Saturday, February 16, 2019

Going for the Green! Esme' and the Emerald Fairy: The Search for the Sparkle Stone by Sara Clese and Lara Ede

Across the bridge almost hidden from sight,
stood a small museum with flags of green and white.

The museum kept all kind of things, from books to giant bones.
But best and most amazing were its sparkling precious stones!

The museum's curators, the Emerald Fairy and shy little Esme', are charged with keeping the gemstones sparkling clean. Little Esme' is too modest to admit that her wand's magic has the power to keep the precious stones sparkling, but when the wand stops working, the precious stones lose their bright glimmer. What to do?

Esme' and the Fairy call in their friends. Susie Fairy and Daphne appear and the search for the one book that holds the secret to the Mystery of the Sparkling Stone. Will Esme' find the courage to release her wand from the great White Cave?

All that glitters is not gold, and in Sara Clese's and Lane Ede's Esme the Emerald Fairy and the Search for the Sparkle Stone (Sparkle Town Fairies) (Make Believe Ideas, 2017), shy Esme' has the courage and all the right stuff to complete their mission, and the museum is soon aglow again in this entry into the Sparkle Town Fairies series. For kids who like more than a bit of bling in their picture books, there's plenty of sparkle and glitter from a giant emerald and two-way movable sequins on the cover and sprinkled inside this dazzling toy-and-movable book. Like their heroine Esme', young readers may need sunglasses as they read this one!

Other books in this glitzy series include Sparkle Town Fairies Rosie the Ruby Fairy, Daphne the Diamond Fairy and the Catwalk Catastrophe (Sparkle Town Fairies), and Sparkle Town Fairies Alice the Amber Fairy.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Vive La Difference! Sorrel and the Sleepover by Corrinne Averiss

Sorrel had never had a friend who was just the same, until she met Sage.

Squirrel girls Sorrel and Sage share the same favorite games and songs at school. They finish each other's sentences. They even have the exact same stripes on their tails.

So Sorrel is pleased when she gets an invitation to spend the night with Sage. What could go wrong? They are just alike.

But Sage's house is different--a huge fir tree with a thick trunk and lots of branches, filled with lots and lots of grownup family and dozens of cousins!

"I can't wait to stay at your house next time," said Sage.

Sorrel squirmed....

Sorrel's house is very different from Sage's. The trunk of her tree is skinny and wobbly in the wind. The branches are lumpy and some are broken. And Sorrel lives there alone with only her mother.

"Best friends don't have differences," Sorrel thought.

Sorrell comes up with some, er, creative reasons why she can't invite Sage can't come over: Her mom has come down with an upset stomach from eating bad nuts; a crowd of cousins are coming for the weekend; a water pipe has broken and flooded the kitchen. Finally, Sorrel comes up with a whopper: her mom has just painted their tree pink and they can't touch the wet paint.

But the next day, as Sage and Sorrel play hide-and-squeak, the wind blows a bunch of pink petals their way. Sage scampers off excitedly toward the source of the petals.

"This must be from your house. It's so... BEAUTIFUL!"

And Sorrel's modest little tree is beautiful, loaded with pink blossoms. Her mother invites Sage in for tea, and when Sage politely compliments her friend's mother on her choice of paint, the truth comes out. Sorrel explains that she was afraid Sage wouldn't be her friend if she knew her house was so different.

"You're so lucky. I don't know anyone who sleeps in pink clouds!" says Sage.

There's a insightful little lesson into what makes for good friends in Corrinne Averiss' Sorrel and the Sleepover (Barron's, 2018). Despite the cell phone which can be spotted on one page, artist Susan Varley's charming soft ink and water-colored illustrations stick to a muted retro style that alternates between spot-art on the verso pages and full-frame pictures on each recto, and her gentle jumper- and plaid-clad schoolgirl squirrels perfectly suit this quiet story of friendship found.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Some Bunny Loves You! I Love You, Funny Bunny! by Sean Julian

Some Bunny loves Funny Bunny...

