Friday, June 23, 2017

These Books Have Gone to the Dogs!

I love stories about dogs. Even better are books that are written by the dogs themselves - or at least from their point of view. Here are three, recently published by Peachtree Publishers.

Leo, Dog of the Sea
by Alison Hart; illus. by Michael G. Montgomery
165 pages; ages 7-10

Here is the fourth installment in Alison Hart's "Dog Chronicles" series - and another great tale told by a tail-wagging protagonist. Previous adventures feature Murphy, Darling, and Finder.

The year is 1519 and Leo has hopped aboard one of Ferdinand Magellan's ships. Leo's had lots of experience hunting and catching rats on ships, so he thinks this will be one more voyage. What he doesn't know is this ship is headed on a westward journey that circumnavigate the globe.

The journey begins as any good seafaring adventure should: with 60 days of stormy weather, followed by becalmed seas in the equatorial seas. Humans turn against each other, reinforcing Leo's belief that people should not be trusted. And yet... he makes friends.

We see, through a dog's eyes, a journey to Brazil, sailing down the coast to a land of penguins and frozen seas; starving sailors who skin and roast the rats Leo provides; a mutiny - or two; hubris when Magellan involves himself in island politics and meets his untimely demise.

What I like about this book: aside from the excitement of adventure and exploration, is the Back Matter. Yes, Hart includes an author's note about the real history behind the story. "There are no records of a dog on board any of Magellan's ships," she writes. "However, dogs have long been used in Spain to control mice and rats." So there probably were dogs aboard the vessels in Magellan's fleet. She includes a glossary and a diagram of a sixteenth-century ship, further reading, and more.

Dori Hillestad Butler has a delightful new series of chapter books titled "King & Kayla", illustrated by Nancy Meyers. The first two in the series are:
King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats
and
King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code
Each is 48 pages, for ages 7-9

How can you not want to read a book that starts out, "Hello! My name is King. I'm a dog. This is Kayla. She is my human."

Kayla is making peanut butter dog treats - King's favorite. But she won't let him have one until they have cooled. She won't even let him lick the bowl!

And then... some treats go missing. King smells an intruder! He tries to tell Kayla, but she doesn't understand him... and accuses him of snitching the cookies! You will want to read it to learn how King proves he's innocent and brings the culprit to justice.

In the Case of the Secret Code, King and Kayla team up to solve the mystery of who is leaving letters around, and what the code means. Moral of the story: if you're delivering secret messages, the dog will sniff you out!

On Monday 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 copies provided by publisher.


Friday, June 16, 2017

End of School and Underwater Games



It’s getting close to the end of the school year here. The time when you clean out your cubbie, wash crayon marks off your desk, and say goodbye to your friends and teachers. Maybe promise to meet at the park for some games of follow the leader.

Mrs McBee Leaves Room 3
By Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan; illus. by Grace Zong
32 pages; ages 3-7
Peachtree, 2017

It’s the end of the school year and all the kids are getting ready to leave. So is their teacher, Mrs. McBee. She won’t be back in the fall. Before she leaves for the summer, she gets all the kids involved in cleaning up and releasing the butterflies. The kids don hardhats and get to work – all except William, who sits in the thinking corner.

When the boxes are loaded and gone, no one can find William. Where is he?

This is a delightful story about growing up, changes, and finding ways to remember the good things in your life. And to share those memories with others.
 
Swallow the Leader
By Danna Smith; illus. by Kevin Sherry
32 pages; ages 4-7
Clarion Books, 2016

What happens if you let shark play follow-the-leader? This delightful, wickedly funny counting book starts with one fish, then another. It draws in denizens of the sea in rhyme:
Follow the leader
Play like I play
Pretend you are me.
Flap like a ray.

From one to 10 they collect followers… but then it becomes a game of swallow the leader as bigger fish gulps down the smaller until the biggest one of all – GULP!

But all is not lost – BURP!

Review copies provided by publishers.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Books that Celebrate Friendships

Have you ever had a friend who was very different than you? These two books take us inside such friendships.

theme: friendship, diversity, imagination

Muddle & Mo
by Nikki Slade Robinson
32 pages; ages 4-7
Clarion Books, 2017

"Mo?"
"Yes, Muddle?"
"You're a funny color for a duck!"

Mo and Muddle are best friends - but Muddle is a bit confused about their animal identity. That's because Mo has a "hairy beak" and he quacks funny.

But when they visit a goat farm, Muddle has an epiphany! Mo isn't a duck! Perhaps he, Muddle, is a goat?

What I like about this book: I like the gentle way that Mo helps Muddle sort out his duck identity. This is such a warm - and funny - story of differences, acceptance, and the sort of friendship that transcends all sorts of silliness. The illustrations are sweet, too.

You Are NOT a Cat!
by Sharon G. Flake; illus. by Anna Raff
40 pages; ages 3-7
Boyds Mills, 2016

I am a cat. Meow.

