Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shaping Up! Shaping Up Summer by Lizann Flatt

What if nature knew numbers like you?

If you were near,
this fact would appear:
the Sun is actually
the shape of a SPHERE.

But the Sun is so far
from where we all are
that we see it as a CIRCLE

(Did you know that it's a star?)

Author Lizann Flatt's last book in her seasonal Math in Nature series, Shaping Up Summer (Math in Nature) (Owlkids Books, 2014), beguiles the child into seeing the shapes, symmetry, and trajectories of summer plants and animals.

In one eye-pleasing double-page spread devoted to the concept of symmetry, she shows a spotted newt twisting and curling to climb a log  and one lying out flat and asks, "Which newt is symmetrical?" Children are encouraged to spot other symmetries--a ladybug's carapace, a painted turtle, a swimming fish seen from above,  a dragonfly and water spider, and a floating water lily bloom.  The water lily offers both symmetry and asymmetry, depending on how the eye sees it.

In another spread, a hummingbird moth, grasshopper, and katydid make their ways across the page, and the child is asked to trace their path, over, under, above, and below the plants which tempt them.

Plane figures and solid figures abound as well in Ashley Barron's ebullient cut-paper collages in a summertime display of colors, from warm sunny yellows and blooming pinks to cool blues and deep-shaded greens. Barron's artwork gives this one its visual pizazz and movement as it encourages the child to look more closely at each illustration. Author Flatt seems to assume that children have already encountered the simple mathematical concepts she discusses and instead proffers enticing opportunities for reinforcement of these skills. Humorous touches include ghost crabs improbably sculpting cones. pyramids, and cylinders out of seaside sand and an orb spider spinning out a couple of steamships setting sail in her web. The author includes an appended Nature Notes with thumbnail sketches and information about featured animals--dolphins, coyotes, skunks, puffins--for a bit of nature study as well.

Best for adult-and-child sharing, Shaping Up Summer (Math in Nature) concludes the cycle in Flatt and Barron's four-seasons series, which also include Counting on Fall (Math in Nature), Sizing Up Winter (Math in Nature), and Sorting Through Spring (Math in Nature). (read my reviews here).

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Grandma Sitting: How to Babysit A Grandma by Jean Reagan

Babysitting a grandma is easy as long as you remember to keep her busy. Grandmas have a lot of energy, and they can get restless if they don't have something new to do throughout the day. Luckily, this little girl has packed her activities list along with her pajamas as she heads over to Grandma's house.





Grandmothers need a little excitement in their lives, but they also need some exercise, so get her outside right away for a nice long walk in the fresh air.

Then it's time for some hands-on activities. Grandmas love those.

Bake some snickerdoodles and do some yoga.  Pull out your karaoke mikes and belt out some duets, Stimulate her creativity with some role-playing, like playing dress up and let her play a shoe shop saleslady while you pretend to buy some new shoes. And if Grandma seems to be getting tired, have some quiet-time activities at hand, like playing cards and reading aloud. Let her do the choosing for her favorite stories.

Get the wiggles out by taking Grandma to the park, and make sure she gets to go down the big slide. Look for the first star, and see if she remembers the rhyme to make a wish on it.

Then take her back home. Make sure she washes her hands thoroughly and let her help to make dinner. Make funny faces with the food and she'll eat it all. Oh, and don't forget....


And when it's time to get ready for bed, remember than Grandma may be missing your mom and dad, so be sure to cuddle in her bed and read her some quiet stories so that she'll sleep well all night! And when Mom comes in the morning, don't forget to hug Grandma and tell you love her a lot!

Jean Reagan's latest, How to Babysit a Grandma (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, 2014) is an endearing look at a little girl who knows how to turn the tables on Grandma. Her humorous cheat sheet on Grandmas-sitting, (including "Places To Sleep," from a blanket tent in the living room to the couch, to, of course, the "big bed,") keep both of them busy and having fun while we presume Mom and Dad are doing the same. It's hard to say who's managing whom here, but it's a lot of fun for grandparent and child, and Lee Wildish's lively illustrations provide plenty of comic details to keep readers engaged in the whole process. This book is a companion book to Reagan's earlier bestseller, How to Babysit a Grandpa, (see review here) and is a great one for grandparent and child to share on Mothers Day.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Undampened Spirits: Poor Doreen: A Fish Tale by Sally Lloyd-Jones


Now, it must be said at the outset that Doreen, a plump perch in a babushka scarf, is clearly no a mental giant. Any fish who takes a red umbrella (open, it must be noted, in case of rain) on a long swim upstream is a few cells short of a brain. But Doreen is a perky perch who know NO FEAR.

