the girl learns to live as a wolf, and then one day discovers something new! Other children. She wants to join them, and when she leaves even the second wolf sheds a tear. But family is family, so she will return because she has learned about good and evil, light and dark…

Tiny T. Rex and the Very Dark Dark
by Jonathan Stutzman; illus. by Jay Fleck
48 pages; ages 3 - 5
Chronicle Books, 2020

It is our first campout in the backyard, and we are nervous.

Tiny (a T-rex) and his stegasaurus buddy, Pointy, are going to camp outside. But even mighty dinosaurs get scared if they can’t sleep with their “nighty-lights”. It is very dark outside, and hard to be brave when you are scared of Nom-bies and Crawly-creeps.

What I like about this book: Tiny and Pointy come up with a plan. It involves a hiding fort, Christmas tree lights, and plenty of snacks. It is a good plan until – something goes wrong and everything is very dark! But Tiny finds some night light …. in a place he hadn’t expected.

Beyond the Books:

Draw a plan for a hiding fort – and then build it. Think about materials you have at hand: blankets, pillows, tables and chairs…

Imagine what your life would be like if you were adopted by wolves - or some other wild creature. Draw a picture or write about your adopted family. What makes them "the best"?

If you’re going to sleep outside, you need to make s’mores. You need: marshmallows, chocolate candy bar, and graham crackers. If you have a campfire, toast marshmallows and put them on a slice of candy bar between two graham cracker halves. Otherwise, put a marshmallow on a graham cracker half and pop it into the microwave for 10 seconds or so. Then put on the chocolate and the other cracker half and yummmmm!

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 publisher.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Naked Mole Rat Saves the World

Naked Mole Rat Saves the World 
by Karen Rivers 
304 pages; ages 8 - 12 years
Algonquin Young Readers, 2019


I love a good Karen Rivers middle-grade novel, so I read Naked Mole Rat Saves the World as soon as it came out last fall. And then put it on my desk to be reviewed. And stacked stuff on top.

This week, during an archaeological excavation of my office, guess what I unearthed? The cover is still bright blue, the lettering still shiny, bold yellow.

Twelve-year-old kit (yes, lower case k) was born small enough to fit in her mom’s hands - like a naked, wrinkled, hairless animal baby. Her life is full of normal twelve-year-old stuff: roller-skating, star-watching, volunteering at the animal shelter, and hanging out at the flea market with her best friend, Clem. kit lives with her mom, and her mom lives with a lot of fears: cancer, bad guys, crowds, traffic, spiders … the list is long and always growing.

kit's life is perfectly normal until one day ... it isn’t. The day Clem, part of an acrobatic family, falls during a TV performance. kit, watching her friend on TV, has a panic attack. Her eyesight gets blurry, her hand looks like a squashed grey leaf with wrinkly skin … she’s turned into a rodent. Maybe. Or maybe she imagined it. She even googles “hyperventilating and turning into a rodent” on her computer – is it some sort of superpower? (and if so, seriously? being a naked mole rat?)

In chapters that alternate between kit’s point of view and Clem’s, we are pulled into a story about growing and changing. kit is full of questions: why do people change? does everyone change? do we all turn into different animals, and is that a part of puberty?

But mostly, this is a story about friends who grow apart, then back together, and how hard it is to navigate through life.

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 15, 2020

Armchair Traveling with books

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was pretend I was exploring new places. These two books provide plenty of armchair traveling, from a small town to around the world.

Theme: geography, community, storytelling

All Around Bustletown: Spring
by Rotraut Susanne Berner 
14 pages; ages  2-5
Prestel, 2020

Usually I begin with the first lines of a picture book. But this book is a wordless board book filled with such detail that you’re sure to find a new story each time you open it up. Spring has come to Bustletown, and Grandma is off for a hike. George is cleaning the house, Clara is riding a scooter through town, and … what is the fox doing?

What I like about this book: From one spread to the next, you can follow the various characters around Bustletown – to the farmer’s market, the metro, the town square, the park. Along the way, you might notice that the new Kindergarten is finally under construction.


