BooksForKidsBlog

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Guess Who Coming to Dinner? Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner! by Gareth Edwards

NEVER ASK A DINOSAUR TO DINNER.

BECAUSE A T. REX IS FEROCIOUS AND HIS MANNERS ARE ATROCIOUS!

A dino for dinner is more than able to eat it all, even the table.

And while you're brushing your teeth after supper, don't be too generous with that toothbrush if there's a shark at hand. He's got way too many teeth. And don't share the bathroom sink with a beaver! He won't be able to resist the flowing water, and you'll find yourself with a beaver dam flooding the premises.

PLEASE DON'T LET A BARN OWL IN YOUR BED.

BECAUSE THE FIRST THING YOU'LL LEARN'LL

BE A BARN OWL IS NOCTURNAL!

In his debut American picture book, Gareth Edwards' Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner (Scholastic Press, 2015) recounts in rollicking rhyme all the critters a kid should not invite in before bedtime. A tiger makes a grumpy towel, a bison is too bulky to be a blanket, and, oh, yeah ... they don't call them night owls for nothin'!

Edwards fearlessly finds plenty of multi-syllabic rhyming words that double as vocabulary builders, and noted English illustrator Guy Parker-Rees' exuberant cartoons add just the right touch of absurdity to make this a silly and sybilant tale a great sleepytime readaloud. And don't worry that the humorous sight gags will get the kids out of the bedtime mode, because Edwards and Parker-Rees bring it on home in a timely fashion, with a cozy closing involving a super-soporific Teddy bear and a flock of sedate sheep to count just in time for lights out!

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Friday, July 03, 2015

Overruled! My Rules for Being a Pretty Princess by Heath McKenzie

"MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, I WANT TO BE A PRETTY PRINCESS."

No sooner has the girl in the lavender tutu finished her wish than, without even a POOF! or a Bibbibety-Boppety--Boo, a pretty princess in a fluffy white dress appears before her and asks if she really, really wants princess training.

"GASP! Oh, I DO!"

In no time the princess wannabe finds herself being laced in to wasp-waisted white gown. Now she's gasping for real!

Her hair is done up in a tiara-friendly beehive and she's slathered with makeup.

"BUT I LOOK A BIT BOR---"

No time for girl-talk. It's tea time for pretty princesses. Whispering that the rules for pretty princesses require that they don't get their gowns dirty and that they don't actually eat any of the goodies on the tea table, and that they certainly don't boogie down with the music, her royal mentor tells her what all of this is REALLY all about.

"NOW WE MUST WAIT FOR... OUR PRINCES."

They wait... and wait... and wait... and wait.

YAWN!

A handsome prince arrives, along with an overdressed, freckle-faced princeling who sticks out his tongue at his presumed "princess bride."

Our princess apprentice suddenly knows more than she ever wanted to know about being a princess.

In her first and last royal decree, our girl over-rules the rules, especially that deal-killing last one--

WAIT FOR A HANDSOME PRINCE.

Herth McKenzie'sMy Rules for Being a Pretty Princess (Sourcebook/Jabberwocky, 2015) has a lot of fun with the down-side of princessing, with plenty of visual humor in the double-page spread in which the two bored princesses try to stay PERFECT while they wait for their royal suitors to show up.

Pair this reluctant royal with Carmen LaVigna Coyle's Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?





















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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Split Half In Two: Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

Can a bloodhound remember you from years back and smell you coming from a half a mile away? Caleb's welcome grew louder. Uncle Darnell winked at me as if to say, Girl, you were surely missed, and my heart clanged. I wanted to be with my grandmother and my great-grandmother more than anything. I wanted us all to be together. As many of us under one roof as could fit. I needed to know we weren't all falling apart.

Oldest sister of the three, Delphine feels like her family is coming apart, bit by bit. Her mother, Camille, is off being a black woman poet in Berkley with the Black Panthers. Her grandmother, Big Ma, moved back to Prattville, Alabama when her dad's outspoken women's lib new wife, "Mrs.," moved in, but now even  the outspoken Marva seems withdrawn and sick. Uncle Darnell, who came back from  Vietnam with a drug problem and swiped the girls' piggybank money  saved to see Michael Jackson, has gone back to Alabama in disgrace. And even though she and her sisters, Vonetta and Fern, have always finished each other's sentences, they, too, are splitting apart. Vonetta refuses to speak to their uncle, and here they are, forced to spend the summer under that same roof.