... from whiskers to toes...

And, goodness knows... all the way to that pinkish nose. This Funny Bunny has style and a winning smile...

All their time is hugging time and singing time, reading time, and especially at bedtime.

Some big Bunny loves all the times with Funny Bunny!

Sean Julian's sweet board book is filled with soft and fuzzy love in his I Love You, Funny Bunny (ZonderKidz, 2019) in a rollicking, frolicking rhyming book that any bunny and every bunny would love. Julian's softly textured big bunny and baby bunny are an endearing pair of parent and child who clearly enjoy being together, reading, wrestling, talking and singing through their day.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Um + Gurm =Threep Frints: Best Frints at Skrool by Antoinette Portis

On planet Boborp, childrinx go to skrool.

... to listen when their skreecher spleeks...
... and to keep their tentacles to themselves.

Sometimes childrinx make new frints.

Yelfred and Omek were best frints at skrool, until... one recess in which Yelfred makes a new best frint--Q-B.

Q-B is COOL.

And poor Omek is out in the COLD, frintship wise. Yelfred and Q.B. split their yunches with each other. Omek sadly eats alone.

Yelfred and Q-B are playing the old "gurm's company, threep's a crowd" game.

Other stroodents begin to share too much of their yunches with each other. Spewd flies through the air and hits some childrinx in their faces. It's a . . .


The Boborpian yunch ladies are even less harpy than usual....! And the Boborpian skrool skreechers are not pleased with their stroodents.

Q-B and Yelfred get a long time-out by the Quiet Wall. And Q-B, Omek and Yelfred realize that they didn't get much of a yunch.

By the time skrool is out, all threep of them are hungry. Starping, actually. It's time to share some spewd the frintly way, as the threep new frints head over to Yelfred's house for some after-skrool smacks.

And all's well that ends well in a fun match of eye-ball in the peedle patch between the threep pals, in Antoinette Portis' latest, Best Frints at Skrool (Roaring Brook Press, 2018), the sequel to her first book in series, Best Frints in the Whole Universe. All kids in the primary grades will love artist Antoinette Portis' quirky alien kids, worm sandwiches and all, and second and third graders, who've likely developed a taste for wordplay, will delight in author Portis' Boborpian lingo, especially "skreecher" for "teacher" and "spewd" for "food." Funny endpapers offer more vocabulary lessons in how to spleek Boborpian--algazator (as in Later, 'zator!) bloox (books) and the Sturp signs (Whatever you're doing, don't do it anymore!) and how to count from um to gazango (one to ten) in Boborpian.

This blook is lotz of phun for primary skroodents!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Living Two Lives: Hedy Lamarr's Double Life by Laurie Wallmark

Cameras flashed. The glamorous movie star stepped out of her limousine and onto the red carpet. Everyone who was anyone in Hollywood was there.

Journalists and photographers crowded around her. If they only knew the story, the true story, behind the world's most beautiful woman.

In another world, some teacher might have seen that little Hedwig Kiesler was a gifted student and she might grown up to be the loyal and brilliant assistant to some noted male physicist. But even though her father encouraged her interest in science, in Austria at that time most girls didn't do physics. Instead, what people noticed was that bright little Hedy loved to be on stage and that she was undeniably, incredibly beautiful.

So Hedy grew up to be a movie star.

After a few films made in Europe, young Hedwig Kiesler was discovered by Louis B. Mayer, American movie mogul, and invited to come to Hollywood. The brainy young actress learned English in six months, changed her name to Hedy Lamarr, and starred with Charles Boyer in a hit movie, Algiers. Hedy was suddenly a star, but with her charming accent and striking looks, she was soon stuck in stereotyped roles as the exotic foreign beauty, which she gamely played in film after film.

"People seem to think because I have a pretty face I'm stupid....I have to work twice as hard to convince people that I have something resembling a brain."

