BooksForKidsBlog

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tough Love: Because Your Mommy Loves You by Andrew Clements

WHEN THE PACK ON YOUR PACK FEELS LIKE A GIANT ROCK,
YOUR MOMMY COULD SAY, "HERE, I'LL CARRY IT FOR YOU.
BUT SHE DOESN'T.

YOU BOTH SIT DOWN A WHILE AND SHARE A HANDFUL OF RAISINS.
THEN SHE HELPS YOU STRAP ON YOUR PACK AGAIN,
AND UP THE TRAIL YOU GO.

A mom and her little boy are off for an overnight camping trip. It's a new experience for the youngster, carrying his own backpack, crossing the creek on a wobbly fallen log, putting up a tent by following the instructions step by step, but instead of taking over and doing the hard part herself, this wise mom gives the child the chance to learn to do it for himself. In the process she manages to give the child more than just a helping hand--she gives him success, the feeling of competence that only comes from mastering a new skill and overcoming fear.

When dark comes and the boy starts to shiver as they sit around the campfire, this mom has the wisdom to hand him the flashlight and send him back to the dark tent where he left his fleecy jacket.

AND AFTER YOU FIND IT
YOU PULL IT ON AND HURRY BACK TO THE FIRE,
AND THE TWO OF YOU SNUGGLE EXTRA CLOSE.

What parents need to give their children most is a loving space in which to learn to be independent, and that is the theme of Andrew Clements' new picture book, Because Your Mommy Loves You (Clarion, 2012), charmingly illustrated by R. W. Alley. A companion book to Clements' earlier Because Your Daddy Loves You, his new entry, with its subtle reminder to the so-called "helicopter parents" among us to give children the gift of independence, makes good reading for Mothers' Day or any time.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wild Thing! Petunia Goes Wild by Paul Schmid

BEING HUMAN WAS JUST...
TOO... CLEAN. TOO CAREFUL.

TOO CLOTHED. TOO COMBED.

TOO QUIET.      TOO...HAFTA!

Preschooler Petunia knows that she was meant to be a wild animal. She's had it with scratchy clothes, hairdos, and too much... order. It's time for a walk on the wild side for our girl!

On Monday morning Petunia issues her manifesto. She eats her breakfast from the floor, runs around outside, roaring at anyone or anything who goes by. She rolls around in a mud puddle--without benefit of swimsuit! She declares that she is her parents' pet and even offers them a collar and leash for her. Her parents have a meltdown.  They have no intentions of trading their daughter for a pet Petunia!

"NO! YOU MAY NOT!

THAT IS NOT HOW A NICE LITTLE GIRL BEHAVES!

Petunia is sent to the corner to think about why humans have rules, and as she peers through the bars on the back of the kitchen chair, she has a wild idea.

Carefully she sneaks off to find a marker and gathers all the postage stamps she can find. Petunia prints an address on the outside of a large, comfortable box.

MAIL TO AFRICA.

Petunia crawls inside her mailer and waits to be transported to where the wild things are. It's a long wait.

Then Petunia hears her mother singing softly and suspects that she's making cookies in the kitchen. Hmmmm!

"TIGERS DON'T SING," THOUGHT PETUNIA.

Life on the wild side requires a bit of re-thinking in Paul Schmid's latest, Petunia Goes Wild (Harper, 2012). Illustrated in Schmid's evocative but minimalist style, Petunia, wearing her trademark lavender-striped dress with safety-pinned tiger tail (when she's not wearing mud), is a character most kids will understand, one who tires of all the rules no matter how many good reasons there are for them. Schmid and his character come to a comfortable compromise, with Petunia's big escape box carefully put away in her room for future need, while she decides to accept the perks--including fresh cookies and a tickle and hug at bedtime--of being a nice little girl--for the moment.

Schmid's other noted picture books include A Pet for Petunia and Hugs from Pearl (see my review here.)

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Up A Tree! Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

IT ALL BEGAN... WHEN FLOYD'S KITE BECAME STUCK IN A TREE. HE TRIED PULLING AND SWINGING BUT IT WOULDN'T COME UNSTUCK.

THE TROUBLE REALLY BEGAN WHEN HE THREW HIS FAVORITE SHOE TO KNOCK THE KITE LOOSE.

AND THAT BECAME STUCK, TOO!

What's a guy to do? Well, he still has the other shoe, but when he hurls it into the offending tree, the other shoe doesn't drop.

