Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Story Starter: Idea Jar by Adam Lehrhaupt




Not surprisingly, this elementary school class has some classic story starters in that jar--a dragon, a Viking, a unicorn, a robot, a tiger--all the usual suspects. But these potential story characters are getting a bit restive in that crowded jar. The giraffe and dragon poke their heads out to catch a breath of fresh air.

There's a fine variety of of characters there, from cat to cowgirl, and they all want their own story. What to do?

Teacher points out that the kids can choose their medium.



As authors will tell you, some characters take over their own story. The Viking tips the jar over and lets everyone out. The horseless cowgirl mounts the dragon and takes on the Viking and the space robot.

Who wants to create a city for the kitty? Anybody ready for a yeti yet?

It's a free-for-all as the kids get busy drawing and writing and talking about their ideas, in Adam Lehrhaupt's Idea Jar (Simon and Schuster, 2018). Author Adam Lehrhaupt puts his jar of "writing prompts" to work in this story about stories, while artist Deb Pilutti comes up with a charming coloration and a plot full of story starters running amok, as the Viking's ocean even threatens to overflow the classroom. Pilutti make use of comic speech balloons as her charges take charge of their own premises in a fun read-aloud to kick off a class brainstorm to get the creative juices flowing in young writers' fertile imaginations.

Share this one with Briane Farley's Ike's Incredible Ink (review here) or Joan Holub's Little Red Writing (see review here.).

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Love Potion No. 9: Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein

Whit took a deep breath and tilted his head forward so that our foreheads touched. I took in his blue eyes and thick red hair, the genetic combination that made him such an unusual Punnett square.

"I've met someone else," he said.

Except for the last year's death of her mother, Maya's life has been going as planned. She's got a scholarship in chemistry at MIT, a private room in her chosen dorm reserved, an internship at the lab where her Mom had worked, friends Bryan, Kyle, and Yael to hang out with, and the perfect boyfriend--Whit.

Except that now, she apparently doesn't have Whit.

Maya is blindsided by Whit's dumping her for another girl, someone she even knows, one who's in her friend Bryan's Shakespeare Company in rehearsal for "All's Well That Ends Well." She'd thought she'd be with Whit forever. She can't imagine a future without him. And then her mom's sister mentions the private research her mother was working on before she died.

"You should have had your mother around for your first breakup," said Cindy.

"I'm not sure Mom would really have understood," I told Cindy. "Dad was her first love. She never had a first big breakup."

Cindy leaned forward. "This is what your mom was doing before she died, right? Trying to make love last?"

Maya finds the private notebook her mom had insisted was to come to her. Inside are her mom's records on research on the effect of pheromones on different genotypes. It seems her mother had been taking intensified pheromones tailored to her father's DNA and measuring his reactions. They were clearly positive. It seems to Maya that her mother had been on the way to creating a successful formula--a "Love Potion No.9." . Maya meets privately with Ann, her mother's graduate lab assistance, and offers herself as a subject to continue the research. Ann is intrigued with the possibility for original research leading to a dissertation and insists on setting up the experiment with three trials, one with a platonic male friend, one with a stranger, and then--Maya's real reason--the last trial on Whit to see if her customized pheromones will win him back.

Maya manages to collect a specimen for her first trial--a soft drink cup used by her childhood buddy Kyle. Ann processes his DNA and prepares custom-crafted doses of pheromones for Maya to take for three days. Her temperature goes up a degree, just as her mother's observations predicted, and when she invites Kyle to come over to watch a movie, things between the two old friends get surprisingly heated, so much so that they are both astounded and embarrassed. A second trial with conceited teen-aged YouTube star, Asher Forman, starring with Bryan in "All's Well That Ends Well," gets quite a response. Maya is not at all turned on, but Asher definitely is. Maya is a bit shaken by the strength of the reactions she is getting. But isn't that what she wanted?

And now it's time for a trial of her intensified pheromones on Whit.

In a what turns out to be a very Shakespearean plot, there is a perfect storyline twist of which even the Bard himself would have approved.

All's well that ends well, indeed, in Meredith Goldstein's forthcoming Chemistry Lessons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), a young adult novel which is both a light teen romance with a spritz of science and a bit of a coming-of-age story in which Maya comes to terms with her mother's death, her father's grief, and her own new understanding of the importance of the interplay between friendship and romance, perhaps the essence of real love. Despite bouts of teen angst over being dumped, Maya is a smart, resilient, and upbeat seventeen year old who, refusing to languish over lost love, instead turns to her long suit, science, to get her guy back, learning along the way the truth of the Rolling Stones' old song lyric: "You can't always get what you want...but if you try sometime... you get what you need."