Delphine can't force herself to read her teacher's favorite book, Things Fall Apart, because even with its African setting, it seems way too close to home.

And despite the love she feels from Big Ma and great-grandmother Ma Charles, Delphine finds that at age twelve, she is more aware of the rifts back home and those strangely between Ma Charles and her half-sister Miss Trotter, who share a father, Slim Jim Trotter, whose rickety bridge to his two wives still connects and divides the warring sisters. Big Ma and Aunt Miss Trotter pick Vonetta, who has a flair for dramatic story-telling, to send insulting versions of family history back and forth across that bridge to each other. Delphine goes along quietly, spending a lot of time in her favorite pecan tree, except to stake out her own turf by refusing to iron Ma Charles' sheets with Argo starch and a pair of heavy flat irons older than both the warring sisters. Little Fern takes her own stand on refusing to eat any animals--Big Ma's chickens and ham and Great-Aunt Miss Trotter's venison barbeque. Except for her fifteen-year-old cousin JimmyTrotter, who finds it all very amusing, Delphine feels like her family is, in that apt Alabama phrase, split half-in-two, with herself left right in the middle.

But when Vonetta takes off down the road in a huff on JimmyTrotter's bike, a sudden tornado descends, ripping everyone's house in two but Ma Charles'. And Vonetta is missing, the bike found in two pieces, up a tree. The family that seemed hopelessly split comes together seamlessly. The girls' mother borrows plane fare and appears right away, Dad and Mrs., now clearly pregnant, make the long drive from Brooklyn, and Aunt Miss Trotter and JimmyTrotter move in to share whatever comfort they can give. It's as if Delphine sees her family's strong roots come together, holding them all strong as they fear for Vonetta. She sees the bond of parenthood between her own parents, she sees the stubborn bonds of family between Ma Charles and her proudly part-Indian half-sister, and then she has a glimpse of how those roots run even deeper into the community than she could have imagined.

The sheriff trudged up to the house. I knew who he was. I knew he wore a white sheet when he wasn't wearing his badge.

He tapped on the screen door and called out "'Phelia! You there? Mama? It's Davey Lee."

"Taranada"--that was exactly how he said it, with four syllables, "wasn't the worst, but it was bad enough to toss that Negro rag doll clear out of this lifetime. Better the truth than a fairy tale."

"We're not asking you for no fairy tale," Ma Charles said. "We're asking you to do what the sheriff's supposed to do. Find our lost child."

"Yes, Mama," the sheriff said.

"Just go find her, son. Go find her."

My great-grandmother called the Klan son.

Set in 1969 during the days of the moon landing, with humanity on two separate spheres as well, Rita Williams-Garcia's third book in her powerful trilogy, Gone Crazy in Alabama (Amistad, 2015) reveals the constancy of family despite the things that divide them. Like Slim-Jim Trotter's narrow bridge, they divide and connect, reforming themselves in each generation without falling away from their source. Williams-Garcia's choice of Delphine, the almost-thirteen oldest daughter, gives us a narrator who comes of age just in time to see the complexity and the glory of family revealed in this outstanding series. Written with down-home humor and characters, living and dead, so strong and real that they step right off the pages, and a theme that that binds it all together, these are novels not to be missed. With the earlier Coretta Scott King Award books, One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven this concluding novel tells a family story that is uniquely American and yet in many ways the story of us all.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Beachin' Fun: Sea & Rex by Molly Idle

READY FOR A CAREFREE DAY IN THE SUN?

GATHER YOUR FRIENDS AND HEAD TO THE BEACH!

And when little Cordelia goes on an outing, she takes some formidable friends along, Rex and his prehistoric pals!

Nobody goes anywhere with Cordelia without instructions, however. And her little brother appropriately dressed as a pirate, listens as she runs through the rules.