Hedy was bored with being beautiful.

For a diversion, she returned to her childhood interest in science and inventions. There was a war on by this time--World War II--and she became especially interested in the challenge of designing electronic control systems for torpedoes that the Nazis would not be able to intercept and disable before they hit their target.

And then Hedy had an idea that has literally changed electronic communications to this day. What if the torpedoes' radio guidance system sent a series of synchronized coded signals, switching radio frequencies with lightning-fast speed too rapidly to be intercepted by the enemy? Working with another amateur scientist, George Antheil, Lamarr conceived a completely new system called frequency-hopping spread spectrum. Not fully implemented in naval warfare at the time, frequency hopping was a technology whose time was soon to come with the beginning of the Soviet-American space race:

Frequency-hopping spread spectrum is the technology that helps keep phone calls and texts private. It's the trick that allows secure wireless communications between computers, spacecraft, and the Internet.

So if you are a military missileer, an astronaut or a drone pilot, or just someone sending texts from your cell phone or logging in on your laptop, you can thank Hedy Lamarr, the beautiful movie star who loved science. Things have changed a bit for women in science today. But Hedy's inventive idea is with us still--in our pockets or purses and all over our houses, our cars, and our world. In 2014 Hedy Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

"All creative people want to do the unexpected," she said.

Just in time for March's Women's Month, Laurie Wallmark's Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor (People Who Shaped Our World) (Sterling Children's Books, 2019) tells the fascinating story of the movie star who indeed re-invented herself in a second life and earned a place as one of the most important inventors of her time. With Katy Wu's lively illustrations of glamour girl Hedy and engaging book design, Wallmark's just published picture biography portrays the surprising story of the movie star who doubled as a singularly significant scientist of her century. In this highly readable biography for both leisure and research reading, author Wallmark appends serious backmatter--with a Timeline, "Secrets of the Secret Communication System," Selective Bibliography, and Additional Reading about Other Women in STEM, and even a complete videography of Lamarr's films.

Laurie Wallmark's other exemplary books about women in science include Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (People Who Shaped Our World) (see review here) and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Let Me Count the Ways: How Do I Love Thee? by Jennifer Adams

I love you with a whisper and song

and a roar...

I love thee by stars and firelight...

By spring's first snow drops

and fall's red leaves.

Channeling the feel and form of the Romantic Period's Elizabeth Barrett Browning's famous love poem, Jennifer Adams' How Do I Love Thee? (Balzer and Bray, 2018) re-shapes the original lines of the famous poem into a deft expression of childhood's affection for friends. Three different children share fun and exploration and the beauty of their outdoor world in ways that young readers can intuitively recognize as love for each other in the scenes they share, "with each breath," or as Browning put it, "Every day's most quiet need, childhood's faith."

Artist Christopher Siles Neal's delicate, evocative portrayals of childhood's lively and quiet moments through the year have a moving style children will feel in their bones. Author Jennifer Adams retains much of Browning's writing intact, but while retaining the cadence and feel of the original, uses child-friendly comparisons in place of the more romantic lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's nineteenth century poem.

Of Christopher Neal's artwork, Kirkus Reviews says, with "... softly colored in earth tones, the illustrations mix the real and the fantastical."


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Injured Pride! Tallulah's Ice Skates by Marilyn Singer

Tallulah loved ballet class.

But today her mind is far away from her plie and jete'.

Tallulah's eyes are on the skies, where snow is falling, along with the temperature. The town pond is frozen over at last, and she and her friend Kacie have a skate date after class.

Kacie was better at tap. But Tallulah was better at ballet.

"I'm sure we're both great at skating. After all, skating's a lot like dancing," she thought.

