Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Take Me Witcha When You Go! The Friend Ship by Kat Yeh

Hedgehog was curled up in a prickly ball in the lonely little nook of a lonely little tree.

If you're lookin' for love, the crook of a lonely tree is probably not the best place to find it, but Hedgie does hear some passerbys in a conversation that gives her an idea.

"Friendship is out there--all she has to do is look...."

Hmmm! There's a Friend Ship? Hedgie makes up her mind to set sail in her little boat and find that ship. Beaver helps her shove off, and soon they spot a herd of deer grazing on shore, and she asks if they have seen the Friend Ship. They haven't, but one speaks for the rest of them.

"Man, I could use a friend.  Can we come along?"

It's seems it's "only the lonely" out there, and as the little boat sails on, to the east, to the north, and to the south, it meets up with Little Rat, who asks for a ride. And one by one others join the crew as well. Then they sail up to a small island, where what must be the loneliest elephant in the world is marooned. Hedgehog swims over to ask if he's seen the Friend Ship.

"Isn't that it right over there?" he says, pointing to her crowded boat.

"You'll find your happiness lies right under your eyes, back in your own backyard" goes the old song, and suddenly Hedgehog realizes she's found the real friends she wants already, in Kat Yeh's sweet story of friendship found, The Friend Ship (Hyperion Books, 2016).

Artist Chuck Groenink does an admirable job of extending Yeh's straightforward narration with his gentle muted pastel illustrations which become more vivid as Hedgehog's Friend Ship sails happily westward into the setting sun. This is a good read for Valentine's Day, even though the premise is mostly metaphorical and not punctuated with big red Valentines. Of Groenink's artwork Publishers Weekly says, "The depth and quality of the light gives the spreads a hint of the sacred—just right for this hymn to friendship."

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Puppy Love: Plenty of Love to Go Around by Emma Chichester Clark



Plum is a whiskery, Schnauzer-ish, bouncy black dog who's sitting on top of the domesticated canine world, adored and adorable, the focus of her family, Emma and Rupert, who dote on her every doing. And in an excess of riches, Plum also has two more ardent admirers, next-door neighbor kids Sam and Gracie, who are always ready to toss her a ball, have a chase, and generally take up the slack when Emma and Rupert have to do adult stuff.

But it's too good a dog's life to last. Gracie and Sam have so much fun with Plum that they succumb to the yen to have their own pet, but what they bring home is Binky, a sly and svelte white cat who takes the lay of the land and decides to get attention by sticking to Plum like her shadow. Binky even plays with Plummy's shaggy tail as he switches his own. It's humiliating! The kids love Binky's velcro act as he winds around Plum's feet. He even follows her to the park!



It's no better back on the homefront. Emma goes on and on about how nice it is to have a cat around.



Highly incensed, Plum takes refuge alone in the shed outdoors, only to be followed by Binky. And when the door blows shut behind her, Plum is stuck inside with the CAT! Being a cat, Binky manages to squeeze under the door and escapes, leaving Plum a prisoner!

Show-off cat!

But Binky promptly returns with Sam to the rescue. Plum should be grateful, but she's not--not really.

And soon Plum gets a chance to take real revenge on that pesky CAT. Sam and Gracie are watching TV inside with Plum (for once), who alone notices that Binky is outside at the door and it's pouring rain. Ah, is revenge at hand at last?


Will Binky be left to cool his heels in the rain, or will Plum's conscience kick in in time?

Oh, dear! The green-eyed monster is there for pets just like it is for siblings, in Emma Chichester Clark's newest, Plenty of Love To Go Around (Nancy Paulsen/Random House, 2016), which plums (sorry!) the depths of fear of a former only who feels superseded. In the best happy ending style, Plum has the chance to come through, to find enough goodness in her doggy heart to let Binky in out of the storm. This sequel to Clark's popular first book, Love Is My Favorite Thing, takes advantage of artist Clark's charming colored-pencil and watercolor illustrations which greatly extend the plot, giving the appealingly expressive Plummie a bit of an advantage over the slinky Binky this time around.

For more cat vs. dog fun, pair this one with Dave Whamond's and Jennifer Stokes' Frank and Laverne (see review here) or Nick Bruel's second book in his best-selling series, Poor Puppy and Bad Kitty (review here).

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Love Story: The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting and Jan Brett

It was October 14, and the bear's den was snug and secure for winter.

