Friday, January 20, 2017

Tuktuk - a tale from the Tundra

Tuktuk Tundra Tale
by Robin Currie; illus. by Phyllis Saroff
32 pages; ages 4-8
Arbordale, 2016

theme: nonfiction, animal tale

At the  top of the world, an Inuit driver cried to the sled dogs. "Hike!"
"Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark!"
He saw the setting sun on the ice, but he did not see one furry kamik slip under the ropes and off the sled.

But Tuktuk did, and he thought the kamik was just perfect for a collard lemming. As he drags the boot home he is stopped by other animals who think that they should have the kamik.

What I like about the book: Instead of arguing with other animals, Tuktuk becomes the trickster. Yes, the kamik is a perfect fit on the polar bear's nose, or the arctic fox's tail... even the moose. But the fit is less than perfect.

I also like the back matter: information about polar seasons, a matching game, some Inuit vocabulary, and "fun facts" about life in the cold (more fun when you've got a sweater on and a hot mug of cocoa).

Beyond the Book:

Watch a slideshow of Arctic tundra animals.

Discover some sneaky facts about collard lemmings and other lemmings here.

Learn how to say "good morning" and more in Inukitut here.

Today is 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 publishers.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Snow + Animals = Fun!

Who can resist a winter's tale about animals in the snow? Here are two for reading on a Snow Day.

Pablo in the Snow
by Teri Sloat; illus. by Rosalinde Bonnet
40 pages; ages 2-5
Henry Holt & Co, 2017

theme: winter, animal tale

It's early in the morning and the sheep are still dreaming. Except for Pablo. PAblo is looking out the window.
"Look, Papa! Pieces of the clouds are falling!"

It's just snow, but Pablo has never seen snow. He takes a few steps outside and sees his tracks behind him. "Snow is for making a trail," he says. Then he sees other tracks. Who has made the trail?

What I like love about this book: As Pablo explores, he learns new things about what snow is for. Swooshing down hills, snow is for fun. Making a snowman, snow is for making friends. But then he gets lost in the storm. I don't want to spoil the ending; just know that snow is for adventures.

Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope
by Cynthia Rylant; illus. by Arthur Howard
40 pages; ages 6-9
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016

Mr. Putter and Tabby are the best of friends - and there are more than 20 books in the series to attest to that. These are fun, fun, fun books for early readers.

Winter has come and things are slow. Mr. Putter doesn't remember winter being slow when he was a kid - he used to zip down hills on his favorite sled.

His neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry has a sled. Would he like to go sledding? "Cowabunga!" yells Mr. Putter as he and Mrs. T fly down the slope. Mrs. Teaberry steers; Mr. Putter hangs on. As for Tabby... she is not amused. How will Mr. Putter get Tabby out of the tree? Will she be his friend again?

Beyond the books:

Follow some tracks in the snow. Who made them? Where do they go? 

Find a hill and slide down. If you don't have a sled or saucer, improvise. Use a piece of plastic or cardboard. 

Celebrate snow by making snow angels. Put colored water in spray bottles and make paintings on the snow. Make snowmen or snow dragons. Stomp paths in the snow for other people to follow. Have a snowball fight.

Today is 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 copies provided by publishers.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Aim ~ historical fiction for the middle grades

by Joyce Moyer Hostetter
288 pages; ages 9-12
Calkins Creek, 2016

Fourteen-year-old Junior Bledsoe would like nothing better than to play baseball, but he can't make practices because he's got to take care of the farm chores when Pop goes off drinking. His pop's not a bad guy - he fixes folks' cars and never takes money for it - but he's got his own problems.

Junior's got his own problems, too, including his new roommate - granddaddy. Granddaddy loves baseball, too, and listens to games on the radio - except when he's listening for news of the war. So far, the US has managed to stay out of it, but for how long?

Then there's school. Junior wants to do something more useful than practice penmanship. And he's tired of getting picked on. Things change when Pop dies, and Junior quits school to take care of the farm. But he wants more. He wants to be of use. And he wants to find out whether someone had a hand in his Pop's death. What starts as an attempt to make friends with the bully leads Junior into a series of bad decisions.

What I like about this book is the way Joyce Hostetter pulls you into the world her characters inhabit. She brings Hickory, North Carolina to life in such a way that you'll be checking the map to see if it really exists (it does) and whether you can hop a train to get there (you can't). 

We'll be hanging out on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Lost Socks, Tiny Toads, and Sleepy Bats

I want to share these before the holidays... because they're just plain fun to read.

Odd Socks
by Michelle Robinson; illus. by Rebecca Ashdown
32 pages; ages 3-6
Holiday House, 2016

If you've ever lost a favorite sock and spent hours or days searching for it, then this book is for you. Suki and Sosh are a sock couple - in human terms we'd call them a "pair". They have a good life playing in the park, on the beach, even drying on the clothesline.

"I love hanging out with you," says Sosh. At the end of the day they curl up together in the drawer. When Suki starts to unravel, her days are numbered - and one night she doesn't come back to the sock drawer. So Sosh sets out to find her.

