Saturday, September 30, 2017

Canine Blitzkrieg! The Great Puppy Invasion by Alastair Heim

One day a puppy showed up in little Teddy's town.

Then two. Then hundreds.

The locals panicked. They had never seen puppies before.

There are all kinds of pooches in the onslaught--frizzy, foxy, and fluffy, shaggy and sleek, perky-eared, lop-eared and flop-eared, black, brown, beige, and white ones, brown-spotted white ones, and black-and-tan ones. And all with big bright eyes and wagging tails.

There is a pooch incursion in Strictville!

And with a draconian motto like theirs--All work and no play make for a great day-- the townspeople agree to the decree that any kind of levity is illegal. A puppy invasion is clearly verboten!

The panicked populace try running away, but the pups just bounce hopefully after them. The people toss sticks right at the mutts.

But the puppies brought the sticks right back.

The town is captivated by incredible canine cuteness.

The mayor calls a mass meeting. Rules are reinforced. A moratorium is laid down against fraternizing with the invaders. Teddy's mother forbids him even to look at the puppies.

"Don't touch, Teddy!" she warned.

But the big-eyed little dogs are not so easily dissuaded from socializing with the Strictvillians. Finally the people make a run for it, straight to their dog-hair-free domiciles, and slam their doors tight behind them. The pups yip, and yap, and woof and bow-wow outside.

But Teddy heard a teeny whimper...coming from the tiniest puppy of all.

The puppy sat down on Teddy's lawn, and lifted its front paw....

Oh, no! NOT the wistful whimper and puppy-proffered paw trick..., the deadliest doggy tactic of them all....!

As the townspeople watch warily from their windows, Teddy can't resist taking that little paw in his own small hand, and it's all over for the prudish people of Strictville, who succumb to catastrophic cuteness and begin to adopt that most irresistible pet in the world....

Except... unseen on the outskirts of the city is a little bitty gray kitty, waiting for her turn to take on the town, giving the reader a knowing wink that says, "We'll see who's the cutest. Just you wait...."

It's a win-win for people and pooches in Alastair Heim's forthcoming The Great Puppy Invasion (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2017), a romping riot of puppies whose invasion is persuasion that pets are good for people and vice-versa. With winsome double-page spreads, artist Kim Smith's bold spreads are filled with unabashedly cute illustrations that portray the peace treaty between puppies and people in a most winning way, with plenty of doggy detail on each page to produce a most delightful read for dog fanciers--and with just a whisker of a wink at a potential feline sequel in the works.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Getting Antsy! Ants (Just Like Us!) by Bridget Heos

DID YOU KNOW that ants have been farming far longer than humans? And that in addition to raising crops. they herd (and "milk") animals? In these and other ways, ants are just like us. Ants are ANT-astic!

Ants build roads and tunnels, bridges and boats, and houses of dirt or of leaves. And ants are awesome and legendarily hard workers.

In fact, as soon as they are of their larvae diapers, they help feed the colony. As soon as they can, they are put right to work babysitting the larvae, bathing them, and (spoiler warning) gathering their spit-up and sometimes their poop (euphemistically called manna) as food for workers and queen alike. Later, the young workers graduate to outside duty, gathering and harvesting food for their siblings and acting as garbage collectors to keep the nest sanitary.

It's a dirty job, but somebuggy's got to do it.

Unlike some kids, ants are awesome at staying in line, but human kids will be glad they don't do it by following the scent trail laid down by the abdomen of their line leader! While some workers dally at the dairy, milking aphids, other workers even morph into soldier ants, with some species getting so big and strong that they make The Hulk look puny. But like humans, when the army ants lose a battle, the colony has to evacuate, Queen Ant, eggs, larvae and all, and become refugees, making a run for safety, leaving the spoils for the victors.