When an angler ties a tasty-looking dragonfly lure to his line and dangles it in front of her, Doreen is pleased.


Doreen takes the bait, hook line and sinker, and the angler winds her in. But is she distressed? Not at all! Poor dim-witted Doreen rejoices that amazingly she is swimming faster than ever.

As she dangles, hook in mouth on the line, she is snatched up by a hungry heron. Doreen admires the birds-eye view of her route and the shortcut to her destination, and, attempting to make polite small talk with her captor, asks him if he is a egret. The insulted bird opens his beak to correct her ignorant mistake, and poor Doreen falls, down, down, down from the sky. Is she upset? What? Me worry?


Sally Lloyd-Jones' latest, Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale (Schwartz and Wade Books, 2014), celebrates the never-dampened spirits of a rather dim-bulb heroine. Clueless but chronically cheerful, Doreen splashes down right where she wanted to be, in her cousin's corner of the creek with the 157 new hatchlings, rejoicing at the swift and pleasant journey she has had. Author Lloyd-Jones provides a woeful Greek chorus of an interlocutor, who fruitlessly points out poor Doreen's perils all along the way, (It's a TRAP!), the dangers of which her finny heroine is totally oblivious. Noted artist Alexandra Boiger pictures Doreen as a plump housewifely little perch whose optimism simply cannot be doused despite all odds, in her appealing pencil, watercolor and gouache-tinted illustrations that befit Doreen's watery world.

"Ignorance equals bliss in this amusing, cleverly executed tale," says Kirkus Reviews in their starred review.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Froggy's Big Scoop! Froggy Gets A Doggy by Jonathan London

You may think Froggy has done it all. He's played T-ball, and soccer, gone to Hawaii, to playdates, to school, to the doctor, and to bed.  He's gotten a new bike and a new baby sitter. But there is one typical rite of passage in childhood that Froggy hasn't experienced.

He's never had a PET!

But Froggy, Mom, and sister Polliwogilina are finally off the the animal shelter to  achieve that milestone, too.


Mom is leaning toward a white rabbit or some cute white mice. Or maybe even a baby alligator. But then Froggy sees a pitiful puppy, and one look at those big brown eyes, and even Mom falls in love with the cute little mutt. Polli agrees!


After an expensive stop at the pet store for bowl, water dish, dog bed, dog food, dog chews, leash and collar, Froggy and Polli are eager to take their pup outside for a walk and a romp.

Then Mom introduces Froggy to one item of dog care of which he was blissfully unaware!


In his latest addition to his popular Froggy series, Jonathan London's new Froggy Gets a Doggy (Viking Books, 2014) takes his gung-ho character through all the perils of puppy ownership, puddles, poop scooping, and the usual elements of dog training, and with the usual funny Froggy misadventures, as when the puppy retrieves Mom's pink undies instead of the stick Froggy tosses. As a stand-in for all kids with their first animal responsibilities, Froggy perseveres, and by bedtime, when his new puppy abandons his little bed for a cuddle in Froggy's, he gets the big reward of pet ownership--love and companionship! As Froggy says, (borrowing a line from Pete the Cat),


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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Alphabet of Admirable Attributes: A Is for Awesome by Dallas Clayton


When you start out the alphabet wth an A for amazing and awesome, what will you do for the amazin' and brazen letter Z?

Z is for Zero Defects?

In his sequel to the self-published, top-selling An Awesome Book!,Dallas Clayton pulls out some truly awesome adjectives for the rest of his alphabet of admirable attributes.

Clayton's latest, A Is for Awesome (Candlewick Press, 2014), adds adjective upon adjective to his abecedarius of commendable qualities, with words from confident or dreaming to talkative or understanding. His freestyle, squiggly illustrations provide examples for everything to do with those qualities, from a baseball bat to a sailboat. Following up on his gone-viral first book, Clayton's novel alphabet book is intended to inspire youngsters to try their wings and go for the gusto, except, of course, when it comes to the end of the day, when it's time to give it all a rest!

Z Is For ... ZZZleeping!

As Publishers Weekly's reviewer puts it, "In keeping with the irreverently inspirational attitude of his previous work, Clayton provides an alphabet of affirmations."

