BooksForKidsBlog

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Where Fairy Tales Come From... ! Pinkalicious--Story Time by Victoria Kann

We were at the book fair.

I was going to meet my hero, Princess Plum. I have all her books.

The students wait eagerly but politely in line, and Pinkie can't wait to meet the beautiful Princess Plum and talk about her books. Finally Pinkalicious sees the sign she's been waiting for.

MEET THE AUTHOR

But there was a big surprise waiting for Pinkie.

Princess Plum is a man?

"I'm Syd Silver." the man laughed. "I'm the author."

Pinkalicious is amazed--and curious. She asks Mr. Silver if authors can write anything about anybody if they want to, and he tells her that he just made up the character of Princess Plum straight out of his own imagination. Anybody can do it if he or she just imagines it, he says.

When Pinkie got home after school, she couldn't stop thinking about what Mr. Silver said.

I decided to give it a try.

If Alice in Wonderland can believe six impossible things before breakfast, Pinkalicious can surely write at least that many new stories before dinner so that she can read them to her class on their "Meet the Author" Book Festival day. And she does, in Victoria Kann's beginning reader story, Pinkalicious: Story Time (I Can Read Level 1) (Harper, 2017). You don't have to be a princess to write a fairy story at all, Pinkie thinks. You don't even have to be a girl! Anyone can do it. Victoria Kann's pink-loving, improvising character is always ready to come up with a creative way to do what she wants to do, and this I-Can-Read Level 1 story is just the perfect story-starter and writing practice prompt for young readers.

For a pair of ready-for-school stories, share this one with Kann's Pinkalicious and the New Teacher.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Daddy Love! If My Love Were a Firetruck by Luke Reynolds

If my love were a firetruck,
Its sirens would flash all night!

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways," said the poet, and in Luke Reynolds' If My Love Were a Fire Truck: A Daddy's Love Song (Doubleday and Company, 2017), his "Daddy's Love Song" counts up the ways a father loves a child in big, strong metaphors. He loves as loudly as a trumpeting elephant, echoing across the landscape, as bright as a blazing rocket soaring out of sight, as loud as a race car's "vroom," as loudly as a brass band's "boom."

He protects his son like a knight's shield fends off a dragon, like a bear's big hug that lasts all night long.

But after all that daddy love, with its clash and bang and roar and vroom, it comes down to a sweet snuggle, one in which they both fall gently asleep, with the boy resting on his father's chest, cuddling his firetruck as he falls asleep, with the moon at the window.

It's dream time now.
I'll meet you there.

My love for you
Goes everywhere.

And isn't that just how a parent loves a child, to the moon and back? Lucas Reynolds' rhyming text makes good use of his manly metaphors, but ends with a warm and tender closing, skillfully illustrated by Artist Jeff Mack, who handles both the mighty images and the sweet affection that boy and father share. This is a heartfelt and heartwarming bedtime story especially for dads that lets fathers show just how they feel. Says the Wall Street Journal's reviewer, "Luke Reynolds offers extravagant metaphors for paternal affections . . . a series of tenderhearted comparisons matched with colorful, exuberant pictures by Jeff Mack."

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Focus! Barnaby Never Forgets by Pierre Collet-Derby

OH, BOY! WHERE DID I PUT MY GLASSES?

Barnaby thought he had it all together for school!

I NEVER FORGET WHEN IT'S ICE CREAM NIGHT.

He remembers all the right things--when to write letters to Santa, when to bring in the mail, when to feed his grasshoppers....

Well, maybe not ALWAYS. That wet swimsuit he left on the floor of his room? That jacket he misplaced... somewhere....?

But then, there's always a nice surprise when he finds something he didn't know he'd lost!

...LIKE THE DOLLAR BILL GRANDMA GAVE ME FOR RAKING LEAVES!

There's even a lollipop from his last birthday party at the bottom of his backpack, only slightly fuzzy.

Barnaby catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror. There are his glasses--on his face already. Maybe he won't be late for school after all. He grabs his backpack and runs all the way. But...

WHERE IS EVERYBODY?

The swings in the playground are empty. No kids are lining up at the door. The bell isn't ringing.

Could Barnaby have forgotten something important? Could today be ... SATURDAY?

And that's not the only thing Barnaby forgot, something that will keep young readers giggling right to the end, in author-illustrator Pierre Collet-Derby's brand-new Barnaby Never Forgets (Candlewick Press, 2017). Oops! Getting it (or not getting it) together for school is something we all know about, especially in those hectic back-to-school days, and Collet-Derby's illustrations of his forgetful little bunny boy are empathetic, charming, and lovable, a great read aloud to break the ice and relax the tension after that hectic scurry to school. More Barnaby, please!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sky Star: Shine! by Patrick McDonnell

Little Hoshi was a star.

A sea star who lived in the ocean.

Every night she would gaze at the twinkling stars in the sky above and make a wish."I wish I was there instead of here."

Little Hoshi's heart is heavy, as she lets herself sink down, down, down through the depths of the sea, past bright, pastel corals, green crabs, and an reddish octopus.