Mrs. Bear set her alarm for February 14.

Why would a bear want to wake up before spring comes?

The things we do for love!

The Bears had never celebrated Valentine's Day because they have always been deep in hibernation, with weeks to go before awaking.

But this year is going to be different.

Mrs. Bear had things to do.

Back at the end of summer Mrs. Bear decided to make this year different. Now, still yawning, she makes two big red Valentines for Mr. Bear. She ventures out into the snowy scene and digs up a preserved pot of honey.

It was fruity and rich and smelled of summer--just the way Mr. Bear liked it.

She puts the open honey pot on their little tree-stump table, along with a bowl of crispy dried bugs, Mr. Bear's favorite crunchy treat. Mrs. Bear makes a sign for the wall with a big red heart at the top.


Now fully awake, Mrs. Bear writes poems for the back of Mr. Bear's Valentines.

Red Berries are red,
Blue Berries are blue.
Termites are sweet,
And you are, too.

Mrs. Bear zooms back out and, breaking the ice on the pond, splashes cold water on her face and smooths out her fur. Now the scene is set for her surprise.

Knowing that Mr. Bear has great hibernation concentration, she starts the task of waking him up. He grunts and moans and rolls over, mumbling about needing another five weeks of sleep. Mrs. Bear knew this was not going to easy. It's time for Plan B. So with a sigh she heads back outside with an empty berry can and fills it with freezing water to shock him awake.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Bear." she said. "But you can't just keep on sleeping. This is a very special day. One... two..."


Mr. Bear shouted and sat straight up. "Happy Valentine's Day!"

It turns out that Mr. Bear has his own plan, and with a smile he pulls out a box of chocolate-covered ants he has kept ready under his pillow, and the two share a very special day in Eve Bunting's The Valentine Bears (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). The award-winning Eve Bunting's story is as sweet as summer honey and chocolates, and best-selling artist Jan Brett's bears are both bear-y loving in this brand-new edition of a charming holiday classic.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Heart-y : Love You Always by Roger Priddy

It's all too true. Some flowers are red, and then some are blue, but...


Small Bear gives his best friend, Duckling, a ride on his bike and then on a prancing carousel horse, in Roger Priddy's Shiny Shapes: Love You Always (Priddy Books/St. Martin's Press, 2016).

With die-cut hearts of diminishing dimensions, done up in shiny metallic shapes from cover to final page, this eye-catching board book declares that everything--picnics, a dance, a party, and a campfire--is better when loved ones are together. With sweet illustrations by Lucy Fleming, this is a loving Valentine gift to the youngest ones among us.

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BIG & S-H-I-N-Y! Alphaprint Colors by Roger Priddy


Most little ones won't see slinky snakes slithering often, but they will remember seeing such a sight, in Roger Priddy's certainly unusual book of colors for tiny tots. With a rainbow caterpillar on the cover, this color concept board book is sturdy enough to teach colors to a sequence of several toddlers.

With a RED fox running, ORANGE apes swinging, and GREEN crocodiles crawling, there are animals and colors to learn to recognize, along with plenty of alliteration to tantalize the ears of kids up to Kindergarten age, in Roger Priddy's Alphaprints: Colors (Priddy Books/St. Martin's Press, 2015),

For a little more whimsy, there are also BLACK whales, purple beetles, PINK pigs, and tactile fingerprint faces to touch and feel, with bright-colored foil thumb tabs to take little ones back to peruse their favorite color pages, too. A super-sturdy board book for every toddler's concept book library!

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Friday, January 27, 2017

"A WHAT?" There's a Whale in the Bathtub by Kylie Westaway




Bruno has good intentions. After all, he's dutifully on his way to the bath, with a rubber ducky and bubble-gum scented bubble bath to look forward to, but he finds that the tub is already occupied and the big blue whale in it is giving him a fishy eye.


What's a guy to do? His sister Ally hectors him from the living room, where she's watching TV, threatening to tell on him for not taking his bath. She points out that he's cried "Wolf!" before and accuses him of telling tall tales--again! She reminds him of the walrus he saw in the backyard and the bear he reported under Dad's bed last week.

But the whale is still taking his time, using Dad's special bath brush to scrub his flukes, cheerfully ignoring Bruno's firm orders to get out!

Bruno appeals for support to his brother Pete, who brushes him off with a sensible reply.