Goldstein's romance novel is well scripted, with touches of tragedy and comedy, charmingly awash in the scholarly scenes and scents of its setting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and with an intriguing bit of science to move the plot. Maya may get her guy, but perhaps not the one she expects, because, although pheromones do play a role in attraction, happily the secrets of lasting love remain a mystery. And as that other old song says, "That's the story of, that's the glory of... love!"

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Bridge Between! Drawn Together by Min Le and Dan Santat

When a determinedly cheerful mom drops her son off after school at the doorstep of a small house, the boy clearly is not happy. He trudges dutifully up to the door, his backpack heavy on his shoulders and his eyes downcast, and rings the bell.

He's met by an old man, his grandfather, but there are no greetings exchanged. The grandfather bows, his hands together in salutation, and the boy returns the gesture glumly. They seem to know no words in common.

The grandfather turns on the television, but the boy gets little out of the drama, aside from the presence of a dragon in the story. Bored, the boy pulls some colored pencils and paper out of his backpack and begins to draw a spirited young wizard with a wand and powers to vanquish a dragon. The grandfather suddenly smiles and leaves the room, returning with a sketch book, a tiny brush, and an inkwell.

Taking a seat beside the boy he draws a marvelous ancient Asian sorcerer who dispatches the dragon with a broadsword. The boy's eyes are alight as he draws his wizard by the side of his grandfather's sorcerer. Together they create a magnificent magical story.

All the things we could never say come pouring out....

Art is the medium which bridges the gap of age and language between the two as each realize what they share together, in Min Le's wordless Drawn Together (Hyperion, 2018). Inside the unspoken narrative, artist Dan Santat works his visual magic in illustrations that show the two relatives doing their favorite thing together, as both realize that they do indeed share the bond of kinship and a love of art. It is a beautiful story of family love and generational connection, with artist Santat making the most of the opportunity to show off his versatile talents in two different styles, in a book that can be "read" by all ages. A beautiful book that speaks volumes about the ties that bind grandfathers and grandsons.

Says Publishers Weekly "Santat's work dazzles with layers of color, exquisitely worked tradional designs, and ambitious scale. With the grandfather drawing in his idom and the boy in his, the two defeat the dragon of difference that separates them."

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Little Stranger: Splat and the New Baby by Rob Scotton

Splat's eyes opened and his mouth fell open when his mother told him the news.

"Soon, Splat, there's going to be a new baby in the house."

What? Splat is flummoxed. He's always thought it would be fun to be a big brother. But this is so sudden!

Splat knows that there is going to be a lot to do, so he pitches in. He and Dad do up the spare room as a nursery with cutesy wallpaper and a mobile and bring up Splat's old crib from the basement. The two congratulate each other on their work. But before Splat can ask any questions, Mom appears at the front door with a baby in a carrier.

Splat can't wait to see the baby. He takes the shortcut, sliding down the banister. But....


Splat can't believe his eyes. The baby is... a...

CROCODILE! "How did this happen? He'll eat us up!"

Splat zips back up the stairs and hides under his bed. But Mom and Dad assure Splat that little Urgle doesn't eat cats, and that he'll only be there a few days while his mother is away on a trip. And anyway, this will be Splat's chance to try out some big brother skills. And once Splat gets the hang of it, he's soon helping out with Urgle's bath and lunch, and (GULP!) assisting with a diaper change--for which Splat dons his handy yellow hazmat suit.

Soon he's in the swing of things, having fun with little Urgle.

And when Urgle's mother comes to take him back home, Splat is sad and wonders when he'll ever get a chance to play big brother again. But with a smile and a wink, Mom says something intriguing....

"One day soon... very soon!"

There's a hint of big changes ahead in Rob Scotton's newest picture book, Splat the Cat: Splat and the New Baby (Harper, 2018). In this happy and heartwarming family life story, Scotton's always nervous preschooler gets a little preview of coming attractions in this long-running and successful series. As always, Splat's facial expressions and nervous tail telegram his anxiety as he encounters a new situation, while his parents help him succeed and gain competence and confidence in his new setting, and Scotton's charming illustrations tell the story well, with both humor and good will.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

So Far, So Good! Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty




The Earth is not even the biggest among his siblings, the eight various planets (and their family pet, Pluto), but Mr. Awesome has a unique and fascinating history. And that history is the awesome story told in Stacy McNulty's Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years (Our Universe) (Henry Holt, 2017). There is a lot of history to cover in 4.54 billion years, and author McNulty begins with Mr. Awesome's movements. Earth was born to move, so to speak, and he or she spins and revolves in the daily and annual cycles which have some major effects upon its surface.

