Friday, March 31, 2017

Easter Eggs for Everyone: Happy Easter, Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

Everyone's favorite petulant piscatorial protagonist is back, in, of all things, an under-the-sea Easter egg adventure.

Octopus passes out the Easter pastel baskets, and all the itty-bitty fishies fan out to search the ocean reef for hidden eggs, led by quite a sight--a fish in a bunny costume!

Watch Out! That puffer fish is NOT an egg!

Will everyone find an egg? Or will poor Pout-Pout Fish go home with an empty basket?

In Deborah Diesen's little holiday board book, Happy Easter, Pout-Pout Fish (A Pout-Pout Fish Mini Adventure), (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017) even her sometimes sulky scaly hero replaces his morose moue with a big smile. The jolly illustrations of artist Dan Hanna show young collectors how it's done--and with Easter egg hunts the event of the day, even tots who dote on Pout-Pout Fish and find this one in their Easter baskets will know just what to do.


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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Eddie Red Rides Again! Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant's Tomb by Marcia Wells

I - Eddie will know what this means.

Only Eddie doesn't.

"I have absolutely no idea what this means," I said. I'm sitting in a hard wooden chair in Chief Williams office.

Because his photographic memory helped solve a couple of cases involving international jewel thieves Lars Heinrich and Patrick O'Malley, the New York city cops are convinced that he is indeed the "Eddie" in question in this puzzling anonymous tipoff. And that's how Eddie finds himself beginning middle school with two NYPD bodyguards, one pretending to be a visiting aunt with an unlikely urge to drive him to and from school, and, the other, horror of horrors, the dour police detective Bovano, who appears at school disguised as an improbable student teacher. In return, Eddie is hired to stake out the museum where the thieves are expected to make their heist from a van with the logo Frank's Flowers painted on the side, to watch for the suspected thieves to appear to case the museum.

And when more fake bombs appear at random spots around Manhattan--Cleopatra's Needle, the gilded statue of William Sherman in Central Park, Grant's Tomb, and Penn Station--Eddie realizes that he needs his school cohorts with special abilities to help sleuth out the connection between the theft of the Duchess of Ireland's jewel-studded crown and the locations of the fake bombs, but just as Eddie thinks he's got a clue, he starts getting cryptic texts from on his phone from someone called The Fox who delivers yet another puzzling midnight message:

The map. The answer is on the map. Gold. Stolen treasure.

We'd make a good team. Text me when you figure it out. Nice to meet you, Eddie Red.

And just as Eddie thinks he's got a another lead on what's going down, (and just as he's about to screw up the courage to ask Jenny Miller to the fall dance)--he himself is taken hostage in, of all places, the maze at the school carnival, by Lars Heinrich and his gang. The game is on! All Eddie has to do is to escape from his kidnappers in time to stop the bombs and prevent the jewel theft of the century. No pressure.

In Marcia Well's Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant's Tomb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), her boy detective needs all his special powers in this latest in her series, Eddie Red Undercover, which ends with Eddie using his rare memory as he frantically tries to defuse a bomb.

Now only two mysteries remain--who IS The Fox, and will Eddie ever ask Jenny to the dance?

Like those iconic boy detectives of literary history, The Hardy Boys, Eddie doesn't work alone. He has his cyber-genius sidekick Jonah, and his oddball, sometimes-buddy Milton, who's a bit obsessive about condiments and good at making lists. Like Encylopedia Brown, who curates big data, Eddie's talent is similarly being a human camera, with a photographic memory and the ability to reproduce what he sees in detailed drawings, and like Theodore Boone, John Grisham's intrepid boy legal eagle, he has a way of getting drawn into serious danger as he tracks down crooks. And although he's just a regular middle school guy who's intimidated by asking Jenny Miller to go to the dance, Eddie Red has his own style of sleuthing, a way of bringing evidence together and plenty of courage when it's needed. This one is an intriguingly complex mystery just right for clever middle readers, complete with an appendix on cryptography (code and cypher lore) to inspire sharing some secret messages at school.

Other books in this series are Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile and Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery in Mayan Mexico.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

All Aboard! Bunny Bus by Ammi-Joan Paquette

How do you get to the Easter Parade?


The Bunny Bus is at the gate!

Little critters, brothers and sisters, scurry to squeeze aboard. This bus has big ears, a cottony tail, and a smile with big chompers. What could it be but the Bunny Bus.