Dad isn't impressed with his excuse either. He tells Bruno to get into the tub pronto.

Bruno is getting desperate. He appeals to the whale, and the whale offers one remedy. With a big WHOOSH through his blowhole, he showers Bruno thoroughly.

That'll work, thinks Bruno, and heads, dripping, into his bedroom. But when Mom comes to say goodnight, she seems slightly suspicious.



It's a case of "the elephant in the room," in the new American edition of Kylie Westaway's A Whale in the Bathtub (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Clarion, 2016), a tale of a boy with a bit of a bathtime dilemma. In a spoofy take on the Peter and the Wolf parable, Westaway leaves kids wondering whether there really was a whale in the tub, especially with supercilious sister Ally scheduled next for the bath. Tom Jellett's illustrations extend the text admirably, and it's all in good fun, right down to the endpapers depicting--krill, of course.

For a sudsy duo of bedtime tales, pair this one with Sarah Maizes' bathetic approach to the nightly ritual, her On My Way to the Bath, (see review here).

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Mine! Mine! Mine! Pig and Pug by Aaron Blabey





Pig is a pug with a problem--two problems, really.

First, he has a personality problem; he is an overfed, self-centered dog who wants it ALL. He guards his doggy bowl of kibble like a dragon guards his hoard.

But second, Pig has a family problem. He is not an only dog. He shares the household with Trevor, an easy-going dachshund who wants his share of kibble and the dog toys Pig hoards. With a friendly grin, Trevor sociably tries to point out that Pug might have more fun if the two of them could play with the balls, chew bones, and squeaky toys together. But true to his name, Pig refuses to share.

He gathers their toys in a tipsy tower all together--

Then plops down atop them to snarl at poor Trevor.





But Pig's pride goes before his fall, as his excess of stuff topples and tips him right out the window. Pig survives his downfall, but not without some pain, and in true happy-ending style, seems to have learned his lesson, in Aaron Blabey's just-published Pig the Pug (Scholastic Press, 2016). Pugs are popular pets and popular protagonists in picture books these days, and in this little parable of pet cupidity, author-illustrator Blabey's bouncy quatrains and comic portrayal of a covetous canine who gets his comeuppance presses home his premise with a vengeance. Kids will appreciate Pig's well-deserved pratfall and perhaps get the message that sharing is caring--and safer, too!

Pair this one with another story of a pet pug who wants what he wants, in the Theodor Seuss Geisel-award-winning Mary Sullivan's Treat (see review here.)

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Procuring the Perfect Pet? How Do Dinosaurs Choose Their Pets? by Jane Yolen

How does a dinosaur choose a pet?

Does he head to the zoo
and take home a big cat?

And what does his mom
have to say about that?

Picking a pet takes some pondering. You can't just go stalking around in the jungle with a net, or raiding the tiger enclosure for a pet you'll never forget. There is a lot to consider in getting a critter--size, temperament, and need for containment. And how about diet?

Does she carry off tortoises, zebras, a mink?
Give them hay,
and a cola to drink?

How many wrong ways are there to pick a pet? Jane Yolen's and Mark Teague's latest book in their long-running How Do Dinosaurs series, How Do Dinosaurs Choose Their Pets? (Blue Sky/Scholastic Press, 2017), with tongue-well-in-cheek, takes a peek at some definitely esoteric dinosaurs--Coahuiaceratops, Rhinorex, Diamantinasaurus, and the way-cool Dianzhousaurus--doing it all wrong, from snatching a shark to keep in a pail to draggin' a wagonload of elephant home. I ask you, would a good dinosaur do that?

No, a dinosaur doesn't!

She knows what to do.
She would never bring anything
home from the zoo.

Dinosaurs know that getting a perfect pet doesn't begin with a raid or a snatch.

They know there are better ways to to make a good match.

Yolen and Teague recommend reliable pet stores, animal rescue centers, farms, or friends to find a pet that can be loved and taught good manners, all good advice for prospective pet owners. Jane Yolen puts her popular poetic skills to work in her catchy rhythms and rhyming lines, and with Mark Teague's big, bold, page-dominating paintings of dinosaurs exhibiting improbable and perhaps disastrous pet choices, pet-seeking kids will chuckle at the preposterous possibilities, while the comic but detailed illustrations of exotic ancient reptiles will delight the dino-loving reader.