It's stuck too.

Floyd is obviously not a kid who thinks outside the box. He pitches his cat Mitch at the stuff stuck in the tree.

CATS GET STUCK IN TREES, BUT THIS WAS GETTING RIDICULOUS.
Don't say you weren't warned. We can see where this one is going, as we say, as in short order Floyd borrows his friend's bike and a neighbor's ladder to toss at the tree, knowing full well that they need to be back in place posthaste before they're missed, but alas, they stick up there as well.

The situation escalates in the best "old lady who swallowed a fly" tradition, with the tree growing impossibly top-heavy with improbable missiles--Floyd's front door, the milkman (who definitely needs to get back to work) and an orangutan (who's got to have better things to do). The absurdity escalates as does the tree, soon filling up with a neighbor's house (complete with harried housewife), a firetruck and fireman, and a saw, which the reader fully expects the fireman to use to top the tree and get everything back on terra firma. But in this fantastical adventure, that, too, is not to be. Then, suddenly, Floyd gets his wish:

THERE WAS NO MORE ROOM LEFT IN THE TREE AND THE KITE CAME UNSTUCK.

FLOYD WAS DELIGHTED, ENJOYING THE REST OF HIS DAY.

FLOYD FEEL ASLEEP, EXHAUSTED.

THOUGH BEFORE HE DID, HE COULD HAVE SWORN THERE WAS SOMETHING HE WAS FORGETTING.
Kids will chortle at the total absurdity of this little cumulative tale, which Oliver Jeffers narrates with appropriate deadpan sangfroid. There is plenty of room in this vertically-gifted format for Jeffries' tangle of a tree and its improbable embellishments to grow, and his illustrative style is well fitted to this imaginative tale, with Floyd himself as stylized stick figure whose outfit is a simple plaid rectangle and whose tree is a simple trunk with a circular scribble for foliage. Jeffries' witty text is done up in a hand-printed combination of childlike cursive and manuscript, and the overall effect is uniquely charming. Stuck (Philomel, 2011) will provide giggles which will escalate along with Floyd's ever-more-loaded tree all the way to the final wry ending. Kids will be stuck on Stuck.

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Or Dial 1-888-MOMHELP: M.O.M. (Mom Operating Manual) * by Doreen Cronin

DAILY CARE AND MAINTENANCE

Regardless of the type of mom you have, there are many things you can do to ensure many years of trouble-free operation.

The Daily Basics. The essentials for a highly functional mom are Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise, and Water, or SNEW for short.

To ensure peak performance, your mom needs eight hours of PEACEFUL, UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP each night. This will never happen, but it is important to set goals. Check your mom's sleeping area and REMOVE any of the following: Small Children, Pets, Sharp Metal Objects, Laundry, Cold Pizza. Remarkably, despite their size, moms can sleep on as little as three inches of bed. (Science has no explanation for this.) Your mom is not getting enough sleep if...

1) She has packed you a lunch of unsweetened cocoa and a raw egg.
2) She has crawled into the trunk of the car.
3) She is licking the bottom of her coffee cup.

Doreen Cronin's tongue-in-cheek M.O.M. (Mom Operating Manual) (Atheneum, 2011), drolly illustrated by Laura Cornell, has everything the savvy kid needs to know about mom-keeping--care and feeding (don't let her eat stuff found under the sofa cushions), exercise (weight training opportunities include lifting the sofa to find your homework, shoes, [fill in the blank]) and grooming (keep critical comments to yourself!).

And when the feared Mom Meltdown threatens, Cronin offers detailed instructions for the RESET of Mom (Some advice: Avoid the ever-popular game of I Can Cluck Like A Chicken Longer Than You Can and choose the Quiet Game as long as you can carry it off. If all else fails, a witty performance of "Cranky Pants" (to the tune of "Mary Had A Little Lamb:" as in "Why do you wear cranky pants?.... Breathe deep and count to ten.")will usually make even the most fried mom laugh--at least long enough for any kids in her vicinity to make themselves scarce.