She hits bottom.

"Oh, poor little me... a star stuck in the sea.”

Poor benighted Hoshi believes that there is no way she can shine in the dark ocean depths. But then she spots an approaching glimmer. Something is shining, even down at the bottom of the sea. Could it be a star, shedding light in the darkness?

No. But it is an anglerfish, a sort of philosopher Diogenes with his lantern, bearing words of wisdom. Can a kindly old fish kindle hope and light an alternative route to stardom for Little Hoshi?

Best-selling author Patrick McDonnell's just published Shine! (Little, Brown and Company, 2017) begins with the well-promulgated premise of "brighten the corner where you are," as Hoshi suddenly sees her place in the beauty around her. This is a message which may puzzle younger preschoolers a bit, but they will nonetheless rejoice at Hoshi's rise to the top of the sea, where she now feels a greater affinity with the stars in the sky. What really floats this lightweight fable are the illustrations of artist Naoka Stoop, whose glowing paintings on wood incorporate the texture of the base with shimmering, lucent, and lovely illustrations of a bedazzling seascape lit by starlight. "There's no place like home," adds Kirkus Reviews, "even underwater."

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

April 15, 1947: A Great Day for Baseball (Magic Tree House) by Mary Pope Osborne

Jack sat on his front porch steps, his chin in his hand. It was the day for baseball tryouts.

"I've decided not to go," said Jack. "I can't stop thinking about last season's tryouts. I fell down when I swung the bat. Everybody laughed."

"Yeah, well, everybody laughed at me, too," said Annie. "Remember, I threw the ball to the wrong team."

"So maybe neither of us should go," said Jack.

"But our whole family
loves baseball..." said Annie. Before she could finish, something dropped from the sky. A small white ball lay in the grass. "It's a baseball!" she said.

It doesn't take Jack and Annie but a moment to realize that they've been summoned for a mission by Morgan Le Fay, King Arthur's legendary librarian. The magic tree house was back.

Inside the tree house in the woods are two gray baseball caps and a fat book, The History of Baseball, with a bookmark for a page with a photo of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, dated April 15, 1947, and a message from Morgan Le Fay

"'Twas a big day for baseball
So many years ago.
Journey to Ebbets Field
To learn what you should know."

The Morgan message tells the kids that when they put on the caps, they will be seen as two teenaged bat boys for the Brooklyn Dodgers, with instructions to "give the ball with the name to the one who knows the rules of the game." But why? What name? What rules? It's an intriguing mystery for this pair of intrepid time travelers.

When the magic tree house drops them in a grove of trees in a park, Jack and Annie find themselves wearing baggy Dodgers uniforms and long socks and ask two kids from the neighborhood, Olive and Otis, to show them the way to the game.

Jack and Annie, who has to be "Andy" for her job as batboy, race to the ballpark and get busy putting out the Dodgers' uniforms, gloves, bats, and balls, in the dugout. They can't help glancing at the crowd, women in dresses and white gloves, men in suits and hats. The stadium is packed and there's a nervous energy in the stands as the Dodgers and Braves warm up. Then they notice something really different from games back in Frog Creek.

Here, half the stands were filling up with mostly white people. The other half were filling up with mostly black people. Annie pointed to a black Dodgers player signing autographs on baseballs. "Who's he?" she asked.

And of course, it's April 15, 1947, the day of Jackie Robinson's first game as the first black major league player. Jack and "Andy" get to see Robinson fail to hit in two at bats and bear the jeers of the crowd with dignity and courage. Now they know what rules. And then they get to see him score the winning run in the game, and they know what name should be on that ball. Now all they have to do is discover the right person to receive that autographed game ball, in Mary Pope Osborne's latest in series, A Big Day for Baseball (Magic Tree House) (Random House, 2017). And for that they have to follow Otis and Olive home and meet his great, great grandmother.

It was a great day for baseball, and an important day in our history, and Annie and Jack, as well as their young readers, now know why they were there.

"You know... Morgan didn't send us to Brooklyn to become great baseball players," said Jack.

"I know," said Annie. "She sent us there to learn how to be brave and keep going. The rules of the game."

Author Mary Pope Osborne even appends some of the lingo and rules for playing the game of baseball, a sneak peak at the perfect book to pair with this beginning chapter novel in Osborne's best-selling series, its companion nonfiction book, Baseball: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House 29: A Big Day for Baseball (Magic Tree House (R) Fact Tracker).

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Different Cloaks for Different Folks! Super Manny Stands Up! by Kelly DiPucchio

Every day Manny put on a different cape after school.

When he wore his blue cape he was fearless.

In his red cape he battled an army of of zombie bears.

In his purple cape Manny overpowers alien robots from hostile planets. In his green cape he bests forest giants.

Manny is indeed a legend in his own mind. With a wardrobe of capes for all occasions, he is strong and brave enough to defeat any mean monsters and bad guys he meets.

