Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Nobody's Perfect? The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubenstein

For Beatrice Bottomwell, Friday begins just like any other day.

She matched her socks.

She made a sandwich for her brother Carl's lunch. She used exactly the same amount of peanut butter and jelly.

She's does it all just right, with a smile.

But Beatrice has an unusual problem. She has never, in her admittedly short life, done anything wrong. (Her Number Two pencils have impeccably perfect pink erasers, never used.) Her fans and curious news media folks question her closely every morning on her way to school. No, she didn't forget to make up her bed. Nope, she didn't forget her homework. She's famous as the Girl Who Never Made Mistakes.

It's actually a burden that weighs heavily on Beatrice's shoulders. In cooking class in school that day, she has quite a fright.

At school Beatrice was on on a cooking team with her best friends, Millie and Sarah. Beatrice went to get four eggs when... she slipped. The eggs went flying! Beatrice was about to make her first mistake.

But she didn't. She caught one in her mouth, two in her hands, and one with her right foot.

It is an amazing catch--a perfect catch, really. But to Beatrice, it is too close for comfort. Her confidence is blown.

And coming up that night is the school talent show, and Beatrice is set to do her juggling act--with water balloons, yet. The pressure is on, and if Beatrice drops one, it's going to be a doozie!


When Beatrice makes a mistake, it's a perfectly spectacular, in Mark Pett's and Gary Rubenstein's The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2016), and it's actually a great relief for Beatrice. Being perfect is quite a responsibility and Beatrice Bottomwell's comedown and resulting release from her own perfection is unmistakable! Like King Midas and his perpetual golden touch, Beatrice finds that keeping up perfection is no fun. Says School Library Journal, "Pett's beady-eyed cartoon illustratons are expressive and winsome, a perfect complement to this story of a girl finding out that it's okay to be imperfect."

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Accidental Country Girl: Little Ree by Ree Drummond

Hi, I am Ree.

A long time ago, I used to live in a city

But I don't live there anymore.

Ree Drummond, the country cook known far and wide as "the Pioneer Woman," and also as the author of those popular Charlie the Ranch Dog books, wasn't born and bred a country girl. No sirree! Here's the story:

Today I moved to an old red house on my Grandpa and Grandma's ranch. They needed a little help, and I am just the girl for the job.

Bravely, little Ree says goodbye to all her friends and packs up her roller skates, Teddy bear, and keyboard. But despite her confident air, Ree's first day on the farm is not exactly fantastic. She finds that she's swapped her frilly pink bedroom for something that looks more like a cowpoke bunkhouse. She has a hard time sleeping, what with all the coyotes howling and the crickets chirping outside all night.

The country sure is noisy!

And then she has her first experience in getting up before the sun, and she's still half asleep when she meets her cowhorse, Pepper, who refuses to go where she wants him to go. And when it's time to feed the stock, Ree finds out that hay bales are way on the heavy side!

Maybe I'm not cut out to be a country girl.

But fortified with a hearty country pancake breakfast, Ree tackles lessons in the rest of the chores--tractor-driving, roping and riding the fences, and still more bales of hay to handle. She even has to haul her little brother out of the muddy farm pond. But Ree plugs on bravely, hoping to please Grandpa and not embarrass herself in front of her country cousins, coming for an outdoor barbeque that night.

But as we all know, little Ree makes the transition, with the help of her family. And in Ree Drummond's little memoir of that transition, Little Ree (Harper, 2017), she's clearly on her way to her adult career:

My cousins are the best!

I think the country girl thing just might work out!

Moving is hard for children, and Drummond's story of her own fortuitous move from city to country life is an upbeat story of how it's done, with the equally exuberant illustrations of artist Jacqueline Rogers to highlight the comic aspects of cowgirl training. For more stories of life on the grownup cowgirl's ranch, see Drummond's other picture books, including Charlie Plays Ball (Charlie the Ranch Dog), Charlie and the New Baby (Charlie the Ranch Dog) and Charlie Goes to School (Charlie the Ranch Dog). (see reviews here)

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Free to Be... Tutu Me! Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers Present Moo Moo In A Tutu by Tim Miller

"Mr. Quackers, I have decided to become a ballerina!" Moo Moo announces.