Current moms and grandmoms--who tend to have LONG memories--will find this book a total hoot--for Mothers Day or any day. As Kirkus Reviews knowledgeably points out, "In this era of Tiger Mothers, attachment parenting, the mommy track and The Three-Martini Playdate, Cronin and Cornell's collaboration will strike a nerve with moms looking for a laugh and a bit of validation—if only they can find the time to read it!"
If you handle them correctly, tend to their basic needs (which are minimal) and refer to the care manual with regularity, you mom should be operating at peak performance for years to come.
*Batteries not included
.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guess Who? Animals...And Their Families by Barbara Nascimbeni

My Sound: I Roar
My Home: Sea Ice
My Meal: Seals, Fish

WHO AM I?

Barbara Nascimbeni's just-out Animals and Their Families (Owlkids Books, 2012) adopts a novel device for presenting common domestic and wild animals to the very young. This sturdy and generously sized board book presents a large silhouette of an animal in profile on the left-hand page, while on the facing right-hand page we see gentle stylized drawings of the subject animal in its habitat caring for its young, along with names for the male, female, and baby when appropriate. For example, the reader learns that the baby polar bear is a cub, and his daddy bear is called a boar and mommy bear is a sow. At the bottom of the page are circles presenting the factual clues about vocalization, habitat, and diet.

Animals range from the friendly and furry (cats, dogs, rabbits) among pets to the useful domestic types (pigs, horses, cows, chickens) to the well-known wild and free-ranging (wolves, giraffes, tigers, deer) and the more exotic wild ones usually seen in zoos and aquariums (octopuses, crocodiles, sharks). There are wet pets like fish, and wet non-pets such as penguins and frogs. There are animals that go low on the ground (snakes and snails) and animals that soar through the air (bats and owls). Animals range from crustacea to fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

The double-page format provides opportunity for guessing games with one child or a story circle, by showing only the silhouette or by reading only the three-part descriptions, from easy ones like the horse (I neigh; I live in a stable or paddock; I eat grass and hay) or the more exotic like the crocodile (I chomp; I live in rivers and marshlands; I eat zebras, antelopes, fish--!) The soft, gentle illustrations and the super sturdy page stock make this book attractive for little ones to "read" on their own. A good choice for the preschool animal book shelf.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Limelight for Two: Tallulah's Solo by Marilyn Singer


Tallulah knew she was an excellent ballet dancer. So she was certain that this year she would be doing a solo in the winter recital.

Tallulah has earned her tutu: her plie' is perfect, and her releve' is right on. She is attentive at class and she practices every day. And she is delighted when her little brother Beckett, who enviously watches her perfecting her moves before her mirror, decides that he would like to dance as well.

But Beckett is a little boy. He'd rather slide across the polished floor than practice en pointe. He finds the barre just the right height for hanging by his knees, and he uses the mirrors on the wall to make faces, not perfect his posture. He even wanders away to play with his toy trucks in the middle of class.

Tallulah persists in polishing her skills, however, and at the audition for parts, she's sure she's caught the attention of the Mr. Fontaine, the guest choreographer for the winter production of The Frog Prince. At last the long-awaited casting is posted:

The list was already on the bulletin board. Tallulah ran over to find her name next to "Princess."

But it wasn't there.

"Look, Tallulah" said her mother. "You're one of the princess's ladies in waiting! And Beckett, you're the frog before he turns into the prince!"

Tallulah totally loses her professional poise at the unfairness of it all. Beckett acts silly in class and gets a big role. She works hard, and what does she get? She gets to play second banana to someone else's prima princess performance. Tallulah sulks quietly at home and ignores Beckett's struggles to learn his duet with the princess.

At first Beckett is delighted, hopping hugely about and rehearsing his "Ribbits!" for all to hear. But as rehearsals drag on and the big day draws nearer, he begins to get scared. "I'll never do this right," he moans, as he falls out of his deep froggy plie' every time. Tallulah begins to re-think her petulant position. After all, Beckett decided to take ballet because he admired her. And Tallulah, as a member of the ompany, realizes that the show must go on and that she can help make their performance a good one with a careful extra coaching for her little brother.

By the recital, Tallulah was the most graceful of the ladies-in-waiting, and Beckett had become a pretty good frog.

Mr. Fontaine told him what an excellent job he'd done. "It's because Tallulah helped me," Beckett explained.

"I see," said the choreographer. "I'll remember that."

Hard work and esprit de corps are sure to pay off for our Tallulah in Marilyn Singer's sequel to her popular Tallulah's Tutu (see my review here), her latest, Tallulah's Solo (Clarion, 2012). Again illustrated by Alexandra Boiger's delightful pastel paintings, this latest story takes our Tallulah forth into her ballet career and by the time she earns the lead role she has learned there is more to stardom than a tutu and a perfect tour jete'.

