BooksForKidsBlog

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Another Sort of Rescue Dog: Mogie, The Heart of the House by Kathi Appelt

Some dogs are meant for dramatic rescues from burning buildings. Some dogs are meant to track down children lost in the woods. Some dogs patrol perimeters of lonely outposts, looking for saboteurs.

Mogie is not one of those dogs.

He's a shaggy, fluffy-footed, somehow goofy-looking Labradoodle, clearly capable of making messes and misbehaving.

But Mogie has one special talent.

GIVE HIM A KIDDO WHO IS BLUER THAN BLUE, AND MOGIE WILL BE TRUER THAN TRUE.

Mogie is an empathy dog. And when Mogie wanders into Ronald McDonald House, he discovers his calling.

Mogie sees a boy who used to be a busy, bouncing, back-flipping sort of boy, slumped sadly in a wheelchair.

Gage has definitely lost his Mojo!

Mogie goes to Gage and sits down beside him. He smiles at Gage in that goofy way that only a floppy, frizzy-faced, tongue-lolling dog can, and Gage looks at him. Soon Mogie finds a ball for Gage to toss, and the two become friends. Life is looking up for Gage, and he's on his way to becoming his old self. In time he's got his Mojo back and goes home.

Mogie has lost his friend. But then comes a girl, a gloomy girl who looks as if she's lost her "cha-cha-cha." Mogie knows just what to do.

Newbery-winning author Kathi Appelt tells this true story of a different sort of rescue dog, dogs whose job is to comfort and "rescue" sick and injured kids, in her latest, Mogie: The Heart of the House (Atheneum, 2014) Appelt has a light touch with what could have been somewhat smarmy story, brightening the narrative with appealing verse and with just a hint of the theme that all of us, even messy mutts, have our gifts in this world. Appelt's sweet story is ably illustrated by notable artist, Marc Rosenthal, whose engaging Mogie is the sort of pooch almost no one could resist. Publishers Weekly says, "A warm tribute to a remarkable dog and to the workers at Ronald McDonald Houses, which will receive a share of proceeds from book sales."

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Closet Terpsichorian: Rupert Can Dance by Jules Feiffer

RUPERT LOVED TO WATCH MANDY DANCE.

THE ONLY TIME SHE STOPPED DANCING WAS WHEN SHE WENT TO SLEEP!

But watching is just not enough. Rupert himself wants to dance. He longs to leap and twirl and kick and swivel lithely as only a feline can.

But felis silvestris domesticus is a secretive species. No one must know, so Rupert waits until Mandy is deep in slumber, slips into her closet, and pulls on her blue ballet slippers.

And Rupert dances. He is lithe and limber. He slithers and swishes. He twirls and swizzles his tail. His eyes glow and his paws know no pause until dawn draws near and he has to curl up and pretend to be nothing more than a cuddly cat.

It is Rupert's little secret.

But then one night Mandy wakes up and witnesses Rupert's routine.

Rupert's solo career is wrecked, but Mandy is delighted. Now she had a dancing partner, just what she has always secretly wanted.

But Rupert resists. He hides under her bed, peering nervously out from under the quilt. Mandy stands where she is sure Rupert can watch and shows him the basic foot positions. Rupert refuses to take the bait.

Can Mandy trick Rupert into doing a duet? What if she pretends that she simply can't get that step right? She slips. She trips. She seems to have two left feet.

And of course Rupert falls for the ploy and soon creeps out to show her just how it's done, in Jules Feifer's latest, Rupert Can Dance (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014). One glance at the cover, with Feiffer's gung ho cat lost in la danse, would make anyone (even a dog) laugh. Feiffer's trademark sketchy, wobbly black line and marker coloring gives Rupert just the right quirky, crazed cat look as he and Mandy demonstrate their pas de deux. A fitting book for ballet lovers and cat fanciers, which is most of the feminine readership of picture books these days, this one pairs well with Anna Kemp's pugnacious, pirouetting, prima pug, Bif, in Dogs Don't Do Ballet (Read review here).