The cool thing: this book is part of a series showing the seasons of Bustletown. So if you have all four, you can see how the town is changing over time. In Winter, a steam shovel was breaking new ground for the Kindergarten, In Spring the bricklayers are putting up the walls. By Summer they’re putting solar panels on the roof and planting gardens, and Fall shows children getting ready for a parade. Each spread contains so many potential stories that kids will want to return to them again and again.

Little Kids First Big Book of Where
by Jill Esbaum
128 pages; ages 4-8
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2020

You know when you open a National Geographic book, you are heading off on an adventure. This one takes you all around the world in four chapters exploring natural wonders, animals, inventions, and cool places to visit. The pages are filled with colorful photos, pop-up facts, interactive questions, hands-on activities, and a map-themed activity at the end of each chapter.

What I like about this book: Each spread introduces a topic with a question:

  • Where is the Longest River? (Is it the Nile or the Amazon?)
  • Where does the loudest insect live? (with instructions for how to make your own loud insect noise)
  • Where was pizza invented? (with a list of interesting toppings from around the world)
  • Where are the twistiest roads?


And of course, there is Back Matter! Tips for parents to help their children travel, whether in real life or virtually. Activities range from geography to math to art to science.

Beyond the Books:

Explore your town – or your neighborhood. If you have a camera, take photos of certain places at different times of the year. Or draw a picture of what you see. Are new buildings going up? Are people planting gardens or selling tomatoes? How do things change from spring to summer and from summer to fall and winter?

Explore the world. Look at a globe or atlas and make a list of places to visit.

  • Make yourself a Passport. You’ll need a cover, and some interior pages. On one page you need your photo and address. The other pages are for collecting “stamps” from the countries you virtually visit.
  • Using books, old National Geographic magazines, or online resources, visit one of the countries on your list of places to see. See if you can find any virtual museums to visit. If you can find a map, trace your travels. When you’re finished visiting, have someone in your family draw a Visa stamp in your passport. Then head off to explore another place on your list.

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 8, 2020

Want a Pet? Invent one!

Invent-a-Pet
by Vicky Fang; illus. by Tidawan Thaipinnarong
32 pages; ages 3 - 7
Sterling Children's Books, 2020

Invent-a-Pet won’t be released until June, but I wanted to share it before it got buried in the book basket.

theme: problem-solving, STEAM, pets

Katie was an ordinary girl who longed for an extraordinary pet.

Goldfish are too common. Katie wants something unique. Spectacular! So when a machine shows up at her home, Katie tries it out. There are three openings for feeding things into the machine, conveniently labeled “input”. And there’s a lever to pull. So Katie puts in a soccer ball, a blade of grass, and a carrot just to try it out. Then she pulls the lever and out pops a green, round bunny. Aha! she thinks. Now she can make the perfect pet.



What I like about this book: I like that Katie tries to create the perfect pet. She puts in things that she thinks will create a dragon – but other creatures come out. “How does this thing even work?” she asks. I like how Katie uses deductive reasoning to figure out how each input controls a specific variable: size, color, animal. I like how she changes one variable at a time on the machine and keeps notes until she figures out how the machine works. And I like seeing her final “equation” (or set of inputs) for the perfect pet.

I managed to catch up with Vicky by email for One Question:

Sally: What ingredients would YOU put into the Invent-a-Pet machine - and what would your unique pet look like?

Vicky: Ah, I love this question! And surprised I hadn’t thought of an answer before!
A football. A striped grey sock. A ball of yarn.
PUFF! A small, striped, grey kitten!
(Really, I've never had a kitten and I'd like one. And I think they're perfectly extraordinary just the way they are.)

Beyond the Books:

What, for you, makes an animal the “perfect” pet? Draw a picture of your perfect animal companion.

Design a machine to create the perfect pet. Raid the recycling bin and try building a model of your machine. Then write down a list of potential features of pets (size, color, habitat, diet, kind of animal) and then determine what three variables (inputs) to add to your machine.