STASH YOURSELF NEXT TO A LIFE GUARD, WHO WILL KEEP AN EYE ON YOU.

That seems like superfluous advice for a troop of cretaceous creatures led by a T. Rex, but Cordelia has more good advice.

USE PLENTY OF SUNSCREEN!
Oops!  Too late for Rex, who has already gone from green to bright pink. But with that detail taken care of, the group spreads out to find their own fun. Rex goes hunting for shells, but comes up with only a triceratops horn. Cordelia warns the swimmers always to jump in feet first, but Rex hits the waves for a bit of snorkeling. Now Where is he? Cordelia swims out to find Rex.

Soon it's time for the beach picnic, but...Oh, no!

Cordelia forgot to warn everyone back on the beach that sea gulls can be larcenous. One snatches the picnic basket, and another makes off with her little brother's Teddy bear. But there's no need to worry or fear; not when you have a T. Rex near! With lunch and plush lovey restored, it's a great day for all concerned.

WHEN YOU'RE SURROUNDED BY FRIENDS, LIFE'S A DAY AT THE BEACH!

Molly Idle's latest, a girl-and-her-dinosaur idyll on the shore, Sea Rex (Viking Books, 2015), shows the two unlikely buddies and friends shell-hunting and sand castle constructing, doing all the things kids love to do beside the sea.

Idle's illustrative style is like no other. Her colored pencil strokes are all broad and curvaceous, from Cordelia's little round tummy, to the sandy shore dunes, to Rex's voluminous rotundity, giving her stories a soothing fullness. This one, like her Caldecott-winning Flora and the Flamingo, has a serenity of line and its own joie de vive as an odd couple of pals find a new place to play together for fun in the sun.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Spinning a Yarn! Edmund Unwinds by Andrew Kolb

EDWARD WAS ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT FOR ADVENTURE.

FROM THE TIME HE COULD ROLL, EDMUND LOVED TO BOUNCE DOWN THE THREE STAIRS TO EXPLORE.

Little Edmund is always on a roll. No, he's not a big, black bowling ball! He is, in fact, a roly-poly little ball of yarn always on the move. Unfortunately, Edmund Loom is unmindful that as he rolls along toward adventure, he's leaving a trail, a little bit of himself, behind him.

At first Edmund manages to hold himself together well, always winding up back where he started, but as he gets bigger and braver, he ventures further away from his home basket. He wends his way, meeting all sorts of curious characters, exploring the world beyond his doorstep and loving every rotation. Even having three playful kittens batting him this way and that does not dampen his enthusiasm for novelty.

The good part of being a ball of yarn is that Edmund's adventurous travels leave a clear trail behind wherever he goes. Edmund's family, however, grows concerned, as the littlest Loom leaves more and more of himself behind as he wanders. After all, what if Edmund completely unravels? Will he still be himself? Can he be re-wound?

Andrew Korb's imaginative fantasy Edmund Unravels (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015) knits together a warm and fuzzy look at the evergreen plot of the little runaway, and as in all such stories, when Edmund finds himself near the end of his, er, yarn, he realizes that it gets lonely out there when he's hanging on to his identity by a thread. Lighthearted illustrations by the author keep the existential angst to a minimum, with his yarn  yarn merrily rolls along. As School Library Journal puts it punningly, "Tightly woven with wordplay, this is a whimsical story of family ties.”

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Monday, June 29, 2015

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Charlie and the Grandmothers by Katy Towell

February came, and a colder, darker February Charlie could not recall. He already loathed the month as it was. His worst dreams plagued him relentlessly on the snowy nights of February. But now the sun had begun to set as early as noon while the snow fell so heavily that one had to bat the stuff away to see. As usual, no one found this as alarming as Charlie.

"The days are always shorter in winter," reasoned Mother.

"All this gorgeous snow and not one friend around to throw a ball of it at us," Georgie harrumphed.

Charlie fears sleep. His nightly nightmares grow worse. And the days are filled with foreboding. The children he knows are disappearing--gone to visit their grandmothers, everyone says, but they seem strangely never to return. No one seems concerned but Charlie--and Georgie, when she has no one to go adventuring with her in the snow.