As is their custom, the names of the featured dinosaur on each double-page spread is hand-labeled near each big beast--except for one, which will send close-reading, savvy dinosaur devotees to Yolen's and Teague's trademark end papers for thumbnail drawings and the names for each one, including the covert creature in question. This book is definitely a first purchase for children's collections on many levels, pleasing preschoolers who dote on dinosaurs, young independent readers who can handle Yolen's easy-going text with its visual and sound-alike clues, older primary readers who love the irony of prodigious dinos procuring odd pets, and scholarly fans who can add some newly discovered species to their vocabularies.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

And The Winners Are.... : The American Library Association Children's Book Awards for 2017 Are Announced

The American Library Association leads off book awards for the year with their Youth Media Awards each January, honoring the best of children's literature.

Taking the Newbery, awarded since 1922 for the best in children's fiction and nonfiction, was Kelly Barnhart for her fantasy novel, The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Algonquin Books, 2016).

Newbery Honor winners were Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams, Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan Adam Godwitz' The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, (Dutton, 2016), and Lauren Wolk's Wolf Hollow (Dutton, 2016).

The Caldecott Award for the best illustrator of books for young people went to Javaka Steptoe's Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Little, Brown). Caldecott Honor Medals were given to Vera Brosgol for her Leave Me Alone! Freedom in Congo Square, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, Carson Ellis' Du Iz Tak? and Brendan Wenzel's They All Saw a Cat.

The sweeps-the-awards honor goes to March: Book Three, written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, which won four awards: the Coretta Scott King (author) Book Award, the Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature, the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

Read all about ALA's books and media awards here.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Overboard! The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, Or, John Howland's Good Fortune by P. J. Lynch

It was all because of the King that we had to leave England.

Our Elders decided we would take our chances in the New World.

In 1620, young John Howland bid his family farewell and cast his lot with the Puritans who elected to leave their homes to seek freedom from persecution by the Church of England for their Calvinist leanings. Still a teenager, John, called Jack, indentured himself to John Carver, boarding a small ship called the Mayflower, sailing secretly before dawn with the tide.

"We've sold all our possessions, John. There's no going back," said Elder William Brewster.

And once out upon the "Vast and Furious Ocean," young Jack encounters very bad luck indeed. He is called on deck to help repair a critical timber shivered by the wind, just as a great wave strikes the ship.

A huge wave hit and sent me flying over the side.

Sinking in the silence of the icy green water below the ship, John despairs of his life. Then he sees a rope trailing behind the Mayflower and he seems to hear his mother's voice.

"Wake up, John Howland," I heard.

Lord God, the rope was in my hand!

And John Howland's good fortune continues with a speedy recovery from near death in the sea. But the voyage itself seems ill-fated, arriving not in Virginia near earlier English settlers, but making landfall on a barren and forbidding shore.

"That ain't Virginia, son!" said seaman Bob Coppin. "That's Cape Cod. None of us will survive if we don't stay together!"

Stay together they do, and launching their small shallop, John and the seamen sail along the coast until they locate a small harbor where the weary travelers come ashore. But fate is not fortunate for most of them, and the little settlement of New Plymouth sees the majority of them die before the long winter ends. However, John Howland survives to see Samoset and then Squanto appear to help them raise their crops.  He helps build a common house and then dwellings for the families, working alongside the other indentured servants, including one young girl, Lizzie Tilley, who catches his eye.

And when his master, John Carver and his wife die within a month of each other, young John is left a substantial inheritance.

"Now I was left without a master. I was a free and equal man."

And when the good ship Fortune arrives to resupply the settlers, John longs to take it back to London, but when Lizzie Tilley declines to go with him, he watches the Fortune sail away without him, casting his lot with Lizzie and a new life in New Plymouth. P. J. Lynch's The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland's Good Fortune (Candlewick Press, 2015) retells the familiar story of the Plymouth colony as it has not been told before, through the written words and eyes of young Jack, perhaps the luckiest colonist in American history. For as Lynch's author's note tells us, Jack's good luck holds, as the ill-named Fortune falls upon French pirates, never to see the port of London, while John Howland becomes a prominent citizen in the colony, and he and Tilly and their ten children establish a family which now numbers millions of American descendants.