As she walks to the pond with her mom and little brother Beckett, Tallulah can't help imagining herself spinning on the ice like an Olympic star, her full red skirt standing out almost like her tutu does when she twirls. She can't wait to try it. But Kacie just wants to goof around, doing bunny hops. Tallulah demonstrates that she can already do a sliding lunge. She shows off her slide as Kacie tries it and takes a fall. Tallulah skates off toward fresh ice to try her spin. She poses, one toe of her skate pressed into the ice.

"Now presenting that graceful Super Skater--the one, the only, Tallulah!"

Tallulah starts her twirl and finds herself wobbling. Seriously. What's wrong?

An older boy skates by and points out that ice skating is different from ballet. You have to keep the whole blade on the ice, he says loftily, as he executes a perfect twirl with one foot above his head.

"All you ballet girls make the same mistake!" he remarks.

HMMPH! Incensed, Tallulah decides to show off the perfect arabesque she does in ballet.

Thunk! Tallulah lands on her backside. She's not hurt, but her pride is definitely injured. Suddenly, skating is not so much fun. Will Tallulah sit out the entire ice skating season?

Not this spunky dancer, in Marilyn Singer's latest tale of everyone's favorite little balletomane, Tallulah's Ice Skates (Clarion Books, 2018). Fun and friendship top skating fame, as Tallulah swaps spins for bunny hops and lunges and lunches with Beckett and Kacie and their moms. Ice is nice and will suffice!

In this latest Tallulah tale, author Marilyn Singer is again partnered with artist Alexandria Boiger, whose charming illustration of young danseuses have portrayed Tallulah's ballet adventures in all the books in this popular series, Tallulah's Tutu, Tallulah's Tap Shoes, Tallulah's Solo, Tallulah's Nutcracker, and Tallulah's Toe Shoes (See reviews here.)

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Saturday, February 09, 2019

Counting: Ten Little Kisses by Taylor Garland

No, nobody has to kiss a pig (except this lovable pink-nosed porker,) but it's always fun to see baby critters play in the sun and curl up for a cozy bedtime kiss.

Three cozy lions frolic freely around their sleepy family. Four fluffy kitties take turns grooming each other, while five piglets get bliss just from an oink and a kiss.

Six little chimps love to be silly, while seven gentle elephants tie their trunks into a love knot to show they love each other a lot.

Eight graceful giraffes can kiss at great height. But nine bunnies kiss in their burrows at night.

Ten penguins prefer hugs at the zoo.

No matter how many cute critters you can see, there are always hugs--for you, baby, from me!

Taylor Garland counts the ways to say I Love You in 10 Little Kisses (Little, Brown and Company, 2018), an appealing board book for preschoolers which teaches animal names along with counting skills, illustrated by affectionate animal photos.

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Friday, February 08, 2019

Till When?: I'll Love You Till The Cows Come Home by Kathryn Cristaldi

I'll love you till the yaks come back

for a crazy snack...

In a Cadillac.

How do I love thee? There are lots of ways in literature to count up how, how much, and how long, and Kathryn Cristaldi's just-published I'll Love You Till the Cows Come Home (Harper, 2018) uses the old saying with a comic twist to answer kids' pertinent question for parents... Till when?

I'll love you till seals set sail
for the Isle of Kale.

Past manatees and a humpback whale....

Love will last till all the yaks climb out of their Caddy, till the ants march in with chocolate cake on their chins, to bed down with geese and wandering sheep, and wolves and deer and frogs who all close their eyes...,

Till the moon sprinkles moondust from the skies....

And with a wonderful bit of rhyming whimsy from author Cristaldi, the cows do come home in the gloaming--from a mission to Mars, disembarking from their spaceship just in time for bed. Artist Kristyna Litten portrays fanciful animals--frogs on big wheels, geese flapping down for a bedtime snack of melty s'mores--and it all ends with the answer to the question: Till when?

I will love you till then, and again and again....

Of this quirky bedtime tale, Kirkus Reviews, jokes, "In a crowded genre, this zany title is out standing in its field—along with the cows."

