Friday, December 6, 2019

Dog on a Secret Mission

Filigree's Midnight Ride (At the Heels of History)
by Pam Berkman & Dorothy Hearst; illus by Claire Powell
192 pages; ages 6-9
Margaret K. McElderry Books (S&S), 2019

It’s April 18, 1775 in Boston, Massachusetts and Filigree is headed toward danger. “He might be the smallest dog in Boston,” write the authors, “but he was ready to fight for freedom.”

Even if he is only a five-pound Pomeranian. Filigree wants to help pull tent stakes out of the ground where the Redcoats have set up camp. But the other patriot dogs think he is nothing but a lapdog – an insult if ever there was one.

Like the colonists in their families, the dogs of Boston are divided into Loyalists (loyal to the King) and Patriots. They alert “their” people when the opposition forces are nearby, and conduct their own missions. Which is how Filigree becomes an unlikely participant in a certain midnight ride.

What I like about this book: It is fun to read! And it’s an engaging story – especially if you love stories about heroic dogs. I also like that there is back matter. An author’s note spills the beans about the facts behind the story, and raises a few questions. For example, what took John Hancock and Sam Adams so long to leave town? Did they stop at a tavern for “refreshment”?

Filigree’s Midnight Ride
is the first book in the new “At the Heels of History” series. Look for future books in this series. Coming next year: one story set in the gold rush, and another focused on a dog separated from his family when they reach Ellis Island.

Looking for another series for dog lovers? Check out my reviews of the Dog Chronicles here, here, and here.

Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Bird Tales

Winter is coming and it’s the perfect time to watch birds ~ birds that visit our back yard, birds that peck for bugs on the side of our house, and birds that inspire us.
So today I’m sharing books about birds ~  here on Sally’s Bookshelf and over at Archimedes Notebook.

 Theme for the day: birds, friendship




Hello, Crow
by Candace Savage; illus. by Chelsea O’Byrne
32 pages; ages 4-8
Greystone Kids, 2019

Franny was a dreamer. That’s what her dad said.

Dad thinks Franny doesn’t pay attention to the things she is doing. But Franny is paying attention – to the trees outside, and the calls of the birds. And one special crow.  Dad doesn’t think a crow can be a friend, but this crow greets her every day and even brings her small gifts. A button. A bead.

What I like about this book: Crows are smart birds, and can identify friend from foe. And sometimes they really do leave presents for people, like the crow in this book. I like that the author includes back matter with some crow facts. And the end pages are fun – you can look for things in a meadow of flowers and leaves.




Johnny’s Pheasant
by Cheryl Minnema; illus. by Julie Flett
32 pages; ages 3-8
Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2019

Johnny and Grandma were on their way home from the Grand Market with a sack of potatoes, a package of carrots, a bundle of fresh fruit, and frosted cinnamon rolls.

Then Johnny sees a lump near the ditch. When Grandma stops the car, Johnny runs over to discover it is a pheasant. He thinks it’s sleeping, and wants to take it home and make a nest for it. Grandma thinks it is dead, and wants to use its feathers in her craftwork.

What I like about this book: I love Johnny’s enthusiasm (Hoot! Hoot! he shouts) as he makes the nest. I love the surprise when the pheasant hoots back. And flaps about. And eventually finds its way outside. And leaves a gift for Johnny.

Beyond the Books:

Do birds really leave gifts for people? Crows do – you can watch a video here.

Learn more about pheasants – and listen to the sounds they make - here

Be a friend to winter birds – make a pinecone bird feeder. (allergy warning: uses peanut butter)

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, November 22, 2019

Kid + Chameleon = cool new series!

There’s a new series of early readers featuring a girl and her chameleon comrade written by  Sheri Mabry and illustrated by Joanie Stone. I had the opportunity to review two in the series, and I sure wish I had fun books like these when I was learning how to read. (Of course, growing up reading Dr. Seuss isn’t such a bad fate…) They are part of the Time to Read series, weigh in at 48 pages, and are published by Albert Whitman & Company, 2019.

Theme: friendship, STEM, early reader


 A chameleon sat on a leaf. He looked down. He saw a kid.