Since Moo Moo is a large and clumsy white cow, that idea takes her staid buddy, Mr. Quackers, quite by surprise.

"But you have never taken ballet lessons!" points out the ever-practical Mr. Quackers.

To exhibit her zeal, Moo Moo executes a grand jete' over Mr. Quackers' prized bonsai tree.


"That last move is a little trickier than it looks, but I've almost got it!" says Moo Moo.

Moo Moo's credo is "I gotta be me!" and attired in pink leotard and tutu, the large bovine balletomane drags her doubtful pal along to the City Ballet, determined that her Terpsichorean talents be shared with the public posthaste.

"Try not to break anything," advises the sensible Mr. Quackers prophetically.

But it's not in Moo Moo to look before she leaps. She sneaks backstage and hides behind some scenery, waiting for the perfect dramatic moment to make her balletic debut, which comes with the full corps de ballet on stage.

"She spins! She leaps! She flies...!" cries Moo Moo.

"Brava!" cries the loyal Mr. Quackers.

The rest of the dance troupe and the patrons in the orchestra seats flee as Moo Moo makes an unceremonious crash landing in the middle of the bass drum in the pit.

"I think I am going to retire while I'm at the top of my game," Moo Moo remarks.

Tim Miller's brand-new Moo Moo in a Tutu (A Moo Moo and Mr. Quackers Book) (Balzer and Bray, 2017), introduces another pair of unlike and unlikely friends to the picture book pantheon peopled by odd pals like James Marshall's George and Martha, Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie, and  Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad. The sardonic and sensible Mr. Quackers is the perfect foil for the impulsive and tempestuous Moo Moo, a fact which Miller points up in his witty thought balloons. While the premise is certainly preposterous, Miller's seriously silly illustrations carry off this story of a quixotic cow and a mild-mannered mallard who share a sweetly enduring friendship in the first of his proposed series.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Tough Chick! Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz



She wears pink, but she also wears blue. Either one will do.

And when she wants to get down and dirty, it may be a no-pants day. And when she wants to play, she wears a no-nonsense diaper, and nothing else--except for her little pink hairbow, of course.

Of course, when she does get fancied up, she's an eclectic dresser. Who says you can't wear a necktie with a tutu? Or a helmet with high heels?

She plays with dolls AND cars, and she doesn't mind making a passel of noise drumming on the pots and pans while she's at it.

In her popular new board book, Loryn Brantz even has her strong-minded baby tie on a bandana and bare her biceps in a Rosie the Riveter pose that shows Feminist Baby is ready to get the job done, in her run-away hit, Feminist Baby (Disney Press, 2017). In a fun spoof of feminist tropes, Brantz' cute little protagonist takes it all in her stride. Truth to tell, babies won't exactly get the parody of power dressing, but tots will still love Brantz' brash babe who shows she has a mind of her own. Pair this one with Marla Frazee's hit (and now movie) The Boss Baby (Classic Board Books) and especially its sequel, in which Boss Baby meets more than his match in his pink-clad sibling. (Read reviews here).


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Have Tent, Will Perform! Peppa Pig and the Backyard Circus



Of course, Peppa Pig has to know what's going on out back.


How? What? Who? Peppa has to know!

Grandma Pig points out that it's not really a circus tent. It seems she's having a garden party!

But the performer in Peppa Pig can't let a perfectly good tent be wasted on a sedate garden party, where grownups with teacups stand around and make polite conversation. This tent has more promising potential!



Never one to let the garden grass grow under her feet, Grandma Pig pulls out her Dress-Up Box. Danny Dog volunteers to be the strong man; Emily Elephant jumps in to claim the role of juggler; and Pedro Pony takes on the job of clown. Rebecca Rabbit wants to be the makeup artist! Even little brother George recruits a trio of daring tricyclists.

Everyone piles on the Dress-Up Box and pulls out a costume, leaving Peppa with nothing but an unclaimed, slightly squashed, tall hat. Peppa moans that there's nothing left for her to be.



That's an inspired bit of perfect casting for the party of the season, in the latest Peppa spinoff, Peppa Pig and the Backyard Circus (Candlewick Entertainment, 2017). Life is filled with endless possibilities for the ebullient Peppa Pig, the current diva of preschool telly programming, and her energetic family pitch in to make for a lively impromptu circus performance which delights the tea-party guests as well. It's always a sunny day in Peppa-ville, and Peppa, the life of the party, is always up for family fun.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Pigtale! Piggy by Trevor Lai

There once was a pig who loved to read. Piggy read day and night at the library.