But as more and more boarders climb on, things become a bit tight inside. The little riders get worried.



It's a small explosion! Eggs, carrots, fox kits, bunnies, and kitty cats all tumble out! The Bunny Bus is out of commission!

But not to worry, after all--all the bus needs is a quick overhaul, and they're on their way and ready for the parade in a critter cavalcade, in Ammi-Joan Paquette's Bunny Bus (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.) In the style of Richard Scarry's cute pastel critter pal stories, artist Lesley Breen Withrow's illustrations show the little celebrants arriving for the Easter Parade right on time.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Eggs-traordinary Llama: Llama Llama Easter Egg by Anna Dewdney

Llama Easter, Llama Spring.

What does Easter morning bring?

A bird watches from the window sill, where Llama Llama finds a pastel-striped Easter pail with a chocolate bunny and some bright jelly beans inside. But what's missing are the colored Easter Eggs.

So Mama Llama and Little Llama head off to the Easter Egg hunt with all his preschool pals--Nellie Gnu, Gilroy Goat, and the rest, all finding the hidden eggs in clumps of the tall spring grass.

But Llama Llama wanders off from the rest to look for his eggs, and inside a bush he sees something quite different from what the other kids are adding to their Easter baskets.

In the bush Little Llama spots a nest with four little blue robin's eggs inside. And hearing a quick crack, he looks closer. He watches another crack lengthen, and then a baby robin begin to emerge from the blue egg. It's not the usual colored Easter eggs he discovers; it's something else....

A Big Surprise!

Anna Dewdney's Llama Llama Easter Egg (Viking Press, 2016) offers an unexpected Easter event as he watches a baby robin be born. Mama Llama and her Little Llama have a very unique spring experience together, and this lovely little board book makes great seasonal reading and a very nice addition to a toddler's Easter basket.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Labyrinthine! Bull by David Elliott

Minos thought he could
Pull a fast one
On me.
God of the Sea.

The nerve of that guy.
I got capacity.

What is it with you mortals?
If you play with fire, babies,
You're gonna get burned.

Shakespeare had it all figured out. "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport," he said (King Lear, Act IV).

But unfortunately for Minos, Shakespeare was not in the curriculum when he was a lad in Crete High School. So Minos, who's got this thing to be king, seals a deal with Poseidon to impress the populace of Crete, his chosen realm, and the Ocean god conjures of a big snow white bull who walks right out of the sea during an opportune outdoor event, giving Minos the bragging rights and the keys to the kingdom. But instead of paying homage to Poseidon properly, Minos keeps the white bull for himself and sacrifices a look-alike.

Zeus on the loose! It's not nice to try to trick the God of the Sea.

And the rest, as we say, is Greek mythology, Poseidon waves his trident, causing Minos' formerly virtuous wife Pasiphae to fall in love with the white bull, bearing a son named Asterion with the head of a bull and the body of a human. It's all a bit embarrassing.

And even though Pasiphae soon gives Minos a son, Androgeos, a golden prince to be proud of, and a virtuous daughter Ariadne, who dotes on her bully boy brother, Poseidon's score is still not settled. He arranges for Androgeos to be killed "accidentally" at the Athenian games.

Eyewitnesses report the spear
Was almost to ground
When a sudden wind found the weapon,
As if a god's invisible hand, they said.
Who could that nasty god be!
Oh, wait a minute! It was me.

And of course, Poseidon is not yet done with his manic manipulations of mere mortals--Asterion, the Minotaur, Theseus, Daedalus, and Ariadne, all pawns in his game of revenge, in David Elliott's forthcoming code-breaking, free-verse rewrite of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Bull (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). Written in humorous, spirited, and irreverent rap-style rhyming stanzas that both parallel and parody the lusty drama of myths whose weighty narrations often veil the human foibles hidden in antiquity, this one really lets it rip. Young adult readers who have already devoured the Rick Riordan sagas of Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythology in their middle reader days will find this recasting of a classic of literature absolutely accessible and absorbing, done as it is in the au courant rap form of the hit musical "Hamilton." And Poseidon has a typical retort to objections to his admittedly rough language:

"You think a god should be more refined?
News Flash:
You don't want a god. You want a prude."