Even their sensible Mother seems vague and subdued. And then one morning, she will not waken. She sleeps through the day and the next--and the next. Charlie can't even get their doctor to come take a look, even though his usually busy waiting room is dusty and empty. Then a telegram arrives.

DEAREST CHARLIE AND GEORGIE=

WORD HAS REACHED ME OF YOUR MOTHER'S ILLNESS. I WILL ARRANGE TO HAVE HER TAKEN TO AN EXCELLENT HOSPITAL ON CONDITION THAT YOU BOTH COME TO ME AT ONCE=
ALL HAS BEEN ARRANGED=

YOUR GRANDMOTHER PEARL=

But Charlie remembers perfectly clearly that Mother had told them that both of their grandmothers were dead. Georgie isn't worried. All her friends have gone to visit grandmothers and liked it so much that they haven't come back, even when school holidays were over. To the effervescent Georgie, it's an adventure.

Charlie's dread grows as their empty railway car takes them through a surreal foggy landscape where nothing is familiar. And there are two grandmothers, Grandmother Pearl, who is thin and ghastly, and Grandmother Opal, who seems more kindly but is clearly terrified of her "sister," Pearl. Their house is enormous and the hallways are always different each time Charlie and Georgie leave their rooms. And then, searching for Georgie, out adventuring in the snowy gloom where Grandmother Pearl says there are wolves, Charlie ventures through a small doorway to the cellar and finds himself and Georgie in a place worse than his most fretful nightmares.

Ahead of him was a cave, huge and cavernous. Children of all ages gathered by the thousands in a great hall. All of them wore gray uniforms, and every child was bound by chains and manacles.

The torchlight illuminated even greater horrors, for stalking the cave were creatures like nothing Charlie had seen in his dreams. Some were tall and gaunt. Others were squat and blubbery. All had bald, gray skin, slick with slime, and from his vantage, it appeared they had only holes for eyes.

This wretched labyrinthine cavern is filled with half-starved, gray-clad children, all the missing children, working as slaves to their keepers, a cabal of Grandmothers and even worse, their memory-sucking bedbugs, phantoms, and the soul-destroying Queen. Because he doesn't sleep, Charlie is the only one with memories of his past life. Even Georgie, sentenced to smashing timepieces eternally, doesn't seem to know him, As the only Rememberer, Charlie realizes that he is the only prisoner able to save himself and his little sister from having all memory and imagination, what the keepers call their "figments," sucked from them forever.

Katy Towell's forthcoming Charlie and the Grandmothers (Alfred A. Knopf Books, 2015) makes the average middle-reader Gothic tale seem like a weekend at a quaint bed-and- breakfast.

Like the masters of the genre, Roald Dahl, in The Witches, and Niel Gaiman in his  Coraline and Newbery-winning  The Graveyard Book Towell summons up demons from the stuff of childhood's nightmares, phantoms like Harry Potter's dementors, capable of taking both body and soul. Charlie's salvation comes from his realization that his own fears are both his worst enemy and at the root of all he finds to fear underground, but his release is not without some of the grimmest of escapades to free the captives. Towell's evocative storytelling is plenty goose bump-raising for the average middle reader, absent those touches of wry humor that Tolkien and Rowling, Dahl and Dickens, and even Gaiman offer in their darkest writings. Good-and-scary reading best done during the sunny days of late summertime.

Katy Towell is also the author of Skary Childrin and the Carousel of Sorrow.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Am NOT!" "Are TOO!" Pig and Pug by Lynn Berry

PUG IN A PURSE.

PIG IN A POCKET.

"ARE YOU A PUG?" PUG SAYS TO PIG.

"NO, PIG!" SAYS PIG TO PUG.

The two tea-cup-sized pets don't quite know what to make of each other. There are certain similarities, but still....

'Tis a puzzlement.

Pug suggests that Pig is a pudgy pug. Pig insists not. Pretty soon the meeting turns into a petty dust-up. Pug gets pugilistic; Pig gets piggish.

Name-calling ensues. Pug calls Pig a copycat!
"AM NOT!"

"ARE TOO!"

PIG AND PUG POUNCE!

