Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Heart-y Countdown: The 12 Days of Valentine's by Jenna Lettice

On the first day of Valentine's, what sweet thing did I see?

What is this Valentine's Day thing?

Tots and preschoolers might well ask what all this pink and red fuss is about. As soon as the Christmas decorations go down in the stores, red and pink hearts, plushy animals, and special candies appear.

So what gives?

According to Jenna Lettice's The 12 Days of Valentine's (Pictureback(R)) (Random House, 2017), the first event of the pre-holiday period is when somebody gives someone a big fuzzy hug.

But that's not all. Along the way to the big day on February 14, there are decorations to be made--with two cups of sparkling glitter, three pink pens, four purple ribbons, and a reward of five of those candy hearts with sweet and saucy sayings.

And everyone works to make the days count, with six melty chocolates and seven lady seamstresses sewing fancy hearts. Kids write sweet or funny messages on the hearts, as moms and dads get together to plan games, hang pink-diapered cupids mobiles from the ceiling, bake cookies, and invite guests to the big party.

There is aplenty of party paraphernalia, party fare, carefully kid-printed professions of love and friendship, and--there are STICKERS, in Jenna Lettice's jolly run-up to the big day, illustrated by artist Coleen Madden with a plurality of charming preschoolers getting ready for their big party. All the fun of making decorations, creating special Valentines for special people, and of course, a few sweet treats along the way help the very young understand all the goings-on for this special day. This one joins Madden's and Lettice's other holiday parodies of the traditional Christmas ditty crafted for the preschool calendar, such as The 12 Days of Halloween (Pictureback(R)).

For more sing-along  Valentine's Day fun, partner this one with Lucille Colandro's classic folk song take-off, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Rose! (Read review here.)

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Love Me, Love Me Not! A Charlie Brown Valentine by Charles M. Schulz and adapted by Natalie Shaw

Peppermint Patty is puzzled about the whole Valentine's Day thing.

"Have you received a lot of Valentine cards, Charlie Brown?" she asks.

"Not even one," Charlie Brown admits.

To a few happy-go-lucky souls, Valentine's Day simply means some silly cartoon cards with funny puns and perhaps some candy hearts and chocolate kisses.

But for most kids, Valentine's Day is fraught with excitement and anxiety. (Ask any elementary school teacher!)

For school kids, your heart is on your sleeve and your popularity is on the line, an easily quantifiable bit of data out there for anyone to see right on your desk.

For Charlie Brown, Valentine's Day offers yet another chance with the Little Red Haired Girl. He has a large and lovely Valentine and he is determined to deliver it to her himself.

"I'd give anything to talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl.

I know I'm the kind of person she would like!"

Marcie has a special Valentine for Charlie Brown. Sally pines for one from Linus, and Lucy dreams of a musical Valentine from Shroeder. Peppermint Patty will take whatever she can get. Everyone worries.

Snoopy and Marcie help C.B. practice sample conversations with the Little Red-Haired Girl. With his special card in hand, he walks to her house hoping to hand-deliver it to her, but when he gets there, his courage fails. Armed with a big red box of chocolates, he tries again, but again he chickens out. Forgetting even to sign his name as he drops it in a nearby mailbox. Rats!

Charlie Brown pins his hopes on the neighborhood Valentine dance. Will he at last be brave enough to speak to her?

"She's waiting for you to ask her to dance," Linus says.

But it's Love's Labour Lost for the last dance with the Little Red-Haired Girl, in this newest edition of Charles Schulz' classic, A Charlie Brown Valentine (Peanuts). Faint heart ne'er won fair maid, But Charlie Brown's heart is true and his hopes spring eternal, even though he has to make do with a big SMAK from Snoopy in the mailbox in that classic comic closing.

"But there's always next year!"

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Nutbrown Bunny Valentines! Guess How Much I Love You: A Book of Valentines by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram



Who could be better than Sam McBratney's Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare, that father-and-son pair who played a delightful game of can-you-top-this? in the evergreen best-seller, Guess How Much I Love You, first published by Candlewick Press in 2008. Continued in Guess How Much I Love You in the Winter (Walker, 2017),  (read review here) artist Anita Jeram's lovely and loving comic watercolor illustrations catch just the right balance of rivalry and love between the two.

In this Valentine's Day special edition, Guess How Much I Love You: A Book of Valentines (Candlewick Press, 2017), there are 36 full-color, removable Valentine's Day cards and special stickers, featuring scenes of this charming father-and-son duo from McBratney's and Jeram's books and capturing the droll humor and endearing affection of these classics,  just right for giving Valentines on "Hop and Hug Day."

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Monday, January 29, 2018

"Got My Mojo Working" Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin.