His favorite stories were about friends who learn to play together.

But Piggy was too busy reading to make friends.

And when Piggy notices that he's down to his last book, he also realizes that there is a disconnect between his reading about friends and actually having a friend. He decides to find a friend to share that book with and sets out on a quest to find a like-minded companion. His first attempts at making friends are a bust, but finally he spots a pretty little cat-girl whose cute whiskers are buried in a book. She is clearly as big a bibliophile as he is--maybe more, since she keeps right on turning pages and pays no attention as he approaches her. It looks like a match made in heaven, if only Piggy can catch her glance.

Piggy pulls out all the stops, as he fires up his little red airplane and buzzes her as she reads. He tries towing a sign behind his plane that says CAN WE BE FRIENDS? He proffers flowers. Oblivious, she just continues turning pages.

Then Piggy notices something: the little cat-girl is squinting at the pages. Gallantly, he offers her his last book and his big red glasses!

A friend with a good read is a friend indeed, in Trevor Lai's first picture book outing with his animated character, Piggy (Bloomsbury Press, 2017). Besides being as cute as a pig has any right to be, Piggy is apparently already a star of the emoji-verse, and this lighthearted and lightweight debut into print is charming, sure to find friends during Book Week storytimes across the land.

For a story about some readers whose problem is not being noticed reading, share this one with Eileen Christelow's wonderful Five Little Monkeys Reading in Bed (A Five Little Monkeys Story), reviewed here.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Spring Break! She'll Be Coming Up the Mountain by Kim Norman

She'll be coming up the mountain when she comes.

She'll enjoy our frozen fountain when she comes.

We will playfully hello her
And have lots we'll want to show her.

She'll be just the way we know her when she comes.

Everyone--Seal, Reindeer, Walrus, and the rest--are seen all aflutter up on the top of the mountain, where a cluster of critters are busily prepping for a visit from someone.

Who is the mystery guest!

Oh, they've kept in touch.

We sent a poem in a letter,
Even sent a hand-knit sweater....

But now that their rendezvous is forthcoming, an awesome Arctic party is being readied. There's a welcoming banner floating overhead, and all the animals are perfecting their acts for the celebration.

Everybody will be clapping,
While the caribou are rapping....

Not a creature will be napping when she comes.

She's surely a she. She's a someone they already know. But where's she been and what has kept her away so long?

Who she is becomes clearer as they cheerily gift wrap up presents--a bear-sized bikini, for one thing...

But there's a big surprise to be, when they see their guests are THREE, in Kim Norman's She'll Be Coming Up the Mountain (Sterling Books, 2016). With the fun of the familiar rhythm and rhyme scheme of the folk song "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain," and refitted with author Norman's clever lyrics to the old verse, young readers may not notice that one important character is missing from the cast of characters in her two earlier books, Ten on the Sled and If It's Snowy and You Know It, Clap Your Paws! (read reviews here). Yes, and what she's been doing all winter in her cozy den won't be a mystery when she arrives with her two little surprises. Norman's storytelling builds suspense as it inspires a singalong, and artist Lisa Woodruff's charming illustrations provide plenty of eye-pleasing entertainment along the way to the big reveal.

This is a snowy story, but not necessarily a wintry tale, as warmer weather brings Polar Bear and her adorable babies out to meet their friends. Says School Library Journal, "It's a sprightly seasonal selection."

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mega-Monster! Rodzilla by Rob Sanders

WELCOME TO MEGALOPOLIS, the sign proclaims.

Megalopolis seems a bustling city of sturdy buildings, bustling trucks and cars, and busy pedestrians...

... but something is afoot!



With a WOBBLE and a CLUNK! a fleshy monster invades the cityscape. Gigantic, rotund, and wearing a tee shirt that says TOTALLY ROD, he lumbers, scattering the buildings like baby blocks and snatching up the people and the cars like toys in his pudgy paws, leaving a trail of destruction behind him.

And speaking of behind--what's that stinky smell?


But it only gets worse. As the monster lumbers across the landscape, he cries out and clutches his considerable belly, and then.... without further warning...