Bridget Heos' forthcoming Just Like Us! Ants (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) plays upon the similarities between ants and people. Both are social animals that care for their young, with job classifications that make use of their size, age, and energy to maintain their cities. Heos' text is organized into double-page sections, each of which covers a subject such as care of the young or bridge-and boat-building. David Clark's illustrations feature funny, anthropomorphic ants--armored ants with swords and shields, queen ants with baby buggies loaded with larvae, and fruit fly chasers wielding itsy bitsy butterfly nets--dotted with humorous colored drawings of Rube Goldburg gizmos to brew up baby larvae drool for worker baristas to stir up into smoothies for off-duty workers to sip at a cafe bar. The many awesome aspects of antdom are all there in Heos' new book in the Just Like Us series, augmented with the added attraction of a glossary ("Say What?"), and a bibliography for those assigned research reports that come along in the elementary grades.

Science writer Bridget Heos is also the author of Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope (Scientists in the Field Series) (see review here) and Shell, Beak, Tusk: Shared Traits and the Wonders of Adaptation. (review here)

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Game Day Goodnight! Goodnight, Football by Michael Dahl



Full of excitement, the fans stream into the stadium, bundled up for the autumn weather, with cushions and streamers and high hopes for the home team.

Cheerleaders shout and leap as the teams take the field, and the bands strike up their fight songs. The drama builds as the two teams line up for the first play.

And then the game begins.



It's all there--the quarterback's snap, the clash of the linemen, the scent of hot dogs and popcorn in the air, the celebration after the touchdown, and all the fun of the spectacle of football, from the kickoff to the final handshakes between winners and losers, in Michael Dahl's new Goodnight Football (Sports Illustrated Kids Bedtime Books) (Capstone Young Readers, 2017), as his young football fan enjoys his first game. And as the crowd exits the stadium, he remembers to bid all of it a good goodnight:



In most bedtime stories, children settle down with Teddy bears or toy trucks, but this young football fan falls off to sleep in his helmet, still holding on to his football, not long after that trademark moon rises over the goalposts. Dahl's rhyming verse catches all the pageantry of the football game for families who are football fans, making use of terms along the way to familiarize youngsters with the vocabulary of the game. As she did in Dahl's first sports bedtime tale, Goodnight Baseball (Sports Illustrated Kids Bedtime Books) (see review here), artist Christina Forshay's illustrations begin with endpapers of the gridiron and catch the movement, the colorful action, of the big game in soft autumnal tones that lead the listening child toward sleepytime in his own bed.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

BooTime! I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor



Well, Little Monster is a monster. But his helpful author/narrator tries to warn him that for novice monsters, a humorous story might be, um, well, more fun for starters!

This little purple monster insists that funny stories are not his thing. Let 'er rip with the spooky stuff, he insists. So the reluctant author conjures up a horrifying haunted house surrounded by a frightful forest of terrifying twisted trees!


Okay, maybe not that scary! The author offers to moderate the scene a trifle, sticking with just the haunted house.

Okay, How's this one? He puts Little Monster into a tight shot, with just him and the spooky house.


Still too scary? The author is beginning to lose patience with his protagonist. He points out that a story plot requires some suspense leading to the climax.



Little Monster okays that scenario. But when a wizened weird sister appears, he freaks out. The weary author tries again with a ghost.


This scary story is going nowhere. The author is teed off. He's running out of terror tropes. What kind of spooky story does Little Monster want? He reminds Little Monster that this scary story business was all HIS idea.


Ah, ha! Why didn't you say so? The amiable author comes up with just enough of a scary ending to please Little Monster and his young readers, in Sean Taylor's clever story that is just in time for the scary season, I Want To Be in a Scary Story (Candlewick Press, 2017). His adorable Little Monster gets to scare the begeezus out of some ginormous critters, and everyone gets a just-right fright in Taylor's carefully set up junior jump tale, with satisfying giggles at each page turn all the way to the end of this sly story that just begs to be read aloud.

Artist Jean Jullien provides the lovable little monster with budding baby horns, done up with digital purple fur with wide black outlining that seem to bleed into the background, along with a cast of leafless terrifying trees, a haunted house with a ghastly ghost and wrinkled witch, not to mention a somewhat spurious funny-scary monkey and gorilla whose bit parts provide the fun, all appropriately slapstick spooky, for preschool and primary fare. Preschoolers will appreciate the surprise scares, and older readers will relish the metafiction aspects of this story-within-a-story. There are speech balloons and dramatic page turns that will encourage grownups to look forward to October storytimes, and as Kirkus Reviews says, "...after the final page, readers may just be asking along with Little Monster, "So, can I be in a story again tomorrow?"

