BooksForKidsBlog

Friday, June 23, 2017

Revenge of the Nerd! Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive The Cafeteria by John Grandits

Kyle's on the school bus, nose in his trusty insect book, while his seatmate Ginny natters on and on about the virtues and vices of the celery sticks in her sack lunch. Trying to be sociable, Kyle volunteers something that makes Ginny's eyes bug out.

"Mom didn't have time this morning, so I'm buying my lunch in the cafeteria."

Ginny gasped.

"How hard can it be?" I said.

That question is Kyle's first mistake. Ginny leans in dramatically.

"There are RULES!"

#1: DON'T HOLD UP THE LINE.
#2: DON'T TAKE TOO MANY THINGS.
#3: DON'T FORGET TO PAY.
#4: ALWAYS EAT WITH YOUR CLASSMATES.
#5: HOLD ON TO YOUR TRAY.
#6: NEVER AGGRAVATE THE LUNCH LADY.
#7: NEVER, EVER, TALK TO THE BIG KIDS.

Kyle doesn't like rules. They are too easy to break. His bug book under his arm, he scurries nervously down the hall to lunch with the other fifth graders like a line of army ants, the scary sixth graders hot on their heels, looking more like a swarm of yellow jackets, with the worst bus bully, Arthur, right behind him.

But the posted menu is long, and Kyle pauses to squint at each choice. Arthur pokes him in the back:

"Hey, Dweeb! Get moving!"

Yikes! He's already broken the first rule of survival. But Food Service Guy barks at Arthur. Quickly, Kyle stammers out a truthful explanation.

"It's not his fault," I said. "I was taking too long."

In short order, Kyle finds himself breaking every one of Ginny's rules. He piles his tray with all the choices and gets busted by the Lunch Line Lady. He doesn't know his PIN to pay the Register Woman, and when he hustles to get the last empty seat with his class, he trips and fall flat, the contents of his tray splattering everywhere. Every kid in the room turns to look and in that time-honored school custom, they hoot with one voice. All the Cafeteria Ladies have had it with Kyle. The Lunch Monitor glares down at him.

"That's it! You've caused enough trouble for today."

Eyes bulging like a beetle, she points a skinny, hairy appendage toward the sixth grade table, to the only empty seat in the house, right next to Arthur the bully.

He was hunched over his food with five other meat-eating water bugs. What could I do?

"Hey, Dweeb! Thanks for covering for me in the line," Arthur says.

It's The Revenge of the Nerd, in John Grandit's Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the Cafeteria (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), in which Kyle encounters all of the hazards of the school cafeteria--the bully, the menu, the wrath of the various Lunch Ladies and Guys, the dropped tray, and (horror of horrors) having to sit with the Big Kids. The only nemesis he navigates easily is the food. Sure, the pasta may look like worms, but creepy-crawly critters are Kyle's passion, and while slurping up his spaghetti, he engrosses and grosses out the sixth graders with his true tales of fifty-feet-long tapeworms and headless living cockroaches.

Artist Michael Allen Austin ably portrays his entomology-obsessed hero as the perfect preppy nerdboy in his pressed blue oxford shirt and scholarly glasses, with beloved bug book under his arm. Kyle is the quintessential bully bait, but also one with a secret weapon--he's a nice guy who knows really cool gross stuff. Austin's illustrations fill the full-bleed pages with comic bobble-head caricatures of the usual suspects of the middle-grader school scene, sure to tickle kids and a sure-fire hit for back-to-school reading.

For more first-days of school fun, pair this one with Grandit's and Austin's comedic and congenial companion book, Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want to Survive the School Bus.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sleepytime Stretching: Yawning Yoga by Laurie Jordan

AFTER PJS, BRUSH AND COMB,I SETTLE DOWN WITH A GENTLE OMMMMMMMMMM!

CONNECT TO THE SOOTHING SOUND.

CONNECT TO THE WORLD AROUND.