But the big story is Earth's personal history.





Author Stacy McAnulty takes elementary readers through Earth's past in a breezy conversational style, made understandable in the jolly anthropomorphic illustrations of award-winning artist David Litchfield, as plant and animal life develops--hitting the high points of earth history, including dinosaurs, asteroid collisions, major volcanic events, ice ages, extinctions, and the emergence of homo sapiens. There are plenty of curriculum connections and a solid appendix with bibliography and sources to prepare middle readers for scholarly research reports along the way. With a suitably thorough account of the major elements of earth's geological and biological history in an easy reading style, this should be a first choice for school and public libraries. "Terrifically entertaining," as Publishers Weekly puts it in their starred review.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Hangin' with Grumpy! Pete the Kitty and the Groovy Playdate by Kimberly and James Dean

Pete the Kitty jumps out of bed.

"I can't wait!

Grumpy Toad and I have a groovy playdate!

Ever the optimist, Pete the Kitty imagines playing with Grumpy's new blue truck. It's so COOL! But when Pete arrives and starts to push the truck around, Grumpy whines--


Grumpy Toad's idea of a playdate is letting Pete watch him pushing his new blue truck around his room.

Pete is not pleased. But he politely turns to building roads for the truck with Grumpy Toad's blocks. But Grumpy claims the blocks are his and only his, too. Pete tries to be flexible, but Toad grabs every toy that Pete touches and sits sulkily in the corner guarding his stuff. This is not Pete's idea of a groovy playdate.

Pete is sad. Pete is blue.

But Pete thinks he knows what to do. He has to persuade Grumpy Toad that one alone is not the way but two together can share to play, with Kimberly and James Dean's hints at how to save the play date in Pete the Kitty and the Groovy Playdate (Pete the Cat) (Harper, 2018), and soon the Caped Critters--Wonder Toad and Super Kitty--soar together to save the day. James Dean's cute kitty is always upbeat as he shows his friend how they can share the toys and have twice the fun.

It's hard for young preschoolers to let go and let their friends have a chance to play with their toys, and Kimberly Dean's story shows how the visiting friend feels when he's told he can't touch his friend's toys and how working out ways so that both can play makes for a very groovy playdate.

Definitely share this one with Anna Dewdney's delightful and insightful Llama Llama Time to Share.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Strike Up The Band! Play This Book by Jessica Young



It's an invitation you can't turn down! But what does it take to make that sound?

It takes melody, harmony, and rhythm.

First, to move your feet, you've got to have that rhythmic beat: There's a snare drum, with two drum sticks, one for each hand.


And to back it up, shake-shake-shake those two maracas!


But for a melody we need some instruments that can play a lot of notes:

There's the trombone, with his long slide. He can play fast and hot and slow and sweet!


And to mellow out that brass, there's the sax:


And don't forget the piano and guitar! They can do it all--melody, harmony, and rhythm! At the same time!



And for a little drama, to end with a smash, there're the cymbals! Give them a --


Kids are part of the show in Jessica Young's interactive introduction to musical instruments, Play This Book (Bloomsbury, 2018). Young's simple narrative builds a band, with kids busking along on every page. Daniel Wiseman's bright and busy illustrations back up this simple intro to some of the instruments that make music and kids will want to join in and take a bow as the author invites them to do at the end of the performance. Says School Library Journal, "Music-loving kids will go nuts for this interactive book. . . ."

For more interactive book fun, share this one with Young's earlier book, Pet This Book.

Or for preschool would-be musicians, pair this one with Shirley Parenteau's Bears in a Band (Bears on Chairs). (see review here)

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Escape Artiist! Inky the Octopus (Bound for Glory) by Erin Guendelsberger

Inky gets nothing but high-status chow in his tank in the aquarium. He loves feasting on lobster, and the keepers don't scrimp on the shrimp!

But still--

I know I have a good life.
And should want for nothing more.
But something tugs at my curious heart
That I simply can't ignore.

It's the call of the wild, the call of the wild blue yonder, that great ocean out there, that is.

And one night, when the aquarium is dark, he gets his chance....