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Preservation! When Jackie Saved Grand Central by Natasha Wing

"Out with the old; in with the new!" was the motto of America in mid-twentieth century. And when in 1960 the handsome president, John F. Kennedy moved into the White House, it was a new era, the "New Frontier." His young and ultra-stylish wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, was a startling contrast to the staid and matronly first ladies who came just before her. It seemed her image was everywhere, in the news, on the covers of magazines, on television, a symbol of the fresh, "born-in-this-century" First Family.

But there was one thing that the public did not know about Jackie Kennedy. She loved old things. When she saw the shabby and faded walls and furnishings in the White House, she was appalled and set to work to redo the whole place. But Jackie was possessed with innate taste and the patience to seek out the original furnishings, paintings, and fixtures that had been replaced piecemeal, and deliberately she set out, not to remodel, but to restore the White House to its original, historical state. And she did it.

But Jackie did not have long to enjoy her results. President John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and Jackie left the White House and decided to return to her favorite city, New York. And she got there just in time.

New York's historic Beaux Arts Grand Central Station was set to be demolished to make room for a high-rise hotel. The once elegant edifice, built in 1913, had long been a wonder.

Grand Central was the largest and grandest railroad terminal in the world. Some called it a work of art, with its pink marble steps, majestic sculptures, dazzling chandeliers, towering windows, and cerulean vaulted ceilings painted with gold-leaf constellations.

But the years and many millions of passengers had taken their toll. The glorious painted ceiling was dingy from smoke. Its tall windows were grimy. The pink marble stairs were chipped and stained. Its owners began to negotiate to sell the site to a firm planning to replace it with a new modern skyscraper.

And Jackie was adamant that Grand Central Station, a world-famous landmark, a symbol of the city, was not going to be lost to history. It was going to be restored.

She lobbied city leaders; she formed an organization to raise money to save New York's Grand Central Station.

She inspired citizens to donate money. She made headlines.

Jackie wrote a letter to the Mayor, saying, "Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there is nothing left of her history and beauty to inspire out children?"

Jackie even led a "whistle stop" train campaign down the Atlantic Coast to Washington, D.C., to get the whole nation on her side. The case to stop the land deal even went to the Supreme Court!

And Jackie won. Grand Central Station was saved from the wrecking ball.

Unfortunately, Jackie Kennedy died in in 1994 and didn't live to see Grand Central's full restoration to its former glory. But although Jackie was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, beside her famous husband, Grand Central Station is her real memorial, as Natasha Wing's just published When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy's Fight for an American Icon (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) tells. Author Wing's spirited narration and artist Alexandra Boiger's arresting portrayal of the fashionable but fearless Jackie will give young readers an appreciation, not only for the creation of great new landmarks, but for caring lovingly but fiercely for our old ones.

Appended are author's and illustrator's notes and a brief bibliograpy of books about Jacqueline Kennedy and the edifice she saved for the nation.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Though April Showers May Come Your Way...: Rain by Linda Ashman and Christian Robinson

It's true! April showers bring May flowers. But it is also true that not everybody appreciates the possibilities of precipitation! Some people grumble when it rumbles and rant when it rains.

"Nasty galoshes!

Blasted overcoat!"

Two next-door neighbors clearly have different reactions to rain.

One, a crusty old curmudgeon, finds rain gear, puddles, and raindrops reprehensible. The other, an ebullient tot, cheerfully dons his froggy rain hat and overshoes and hops outside to jump with joy in the puddles.

As the two make their way outside onto the sidewalk, the old guy grumps his way down the street, stabbing at the sky with his black umbrella, while the boy greets wet passersby with a peppy Ribbit! The old gent grouses at the headlines of his soggy newspaper, while the little boy splashes with a happy "hoppy hop," past the shops on the street. Both turn into the appropriately named Rain or Shine Cafe, where the cranky old guy calls for coffee--BLACK--to suit his mood. The boy requests cookies and cocoa!


Some folks are ever the sourpuss pessimists and some are always on the sunny side of street. Shall the twain never meet?

Not so, in the just-published new board book edition of Linda Ashman's Rain! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), in which the grumpus forgets his soggy cap in the cafe and the boy races out to return it. This odd couple come together again in a rainy day raprochement in which each one tries on a different hat, a cookie is shared, and it looks like some sunny days are ahead for both of them. With the charming metro-style illustrations from the Caldecott-winning artist (for Last Stop on Market Street) Christian Robinson setting the cityscape stage, a little spring rain is just a chance to make a new friend. "Altogether delightful," cheerily croaked Kirkus in their starred review for the original 2013 edition.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

B Is For Bunny: P Is For Peter illustrated by Beatrix Potter

A is for A cozy dormouse.