Plushy lovies, gentle lullabies, bedtime stories, baby blankies, cute nightlights, soothing sounds--through the ages parents have diligently tried many ways to help their children fall asleep.

Now here comes Laurie Jordan's Yawning Yoga (Little Pickle Books, 2017), with a selected group of familiar yoga poses to settle kids into slumber mode. Jordan offers a collection of child-friendly "exercises" (as she terms them,) beginning with voicing the OM:

Sit or stand tall. Breathe in deeply and then exhale, making the sound AAAAUUUUMM as long as you comfortably can.*
Repeat three times.

Jordan moves on to the TADASANA--the mountain--standing sturdy and strong. and the UTTANASANA, in which the child sits, with knees bent up, grabbing toes and kissing the knees.

Next comes the ADHAMUKKA SVANSANA, which the author names the dog-tired down dog, and then the Happy Baby (on back, grabbing toes), which Jordan calls the bedtime boy, and ending with the NAMASTE, the pose of thankfulness.

The author suggests that these poses are snooze-inducing for both the overstimulated and the over-tired child, and her gentle rhymes and artist Diana Mayo's calm blue-hued illustrations are also soothing and should invite sleep. Prepare for this one with Mariam Yates' Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story (see review here).


*(Editor's Note: If you have more than one competitive kid to get to bed, you might want to skip the suggestion to hold that OM as long as they can. That could turn into a way-too-stimulating contest.)

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Handy How-To: Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer

Congratulations on your new lion!
I know you ordered a kitten, but we ran out of those.

Caring for your lion is easy. Just follow your handy guide.

Step 1: Take a deep breath and carefully open the crate.

Clearly the kid is already in trouble. You expect a sweet little kitty cat and you get a full-sized maned lion? This is going to require more than deep breathing! And then there’s that next direction, a seeming non-sequitur.

Step 2: Locate the enclosed feather.

Keep it handy in case of emergency.

Huh?

This is getting ridiculous! The kid is supposed to fend off a lion with a feather?

He quickly skims the manual for more helpful hints. The next one makes him quickly cover the bunny on his tee-shirt:

Try NOT to look like a zebra or a gazelle. Or a bunny.

Thanks for the warning, Gilligan!

The following step, related to the feeding his new pet, has the kid ordering ten Extreme Pizzas, which, with extra toppings--a bit of zebra burger and antelope antipasto--seem to give the boy a respite from being prey while he works on the rest of the steps to lion management. These become pressing when the Lion, still a little peckish after his pizza snacks, disobeys the next injunction and swallows the UPS guy. The kid is forced to tickle his tonsils with the aforementioned feather until he barfs up the poor delivery man. So that's what the feather is for. O-kay.

With that out of the way, our kid proceeds to unpack the Potty Training Kit (Some Assembly Required) and fill it with 100 pounds of Scoop-De-Doop Cat Litter, which, while strenuous, is easier than getting the lion to use it.

And our poor newbie pet owner is still not even halfway through the steps in the lion care manual, in the comedic Tammi Sauer's spoofy, tongue-in-cheek, and sensationally silly new book, Caring for Your Lion (Sterling Books, 2017). Sauer's co-owner, artist Troy Cummings, uses his considerable digital cartooning skills to document the process of domesticating a pet who is not exactly what it was cracked up to be. For more pet-care fun, share this one with Jodi Moore's When a Dragon Moves In or Jane Yolen's How Do Dinosaurs Choose Their Pets?

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

See You Later, Space Invader! Your Alien Returns by Tammi Sauer

WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT, SOMETHING SPECIAL WILL GET YOUR ATTENTION.

YOUR ALIEN WILL BE BACK.

HE'LL INVITE YOU FOR A PLAYDATE.

Not everyone has a friend from outer space, but you have welcomed your extraterrestrial friend before and even taken him to school for the day. Somehow he managed to blend right in, even though your teacher did keep trying to adjust her glasses.

And now.... HE'S BACK! He motions you toward his spaceship, sitting on the lawn with its motor running. Should you go along?