What's this? Tonight it seems
My tank lid is ajar.
This could be my one chance for change.
Dare I hope that far?

Bidding his tank mate Blotchy adieu, Inky escapes to see what's new. The exhibit area looks different from down below. It's easy for his tentacles to pull him along the wooden floor, and Inky is taking it all in when he spots something different. It is a round metal thing in the floor with lots of little holes. Inky pokes a tentacle down one hole and gets a good gripe on it.

He can lift the whole thing right up! And there--right in front of his eyes--is a hole with the smell of sea rising up out of it. Inky wastes no time. He squeezes himself into the drainpipe and slips down, down, down...

At last I'm free.
Long may I journey the splendid sea.

Erin Guendelsberger's rhyming account of the adventures of the famous tentacled escape artist, Inky the Octopus: Bound for Glory(Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2018) tells the true story of the octopus who opted out of exhibit status in the New Zealand Aquarium. The octopus is a clever creature known to make the most of the smallest opening in search of freedom, and the author's rhyming couplets add to the fun of this true-life octopus escapade. Artist David Leonard comes through with charming illustrations of his famed cephalopod on the lam, his little hobo bag in tow, and adds lots of skillfully portrayed sea creatures, as Inky finds his way to a colorful South Pacific reef just in time to try out the shrimp at the sand bar.

Author Guendelsberger adds an appendix with information about the real Inky and accounts of other famous octopuses whose escapes from their tanks keep their keepers on their toes. Says School Library Journal, "The colors and shapes used to depict the marine life create a great deal of personality ... and the back matter provides additional information about octopodes as well and their real-life aquarium high jinks."

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Monday, June 11, 2018

More Fun Than A Barrel of Monkeys! Five Little Monkeys: Five Minute Stories by Eileen Christelow

What's more fun than a barrel of monkeys?

It's more Five Little Monkeys stories by Eileen Christelow, with the author's one-of-a-kind illustrations, all together in one volume--perfect for reading aloud at bedtime, great fun for long car trips, for beginning readers to practice their skills, and great to get some giggles out of kids at any time!

Author-illustrator Eileen Christelow began in 1989 with her hilarious hit re-telling of the old nursery counting song, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (A Five Little Monkeys Story),  but she didn't stop there. Her five little monkeys have gotten into all sorts of snicker-producing adventures--washing the car, trick-or-treating, baking birthday cakes, and trying to read under the covers in their long history of rhyming, easy-reading stories. Now Eileen Christelow has rounded up eight of her most popular books into one handy volume of eight great stories, Five Little Monkeys 5-Minute Stories (A Five Little Monkeys Story) (Houghton Miffle Harcourt, 2018).(See some reviews here.)

Sticking to the meter and rhyme schemes of the traditional song in each story, author Christelow keeps her little subjects up to all kinds of monkey shines, and in her artwork, Christelow proves herself the master of the sight-gag, keeping all five of her little characters (and Mama Monkey, as well) monkeying around in non-stop fun. For novice readers, the rhyming lines and the jolly artwork provide plenty of sound and visual cues to make for easy going. Each story can be read in about five minutes, but--WARNING!--It's hard to stop at just one. In fact, parents and kids will be saying, "I can't believe I read the whole book!"

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

How We All Say It: Speaking American *How Y'all, Youse, and You Guys Talk by Josh Katz

Americans can't agree on much!

Take a simple common chore, for instance. It's summer and the grass is growing tall. What do you do?





It depends on where you are. Easterners commonly cut their grass. Westerners mostly mow it. But Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana are split within themselves over what to call it. Some of us shrug and say it both ways.

Suppose you want to cook up a batch of bacon 'n' eggs. What do you reach for?

It depends on where you live. Most folks use a "frying pan," but in the central Midwest and South, people pull out their "skillet." (And they'd might say they were fryin' up a "mess" of bacon 'n' eggs.)

And if you want to address a group of people, you've got quite a choice of what to call them:








(Yes. A small population of western Pennsylvania clustered around Harrisburg say "yins" for the plural of "you.")

What do you call something diagonal? "Kitty-Cornered" or "Catty-Cornered?" In the U.S. it seems to depend on your latitude. And what should we call those long sandwiches we all love? "Subs?" "Hoagies?" "Grinders?" "Heroes?" While all the rest of New England chows down on grinders, Mainers stubbornly call them "Italian sandwiches" (unless they are lobster rolls.)

