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.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Carrots, Peas, and Rabbit Stew

As gardening season moves into full swing, just about any book with a vegetable in the title - or a garden critter - catches my attention. Here are two recent titles that focus on themes of friendship, diversity, and kindness. Oh, and vegetables...

Carrot & Pea
by Morag Hood
32 pages; ages 4 - 7
HMH, 2016

This is Lee. He is a pea. 
All of his friends are peas.
Except Colin. 

Lee and his buddies are as alike as... peas in a pod. Colin, though, he's tall. And orange. And definitely not round.

He can't do the same things peas can do, like roll. So how can he join them in their games?

What I like about this book: Colin has his own, excellent traits that make him fun to play with - if you're a pea. I like that the end papers don't match, and bright, spare illustrations. Spend some time with this book and you'll start thinking about ways to involve carrots - or those "different kids" - in your play.

Rabbit Stew
by Wendy Wahman
32 pages; ages 3-7
Boyds Mills Press, 2017

Rusty and Rojo toiled and tilled in their vegetable garden all summer long.

And at long last, the time is ripe for them to make their prizewinning Rabbit Stew!

What I like about this book: I love the illustration of them harvesting green beans, purple kale, and crunchy orange carrots for their "splendid" Rabbit Stew. They harvest a few things that one would not expect in a stew... however, it will be marvelous, they assure readers. Meanwhile, a white rabbit is hiding in the garden. I don't want to spoil the ending, but will say that no rabbits are harmed in the making of this story.

Beyond the Book: What makes you different from all of your friends? Think of the skills you contribute when playing games or creating imaginative scenarios. Maybe you love animals, so when you play "store" you are the pet shop owner...

Have you ever eaten a rainbow? Try finding fruits and vegetables of all different colors for a salad. Maybe red lettuce, yellow tomatoes, orange peppers, green beans, purple carrots?

Rusty and Rojo have a pet rabbit named "Stew". If you have pets, what names have you given them - yes, you can include the stuffed animals inhabiting your room. 

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, March 31, 2017

Still a Work in Progress

Still a Work in Progress
by Jo Knowles
320 pages; ages 10-14
Candlewick Press, 2016

If the cover doesn't get you, the title of the first chapter will: "Please Stop Standing on the Toilet Seats".

Yup - that was the magnet that drew me to this fun-and-serious novel. That one and "Please Ban Country Music from All Future Dances" and "The Fart Squad Needs to be Disbanded". These are just a few of the requests found in the Suggestion Box at Noah's school.

It's a small school, the sort where you sit in a circle and discuss such topics during morning meeting (I feel like I worked at this school) while the cat climbs over and around you.

For Noah and his friends, life is simple. He loves art and he's got cool friends who think Noah's sister is perfect. But at home, Noah knows the truth. Emma is far from perfect. The problem is that his parents avoid talking about it and tiptoe around the issue, which makes everything even more complicated. When she finally does get help, Noah's life gets even messier.

If you're looking for a book with issues, family life, friends, and complications, put this high on your list.
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 from Rosi Hollenbeck who reviews books at The Write Stuff

** Spring Break** Sally's Bookshelf is going to take a Spring Break to catch up on all that reading.... Back in a few weeks.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Some Writer! The story of E.B. White

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet
176 pages; ages 7-10 (and older!)
HMH 2016

Elwyn Brooks White loved words. And it's a good thing he did, because lots of those words ended up in marvelous books, like Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little - words I read and reread as I imagined that I, too, might have a little mouse and a red car or a canoe...

So it is fun, fun, FUN to read this wonderful biography by Melissa Sweet. It is full of words, too - and bright collages that give the book the feel of a scrapbook. There are tales of vacations in Maine, writing stories for contests, working as a counselor at Camp Otter.

EB White traveled about, wrote for the New Yorker, and then started scribbling notes that would grow into Stuart Little. "One October evening Andy [E.B.'s nickname] watched a spider spin an egg sac and deposit her eggs," writes Melissa Sweet. He detached the egg sac, put it into a box, and took it back to New York where he left it on his dresser. A few weeks later he noticed hundreds of tiny spiders climbing out of the box and spinning webs about the room. Later, back at his farm in Maine, he got to wondering whether a spider could save a pig...