 Duck thinks he's a cat. He wants to be a cat - no matter how many times Cat tells him he's a duck. So duck puts on cat ears and goes meowing about.

What I like about this book: When cat refuses to admit he's a cat, Duck decides he's a parrot. He could be a squirrel. Duck is casting about for his identity. To be honest, he's also irritating Cat with his constant pretending. I also like that the story is written completely in dialog.

Beyond the Book:

Have you ever wanted to be someone - or something - else? Draw a picture or write a story about what happened/

What would you do if you woke up with wings? Or discovered you were a cat/dog/duck/goat... ?

Do you have friends who are very different from you? How do you celebrate your differences? How do you celebrate your friendship?

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, June 2, 2017

Rainbow Weaver

Rainbow Weaver
by Linda Elovitz Marshall; illus. by Elisa Chavarri
40 pages; ages 6-9
Children's Book Press, 2016

themes: diversity, art, family

High in the mountains above Lake Atitlan, Ixchel watched her mother weave thread into fabric as beautiful as a rainbow.

When Ixchel asks if she can weave, Mama suggests she help count threads. But Ixchel wants to weave. She wants to help pay for her books and school.

What I like love about this book: Ixchel sets off to find her own weaving materials. She kicks aside the plastic bags that people have discarded on their way home from market, and gathers tall grasses to use on a loom she makes from sticks. When they don't work, she gathers bits of wool and twists it into yarn. Dissatisfied with that, she tries weaving with plastic bags - after all, they are everywhere!


I love that author Linda Marshall traveled to Guatamala to meet weavers and learn how they recycle unwanted plastic into products that they sell in the market place. She wrote about that trip earlier this year here. In an author's note, Linda tells how she was inspired to write this book by a friend who sells the weavers' placemats, coasters, purses, and baskets. And I love that the endpapers resemble Mayan textiles. Oh, and did I say that the book is bilingual? Lo puedes leer en espaƱol.

Beyond the book:

Read how some people are turning plastic bags into mats for homeless people. They cut the bags into strips and crochet the strips into thick mats - it takes more than 500 bags for each mat!

Want to weave a plastic rug or mat of your own? All you need is a loom - here's how to make one out of cardboard. There are links to weaving techniques - all you need to supply are the warp strings and plastic bags.

Or try making a coiled basket or coaster. Here's how.

You can find out more about Linda and her books at her website.

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, May 26, 2017

Robots - Robots - Robots!

I love robot books - and here are three that have different takes on the imagineering world of robots.
theme: robots, imagination

And the Robot Went...
by Michelle Robinson; illus. by Sergio Ruzzier
32 pages; ages 4-7
Clarion Books, 2017

 The Nosy Fox looked in the box, and the Robot went ... Boooo.

But when Eager Beaver drops by and pulls the lever, the Robot goes Bang! And when Wicked Witch drops by, the Robot adds another sound.

What I like about this book: the cumulative noise! Each time someone comes by to fiddle with the robot a new noise is added until, at the end, the Robot goes ... (I won't ruin the fun for you!)

The Bot that Scott Built
by Kim Norman; illus. by Agnese Baruzzi
32 pages; ages 3-7
Sterling Books, 2016

This is the boy
the bippity bot,
the rabbit-eared robot,
that Scott built.

It's Science Day, and Scott takes his robot to school.Told in cumulative house-that-jack-built style, this story builds as disaster after disaster happen - starting with the ants that get loose.

What I like about this book: Science Day is fun-filled, action-packed with never a dull moment. Those ants that get loose - don't worry, because someone has brought carnivorous plants. But when the frog gets hopping and the snake slithers loose, Scott knows he needs a hero - so he turns on the robot. I also like the end-papers because they inspire the imagination: what kind of robot could you build using these tools and materials?

The Rise of the Rusty Robo-Cat! (Doodle adventure)
by Mike Lowery
112 pages; ages 8 & up
Workman Publishing, 2017

Calling all junior agents, curious readers, artists, cat-lovers, and robot fans! This doodle-adventure is a joint mission between you (the reader) and the author. Bring a pencil become you'll need to add some doodley illustrations to this not-quite-finished graphic novel. Or is it a sketchbook?

But be advised: once you take ownership of this book you have signed onto a mission: to help Carl (a duck) discover why all the cats in town have gone berserk. They're acting like jerks! And what is it with that robot? Something smells fishy...

What I like about this book: it's a mission! And you have a say in how it looks by drawing your own illustrations. Grab some colored pencils to spice up the cartoons that are already there... and solve the mystery.

Beyond the Books:


Make a list of Robot Sounds. Cling, ding, klunk - how many can you think of? If you need some audio inspiration, click here. For a list of metalic-sounding words, check out this site.

Make a Robot out of cereal boxes and other things from the kitchen recycling bin. For ideas, check out this site.