Well, who wouldn't? Mom is distracted when you ask for permission, so you promise to be back for dinner. And then, with a GLEEP, your alien takes the controls and you rise into outer space.

YOU'LL HAVE THE RIDE OF YOUR LIFE!

After a quick introduction to your alien's family,  he'll offer you a snack.  Politely, you'll try it all... except for a few things....

YOU'LL POLITELY DECLINE ANYTHING THAT STARES BACK AT YOU.

Then it's time to take off for some alien fun. There's a stellar fort to build, and then your alien takes you around the neighborhood to meet his friends. They don't look too much like the gang at home.

SEEING ALL OF THEM WILL MAKE YOU FEEL... ALIENATED!

It's hard to feel at home when you are actually in another solar system. The aliens invite you to play their favorite game, but your skills aren't quite up to scoring. You don't know exactly what you did, but it seems that you ruined the whole game. But your alien seems to remember his day on your planet and gives your hand an empathetic squeeze.

YOU KNOW YOU HAVE THE BEST FRIEND IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE!

There's no place like home, as Dorothy observed from Oz, and in Tammi Sauer's sequel to her noted 2016 book, Your Alien, (see my 2016 review here), the homing instinct kicks in, and in a nanosecond his very own E.T. whizzes him home just in time for dinner. It's not goodbye, but see you later, in Sauer's follow-up science fictional, trans-spacial friendship tale, Your Alien Returns. (Atheneum Press, 2016). Artist Gora Fujita again provides the detailed illustrations of interspace fun and games, while Sauer's text, with its light theme of accepting and appreciating differences leaves a warm and fuzzy message that continues the mood of the first book. Pair these two for an interstellar treatise on the value of friendship wherever you find it. Kirkus Reviews says that this sweet story allows "readers to tag along with the pals into the next phase of the ultimate in long-distance friendships."

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Cacophony Concert: Ellie in Concert by Mike Wu

ON A WARM SUMMER DAY, ELLIE STROLLED THROUGH HER HOME.

Thanks to Ellie's awesome artistic efforts, the old zoo has been remade anew. In their comfy new quarters, the zoo residents are cheery. Every one of the animals welcomes Ellie with loud greetings.

Hippo snorts, Rhino grunts, and the monkeys hoot out their hello to Ellie. Everyone is bright and cheery, excited about seeing all their new visitors at opening time--all except for Lucy the Giraffe, who is indeed looking listless.

"WHAT'S THE MATTER?" ELLIE ASKED.

"THE ZOO IS TOO NOISY.

I CAN'T SLEEP!" MOANED LUCY.

That is too bad. Ellie raises her voice to request that the others keep their noise down, but they can't even hear her over the cacophony of critter sounds. But one sound stands out--Betty Bluebird's melodic song, and Ellie gets an idea. What if she could organize the zoo animals into a chorus--one that actually sounds...well..,GOOD?

Who can help all the animals sound soothing so Lucy can sleep?

It's Gerard the Gorilla, lover of the symphony orchestra to the rescue, and with a little cajoling and rather a lot of rehearsing, the zoo animals learn to blend their voices into a soothing chorus of sound.

"NOW THIS IS MUSIC!

ISN'T THIS GREAT, LUCY?" ASKS ELLIE.

But Lucy is already in dreamland, in Mike Wu's brand-new second story of Ellie, Ellie in Concert Disney Hyperion, 2017). Wu's gentle tale of turning cacophony into harmony is illustrated in his softly shaded hues executed in watercolors, gouache, and pencil, making this zoo story also a soothing bedtime story,with the added bonus of Gerard's zoo symphony, "Betty's Theme," composed by Andrew Jimenez, printed as sheet music inside the dust jacket. Share this one with Wu's first book about his resourceful little elephant heroine, Ellie (read review here).

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

What a Deal! An Elephant and Piggie BIGGIE! by Mo Willems

A DAY PIGS WILL FLY?