B is for sleepy Bunnies.

Of course, those best-known mischievous bunnies, Peter Rabbit and his buddy Benjamin Bunny, are mostly busy, not sleepy, but even these little runaways must nap sometime!

But in P Is for Peter (Peter Rabbit) (Frederick Warne, 2016), the usual suspects are behaving well, helping to teach their letters to precocious preschoolers.

P is for Peter, that famous rabbit, who has a forever friend, practices his jumps, is sometime good, who nibbles on healthy veggies, listens to ducklings quack, tells tall tales, and sometimes snoozes, ZZZZZZ, wherever he chooses.

Using the familiar drawings of Beatrix Potter, with a pastel palette anchored by soft polka-dotted blue letters, this little board book is a fine choice for a first alphabet book and a pre-primer introduction to the famous characters in the tales of Beatrix Potter. This charming little one doubles as both an alphabet book and a holiday treat for Easter.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

All Around Us! Round by Joyce Sidman



A young girl and her dad are out for a spring walk, surrounded by the sinuous shape of the round and spherical things all around them.

Some seeds are tiny globes of grow power, as are the eggs she spots a turtle laying in the soft soil, her shell also marked by circular spirals. The fungus and the flowers in the field both morph into the roundness of mushrooms and blueberries on the bush and then go into the child's round gathering basket.

Sunflowers stretch toward the sun, and round raindrops fall downward, to form widening circles in the water of the pond. The moon grows toward full roundness and the sun and stars are rounded spheres eternally circling in the skies, while the bubbles the girl blows in the air are transparent and transient spheres.

What goes around comes around, and in her latest, Round (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) author Joyce Sidman celebrates the shape of round things--from the ubiquitous sun to the concentric growth circles hidden inside the tree and the evanescence of soap bubbles. Roundness is everywhere, an efficient shape that can roll gently or roughly through the world, a self-reinforcing shape that is super strong and satisfying to the eye.

From the circle of life in nature, from seeds and eggs to the seasons, Sidman at last comes around to the human circle, as the little girl and friends form a circle in the grass, holding hands "with no one left out," and with a big hug from dad's circling arms.

Even without rhymes, the Newbery-winning Joyce Sidman's narration is poetic, in her short lines and in her word choices that suggest more than they say: her heavenly bodies "spin together slowly..." and her blueberries "swell into roundness" with subtlety and sibilance, and artist Taeenun Yoo portrays the youthful roundness of a little girl as she moves through her world. Yoo's illustrations subtly move through the circle of the seasons, beginning with spring seeds, through the fullness of summer, and toward the ending of the year, cycling through autumn colors in the fields to the warmth of the wintry comforter inside which the girl curls into a warm ball with books and cozy cup of chocolate.

This is a outstanding "concept" book that focuses on the ubiquitous shape of the circle and sphere, not in the concrete way of isolated geometrical shapes, but in a lovely look at how the concept of roundness is built into everything around us. Lovely language is perfectly paired with Yoo's soft full-bleed illustrations. Sidman also appends an appealing little author's note, "Why are there so many things in nature that are round?" that makes perfect sense of things most of us never think about. This one is a certain first purchase for home or school libraries.

For another of Sidman's books on shapes in nature, see her Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, also by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, reviewed here.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Waking Up Is Hard to Do! Boris and the Worrisome Wakies by Helen Lester

Boris is a little badger who thinks bedtime is bad news.

Sure, lots of little ones resist calling it a day, or, in the case of nocturnal badgers, calling it a night, when badgers are wired to be awake. Sunrise is supposed to mean snooze time, but Boris is always wide awake.

Boris bombards his weary parents with all the usual timeworn kid complaints:

"I need a turkey sandwich!

My PJs are on backwards!

My cuddle bunny is hogging the bed!

I'm scared of the light!"

At sundown, Boris's sleep-deprived mom and dad practically dress him and drag him off to school, where he falls asleep and dozes for most of the, er, night. He's a zombie all through P.E. In art he's too pooped to paint, and at lunch he uses his pizza for a pillow. He even catches forty winks on the floor, where his classmates use him for a wastebasket. He curls up in his cubby for a really long catnap. By early dawn, he's all caught up on his shuteye and ready for fun, but by then school is almost over.