Not only is this fun to read aloud - whoever thought a story could be told from a sock's point of view? - you might be inspired to gather unmatched socks and make some puppets.

Teeny Tiny Toady
by Jill Esbaum; illus. by Keika Yamaguchi
40 pages; ages 4-7
Sterling Children's Books, 2016

On a perfectly normal day, Teeny and her mom are minding their own business when, "Help!"
Mama is toad-napped and stuck inside a bucket. Teeny hops as fast as she can to get her brothers to help her. They are big and strong; surely they can rescue mama.

They try one thing, they try another... and then those great big toady brothers end up in the bucket with mama. Now it's up to Teeny, the tiniest toad of all, to figure out how to get them all out of that bucket. Fortunately, she is inspired by leaves swirling on the wind, and comes up with a plan!

Good Night, Bat! Good Morning, Squirrel!
by Paul Meisel
40 pages; ages 4-8
Boyds Mills Press, 2016

Bat needed a new home. There's no room in the barn (too crowded!) or in a hollow log (bats are too stinky, says skunk). Finally he finds a cozy home up in a tree - a clump of leaves with a small opening. There were even twigs he could hang from.

But when Squirrel wakes up she is not happy to find Bat. "This is my home," she says. But Bat isn't listening because he's fast asleep. Z-z-z-z-z-z. So Squirrel leaves a note. Bat misinterprets the note - and over the next few days Squirrel and Bat leave notes for each other. "Leave my house," writes Squirrel. OK, Bat thinks, and collects leaves to add to the house. Then he writes, "I leaved your house." It escalates until Squirrel tells Bat to get lost. And they each go their own way ... until they realize that they liked having a friend. A warm, satisfying ending that will make you wish you'd fixed a cuppa cocoa before reading this to your kid.

Review copies from the publishers.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Picture books you can sing

 Marianne Berkes has two more fun sing-along-while-you-read books. One features mother and baby animals found on the African Savanna: zebras, giraffes, hippopotamuses, lions, chimps, apes... and my favorite, meerkats.

The other features familiar barnyard animals: goats, cats, cows, horses, ducks and even owls. As in her other books, the text introduces the less familiar baby names - "kid" for goat, "poult" for turkey - and is structured as a counting book. There's also lots of action as the mothers and their babies gallop, swing, strut, stalk, yip, neigh... all things that the kids listening to the book will want to act out on their own.

What I love about these books is that at the end there's the music so you can sing along with the story ... which, if you grew up singing "Over in the meadow" you might do automatically.

There's also lots of "beyond the book" activities at the back of the book, including more information about each featured animal. Back matter in Over in the Grasslands includes a map of Africa showing where the animals live, a key to "hidden" animals (they show up in the book but you really have to take a second or third look to find them!), and some awesome tips from the illustrator, Jill Dubin, that might inspire you to try your own cut-paper art. More activities here.

Activities in Over on the Farm focus on math, science, language arts, music, movement, and art. Did you know you can grow a plant from the top of a carrot? There's also a section about food "from farm to table" with activities for making butter and "honey corn". More activities here.

Review copies from the publisher.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Two books celebrating snow!

Waiting for Snow
by Marsha Diane Arnold; illus. by Renata Liwska
32 pages; ages 4-7
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016

themes: winter, friendship, humor

Hedgehog found Badger staring at the sky.
"What are you doing, Badger?"
"Waiting for snow..."

It's winter and not one single snowflake has fallen. Badger gets tired of waiting. He decides to wake up the sky. He tries dancing. He tries other things...

What I Like LOVE about this book: the illustrations that show some of the things badger and his friends do while waiting for snow: origami, scrabble... there are more, but I don't want to spoil the fun you'll have when you read this book.

Pizza-Pie Snowman
by Valeri Gorbachev
32 pages; ages 4 - 7
Holiday House, 2016

Pinky had a job to do for Mommy - to get a pizza with all their favorite toppings. He made a poem so he wouldn't forget...

Off he goes, through the snowy landscape to the Pizza shop. He doesn't stop when his friends try to entice him into a snowball fight. He doesn't stop when he gets covered with snow - in fact, he doesn't even notice. Because Pinky is on a mission.

What I like about this book: the humor! Pinky is so focused on remembering the list of toppings that he doesn't stop to investigate when he hears people talking about a walking snowman. He doesn't stop to find out about the talking snowman. Until later, after he's delivered the pizza to Mommy - then he wants to go see this wonderful, unusual sight.

Beyond the Books:

If you were waiting for snow, what kind of things would you do to wake up the sky? Would you sing a special snow song? Make noise to loosen up the clouds? Dance? Come up with some ideas for making it snow. Here's a video of the Northern Utes doing a snow dance.

Make up a game that you could play while waiting for snow.

Create a rhyme for things you have to remember. Like pizza toppings, or ingredients for cookies, or things you need to take to school, or....

Build a pizza pie snowman - if you've got snow. If you don't, then draw a picture of one. Or make one out of pizzas.... be creative!

Today is 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 copies provided by publishers.