BLECK! It's a trail of disgusting devastation as Rodzilla totters on, squishing through the glop in his path. The massively messy monster wobbles through his slimy wake and, with people and the news crew retreating in fear, Rodzilla belly flops right in the middle of the morass!



Can Rodzilla be stopped? Is the city doomed? But...WAIT!


It's Mom and Dad, of course, rushing to restore law and order to the rampaged playroom, in Rob Sanders' and Dan Santat's tall tale of total toddler meltdown, their just published Rodzilla (Margaret K. Elderry Books, 2017).

Artist Santat provides all the cues for sharp-eyed readers to suss out the real identity of Rodzilla, as toddler Rodney trashes his own turf, the playpen. Santat's skilled manipulation of perspective, revealed in varying cinematographic angles, provides lots of clues, beginning with the author's name spelled out in alphabet blocks and the illustrator's name on an Etch-A-Sketch on the cover. Older primary students with tots at home will giggle and groan knowingly throughout the mayhem--the plentiful toddler drool, tot toots, baby barf, and smashed toys--and will rightfully see what true heroes parents can be. This one has plenty going on on every page to keep laughing kids coming back over and over for a re-read.

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Dream a Little Dream with Me: Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds

Some times the world tells me,

"Sit still! Be quiet! Focus!"

Sure, there are times when there's nothing for it but to get down to it and get the job done!

But then, there are times when it's good to dream "really good dreams.," swinging on a star dreams, rainbows in a jar dreams.

I'm a happy dreamer. My dreams have a mind of their own.

Dreams that float free, fly in the sky, touch the clouds and swing down to earth again. Dreams in the dark, silent dreams that can be heard in silence ....

Dreams that might be messy!

Peter H. Reynolds celebrates free-form daydreaming in his newest, Happy Dreamer (Orchard Books, 2017). With a tousle-haired boy who rises from a colorless desk and flies through the sky, with a happy hiking girl, a painting kid with a colorful palette and an elated actor dramatically in mid-delivery of his lines, author-illustrator Reynolds puts in a plug for playful dreaming and shows the reader "all the ways to be a dreamer... "


Says Publishers Weekly, "Reynolds’s hand-lettered text and airy cartoons dance across the pages, capturing the freewheeling workings of the child’s mind."


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

High Hopes! The Almost Impossible Thing by Basak Aguoglu



Birds do it. They fly through the sky. Why not a rabbit?

Little rabbit works with what he's got--long ears. But there's no liftoff, no matter how hard he flaps them like a bird or rotates them like a maple helicopter. He can't get off the ground.

He adds feathers and faces into wind. No luck. He tries skiing off a ski jump and ends up cooling his heels in a snow bank. He hang-glides off a cliff, but still finds that the law of gravity trumps high hopes every time.

Rabbit goes up and ... down.

He gets the gear--helmet and goggles and all--but it's still a no go. Should he tuck his dream away in a tiny box?

"You can do anything if you try!" they say. "Dream BIG!" they say.

In a true "flight of fancy," a charmingly envisioned little rabbit takes off into the wild blue yonder in Basak Aguoglu's little parable of dreaming big. Unlike Dumbo, the flying elephant of Disney fame, for this little rabbit, equipped as he is with a pair of inauspicious skinny ears, independent flight seems impossible, no matter how hard he flaps or rotates his ears. There's no solo flight in his future.

So our bunny thinks outside his box. If he can't realize his dream of solo flight, perhaps there could be success in a crowd-sourcing configuration. If he can just get enough flight-fancying rabbits together in an aerodynamic form, maybe they can get his dream off the ground....

Basak Aguoglu's The Almost Impossible Thing (Philomel Books, 2017) puts in a plug for big dreams, for creative thinking, and for getting by with a little help from your friends, in a fancifully styled tale that provides fun along the way in its light and loose illustrations, done in blackline and bright gouache accents, with an admittedly cute little hero with twenty-one look-alike buddies who come to share his dream. It's a strange story with pleasantly free-floating artwork and design that makes it all seem somehow possible, if not all that likely. But after all, even youngsters will intuit that this is less a how-to manual and more of a fable for the more imaginative mind. "A difficult but rewarding debut," says Kirkus Reviews.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Flight of Fancy: The Almost Impossible Thing by Basak Agaoglu

A day when rabbits fly?