Everyday is a red-letter day for Mo Willems' peculiar pair of pals, an elephant named Gerald and a pig named... Piggie, now appearing together in a collection of their peerless beginning readers which celebrate their exuberant but unusual friendship. Despite his size, Gerald is cautious, careful, and, to tell the truth, a bit of a nerdnick. Despite her petite stature, Piggie is boisterous, adventurous, and endlessly enthusiastic.

Their new collection of best-selling and award-winning easy reader books includes five of their funniest stories, An Elephant & Piggie Biggie! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) includes five of their funniest stories, Today I Will Fly! (An Elephant and Piggie Book), Let's Go for a Drive! (An Elephant and Piggie Book), Can I Play Too? (An Elephant and Piggie Book), and that culinary killer-diller, I Really Like Slop! (An Elephant and Piggie Book).

Only Gerald and Piggie could figure out how to include their friend Snake in a game of catch, or assemble everything they need for a drive--sunglasses, umbrellas for two, a map, their valises--until Gerald notices one thing they forgot--they don't have a car. Only Piggie could prepare her favorite food for her friend--that porcine specialty, a home-brewed bowl of slop--and only the persnickety Gerald would take a sip, despite the flies, just to please his best friend.

This is a five-for-the-price-of-one deal, and no preschooler should have to prepare to be an emergent reader without these hilarious and, yes, heartwarmingly poignant stories of Elephant and Piggy. and their truly BIG friendship. It's a biggie bargain, all right!

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Track It Down! Follow the Trail: Farm (Take a Peek) by Dawn Strett

USE YOUR FINGER TO FOLLOW...

THE TINY TRACTOR AND THE TINY ANIMALS

ALONG THE GLITTERY TRAIL.

With that hard-to-resist invitation, youngsters are invited to follow the sparkly green ribbon linking them to those familiar farm animals and implements. There are plenty of both for most preschoolers in this title, from a big honking machine like the red tractor to cute tiny farm animals to find when they follow the tactile trail.

As an additional inducement, there is a die-cut peephole on each page with a clue to what they will see on the following page to lead youngsters on with each turn of the sturdy pages--a duckling, a little yellow chick, a sheep, a mama chicken in the cozy coop described simply as a little house with nest boxes, and contented cows. An added trick reverses the way from back to front by following the various insects strategically placed to be visible through the die-cut take-a-peek holes.

DK book designers are past masters of putting stuff on the page for maximum appeal, and in this board book in their Follow the Trail series, Follow the Trail: Farm (Dorling Kindersley, 2016), young children will be led irresistibly through the book while working on their vocabulary of farm animals and insect names and equipage of the typical farm while also developing hand-to-eye coordination and making some animal sounds along the way. This is an appealing book in a engaging series for home or early childhood education purposes that leads the child toward independent individual interaction with a book.

Some other books in this toy-and-movable book series are Follow the Trail: Trucks, Follow the Trail Wild Animals, Follow The Trail: Baby Animals, and Follow the Trail: Baby Dinosaurs, showing the way to meet the many proclivites of preschoolers.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Can You Dig It? Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney

Here come the BIG RIGS
rolling down the street.

Thumpa Thumpa! Bumpa Bumpa!
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

There's a major project in the works, as the heavy-duty movers and shakers arrive at the construction site. There's 'Dozer and Loader, and Backhoe and Crane....

And trailing behind, making tracks as fast as his little treads can rotate, is Little Excavator, followed by his spotted pooch pal. Little E is born to dig, but he's not quite ready to rumble with with the big boys.

The Big Rigs arrive to prep the site, and with a rumble and a crumble the sturdy big "Dozer takes down a stone wall with no difficulty. But when he gives it a try, Little E winds up amid the debris.

Big Loader moves up with a growl to transfer the broken stones into Dump Truck's load bed. GrrrrRrrrarrr!

Little E tries lifting some JUNK, JUNK, JUNK!

But the load in his little scoop is too much for the diminutive digger. He turns over with a CLUNK!