"What did I miss?" he asks his classmates.

His cubmates have had a ton of fun and they hit the highlights for Boris, beginning with field day, er, night.

"We all got medals!

Oh. What else?

"Birthday cupcakes.

And class picture day!

Your chance to be Line Leader!"

Boris also missed the big Thanksgiving play about the Pilgrims and the Indians.

But in a way, he was the star. The napping Boris played Plymouth Rock.

"Oh," said Boris. "Hmmm."

Boris determines that from now on there'll be some changes made, in popular author Helen Lester's just published picture book, Boris and the Worrisome Wakies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), with humorously illustrated winsome critters by the award-winning artist Lynn Munsinger, who skillfully uses sly sight gags and page placement, font changes, and curvy lines of type to make each page a standout. Bedtime problems can be no laughing matter for parents, but in the hands of these two expert storytellers, catching some Zs on schedule can be quite comic. This is one story not to sleep through!

Partnered with Munsinger, the award-winning Helen Lester has proven that she can make nearly-comatose critters funny, as she did in Score One for the Sloths (Laugh-Along Lessons), and together they have racked up many a classic comic tale, including Hooway for Wodney Wat. and sequels, Tacky the Penguin, and sequels, and Hurty Feelings.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

GOT-TA Dance! Dance by Matthew Van Fleet

A teeny-tiny baby chick goes to the dance hall to get some kicks. He's got his snappy blue bowtie and he's got those hap-hap-happy feet, but he doesn't know how to use them.



The little chick protests that he's just hatched and has no idea how to do that. "I won't dance... Can't make me!" seems to be his song, but the rhythm-lovin' rhinos drag him out on the floor and then...

Let the lessons begin!



The band is swingin' and Bunny and Gator join Rhino and jump right in to teach him the Hippopota Hula, the Bouncy Bunny Hop, and the Gater Mashed Potater. Then Pig and Beaver do their share with demos of the Crazy Piggy Tap and the Busy Beaver Bop.



In Matthew Van Fleet's latest interactive board book, Dance (Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2017), the youngest readers get to get in on the infectious rhythm and rhyme, thanks to the heavy-duty pull tabs that give them control of the shimmy and the shake, the rap and the tappity tap, and the hop and the bop in this toy and movable book. The irresistible rhythm of the shake-it-and-break-it narration are enough to get preschoolers eager to hit the dance floor themselves, but the editors also provide a downloadable song to form the soundtrack for kiddy audience participation. And as all good Broadway musicals do, this one ends in a grand finale--a two-page pop-up which has all the dancers on stage for a show-stopper of closing number.

This new one by the noted author-illustrator Van Fleet joins classic movement books like Sandra Boynton's Barnyard Dance! (Boynton on Board) and makes a fine Easter basket treat, better'n jelly beans, especially when paired with the go-with Dance Chickie Baby Doll plush toy.

Other interactive board books by Van Fleet include Fuzzy Yellow Ducklings, Heads, and Tails.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Show of the Season: A Season to Bee: A Stylish Book of Colors by Carlos Aponte

We know that spring brings April showers and May flowers.

But to the fashionistas of the bug world, the new season brings something else--spring fashions and spring fashion shows.

All of those insects who have spent the winter clad in dull cocoons and other drab metamorphological stages are ready for a change--a BIG change. The fashionistas of the arthropod persuasion are ready to burst out and flaunt their brand-new shapes and brand new look! There's excitement in the spring air!

It's spring in the meadow.
Time to shuck off the freeze.
What's the New Look from?
The flowers and trees?

It's time for the bugs to strut their stuff on the runway--under the direction of our fashion first designer.

"It's a season to bee!" exclaims Miss V. McQueen,
Editor of BUZZ Fashion Magazine.

Long-limbed bugs leg it across the stage, their high heeled shoes clacking out a rhythm,

Ladybugs are pretty in red polka-dotted wings, and grasshoppers copy the color of the season--green.

Some sport another stylish shade of the month, copying the iris and the violet. Fireflies favor the cool look of biolumenescence and a quick flash of glimmer glam. Some choose the blue of the spring sky, and some are bold like the bees in flashy, clash-y, black and gold stripes. The paparazzis' cameras flash like stars in the spring sky.