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Oh, No, Green Glow! Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds

Jasper Rabbit needed new underwear.

There's no alternative for undies, so Mom and Jasper are off to the Underwear Store. Mom grabs the last three packs of Plain White, thinking this trip is going to blissfully, er, brief.

But then Jasper sees them.


So creepy! They were

In Day-Glo Green, with a Frankenstein face glowering on the front, they are perfect! Mom thinks they're too creepy for her bunny, but Jasper insists.

I'm not a little bunny any more! I'm a big rabbit!

Jasper can't wait to wear the creepy skivvies. He wears them to bed. But despite repetition of his "big bunny" mantra, the green and ghoulish glow of his lower half creeps Jasper out. Even piling a pillow over his face can't keep the creepy green glow out of his eyes.

Jasper skins out of the spooky pants and stuffs them into the bottom of the laundry hamper, but the glow in his room remains just as greenish and ghoulish as before. Finally Jasper falls into a fretful sleep, but when he wakes up, he finds that he is wearing the creepy briefs again. Is there a curse on his keister?

Jasper tries everything to rid himself of the dreadful drawers. He cuts them up into glowing green bits. But no matter where he stashes them, they return, back on his tushie, still ghoulishly green and glowing. He even mails them to China, only to receive them back in record time, with souvenirs--a pair of chopsticks and a toy panda! Finally Jasper slogs out at midnight with a shovel to bury the creepy underwear deep in a hole on the top of the distant Crookhanger Hill.

At last he drags himself into bed, switches off his bedside light, and lies down in the dark room with a satisfied smile. It's total darkness at last! Only....

It was REALLY DARK in there!

Jasper finds that even for a big rabbit, there can be too much of a good thing, and now there's way too much darkness in his bedroom. Will the Creepy Underwear have a return booking on his bottom?

There's a tiny bit of horror and and a lot of humor in Aaron Reynolds' Creepy Pair of Underwear! (Simon and Schuster, 2017), and a plenty of underpants-spurred hilarity is sure to ensue when young readers hear or read this spookypants tale.

Artist Peter Brown, who earned a Caldecott Honor Award for his collaboration with Aaron Reynolds in Creepy Carrots! (see review here), outdoes himself in this one. His uniformly grayscale illustrations, lighted only by the green glow of the seemingly possessed underpants, sets the stage well, alternating full-page illustrations with panels that build suspense. His Underwear Store is everything it should be--row after row of square tables with neat stacks of briefs, and when Jasper finally settles down to sleep and turns off his light, the next page turn reveals a double-page spread of nothing but... flat black. Brown also adds plenty of sight gags, changing the monster face on the briefs slightly, even down to the one back from China, matching the changing looks on poor Jasper's face. This new undie tale from Reynolds and Brown is doubtless destined to be the top hit of this year's spooky season.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Give Peace A Chance: Imagine by John Lennon



He's not the usual dove of peace, although he does offer an olive branch. He's a more pedestrian carrier pigeon, with his little messenger bag, carrying a plea for an end to greed and hate.

He settles a fuss among some squabbling seagulls and mediates a food fight among some hummingbirds by suggesting some creative sharing.

It's a hard job, but someone has to do it, in the just-published picture book based on John Lennon's famous song, Imagine (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2017). With an appealing protagonist pigeon and well-paced design, alternating full-bleed and spot-art pages executed in thick blackline drawings, artist Jean Jullien's illustrations tell this story in a timely and still needed plea to give peace a chance.



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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pull Yourself Together! Bonaparte Falls Apart by Margery Cuyler


Bonaparte is a little skeleton who has a hard time keeping it together. If he peddles his bike a bit too fast, a foot falls off. If he catches a fast-ball pitch, his baseball glove AND his hand fly off, ball and all. When he takes a big bite of pizza, his jaw actually drops!