Little E is embarrassed! Dump Truck orders him out of his way as he lugs his load off the site, chugging away mightily. Little E tries to help dig holes, but Backhoe shoos him away. Little E backs up, and his little headlight eyes get big as he watches the very tall Crane maneuver into position to swing a whole bridge across the pond to a little island. The new park is beginning to shape up. There is only one task left to do--planting an apple tree in the center of the little island. Little E is sad that he hasn't been able to help the Big Rigs at all.

But, wait! There's a problem! The lovely little footbridge to the island is too small for any of the heavy-duty rigs to cross!

Who is small enough to drive over the bridge and dig a small hole for the little apple tree?

Who can it be? "Little E!" all little listeners will reply with glee, in Anna Dewdney's brand-new construction tale, Little Excavator (Viking Books, 2017).

Dewdney's onomatopoetic rhymes are rhythmically repetitive, encouraging youngsters to chime in, and Dewdney's illustrations of the doughty little digger are a pure delight. Done in a departure from the familiar style in her Llama Llama series, her work in this story fits right in with the famous anthropomorphic earth movers of children's literature, from Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel 75th Anniversary to Rinker's Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. Dewdney's Little E has personality plus, staying right where he longs to be, and pleased to place that little tree where it belongs to make the new park perfect. Kids will identify right away with this eager little digger who proves he has the right stuff to help out, and Dewdney has again given children's literature a new classic with all the ample art and the heart of her earlier books.

Kirkus stars their review and celebrates Anna Dewdney's latest, giving Little Excavator  an "A+ for Little E and his creator!"

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Disco Cat! Pete the Cat And The Cool Cat Boogie by Kimberly and James Dean

PETE THE CAT IS LEARNING A NEW DANCE--THE COOL CAT BOOGIE.

Pete's got Saturday Night Fever. At least he's got the suit and the pose. All he needs now is to learn to do the dance.

Grumpy Toad comes along to act as resident critic.

"I DIG THE SONG, BUT YOU DANCE ALL WRONG!" HE SAYS.

Pete doesn't say anything, but Grumpy's criticism hits home. Pete has always had his own rhythm, but now his confidence is shaken.

That night he can't sleep. How can he be Pete if he can't groove to the beat? It makes him sad to be bad!

Pete asks Squirrel how he dances, and Squirrel invites him to cha-cha-cha. Pete steps all over his partner's feet. Gus gets off the bus and offers to show Pete his steps, but Pete swings too far out and bops Gus on his big bill. Turtle volunteers to show off his spins, but Pete's turn goes out of control and he slips and trips. It's embarrassing!

Has Pete lost the beat? Has he suddenly acquired two left feet? Is his groove gone for good?

Of course not, in Kimberley and James Dean's latest Pete the Cat picture book, Pete the Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie (Harper, 2017), as Owl observes that he has to stop thinking too much, listen to the music, and let nature take its course.  Pete puts on his dancing shoes, and just like rockin' in his red shoes and struttin' his school shoes, suddenly he's got disco-dancin' fever! With a gentle premise of being true to your own style, this story comes with dance steps for young readers who want to boogie down and dance along. As always, Dean's simple and bright faux naif illustrations tell the story will elan and verve.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Nose Knows: The Case of the Stinky Stench by Josh Funk

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark!"

Wait! Wrong story.

"UNCLE," SAID CROISSANT, "THE FRIDGE IS IN TROUBLE!
A HORRIBLE STENCH TURNED THE WHOLE SHELF TO RUBBLE."

Those formerly feuding foods, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, come together when they discover that the jewel of their kitchen--the fridge--is besieged by a noisome smell, something malodorous which threatens the whole larder. Immediately they turn to their best hope, the savory and savvy French sleuth, Inspector Croissant.

"IT'S BARON VON WAFFLE, THAT DEVIOUS SQUARE,"
SAID PANCAKE WITH ANGER. "LET'S LOOK IN HIS LAIR!"

