Friday, April 29, 2016

Big Cat and Hippos in the Yard...

 Big Cat
by Ethan Long
32 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2016

Meet Big Cat. He's a real member of the family. He naps, hugs... he can even fly (with help from one of his people). But mostly, Big Cat has fun.

Each spread of this book presents a single easy-to-read sentence that begins, "Big Cat can...." The story comes in the various activities that Big Cat gets caught up in - some not by his choice. Illustrations are large cartoons that don't distract from the text.

Not only is is a great book for early readers, it's a good model for budding young authors who want to write a story about their own pets.

A Hippo in Our Yard
by Liza Donnelly
32 pages; ages 4-7
Holiday House, 2016

Mom, we have a hippo in our yard. 

I love the way this book begins - with a simple statement of observation. Of course, mom doesn't believe Sally, who takes lettuce out to feed the hippo. Sally returns a moment later to pester her father.

Dad, we have a tiger in our tree!

I also like that the story is told entirely through dialog, with Sally's voice in red type and other family members in black. Even though it's not an "easy reader", this is a book that young readers could pick up on. There's lots of repetition, with Sally saying "Come see!", the sentences are short, and the illustrations show what is happening in the text. And while her family members don't believe her, Sally has reason to say there are wild animals in the back yard.

This is a great book to read before, after, or while driving in the car to the zoo.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Yaks Yak

Yaks Yak ~ Animal Word Pairs
by Linda Sue Park; illus by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
40 pages; age 4-7
Clarion Books, 2016

Yaks yak.
Bugs bug bugs.
Flounders flounder.

This is a book crammed with wordplay: animals and the things they might do, if they lived in Linda Sue Park's universe. Yaks would sit around talking. Bugs would annoy their buggy friends. And flounders (a flat kind of fish) would flail helplessly because that's another definition of "flounder".

It's a simple structure - noun + verb - made more fun because both noun and verb are the same word.

What I like: The improbability of it. The imaginative illustrations of steers in bumper cars "steering" and crows boasting (crowing) about their accomplishments. And that there's a glossary that defines where the animals' names came from and the meaning of the "action" word. For example: a "kid" is a child, but "kid" also means to joke.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Skunk on a String

Skunk on a String
by Thao Lam
40 pages; ages 4-7
Owlkids Books, 2016
theme: imagination, adventure, animal tale
It's really hard to begin with opening lines from a wordless book, so I'll begin with the first lines from the jacket blurb:
It's a Bird!
It's a Plane!
It's a ... Skunk??

This is a tale of adventure and intrigue that begins when a hapless skunk finds himself tied to the string of a balloon. Perhaps he was watching the parade, or perhaps he wanted to join in... but he finds himself floating up, up, and away. Past apartments and construction sites, through the zoo, into traffic, under water until - finally - he lands on the tip top of a Ferris wheel. When he unties himself he realizes that he misses flying.

What I like about this book: Usually I avoid wordless books, but this one caught me by surprise. I think it's the art: gorgeous collage work using textured papers in a variety of dots and stripes and florals. The illustrations are a visual feast, and one can spend a lot of time exploring details. The other thing I like: the story is so well told by the artwork that you don't need to struggle to say what's going on. 

Beyond the book:
Check out the book trailer- it's a lot of fun.
Imagine a balloon ride.  If you grabbed on to the string of a balloon and went floating up, up, up, where would you go? What would you see? Make a map or draw a picture to show your adventure.

Play with paper art. Make some collages using different kinds of paper. Maybe you'll want to use papers found in the recycling bin, or bits of wrapping paper too small to be useful. Or maybe you'll want to buy some patterned origami or scrapbook paper for your picture. Think about ways to add texture: handmade papers, corrugated cardboard, sandpaper, patterned duct tape... Have fun and create art to tell a story from your own adventure. 
Today we're joining 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 the publisher.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Jumping Off Library Shelves

It's National Poetry Month, so I'm featuring poetry on my blogs. Last week it was about animals hiding. Now it's about books that are...

Jumping Off Library Shelves    
by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illus. by Jane Manning
32 pages; ages 5 & up
WordSong, 2015

Theme: libraries, reading, imagination

Morning pours spoons of sun through tall windows…. hovers over crumbs, small supper scraps left by those who opened books last night…

Libraries are wonderful places – you never know what you might find jumping off the shelves. In this anthology of fifteen poems, you’ll find everything from breakfast to adventure.

What I like about this book:

A library can be a refuge, a treasure-house, a portal to adventure. And all you need is a plain, pocket-sized piece of plastic to access its riches. A library card can be …more powerful than a hundred apps. There’s a poem about magic, one about reading with a dog, and one about the secret life that goes on in libraries after midnight. I also love the poets included in this anthology: Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Nikki Grimes, X.J. Kennedy, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and more.

Beyond the book: Visit the nearest library. What does it look like? How big is it? How many steps does it take to walk all the way around the outside? What is the door like?

If you don’t have a library card, get one. It is a ticket to the universe. You’ll probably need a photo ID and proof of where you live.

Take a field trip through the library. Make a map of what you discover. What do the ceilings look like? What about the floors? (our library has glass floors in the stacks so light can travel from one level to the next)

Have a library adventure. Here are 25 things you can do in a library besides check out books.

Do a library scavenger hunt – but make sure you let the library staff know what you are doing. You can download a list here.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) over at  Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Friend for Mole

A Friend for Mole
by Nancy Armo
32 pages; ages 2-6
Peachtree Publishers, 2016

theme: friendship, animal story

Mole was quite fond of his cozy burrow. He liked his soft bed of leaves, the warm smell of the earth, and the quiet darkness all around.

One day, Mole heard laughing and shouting up above. He decided to see what was going on...

 What I like about the book: I love the variety of creatures frolicking atop Mole's burrow. I like that Mole is afraid of the light and he meets a young wolf who is afraid of the dark. And there they are, thrown together by accident. So they do what anyone under those circumstances would do: silly things... like chasing scary imaginary monsters away. Most of all, I love the illustrations! Doesn't the cover just make you want to pop your head out of your burrow and check out what's going on? 

Beyond the book: Nancy Armo has lots of fun activities over at her website. There you'll find a maze, word search, coloring page, finger puppets. If you click on her gallery link, you'll find a wall covered with lovely illustrations.

Find out something about moles here.

Get to know the star-nosed mole in this video.

Here's a cool mole fact: moles can tunnel up to 18 feet in an hour.

Make a stuffed mole. Easy pattern and directions  here.

 Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) over at  Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy from the publisher.