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Thursday, February 07, 2019

American Mogul Mojo Meets Old Magic: The Boggart Fights Back by Susan Cooper

Big, bald Mr. Trout stood up, beaming, one hand on the boat's windshield, peering at the rocks. "Hey! Seals! It'll be a perfect side trip from the hotel--perfect--come swim with the seals, folks! We'll give them snorkels and flippers!"

The helmsman said politely, "Seals are a protected species in Scotland, Mr. Trout."

William Trout snorted and waved his free hand. "So what? Dolphins swim with people all the time at my Florida resort! And here's our biggest selling point--the castle!" He flung out his arm in a sweep toward the very small island.

It was not much more than a rock itself, but from the grass back rose the neat square shape of the oldest and smallest castle in all of Scotland, Castle Keep.

The twins Allie and Jay had just arrived from Canada to spend summer vacation with their Granda, who runs a store on tranquil banks of Loch Linnhe in the Scottish Highlands. But their first morning is ruined by the roar of two huge yellow bulldozers emblazoned with a large black T, piling up raw dirt into a berm between the store and the loch. It seems real estate mogul Trout has been secretly buying up the land around Loch Linnle to construct a mega resort, planning to level the green shores into a golf course and condos, dredging the little lake into a huge marina for luxury yachts, and taking over Castle Keep, where the twins know their friends the Boggarts--mischievous magic shapeshifters, one of which can take the shape of the Loch Ness Monster--abide and sleep over the long winters.

Allie and Jay make a secret midnight crossing of the loch to the castle to warn the Boggarts The last of the McDevon clan which once owned Castle Keep, the twins beg their friends to help save the Keep and the fragile lake. One Boggart is eager for action as Nessie as soon as Trout ventures out in his luxury yacht.

The Boggart said, "The man has to go. Watch me!"

In a great spray of water, Nessie broke the surface, his long grey-green neck towering over the boat. He opened his mouth, showing rows of alarmingly pointed long teeth, and gave a shattering bellow. Snarling, Nessie peeked down at William Trout, waiting happily for his shriek of terror.

But Trout wasn't scared. "It's the Loch Ness Monster," he cried. "We've got the Loch Ness Monster in our loch here! He's mine now. Just wait till I tweet about it!"

There is only one force, the sleeping powers of the Old Magic, which can stop the ruin of Loch Linnle and save Castle Keep. To rouse it, the Boggarts know that they must swim to the Western Isles and call out the fearful ancient beings, even the dreadful two-headed Nuckalavee, from their deep sleep, to bring justice and peace back to the little lake, in Susan Cooper's latest, The Boggart Fights Back (Margaret K. Elderry/Simon & Schuster, 2018). As in her earlier books in the series, The Boggart and The Boggart and the Monster, the Newbery-winning author (for her The Dark Is Rising Sequence: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree) creates adventure in lovely fantasy language which evokes the magical powers of the earth contained in ancient Celtic folklore in this story of modern greed meeting the ancient magic which guards the natural world.

Says Booklist, "... generations of family members and the timeless Scottish spirits are portrayed with finesse...The setting makes a powerful background, and its heritage and folklore provide story elements that are interwoven with modern-day reality in an unusually seamless fashion."

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Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Love's A-Poppin'! Love YOU: A Pop-Up Book by David A. Carter

What you are is...


David Carter's Valentine's Day treat, I Love You: A Pop-Up Book (Abrams, 2017), salutes the reader in a paragon of paper sculpture, a brief treatise on love illustrated by little masterpieces of pop-up book art that virtually explode with each page turn.

Among the pages there are spring branches adorned with blossoms and leaves, reaching out toward the reader, a rainbow with dangling hearts, a rolling, watery wave that ripples onto the shore, and an explosion of glittery hearts for the grand finale. It's like fireworks contained inside book covers.