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Peas of Cake! Littrle Green Peas: A Big Book of Color by Keith Baker

It had to happen! What comes more naturally for pods of little green goodness than teaching about colors? After all, it may be a drag for Kermit the Frog, but being green is easy-peasy for them.

But being peas-full little legumes, they let another color lead the way:

BLUE!

Blue boats, blue seas, blue flags...


And Little Green Peas.

The little green peas go down to the sea in ships, sailboats, surfboards, and rowboats in a duo of double-page spreads, the first spread featuring tall capital letters spelling out the word, set against a paler blue background of ocean waves, and the second spread showing the little green peas doing all the things they can do with blue, riding the waves, sunbathing, and digging for pea-root, er, pirate treasure on the beach.

Similarly featured are RED, in an autumn scene, YELLOW, featuring little peas climbing into their big yellow school bus, ORANGE, with balloons and pumpkins, as well as GREEN, PURPLE, SILVER, AND basic BLACK and WHITE. Fittingly, the green pages open with a double-page spread of a huge field of pea plant vines, leafy and oh-so-green, followed by platoon of big peas picking cute baby peas from their pods.  The silver pages feature a gray castle, with a Rapunzel-pea lowering her long locks, and for the adult reader, a wispy, silvery ghost on the parapet (an ap-pea-rition of Hamlet's father, p'haps?). Much visual humor abounds to keep little readers absorbed in each page with the antics of the busy little peas, not to mention the running gags--a paper airplane soars through the pages from beginning to end, and a little painter pea is discovered at his easel, hard at work on each not-quite-complete page.

Keith Baker's third concept book in this series, Little Green Peas: A Big Book of Colors (Beach Lane Books, 2014) offers an ap-pea-ling visual delight as it helps make learning this preschool skill a peas er,  piece of cake. School Library Journal's reviewer declares this newest a re-peat ap-pea-rance, starring this one and saying, "Simple in concept but elegant in design and execution, this title is a delight!"

Other books in this series are LMNO Peas (Classic Board Books), and 1-2-3 Peas (Classic Board Books) (Read my punny peas-ful reviews here!)

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Have You Seen My Friend? The Adventures of Beekle! An Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

HE WAS BORN ON AN ISLAND FAR AWAY WHERE IMAGINARY FRIENDS WERE CREATED.

HERE, THEY LIVED AND PLAYED, EACH EAGERLY AWAITING TO BE IMAGINED BY A REAL CHILD.

But Beekle must be hard to imagine, because he has been waiting for his turn far too long. At last he takes matters into his own pudgy hands and does the unimaginable: he sets out, captain of his fate, on his own, steering his own boat, crossing rough seas with fairly unimaginable creatures, and thinking of the friend that must be out there, somewhere, in the real world.

THE REAL WORLD WAS A STRANGE PLACE. NO KIDS WERE EATING CAKE. NO ONE STOPPED TO HEAR THE MUSIC.

Beekle has disembarked in a big city, where everyone seems to be bustling somewhere--but everyone is also in their own world, reading newspapers, listening to the music in their own ears, even catching a nap as they ride the subway. Nobody notices a doughy, blocky blob of a little guy hopefully wearing his paper crown. He's nobody's imaginary friend. He's invisible in the crowd, unimagined among the skyscrapers and busy traffic.

HE FELT VERY SAD. THEN HE HEARD....

"HELLO!"

There is a girl there. She can see him and she's talking to him. Shy at first, they smile.

THERE WAS SOMETHING ABOUT HER THAT FELT JUST RIGHT.