But Manny is a good kid, and since costumes are strictly forbidden (except on special days), at school Manny is cloaked only in the school uniform of superhero capes--

Manny saved his top-secret undercover cape for school.

The INVISIBLE CAPE!

But one day in the school cafeteria, he encounters a new bad guy loudly giving orders to his friend, Small One.

"I SAID MOVE!"

Tall one towered over Small One.

Manny can't move out of his seat. He can't even move his mouth. He looks around for a lunch monitor, but there's no help in sight. At last he manages to speak but his voice comes out very small and squeaky.

"Stop it."

Manny remembers his invisible cape and bumps it up a bit.

"Stop it."

Apparently, mild-mannered reproaches don't work so well with lunchroom bullies. All eyes are now on Manny and the bully. It's time for Super Manny to put up or shut up!

Will Manny find his super self and stand up to face down Tall One?

Once in a while, everyone needs to find his or her inner superhero, and Manny has his moment in Kelly DeiPucchio's newest, Super Manny Stands Up! (Atheneum Books, 2017).   Author-illustrator DiPucchio sets the scene and skillfully builds the suspense for the final shootout in the OK Cafeteria, with a timely, back-to-school message that sometimes bullies just need someone to stand up to them, especially when the small and meek are in need of rescue.

DiPucchio's pictures Manny and his superhero fantasies engagingly in her pencil and water ink illustrations and makes good use of thought balloons and font size to stage Manny's big moment. Youngsters will share Manny's moment of truth gleefully and also appreciate the secondary message that it's good to have some sidekicks on your side when super deeds are in order. Says Publishers Weekly, "When the lunchroom scene unfolds, the images take on surprising and touching drama, creating a powerful moment of truth."

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

That's... Life by Cynthia Rylant

What is life? How does it begin? What does it mean?

LIFE BEGINS SMALL.

Noted author Cynthia Rylant takes on that sweet mystery, starting small, with Earth just shaping up as land and sea, and a small, brave seedling reacing its green leaves up to the sun. It's time to photosynthesize and oxygenize the planet.   Now you're talking!  And walking!

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT LIFE?

A little snake loves his GRASSSSSSSSSSSSSS. The centarian turtle loves the sweet, soft rain on its furrowed back.  The little elephant loves its mother's milk.

LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS EASY.

Nights can be dark and the trees can have thorns. But someone may be waiting for you to find your way home.  And there's always a new morning with something new to see.

LIFE GROWS.

Newberry-winner Cynthia Rylant offers a simple essay on that big subject, Life (Beach Lane Books, 2017), in a hopeful look at the meaning of life, from the "meaning of life" writ large, and in the life of some animals, wild and homey, and presumably we humans as well. Artist Wenzel's illustrations are quite lyrical and lovely, with touches of whimsy and humor in the faces of the living things he chooses to portray the many ways of life. This is a book for with something to say to persons of any age, a philosophical look at the meaning of life for all things and for just one creature that is part of the story of life.Says Kirkus, "A splendid tribute to the world and its splendors, with something to offer audiences of a broad range of ages."

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

In the Swim: AlphaPrints: Fun In The Sun by Jo Ryan, et al

ELEPHANTS PLAYING IN THE POOL,

SPLASHING AROUND, KEEPING COOL.

Somewhere by the water is the place to be in summer, and in Jo Ryan's Alphaprints Fun in the Sun! (St. Martin's Press/Priddy Books, 2017), a whimsical crab with a thumbprint shell, feathery legs, and clothespin pincers is the guide to all the characters having fun in the sun.

Tactile illustrations based on touch-and-feel thumbprints, sandpapery castles, shiny, blue water splashes from elephant feet, and brown bear fur tempt little fingers to touch, as the elephants, bears, and crabs enjoy playing in the sand and water and a cookout on the beach.

Jolly rhymes reinforce vocabulary, and bright touch-and-feel illustrations fill the pages of this sturdy board book. Youngsters too young for surfing will have a chance to get in the swim of sand and sun fun in this latest in Roger Priddy's popular AlphaPrints series.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Getting It Together for School: Zombelina: School Days by Kristyn Crow

IT'S ME, ZOMBELINA!

ALL READY FOR SCHOOL!

Zombelina gets it all together--her school supplies are all stashed in her backpack, and she emerges, ready for the school bus, rather well turned out--for a zombie.

"YOU LOOK DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS," SAYS HER MOM.

In fact, Zombelina keeps it together as she break-dances down the aisle of the bus, waving at her friends.

Zombelina doesn't have to worry about slighting a friend. Her top half sits with one, while her bottom half shares a seat with another.

At school Zombelina's teacher Ms. Roth introduces a new student to the class. His name is Morty, and he's literally looking rather blue, until Zombelina raises her hand with a cheery wave.

Whoops! There goes one hand, sailing down the aisle!

But Morty fetches it from under his desk without a blink, and Zombelina chooses just the right book for silent reading--Brains! In fact, she keeps her nose in the book and leaves it there, even after Ms. Roth calls time. Zombelina sticks her nose back on just ahead of Show-and-Tell Talent Time.