It seems an incredible, impossible vision, but a little long-eared rabbit watches a bird fly across the sky, and she has a sudden yen....


She flaps her impressively long ears, but there's no lift off.

It's time to go back to the old drawing board, and Rabbit does, chalking up designs and computations, until she has some promising possibilities.

Maybe she can get a lot of lift from bouncing high on a trampoline.

No. It's right back down to earth. She constructs some feathery wings.

How about soaring on her skiis off the ski jump? She's airborne, wings outspread, but not for long, as her parabola lands her deep in a snowbank.

That was fun while it lasted, but she needs a little help. How about a kite? It has lift, lots of it--until it lands in The inevitable tree.

But the impossible dream remains. Perhaps if she could enlist enough rabbits with flapping ears and a dream like hers....


Where there's a will, there's a way, in Basak Aguoglu's The Almost Impossible Thing (Philomel Books, 2017), in which our rabbity protagonist rockets off into the wild blue yonder. It's definitely a flight of fancy, in an imaginative picture book that offers dreamy illustrations, little rocket science, and some crowd sourcing, along with a chance for young readers to spread their wings and follow the dream. Agaoglu's illustrations combine simple but stylized line drawings of sky-struck rabbits surrounded by a flowing colors and minimalist scenery, the stuff that dreams are made of. "A rewarding debut..." says Kirkus Review.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Up to Ten and Down Again: Goodnight, Numbers by Danica McKellar




How do we say goodnight? Let us count the ways, in Danica McKellar's first picture book, a math book, of course, beginning at the beginning with that first lesson, counting for one to ten and back again.

From the clever endpapers--counting from one to five inside the front cover to counting from six to ten inside the back, this one is all about numbers, set in the cozy framework of saying goodnight. From one bowl at supper, two hands to wash with Dad, three toy cars to put away while Kitty washes her four paws, there are always things to count. There are five points on the bathtub starfish sponge and six snaps on Mr. Peach's pajamas, seven days on the calendar, eight arms on the toy octopus, nine butterflies on the mobile above the bed, and, of course, all ten fingers and toes to get a goodnight kiss.

But that's not all, in author McKeller's Goodnight, Numbers (Crown Books, 2017). An actress on the series The Wonder Years and The West Wing, Danica McKellar is also the author of the notable middle-school math series, Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail, Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss, Hot X: Algebra Exposed! and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape, but here she turns to the beginning of math-consciousness, naming and counting the numbers of real things.

With the able assistance of artist Alicia Padron, McKellar's just-right rhyming quatrains take a variety of young children through counting the objects encountered on the way to bedtime, such as six blocks, stacked in a pyramid, each with six sides, to put back in the toy box. But that's not all: on the wall is a picture with a repeat pattern of six sheep. On another page there are eight sides on the STOP sign, nine bars on the side of the crib, nine tuffets on the footstool, nine links in the paper chain draped over the end of the bed, and nine hearts on the quilt to count before getting to the end with ten and settling down to sleep.

Alicia Padron's warm and gentle illustrations are done in basic soft blue and lavender tones just right for sleepytime stories, with each double-page spread filled with plenty of counting objects to spot, adding some fun (and incidentally, settling youngsters into quiet activities before lights out.) Author McKellar adds an appendix for parents with an author's note for adult caretakers, with advice, called "How to Get the Most Out of Goodnight Numbers," with a reminder that "numbers are all around" and so are chances to count, all through the day and even at bedtime.

Says Kirkus Reviews, "...this sweet treatment of numbers and counting may be good prophylaxis against math phobia. The joys of counting combine with pretty art and homage to Goodnight Moon." "A first purchase for libraries," adds School Library Journal.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Heart of the Forest: Tree (A Peek-Through Picture Book) by Britta Teckentrup

In the forest all is still

Gripped by winter's icy chill.

Owl waits, watching in a tree.

No one sees as much as he.

But there's not so much to see in the icy grip of winter. Evergreens huddle, wearing a cap of snow, and foxes tiptoe to and fro.

But soon green shoots appear here and there, peeping above the melting show, and the Owl knows that spring is coming, even before the rabbits venture out of their holes, alert for the frisky foxes.