Vicky is a member of #STEAMTeam2020. You can find out more about her at her website.

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 the publisher.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Like the Moon Loves the Sky


Like the Moon Loves the Sky
by Hena Khan; illus. by Saffa Khan
40 pages; ages 3 - 5 years
Chronicle Books, 2020

theme: family, love, multicultural

Inshallah you are all that is gentle and good.

From the first page to the last, this book shares and celebrates author Hena Khan’s daily for her children. It also shares the joy of a mother-child relationship. Each line is grounded in a verse from the Quran, while illustrations show a child growing up as we go page by page. It is a lovely bedtime story, and reading it is like curling up in a warm hug of unconditional love.

What I like about this book: I love that this book is straight from the heart. Inshallah – god willing – we would wish all of these things for our children: that they grow into strong and kind beings, travel to new places, know that they are loved. I think it is a perfect story for sharing Muslim family traditions, and for families looking for diverse picture books – even when it’s not Ramadan.


I love the author’s note that Henna includes at the beginning, in which she explains the phrase “inshallah” and how people of many faiths reflect on a greater force than themselves. She shares how, as a parent, her prayers and wishes for her children are often intertwined.

And did I mention the narrative of the illustrations, showing the child growing over time? Illustrator Saffa Khan, who is a print maker, uses digital art for the book – every bit as bold and colorful as her prints.

Beyond the Books:

Explore printmaking. Printmaking is a way of producing art by transferring an image from one surface to another. Think: woodcuts, engraving, linoleum blocks. Here are some fun ways to make prints using things you might find around the house.

Try your hand at writing a prayer or meditation or wishes for your family. Maybe you hope they stay as strong as trees, or are able to learn new things with the flexibility of a willow bending in the wind.

Learn about Ramadan with this video. And check out the kid-friendly crafts here.

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 the publisher.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Adventure! Danger! and totally true


Into The Clouds: The Race to Climb the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain
by Tod Olson
288 pages; ages 10-14
Scholastic Focus, 2020

All they needed were three good days. Three days without winds strong enough to blow them off the mountainside… Three days of weather clear enough to see the route between their lonely tents and the top of the second-highest mountain on Earth. 

But on the afternoon of August 6, 1953, Charlie Houston knew the odds of getting those three days were slim. This was not his first attempt to summit K2, the second highest peak in the world. It was a craggy peak located on the border of China and Pakistan, about 900 miles northwest of Everest. Formidable and unforgiving of mistakes.

The first time Charlie climbed K2 was in 1938. His mission: to discover a route that would allow climbers to make it to the summit the following year. The next year, Fritz Wiessner set off with an expedition to conquer the peak. But mistakes and ego resulted in tragedy.
credit: SY; CC BY-SA 4.0

And now, fifteen years after his first attempt, Charlie was once again trying to find a route to the top. But a vicious storm and sudden illness puts the expedition on the edge of disaster. What began as a quest reach the summit turned into a rescue mission.

Into the Clouds is a tale of adventure, for sure. You will find yourself pulling on a sweater or heating up a mug of tea to drink as you read – because it is cold on that mountain! But Tod Olson examines a philosophical divide in the climbing community. Is a climbing expedition the means to allow an individual to reach the top to mark a personal triumph? Or is climbing, as Charlie believed, a team effort? A “fellowship of the rope” that understands no single person can reach a summit without the team.

Olson tells the stories of three expeditions and climbing rivalry. Fortunately, you won’t need crampons or an ice ax to enjoy this adventure; Olson has done the hard work of pounding in the pitons and setting a guide rope. All you have to do is enjoy the story. Be forewarned: it is page-turning nonfiction and a story you will not want to put down, so make sure you have adequate provisions before setting off on this adventure.

If you like nail-biting nonfiction adventures, check out Olson’s LOST series. Last winter I posted a review of Lost in the Antarctic, a tale of Ernest Shackleton's 1914 expedition.

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. ARC provided by Blue Slip Media.