Zombelina is ready. She's put together a killer-diller dance routine.

MY HIP-HOP'S TO DIE FOR!

However, her HIP-HOP ends with a PLOP! Body parts DROP! Her eyes ROLL! However, Zombelina pulls herself together like a pro.

I HOLD IT TOGETHER LIKE A REAL DANCER.

But Zombelina's break dance routine is a hard act to follow, and poor Morty has a serious case of stage fright. But Zombelina whispers to him that nobody's act can fall apart like hers! Go for it! she says. Break a leg!

The show-and-tell must go on, in Kristyn Crow's latest zombie tale, Zombelina School Days (Bloomsbury Press, 2017). Zombie tropes drop as fast as Zombelina's body parts, in this latest spoof of zombie mania for the primary school set which ends in a jolly back-to-school party in which everybody finds their own groovy moves. Caldecott artist Molly Idle's illustrations manage to make even an, er, loose-jointed zombie look graceful, and young readers will wish their show-and-tell sessions could be half as much fun as Zombelina's. "This zombie may not be able to keep her body together, but she can sure keep her head in delicate situations and be a good friend," adds Kirkus Reviews.

For more zingy zombie stories, pair this new one with any of Crow and Idle's zesty tales of Zombelina here.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Man Behind the Muppets: I Am Jim Henson by Brad Meltzer

"Growing up in Mississippi, I used to love to watch birds. I even made my own book where I listed every bird I saw and added my own drawing.

Wanna know what else I loved? Laughing."

Youngsters may not know who Jim Henson was, but they know who the Muppets are, especially Kermit the Frog, Cookie Monster, and Elmo. Brad Meltzer's little mini bio, I am Jim Henson (Ordinary People Change the World) (Dial Books, 2017) give preschool and primary graders both a look at the creator of those iconic characters of Sesame Street fame and the genre of the biography as well.

This little book describes Henson as a kid who loved movies and funny cartoons, who loved to draw and make things, a kid whose grandparents were the always willing to play audience for his performances and introduced him to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy. And when the Hensons got a television set, young Hensen delighted in the comedy of Sid Caesar and Ernie Kovacs and the early television puppet show "Kukla, Fran, and Ollie," so it was no surprise that as a young man, Hensen made his way into television as a puppeteer.

Henson got his first shot at the big time as the warm-up for the early "Tonight" show, and soon Kermit and Company were drafted to teach letters, numbers, and life skills to the tots of the television age, and the rest--The Count, Miss Piggy, Big Bird, and all--is history. Jim Henson was a talented guy who embraced his inner nerd and created a whole world of inventive puppets who are still "making magic" and teaching kids what they need to know.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

On the Beach: Beach Bugs: A Sunny Pop-Up Book by David A Carter

What's snugger than a bug in a rug?

Bugs in the sand bucket on a sunny beach!

And David A. Carter's Beach Bugs: A Sunny Pop-up Book by David A. Carter (David Carter's Bugs) (Simon and Schuster) gives kids about to make a trip to the beach a chance to meet Carter's cuter-than-cute bugs there.

SUMMER IS HERE AND IT'S TIME TO PLAY!

LET'S SEE WHAT THE BUGS ARE DOING TODAY
!

The sun is popping up high in the sky, with just a few fleecy clouds to keep the sun company. Bugs are busy popping up everywhere on the beach, blinking and twinkling from the sand bucket, shootin' the curl, riding their boogie boards to the beach, bouncing on the roller coaster, bicycling down the beach, and snacking from the picnic basket.

And just wait! Fireworks are going to be popping up when the sun goes down.

Carter's Bug Books are noted for their skillful paper design, with sturdy paper stock pop-ups, flaps, and twinkling bug eyes that brighten the beach scene. For seaside novices of the preschool variety, new to the sand and surf, this sturdy board book offers a surprise with each page design, now a perky pop-up, there a surprise behind each flap, with some twinkling pyrotechnics for the grand finale of a day at the beach. Pack it in the beach bag and you're good to go!

Others of Carter's bug book series include How Many Bugs in a Box?: A Pop-up Counting Book (David Carter's Bugs), School Bugs: An Elementary Pop-up Book by David A. Carter (David Carter's Bugs), Alpha Bugs: A Pop-up Alphabet (David Carter's Bugs), and those back-to-school School Bugs: An Elementary Pop-up Book by David A. Carter (David Carter's Bugs).

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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Off to School! K Is for Kindergarten by Erin Dailey

ARE YOU COUNTING THE DAYS UNTIL KINDERGARTEN?

A IS FOR AT LAST!

B
IS FOR BOUNCING BALLS!

Erin Dailey's K is for Kindergarten (Sleeping Bear Alphabet Books) (Sleeping Bear Press, 2017) takes the rising Kindertgartner through the all important alphabet of school doings all right, from A to Z, with C is for Classroom and D is for Directions (like those School Rules to follow), Q is for Quiet Time and T is for Terrific Teachers.