It's not like all the kids in Boney's group aren't a bit, er, unusual--Franky Stein, Blacky Widow, and Mummicula are not exactly your average school kids. They try to be helpful, retrieving his boney limbs--when they can find them. But sometimes their playtime turns into a tiresome scavenger hunt for Bonaparte's parts.

Franky offers mechanical assistance, gluing and screwing Boney's legbones back on. But Boney winds up too uptight to move! Blacky offers a protective web to keep it all together, but when Boney tries to play, he and the web turn into a tangle-jangle. Mummicula tries out his skills, but he gets a little over-zealous with the winding wrap and covers Bonaparte's whole skull.


Bonaparte knows his constant bone shedding is not going to be cool for school. Even his monster pals are weary with chasing down his body parts. But then Mummicula spots a dog running by with a bone in his mouth and has a brainstorm!

What if the pooch can be trained to retrieve Boneparte's missing parts?


With an, er, "service dog" on the job, Bonaparte's missing parts problem is solved in Margery Cuyler's Bonaparte Falls Apart (Crown Books, 2017). Cuyler is an author well known for her holiday books and funny pun-ditry, plying the power of paronomasia (the fancy word for wordplay) in a witty story great for the first weeks of school and for the upcoming scary season. Fitting in (and fitting together) with classmates is hard to do, but with the appealing illustrations, with Will Terry's blackline drawings set in spot art style on bright white pages, this pair of storytellers manage to make skeletons and little monsters appealing and even charming.

Pair this one with Cuyler's and Terry's clever Skeleton for Dinner (read review here) in which little Skeleton fears that for the witches' dinner, he's wanted to flavor, not savor, the stew.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Scare Compendium: In a Dark Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz

Everyone loves a scary story, even beginning readers, and for primary graders beginning to read independently, Alvin Schwartz' In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories: Reillustrated Edition (I Can Read Level 2) (Harper, 2017) is a collection of several oldies but goodies which don't lose much in the translation into easy readers.

"In A Dark, Dark Room" is one variation of the traditional folk "jump tale," a story which takes the reader into a darkened room, to an dark, dark chest, to a dark, dark shelf inside that chest where a dark, dark box waits. And inside that dark, dark box there is...


"The Night It Rained" is a one variant of the venerable tale of "The Haunted Hitchhiker," in which a driver gives a pale young person named Joe a ride home on a dark and stormy night, kindly offering his shivering passenger the comfort of his jacket before he drops him off at his house. When on the next day the driver remembers his coat, he is told by grieving parents that Joe has long been dead and buried in the local graveyard. And when the curious driver goes to the grave, guess what he finds neatly draped over Joe's tombstone?

Another golden oldie included is "The Green Ribbon," in which a lovely woman refuses to explain to why she always wears a green ribbon tied around her neck, until her her husband discovers why at her death.

Along with these classic tales, Schwartz offers several other short and spooky anecdotes, and closes with a historical appendix titled "Where The Stories Came From." Newly independent readers will enjoy being able to read these scary tales to themselves, or, more likely, may find it more fun to read them to kids just a bit younger than themselves... on a dark and stormy night.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Please See Me! Boo Who?" by Ben Clanton



Breaking in to a new group is hard to do.

Rex, the ebullient little dinosaur, and his gang--Gizmo the robot, Wild the little monster, and Sprinkles, the unicorn rabbit--are a rowdy group of old buddies.

Boo, a pale little ghost, doesn't exactly stand out in a crowd. He longs to play, but he doesn't really have the right stuff for their games. When Rex bounces him the ball, it goes right through him. With no hands, Boo's not a standout at a game of pick-up-sticks. And a game of tag is out when no one can feel his touch.

He floats off toward the edge of page right, clearly marginalized, becoming more and more pale and imperceptible as he goes.


Things are looking grave for Boo.

Gizmo starts a game of hide-and-seek, counting down while everyone hides. Boo watches from almost off-page as Sprinkles, Rex, and Wild choose not-so-effective places to hide. Suddenly Boo realizes that this game is made for him!