Finding the one who can imagine the real you is the theme of noted author and artist Dan Santat in his newest creation, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (Little Brown, 2014). Santat's narrative style is simple and yet evocative of the loneliness of the crowd. His artwork here is so varied and creative that it almost defies description, as he takes his main character from tropical island to the seascapes inhabited by unknown sea creatures, and into a hard-edged rectilinear urban scene in grim contrast to his pillowy, billowy little hero. The contrasting island to ocean to cityscape settings give Santat a chance to showcase his considerable illustrative chops, displayed in pencil, ink, watercolors, and Photoshop art, in a story of an imaginary friend like no other. "...Like Beekle's new friend, there's something here that feels just right as an "unimaginary" friendship creates a joyous, recognizable bond. A terrific addition to any library," says School Library Journal in its starred review.

Santat's inimitable illustrative style can be seen in his own Sidekicks and in his artwork in Mac Barnett's Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World and Oh No! Not Again!: (Or How I Built a Time Machine to save History) (Or at Least My History Grade) and Samantha Berger's Crankenstein.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

No-Good Day! Ruthie and the (Not So) Busy Day by Laura Rankin

SATURDAY!

RUTHIE WAKES UP.

NO SCHOOL, NO HOMEWORK--JUST FUN--WITH MOM AND PAPA.

Ruthie's Saturday plans are modest--but great--plans.

She wants to make blueberry pancakes with Papa and help him plant flowers. She wants to make cookies with Mom.  And she wants to watch her favorite cartoon show.

THE BEST KIND OF DAY!

But just as Papa is stirring up the pancakes and Ruthie is about to add the berries, the news comes that Gramma needs Papa, fast!.  Her basement is flooded.

There go the family pancakes and gardening with Dad. Ruthie is not thrilled with soggy cereal instead, but that is the way it goes.

Then Mom remembers that her mean cousin Buster's birthday is this afternoon. Ruthie's favorite polka-dotted party dress needs washing and they have to hurry out to buy Buster a gift.

The car gets stuck in traffic and Ruthie realizes what time it is.

"I'M MISSING MY SHOW!" SAID RUTHIE.
"STOP KICKING MY SEAT!" MOM COMPLAINED.
"THIS IS NOT THE DAY I WANTED!" RUTHIE WHINED.
"IT'S NOT EXACTLY THE DAY I WANTED, EITHER!" MOM SAID.

Back home the bad luck continues. The washer breaks down and Ruthie's best dress is a soggy, sudsy mess. Ruthie drops the eggs. There go the cookies!

Just as Ruthie stomps off to sulk behind the shrubbery, Mom notices that one of her tires is going flat!

More bad luck!! Or... is it?

Suddenly, Ruthie and Mom realize that they are off the hook. The rest of the day is theirs to enjoy, and they do, in Laura Rankin's second Ruthie story, Ruthie and the (Not So) Very Busy Day (Bloomsbury Books, 2014). Rankin's Ruthie is an adorable little fox girl in a regular family in which the best of plans can go off track and Mom, Dad, and Ruthie have to come up with Plan B!

Laura Rankin's first book in this series is Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Into the Bog with.... Maggi and Milo by Juli Brenning

MAGGI IS AN EXCELLENT ADVENTURER,

A BIT OF A SCIENTIST, AND MILO'S BEST FRIEND.

So when Maggi comes home to find a package from Grandma. she tears it open to find a book and a pair of blue polka-dotted boots. And Grandma clearly knows her girl. The book is about hunting frogs and there's nothing for it but for Maggi to pull on her boots and head right out to the pond to see what's hoppin.'

Nothing is hopping, swimming, or croaking. Maggi stands motionless for about a million or so minutes. She comes to a conclusion.

"... WET FEET MAKE FOR A LONG DAY."

Her shaggy shepherd Milo has better things to do. He wanders off. Finally Maggi gives up on frog spotting, realizes Milo is missing, and splashes off to find him.

"M.....ILO?"

MILO HAD FOUND FROGS!

Maggi starts naming her foundling frogs--Alexander, Benjamin, Cooper.... until she stops abruptly at Princess Penelope...

Maggi has hit the wall:

"NO WAY I CAN THINK OF A GIRL'S NAME THAT STARTS WITH Q!"