Spring comes with its magic, covering the forest with a cloak of green.  Birds sing and build nests. The apple tree blooms.

And then summer comes. Little birds fledge. Apples appear and ripen from green to rosy red. Bunnies grow bigger, and the birdies fly all across the sky.

Then trees change color and fall comes sneaking in.

Now it's cooler all around.

Apples tumble to the ground

And at last the leaves fall from the apple tree, too, and once more the tree, with its steadfast owl on guard, watches the season cycle into winter, as snow again piles high about its roots.

All the while the owl is the center of attention, as from his hole in the big tree, he watches the days come and go along with the seasons, in Britta Teckentrup's Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book (Doubleday Books, 2016). With a die-cut home for the feathered sentinel centered in the tree on the cover, the owl appears in the hole in his tree on each page to chronicle the changes in the seasons as they pass. Each animal has his own die-cut opening to reveal his seasonal moves. With highly stylized illustrations, a basic tree with a scattering of leaves and the simple shapes of animals through the cycle of the year, this book is perfect for preschool introduction to the passage of the seasons. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Teckentrup's stylized block-print artwork focuses reader's eyes on the myriad details of the unfolding forest scenes."

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Literary Logorrhea! Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins

Rupert the mouse is an aspiring author who is going for a trendy genre.

"Finally! I get my very own book to star in.

I am going to make a wordless book. They are more artistic.

This book will have no words at all.


It's not that Rupert and his rodent cohorts, Nibs and Thistle, don't have any literary experience, They have been minor characters, walk-ons, a mousy Greek chorus, so to speak, with limited dialog in Ryan T. Higgins earlier hits, Mother Bruce and Hotel Bruce (Mother Bruce) (see reviews here). But now Rupert is ready to author his own avant garde creation, but his buddies, Nibs and Thistle, didn't seem to get the memo.

"Wowee! said Thistle. "A wordless book! Can I help? Oops! I'm talking.... I'm talking about talking!"

"Shhhh! said Nibs. "The book has already started! You are messing it up!"

"Quiet!" shouted Rupert "This book must be visually stimulating!"

"What does "vishery strigulating" mean?" asked Nibs.

The life of an author is not an easy one, in Ryan T. Higgins' latest, BE QUIET! (Disney Hyperion, 2017). Starrom om a wordless book just can't stop Nibs and Thistle from continuously talking about not talking. Their colloquy strays into the metaphyscial meaning of silence, conjures up a superhero, Captain Quiet, Vocabulary Vigilante, and launches into an extensive discussion of the old question of whether a falling tree makes a noise if no one is there to hear it. Nibs obligingly chops down a tree to check. It falls on Rupert.

"Did the tree make a sound?" Nibs asked.

"Hard to tell with Rupert shouting," said Thistle.

Author-illustrator Higgins' alter-ego, Rupert the mouse, fails in his first literary effort, but Higgins' third book succeeds as a comedic riot, with ironic humor, clueless but endlessly loquacious characters, slapstick action, gleeful sight gags and even a cameo appearance by grumpy bear Bruce and one of his adopted goslings to tie Higgins' series together. Sophisticated yet silly, this one hits a new high in absurdity when Rupert finds himself fiercely yelling...

"No onomatopoeia!"

Says Publishers Weekly, "Higgins breathes emotional life into his characters, visually and verbally, and his smart, laugh-out-loud comedy is expertly paced. Of course the project marches right off the cliff, but watching it go is entertainment gold."

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

What Will Your Story Be? Curious YOU! On Your Way by Kathleen Zochfeld and H.A. Rey



This time of year is full of happy endings and new beginnings--whether it is graduating from preschool, from primary school, or even from college. And Kathleen Zochfeld's Curious You: On Your Way! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) is a way to celebrate those big transitions with a look back and a look forward. Using the classic illustrations of H.A. Rey's original Curious George picture books, we see that sometimes naughty, but always curious little monkey in his high points (as window washer on a skyscraper and the star of the movie about the first monkey in space in Curious George Takes a Job.


On the other hand, any successful hero will have times when he'll need to hang on and maybe get a little help from his friends, as does George in Curious George Flies a Kite:


There are a few crashes and falls, from time to time, but if you keep your curiosity and find your own style, the sky is the limit.