Some cities have their very own lingo. In New York City they don't stand IN line to wait for the subway like the rest of us. They stand ON line to wait for the train, and as we have learned, big things are HUGE in most of the country, but in NYC they are YUGE!

Not to be outdone, Boston insists on calling milkshakes "frappes," and carbonated drinks "tonics."

But Americans do sometimes come to a consensus. "Flapjacks," "flannelcakes," and "hoecakes" seem to be passe'. We all call them "pancakes" now!

It's Vive la Difference in Josh Katz' Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), where it is fun to see the differences we share coast to coast and border to border. There's plenty more word lore in this inviting volume filled with infomatics--maps and graphs and statistics about what we call everything from some bugs ("roly-poly vs. potato bug"), what we wear to the gym ("sneakers" vs. "tennis shoes"), or the seaside ("the shore" vs. "the beach").

See youse at the shore! (Unless y'all are headin' for the beach.)

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Saturday, June 09, 2018

But....? Never Touch a Monster by Rosie Greening


No, not even if they smile and look perfectly harmless and cheery!

Don't you dare touch that bumpy, lumpy, tickly tummy on that guy. You can't trust a monster to be altogether well-behaved. Any monster that you meet might look upon you as a treat to munch for lunch.

No matter how tempting his squeezy, squishy silicone skin is, just don't do it....


Rosie Greening's Never Touch a Monster (Make Believe Ideas) defies its own advice, with plenty of silicone parts that tempt small fingers to try them out for a tactile experience.  Artist Stuart Lynch's googly eyes and snaggly monster mouth will not deter tots from touching each page in the jolly board book. Other books by these creators for curious tots include Never Touch a Dragon and Never Touch a Dinosaur!

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Friday, June 08, 2018

Extreme Exhibitionism! Look at Me! How to Attract Attention in the Animal World by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Most of the time animals do their best to blend in. A predator that is easy to spot can frighten away prey. And staying hidden is a good idea for any animal that risks becoming a meal for another creature.

But sometimes an animal wants to stand out.

Why would an animal want to stand out in his environment?

Often it's one of those "things we do for love--to attract a mate! That's a time for the biggest, brightest, and best performance to beat out the competition.

The magnificent frigatebird mostly spends its life flying.

Rarely landing, it even sleeps on the wing. But when it's time to start a family, a male finds a spot on the ground and signals a female by inflating a bright red pouch of skin on his throat.

The frigatebird isn't the only creature who floats a bright trial balloon to catch the eye of a lady. The hooded seal blows up his hood and inflates a sack under his neck to show his colors. Like the ostentatious male peacock, great crested grebes and royal flycatchers strut their stuff with bright crests and showy plumes. The mandarin fish sports colors that resemble a preschool finger painting job, while the mandarin duck sprouts bright red, orange, and yellow plumage in spring, and the male Indian bullfrog turns bright yellow, with not one, but two bright green neck sacs to show off for females.

Some odd creatures eschew colors but, like fireflies and the lantern fish, use self-generated light to demonstrate their desirability. But opportunistic species like the photuris firefly and the deep sea dragonfish use their similar lights to attract, not a mate, but a meal.

Some creatures go in for extreme theatrics, with displays and dances that can attract or sometimes deter others, like the Budget's frog, who can puff up and show his teeth--yes, teeth! Then there is the modest little pufferfish, which blows up and raise spines that everybody finds hard to swallow.

Steve Jenkins' and Robin Page's forthcoming animal extravaganza, Look at Me!: How to Attract Attention in the Animal World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) makes the most of artist Steve Jenkins' expansive collage illustrations which show off various species in all their glorious exhibitionism. With an appendix that features a thumbnail-illustrated glossary and a bibliography of books and internet sources, a new feature, internet search terms for young nature scientists, this newest nature science book is the product of painstaking research and inimitable art, a first choice for all libraries or nature lovers.

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Thursday, June 07, 2018

At Last! Honey by David Ezra Stein

Bear has just awakened from his long winter's nap.

It was his second year!

"I'm back!"

And he's really, really hungry. The first thing he wants to eat is honey! Who could forget that!

Warm! Sweet! Sparkling with sunlight!

And he remembers right where to find it. Bear heads for the hollow in the honey tree and pokes his snout right into the hole.


Bees don't like to be bothered!

It's not time for honey!

Bear runs for the stream and sticks his aching nose in the clear, cold water. He notices the waterfall splashing and rests for a moment on the new green grass, watching the little clouds floating above across the sky.