Boo smiles to himself as Rex and his friends look everywhere for him, and as he does, he begins to materialize. Boo is clearly the winner of this game!


Kids new to a neighborhood or school who may feel themselves disappearing into the woodwork will know just how it feels to go unnoticed in the crowd, and Ben Clanton's new Halloween-friendly book about Rex and his gang, Boo Who? (Candlewick Press, 2017) does a fine job of making Boo's feelings palpable even to youngsters who haven't yet found themselves on the outside looking in. Clanton's understated text and simple ink, pencil, and digital colors tell the story beautifully. The ability to portray a limbless, generic ghost with great expression shows the high art of the cartoonist which the artist-illustrator has shown in his earlier book, Rex Wrecks It! (read review here.)

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Be My Guest! Scare B and B (Vampirina) by Chelsea Beyl

This is Vampirina Hauntley. Her friends call her Vee.

This is Vampirina's house. It's also a Scare B and B.

Vee's house is specially styled with the latest creepy accouterments for their clientele, who frankly tend to be on the spooky side themselves. Her mom has advertised on the WorldWideCobweb, and the family is all set to greet their very first bed and breakfast guests, Edna, Edgar, and their daughter Poppy, who need a place to stay while their house is being painted.

Poppy knows Vampirina is a vampire. Edna and Edgar do not.

That's ONE problem.

But Poppy knows Vampirina and is glad to share her bedroom, and Edna and Edgar find the guest room charmingly quaint.

But then Vampirina's two grown-up sisters fly in unexpectedly, weird as ever, and expecting a warm welcome and appropriately weird accommodations for themselves.

Now the Hauntleys have humans and vampires, but only one guest room!

Now that is ANOTHER problem.

Vampirina has an idea. Since vampires are active at night and humans are busy all day, perhaps the Hauntleys can arrange for both sets of guests to, er, share, the room--without their knowing it, of course! Poppy agrees to help. Can they carry off their their double-booking plan?

There are plenty of laughs along the way in Chelsea Beyl's World of Reading: Vampirina Scare B and B: Level 1 with Stickers (World of Reading: Level 1) (Disney Press, 2017). The young hostess and her friend show their mettle in their two-timing plan, with a lot of near misses, quick thinking, and humorous scenes, and beginning readers will find this one an intriguing independent read. Artist Jeff King provides the funny sight gags and visual cues that help primary readers keep up on the action, and a stay with the Hauntleys is one bed and breakfast experience that is definitely unique.  A fun book for young would-be Halloween vampires to cut their read alone teeth on.

For the upcoming scary season, this one also pairs well with the first book in this series, Vampirina Going Batty and together or separately, these inexpensive paperbacks (with stickers) make nice "treats" for the Halloween pumpkin for a favorite creepy costumed kid.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Boo Time! Honk! Quack! BOO! (Duck and Goose) by Tad Hills

"So, Goose, what are you going to be tomorrow?" asked Duck.

"Tomorrow? Well, I think I will be myself, Duck. It's important to always be yourself."

"Tomorrow is Halloween! It's a day to not be yourself," Duck explained to Goose.

Little gray goose Thistle joins the conversation and announces that her costume is a secret, leaving Duck and Goose with a cryptic warning.

"Beware of the Swamp Monster!"

Duck is unfazed by Thistle's bravado, but Goose announces that he's no fan of swamp monsters. He decides that dressing as Super Goose might keep the shivers at bay.

The next evening he gets suited up in super-hero style and is met by a ghost who claims to be Duck.

"I'm not really a ghost! Look at my feet!"

Goose relaxes a little, and the two friends head off for some trick-or-treating, Goose still looking around apprehensively for a Swamp Monster. He spots a bee and a butterfly, a princess and a daisy, all clearly friends in costumes, but no sign of Thistle in her secret disguise. But then.... some scary footsteps are heard, coming closer, and closer, and....

Duck and Goose turned and saw the slimiest and most hideous Swamp Monster ever.

Goose groaned. "We're goners!"