The sun may have set on Maggi's frog-hunting for the day, but there's always another adventure ahead for Maggi and Milo, in Juli Brenning's Maggi and Milo (Dial Books, 2014), which introduces this piquant pig-tailed adventuress and her shaggy sidekick. Artist Priscilla Burris gives us a gung-ho girl, ebullient, joyful, and a bit of a risk taker, under the mostly watchful eyes of her big black and white dog. "...there's a new spunky gal-and-canine twosome in town," says Kirkus.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

NO Respect! The Hueys in None the Number: A Counting Adventure by Oliver Jeffers


"HOW MANY DO YOU SEE HERE?"

"I DON'T SEE ANY!"

"THAT'S BECAUSE THERE ARE NONE!"

"IS NONE A NUMBER?"

"OF COURSE. IT IS ONE LESS THAN ONE!"

SO ONE MORE THAN NONE...IS ONE?

When is nothing really SOMETHING?

In mathematics, of course! We owe a lot to that nebulous quantity--the zero, a.k.a. nothing, nada, zip, zed, the naughty naught, without which we'd be stuck with calculating in Roman numerals! (Shudder!)

Ever since Saturday morning television introduced OUR HERO ZERO, even elementary students have known something about the powers of  the mighty naught. After all, without the zero, one could never become 10, or 100, or 1000, or, well, you get the idea. Essential for arithmetical computation and of course for higher mathematics, our hero zero still gets short shrift in preschool counting books.

But that's where Oliver Jeffers' notable Hueys come to the rescue, in his latest, None the Number: A Hueys Book (The Hueys) (Philomel Books, 2014). Jeffers' ovoid characters take on different colors to explain some of the uses of the aught or naught or zero,  a figure of many names. Jeffers' simple stick figures count up a variety of things, (Kevin's four tantrums, Rupert's five hats, nine seagulls trying to snatch Frankie's hot dog), with Blue Huey always maintaining that it SHOULD all begin with nothing!

O123456789!

Jeffers' art is notably quirky and eye-catching, and here his Huey characters stand out, along with his colorful numbers, against bright white pages, to make the point that counting should begin with that zero! Endpapers provide Jeffers' quicky lesson in  that mighty integer, the zero.  School Library Journal gives it one thumb up, saying, "Delightfully droll and enlightening, the unconventional Jeffers reveals the importance of the number zero."

Along with lauded picture books such as the best-selling The Day the Crayons Quit and Stuck, Jeffers' earlier Huey books include The Hueys in the New Sweater and It Wasn't Me: The Hueys, Book 2.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

No Housebreaking Required! My Pet Book by Bob Staake

Choosing the right pet is hard, especially when drooly pups are not your cup of tea, and kittens bring only sneezes and wheezes. But this boy refuses to settle for less than the best.

Finally, in the local Bookopolis, he spots the pet of his dreams--a flea-free, low maintenance pal for sure--"a frisky, red hardcover" book! PERFECT!

IT NEVER NEEDED BATHING.
AND ITS EARS WOULD NEVER DROOP!
BUT BEST OF ALL THAT LITTLE PET...
IT DIDN'T EVEN POOP!

Sans pooper scooper, the boy is free to walk his pet anywhere, worry free. Shedding-free, his pet is welcome anywhere and is always open to sharing time, and in his book the boy finds "tales of glory" that he never imagined.

Everything is dandy, until the day the boy's pet goes missing. He searches the house frantically, but his red book is nowhere to be found. At last the family maid confesses that she might have accidentally put it in the give-away bag. The boy and his dad dash to the thrift shop, where the little red book is finally found hiding, (where else?) in a cast-off doghouse. His pet is back, just in time for bedtime, with a story and a snuggle.