Lynch's simple but strong narration is paired with his stunningly cinematographic gouache paintings, which use various perspectives and vivid light and shadow to delineate the settlers and the Wamponoags, giving new life to the familiar story of the first Thanksgiving and Pilgrim Fathers in striking illustrations that middle readers will not soon forget. Says Kirkus in a starred review, "Based on historical fact, this feast of a book will captivate readers from its opening double-page spread. Sweeping and grand, this personal take on a familiar story is an engaging success."

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Heart-y! The Secret Life of Squirrels: A Love Story by Nancy Rose

Most squirrels spend their days scrambling up trees and searching for nuts.

Not Mr. Peanuts!

Hunting for nuts can make for a solitary life for squirrels. One is the loneliest number, and a glimpse of Mr. Peanut's clothesline, hung with big red hearts, suggests that Mr. Peanuts is lookin' for love!

Shopping for food would be more fun if he were cooking dinner for a friend.

Mr. Peanuts pushes his grocery cart in lonely isolation through the supermarket. He drops his penny and makes a wish at the local wishing well. He pulls out his tennis racket and heads to the park, but there's no one to make a match with Mr. Peanuts there either.

Whenever Mr. Peanuts is lonely, he goes to the bookstore.

And there, in a movie-perfect "cute meet" he encounters another squirrel reading his favorite book. She introduces herself as Rosie, and the two hit it off immediately.

He's absolutely nuts about Rosie.

There's a cozy and romantic candlelight Valentine dinner for two in Mr. Peanuts' future, in Nancy Rose's latest squirrel saga, The Secret Life of Squirrels: A Love Story (Little, Brown and Company, 2016). Author Rose not only writes the narrative, but handcrafts everything seen her cozy vignettes, from bent-twig furniture to a bunch of tiny books, all about squirrels, at the bookstore. Stage manager Rose is also her set designer, setting the stage with hidden treats to lure squirrels onto the set, and photographer Rose shoots many shots to get just the right poses out of the unsuspecting and wild bushy-tailed "actors" in her own backyard. Kids will warm to her theme of friendship in each book, but they also love to pore over and over the illustrations, noticing the delightful diminutive details of Nancy Rose's creations.

Other squirrel tales by Nancy Rose are The Secret Life of Squirrels and Merry Christmas, Squirrels! (see my reviews here).

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

What's Next? Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin and Eric Carle

Red Bird, Red Bird,
What do you see?

I see a Yellow Duck,
Looking at me.

For anyone who grew up in the past 50 years or so, Bill Martin's rhyming picture book, done up in several different editions, is likely very familiar as an early step in naming animals and colors, with an introductory reading experience to boot.

But in this day of the "toy and movable book," this classic is back with a brand new wrinkle--a panel on each double-page spread which offers the question in print and slides open to reveal the answer in an easily recognizable picture.

In this newest edition with the timeless and still stunning layered collages of Eric Carle, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?(Priddy Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2016), Brown Bear, Purple Cat, Blue Horse, Black Sheep, and the bespectacled Teacher are all back, this time offering emergent readers the sort of rhythmic, rhyming repetition and prediction skills that makes early reading come easy. In this sturdy interactive board book format this is a board book that all youngsters--from infants just learning to recognize a dog to preschoolers learning colors, and right on to beginning readers--will love to get their hands on.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Dress-up Day!" Pinkalicious--Fashion Fun by Victoria Kann

It's a playdate party and hostess Pinkalicious welcomes her pals Molly and Ross. Molly arrives with a fat folder.

"What's in there?" I asked.

"Fashion show pictures I have collected," says Molly.

Ross says, "I want dresses like that!"

Pinkalicious is just about to suggest that they raid her mom's closet for dress-up fashions, when Mom gets the drift.

"Please use your imaginations, not my clothes!

Play in YOUR room!"

And Pinkalicious rises to the occasion! She and her friends brainstorm materials that they can use to make their creations for the fashion show. Pinkie notices one fashion photo with several bows, and comes up with an novel idea.

"Bowtie pasta!"

And the young designers are off and running, collecting found objects from all parts of Pinkie's house--twist-ties, glue, glitter, bubble wrap, newspapers, even coffee filters and paper cupcake cups.

And soon the super models are ready for the runway and the photo shoot by brother Peter and his new camera, in Victoria Kann's newest I-Can-Read Level 1 book, Pinkalicious: Fashion Fun (I Can Read Level 1) (Harper, 2016). With a controlled vocabulary text and Kann's lively illustrations, this one will be a hit for young crafters and fashionistas alike and which at least makes the case for creativity and keeping the mess out of Mom's bedroom (if not out of Pinkie's!)