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Just Among Friends: What's Your Favorite Animal? by Eric Carle and Friends

It's a challenge thing. Imagine a Saturday-afternoon barbecue on Eric Carle's deck, with a bunch of his picture-book buddies, all sitting around yakking. All of his guests have awesome chops, agreed, so the old guy tosses out a challenge in the form of a seemingly innocuous question.

What's YOUR favorite animal?

Dean of American picture book art Eric Carle has assembled quite a guest list: Nick Bruel, Lucy Cousins, Susan Jeffers, Steven Kellogg, Jon Klaasen, Tom Lichtenheld, Peter McCarty, Chris Raschka, Peter Sis, Lane Smith, Erin Stead, Rosemary Wells, and Mo Willems. Between them are enough shiny awards and best-sellers to collapse Carle's deck.

Carle kicks off the challenge with his own charming story of his fave, named Fifi, a black cat who loved to play fetch with raw green beans, keeping some spares stowed in a shoe in case her master chose asparagus for dinner.

Tom Lichtenheld posits the giraffe, with his head in the clouds,  reciting a limerick inspired by the love of giraffes, ending with "How's the weather up there?"

Mo Willems' declares his choice is  the Amazonian Neotropical Lower River Tin Tink and provides a drawing of a very big snake, apparently of the python persuasion, with an enormous lump inside in what must be its stomach.  Is that snake the Tink Tink? Well, no, but...

"It was the snake's favorite animal."

Next, Nick Bruel tries to nominate the octopus as his choice, but is interrupted by his own black cat character, Bad Kitty, who pointedly turns her back on him.
"Okay, Kitty. What's the problem?
I see. You're jealous because I chose the octopus instead of a cat?
No? Hmmm. Oh, now I get it. You're angry because I was asked, and not you.
Okay, Kitty. What's YOUR favorite animal?

The rest of the guests rise to the challenge of can-you-top-this in their own inimitable styles of art and narration.  Susan Jeffers provides a pair of fabulous, fairy tale white steads with wildly waving manes and tails with a rococo curlicued caption, HORSES. Stephen Kellogg sketches his trademark cute and comic cow, and Erin Stead provides Emperor penguins posing majestically. Lucy Cousins posits an expressionistic leopard leaping against a glowing red background.

It's an embarrassment of riches, with these famed illustrators doing what they do best, in What's Your Favorite Animal? (Henry Holt and Company, 2014) by Eric Carle and Friends. Not since Dial's 2006 compendium, Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?, has such an assemblage even been attempted, and Carle curates this collection of superstars to produce a incredible salute to the present crop of artists at the high point of picture book design which they represent. Each artist's section is itself a mini-story illustrated in signature style, some funny, some lovely, some quirky, and some wondrous. An appealing appendix offers thumbnail childhood snapshots of each of the artists with his or her pet and brief autobiographical sketches.

For kids who like to tell stories by drawing, this book is a catalog of creativity that is bound to inspire. With proceeds from the sale of this book going to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, this one is both a delightful read and a tribute to the work of these famed artisans.  With rave reviews all around for carrying off this difficult tour de force, Publishers Weekly sums it up: "A varied and engaging omnibus that offers real insight into the lives and personalities of these artists."

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wha'Sup? Growing Up Inside and Out by Kira Vermond

Everyone grows up.

But is there really only one way to grow? No way.

Even though it's something we all do, it's something we all do a little differently from each other.

Puberty is the time in your life when your body matures. But that's what's happening to your body. Did you know that there's a whole other world opening up inside your head?

It can be surprising. Or a bit confusing. Often exciting. Sometimes stressful. Most of all... it happens in your head.
People have long known, or thought they did, what happens in adolescence--a series of physical changes that turn children into adults, getting bigger, growing hair in new places, changing body shapes, preparing for reproduction.  But more recent brain science shows that more is going on inside the heads of adolescents than outside.  One major thing learned lately is that puberty institutes a paring down of connections within some parts of the brain, a reduction and reorganization of connections which makes all that forgetting everyday stuff understandable.

And even more surprising news is that the all-important frontal cerebral cortex growth--the part that gives humans reasoning, judgment, and planning ability--is nowhere near done during physical adolescence, continuing well into the late twenties. No wonder growing up is hard to do. (By the time we are truly grown up, we're almost growing gray!) But our long adolescence, powerful brains, and ability to reflect on varied experience is what makes us what we are.