But this book not only offers practice in alphabetical order and initial sounds. but also includes a lot of work with numbers, shapes, and other concepts as well. Each letter's page features a Kindergarten Countdown and a Kindergarten Challenge with plenty to do. For example, the Letter A has kids marking the first day of Kindergarten on a calendar and the current day, counting the days between, and making a paper chain with the days' numbers in between on each to remove as the days count down. The Kindergarten Challenge tells them to count the days until the 100th day of school and mark it with an X as well, and then suggest they learn 100 new words, one each day, by then. Each of the activities is imaginative, with some hands-on activities and some intellectual concepts, and with something for everyone that children will especially enjoy along the way.

Joseph Cowman's muted retro illustrations offer an attractive alternative to the usual cartoon kids found in most Kindergarten stories, and this book provides a lot for parent and child to do, also offering an opportunity to draw out feelings about the start of school that will help ease the transition to Kindergarten.

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Monday, August 07, 2017

It's All Relative! Big Little Hippo by Valeri Gorbachev

LITTLE HIPPO WAS THE YOUNGEST IN THE FAMILY. HE WAS THE SMALLEST, TOO.

To Little Hippo it seems that everyone is big except him.

His brothers and sisters are big. His mother and father are bigger. The other animals at the watering hole are really big, too.

Old Crocodile isn't tall, but he is very, very long. Giraffe isn't so long, but he is very, very tall. Elephant is very, very big and long and tall.

"EVERYONE IS BIGGER THAN ME," GRUMBLED LITTLE HIPPO.

"MOMMY, WHY AM I SO LITTLE?"

Mommy tries to reassure her baby that he will grow just as big as his father someday, but Little Hippo just wants to BIG right now!

A little sulky, Little Hippo stomps off to get away from all the big ones, but he finds the grass around the watering hole is taller than he is, too, and the trees are so tall he can hardly see where they end near the sky. Little Hippo dejectedly hangs his head so low it practically touches the ground.

But looking down, he sees someone way smaller than he is. It's a little beetle, lying on his back, waving his legs helplessly in the air. Poor little bitty Beetle! Little Hippo can help! He nudges the little beetle with his nose until the little creature turns back over on his feet.

"WOW! THANK YOU, BIG HIPPO!" HE SAID.

Suddenly Little Hippo sees himself in a new perspective. It's all in the point of view, in Valeri Gorbachev's simple little story of a changed self-concept, Big Little Hippo (Sterling Books, 2017). This is a simple little story with a big theme that size and importance are relative to whom you're with and what you do, a lesson which youngsters need as they (slowly) grow up. With his old-fashioned soft and rounded illustrations done in smudgy blackline drawings and pastel palette, Gorbachev's is a sweet and soothing message that even little ones can make a difference for those around them. "The story has just the right amount of predictability and repetition to engage young readers and encourage participation," says Kirkus Reviews.

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Sunday, August 06, 2017

You Can't Top Perfect! Green Pants by Kenneth Kraegel

Jameson only ever wore green pants.

His closet reveals pairs and pairs of identical green pants on the hangers.  When his mom occasionally tries to replace them with pants in other colors, he discreetly disposes of the replacements. He has a reason.

When he wore green pants, he could do anything.

In his green pants Jameson surprises and amazes his friends with his leaping dunks of the basketball. He performs perfect somersaults and breaks the water flawless when he dives. And when he powers up his boombox, his dancing is delightful. All done with Green Pants Power.

But one day Jameson's favorite cousin Amanda introduces him to bride-to-be Jo.

Jo had the nicest smile Jameson had ever seen.

She asks him if he would like to be in her wedding. Jameson is delighted, although he knows nothing about weddings. His mother fills him in later. Weddings are quite the big deal, she says. There is a lot of standing still, she adds. He has to smile for every photograph and there will be lots and lots of them. And he has to use good manners at the wedding supper.

"No problem!" said Jameson.

"Jameson," said Mom, "the tuxedo is black!"

"BLACK PANTS? Are you sure?"

Jameson is pleased with the rest of the tuxedo--the shirt, jacket, shoes, and all. He really likes the way it looks with his green pants. He looks sharp!

But Mom reminds him that he absolutely has to wear the black pants for the wedding.

On the big day Jameson puts on his tuxedo, all but the black pants. He still hasn't decided whether he CAN wear the black pants. Still in his green pants, holding the black pants over his arm on the steps of the church, his mother leaves him.

"I know you will figure it out," she says.

Jo even comes to the door, her smile more beautiful than ever, her eyes bright with happiness.

"I'll see you inside, Jameson!" she says.

The pressure is on! How will Jameson manage to keep his green pants on while meeting the dress code of the wedding? Young readers will get a good giggle out of the BIG REVEAL, in Kenneth Kraegel's latest, Green Pants (Candlewick Press, 2017). Author Kraegel builds some genuine suspense as Jameson is left, still indecisive, at the church door, and artist Kraegel's charming illustrations plant some funny sight gags of Jameson's rejected pants--a red pair worn by a neighbor's dog and a blue pair woven into a bird's nest in a tree along the way, but the best double-page spread shows how Jameson manages to keep his green pants while fitting right in with the wedding party. "This quirky kid and his loving family will instantly endear themselves to readers," says Kirkus in their starred review.