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Peter Pan Syndrome! I Don't Want to Be Big by Dev Petty

It all began with a nice bowl of worm-and-fly soup.



Ever since Peter Pan strutted across the stage, singing "I'll never grow up, never grow up--NOT ME!" kids have had an argument for staying kids.

Big Frog points out to benefits of growing up.


Little Frog takes one look at the horde of scary red-eyed tree frogs staring down at him. and pointedly takes a pass on that.

Being a grown up is not all it's cracked up to be! Being big makes it hard to win at hide-and-seek. Ask Elephant! There's not enough leg room and you hit your head on stuff. You're too close to the sun.

Seriously? Too close to the sun? Pig scoffs at Little Frog's dissent, pointing out that being big gets him the biggest muddle puddle and bucket of garbage in the barnyard.

Not an incentive, thinks Little Frog. Then Pig points out something that he hasn't considered.


Maybe he will have that dinner after all, thinks Little Frog, as long as it doesn't come with a mandatory bath, in Dev Petty's latest about his contrary kid frog, I Don't Want to Be Big (Doubleday and Company, 2016), in this sequel to Petty's oppositional juvenile frog, who made his first appearance in Petty's hit picture book I Don't Want to Be a Frog, (See review here).

In this sequel author Petty again uses the cantankerous preschooler model to good effect, assisted by artist Mike Boldt, whose clever book design (with much of the dialog carried out in thought or speech balloons) and hilarious cartoon illustrations put this one over the top. Boldt's textless, two-page spread of scary red-eyed tree frogs glaring down en masse guarantees giggles from young listeners, especially the ones inclined to negotiate each deal with impatient parents.

For those weary elders, it must be noted that author Dev Petty slyly ends each book with the contentious tot eating his dinner, which is the primary premise behind the whole thing. Score: Big Frog 2, Little Frog 0!

Says School Library Journal, "An amusing book about why getting big doesn't necessarily mean you have to grow up."

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Flour Power: Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off by Herman Parish

"SHHHHHHH!" said Mr. Rogers, as Amelia Bedelia came in.

"Don't mind him," said Mrs. Rogers. "He's watching his favorite television program."

Chef DuJour was saying, "I'll pick the winner of my Big Bake-Off prize, $1000!"

"Wow!" said Mr. Rogers. "That's a lot of dough!"

"Not really," said Amelia Bedelia. "A thousand bucks is a lot of deer, but there's no doe there."

Amelia Bedelia is the queen of the misunderstood homonym, and even on her day off, she's off and running. Mr. Rogers suggests that Amelia should enter her famous lemon meringue pie in Chef DuJour's Bake-Off, but Amelia points out that she's too busy subbing as chief baker at Grace's Cookie Shop for the day, assisted as usual by her partner in malapropism, Cousin Alcolu.

And soon, over at Grace's shop, Amelia Bedelia and Alcolu set out bravely to follow Grace's plan for the day. First on the list is to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies, and immediately there's a problem when Alcolu reads Gracie's added instruction:

"Cut the recipe in half."

Amelia Bedelia takes care of that expeditiously. One snip of the cooking shears and the recipe is cut in half. But chipping up all those tiny pieces of chocolate takes a lot more time.

Finally they two are ready for the second item on Gracie's list.

"Bake twelve pound cakes"

"That's a mighty heavy cake!" says Amelia Bedelia.

But math is Alcolu's strong suit, and he suggests they make twelve pound cakes and stack them up. But when they follow Grace's recipe, they come out with enough batter for 13 loaf pans full.

"Baker's dozen!" says Amelia Bedelia cheerily, but when they stack all thirteen cakes up, number thirteen falls off and breaks into pieces

And the last item on Grace's note is a bit confusing.

"Make one crumb cake."

A crumb cake? Oh! So that's what the thirteenth cake was for! Amelia Bedelia packs the crumbs into another pan, adds a topping, and declares the crumb cake done, such as it is.

But there's still one more culinary challenge ahead for Amelia Bedelia, in Herman Parish's funny, punny Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off (I Can Read Level 2) (Greenwillow Books, 2016).