McKinley Morganfield was never going to do what he was told.

He wouldn't mind Mama when she told him to stay out of the mud, so she nicknamed her little boy, "Muddy."

Grandma Della tried to keep little McKinley clean and well-dressed, specially on Sundays when they spent most of the day at church. Muddy loved the voices of the choir, singing "Glory, Glory," but he loved something else more.

What Muddy really loved was "fish-fry" music. It was the blues, and Muddy couldn't get enough of it.

"Last I looked, you can't eat the blues for breakfast," Grandma Della said. "No child of mine is gonna waste his time with music."

But Muddy was never good at doing what he was told.

Muddy found that he could make even Grandma Della dance when he squeezed music from a wheezy accordion, a kerosene can drum, and a homemade one-string guitar. Making music was all little Muddy cared about, and when one night, he got to hear his idol, Son House, play and sing the blues, he made up his mind that he was going to do nothing but make that kind of music.

Soon as he was old enough, Muddy took the train north from Mississippi to Chicago, where all kinds of music were everywhere. He found work and saved up to buy himself an old guitar, practicing and playing all the time, calling himself Muddy Waters to fit his Mississippi roots.

"No one wants to hear a country boy play country blues. Shake that dust off!" they told him.

But Muddy was never good at doing what he was told.

And one day, Muddy Waters put a pickup on his guitar and plugged in, and the world of blues sat up and listened. Muddy became known as the creator of Chicago Blues. The Beatles sought him out, telling their cabbie, "Don't you know who your famous people are here?" Presidents came to listen and his Grammy Awards piled up, and he took his place as one of the creators in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Michael Mahin's Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters (Atheneum Books, 2017) features a lively and humorous text that celebrates the ground-breaking music of its stubborn hero who persevered to make the sort of happy-sad music he heard in his head, a vivid but personal narration which young readers, who don't always do as they are told, will understand and appreciate. Equally vivid and evocative, award-winning artist Evan Turk's illustrations capture Water's earthy roots and heartfelt, emotional sound, pulsating with feeling, sad and joyful and full of life. "Like Waters’s music after landing in the Windy City, Turk’s artwork is electric--wild strokes of marker and oil pastel vibrate with energy," says Publishers Weekly. With an appended discography and bibliography, this is a great book for use during Black History Month in February.

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Some Enchanted Evening! Mouse and Mole: Secret Valentine by Wong Herbert Yee

Mouse traced a heart on the frosted windowpane.

"Valentine's Day is coming!" she squeaked.

Just thinking about it warmed Mouse from ear to tail.

Mouse gets busy making a list of the friends she and Mole plan to make Valentines for.

"Silly me," she giggled. I left out my best friend!"

Mouse adds Mole to the list and gets butterflies inside when she looks at his name.

Mouse heads down to Mole's house and he teaches her how to make cutout Valentines with sparkly glitter messages for all their friends. Mouse thanks Mole, saying that he is smart and clever.

Mole blushed a Valentine red.

Clearly, the hearts of Mole and Mouse are both filled with special pitty-pats when they think of each other. This Valentine's Day has got to be something special.

On Valentine's morning, Mole finds a Valentine from Mouse addressed to her BFF, with XOXOs and lots of red hearts. Mole gets that fluttering butterflies feeling, too.

Later that morning, together they tiptoe up to their friends' doors to deliver their handmade cards. They agree to meet later for lunch at the diner. But when Mouse arrives back home, she finds a mysterious Valentine under her door.

I am NUTS about YOU! it reads.

Is Squirrel the sender of that nutty valentine? Is he her secret admirer? At the diner, Mouse receives another mystery Valentine brought to the table she and Mole share. It's a thick piece of heart-shaped cheese which says.



Now it's Mouse's turn to blush a Valentine red. Mole seems to be too busy eating his fried worms to notice the sign behind his head:


And when Mouse gets back to her house, she finds roses and chocolates waiting for her with another message that makes her heart thump!

Meet me at four
On the dance floor.
--Your Secret Valentine--XOXO

Will Mouse meet her mysterious secret admirer across a crowded room? (And what should she wear?)

It's a perfect Valentine's Day surprise, in Wong Herbert Yee's Mouse and Mole: Secret Valentine (A Mouse and Mole Story) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Author-illustrator Wong Herbert Yee's popular Level 3 beginning reader series is just right for primary students who may be hoping for a special Valentine on the big day, and his charming wintry illustrations make this a seasonal holiday story that has it all, the fun of choosing the right Valentines, the excitement of getting one from a special person, and the discovery that the admiration is mutual, all right down to a special addendum with all the steps to craft Mole's special Valentine's Day cards.