Duck and Goose are scared, but sharp-eyed young readers will not be if they have spied Thistle in the background gathering moss from the pond for her secret Halloween disguise, in Tad Hill's Duck and Goose, Honk! Quack! Boo! (Schwartz and Wade, 2017).

Luckily, Goose rallies, remembering that he is after all a brave superhero, and Thistle gets a surprise comeuppance scare of her own, in author-illustrator Hills' newest story of his beloved web-footed characters' Halloween adventure. Hills offers youngsters some vicarious experience with the minor fears of Halloween, along with enough scares and treats to go around for all. Hills' adorable aquatic characters play out their little holiday excursion in both full-bleed and spot-art style on alternating pages, giving the youngest trick-or-treaters just the right preview taste of the spooky fun and sweet rewards of Halloween. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Goose and Duck are wonderfully childlike in their innocence and naiveté. Gentle Halloween fun from two beloved friends."

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Picky Picky! But I Don't Eat Ants by Dan Marvin





What do you call an anteater who won't eat ants?

This little anteater can't be called a picky eater! In fact, he's quite the omnivore!

Tortellini is totally terrific! Liverwurst is the best wurst!

Noodles and strudels are consumed by the oodles! Antipasta is awesome, but hold the ants!

His anteater aunts try to set him a good example, guzzling their daily Formicidae. But he prefers burgers and fries!

What's an anteater mama to do to get her kid to eat what she puts on his plate? But this mother is wise; she sneaks in a subtle compromise.

A zesty little garnish on his salad??


Mom looks a bit smug as she reveals the origin of those piquant crispy toppings. Would you believe... fire ants?

YUM! They are delish! He will eat them here and there; he will eat them anywhere! (Thanks, Dr. Seuss!)

Dan Marvin's new But I Don't Eat Ants (Pow Books, 2017) pokes fun at picky eaters, while purposefully parsing the many types of tastes out there. Young reluctant tasters may take some comfort in Marvin's character who thinks eating ants is just weird, until he tries one type that is definitely to his taste. Kelly Fry's illustrations are colorfully executed with just the right soupcon of silliness that just suits the tale of an anteater who chows down on everything but eschews eating ants! And with the mention of unusual foods such as gazpacho and tortellini, finger foods like stuffed olives, and exotic dishes like escargot, this book is perfect for the necessary class unit on food and for the tasting party that often often follows.

Share this one with the ever-popular Green Eggs and Ham and Jan Yolen's and Mark Teague's How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? (Book & CD). (see review here.)

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Red Riding Hood, Reconceptualized! Little Red Riding [SHEEP] by Linda Raven Lodding

Every production needs a caped creative consultant, right? That's Arnold's story, and he's sticking to it.

He tries out for the role of Little Red Riding Hood, but despite some "scooching down," the director is not convinced he's right for the part.

"You're not a girl. You're a sheep, Arnold!" he points out.

"Heidschucke sheep, to be exact," says Arnold.

"But the main character in this book is NOT a sheep," insists the director.

That's what all the authors say, Arnold thinks. Sheep are usually relegated to the background, munching. Bo-ring!

Arnold calls for a few daringly edgy changes in the setting. Those deep dark woods could be sunnier with just a few strategic erasures, he suggests. Then he offers his friend, a muskrat named Einar, who would be an inspired choice as the Big Bad Wolf. And his friend Frankie Warthog is perfect for the role of the Grandmother.

"She's won a Granny Award," Arnold offers.

But then Einar points out that as a dedicated vegan, his personal values won't allow him to gobble grandmothers.

"I get GOBBLED?" cries Frankie, suddenly fearful.

CUT! There's such a thing as too much creative license, in Linda Rave Lodding's take off on reconceptualizing the classics, in Little Red Riding Sheep (Atheneum Books, 2017), and even Arnold confesses that it's his b-a-a-a-ad. Some tales just don't benefit from too much freewheeling.

Sometimes it pays to get your actors from central casting after all. Artist Cale Atkinson's comic illustrations of the fleecy Arnold caped as Little Red, the muskrat Einar as the big, bad wolf, and a tusky warthog as Red's granny, make this fractured fairy tale fun for primary readers who know the original all too well. And it's definitely not boring. Says Booklist, "A fun, meta, fractured fairy tale.”