In this brand-new I-Can-Read paperback edition, Peggy Parish's linguistically challenged housemaid carries on with her tussle and tangle with the English language, earning heaping cupsful of snickers from young independent readers.

In this continuing series by the beloved Peggy Parish's nephew Herman, the half-baked housemaid is highlighted by the comic artwork of Lynn Sweat, who also illustrated some of the original Amelia Bedelia books (including one in which Mrs. Rogers requested a sponge cake and Amelia Bedelia made one with chopped up kitchen sponges.) But, this time Amelia's baking is not only edible, but a real winner, in a jolly ending to this merry culinary mixup. Some of Amelia Bedelia's doings may be a bit hard to swallow, but, as School Library Journal" says, "..."fans of the series are sure to eat this up."

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pied Beauty? Lesser Spotted Animals: The Coolest Ceatures You've Never Heard Of by Martin Brown




Up to there with bears? Peeved by penguins? Testy about turtles? Weary of whales? Curmudgeonly about all those ubiquitous cute critters?

Has Martin Brown got a book for you! Brown's brand-new Lesser Spotted Animals (Scholastic Press, 2017, Am. edition) is loaded with lots of quaint and curious creatures of zoological lore that may be gnu to you.



Take the numbat, an exotic compatriot of the well-known wombat (neither of which are bats, by the way), an Aussie marsupial without a pouch, mind you, but a mighty mite of a deep-digging termite eater. Reputed to be cuter than a meerkat, with stripes and a long furry tail, he's still on the endangered list.

Then there's Sammy, the sand cat of the Sahara, who in a small sand storm could easily pass for a orange-stripper house cat. The sand cat is one of those fairly rare psammophillic (sand-loving) creatures, which is a good thing since that's that for his habitat. There is also the dagger-toothed flower bat, of southeast Asia, not a Dracula-wannabe, but a "peaceful pollinator," despite his formidable fangs. Talk about being an unwanted guest--how about the Cuban solenedon, one of the few mammals with a poisonous bite, so venomous that it's not even immune to itself (no hickeys for him!) And how about the gaur, a 2200-pound bison so big that he has had no predators to take him on since ol' Smiley, the saber-toothed tiger, went extinct, likely after breaking his long fangs on an ancestor of the gaur.

And if you think you know all about the lowland and mountain gorilla, what about the zorilla, an even stinkier African cousin of the skunk with white Groucho eyebrows! These and fifteen more quirky critters are profiled in this funny and fact-filled nonfiction book, offered up with wry, self-mocking humor within speech balloons in engaging two-page spreads illustrated by the author. An irreverent but serious nature study, this one comes complete with a glossary which adds more lore, including survival status from "insufficient data" to endangered. Great for middle-reader browsing, supplementary reading, and fine fare for a nonfiction book report, this rave-reviewed book is surely a first purchase for libraries and the zoological zealot out there.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Snow Stroll: Walking in a Winter Wonderland Lyrics by Richard B. Smith as recorded by Peggy Lee

Sleigh bells ring--Are you listening?

In the lane,
Snow is glistening.

A beautiful sight,
We're happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Three happy kids and their parents make the best of new-fallen snow, as they sally forth for a twilight stroll in this salute to winter, based on Peggy Lee's classic up-tempo ballad, Walking in a Winter Wonderland (Henry Holt and Company, 2016). With the original lyrics by Richard B, Smith, artist Tom Hopgood takes the song into a new medium, proffering lovely, impressionistic pastel and crayon illustrations on full-bleed double-page spreads, with the focus on family fun and woodland creatures. The artist sets his scenes in varied soft shades of blue, punctuated by bright touches of color in the children's winter garb, the red-orange fox, and the scattered accent of musical notes which remind us that these words are meant to be sung.

Foxes, squirrels, a snowy owl and several deer appear to go along as the wintry-wrapped kids throw some snowballs, take a turn sledding, and even share a warming campfire.

And of course, they build a snowman.

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
And pretend that he's a circus clown.

As poet Robert Frost put it, the family happily "watches the woods fill up with snow," ending with the sight of a beautiful bare tree bedecked with silvery ice crystals against a black sky. As Kirkus Reviews sums it up, "Both text and pictures cohere into utter cheerfulness, sure to get anybody singing along."

Artist Hopgood is also the notable illustrator of What a Wonderful World, celebrating Louis Armstrong's famous song, and Wow! Said the Owl.

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