But the bad-guy Baron von Waffle,--always a smart Alec--proves again to be fresh, and the three forge forth, past foodstuffs of all sorts. The fridge seems to be the province of a culinary couple of both exotic and eclectic tastes, prolific with carbs and veggies alike. Over Salsa Ravine and up Mount Everbean they go. Inspector Croissant trips over Miss Steak, but they soldier on, Something is definitely fishy here. Could that reek be a Red Herring?

INSPECTOR CROISSANT TOOK A MIGHTY BIG WHIFF.
"THE ODOR IS COMING FROM CASSEROLE CLIFF."

At last Croissant tries to pin the rap on the usual suspect, Fruitcake, but Fruitcake resists arrest with a tart old maxim aimed to keep him out of jail!

"EVERYONE KNOWS FRUITCAKES NEVER GO STALE!"

For those foodies who don't find puns noxious, the appropriately named author Josh Funk's The Case of the Stinky Stench (Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast) (Sterling Books, 2017) is a tasty sequel to his earlier carbohydrate-loading tale, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, ably assisted by his sous chef, artist Brendan Kearney. As anyone with a halfway working kitchen knows, a sortie into the depths of the fridge can be a hazardous investigation, but Funk keeps the story lightly seasoned with tasteful humor and juicy rhyming couplets. This story is certainly more fun than cleaning out a refrigerator! Says Kirkus Reviews, "The confident storyline marries complex vocabulary with an easy syncopation and reaches a surprising level of drama when the stench is revealed.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Siege at the Swing Set! Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler

One morning Jonah decided to become Ruler of the Playground.

"I am now King. Obey me and I will let you play in my kingdom."

Who knows why someone decides to be Emperor of All He Surveys! Ask Napoleon.

The other kids are bemused, perplexed, and speechless. They didn't know they needed a King. But the big slide is in Jonah's domain, so they pinkie-swear their allegiance.

But among his uneasy subjects there resides a rebel.

Everyone played in King Jonah's Kingdom...

Except for one--Lennox. She wanted to rule.

Lady Lennox mounts a rebellion. She seizes the big swings and declares them her realm. She calls upon all of those who wish to swing to declare fealty to Queen Lennox of the Swing Set. She decrees that all her citizens cross their hearts and promise loyalty.

It's a stalemate in the Great Land of Free Play. Their fiefdoms are divided. Maps are drawn with firm borders lest one subject trespass. Both sovereigns draw up Plans for Conquering and blueprints for walls and tunnels. They carry out small incursions to conquer prized areas. The teeter-totter is first to fall, and then. treachery--Augustine's dog, Sir Hamilton Humphrey Hildebrand III, is taken hostage.

The peasants are growing restless. The plebs are plotting revolt, and the tyrants decide it's time for a truce, in Joseph Kuefler's Rulers of the Playground (Balzer and Braym 2017).

In a humorous spoof of the urge to rule, Kuefler's characters replicate history in his Great Playground Takeover saga. Kuefler's characters are delineated by their varied costumes. Jonah and Lennox affect medieval garb, robes and crowns, as their subject begins to separate into factions, waving their banners, and it looks like there is going to be a rumble at the jungle gym--or a mass emigration from both realms.

Uneasy are the heads that wear the crown. Who knew monarchy was so complicated? Jonah and Lennox see that it's about time to for peace to reign in the Land of the Playground. This story is a nifty bit of spoofery, executed in charming mixed media drawings, with just a bit of a worthy treatise on human nature at its core. Says Kirkus in their starred review, "... a sly reminder that being in charge isn’t always as fun as it looks."

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Promises to Keep: I Promise by David McPhail

LITTLE BEAR AND HIS MOTHER WERE PLAYING IN THE POOL BELOW THE WATERFALL."WILL YOU SING TO ME, MOMMA? SHOUTED LITTLE BEAR OVER THE ROAR OF THE WATERFALL.

"LATER, DEAR. I PROMISE!" SHE SHOUTS BACK.