Bob Staake's wacky newest, My Pet Book (Random House, 2014), features a pet owner and pet who definitely march to a different drummer. Kids will giggle at Staake's trademark quirky characters, especially a boy who can smugly walk a levitating book on a leash for fun. Even the rhymes are off-beat, allowing Kirkus Reviews to quip waggishly that Staake's verses are "doggerel," adding, "One of Staake's sillier, more ebullient outings—and that's saying something." A tongue-in-cheek look at pet-owning, with the plus of a plug for books and reading, gives this one a special place among the many dog and cat stories out there. Read this one with Paul Schmid's Oliver and his Alligator for a couple of tales of imaginative animal accomplices.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Common Ground: Pete the Cat and the New Guy by Kimberly and James Dean

There is a mooving van spotted in Pete the Cat's neighborhood!

WISE OLD OWL HAD A VIEW FROM HIS TREE.

PETE SAID, "HEY, OWL! WHAT DO YOU SEE?"

"ALL I SEE ARE GREEN SHOES AND A RED HAT." SAID OWL.

"SOUNDS LIKE MY KIND OF CAT," SAID PETE.
Most of the new kid is hidden by the large moving box he is toting toward his new house, so Pete, wearing his lucky red shoes, sets out on his skateboard to try to catch a closer look at what he hopes will be a new friend. He wants to say "Hi!" but finds that he's too shy to go up and knock.

But the next day, when the new guy come out to meet him, Pete blurts out the first thing that comes to mind:"
"YOU SEEM LIKE A DUCK AND LIKE A BEAVER, TOO!"

Gus explains that he's a platypus. Pete says  he thinks that being different is cool and takes him out to meet his old friends.

Squirrel takes it in stride and invites Gus to climb up and share his favorite tree. Pete joins him on the big branch, but although he tries, Gus just doesn't have the right stuff to scamper up trees. Gus is disappointed.
"I WISH I COULD CLIMB LIKE YOU, BUT CLIMBING IS JUST SOMETHING I  CAN'T DO."
Gus has no luck when he meets Grumpy Toad, who invites him to play leapfrog with them. Gus just can't jump very high or very far.  Octopus offers to teach him to juggle, but he discovers that juggling is beyond his reach, too.  Gus is feeling gloomy, and Pete can't think of anything that they can all do together.

But on Saturday, when Pete rolls over to try to cheer Gus up, he hears a really cool thump coming from Gus's garage.
"SWEET!"
GUS WAS ROCKING TO THE BEAT!
It seems that a groovy drummer is just what the guys in the neighborhood band need, in Kim and James Dean's newest (and already best-selling) cool cat picture book Pete the Cat and the New Guy (Harper, 2014). With the first days of school just ahead, it's good for readers to be reminded that kids who seem different in some way may indeed have qualities and capabilities that aren't obvious at first meeting. Also recent in the Pete the Cat catalog are Pete's beginning reader books, Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana (My First I Can Read), and Pete the Cat: A Pet for Pete (My First I Can Read).

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Once Upon a Bedtime Weary.... Edgar Gets Ready for Bed by Jennifer Adams.

"Once upon a midnight dreary...." a mother Raven was growing weary with her son, Edgar, doubtless named for that moody master of dark literature, Edgar Allan Poe. She sighs as she tries to move him along toward bedtime.

Little Edgar himself has a negative side.

EDGAR! FINISH YOUR VEGETABLES!" SAYS BIG RAVEN.

"NEVERMORE!"

Big Raven orders Edgar to stop chasing his sister. She commands him to tidy up his room. Edgar has one word for it all.

"NEVERMORE!"

Big Raven orders Edgar to take a bath, but testing the water with one toe, Edgar envisions sharks cruising just below the surface.

"NEVERMORE!!"

Mama Raven drags the contrary Edgar through tooth brushing, pajama-ing, and leaving his sister alone! She asks him, firmly, to sit down while she gets everything in order, but Edgar refuses to be still... until Mama Raven, with a sigh, comes up with a different suggestion:

"COME ON, DEAR, AND I'LL READ YOU A STORY."

She begins reading from little Edgar's favorite book: "Once upon a midnight dreary...."

Wee Edgar settles down beside Mama, but then, with a worried baby frown, he has to ask...

 "DO YOU STILL LOVE ME?"