So much to see!

But the best thing, says Diva McQueen, is to bee yourself in your true colors, in Carlos Aponte's A Season to Bee (Price Stern Sloan/Penguin Group, 2017). While preschoolers may not get all the references to high fashion models and famous fashion house designers, they will love the dressed up insects in their flashy fashions in this spring-themed story of the rainbow of seasonal colors.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sing Me to Sleep! Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of the Seasons by Margaret Wise Brown


Big and little, little and big,
A little bunny and big fat pig.

Give that poem to award-winning illustrator David Smalls and you know what happens next is going to funny and fun.

And in the this lovely compilation of poems by the inimitable Margaret Wise Brown, each one has its season and its charming animal spokesperson, and each one has the talents of a famous picture book artist featuring the joys of the season.

Molly Idle illustrates Brown's "Advice to Bunnies," beginning with "Don't go to sleep in the afternoon sun..." and Frank Viva, known for his on-the-move style, gets to portray the still of a new "Snowfall:"

Slow, slow. In the soft mysterious fall of the snow.
Walking in wonder.
The children go.

Home from school, their laughter low.
Catching falling flakes
Of snow.

And Ellie McKay portrays a girl making snow angels under her favorite "Cherry Tree," who instead is torn between the fun and the sadness of the season:

... My dear tree,

Where the cherries were red
Is frozen and gray,
The birds are all fled.

With twelve poems, one for each month of the year, and artwork by twelve award-winning illustrators, the included classic children's rhymes offer a variety of styles and emotions to celebrate the transit of the seasons through another year. In this second collection of Margaret Wise Brown's timeless children's poems, A Celebration of the Seasons: Goodnight Songs: Illustrated by Twelve Award-Winning Picture Book Artists (Sterling Books, 2016), the editors include an unusual appendix featuring thumbnail illustrations from each poem and the artist's reflections on each. Included also is a CD by Tom Proutt and Emily Gary of their original songs for each poem.

Says Publishers Weekly, ... The spectrum of artistic styles provides a rich accompaniment to Brown’s mix of playfulness and subtle contemplation." And School Library Journal adds, "Whether read or sung aloud, this essential collection is made to be shared."

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cyborg Selfie Pete the Cat: Robo Pete by James Dean

What a great, sunny morning!

Pete the Cat can't wait to play baseball with his friends.

Pete heads outside with his glove, looking for someone to play catch with him. But everyone else has a different idea of how to spend a sunny day.

Larry is heading for the library.

Seriously? Inside, on a day like this?

Collier is going biking. John is making like Tom Sawyer and painting a fence.

Pete wishes his friends would do what he wants to do.

Playing catch takes two! What to do?

But Pete's fertile imagination comes up with an inspiration. He builds a cyborg self, a robot which looks just like him. He programs it himself to make it think just like he does. Pete wants to play catch, and so does Robo-Pete.

The only problem is that robots don't get tired, and they don't come up with new ideas. Pete is weary of trying to catch Robo-Pete's fastballs and long throws! He suggests that they play some other game, and Robo-Pete repeats robotically...

"I want to do whatever you want."

But Hide-and-Seek doesn't work out so well. Robo-Pete always knows exactly where Pete hides. Of course he does! His mind works just like he's programmed to do.

Maybe having only robot Petes for pals isn't as much fun as he thought, in James Dean' Pete the Cat: Robo-Pete (HarperCollins, 2016). It's fun for young readers to follow Pete as he finds out that different strokes for different folks make for more fun in the long run, and James Dean's signature faux naif illustrations add to the fun of this fantasy day of play for Pete. Complete with a Pete-the-Cat poster and stickers, this little paperback is sure to please.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Nature or Nurture: Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio

Mrs. Bulldog watched her puppies race through the yard.

(Ridiculously cute, aren't they? But please don't tell them that!)

Mrs. Bulldog knew (
as mothers do) why each of her puppies was special. Rocky was clever! Ricky was fast! Bruno was strong!

And Antoinette? Well, unlike her burly brothers she still hadn't quite discovered what she was good at.