Kira Vermond's Growing Up, Inside and Out (Owlkids Books, 2013) is, but is more than, just a handbook to the physical changes of puberty.  Writing with humor and respect for kids in transition, the author deals with how it feels and what it means to go through rapid outward changes and how to deal with it all, from sudden zits to stumblitis and forgetfulness, excess energy and an overwhelming desire to sleep late, sudden changes in interests and desires, heartfelt passions and enervating ennui, and the simultaneous urge to assert individuality and meld with the peer group. The contrasting moods and drives that make adolescence so truly specific to and necessary for human life are touched on with understanding and common sense.

Vermond threads her way through the mine field of adolescent changes that make parents long for their sweet, upbeat little ones--anxiety over looks, popularity, crushes, the risk-taking drive for thrills and novelty, and the many emotions around romantic relationships. Bullying and excluding, minor anxieties over bad hair days to depression and suicidal thoughts are all dealt with solidly, and Vermond takes on most of the situations that make adolescence both a rocky passage and a vivid, memorable, exhilarating period of life.

As the author points out, growing up goes on for a long time. She says, "As a guide to growing up, this is a book that's meant to be by your side for a long time. So if there's something you're reading about that doesn't feel right just now, put it aside. Chances are, you'll be more comfortable reading about it before too long. The point is, there's no reason to rush though growing up--or reading this book." This book has a lot for parents as well as adolescents to think about, and should be on the shelves of school and public libraries.

Color-coded fact boxes, insets with expert's advice, and highlighted definitions are included with the text, and an extensive appendix offers subject-subdivided website resources, a bibliography of books and articles, and a very detailed index offer information and reassurance to readers."This engaging presentation of solid and important information deserves a wide audience," says Kirkus Reviews.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Undercover Hero: Superworm! by Julia Donaldson



They may be beneath Superman's radar, but toads, bees, and beetles need some super saving, too. And for that, there's that undercover master of rescue, Superworm!

When a baby toad wanders onto a major roadway, who dares to try to save him? Well, it's not much of a stretch for Superworm to pop up, make himself into a lasso, and rope him in, back to cover of the grass beside the road.

When a baby beetle falls down into the deep well, who you gonna call? Superworm, that's who.With his long, extendable body, he dangles down to the water, and hauls the little beetle baby right up to safety.  He even shapes his rubbery body into some theme park rides to amuse the bored boy and girl bees. It's unanimous! Superworm is the hero of bugs and beetles, snails and slugs! His fans break into a cheery chant:


But, alas! The chant of his followers reaches the ears of the nefarious Wizard Lizard, self-styled evil overlord of the woods. These woods are not big enough for two superpowers, and Lizard dispatches his minion noir, Black Crow, who swoops and snatches Superworm in his beak and bears him back to the evil Wizard, who puts him under a spell and declares Superworm his slave. But the wicked Wiz Liz has reckoned without a thought for Superworm's friends, who form a flash mob of many talents--bees bearing honeycombs, toted on snail-back, and a jumping spider with web-weaving skills that soon have the Wizard Lizard himself ensnared and stuck in sticky stuff and dropped off by a flight of drones in the dump.


It's a well-versed return engagement for notable author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler, the dynamic duo which gave us the evergreen best-selling The Gruffalo, the classic witch tale, Room on the Broom, and The Snail and the Whale, in their latest rhyming and romping collaboration, Superworm (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic Press, 2014). Donaldson and Scheffler are masters of the silly-premised, jolly rhyming, humorously illustrated picture book, and their unlikely down and dirty superhero is sure to draw down deep belly-laughs from their primary-grade fans.

Read this one along with any of Doreen Cronin's equally wonderful Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, or Diary of a Fly, and the kids won't stop buzzing and wiggling and giggling till next week!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Live and Kicking: Betty Bunny Wants a Goal by Michael Kaplan

Betty Bunny was a handful.

She knew this because at her very first practice, when she picked up the ball and ran with it, her coach said, "Betty Bunny, you are a handful."

Betty Bunny wants what she wants when she wants it.

And now that she's on a soccer team, she doesn't want to set herself a goal; she wants to score a goal and she wants it NOW!

Brother Henry whines about having to go to Betty's games. Teen brother Bill rolls his eyes and smirks.

"There probably won't be any goals," 

And Bill is right, at least about Betty's scoring prowess. Betty discovers she can't kick anything, except, inexplicably, her own foot. Back home, Betty stuffs her uniform into her trash can and launches into a full-time funk. Sister Kate gives her the old "try, try again" speech and reminds her that at the end of the season everybody gets a trophy, "no matter how bad she plays." Reluctantly, Betty fishes her jersey out of the trash.