And there's only one thing that Mama Raven can say, in Jennifer Adams', Edgar Gets Ready for Bed: A BabyLit®First Steps Picture Book (BabyLit First Steps Books) (Gibbs Press, 2014). Mama Ravens love their little ones evermore, and as cute as this diminutive naysayer is, everyone will love little Edgar, terrible two though he may be. Preschoolers may not have a clue about Edgar Allan Poe's dreary, weary, sorta scary poem, but they will thoroughly understand this little raven's reluctance to say goodnight. Illustrator Bob Stucki provides quaint nineteenth-century ambiance, with an ornate doorway with its black raven door knocker, period furniture, and clawfoot bathtub, and especially the carved raven over Edgar's bedroom doorway, which will add to the fun for slightly older youngsters and parents who loved (or suffered through) Poe's poem, too.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Bear Sleeps On! Moonbear's Sunrise by Frank Asch

ONE EVENING BEAR AND LITTLE BIRD WERE WATCHING THE MOON RISE.

"MOONRISE REMINDS ME OF SUNRISE," SAID LITTLE BIRD.

"SUNRISE IS BEAUTIFUL, TOO."

Being a bird, Little Bird must be an early bird, and who better to know the comparative merits of moon and sunrise?

Moonbear has always been devoted to watching the moon rise and ride across the sky. He has never thought about what his night-owl ways caused him to miss.

Finally, he decides that he must see this "sunrise" for himself.

But there's a problem. Bear has never, ever gotten up that early. His moon-gazing habit has always meant that he sleeps until the sun is high in the sky. Bear buys himself something new--an alarm clock--and sets it for the wee hours of the morning to make sure he witnesses this whole sunrise thing for himself.

But like many night owls, Bear sleeps through the alarm. Two don't do the job either. Finally, he has ten alarms going off before dawn, but Bear hears nothing. He asks Little Bird to come over and make sure he's up for the dawn, but despite several chirpy "WAKE UPS" and an acorn dropped on his head--BEAR SLEEPS ON!

It's time for an intervention from friend Little Bird. Moonbear is just going to have to go to bed early! But that is easier said than done!

Frank Asch's newest book in his beloved and award-winning Moonbear series is sure to find fans who share Bear's preference for staying up late, in his Moonbear's Sunrise (Aladdin, 2014). It's great to have Moonbear back, albeit a bit short on shuteye!

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Back to School: Three Multi-Grade Suggestions for School-Days Reading from Common Sense Media

At the local bookstores, new back-to-school stories at all levels have been somewhat scarce this year. Below are some suggestions from earlier  posts and also some suggestions from Common Sense Media, a site for parents of school-aged kids.


From the Way-Back Machine's vaults, some recommended reading from yesteryear is right here:

And here are three multi-age choices from a from Common Sense:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/what-to-read-next-back-to-school-books-for-august?utm_source=080714+Parent+Default&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly

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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Gotta Dance!! I Got the Rhythm! by Connie Schofield-Morrison

I HEARD THE RHYTHM IN MY MIND... BEAT! BEAT!

A stroll into the park gets this girl's pink-sneakered feet tapping out the beat all around. She shakes her shoes with the rhythm of the breeze in the trees, feeling the beat in everything.

Some boys drum on trash can lids, and she snaps her fingers and claps her hands.

I HIPPED AND HOPPED!

BING BANG BOOM!

A boy cranks up his boom box to add a tune to the music mix. The song is infectious, and other kids follow the leader, and soon there is a whole parade of kids moving to the beat behind her. Even a street clown falls in line, and moms, dads, and passersby join in a rhythm section that has everyone dancing.

It's a spontaneous, rhythmic happening in the King Award-winning Connie Scholfield-Morrison's brand-new I Got the Rhythm (Bloomsbury Press, 2014). Artist Frank Morrison's vivacious little heroine is hard to resist as she dances through the park, absorbed in the joy of moving to the beat, and his urban park hustles and bustles with the colorful food vendors, wannabe buskers, and people ready to have some fun. A natural for preschool students learning about the elements of music and an easy for choice for early readers to enjoy on their own.