In a few days he notices that some of the green bushes have berries ripening. Bear comes back every day to fill his tummy with the sweet, juicy berries. Yum! Summer is beautiful and summer is delicious.

What is so rare as a day in June And yet, there is something else that Bear can't quite forget.

But then one day he hears something, a buzz-buzz that grows louder as he gets nearer to that special tree.

It was time for honey.

And it was just as delicious as he remembered. But as the Bard said, Summer's lease hath all too short a stay. And as signs of fall begin to appear, Bear knows that he will have happy summer memories and that there will be honey again next year.

David Ezra Stein's Honey (Nancy Paulsen Books/Random House, 2018) is a poignant celebration of the joys of spring and summer, a sweet salute to the season that reminds us that summer's bounty is a renewing joy, one that both people and bears await each year. After his long sleep Bear gets to appreciate the renewal of his world and its pleasures, simply described in author David Ezra Stein's spare but lyrical prose narrative that reaffirms the wisdom that there is a time for everything and everything worth waiting for comes in its own good time.

Artist Stein uses modest-sized illustrations, with squiggly lines and watercolors loosely applied in a faux naif style that fits Bear's simple thoughts in a soft homage to the season that affirms that good things are worth waiting for. As School Library Journal notes, "Stein's pen-and-watercolor illustrations are suffused with loose, childlike exuberance, while their relatively small scale (each page is bordered with ample white space) invites a sense of intimacy."

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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Keeping Your Cool! No Biggy (a Story About Overcoming Everyday Obstacles) by Elyeia Rubin

"Lots of things make me feel happy."

Kiki loves her dog Pozey, with her big, sweet, fuzzy face. She likes practicing handstands, and she loves eating ice cream any time she can get it.

But sometimes things that happen she doesn't love!

School mornings are nutty! So many things to do before the bus arrives.

There is breakfast to eat and teeth to brush--which can be maddening when the toothpaste falls off the brush before she can get it in her mouth. And even when she's all dressed and pulling on her coat, the zipper thingy gets stuck and won't go up or down!



It's up to Mom and Dad to show the way not to sweat the small stuff when minor problems pop up. The main thing to keep in mind is that most of these things are, as Daddy, says,


Dogs track in mud all over the floor, and when they get a bath, they get more water on the floor than in the tub. But if Mommy can say, "No biggy!" while she mops up the mess, Kiki can learn to keep her cool, too. When she grabs her favorite bedtime story book and a page gets ripped, Kiki tapes it up herself and says, "No biggy!"

Elyeia Rubin's No Biggy!: A Story About Overcoming Everyday Obstacles (Random House, 2018) show kids how to take small frustrations in stride. Josh Talbot's pastel cartoon illustrations point up the comic aspects of the small vexations of daily life, and the use of hot colors for Kiki's frustrating exclamations and cool colors for her parents' soothing advice reinforce the message that kids, too, can learn the art of keeping cool.


Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Winning, Winning, Winning? You Can't Win Them All, Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

It's a lovely day in the neighborhood, down among the sheltering shoals of the sea, and Rainbow Fish is happy when his new friend Red Fin suggests that all the little fish in their school play an under-the-waves game of Hide-and-Seek.

Rainbow Fish is pleased when Red Fin asks him to be the lead-off seeker. He knows everyone's favorite hideout and gloats to himself that he can find them all with one fin tied behind him.

"I'll find you all in a fishy flash!" he boasts.

He looks in all of their usual hidey holes but cannot spot a single fin, not even Little Blue, who is new to the game.

"This has never happened before," thinks Rainbow Fish.

Then Little Blue gets his chance to be the seeker, and Rainbow Fish is certain he can reclaim his superior position and get revenge on the little novice minnow. But fate is not on his side. Alas, Rainbow Fish is the first one found!

"You didn't count to 20! It's NOT FAIR!" he fusses.

His friends try to point out that it's only a game, but Rainbow Fish swims angrily away.

Red Fin tries to soothe Little Blue and swims off to find Rainbow Fish. She locates him sulking sadly in a seaweed patch.

"You can't always win," she tells him. "Did you see the look in Little Blue's eyes? He's the one who always loses."

Rainbow Fish sees that his friend is right, in Marcus Pfister's You Can't Win Them All, Rainbow Fish (Rainbow Fish (North-South Books)) (North/South, 2018). You win some and you lose some, and  games are no fun unless everyone has a chance to win now and then.  Marcus Pfister's story avoids being overly didactic through the empathetic voice of his new character, Red Fin, and Pfister's illustrations are undeniably lovely, awash in blue-green with glowing touches of bright colors and silvery metallic highlights. This latest is a worthy entry to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of this long-running series about life under the sea.