Author-illustrator David Carter is a veteran of the toy-and-movable pop-up genre, and this creation is a work of art and a Valentine salute and inspiration to young readers and artists.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Cat Psych 101: I Hate My Cats (A Love Story) by Davide Cali

Okay. Cats are quirky. If you have a cat, you can't deny it.

Take Ginger for example. Does she play with her cute cat toys? NO. Ginger prefers to play...

... with peas.

Does she purr and rub her head sweetly against her owner when they cuddle? No. She saves that to do with--avocados.

Does she lap from a lovely little water bowl that says KITTY on the side? NO.

She only drinks water from the sink.

And then there's Fred. Does he curl up for a nap in his cozy cat bed? Or snooze sweetly on a stylish black leather hassock? NO. Where does Fred sleep and leave his unwanted black cat hair?

On sweaters (preferably white ones) and ....on towels (obviously white ones.)

Or in the sink.

Why do cats suddenly ambush your bare feet from behind the curtains? How do they manage to take up most of the chair or bed when you want to take a rest? Why do cats always want to lie down on the newspaper you are reading (or sit down on your keyboard right in front of the screen?) How is it that they can walk the narrowest handrail with the skill of high-wire walker, but always manage to knock over vases full of flowers or cups full of coffee? How is it that they make messes right where you will invariably step in the wee hours of the morning?

How is it that we forgive all and still leave little treats in their little bowls at bedtime?

Davide Cali's I Hate My Cats (A Love Story) (Chronicle Books, 2018) accurately describes the curious, puck-ish nature of cats in this affectionate and funny treatise on life with cats that ends with the forgiven felines joining the author lovingly in bed, with Fred agreeably lying on his head with his tail where his owner's mustache would be--if he had one.

Anna Pirelli's illustrations are both subtle and prescient in portraying Ginger and Fred in all their piquant catitude, with one final lights-out double-page spread in which the chastened cats finally join their guy in bed, with only the luminous alarm clock dial and the two penitent kitties' eyes visible. A book for cat lovers who know their critters and love them for the quixotic nature that makes them the second-most popular pet. Says Booklist, "A perfect encapsulation of the madness of cats, and those that love (or hate) them."


Monday, February 04, 2019

More than the Moon? I Love You, Little One by Clare Lloyd


A little bunny asks the big question, cuddling with a parent under the big full moon.

Is he loved more than the moonglow in the night?

A series of baby animals ask a parent the big question. Is his love for the little one more than Father Wolf's love of running? Is it taller than Papa Monkey's love for tall tree-climbing? Does Mama Penguin love her baby more than the snow?

Is it deeper than the whales' beautiful blue sea? Is it more soft than the owls' fluffy feathers?

And of course the answer is I love you so much, as much as I can love, in Clare Lloyd's I Love You Little One (Dorling Kindersley, 2018). Author Lloyd and artist Claire Petane set each pair on their own two-page spread within their own two-color palette. The monkeys share a green and black landscape, the big and little wolf are shown in a gray-blue and black setting, while big and little elephant are shown against an orange and black world. This is a little book about love that offers its own built-in read-aloud storyteller and lights up the big moon that begins the story. It's a book about love and a toy-and-movable book for Valentine's Day or any day, because love is an everyday thing.

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Sunday, February 03, 2019

Well-Read: The Losers Club by Andrew Clement

A bright red plastic chair sat in the hallway outside the principal's office. The chair was known as the Hot Seat and Alec Spencer was in it.

Alec was a special case. Every time he had landed in the Hot Seat, he'd been caught doing something that teachers usually liked: reading.

You could say Alec Spencer is well read.

He's racked up hundreds of books he's read, and re-read, several times over. Alec uses reading as an escape strategy from everything, and he has become an expert sneak reader, reading during lessons when he needs to be listening and looking. But in sixth grade, when his grades are not even as so-so as usual, his parents are on the warpath, threatening to make sure his next visit to the Hot Seat is going to guarantee a seat in the after-school Homework Room.