The little dust-up gets dirty as Pug takes a tumble into a mud puddle. Pug is a muddy mess. It's just too funny for the petite pets to stay petulant. They start to titter and giggle and finally chuckle at each other. It's time to recalculate their relationship.

Pals?

PALS!

It's a tempest in a tea cup for those popular pygmy pets in Lynn Berry's Pig and Pug (Simon and Schuster, 2015). With simple line drawings by illustrator Gemma Correll, who reveals the various emotions playing across the faces of her characters with a few deftly drawn lines, and an easy text that lures emergent readers to jump in and read along, two peewee pets find peace and friendship as youngsters find a fun easy reader that's just perfect for two voices to perform together. For another pair of uncommon pals, pair this one with Jennifer Sattler's Chick 'n' Pug.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Move Over, King Kong! Tiny Hamster Is A Giant Monster by Joel Jensen

ONE CLOUDY DAY TINY HAMSTER WENT OUT TO FIND A BITE TO EAT.

TINY HAMSTER WAS ALWAYS HUNGRY, YOU SEE.

Tiny Hamster scurries through Big City Park looking for dropped munchies and happens upon a spilled can of Evil Green Goo.

Oh, No, Tiny Hamster! Don't eat that!

Ignoring the universal radiation danger symbol, Tiny scarfs up the slimy green mess. BURP!

But all is well until the darkening skies turn into a thunder storm.

Oh, No, Tiny Hamster. Get under cover before a lightning bolt....

KA-BOOM! KABOOM! (again!)

HE FELT HIMSELF INFLATE LIKE A BIG BALLOON THAT KEPT GETTING BIGGER--LIKE A BLIMP.

NO. A ZEPPELIN!

And that's not all. Tiny Hamster's claws grow big and sharp, his tiny tail trails long behind him, and spikes sprout from his back. He turns green. And he's still hungry--REALLY hungry. Tiny Hamster is a Giant Monster and he has the appetite to match. He rampages through the Big City, knocking down buildings, chomping up the subway cars on the El, and grazing on the trees (broccoli florets) in Big City Park. He scales a tall skyscraper, where he finds himself under attack from a flock of helicopters. Yum, flying snacks! Crunchy!

Joel Jensen and Joseph and Amy Matsushima's spinoff from their popular YouTube series, Tiny Hamster Is a Giant Monster (Simon and Schuster, 2015), riffs on the classic science fiction monster run amok, with a nod to King Kong, Godzilla and even Frankenstein's monster. The creators provide a artfully constructed and apparently edible Metropolis for their hamster to ravage in a spoof that will tickle older readers and even tots who have no experience with the whole metropolitan monster trope.

See Tiny Hamster rampage through the Big Apple here.

For more silly monster spoofery, don't miss Dav Pilkey's choice Dogzilla and Kat Kong.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Strength in Numbers: Ninja Bunny by Jennifer Gray Olsen

HOW TO BE A SUPER AWESOME NINJA

Rule 1: A super-awesome ninja must always work alone.

Our little bunny, wearing his midnight-blue ninja gear, is determined to be awesome. The Ninja Rules say he should be super sneaky, possess awesome strength, achieve invisibility, create Ninja weapons, and be a super awesome climber.

While a dozen or so ninja-wannabe-bunnies watch as if they want to join the fun, Ninja Bunny shows awesome focus on his training. swinging his throwing star and monkey fist, both fitted out with purloined carrots, like he means it.

But some of the rules get a little intimidating. "Master flying?"  "Battle anyone, anywhere, any time???"

What about a big angry brown bear?

"UH-OH."

Suddenly little Ninja Bunny hears a welcome sound, a chorus of awesome voices.

HI-YAH!!

It's the cadre of his would-be ninja bunny buddies charging to his rescue with all the right moves, as the big bad bear exits hastily, page right.

It's one for all and all for one in Jennifer Gray Olson's Ninja Bunny (Alfred A. Knopf Books, 2015).

Rule 1 is over-ruled and from now on, Ninja Bunny goes nowhere without his squadron of super-ninja-bunnies. In her oh-so-cute ink and watercolor illustrations, Olson's empathetic illustrations show off just how far from awesome her self-aggrandizing little Ninja's imagined feats really are.