Draw a cartoon about a robot and an animal - perhaps your pet cat, dog, goldfish, gecko, snake, or hissing cockroach. Do they help old ladies walk across the street? Save the world from disaster? Wreak havok? Here are some ideas for drawing cartoon robots.

Make a Robot Suit: All you need is a large paper grocery bag, a box for a helmet, some buttons, bottle caps, and stuff to glue on, scissors, crayons and markers, duct tape (of course) and maybe some foil. Get ideas for a paper bag vest here, and robot helmet 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 copies provided by publishers.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ways to Spend your Day

Laundry Day
by Jessixa Bagley
32 pages; ages 3-6
Roaring Brook Press, 2017

theme:family, imagination

"I'm bored," said Tic.
"Me too," said Tac.

Ma Badger suggests they read a book. Build a fort. Go fishing. Then, fatefully... "would you like to help me hang the laundry?" If only she had known what happens when two bored badgers get hold of the clothespins.

What I like about this book: It's fun to read. And the kids do a good job of hanging the laundry. Then they wonder what else needs hanging. What about winter clothes? Blankets? A map? Things get out of hand in a hurry, and when Ma Badger sees what's been going on, she decides to take back control.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Mapping my Day
by Julie Dillemuth; illus. by Laura Wood
40 pages; ages 4-8
Magination Press, 2017

theme: family, problem-solving

My day begins with the sun ... in my face.

Flora loves to draw maps. They help her keep track of her day, not to mention document facts about her live. Such as her room is four steps closer to the bathroom than her brother's. She draws treasure maps, travel routes, house layout, even a map for her dog's obstacle course.

What I like about this book: I like maps - and it's fun to see a kid using maps as a tool for understanding her world.  I like that there's back matter: a note to adults on how maps can help kids figure out their world, and some mapping activities. Review copy from Blue Slip Media.

Beyond the books:

Laundry lines are for more than hanging clothes. Photographers used to hang their photos to dry. Some people hang treats for birds from a line, and others use the laundry lines to support blankets for a fort. What sort of things do you use laundry lines for?

Map your world. Draw a map of your house, or your school, or a neighborhood park, or the route you take when you walk to the post office. What are the important landmarks that you need in your map?

Compare maps. Find some road maps, topographic maps, old maps out of National Geographic magazines, and other kinds of maps. Open up a couple and spread them on the floor, and then compare them. How do they show the landscape?

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.



Friday, May 12, 2017

Putting the focus on photographers

Two books about photographers, contemporaries of each other. One captured light and rocks and trees, the other focused her sights on factories, buildings, and people. One grew up in the west, the other in the east.

Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a life in nature
by Cindy Jenson-Elliott; illus. by Christy Hale
32 pages; ages 5-9
Henry Holt, 2016

theme: nonfiction, biography, art

Ansel was antsy. He never walked - he ran.

He loved being outside - exploring the beach, feeling the wind and salt spray. He didn't fare well trapped in the classroom, but thrived when his father decided to have him learn at home.
When Ansel was 14, he visited Yosemite Valley and fell in love with the light. His parents gave him a camera, and the rest is history. He traveled far and wide taking photos of national parks, and his photos were featured in Life magazine and galleries.

What I like about this book: It is fun to read. Author Cindy Jenson-Elliot delves into her collection of action words to show this young man who couldn't sit still. Run-leap-scramble... off he goes with his camera! I also like the back matter, where she tells more about this iconic photographer. Ansel Adams spent a lot of time studying his subject matter, waiting for the right light to capture it.

Girl with a Camera
by Carolyn Meyer
352 pages; ages 10 - 14
Calkins Creek, 2017

Margaret Bourke-White was born in 1904 - two years after Ansel Adams - in New Jersey. She wasn't popular, and felt unsure of herself, yet knew she would do something great. She spent her youth exploring the outdoors, collecting snakes and bugs, and thought she might become a herpetologist (someone who studies reptiles and amphibians). Then she discovered photography. And the beauty within buildings, from factories to sky scrapers. She knew she wanted to make her living shooting photos.

This fictionalized account of her life draws on Margaret's own writings, as well as archival material and yearbooks. It reads like an adventure, as we read about Margaret's adventures as a photo-journalist for Life magazine: trips to Russia, capturing factories and farms, and a nearly-didn't-make-it trip to the arctic. Author Carolyn Meyer had done a ton of research, and it shows.

Both Ansel Adams and Margaret Bourke-White documented World War II. Ansel took photos of ordinary life in the Manzanar War Relocation Center (Japanese internment camp) in California. Margaret was the first female war correspondent and photographed German forces invading Moscow. At the end of the war she photographed the liberation of the concentration camp at Buchenwald.

Beyond the Books:
Take a camera on a walk with you and take pictures of buildings or trees or rocks or people... whatever interests you. Try taking photos in different light - different times of day - and from different angles.

Explore this gallery of Ansel Adams photos.

Explore this gallery of Margaret Bourke-White photos.

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. On Monday 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 copies provided by publishers.