"WHAT'S A PROMISE?" LITTLE BEAR ASKED.

Momma Bear and Little Bear are out for a lazy stroll in the woods, taking a swim in the stream, climbing an apple tree and trying out the fallen fruit, and visiting their favorite bee tree. It's a nice, slow-paced day, just right for talking about important things.

Mother says that a promise is something you say you will do in the future, and Little Bear follows with a good question.

"BUT WHAT IF YOU DON'T DO IT?"

Momma Bear explains that breaking promises hurts those to whom you make them, and Little Bear remembers a time he didn't keep a promise to a friend and nods thoughtfully. As they walk along the river, he asks his mother what else she can promise.

She says she definitely will lie in the grass and watch the clouds with him. As they share an apple, she promises to always give him good food that will make him grow big. That promise reminds Little Bear of something.

"WILL YOU SING TO ME NOW?" LITTLE BEAR ASKS.

"NOT NOW!" MOMMA BEARS LAUGHS, HER MOUTH FULL OF APPLE.

She does promise to teach him some things and let him discover some on his own, admitting that no one knows everything.

As they ramble homeward in the evening shadows, Little Bear comes up with a big question.

"DO YOU PROMISE I WILL ALWAYS BE HAPPY?"

Mother admits that she cannot make that promise, that it is one she alone cannot keep--that being happy is something he has to do for himself. Gently she adds...

"BUT I WILL ALWAYS DO EVERYTHING I CAN TO HELP."

And Momma Bear keeps her promise to sing to a tired Little Bear, as, safely back home, he falls asleep, in David McPhail's newest, I Promise (Little, Brown and Company, 2017). Famous for his lovely bear books, McPhail does not disappoint in this tender story of the bond between parent and child and the meaning of the love and loyalty that are the core of that bond. Artist McPhail provides his trademark soft watercolor and ink illustrations, with soft-textured furry bears in a reassuringly idyllic verdant forest where honey is there for the having.

This one is the perfect book for a child or for someone who loves a child.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

You Can Count On It! 7 Ate 9 byTara Lazar

I was dozing in my chair when an urgent bang on my door bolted me awake. It was 6.

"7 is coming to get me," said 6. As a private
I, I am used to his type--numbers. They are always stuck in a problem. I knew this 7 fella. He was odd.

"What's 7 up to?" I asked.

"My days are numbered!" said 6. "Word on the street is that 7 ate 9, and now he's after me!"

"Technically, he's always after you." I said.

But all puns aside, Al F. Bet, Private I, promises to get down to the root of the case, where he soon runs into a number of complications. 9 indeed seems to be nowhere, cancelled out of the equation, so to speak. Al scours the street for 8, hoping she's got some data for him, but she claims to know nothing, nada, zilch, zero, despite the fact that she and 9 are known to be very close. But the news seems to frighten her.

"Then I'm next in line!" 8 said. In a flash she took off her belt.

Now 8 looked just like 0. Good disguise.

The detective ducks into the local diner for a piece of pi with ice cream on top, hoping to get a scoop. He asks the wisecracking waitress, B, whether she's seen the missing 9.

"Negative!" said B.

The clues just don't add up, and our ace private I figures he's got to find the missing 9 or prove he's been eliminated. But there's something about 6's story that doesn't quite seem to be on the up-and-up, in the just published 7 Ate 9 (Disney Hyperion Press, 2017), in which author Tara Lazar fashions a hoary old number riddle into a smart, stylish picture book while mining the tropes of the 1930s detective story and firing off punny gags like gunfire from a gang of Mafia goombahs.

Sometimes to solve the problem, you just have to invert something, and when Private I Bet spots 6 acting suspiciously he figures that 6 is actually 9, hiding in plain sight upside down, and the case is solved.

While technically a number recognition book, this one takes its wordplay into higher math (see the diner's dessert case with the sign PIECE OF PI, $3.14.) Lazar's numerically-savvy text is added by a #1 sidekick, artist Ross MacDonald, whose pencil, watercolor, and digital retro metro scenes and numerical characters add visual jokes.