"Chin UP!" barked her mother. "You have something extra special! I can feel it in my bones"

Antoinette, a svelte, lithe, and dainty little poodle among her brawny brothers, feels as if she doesn't quite belong in her muscular family and is not totally reassured by Mrs. Bulldog's promise. Still, she is able to forget herself in the daily romp in the park with her brothers and their playmates, a dog family that is the mirror image of her own--three dainty poodle siblings--Fifi, Fou-Fou, Ooh-La-La--and the one sturdy bulldog Gaston.

But one day little Ooh-La-La goes AWOL from the group.

"Where is Ooh-La-La?" Mrs. Poodle asked frantically.

The playdate in the park turns into an instant search party. Clever Rocky spots footprints. Quick Ricky races to follow them around the lake. Strong Bruno leaves no boulder unmoved. But Ooh-La-La is not to be found. Ah, mon dieu! No one knows what to do.

Antoinette felt a tug in her heart and a twitch in her nose.

Following her nose down the Paris sidewalks, Antoinette takes charge, leading them through the busy streets to the Louvre Museum, where heedless of the grumpy guard she sniffs and darts through the crowd and discovers quite an unsuspected scene. It seems Ooh-La-La, in her pursuit of butterflies, has followed one to the perilous tippy-top of the statue of Winged Victory. Brava, Antoinette!

All's well that ends well, in Kelly DiPucchio's latest adventure among the ever-popular Parisienne French poodle and French bulldog pups, Antoinette (Gaston and Friends) (Atheneum Press, 2017), with a satisfying rescue and an even more happy ending (no spoiler here) for those odd ones in their families, Antoinette and Gaston.

Author DiPucchio tells this tale with verve and plenty of Gallic panache, and Caldecott-winning artist Christian Robinson's faux naif acrylic paintings portray the oh-so-French ambiance in this lost puppy tale, told en famille in a pastel palette that catches the French street scenes winsomely and winningly, so well done that Kirkus says in their starred review, "Robinson's seemingly simple artwork belies his masterful ability to imbue his characters and the places they live with an authenticity and humanity that move readers beyond the surface of the page."

See the review of Kelly DiPucchio's and Christian Robinson's companion book Gaston (Gaston and Friends)(Atheneum, 2014) here.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Missing Horn Mystery: The Jazzman's Trumpet (A Kit Mystery) by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

"And now, ladies and gentlemen," said the announcer, "the moment you've all been waiting for. The King Jazz Hour will announce the winner of the free concert tickets...right after a word from our sponsor, Sudso Soap."

"Another commercial? I just want the waiting to be over!" Kit exclaimed.

The announcer's voice returned. "Okay, folks, we've picked a postcard at random for the lucky winner who will win two front-row tickets to Swingin' Slim Simpson's one-night show at the Burns Theater right here in Cincinnati Saturday night. So without further ado, the name of our winning listener is...

Miss Kit Kittredge!

Like most folks in 1934, twelve-year-old Kit is swing jazz crazy. So is her dad, and when he tells her that he remembers Slim Simpson, the famous bandleader, from his high school days right there in Cincinnati, girl reporter Kit suddenly has an idea. Perhaps there's an article for the Cincinnati newspaper in this for her to write. Perhaps she can wrangle an interview with the jazzman through Mrs. Burns, the owner of the theater for whom Kit had already solved the mystery of her stolen cashbox. Kit quizzes her dad for information about the famous trumpeter and his band, and prepares her pitch for a story with the news editor. Gibb thinks it sounds like a good story about a big event and a local guy who's made the big time in jazz and gives her some clippings from the newspaper's "morgue," the file of earlier stories for background information.

After school the next day, with her notebook and well-sharpened pencil, Kit heads down to Burn's Theater and discovers something disturbing. The big glass display case at the front of the theater has been smashed and the promotional poster for the concert has been torn up and tossed on the sidewalk. Mrs. Burns is dismayed at the broken case, but agrees to help Kit meet Swingin' Sam Simpson and some other musicians and arrange an interview for the following afternoon. But then they discover that a strange message has appeared on the marquee out front:


It look like somebody wants Swingin' Slim's show to be a flop. But Kit's interview with Slim goes well, and with her background information and some great quotes from the star about swing jazz, Kit has high hopes that her by-line article will be good enough to run in the metro news section of the Sunday paper. But when she returns to the theater, something has happened that may mean there will be no concert at all by Swingin' Slim Simpson.