Fun for little Ninjas and ninja-lovers, this one pairs well with H. D. Wilson's Ninja Boy Goes to School and Barbara DaCosta's Nighttime Ninja see reviews here).

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Kitty Kourage Akademy: Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter

WHEN MISS HAZELTINE OPENED HER HOME FOR SAD AND FEARFUL CATS, SHE DIDN'T KNOW IF CATS WOULD COME.

BUT COME THEY DID.

Concerned and disgruntled owners soon brought their crestfallen kitties for cat therapy.

"HE'S AFRAID OF MICE!" ONE SAID.

"WON'T PURR!... SCARED OF BIRDS... AFRAID OF EVERYTHING!" THEY REPORT.

But Miss Hazeltine is undaunted, a cat therapist who has just the program, even for poor timid little Crumbs, who dashes to cower, hiding his head under the parlor carpet, virtually CATatonic!

Miss Hazeltine sets up sessions for cognitive-behavioral therapy for common cat anxieties--owls, scary night noises, and that big feline bugaboo, the BROOM.

Even Crumbs makes progress. But will he ever be truly brave?

Then one day Miss Hazeltine runs out of milk. For a group of neurotic cats, that is a serious situation, and she sets out for the nearest dairy farm to fill a couple of milk buckets for her patients. But it grows cloudy and dark and Miss Hazeltine takes a spill off the path. All the kitties peer out the windows and worry.

THEY HADN'T HAD THE LESSON ON WHAT TO DO WHEN THE LADY THEY LOVED WENT MISSING!

But in the best tradition of timid heroes, Crumbs is the one who leads the rescue, in Alicia Potter's captivating tale of kitty rehab, Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats (Alfred A Knopf, 2015). Artist Birgitta Sif contributes her unusual style of humorous illustrations portraying Miss Hazeltine's meditation sessions and yoga poses for her cat clients and immersion therapy with the broom. As Kirkus Reviews says, "Sif's quirky, pencil-drawn, digitally colored illustrations... perfectly paired with the text... add visual interest and a charming freshness."

A clever narration and comic art come together like a cat and cream in this witty kitty tale that is just the cat's meow.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Eyes on the Prize? Look! by Jeff Mack

LOOK!

What's a guy got to do to get somebody to read to him?

Great ape gyrations ensue when a gorilla tries un-glue a boy from the boob tube.

Gorilla Guy balances a book on his nose. He balances on one foot on top a stack of books.

He balances a huge stack of books on his head! But not for long.

C-R-A-S-H!

Down they come, one landing open on top of the boy's head. Without removing his eyes from his screen, the boy walks over to open the door with one word:

"OUT!"

Okay. If it's drama the boy wants, drama he'll get!

Gorilla Guy crashes a book-laden trike through the door. This time the books come down like an avalanche and smash the television set. Ooops! Unintended but ironic consequence of book promotion!

"OUT! OUT! OUT!"

Now what? All alone, the boy looks down sadly at the remains of his entertainment devices, and his eyes fall on an open book. Hey! This book is worth a...LOOK!

It's not long before boy and Gorilla are sharing a read-in on the floor, in Jeff Mack's Look! (Philomel Books, 2015). With a minimalist vocabulary of just two words, repeated with various emotional connotations, Mack sneaks in a stealthy comical plug for books and reading. The author's salesman for the joys of reading may not be the most subtle, but hey, he IS a gorilla and besides, he's got a point. Mack's silly book spokesperson will get youngsters' attention, and the simple and super-sized vocabulary will have its audience reading along despite themselves before the book comes to its sleepy end. In a clever bit of book design, Mack uses an absolutely real-looking facsimile of an old-fashioned book pocket and date-due slip as a frontispiece opposite the title page. (It'll make you touch it to see if it's real! Really!) LOOK again at this one for bedtime, storytime, or Book Week!

If you're faced with a bunch of junior screen zombies, try pairing this one with Lane Smith's It's a Book (See review here)

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bot Glut: Robots Rule: Lots of Bots by C.J. Richards

A section of the butler-bot's head melted away, and a moth-bot launched itself into the air as the robot began to spin in a circle. "Foreign Body contamination!" it said, and drove itself into the swimming pool.