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Saturday, August 05, 2017

Back to School: Pete the Cat And The Surprise Teacher by James Dean

Pete is ready for school.

"Where's Mom?" Pete asks.

"She has a surprise for you," said Pete's Dad.

And Dad is right. When Pete walks into his room at school, there's his Mom standing in front of the class.

"I'm your substitute teacher!" she says.

As a last-minute sub, Mrs. Cat needs some help from Pete and his class. She asks them what they are supposed to be doing first. Pete volunteers that Art comes first, and they all agree, so Pete's mom follows their directions down the long hall.

The line winds up in front to two big doors, with a sign that says GYM. But the gym teacher is cool with that change in the schedule.

"Stay and play!" says the gym teacher.

After a basketball game, Pete's Mom tries to get the class back on track. But the line stops at a door that says MUSIC. The music teacher smiles and invites them to stay and sing!

By the time all the songs are sung, Pete's classmates are hungry and it's time to fill their tummies. They lead Pete's Mom to the lunchroom.

It's all good, as Pete would say, but will his class get to Art before it's time to get on the bus?

The whole day is a surprise, especially for their substitute teacher, in James Dean's Pete the Cat and the Surprise Teacher (My First I Can Read) (Harper, 2017), in which Mrs. Cat at least gets to know the school. This inexpensive paperback book is perfect as a take-off point for a welcoming schoolwide tour to introduce new students, and as a My First I-Can-Read book, this one is just right for emergent readers to learn to read the school signs as well. For kids just venturing into independent reading, this is a welcome title in Harper's I-Can-Read library, now celebrating 60 years of launching new readers.

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Friday, August 04, 2017

Finding Your Better Half: My Little Half Moon by Douglas Todd Jennerich

It's like the Teddy bear who is missing one eye. Or like your favorite puzzle with a missing piece. It's like a double-dip ice cream cone after the first scoop falls off. Incomplete and somehow sad.

ONE NIGHT I LOOKED UP AT HALF OF THE MOON.

The boy must have seen a full moon sometime--because half a moon just doesn't seem right.

NO ONE TO GLOW WITH AND EVERYONE KNOWING,
HOW SAD IS THE FACE THAT THE HALF-A-MOON'S SHOWING.

The boy worries that the little half-moon is lonely. He heads outside to see if the other half of the moon has shown up, but he sees nothing different. He camps out with a cup of cocoa and some toys, to keep the little moon company. It's lonely for him and he sees nothing new up there. He almost gives up.

And then one night when he goes out, he sees--not the little half-moon, but a full round moon. Ah! Now the moon looks just right, and tonight he can rest.

A HALF MOON IS NICE, BUT A FULL MOON IS BEST.

Douglas Todd Jennerich's My Little Half-Moon (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2017) is a sweet story, told in rhythmic, rhyming couplets, and illustrated piquantly by Kate Berube, in blackline drawings with soft water-colored nighttime hues. In a parallel story told only in the pictures, a girl in blue keeps watch on the moon from the forest, and under the bright sky the two become friends who rendezvous and swing way up high, almost to the moon. This little book is a light, first look at the lunar cycle (well, half of it at least).

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Whose Hatchlings Are They? Daddy Honk Honk! by Rosalinde Bonnet


IT IS THE END OF SUMMER IN THE ARCTIC. SNOW WILL SOON COVER THE TUNDRA.

EVERYONE IS ENJOYING THE LAST SUNNY DAYS.

Aput the Arctic fox is catching those last warm rays, feeling his fur grow warm as he lies on his back and sleepily watches the Canada geese flocking up to fly south, Suddenly he spots something left behind.

It's a speckled goose egg, slow to hatch.

But when Aput picks it up, the shell cracks right down the middle and a tiny blue goose pokes his head out, opens his eyes, sees Aput, and says...

"DADDY HONK HONK!"

Yep. Baby geese imprint on the first thing they see, and for this gosling, Aput is his parent! The fox's first response is to protest.

"I AM NOT YOUR DADDY!"

But the baby goose is a total cutie, and Aput is charmed. He sets off to find the gosling a family and fortunately, there are plenty of other tundra sunbathers who are all too eager to give him parental advice. A mother lemming is up to her eyebrows with babies, but she does have an extra fuzzy pink cap to offer, pointing out that it is very important to keep new babies warm. Olaf and Lilly the musk oxen offer some seedy grass to feed the baby, and the gosling chows down right away.

"DADDY CHOMP CHOMP!"

Nanook the Polar Bear is trying to do her morning yoga meditation. She's annoyed by the honking, and suggests that Aput needs to put that baby down for a nap posthaste. As Aput makes his charge a grassy cradle, Granny Puffin puts in her two-cents' worth of parental advice.