For little balletomanes, pair this one with the similarly themed Miss Lina's Ballerinas and the Prince by Grace Maccarone, reviewed here, for a danse duet.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Down the Aisle: Just Grace and the Flower Girl Power by Charlise Mericle Harper

WHAT HAPPENED THE SECOND AFTER AUGUSTINE DUPRE TOLD ME SHE WAS GETTING MARRIED
My brain when through a superfast list of everything to do with a wedding: wedding dress, flowers, flower girl... and then it stopped. I looked up at Augustine Dupre and said, "I will be the best flower girl ever! I promise! I promise! I promise! I PROMISE!"

WHAT IS SAD BUT TRUE

Just because you really, really, really want to be a flower girl and you know you'd be perfect at it, and even if it's probably the only time in your entire life that you'll have the chance to be one, this does not mean that being the flower girl is going to come true.

Augustine Dupre, the incredibly cool and kind young woman in the apartment downstairs from Grace, is getting married--to Luke, the UPS man, and the wedding is to take place outside in Mrs. Luther's backyard, in just a few weeks. Grace's world is rocked!

But Luke has a five-year-old niece, Delphine, who has first dibs on the solo flower girl slot! Grace is beyond disappointed, but Augustine promises that she will come up with an important role for her best young friend, and Grace, realizing that she is about to age out of the flower girl role, is still sad, but understands.

Now her busy mind turns to what the perfect gift for the perfect bride should be. Mom and Dad are giving Augustine a silver bowl. Boring, thinks Grace.

And then Grace comes up with an idea that is so exciting, so novel, so totally perfect for Augustine--and so hard to carry out. Mrs. Luther's cat, Crinkles, adores Augustine, and always makes a beeline for her whenever she sees her. Wouldn't it be a great wedding gift if Grace could make Crinkles a flower cat, and train her to walk slowly down the aisle, wearing a flower collar designed by Grace's best friend Mimi, and jump into Augustine's arms just as the wedding is about to start?

But how do you train a nervous cat to stroll slowly down the aisle on cue in the midst of dozens of people?

Library research on cat training is discouraging. Cats won't perform for food treats like dogs, she learns; they can only be "trained" to do what comes naturally to them. Wearing a flower-power collar takes some getting used to for Crinkles, but Grace works on that skill every day. Grace notices that Crinkles does a cautious and stately high-stepping walk whenever her dog Mr. Scruffers is in sight, so Grace sees that Mr. Scruffers has to be part of the plan. But her dog will only sit still and quiet while watching Mimi's little brother Robert eat crackers. And Crinkles will only go in the opposite direction when her friend Sammy is present, preferably wearing cat-scary oven mitts, so Robert and Sammy have to be part of the plan as well. The whole production involves a very complex protocol, but Just Grace becomes Wedding Planner Grace and with the help from her friends carefully sets up everything for the big moment. Will it be the best wedding present ever, or will it be a nuptial feline-canine disaster?

Charise Mericle Harper's forthcoming sequel, eighth in this celebrated series, Just Grace and the Flower Girl Power (The Just Grace Series) (Houghton Mifflin, 2012) is one of the best yet in the Just Grace series. Harper's novel device of having main character Grace narrate and illustrate her own story with her hand-drawn cartoons is a plus, meaning that the plot unfolds with a humorous self-commentary on Grace's state of mind. Grace is both a unique individual and a typical third grader whose world centers around doings at her school and in her neighborhood, with the ups and downs involved in shifting classroom relationships and family life itself. For traditional fans of Ramona Quimby, Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, and Clementine, this one is right on target but yet unique in itself.

Other memorable books in this series are Just Grace Walks the Dog (The Just Grace Series), Just Grace and the Terrible Tutu, and Just Grace and the Double Surprise (The Just Grace Series).

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Stage Flight Fright: Bawk & Roll by Tammi Sauer

Elvis Poultry lowered his shades. "C'mon, chicks! Let's roll!"

Their first stop on the tour is McDoodle's Barnyard.

Elvis Poultry and the Chicken Dancers took the stage. The lights went down. The barnyard went wild.

"WOAH!" said Lola. "We don't know anyone!"

The chickens trembled. They fanned their wattles.