George dropped all but one of the towels he was holding. He twisted and hurled the towel over the moth-bot, trapping it on the ground. George brought his foot down on top of it with a satisfying
crunch.

Now he had proof to show Professor Droid that he was right about Micron and his robotic bugs. He leaned down to gather the pieces carefully in the towel.

A buzzing noise at his back sent a tingle up his spine. He felt the air go cold as a strange shadow spread over the ground. George turned slowly and found himself face-to-face with a massive swarm of deadly moth-bots.

After his near-destruction ordered by the evil genius Dr. Micron, the cyber-talented George Gearing is at last beginning his promised internship at TinkerTech, which is in the throes of the upcoming release of their hot new product, the Mod, something like a super iPod married to Google glasses, but after a series of suspicious accidents, George finds himself shunted off by Professor Droid to cleaning detail under the supervision of OCD-Bot, an obsessive-compulsive cleaner who speaks only in rhymes. Even more annoying is George's special robot Jackbot's romantic obsession with George's nemesis, Patricia Volt's personal bot, Cookie.

But OCD-Bot's janitorial duties allow access to every part of TinkerTech, and George manages to get inside the abandoned office of the imprisoned Dr. Micron to download information about his parents, former TinkerTech employees who disappeared after an unexplained accident. and uncovers a link to the secret Project Mercury. In trouble for being AWOL from his cleaning assignment, George is demoted to work with assembly bots, packaging the Mod in mailing containers in preparation for its media launch the next day.

But people at TinkerTech who are beta testing the Mod are behaving strangely, even the CEO himself, Professor Droid, father of George's best human friend, Ann Droid, who seems to be somehow mesmerized. Suspicious, George swipes a Mod, puts in the contact lenses that form its screen and the earbuds in his ears, and finds out what the Mod can do (besides a constant individualized entertainment and news-feed)--receive alpha waves which effectively suspend the conscious mind and turns humans themselves into robots--bots controlled by (whom else?), Dr. Micron, a sort of nefarious Steve Jobs on steroids whose plan is to control the world through his purported entertainment device.

When Micron discovers that his plan is again compromised by George Gearing, he unlooses his deadly moth-bots and threatens to destroy George's parents, held in suspended animation in the underground Project Mercury bunker into which he lures George, Ann, and Jackbot.

It's a classic BWWAAA-HA-HAAAA! moment for Micron.

"If I could save my atomic data indefinitely, I could live forever. I could be a god!" Micron raves maniacally.

For kids who liked the non-stop chases, bot battles, and bad-guy comeuppances of Book One in this series, The Junkyard Bot: Robots Rule, Book 1, there's plenty more where that came from in C. J. Richards' second installment, Lots of Bots (Robots Rule) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015).

Richard's text is easy, action-packed, and studded with humor, especially in the character of OCD-Bot ("A break is what I do not take!) and the lovelorn Jackbot's AI-assisted yearnings for the truly heartless Cookie. But in the final chapters Richards also introduces more serious themes--George's longing for his parents, the role of friendship--human and robot, and the very real fear abroad in the land of intrusive digital media which threatens of overwhelm the human side of us all. With Dr. Micron still a force and the quest to locate his parents' atomic data to restore them to life, George Gearing has his work cut out for him in the no-doubt forthcoming Book Three of the series.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

"Grammar Don't Matter!" I Yam A Donkey by Cece Bell

.. . DID YOU SAY, "I YAM A DONKEY?"

THE PROPER WAY IS TO SAY THAT IS "I AM A DONKEY."

YOU IS A DONKEY, TOO?" SNORTS DONKEY. "YOU IS A FUNNY-LOOKING DONKEY."

A pedantic sweet potato in pince nez spectacles should've known better when he takes on the task of instructing a toothy donkey in proper English usage.

"NO, I AM A YAM. YOU ARE THE ONE WHO SAID 'I AM A DONKEY.'"

The grammarian yam is going nowhere fast with this linguistic lesson. The donkey insists on hearing "I yam" and "I am" as the same. Furthermore, he has no apparent familiarity with the conjugation of the verb "to be."