"YOU SHOULD ROCK HIM!" SHE SUGGESTS.

But the gosling is too excited to sleep, and seeing someone in the water, she jumps in, right on the belly of a sleeping walrus and slides down his tummy into the sea, which she takes to like an, er, gosling to water. Soon she is joined by a young narwhal, and the pool party begins.

"DADDY SPLISH SPLASH!"

"YOU MUST ALWAYS KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BABY!" CAUTIONS EDDA THE WHALE, FLIPPING THE BABY BACK TO APUT WITH HER FLUKE.

Finally the baby goose begins to tucker out, and Aput pulls out Andersen's Wild Swans as a bedtime story. All his friends gather round to listen as the sun sets over the tundra. It is a lovely scene.

"THIS BABY NEEDS A BEAUTIFUL NAME!" THEY ALL AGREE.

And Aurora it is, as the no-longer orphaned gosling settles down, surrounded by her new family, in Rosalinde Bonnet's charming Daddy Honk Honk! (Dial Books, 2017). This tale of accidental parenthood has a lot to say about being a father and about being an adoptive parent, but also about how it often "takes a village" to provide all a young one needs to grow up. Bonnet's story is humorous, filled with a recurring chorus of "Daddy Honk Honks," and a plentitude of advice from Aput's opinionated neighbors, but there's a warm reassurance for youngsters that little Aurora will have everything she needs to grow in her new home.

Bonnet's artwork is simple, done mostly in blackline drawings that border on the minimal, contrasted with the bright colors of flowers in the background. Illustrator Bonnet paces the story with cartoon-paneled pages set against contrasting full two-page spreads which show off the blooming tundra, the setting sun over the ocean, and the blended blues and greens of the northern lights that give little Aurora her name, or as Publishers Weekly puts it succinctly, "The ink-and-watercolor drawings are a mixture of atmospheric minimalism and impressive detail." This is a sweet story of love lost and found that fortuitously ends with the baby sleeping soundly for a very good goodnight.

Share this story with Ryan T. Higgins' hilarious hatchling goose hit, Mother Bruce (see review here.)

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Back to School? What the Dinosaurs Did At School by Refe and Susan Tuma

HAVE YOU EVER COME HOME FROM SCHOOL TO FIND YOUR DINOSAURS SOMEWHERE ELSE THAN WHERE YOU LEFT THEM?

Those pesky nocturnal plastic prehistoric reptiles are at it again.

This time they have sneaked out of their cabinet at night and clambered into your backpack, waiting by the door, all ready for the school day to come.

Smuggling toys into school is not allowed. But these stowaway dinos are truly stealthy. A few minutes alone in the cubbies, and they are free to roam. They hide until school is out, and everyone has gone. Then...

DINOSAURS ARE LOOSE IN THE SCHOOL!

They hit the supplies cabinet first, and have their very own arts and crafts festival, using up most of the paints and leaving the brushes matted and drying stiff. They snack on paper and knock all the books off their shelves. The library shelves are next to get the same treatment.

Moving along, they head for the gym, where they get the balls rolling--soccer balls, kickballs, basketballs, softballs, all over the floor.

NO MATTER WHAT WE DO, WE HAVE TO KEEP THOSE DINOSAURS OUT OF THE....

Uh-oh, they've already found the janitor's closet. Mops, buckets, cleaning sprays, and oh, no, something white and foamy is floating everything out onto the floor of the hall.

They hit the science lab and find all the wrong stuff!

OH, NO! DINOSAURS, DON'T MIX THOSE CHEMICALS!

But then--catastrophe strikes the cafeteria. The dinosaurs have discovered bowls of spaghetti and pots of marinara sauce! It's a dinosaur dinner disaster!

If the teachers find this mess, your dinosaurs will be doomed to the dreaded--

DRAWER OF NO RETURN!

Yes, if the teachers catch them in the act, your dinos are doomed to that desk drawer where forbidden toys go in but never come out, in Refe and Susan Tuma's second book, What the Dinosaurs Did at School (Little, Brown and Company, 2017), the sequel to their popular hit, What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night. The Tumas, famous for their humorous tableaux composed of a full set of toy dinosaurs, put them to good use in this funny story of prehistoric monsters running amok in an elementary school. With the comic photos of their colorful toy dinos shown making merry mischief in an elementary school, new students, especially new Kindergartners, will giggle at the dinosaurs' doings while actually getting a vicarious tour of the school along the way. Going on a schoolwide hunt for dinosaurs may become a new first-day-of-school tour tradition. As Publishers Weekly opines, "The compositions are excellent, the props adorable... and the hyperbolic narration sustains a fever pitch."

Share this one with the similarly themed The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School (see reviews here).

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Back to the Future--Again! Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor

Bran and I shared a smile. A blaze of heat and tenderness and something else I couldn't yet name began to flood through me. What existed between us had survived through time and space. I thought ... maybe...we could become something legendary.

But the thing about legends is that they rarely have a happy ending.