Partner this one with Lindsay Craig's and Marc Brown's Farmyard Beat and Dancing Feet! for more two more toe-tapping tales. (See my reviews here.)

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Friday, August 08, 2014

Back to School: Dinosaur Vs.School by Bob Shea


ROAR! ROAR! ROAR!

It's the first day of school, and Dinosaur has all the right stuff. He's got a snazzy retro plaid jacket and a cool lunch box.

He's got a comeback for every remark. (ROAR! ROAR!)

And he's got ... enthusiasm!

Meeting new friends? No problem with that forceful personality and grin!

DINOSAUR WINS!

Playing dress-up? Dinosaur takes charge, decked out as a policeman.

Art?

Dinosaur spreads the glue, sprinkles the glitter with abandon, and winds up with googly stick-on eyes stuck all over his body. Here's lookin' at you, guys!

Dinosaur wins again.

School snacks?

No sweat for Dinosaur to chomp the "monkey snacks." Slurp! Apple slices are history! Gobble! Raisins all gone already. Crunch! Pretzels? No problem-o! Dino wins again!

Music class?

Dino is practically a one-man band. Guitar? He can strum it. Drum? He can beat it. Accordion?He can squeeze like you wouldn't believe! Roar! Roar! Roar!

There's just one school task that stops Dinosaur and his classmates in their tracks, horrified!

SOMETHING THEY HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE!

IT'S TOO MUCH FOR DINOSAUR!

It's clean-up time in the old schoolroom. But before Dinosaur can squeeze out more than one ROAR! he gets the idea. He leads the others in a whirlwind tidying up time, with everyone pitching in to leave the classroom spotless for the second day of school! Two ROARS for day two!

EVERYONE WINS!

Everyone roars as they head out the doors, in Bob Shea's back-to-school-themed Dinosaur vs. School (A Dinosaur vs. Book) (Hyperion Books, 2014). While this one in Shea's popular series lacks the visceral humor and focus of his earlier entries, he does a fine job of introducing first-timers to the activities to be expected in school, showing that an enthusiastic can-do attitude can go a long way on the big day. For a less bravura intro to school, pair this one with Eric Litwin and James Dean's equally positive (and best-selling) Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes (read my 2011 review here) which covers the same territory in a bit more detail, plus a sing-along tune to help move those first wary steps through the schoolroom door.

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

School Kitty: Little Lola by Julie Saab

THIS IS LOLA. SHE WOKE UP EXTRA EARLY TODAY.

THAT WAS LUCKY, BECAUSE SHE HAD BIG PLANS TO DO!

Kitty Lola is awakened by a falling apple. And at the top of her TO DO FOR TODAY list, Little Lola has checked the box that says HAVE ADVENTURE.

What kind of adventure does that apple suggest?

Right! Lola decides to go to school.

Following the crowd of kids, Lola climbs aboard the big yellow bus. The kids are thrilled.

"HOORAY! LOLA IS GOING TO SCHOOL!"

Little Lola loves the classroom. Everything is shiny and neat, with a place for everything.

THERE WAS EVEN A PLACE FOR A CURIOUS LITTLE CAT.

And surprisingly, clever Lola has plenty of scholastic aptitude. She prints her name neatly and does some addition problems. Then, in a bit of hands-on math, she subtracts the proper number of cheesy Goldfish crackers from the snack tray! Yummy math!

There is a tiny bit of a problem at show-and-tell time, when Lola, improvising a quick surprise, comes up with a mouse, dangling from her paw by its tail!

4"UH OH! LOLA!

There's a bit of commotion when Lola, recognizing her faux pas (or is it faux paws?), releases the mouse, resulting in a chase that disorders the decorous arrangement of the classroom for a moment. But Little Lola pitches in to put things back in order, surreptitiously slipping the mouse into the teacher's desk drawer to keep it out of sight while she shows off her one-cat-band musical ability.