Alec makes a deal with his parents. If he gets good weekly reports, he can join the less rigorous after-school Clubs Group instead. He reads the rules closely, and finding a loophole, Alec formulates a plan. He founds a reading club, and to make sure no one will interfere with his obsession, he names his group "the Losers Club" to keep most kids from joining. He suffers the teasing of his sometime friend, Kent, now class bully and current kickball champ of the Active Sports Group who continually calls him "Bookworm."

But Alec gets lucky and even gets the requisite second member in the person of a quiet fourth-grader named Lily. His plan is working. And per parental degree, seated in the center front row in every class, he's forced to pay attention and his grades immediately go up. After all, he's got three hours of undisturbed and officially approved reading to look forward to after school. Alec thinks he's beat the system.

And then he gets another applicant, a cute girl named Nina, a refugee from the Origami Group. She's read Hatchet, and is no fan of show-off Kent. Perfect.

Life is good--until Kent seems to become interested in Nina. He invites her to come over with her brother to shoot baskets on his lighted basketball court and begins to send booming kicks across the gym and onto Alec's table to show off his prowess. It's clearly a challenge that Alec needs to counter, but surprisingly other would-be book lovers are wearying with their clubs and joining his. Even Kent wants to join. Suddenly Alec is the champ reader leader! He has three tables of kids that he has to find just the right books for, and now he has to plan a presentation about his group for the fall PTA meeting.

Life in sixth grade can be complicated, especially with a special girl in the picture, as Alec learns in Andrew Clements' The Losers Club (Random House, 2017), a realistic and humorous coming-of-middle-school-age novel that sensitively explores the transitions that his many fans are experiencing. Clements' characters are well crafted, familiar, but more prototype than stereotype, offering middle readers insight into their own classmates--the groups they choose and the games they play. Author of the landmark best-seller, Frindle: Library Edition and dozens of other top-selling books, Andrew Clements is the phenom of middle-reader fiction. Says Kirkus Reviews' starred review, "Clements once again effectively taps into the challenges of middle school social politics and mapping out one’s identity. This empathetic coming-of-age journey makes it clear how limiting and pointless labels can be, and that both books and real life have quite a bit to offer."

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Saturday, February 02, 2019

A Foodie's Alphabet: A Is For Artichoke: a Foodie Alphabet from Artichoke to Zest by Maddie Frost

V Is For Vanilla

W Is For Whisk

Maddie Frost's A Is for Artichoke: A Foodie Alphabet from Artichoke to Zest (Sourcebooks, 2018) is not your father's alphabet book. Sponsored by America's Test Kitchen, this little book is tailored for the hardcore young foodie and filled with varieties of vegetables, fancy fruits, culinary concepts, and esoteric equipment, and the eye-pleasing pages mix colorful entries for ordinary foods--ice cream and jam--and unusual foods--kumquats, quinoa, xigua, ganache--and kitchen equipment from the ubiquitous oven to the less-common lemon zester.

Along with their letters, young children will learn about foods they may spot in the supermarket and enjoy the anthropomorphic cartoon illustrations, and slightly older kids may appreciate a nodding acquaintance with edibles like lox and edamame, tools like the whisk and tongs, and processes such as brining and caramelization. Even umami gets a mention, although the definition of "savory" only approaches the somewhat amorphous meaning of the term and may not be familiar for the youngest kids. This is indeed an alphabet book in a class by itself.

This different drummer of an abecedarius has specific appeal to kids who know or wish to know their way around the kitchen and table. Says School Library Journal, "Foodies will love this celebration of all good things to eat. Also an excellent introduction to more complex culinary vocabulary."

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Friday, February 01, 2019

For the Love of Words: A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Fay Gordon

Sing a song for Gwendolyn Brooks.
Sing it loud--a Chicago blues.

Chicago in the 1920s was not the typical place for a poet--not a place to wander lonely as a cloud, not a place where hosts of daffodils delight the eye. It was smoky and noisy and the streets were shadowed by the elevated train tracks. Not many flowers bloomed.