And Hope and Bran have more than young love in common with those legendary lovers Romeo and Juliet. Hope is now a member of the Viators, a family dedicated to fighting the forces of the dark, usually in the form of the rival gang, the Timeslippers, traveling back in time to forestall events which could destroy the world of their own time. Bran is the estranged scion of the Timeslippers, controlled by his evil mother Celia. When, after a long absence, Bran appears at the Highland games, Hope knows that there is more than a manly Scots contest afoot, and she soon learns that Bran and the members of her Scots family have a new mission, to go back to 1895 and disable an "enhancement" invented by Nicola Tesla which would give the Timeslippers immense power over the past.

Time is short. There is no time for martial training, as there was before their earlier visit to rescue Hope's mother from captivity from the court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, so with some frantic dressmaking and lessons in Victorian manners, the Viators descend to the subterranean tunnels beneath their manor to the magical point where the nexus where the magical ley lines intersect, forming their own "wrinkle in time," through which they must pass into the past.

I'd allowed myself to forget the part that comes just before the gray lassitude that whispered. "Give up, give in."

Wouldn't I give anything to avoid what came next: bone and nerve and flesh knit together by a force greater than any that had ever existed. Oh God, the pain...

But after the initial inconvenience of being chased by stampeding cattle into a Victorian abattoir, Hope finds the Gilded Age fascinating. Despite her constricting undergarments, the fashions are flattering, and she finds it easy to move through the upper crust of New York society--Vanderbilts, Astors, and all--as they search for a way to get close to the genius Tesla and his secret "enhancement" to destroy it before the Timeslippers capture Bran and gain the gadget for themselves.

It all comes down to a nip-and-tuck, slash-and-dash, shoot-and-scoot confrontation, chasing down subterranean tunnels and walking the plank between two Victorian edifices, despite the hazards of Victorian corsetry, along with the tragic death of the head of their family in the explosive destruction of Tesla's earth-shaking device.

In this sequel to her well-received first in series, Into the Dim (read my 2016 review here),  Janet B. Taylor's forthcoming Sparks of Light (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) offers romance and rip-roaring adventure in the dark and dim corridors of history. Fast-paced, in Taylor's sometimes rococo language, there's rarely a dull moment in this historical sci fi thriller, with side divergences into appalling aspects of the late 19th century such as Hope's confinement in a Victorian insane asylum for women and her discovery of the calculating bartering of rich young brides among the fabulously wealthy upper class. Still, through it all, there is the strong undercurrent of family loyalty and Hope and Bran's continuing love story.

Keep your Way-Back Machine warmed up. Occasional flashbacks to ancient times in which Hope and Bran bond as children foreshadow a third book which may tie up the loose ends to this page-turning, century-roaming series.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Winning, Winning, Winning! Pig the (Pug) Winner by Aaron Blabey

Yes, Pig was a winner.
He just had to win.
And nothing would stop him.
Oh, where to begin?


You can't win 'em all, says the old saw? "Win some, lose some, they say?

Not in Pug's book!

Believe it or not,
He was quite hard to beat.
And the reason was simple...
Yes, Pug was a cheat.

Pig the Pug is not an only dog. His housemate is a gentle dachshund named Trevor, a long-suffering pooch in more ways than one. Pug competes over everything--toys and treats and time on lap--and in a race, he's not above planting a well-placed hind foot in the face of his competitor. He's worse than a sore loser; in his mind he never loses. And if he is not declared the winner, he pitches a tantrum until the real winner gets tired of the fit and hands over the prize. Of course, Pug wastes no time in starting to boast he's the real winner again. Winning is not the best thing; it's the only thing!

Poor Trevor tries to suggest that they can play just for fun, but Pig has only one answer:

"IT AIN'T FUN TILL I'VE WON!"

And one day even eating becomes an Olympic event.

When their dishes are filled with their doggy dinners, Trevor begins to eat daintily, but Pig wolfs his food, determined to be the first to finish.

He gobbles his kibble!

Pig swallows his sausages whole hog without bothering to savor a morsel, and unfortunately he bites off more than he can chew.

He swallows his whole bowl!

It's little Trevor to the rescue with the dachshund version of the Heimlich Maneuver. Just as he's turning blue, Pig gasps and begins to breathe again.

Has Pig the Pug learned his lesson? Will he finally lose his obsession with winning? Young readers will hope not after laughing their way through Aaron Blabey's Pig the Winner (Pig the Pug) (Scholastic Books, 2017). Pig the Pug is the kind of protagonist we love to hate, and readers will be rooting to read Trevor's next triumph. Author-illustrator Aaron Blabey's Pig is definitely a winner in the picture book trade, beginning with his recent Pig the Pug (see review here), and there are two more in this series waiting in the wings in Australia in which young American readers can anticipate the egotistical Pig's getting another jolly comeuppance. Says Kirkus Reviews, "The goggle-eyed cartoon illustrations are fun, funny, and appealingly grotesque in their exaggerated goofiness, and they are a good match for the rhyming text."

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