Sweet includes a rough draft of Charlotte's Web that opens, "Charlotte was a grey spider who lived in the doorway of a barn." He struggled with the opening, jotting down different ways into the story, and then set the story aside for a year.

And then, Sweet notes, "he cut to the action ..." to the lines we know so well:
"Where's Papa going with that ax?"

What I love about this book is how Sweet weaves the story of E.B. White with illustrations that capture specific moments in his life. She even makes grammar fun! E.B. White is famous for his writing advice to Omit Needless Words. He's also famous for explaining the difference between affect and effect (I know this because I have looked it up in The Elements of Style) and when to use an exclamation point.

Sweet also has fun introducing readers to the times in which E.B. wrote. Opposite the Table of Contents she explains how a manual typewriter works.
And of course there is back matter: an afterword by Martha White (E.B. was her grandfather) with family photos, a timeline of his works, a selected bibliography of works by E.B. White as well as works by others that curious kids might want to check out. And - yay! - there is an index for impatient folks who want to know right this minute where to find something about chickens or pigs or the nitty-gritty stuff of Stuart Little.  

You can find out more about Melissa Sweet at her website.
On Monday 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, March 17, 2017

The Wolf's Boy

So you thought spring was coming...
It is - just not as fast as you were hoping. In the meantime, heat up a cup of cocoa and grab some "thought it would be spring but it's not" reading. Here's one I recommend:

The Wolf's Boy
by Susan Williams Beckhorn
240 pages; ages 9-12
Disney-Hyperion, 2016

I could not get free. The string of spit dripped closer. My brother was good at this game...

It doesn't matter whether you're living in the 21st century or back at the time when cave bears roamed, brothers haven't changed much. Especially when you're the weaker one.

Susan Beckhorn's tale transports us to that time just before wolf-relatives would become domesticated companions and partners with humans. This is a story of Kai who, by fate of birth, is an outcast. He longs to become a hunter - but born with a clubfoot he is forbidden to use hunter's weapons.

Kai has secrets; he was abandoned by his family and taken in by a mother wolf. Eventually Kai was reclaimed by his family, but he has never forgotten his wolf family. Nor have they forgotten him. When Kai discovers a motherless wolf cub, he brings her home to live with him. If you've ever had a puppy, you know that they like to chew things, like your best moccasins, the leather straps for your snares and traps. So Uff (the pup) and Kai are eventually exiled, and head north to a place where dangerous Ice Men live.

One of the things I love about this book is the language. Beckhorn introduces us to the culture of hunters by using their words: keerta (spear), nnnn-gata (hunter's prayer for luck). And especially oooni-alu-kas-pah-vard-ahh (fire-haired traveler with big hands, hear, and voice).

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 from author.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Leaping Lemmings and Missing Bears

Leaping Lemmings!
by John Briggs; illus. by Nicola Slater
32 pages; ages 3-7
Sterling Children's Books, 2016

Would you jump off a cliff just because everyone else is doing it? Larry wouldn't. He is different than the other lemmings. Larry is adventurous: he goes sledding with puffins and when other lemmings eat moss (a pretty normal lemming thing to do) Larry orders pepperoni pizza.

And when that fateful day arrives and all his friends are running to the edge of the cliff, Larry comes up with a way to save them from their demise.

The Bear who Wasn't There
by LeUyen Pham
40 pages; ages 3-6
Roaring Brook, 2016

The author of this book would have you believe that Bear is the star of this book, and has gone missing. But clever Duck knows that Bears are unreliable. If you want some one reliable, you should get a Duck.

"How about I tell you a nice duck story?" he asks.

Meanwhile everyone else is looking for Bear. Is he behind the door that says "Private. Keep Out"? Oops! You should not have opened that door. But if Bear is not around, who is leaving all those muddy bear tracks? You know things are getting silly when the illustrator has to holler for all the animals to show up for roll call.

 Still, the question remains: if Bear isn't there, where is he?

Both books are perfect antidotes to gray early March days when we're caught between the seasons. If you're looking for some beyond-the-book activities, check out these lemming activities from a an earlier post. Want another animal story? Head over to Archimedes Notebook for a true story about a fox.

 Review copies and ARCs provided by publishers.