Hootie Shay, the baritone sax player, was barreling up the aisle at full speed. "Did you see anyone go through that lobby?" he asked Kit sharply.

", I didn't," Kit said.

"Darn!" said Hootie, wringing his hands. "Sorry, kid, but we're in the middle of a situation here. Somebody got into the theater and got into the greenroom while Slim went for an interview.

Somebody stole Slim's trumpet!"

It looks like Kit Kittredge is going to be wearing both her girl detective and girl reporter hats in Elizabeth Cody Kimmel's The Jazzman's Trumpet: A Kit Mystery (American Girl Beforever Mysteries) (American Girl, 2016). It's up to her to solve the theater mystery and find Slim's one-of-a-kind trumpet to save the show and her article. The show must go on, and the resourceful Depression-era heroine of the Kit Kittredge series is on it, in this installment in the spin-off Kit Mysteries series.

There are plenty of unexpected twists and turns and some sidekick sleuthing with her friend Stirling and some unexpected help from her mysterious new friend Trixie in a detective story set engagingly in the early 1930s swing music scene. Author Kimmel adds an appendix "Inside Kit's World," which brings young readers up to speed on the Depression days when the big bands ruled the radio and great horn players were becoming media stars. For fans of all the American Girl mysteries and particularly those who are fans of swing dancing, this one is the cat's whiskers.

The Kit Kittredge series, begun by author Valerie Tripp with Meet Kit: An American Girl, 1934 (American Girl), introduces middle readers to the period of the first year of the Great Depression, when Kit's father loses his job and heads west to find work while her mother turns their comfortable two-story home into a boarding house, Kit pitches in with her newspaper route, and the parlor radio is the main source of entertainment. Middle readers get the sense of a time different from their own, a time of great change, and get to know a resilient and adventurous character who manages to adapt to her own time.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Friend in Need: Dot in the Snow by Corinne Averiss

Miki wanted Mom to play in the snow, not fish on the ice.

Snow was soft, and fishing looked hard. Miki wasn't reading to dive.

Mom is busy with grown-up stuff, and Miki wants to have some snow play, so leaving Mom with her head down a seal hole on the ice, he clambers up a snow ridge, looking for some fun. At the top, he looks across the wide space of white below. And that's when he sees it.

A dot in the snow.

Miki keeps his eyes on the red dot, which seems to be growing bigger and bigger. Suddenly he realizes that it's a person, a little girl in a red parka and mittens, walking straight toward him. Miki has never seen such a thing. But he is intrigued.

He liked its twinkly face.

And the gurgling sound it made.

And Dot Girl likes to play. She smiles and giggles as they make and throw snowballs and slide down the snow slide they build. But suddenly Miki notices one of her red mittens is missing. Her bare paw looks very cold! Miki sees that Dot Girl is sad, but just then the ice begins to crack and separate under their feet.

The red mitten drops through a crack and into the sea. Somehow, Miki knows just what to do.

Miki dives.

But when he comes back up with the mitten, there's another problem. He and Dot are marooned on an ice floe which is beginning to float away from the land. This is not what he had in mind when he went off to play! But Miki sees what he has to do.

Miki showed the Dot how to jump!

Safe back on land, the two notice that it is beginning to snow. Now the air is almost all white, too, just like the land. But then through the flakes they see a larger red dot coming closer. It's the Dot's mom in her own red parka, looking for her. Dot is happy to see her mother and gives Miki's nose a quick rub with her own before she runs to join her mom.

Making a new friend is fun, but seeing Dot going away with her mother makes Miki miss his own mom. Where is she? He looks all over and at last has an idea. He bravely puts his head under the cold green sea, and -- and there, under the water is his mom, swimming to find him.

Miki has had fun, made a new friend, and gotten over his fear of diving into the sea. Fishing seems like something he can handle now, too!

But right now Miki needs a ride home on Mom's furry back and a bit of a sleep back at the den, in Corinne Averiss's A Dot in the Snow (Sterling Books, 2016). Averiss's story of a little wandering polar bear cub is told cleverly by the charming illustrations of artist Fiona Woodcock, shown in both panels and full-and double-page spreads, with little Dot's red parka the only spot of warm, strong color amid the whites of snow, ice, and bear, and the cool aquamarine of the sea, in a charming story of an unexpected rescue and an unexpected playmate, and with just a bit of a nudge toward a welcome bedtime.

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