Tessy looks up and sees a chameleon. She is excited to “find” him – but the chameleon, named Newton, insists he is not lost. Tessy wants to turn Newton into a pet, but he will have none of that nonsense. He won’t live in a jar, and doesn’t like the sort of food she offers.

What I like about this book: I love when they hang out and try to find something to do together. Newton’s idea: let’s change color. But hard as she tries, Tessy can’t make herself turn orange. Tessy takes Newton bike riding, but that is Not His Thing. In five short chapters we learn a lot about the give-and-take of making a new friend, even if it’s not someone of your own species.


The Kid and the Chameleon Go to School  opens just like the other one, with a chameleon sitting on a leaf and seeing a kid below. It’s Tessy.

“Newton! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
“You didn’t need to look everywhere, Tessy,” said the chameleon. “Just here.”

What I like about this book: Tessy takes Newton to school. But Newton doesn’t seem to care about the things Tessy loves learning about. All he wants to do is nap. Finally, Newton’s had enough of the classroom. He heads outside where he shows Tessy about chameleon school.

I also like that each book has a section at the back called “Chameleon Facts”. In the first, it’s an explanation about how chameleons change color. In the second we learn how to catch bugs with our tongues. I am looking forward to learning more about chameleons as more of the books in the series come out.



Beyond the Books:

Despite his name, Newton is a lizard, not a newt. Learn more about chameleons here.

Chameleons don’t change color to camouflage themselves. They change for a lot of reasons. Check out this video showing chameleons changing colors.

What if you could change your color based on your mood or the weather? What color would you turn when you are happy? What about when the sky turns gray and stormy?

Draw your own chameleon companion. Need help? Check out these printable coloring pages.

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, November 15, 2019

Wanted: a Friend

This week we’re celebrating friends with two books about making friends, and one book about what it takes to keep a friend.

Theme: friendships

A Friendship Yarn 
by Lisa Moser; illus. by Olga Demidova (Illustrator)
32 pages; ages 3 - 5
Albert Whitman & Company, 2019

Badger and Porcupine met under the walnut tree and shared a pot of tea like they did every morning.

Winter weather is coming and Porcupine needs wood. Badger offers to help. So Porcupine heads off in one direction to gather logs, and  Badger heads off in another. Then a brightly colored ball of yarn falls out of a peddler’s cart. Badger decides to make a gift for Porcupine, and starts knitting at one end of the yarn. Meanwhile, Porcupine starts knitting a gift for Badger at the other end of the yarn.

This is not going to end well…



What I like about this book: I love the sounds the needles make: clickety-click, snickety-snick. I love the sound of yarn unravelling: floop, floop. Most of all I like the underlying theme: will Badger and Porcupine’s tight-knit friendship come unraveled?

Dog and Rabbit 
by Barney Saltzberg
48 pages; ages 3 - 7
Charlesbridge, 2019

Dog was fine being alone. But sometimes Dog was lonely.

Dog wants a friend. Over there is Rabbit, who also wants a friend. But Rabbit is looking for friendship from Bunny – who just ignores Rabbit. And Dog can’t get Rabbit’s attention. Will they ever get to play catch the stick or hop over small obstacles?

What I like about this book: It’s a typical friendship story about looking for friendship in the wrong place while missing a potential friend somewhere else. One of my favorite lines is, “How hard can it be to find a friend?” The short lines, repetition, and large text is perfect for “just beginning to” readers. Illustrations are simple, fun, and don’t get in the way of the words. There’s no back matter, but end papers extend the story.

Duck and Penguin Are Not Friends 
by Julia Woolf
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publishing, 2019


This is Betty and her favorite toy, Duck. 

Best friend, Maud has a favorite plush Penguin.
Betty and Maud are best friends. Duck and Penguin are NOT! They do NOT want to swing together. They do NOT play well together in the sandbox.

While Betty paints a picture of Duck and Maud paints a picture of Penguin, the two toys are painting each other. Literally.

What I like about this book: Duck and Penguin are so relatable. Whether you’re kittens stuffed into strollers or toys dragged to play dates, there are times when you just don’t like your human’s bestie. This is a fun story about what it takes to find common ground – and what happens once you do.