Not since Mary's little lamb came to school has there been a more merrymaking classroom visitor, in Julie Saab's Little Lola (Greenwillow Books, 2014).  Lola the cat makes a charming little schoolgirl in artist David Gothard's watercolor illustrations, and having a kitty in your class makes going off to school seem like child's play for sure, in this pleasant little fantasy. Gothard fills his pages with plenty of sly visual humor, poking good-natured fun at the idea of a stylish schoolgirl cat, leaving kids snickering at what they imagine happening off-page when, after school, Teacher discovers that mouse in her drawer. Publishers Weekly even assigns this one a starred review, saying, "Gothard’s watercolors have a retro, Richard Scarry simplicity and showcase Lola’s personality at every turn. An entertaining and promising debut for both Lola and her creators."

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Story of the First Swish! Hoop Genius (How a Desperate Teacher Invented Basketball) by John Coy

In December of 1891, James Naismith took over a rowdy gym class that had already forced two teachers to quit. Nobody else would teach that class.

Winters in New England are cold and dreary, and the young single men of Springfield, Massachusetts, were restless. Filled with the more energy than they could work off during the day, they flocked to the local YMCA with its gymnasium and emphasis on body building. But the town's older teens and twenty-somethings were bored with toe-touches, squats, and the other gentlemanly calisthenics that the Y offered. They wanted to move and groove. When they weren't kept in motion at all times, fights threatened to break out.

Naismith reluctantly took the job. The guys obviously needed something exciting to work off their drive, and James had the idea that he could focus the young men's aggressive energy by designing indoor versions of outdoor games played in the summer. His first choice was indoor lacrosse, but hardwood sticks in the hands of rambunctious young men resulted in a lot of injuries. Indoor soccer, football and field hockey were even worse. Blood and broken bones didn't exactly fit in with the goals for the Young Men's Christian Organization.

James realized that none of the usual outdoor sports worked in a small gym and recalled a game he and the boys in his neighborhood used to play--Duck on a Rock. Obviously, tossing rocks at a target wasn't a good idea, but an old soccer ball would work, and he decided to go with it as a safe bouncing version of the hockey puck. He divided the floor down the middle and planned to split up the guys into two teams. But what could he use to replace the goalie cages? James wanted to try out his idea with some of the guys the next day, so he asked the custodian, Pop Stevens, for a couple of boxes. Pop couldn't come up with any boxes, but he did find two old peach baskets in a closet. Those would have to do, and Naismith nailed one up on the wall at each end of his improvised court. He hurriedly wrote some rules, pointedly including no body contact at the top of the list. Now Naismith hoped he was ready for his challenging class.

Naismith's "basket ball" was an instant hit. The young men loved racing up and down the court and trying to toss the ball into the basket, but the first game was not exactly a high-scoring duel. At last, the game's first and only goal was scored, and it was a doozy--a three-pointer before there were three-pointers!

William Chase launched a shot from twenty-five feet that went in for the only basket.

When Naismith blew the whistle for the end of the game, nobody wanted to leave.

Almost immediately, James had more players than he could manage, and when the Christmas holidays came, the players shared the new game with all their friends. Soon a young woman teacher approached the coach and asked him to teach her friends the game, and the first women basketball players took to the court in 1892, long skirts and all. Everyone loved the new game, and soon someone had the bright idea of cutting a hole in the bottom of the basket so that the ball could go right back into play after each score. The first SWISH was heard in the land!

John Coy's Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball (Carolrhoda Picture Books) (Lerner Publishing, 2013) tells the story of how Naismith's "basket ball" became one of the world's most popular sports, ending with its inventor being honored in 1936 when it became an Olympic game. Coy's writing is clear and witty, much abetted by Joe Morse's comic illustrations of turn-of-the-century athletes in their "gym costumes" and handlebar mustaches going for the goal. Coy adds an author's note for more historical information and Naismith's original rules, as well as a bibliography for readers who want to know more about how the game grew.

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