A quantity of sight gags add up to a punny, funny tale that's Number One on the giggle-o-meter. Although the publisher recommends this one for preschool and Kindergarten children, the best jokes will likely score with savvy second and third graders who will get the clever numerical puns and gladly groan along to the final solution. Says School Library Journal, "
An A-1 purchase for those who love play on words, mysteries, and humorous tales."

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Letterman! The Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

First things first, as we say, and in his recently published board book, An Alphabet (Philomel Books, 2017), author-illustrator Oliver Jeffers offers a "just the facts, ma'am" alphabet book--an image of something and the corresponding initial letter.

Jeffers' choice of nouns is a bit unusual with an Iceberg, a Gourd, a Magnet, a Viking, and a Yeti standing in for the usual preschool-specific vocabulary, with opposite pages featuring Jeffers' iconic drawings made familiar in his earlier illustrations for books such as The Day the Crayons Quit, making this new board book edition an introduction to the letters for preschoolers sophisticated enough to have a developed vocabulary.

This basic abecedarius is an abridgement of Oliver Jeffers' noted 2014 editon, Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters, (Philomel Books), which also featured charming rhyming anecdotes for each letter and which School Library Journal described as "An altogether stimulating, surprising, and satisfying reading experience."

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Friday, June 09, 2017

You Can't Believe Everything You Read! If You Ever Want to Bring A Circus to the Library, DON'T! by Elise Parsley

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING AT THE LIBRARY!

You can't believe everything you read, even a sign at the library.

But Magnolia is a girl with a thing for BIG IDEAS, and when she sees that summer reading festival sign, she suddenly sees herself as a circus impressario. Get ready, laddies and lassies, all you little library patrons. Cue the circus march! It's ...

MAGNOLIA'S CIRCUS--THE GREATEST SHOW YOU'VE NEVER SEEN!

Magnolia mounts the high wire for a twirl and a leap... and a fall....

The crowd gasps, but our Maggie bounces up, and with a wave of her hand, announces firmly...

You can do anything in the library--except CLAP!

Send in the CLOWNS! Magnolia takes a pie in the face with elan! But she shushes her audience.

You can do anything in the library--except CLAP and CHEER!

Some other traditional circus activities run into conflict with the library staff. Concessions, for example. The crowd is rowdy and especially messy with the popcorn and peanuts.

Magnolia tries to wow the crowd into silence with her piece de resistance--the human cannonball act!

The crowd waits, hushed, as the countdown continues: 5-4-3-2-1-??

Just so you know, if your cannon is a dud, you'll hear...

BOOOOOO!

By now, Magnolia's circus crowd is out of control. She quickly looks around for something to distract them before they riot!  She's pretty sure you can do anything in the library except clap, cheer, and RIOT!

She spots a booktruck nearby, loaded for shelving, and grabs a likely-looking book and...

Magnolia starts to read aloud.

The rapt kids are seemingly enchanted. Suspense builds as the three goats gruff, one by one, trip-trap across the bridge. Magnolia has the kids in the palm of her hand-- until there is a sudden misfire of her cannon....

BOOOOOMBA!

A misfiring cannon can make a mess of your neighborhood library, in Elise Parsley's latest in her Magnolia Says Don't series, If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't! (Little, Brown and Company, 2017).  Don't believe everything you read is Magnolia's new mantra, as she carefully crafts a new library poster--YOU CAN READ A NICE, QUIET BOOK IN THE LIBRARY.

Elise Parsley's third tall tale of what NOT to do takes advantage of her penchant for conceiving a character capable of instantly concocting capricious and absurd adventures, as she did in her top-selling If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! and If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, Don't! (see reviews here). Magnolia is a girl who apparently always learns the hard way, and Parsley's wild digital illustrations and near disasters scenes are kid-pleasing slapstick action and visual jokes. This one will be popular for Library Week readalouds.

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