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

BE WARY! Mary McScary by R. L. Stine and Marc Brown


With her spiky red hair and glaring eyes, Mary's BOOOOO! seems to be fearfully frightful. She scares the cat into spike-tailed flight.

At breakfast, when she plasters two fried eggs over her eyes with a yellow-eyed glare, her dad almost spills his hot coffee all over himself. And her mom is more than alarmed when Mary appears from the kitchen juggling a tray loaded with a full pitcher and assorted large fruits precariously on her head. At dinner, with meatballs for eyes and spaghetti for bloody worms dangling from her mouth, she clears the room. Even the goldfish is frightened of Mary.


But Mary can't seem to scare her Cousin Harry.

Harry McScary seems to be Mary-McScary proof, so when she hears he's coming for a visit, Mary McScary pulls out all the stops to make Harry scream. She dons werewolf getup and greets him at the door with RRRROOOAAARRRRR!


Mary should be wary of Harry McScarry!

Mary's jar of big black spiders falls flat. Her gorilla act is a flop when Harry hops on for gorilla-back ride. Slimy, slippery snakes and a giant purple hippo don't get a rise out of Harry. Mary McScary's mettle is being sorely tested!

What can a girl do to make the unflappable Harry McScary run screaming out the door?

What does a third-grade boy fear more than any monster?

(Spoiler Alert: It's the hideous cousinly KISS with a few girly Cootchie Coos, and all Mary has to do is pucker up!)

A scary book without a single ghost or vampire or bat, without a single haunted house or spooky tree? Master of the middle reader macabre, R. L. Stine (creator of Goosebumps), joins forces with picture book giant Marc Brown (of Arthur Adventures fame) to bring a new character to the scary season in their latest collaboration, Mary McScary (Orchard Books, 2017). Author Stine cunningly knows how to build suspense, but Marc Brown's clever collage illustrations carry the flag, with Mary's cat acting as a reactive Greek chorus, and assorted spoofs of famous paintings (such as Munch's "The Scream") also backing up what's going on in the foreground. It's not a new plot point, but Stine and Brown make the most of it in this different book for the spooky season, a first purchase for primary graders for October reading.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cold Case: George Catches A Cold (Peppa Pig)


Mummy and Daddy insist that Peppa Pig and her little brother George wear their full rain gear when they play outside in the drizzle. Peppa wears her full set-raincoat, waterproof boots, and rain hat, but despite her sisterly advice, when she and George come inside, George's head is cold and wet. And then he sneezes. ATCHOOOOO!


Daddy orders George up to bed and makes sure he has plenty of warm blankets.

But in the morning when Peppa reports that George is still feeling poorly, Daddy sends for Dr. Brown Bear.

Peppa fears that her little brother may have to go to the hospital but George is afraid to open his mouth so Dr. Brown Bear and take his temperature until Peppa does it first. And sure enough, the doctor diagnoses a cold and tells George he has to stay in bed. He prescribes a glass of nice warm milk at bedtime, and that is a doctor's order than George finds easy to follow.

The next day George wakes up with a ROAR like his toy dinosaur's and says he feels much better, and since the day is warm and sunny, Mummy lets George go out in the sunshine with Peppa.

But George refuses to go out without his rain hat. In fact, he never again goes out without his hat, no matter whether the weather is rainy or not.

It's better safe than sorry, in this new paperback edition of George Catches a Cold (Peppa Pig) (Scholastic Books, 2017 rev. ed.) This is an new episode of the Nick, Jr., animated cartoon, available as in hardback, paperback, or Kindle edition that will be new to young viewers, reminding them to always remember to dress for the weather.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

This Little Light of Mine! I'm Not Afraid of the Dark by Helena Harastova



There's nothing worse than waking to things that go bump in the night.

There's a something in Tommy's closet.

But Tommy's got his Teddy bear AND his secret weapon. Inside his close it reveals--only his clothes and some toys!


Now there's a something bumping around in the garage. Could it be aliens from outer space?