They ... fainted!

These hot, hard-rockin' hens have passed their audition, but their first appearance on tour lays an egg. Their gig at McDoodle's is a dud.

The Chicken Dancers psych themselves up to do better at their next venue by agreeing to visualize the fans in their underwear. But stage fright freezes these hot fryers again. The Daily Cluck's headline crows:

CHICKEN DANCERS CHICKEN OUT

Marge and Lola try everything they can come up with to revive their pluck. Elvis tries to take the spotlight off them by having them all parachute onto the stage, but the chickens' entrance is a crash landing.

The hens try relaxation techniques--painting, bubble baths, hypnotism, yoga meditation, even knitting--but all to no avail. Stage fright threatens to send these hot chicks back to the freezer. Elvis gives them one last chance--a booking at Dale's Dairy Farm-or they'll soon be backing up the cock-a-doodle boys in their own coop.

And then Marge and Lois bird-brainstorm up an idea that might just save their act. The chickens cross the road--to post a special delivery letter back to their feathered friends. Will their plan work?

The Chicken Dancers are ditzy as they peer through the curtains. The house lights reveals a tough crowd of hefty Holsteins.

"This doesn't look good," said Lois. "We're going to get moooo-ed."

But in that cow crowd the Chicken Dancers hear some familiar voices from home cheering them on.

"They got our letter!" whispered Lola.

"HEY, DALE'S DAIRY FARM! LET'S SEE YOUR MOOOOOOVES!"

In their long-awaited return engagement, Tammi Sauer's and Dan Santat's Bawk & Roll (Chicken Dance) (Sterling, 2012), those high-stepping hens back up their rockin' rooster at last in a rousing sequel to their opener, Chicken Dance (Sterling Books) (see my review here) in another poultry parody that will definitely crack up the kids. Sauer's puns are sharp as a beak, and Santat's visual wit is well tuned in this hard-boiled rockin' tale.

"Another tongue-in-beak tale from Sauer and Santat," cackles School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews crows, "This flock rocks!"

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cookie Monster II, or Make Mine Without Nuts: The Duckling Gets A Cookie by Mo Willems

I DO NOT LIKE THE LOOKS OF THAT TITLE.

The voice is irrefutably that of the irascible and opinionated Pigeon, who would be the star of his own show wherever and whatever that means!

When the terminally cute little Duckling ask politely for a cookie (with a Scooty, scoot, scoot), he gets it right away from an unidentified hand.

OH. LOOK AT ALL THOSE NUTS.
But before the darling little duckling gets to take even an exploratory nibble, Pigeon appears, as usual in an imperious and fowl mood. Pigeon is incensed that Duckling got a cookie--and he didn't.

SOMETIMES I ASK TO DRIVE THE BUS. I'VE ASKED FOR A HOT DOG! I CAN'T COUNT THE TIMES I'VE ASKED FOR MY OWN PERSONAL ICEBERG....

BUT DO I GET WHAT I ASK FOR?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
But Duckling knows what he's doing. With an calculating look in his little baby blues, he innocently hands over the cookie to Pigeon, still in full fit and meltdown mode, gently pointing out that he only asked (politely) for that cookie (with NUTS) for ONE reason:

...SO I COULD GIVE IT TO YOU.
Pigeon is totally featherblasted with this outcome. His tantrum aborted in full rant, he regains his composure, thanks Duckling politely, and exits page right, with a satisfied Chomp!

Duckling has his own reasons, something up his little yellow wing feathers, so to speak, as he ever so politely asks for another cookie.

BUT THIS TIME WITHOUT NUTS.
This guy is a genius! Mo Willems' just published The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (Pigeon) (Hyperion, 2012) further demonstrates his mastery of the picture book medium. Willems can portray more human nature with one wry eyelid than some artists can put into an heroic-scale oil painting. Simple line and simple text belie the artistry in Willems' work, which defies description. Just click and buy the book, okay? You'll see!

For more laughs, catch "Rock Dove" on News at Eleven for more pigeon poop scoop on this book here.

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It's Here! And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano

FIRST YOU HAVE BROWN,

ALL AROUND YOU HAVE BROWN.

Snowscapes may be stunning, but when the white stuff melts, what remains is drab--brown mud and dour dirt, gray skies and grayer trees, and the human heart cries out for relief.