"YOU IS SILLY!"

But a good grammarian never gives up! Yam proceeds through the conjugation: I AM...YOU ARE, SHE IS....

The argument begins to draw a crowd: "Grammar fight!" Beet yells to a carrot and three green beans.

Beet explains that while Donkey IS a critter, he, Green Beans and Carrot ARE vegetables. Donkey gets a message, but not the one Yam intended.

"OH! YOU IS LUNCH!"

The lesson ends in a not-exactly-unexpected MUNCH and CRUNCH, in Cece Bell's newest, I Yam a Donkey! (Houghton Mifflin Clarion Books, 2015), which just goes to show that... well..., um... er.... "Don't get into a grammatical dispute with a donkey if you are a YAM?" Not a whole lot of linguistic information gets imparted here, but this book offers comic characters and a super silly slice of wordplay about a minor point of pronunciation of "I am"..., and gives Newbery Honor author Bell a chance to play around with words and the painful point that some arguments are futile in the face of serious issues, like how a vegetable should dispute with a large, big-molared herbivore.... Very discretely and from a safe distance?

Cece Bell is also the author and illustrator of the award-winning El Deafo, Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover (Candlewick Sparks), and Tom Angleberger's Crankee Doodle (see review here.)

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Perfecting the Princess? Princess in Training by Tammi Sauer

Dear Viola Louise Hassenfeffer:

Do you want to polish your princess skills? Camp Princess will teach you to wave, walk, and waltz just like royalty should. The day concludes with the Royal Bash.

Enroll now so you can be the darling of your kingdom!

MADAME GERTRUDE
Director, Camp Princess

Little Princess Viola Louise is not performing her princessy duties per expectations. Karate-chopping, moat diving, and drawbridge skateboarding are not prim enough for the King nor proper enough for the Queen.

The princess wants to please, so when the sign-up form for Camp Princess arrives at the castle, she's on it!

What princess wouldn't want to be the darling of the kingdom?

Viola Louise is pretty enough, but when her practice of the royal wave seems a bit pusillanimous, she adds her customary handy karate chop to rev up the movement. NOT kosher for Princess Camp.

The next skill is the Frills of Fashion. In ruffles, flounces, crinolines, and coronets, the princesses hit the drawbridge runway to learn the proper princessy pace. But under tons of petticoats and taffeta, trainee Viola is definitely overheated.

A cooling dive into the moat meets with disapprobation from Madame Gertrude.

Waltzing lessons give Princess Viola a chance to move and groove, but when she throws in some skateboard moves, Madame Gertrude lowers the boom.

As grand finale Royalty Bash begins, Princess Viola is disgraced and contemplating becoming a Princess Camp dropout, when an unexpected visitor crashes the party.

EVERY PRINCESS GASPED.

"BUT--" PRINCESS VIOLA SAID TO MADAME, "THERE'S A BIG GREEN DRAGON BEHIND YOU. AND HE LOOKS HUNGRY!"

And her not-so-prim-and-proper princess practices come in handy as Viola Louise employs her heroic HI-YAAA and other disapproved skills to vanquish the dragon with a resounding THUNK, in Tammi Sauer's Princess in Training (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books).  No dragons were harmed in the production of this book (the dragon is seen to slink out a door, page right) as Princess Viola Louise Hassenfeffer is hailed as the heroine of the day and a darling of all the kingdoms in the countryside.

Joe Berger's illustrations are rowdy and rollicking cartoon fare, and Sauer's not-your-average princess tale fits right into the popular picture book genre of young royals who dare to be different. Little wannabe princesses who have enjoyed Deborah Underwood's Part-time Princess, Julie Andrew's The Very Fairy Princess and sequels, Jane Yolen's Not All Princesses Dress in Pink, Carmina Coyle's Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? and Ian Falconer's anti-princess prototype, Olivia and the Fairy Princesses. will find Viola Louise the perfect princess.

For more breaking-the-mold stories from Tammi Sauer, see her unlikely tale of a friendship between shark and minnow, Nugget and Fang: Friends Forever--or Snack Time? (2013) (see review here).

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