Curious You: On Your Way! offers a pat on the back and proud best wishes to a young graduate or anyone making a transition to a new place, a way to look back and a way to look into the future.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Moving On Up! The Very Fairy Princess by Julia Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton

Hello, hello! I am Gerry. I'm a Very Fairy Princess. I try not to brag about it too much. (But my wings and crown give me away a bit.)

A special occasion is just around the corner. It's the end of the school year, and...

It's graduation time!

Gerry loves a special occasion, one that shows off her sparkle, but the last days of school begin to dim her glimmer. The class's work and paintings come down, the cubbies are cleared of all their personal things, and their room looks empty. It's not their room anymore.

Gerry realizes that Miss Pym, who didn't mind her wearing her wings and crown to school every day, will no longer be her teacher. Their class pet, Houdini the hamster, will be some other class's pet. Miss Pym says they are ready to move on, but Gerry is not ready. She doesn't even know if there will be a class pet next year. She doesn't even know who her teacher will be.

And then Gerry learns her new teacher's name--Mr. Bonario.

 MISTER Bonario? Our new teacher is a MAN?

He'll never believe I am a Very Fairy Princess!

Visions of a stern schoolmaster and herself in a drab school uniform, without wings or crown, fill Gerry's head. Sadly but loyally she helps Miss Pym make the room ready for a new class and practices the class song. Gerry tries to remind herself that a fairy princess is a team player.

Her spirits revive a little when she tries on the tasseled graduation hat and gown, but then a sad thought hits her. What if her new teacher won't let her wear her crown and wings? What if he insists on calling her Geraldine?

"Oh, puh-LEEZ!" groaned her brother Stewart.

On the big day, Gerry bravely puts on her blue robe. But how is she going to wear graduation hat and a crown? Mom comes to the rescue and pins the crown securely to the top of her blue mortarboard.

At last the class marches past their proud parents onto the stage. They sing, and then Mr. Higginbotham declares them graduated to the next grade.

Everyone applauds, and we throw our hats onto the air!

Oh, No! MY CROWN! It flies off my hat and sails over the audience!

A hand reaches up to snatch it!

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, in Julia Andrews' and Emma Hamilton's latest in series, The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl! (Little, Brown and Company, 2017), but clever kids will already be guessing just who makes that heroic catch of Gerry's crown. He's a pretty cool guy, and one look at his polka-dot socks makes Gerry think Mr. Bonario is the kind of teacher who is going to appreciate some special sparkle in his classroom. With the help of artist Christine Davenier, who portrays Gerry's every mood with just the right emotion and elan, author Andrews' and Hamilton's new story captures just the right touch of both nostalgia and sparkle for the last days of school. "Andrews's and Hamilton's heroine continues to charm," says Publisher's Weekly.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Goes Up Doesn't Come Down! A Little Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Dang! Wouldn't you know it! Floyd goes out to fly his new kite, and of course it heads straight for a tree, where it is now...


Floyd tries to knock it loose by throwing one shoe. That shoe gets STUCK. He throws the other shoe. DITTO. He throws his cat into the tree, and of course the cat can't even get herself down. You'd think Floyd would see the futility of his present solution, but he doesn't.

In turn he throws a duck, a chair, a bike, a car, and an orangutan. And no, the orangutan doesn't fly the kite himself or even throw all Floyd's stuff down like those nice monkeys in the classic Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business).  So Floyd follows up by heaving more stuff into the tree: a rhino, a truck, a whale and, you know, whatever else is handy, but they all remain securely STUCK. It's getting dark and Floyd needs to come up with a new tactic. He fetches a saw... and ... and... tosses it into the tree, too! The tree is turning into an veritable vertical trash heap. Now what?

Board books must be booming, because noted children's authors and illustrators are rushing to abridge their full-fledged picture books into board-bound editions, and Oliver Jeffers' 2011 award-winning Stuck, ((Read my unabridged review here) already a nearly wordless and visually-based story, lends itself awesomely to an abridged edition, with a new title in which Jeffers engages in a cute bit of wordplay, A Little Stuck (Philomel Books, 2017). Thanks to Jeffers' visually narrative artistic style, this mini-version loses nothing in the translation to a smaller, tot-friendly format. Still droll, with offbeat dry wit and and sly sight gags, this new edition is a mighty mini.

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