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Monday, June 04, 2018

Ada and the Calculating Engine: Ada Lovelace (Little People, Big Dreams) by Isabel Sanchez Vogare

If you are reading this, thank Ada Lovelace.

Ada was a fashionable Victorian lady of considerable beauty and charm. But despite the lack of regard for women's intellect in her own time, Lovelace wrote the first computer program, making online publication possible.

The daughter of England's famous playboy poet, Lord Byron, Ada likely inherited imagination and creativity from her father, but she saw little of him. From her mother she inherited an aptitude and fondness for mathematics, and as a child she dreamed of inventing things that did not yet exist--flying machines and giant traveling balloons, and all sorts of mechanical inventions.

But at the age of seventeen, she chanced to meet Charles Babbage, a mathematics professor at Cambridge University, whose interests spanned astronomy, mathematics, and engineering. The Victorian Age was the era of great engines, steam engines which powered ships, trains, spinning and weaving machines, engines that made and moved things. But Babbage sought to create an engine to handle data, to make calculations faster than any mathematician could do with his pen. And when he and Ada Lovelace worked together, Ada provided the invented language, the actual programming code which enabled Babbage's Engine to run itself, turning out calculations at an unimaginable rate for the nineteenth century.

In their collaborations, Lovelace and Babbage provided the basis for all our electronic "calculating engines" since--our computers, cell phones, and many other devices.

Isabel Sanchez Vegara's Ada Lovelace (Little People, Big Dreams) (Lincoln Books, 2018 Am. ed.) provides an easy reading introduction to the essential work of Ada Lovelace, the lonely little girl who imagined inventing great things, and although she didn't see them come to full fruit in her short lifetime, her ideas succeeded far beyond her own fantasies. Vegara describes the challenges of Ada's young life, sent off to live with her staid grandmother while her adventurous parents were away following their own interests, and suffering an illness that kept her in bed for her early teen years. But despite the seclusion and the prejudices against women in science of her time, Lovelace followed her vision of things others didn't yet dream of and made her mark on the modern world.

With the charming child-friendly illustrations of Zafouko Yamamoto and an informational timeline of Lovelace's life, Vegara gives young readers an introduction to a little-known but significant woman scientist of her time and our own.

Says School Library Journal, "Informative text, smartly illustrated!"

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Sunday, June 03, 2018

Love Will Find A Way! La Princessa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya

There was once a lonely prince who longed for a princessa of his own, but his mother the Queen claimed the last say on that. And La Reina was picky. Only a princessa of superior sensitivity and breeding would do for her little principe. The queen insisted on perfection; the prince just wanted some affection!

And then fate smiled on the lonely prince.

But here came a maiden en route to her castle.
"I hope I can stay here, if it's not a hassle."

She winked at the prince, who fell for her fast.
"No matter what Mom does, I'll marry this lass."

But La Reina won't give the match her blessing until this lovely little princess passes the gentility test. Borrowing a device from Hans Christian Andersen, she stacked up many mattress in the guest room, sneakily inserting un guisante (a pea) under the bottom colchone (mattress).

The princess was tired from her travels and couldn't stifle a yawn. She promised to sleep like a log until dawn.

The Queen is sure her test is securely in place, but the prince goes to bed with smile on his face.

El Principe practiced his "I dos."

He knew that this maid was the one he should choose.

But young readers will have no doubts that in spite of La Reina's machinations, there's a royal wedding in store, in Susan Middleton Elya's modern Peruvian takeoff on Hans Christian Andersen's literary fairy tale, La Princesa and the Pea (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2017). Elya's well-chosen Spanish vocabulary makes it clear to youngsters that they're not in Denmark anymore, but the meanings of the words are easily intuited from the context and illustrations, as well as with the help of Elya's handy glossary. Meanwhile the charming Hispanic-styled illustrations of artist Juana Martinez-Neal reveal how this prince ensures that his bride will be the girl of his choice, as Neal slyly shows the lonely prince is seen sneaking a couple of pitchforks and some sizable rocks under the mattress to help this romance along, and the starry-eyed young lovers at last get the wedding they want. It's a happily-ever-after ending in a jolly take-off and a comic tricking-the-trickster tale with a Latin flavor. As a read-aloud along with Andersen's version of The Princess and the Pea (Classic Fairy Tale Collection), this one makes for some fun with compare-and-contrast considerations. Says School Library Journal in their starred review, "This engaging read-aloud is a fresh reimagining of a classic."