But the next game is no better.

"I tried and tried, just like you said, Kate," Betty moaned.

"Maybe you're just not that
good!" points out big brother Bill.

Mom and Dad are tired of Betty's moaning and Bill's snarky remarks. They decree that Betty will finish the season and that Bill will coach her every day after school.

"Why can't I learn to keep my big mouth shut?" Bill said.

"Maybe you need to
practice," suggested Betty helpfully.

Practice doesn't make perfect, but Betty progresses and finally does score her goal.

Next to the first time she tried chocolate cake, it was the the happiest moment of her life.

In Michael Kaplan's latest Betty Bunny tale, Betty Bunny Wants a Goal (Dial Books, 2014), the fun comes from interplay between the impetuous and annoying Betty and her sister and two brothers. Sister Kate tries to mentor her insistent little sister, while Henry and Bill can't quite help lapsing into sarcastic side comments, while the parents preside over the siblingitis with perturbed patience. Stephanie Jorisch's frenetic illustrations cleverly portray the ebb and flow of emotions that swirl around Betty, a one-bunny vortex of energy who sucks the whole household into her high-maintenance manias. Preschoolers will understand Betty's whirlwind drive to have it all, and older kids and parents will enjoy the humorous interplay between the rest of the characters drawn into Betty's turbulent wake.

Other books in the Betty Bunny series include Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake (see review here) and sequels, Betty Bunny Wants Everything, Betty Bunny Is Very Busy, and Betty Bunny Didn't Do It.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Follow The Directions! DON'T Push the Button! by Bill Cotter

Larry is a purple monster with blue horns. This is Larry's book, and he has just one rule. If you open it, DON'T touch the big red button.



But who cares what a purple monster says.

And besides, he's not even sure about the rule himself.


It does. It is set in a nice wooden frame, and it's bright red and shiny. I mean, what good IS a button if you don't push it. And, anyway, this is just a book. How bad can it be?

And besides, as Larry whispers, Nobody is even watching you!

One push makes Larry turn yellow. He's okay with that, but maybe another push would return him to his purple shape.

Nope. Another push? Double the Larries! Double the fun?

Another push produces a mob of Larries in a rainbow of colors!

Better turn the page. There's that button on the left page. And on the right some smart alek has sarcastically commented on the obvious:


What do we do next? Well, there are more directions (hint: try shaking this book) ahead in Bill Cotter's fun and funny fantasy workout, Don't Push the Button! (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2013). What kid can resist pushing any button, especially if he or she is exhorted not to EVEN think about touching it? In a variation of the old "beans up the nose" tale, author/illustrator Cotter gives us a tempting takeoff on the instruction manual, narrated by a personable, if somewhat conflicted, little monster. The illustrations are super simple, the wry text is easily accessible to beginning readers, and kids are bound to be drawn into the concept of the faux-interactive book, a new genre in the picture book world.  For a slightly more sophisticated exposition of this same concept, pair this one with Herve Tullet's clever best-seller, Press Here. (See my review here).  Press on!

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Show Me the Baby! The Book of Babies by Il Sung Na


Mama Duck is excited to see her own babies hatching, but she knows that they are not the only new ones being born.

So Father Duck flies off to report on who's new.

It seems babies are everywhere.

Papa swims beneath the water and finds that fish have too many babies to count or care for: Mama has to get them into their school right away.

On the other hand, a mother monkey has only one baby, and she has to carry him around in her arms or clinging to her body for a while. Baby zebras, however, stand up after only a minute of getting their land legs, and know how to follow their mothers everywhere.


Baby kittens can't even open their eyes at first and take a few weeks to learn to get their legs working. Some as different as sea horse babies and little kangaroos hang out in their father's or mother's pouches for quite a while before they venture out into the big world outside. Some, like bear cubs, are born with a fluffy, warm coat to keep them warm during the first cool days of spring, and some have slippery skin or scales to help them slide over the ground or slip through the warming waters.

But after their first days in the world, all babies need to rest, and that's just what Father Duck finds his ducklings doing back in their nest, in Il Sung Ya's sweet essay on all kinds of babies, A Book of Babies (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013). The author offers a variety of babies, shown in his lovely textured and layered multimedia illustrations, giving toddler humans a view of the wide world of young ones, and as most such books do, his text brings it home to a cozy bedtime, with a subtle suggestion that babies everywhere need their sleep. Kirkus Reviews gives Na's latest a starred review, concluding that "Undulating rainbow colors, circular patterns and fibrous textures swirl across leaves, animal bodies and sky, creating a lively natural world. Here's evidence that digital tinkering can yield richly layered, cohesive artwork that captures the kaleidoscopic beauty of the animal kingdom, its shadows, lights, colors, textures and shapes."