Into such a scene comes a small boy, hopefully hauling his little red wagon loaded with gardening gear, trailed by two friends, a rabbit and a turtle. He plants his seed packets in brown heaps, admires his work, and then settles down to wait--and wait--and wait.

In bright galoshes, under his red umbrella, he watches the rain fall on the still brown earth. Blue puddles reflect a blue sky, though, and he feels that maybe something is changing.

A red cardinal appears on the still bare tree, but no hopeful green seedlings are showing, and the boy has a sad thought. What if the visiting birds are eating his seeds? He hangs milk-carton bird feeders to spare his seeds--and waits--and waits--and waits.

Weeks pass, and although the boy finds nothing alive in his garden except a wiggly brown worm, the reader sees hopeful signs. Bluebirds appear. There is sun and the boy puts his ear to the ground to see if he can hear his seeds stirring.

AND A SUNNY DAY RIGHT AFTER THAT RAINY DAY,
YOU WALK OUTSIDE TO CHECK ON ALL THAT BROWN.

BUT THE BROWN ISN'T AROUND,
AND NOW YOU HAVE GREEN, ALL AROUND.

Patience and persistance pay off in Julie Fogliano's And Then It's Spring (Roaring Brook, 2012). Artist Erin Steed, Caldecott Medalist for A Sick Day for Amos McGee, provides strong pencil and block printed illustrations which practically tell this spring story on their own, showing that Mother Nature know what she's doing as the seasons turn.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Woogie Your Boogie! The Boogie Monster by Josie Bissett

I HAVE COME FROM PLANET BOOGIE TODAY.
MY MISSION WITH YOU
TO DANCE AND PLAY.

I'VE HEARD YOU'RE A BOOGIE MONSTER LIKE ME.
YOU'VE GOT YOUR OWN MOVES??...
I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE!
Who could resist that invitation! With the current interest in getting young kids moving, Josie Bissett, author of the arrestable hit, Tickle Monster, is back with a new book to gets tots' toes tapping, feet hopping, and body bouncing to the the beat, whatever your favorite beat IS! Little kids are cool to calisthenics and too young to pump iron, but they are all born to move, and Boogie Monster knows how to make the most of that urge.

Bissett's text takes the kids through a variety of movement, simulating floating, fluffy clouds or imagining ants in the pants, with free-form dance the rule of the day. As this boogie man points out, there are plenty of ways to put those muscles into motion:

THE MORE THAN YOU USE THEM,
THE STRONGER THEY'LL BE.
In her latest, Boogie Monster (Compendium, 2011), Bissett's rhyming text and Karan Atteberry's jolly illustrations can keep kids bouncing and boogying to any beat, and it's a chance for parents of preschoolers to show off their best moves as well. Fun for one or for a class, it's a good excuse to get those bodies in motion for a needed boogie break.

Available also is the Boogie Monster Dance Kit, with the book, a CD of kid-friendly dance music by Recess Monkey, and pull-on Boogie Monster leggings (fit most kids) to dress the part for a monster dance party. So get ready to shake your boogie-woogie!

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Dining Out: Time to EAT by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

What's for dinner in the animal kingdom?

Well, almost anything you can imagine--and some you'd just as soon not think about too much! Steve Jenkins and Robin Page provide their usual beautiful nature illustrations, detailed and realistic as a biology text, but their brief text lets it all hang out. Nature is as nature does, and when it comes to the dinner plate, nature has some weird tastes!

A cute chipmunk stuffs his prodigious cheek pouches with seeds and a sweet-looking panda gravely munches bamboo foliage as expected:

NOT SHOOTS AND LEAVES AGAIN!

But meanwhile over in the thorn tree, a butcherbird is impaling a protesting grasshopper on a handy thorn (OUCH!) and down in the dirt a dung beetle is rolling his ball of--(well, you know) concentrated poo toward his dugout, a tick is slurping up 100 times his own weight in the blood of his unwary host, and down in the tropics the giant anaconda is opening his throat and swallowing a goat (GULP!) in one of his three meals of the year!

These guys make a group of tots look like poster children for table manners!

Meanwhile, other strange but less disgusting dining habits among the animal kingdom are displayed--the tiger shark noshing on shoes and license plates along with the more nutritious fish, the black widow spider spinning his silk around an immobilized bug, and the baby blue whale proving that he's the mammalian champ, slugging down the equivalent of 800 baby bottles of his mommy's rich milk per day!