Nope. Just Daddy, getting some luggage down from the shelf.

Wait! What's that squeaking around the garbage cans? A troll?

Oh, no, silly me! It's just a rabbit. Now I see.

What is Tommy's secret weapon? His magical flashlight reveals just ordinary stuff going on.

In Helena Harastova's reassuring story, Tommy's theme song is "This Little Light of Mine," as he lets his flashlight shine on all the seemingly scary places that reveal the sources of ordinary noises of the night, in her I'm Not Afraid of the Dark (Chronicle Books, 2017. Sometimes a flashlight is truly the the secret to taking the fright out of those bumps in the night, and with Harastova's little flap-and-pull-tab book, youngsters are in control of when and where the flashlight's beam is directed. Artist Jakub Cenkl adds to the fun by adding a little humor with his illustrations to each night noise in a different sort of bedtime story.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Messin' With the Rhyme Scheme: Nothing Rhymes With Orange by Adam Rex

Sure, Orange has that one claim to fame. He's got an major fruit named after him. It is a bit of a distinction. After all, nobody calls a banana a "yellow."

But in the world of fruit, Orange has a hard gig. Being the color of highway warning signs and traffic cones doesn't build much of a fan base. And being practically un-rhymable, Orange is pretty much left out of the coveted end-of-line position in versification.

When there's a sunny fruit tale to be told,
Orange is left out alone in the cold.



Hey! How much worse than that rhyme can it get? Orange is ready to audition for any line in this book. I mean, when this author stoops to rhyming cantaloupe with "antelope," how picky can he be? And anyway, a kid doesn't have to be dense not to know what a quince is!

And get a load of this seriously forced quatrain!




What's a cute fruit, nutrish and delish, got to do to get at least a walk-on line in this book?

At least author-illustrator Adam Rex gives the sadly neglected but colorful orange top billing in the title, in his latest, Nothing Rhymes with Orange (Chronicle Books, 2017). The author takes silliness seriously, and his artwork is no less playful, filled with fruity characters (and a bearded Fred Nietzche) with stick limbs and expressive faces that finish with a fruit bowl turn-over party. This is a great goofy book with comic characters for preschoolers, but for learned primary schoolers, the wry and sly wordplay with rhyme and rhythm is quite sophisticated, with a humorous nod to philosopher-savvy adults who get the good fortune to read this one aloud.

As a creator, Adam Rex has a genius for playing with the concepts of language and literature, as displayed in his spiffy spoof of the toddler bedtime classic Goodnight Moon in his parody classic Goodnight Goon: a Petrifying Parody, (see my 2008 review here.) And then there are last year's back-to-school hit, School's First Day of School, (review here) and this spring's hit done with Drew Daywalt, The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors. (see review here,) all off-beat and all hard to beat.

Thus spake Booklist: "Cheers for not only nutrition but for thinking outside the bowl to include the unfairly marginalized."

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Finding Fall! Autumn--A Pop-Up Book by David A. Carter



Autumn is a lively time. The trees are bright and animals are everywhere, stocking up food for wintertime. Birds flock to fly away to their winter habitats, and some can be seen in formation high in the autumn sky.

David A. Carter makes the most of this lively and colorful scene in his newest creation, Autumn: A Pop-Up Book (Seasons Pop-up) (Abrams Appleseed Books, 2017). There are pop-up books and there are pop-up books, and Carter's creations are quality art, done without spurious cuteness, and with design and construction that is a wonder to the eye and mind. The author-illustrator works in the many plants and creatures to be seen in the fall by the watchful eye--from blue jays to bald eagles, quail to porcupines, kestrels to meadowlarks; from corn stalks to shocks of wheat, pomegranates to persimmons, all the lovely things that ease the transition to winter and more are to be found in Carter's fine art illustrations. A

This latest one is a highly recommended purchase for preschoolers just learning about the cycle of the seasons, joining Carter's earlier salute to the season pop-up board books, Winter: A Pop-up Book (Seasons Pop-up), Spring: A Pop-up Book (Seasons Pop-up), and Summer: A Pop-Up Book (Seasons Pop-up).

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