But Gwendolyn Brooks was a poet. Perhaps she didn't know it when she bought dime store notebooks and started to write in them. At first she didn't love her words.

She digs beneath the snowball bush,
And buries her poems in a backyard grave.

And once, when she wrote a poem for school, the teacher didn't believe it was her work. She called it plagiarism. But Gwendolyn's mother put on her hat and gloves and marched her precocious daughter down to the school. She confronted the teacher and told the teacher that her daughter "writes with ease," and to prove it, she had Gwendolyn sit down and write a poem called "Forgive and Forget" on the spot:

If others neglect you, forget: do not sigh.
For, after all, they'll select you in times by and by.

If their taunts cut and hurt you, they are sure to regret.
And if in time they desert you, forgive and forget.

And with the help of both parents'support and encouragement, Gwendolyn keeps on writing, She spends time at the South Side Center and meets grown-up poets who read famous sonnets and Modernist poets with her, and Gwendolyn submits her best work to magazines--and some are accepted and printed! She goes to college and learns about many great poets; she marries and has a son and still keeps on writing and rewriting her poetry and sending it off to be printed. The click-clack of the El trains blend with the steady click-clack of her typewriter.

And then one day she wins a prize--The Pulitzer Prize!

Alice Fay Duncan's just published A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks (People Who Shaped Our World) (Sterling Children's Books, 2019) tells for young readers the story of how Gwendolyn Brooks became the first Black writer to win a Pulitzer prize and become Poet Laureate of the United States.

Mr. Brooks and Mrs. Brooks
Planted love and watered it.

In a recommended first purchase for school and public libraries for Black History and Women's History reading in February and March, author Gordon provides a useful appendix with author's note, a timeline of Brooks' life, suggested readings, and a bibliography for young report writers. Artist Xia Gordon adds rosy brown illustrations that heighten the the author's metaphor of a life that flowered into a legacy of poetry.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Side by Sidekick! Thunder Pug by Kim Norman

Percy was a pug and Petunia was a pig.

Even so, they loved doing many of the same things.

Percy and Petunia are pals who pair up to play every day.

Of course, they pursue separate activities, too. Pug chomps bones, and Petunia prefers vegetarian provender. But they get together at dusk to play hide-and-seek and lap at puddles, jowl to cheek.

But then Petunia goes off to be shown at the County Fair and comes back a celebrity ...

... wearing a blue ribbon!

Percy is displaced by Petunia's admirers. The animals cheer and parade her around the place on their shoulders. Pug can't even get close enough to give her a high-five.

And she wears that blasted blue ribbon everywhere she goes!

Pug is suddenly a person of no importance to Petunia. He's got to find a way to up his game. And then he spots a discarded comic book about a dashing, daring caped crusader.

Percy the Pug picks up a pig chow sack and and converts it into a superhero cape, and VOILA!


Percy Thunder Pug leaps to rescue baby chicks from stinky skunks and bathing baby birds from deep puddles. It's fun, but there's still something missing from his super persona.

What this superhero needs is--a sidekick!

And suddenly, there she is, Petunia the Super Star, in blue ribbon and... cape!


Superhero and sidekick pair up to do daring good deeds... and together they are ...


Pug and Pig are a new dynamic duo in Kim Norman's latest in series, Thunder Pug (Sterling Children's Books, 2019), a sweet story which affirms the way that friendships can be reborn through changes in fame and fortune. Author Norman's narration flows with spot-on text, and Keika Yamaguchi's artwork is perfect for Norman's characters, with soft digital watercolors and page design that places the illustrations in spot art, in full-bleed single-page style, and humorous action which flows over double page spreads as both characters come together. A solid theme of independence and togetherness that soars!

Pair this one with Norman and Yamaguchi's first collaboration in this series, Puddle Pug.

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