Beyond the Books:

Make a friendship bracelet. All you need is some embroidery floss or thin yarn and a safety pin. Oh, and this video.

Duck may not want to be friends with Penguin, but some animals make friends with the unlikeliest species. Here’s a collection of animal friendship stories.

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

Friday, November 8, 2019

Dear Mr. President...

Dear Mr. President
by Sophie Siers; illus by Anne Villeneuve
40 pages; ages 5-8
Owlkids, 2019

theme: siblings, sharing, conflict resolution

Dear Mr. President, I’m writing you a letter from my bedroom.

Sam shares a bedroom with his older brother who, he thinks, perfectly fits the President’s description of “undesirable” people. He wonders if, maybe, he needs to build a wall. After all, TV news coverage has been covering the idea of building a wall.

In a series of letters from Sam to an un-named President, we learn about the problems of sharing space with his older sibling. Parents suggest negotiating peace. And eventually – after a scary nightmare – Sam and his brother reach an equitable solution.

What I like about this book: It makes adult readers think about how the daily news is perceived by children. And, in this case (since the author resides in New Zealand) how one nation’s news is perceived by people far away. I like how Sam experiments with building a wall in his yard, and how he studies defensive walls such as the Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall – and one wall that came down: the Berlin Wall. And I really like the diversity of signatures Sam tries out when he signs his letters; I’m pretty sure the “a” in one is really a pepperoni pizza.

Beyond the Books:

What sorts of walls do you find in your neighborhood or town? Are there walls designed to keep people out? To keep people in? To protect gardens? Here are some famous border walls.

If you’ve ever thought it would be cool to build a wall out of giant Lego-type blocks, check out this video.

Looking for more books about walls? Check out this earlier post 

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

Friday, November 1, 2019

A perfect book for Day of the Dead reading...

Ghosts
by Raina Telgemeier
256 pages; ages 8-12
Graphix (Scholastic), 2016

Graphic novels don’t usually find their way into my library book bag, but this one has depth to its story. Plus it’s about Día de Muertos.

Catrina (Cat) is moving to the coast of Northern California with her family in hopes that the cool, salty air will help her sister, Maya’s cystic fibrosis. But Cat will miss her friends. On one of their explorations they discover an arcade on a boardwalk – an arcade that is closed, dark, dusty. Then they hear … footsteps … and it’s a guy who asks if they are there for the ghost tour.

Wait! Ghosts? Real ghosts?

Sure, he says. They hang out in the area – and on Día de Muertos the townspeople gather for a party and invite the ghosts to take part. You can almost hear Cat roll her eyes. At least until she meets some of the ghosts on their own turf. The ghosts really bother her; to find out why you’ll need to read the book.

While Cat does everything she can to avoid ghostly contact, Maya constructs an ofrenda (altar) for their grandmother. Then Cat meets an elderly ghost at the celebration - Is it her her grandmother?


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 from the library.

Monday, October 28, 2019

It's a Spider Parade!

Posting on a Monday? Isn't that a bit unusual?

Not this week - because it's

THE 9TH ANNUAL HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!

Every Halloween Week, for the past eight years, Susannah Hill has encouraged writers to stretch their imaginations and write a very tiny "Halloweensie" story. The rules are simple: 100 words or less, using the words potion, cobweb, and trick somewhere in the story. Here's my entry. I hope you enjoy it. When you're finished, head over to Susannah's blog and read the other stories (here's the link).

 photo by Luis Fernández García; Creative Commons 

Spider Parade     (88 words)

Pack up the popcorn and pink lemonade—
Today is the day for the Spider Parade!

Lynx spiders slink by with silence and pouncing,
Followed by wolf spiders howling and bouncing.

Floats rumble by showing spider-built homes
constructed by weavers of cobwebs and domes.

Black widows push carts stocked with dead flies and notions,
shoelaces, ribbons, and poisonous potions.

Long-legged harvestmen dance in formations,
Wait! They are not spiders—
just distant relations!

The last float is gone,
the last drum done beating,
                    Let’s put on our costumes for tricking and treating.