Two celebrated author-illustrators have got to be better than one, and in Steve Jenkins' and Robin Page's Time to Eat (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) we have an exemplary product of the power of collaboration. Jenkins' and Page's classic cut-and-torn-paper collages are expressive and charming, and their engaging text tells all vis-a-vis those gustatory curiosities. All in all, seventeen animals are featured in full- or double-page illustrations, set off spot-art style, with nicely-sized font for young readers. An appendix features thumbnail illustrations and fact-index for further information on the featured animals. A "standout science title from the husband-and-wife team," says Booklist with a starred review.

Companion books in this notable nature trilogy are Time to Sleep and Time for a Bath.
.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Busted! Flat Broke by Gary Paulsen

The Successful Person Has Vision That Others Lack

I got my first idea when my buddies and I were playing poker during lunch the other day in a corner of the cafeteria. We didn't play for money, but for points.

"Why don't we play for money instead of points?" I said.

"We can't bet money on school property," said JonPaul.

"We'll play off school property."

"You don't have money," he reminded me.

"I could do something about that. Start a poker game."

"We have a poker game."

JonPaul us a great friend, but he will never be business partner material.

Kevin is busted--in more ways than one. He's under house arrest since his parents discovered a tangled web of habitual lying--grounded, with all his schemes cut off at the knees. But he's also busted, flat broke, cut off even from his weekend job at his Auntie Buzz's decorating business. A guy needs some walking around money, he figures, so he borrows some start-up money from his sister Sarah ("a dark and mysterious person") who has jobs and can drive him around, "rents" an unused conference room from Aunt Buzz, and lines up three groups of poker players who need space and snacks for their games in return for a small kick-back to "the house," a.k.a. Kevin.

And when Kevin stumbles into a job bailing out a neighbor by cleaning his garage and promising to get rid of the junk that the city refuses to pick up, he sees the opportunity to pick up some big bucks from the harried weekend "honey-do" husbands all around. There's a convenient and mostly underutilized dumpster behind a Taco Bell where he can dump the junk, and soon Kev is booked well into the future for his junk-be-gone venture. Money is rolling in, and he has some free capital to invest.

Servicing his college-guy poker group, he realizes that late-night munchies at the dorm are a seriously unmet need, and "borrowing" a virtually scrapped golf-cart that can only make right turns from a local golf course, Kev and his "people," JonPaul and a hired go-getter girl Friday named Sam, concoct homemade goodies and make a killing hawking their wares up and down the college dorm halls. So far, Kevin has kept his entrepreneurial activities under the parental radar, but baking hundreds of cookies in the kitchen finally draws the attention of his business-obsessed father:

My dad, getting coffee on the way to the living room to read the Sunday papers with my mom, raised an eyebrow.

"I'm starting a business," I gestured to all the stuff on the counters.

"Looks like a lot of work," Dad said.

"Nah. I've got it covered. Nothing to worry about."

He looked doubtful but finally nodded. "I'm going to take your mother a cup of coffee and tell her there's a perfect example of capitalism in action in her kitchen."

With the parental imprimatur in place, prospects for Kevin's financial empire look golden. He's meeting unmet needs. He's banking capital. His customers are happy. What could go wrong now?

Well, in one of Gary Paulsen's trademark middle-school guy stories, lots of things can and do go down the proverbial tubes. Auntie Buzz discovers she's sheltering a gambling den and shuts down the casino; Taco Bell discovers that they are footing the bill with the waste removal corporation for a lot of junk that doesn't look like taco wrappers, and the police find a golf cart, laden with a load of cookies and a giant urn ("liberated" by Kevin from the back shelf of his church kitchen) and driven by eighth graders chugging circuitously through campus at 10:30 p.m., rather suspicious. As one capital venture after another is shut down, Kevin's financial empire comes down like well, a house of cards.

Flat Broke: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Greed (Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2011), sequel to his popular Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception, takes go-getter Kevin through another hard-earned life lesson in business, with lots of snappy dialogue and laughs along the way. For readers who loved Andrew Clements' Lunch Money and Newbery author Paulsen's best-selling and hilarious Lawn Boy, Lawn Boy Returns,, and Masters of Disaster, his latest will have lots of up-market product appeal.

"A jocular, fast-paced voyage into the sometimes simple but never quiet mind of an ambitious eighth grader." says Kirkus Reviews.

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