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Saturday, June 02, 2018

Besame' Mucho! I LOVE Kisses by Sheryl McFarlane

Let us count the ways of kisses!



Kitty kisses come with scratchy tongues!

Daddy kisses come with un-shaved chin prickles.


There are sweet and icky candy heart kisses, and big smoochy lipsticky kisses. A kiss can cure a scraped "I fell down" knee, and a sleep-tight kiss can make bedtime a little better.

It takes all kinds of kisses, in Sheryl McFarlane's I Love Kisses (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2018), a happy celebration of the smooch with jolly rhyming couplets by the author and joyful comic illustrations by artist Brenna Vaughn, set within a wide variety of families, kids, pets, and places. Big smackeroos can be serious cures for the bumps and scrapes of life depicted in illustrator Vaughn's cheery cityscape. Says School Library Journal, "The soft lines for noses, puppy ears, and treetops contrast with the crisp lines of buildings, swing sets, and window frames which creates a sense of both groundedness and whimsy."

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Friday, June 01, 2018

Spit Spot! Mary Poppins ABC by P. L. Travers

Look who's just blown in on the East Wind?

It's that famed nanny of children's literature, with her umbrella and carpet bag.

Mary Poppins is ready to instruct her charges in balloon soaring and cherry-chewing, and cleaning up, spit-spot--in her very own, especially curated abecedarian book for those learning their letters and meeting the characters in her classic children's novel.

J is for Jane and John, picking Juniper berries and Jasmine. Mary Poppins tells the Jeering Park Keeper to Jog along.

Sometime Mary takes her charges along as she does the daily errands:

M is for Michael and Mary Poppins, coming home from the Market with Meat and Marmalade.

And on their daily outings they meet some colorful characters, like that lucky chimney sweep:

L is for the Legend of the sweep. He'll Labor to Leave your chimney clean, and it's Lucky to shake his hand.

If you're feeling like a chorus of "Chim-Chim-Cheree!" about now, you're in the right place, in P. L. Travers Mary Poppins ABC (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), illustrated with the classic drawings of Mary Shepard from the ever-popular series, also made famous by the hit Broadway musical and the classic movie "Mary Poppins." This alphabet book is letter perfect as a preview for a read-aloud session with the original Mary Poppins, or as a rhyming preview for watching the movie. And get ready for One day in October when

"they all flew away Over the Oak trees."

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Glutton's Diary: A Busy Creature's Day Eating: An Alphabetical Smorgasbord by Mo Willems

To call this vaguely bunny-like critter a gourmand is being kind.

He's more of a glutton.

Oh, he begins the day with a fairly humdrum and healthy diet.




But after tucking away some chocolate doughnuts and fried eggs, this creature's appetite strays toward something crunchy--the furniture, maybe?

He finds the chair and table a bit bland, however, and longs for something more... savory.


To cool his palate the critter seeks some ice cream, but things only go from bad to worse!

It's the animal that ate Albany!

As articles of outerwear and lunch boxes go down his goozle, they are followed by mayo and a napkin--not to wipe his magnum mouth--but to nibble as dessert,

Nausea sets in after noshing on the napkin. Is he queasy? Is he sprinting for the potty? Well--yes! It's time for Dad to take over and try to soothe that upset tummy with tea and sympathy and saltines, plus hugs and kisses.

All's well that ends well, with the day's dietary diary ending happily with Dad's little chowhound catching some ZZZZZs, in the noted Mo Willems' newest creation, A Busy Creature's Day Eating (Hyperion books, 2018). Subtitled "An Alphabetical Smorgasbord," the author-illustrator keeps his outrageous eater chomping alphabetically until "Z End" and after, with our little overeater creature chomping down the barcode, International Standard Book Number and Library of Congress numbers on the back of the dust jacket. Willems, who began as an ebullient Grammy-winning cartoonist for Sesame Street, lets this over-the-top guzzler run riot through his diet in a novel and extravagant style of cartooning. The only thing about Mo Willems' latest that is predictable are the giggles of gross-out glee from its young readers.

Willem's Caldecott winners include Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, and his Theodore Seuss Medals for beginning readers include five of his blockbuster Elephant and Piggie books.

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