Other best-selling books for tots by Il Sung Na include A Book of Sleep and the seasonal Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

What's For Dinner? Monster Chefs by Brian and Liam Anderson

What does a monster king eat? ANYTHING he wants!

And for the Monster King's royal chefs, that is a problem. It seems the King has become a picky eater.



In fear and trembling the King's four chefs split up to search out a novel comestible to tempt the tyrant's palate. But the potential foodstuffs are not inclined to cooperate.

To the first chef, a tasty-looking hare points out an unforeseen consequence of eating him:

When he contemplates serving up a fine fillet of fish, the second chef gets the same story from the would-be main course.

The third Chef heads off to the desert and spots a snake, thinking he would make a novel entree.

The three chefs, having struck out in their quest for a new dish, trudge back to the Monster King's court where they prepare to slather themselves with ketchup for the King's dining pleasure. Felicitously, the fourth chef appears with his find, not a food, but a tiny chef whose creations never need ketchup. She's a pastry chef and produces a wondrously novel product for the King's consumption--a cupcake!

All is forgiven in the Monster King's kitchen, and he forgoes eating eyeballs, unless they are fake toppings for the cupcakes, in Brian and Liam Anderson's Monster Chefs (Roaring Brook Press, 2014), a super silly little monster tale that is as light and fluffy as the frosting on the Monster King's cupcakes. Author Brian Anderson cooked up this monster story with his five-year-old son Liam, and the result is a story that begs to be read aloud. As Publisher's Weekly proclaims, "The narration is a winner from beginning to end: aurally redolent (“The king, spit seething from his massive mouth, glared down at them”) and punctuated with lovely alliteration and delectable vocabulary, it’s like a tasting course for the ear—and a performer’s dream."

A recipe for the King's cupcakes, complete with directions for edible eyeballs as topping, is appended by the author.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Eggs-travaganza! Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward and Steve Jenkins

Mama built a little nest,
A cup so wee and snug,
With walls of moss and roof of sky
And a silky, cobweb rug.

Is your mama a hummingbird? If so, that's the first home you'll know. But if your mama is a weaver bird, well, there's another way to go.

Mama built a little nest.
She used her beak to sew
A woven nest of silky grass,
The perfect place to grow.

But then, there are always the outliers:

Mama built a little nest.
Well, actually she didn't.
She found one that another made,
And there she laid me in it.

Yep, if your mama is cowbird (or whydah or cuckoo), she's a squatter by nature.

As for people, it's location, location, location for bird homeowners. Falcons choose a high ledge on a cliff face called a scrape, safe from four-legged predators, and grebes fashion a floating island of sticks to outfox the foxes. Some nest builders are even daddies, as in the case of the possibly henpecked cactus wren, seriously seeking a captivating crib to attract his crush.

Daddy built a little nest.
And then he built another.
And another--and another--
Hoping to impress my mother.

There is a lot to consider for feathered house-hunters, and Jennifer Ward's latest, Mama Built a Little Nest (Beach Lane Books, 2014), covers the avian real estate scene while sharing the picture book making with outstanding nature artist Steve Jenkins in a marvelous treatise of the variety of ways birds seek their homey havens. Author and artist alternate pages of verse and illustrations: author Jennifer Ward outdoes herself in lovely and quirky quatrains with catchy punchlines which could have been penned either by the lyrical Romantic poet Percy B. Shelley or the hard-boiled Dorothy Parker,  and celebrated nature artist Steve Jenkins provides enticingly impressionistic and yet accurate paintings that beguile the eye and extend the text perfectly while offering additional information on each nest-builder.

This book works on several levels, as a primary grade science resource, an enticing read-aloud or real-alone book, and an eye-candy feast with its delightful illustrations. "A practically perfect picture book," as Publishers Weekly points out, this book offers nature study enlightened by enticing art and still manages to bring it all back home as all good storybooks should, just in time for a rest in that human nest.
A place to rest your head...
Your nest is called a bed

For more spring facts and fun, flock this one with Jill Esbaum's just published I Hatched! (see review here) and Jennifer Ward's die-cut delight, What Will Hatch? (see review here).

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