Share this secret Valentine experience with Diane de Groat's Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink, or for a wintry mix of Mouse and Mole tales read Wong Herbert Yee's Mouse and Mole, A Winter Wonderland (A Mouse and Mole Story) (see review here).

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Founding Father In A Funk? Cheer Up, Ben Franklin by Misti Kenison



"Poor Richard" is not being a perky patriot!

All the other Founding Fathers (and Mothers) are otherwise engaged.

Betsy Ross is busily embroidering stars on a flag. Sam Adams is planning an exclusive costumed tea party down at Boston Harbor. Abigail Adams is managing the family farm while John Adams is working hard, helping Tom Jefferson draft the Declaration down in Philadelphia.

Alexander Hamilton is down at the counting house, counting out the money. Paul Revere can't wait to light his lantern and hop on his horse, and George Washington is totally engaged in drilling his dragoons.

NOBODY is down at the tavern, up for a debate with Ben.

So Ben wanders down to Independence Hall, where all his fellow founders are gathering to listen to T. J. read a document called the Declaration of Independence. Ben Franklin doesn't get his kite up, but at least the air down there is ELECTRIC with excitement--and freedom!

Misti Kenison's Cheer Up, Ben Franklin! (Young Historians) (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2017), fittingly published on the Fourth of July, sets the scene with all the Founders assembled, in this perky book which pictures all the "Fathers (and Mothers) of Our Country" as they worked to build a beginning for the country. For the youngest of American history buffs, this brief book in the publisher's Young Historians series introduces the major players in the pre-Revolutionary War period in a charming little board book that piques kids' appetites for more American lore, as author-illustrator Kenison introduces these famous figures in simple prose and appealing illustrations. Along with this one, keep Kenison's Where's Your Hat, Abe Lincoln? (Young Historians) on hand for Lincoln's Birthday and Presidents Day in February.

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Stranger Danger? Click, Clack, Moo I Love You! by Doreen Cronin


But for the head honcho, Farmer Brown, it's first things first. His wheelbarrow, shovel, fork, and hay bales await him early in the morning, keeping the pigs clean (as if!) and the donkey happy. And to keep everyone safe from marauding foxes, he mends the fences.

Farmer Brown does his work, while Little Duck takes charge of the party planning:


And it's heavy on the paint, glitter and glue with piles of Valentines for everyone on the farm. Little Duck looks like a walking Valentine herself, with paint and glitter all over. But soon Farmer Brown's work and the festive preparations are done, and it's time to PAR-TY!

Little Duck, the hostess with the mostest, meets the guests at the door with Valentines for everyone. Someone cranks up some hoedown music, while the fashionably late sheep head straight for the chips and salsa. The pigs do the porcine polka and the poultry begin to boogie down doin' that chicken dance. Even the barn mice do the hustle. Then the cows show up, bringing a banner touting their alternative shindig.


Everybody is busy doin' their own thing. The party is cookin' and rustic fiddle music floats out of the barn and across the starry fields.



Now, the guests don't exactly welcome a party-crashing fox, not even one with a Valentine trailing from her tail. The chickens freeze in mid-flap. The pigs' trotters stop in their tracks. The sheep cease in mid-munch. And all the mice hustle for their holes, hoping not to become fox hors 'd'oeuvres.

It's an awkward fox-in-the-hen-house moment.

But Little Duck has one handmade Valentine left, and as she graciously hands it to Little Fox with a warm welcome, the party returns to full swing, with everyone trying out the fox trot!



It's quite a mixer at the Valentine's Day dance down on the farm, in Doreen Cronin's newest in her beloved bucolic series, Click, Clack, Moo I Love You! (A Click, Clack Book) (Atheneum, 2017). Cronin's sweet story welcomes the spirit of St. Valentine's Day with warmth and humor, and Betsy Lewin's rustic watercolor illustrations of farm critters making merry are as cute and charming as ever. School Library Journal says, "The economical text maximizes impact while giving the illustrations plenty of space to tell the story," and Publishers Weekly adds, "Cronin subtly passes along some sage advice: the best parties have an element of the unexpected."

Cronin and Lewin are, of course, the creators of the top-selling series which began with Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (A Click, Clack Book) (read reviews here.)

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Get the Girl!" Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

The newspaper ad caught the attention of many women.

"Women who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and do jobs previously filled by men should call the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory."

During World War II, over 19 million Americans, mostly men and mostly draftees, were in the military, leaving a giant hole in the workforce, especially in the area of weapon design. There was only one way to fill that gap in the labor force--HIRE WOMEN.

In 1943, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), based at Langley, Virginia, were charged with developing overwhelming American air power to crush the enemy. Engineers and mathematicians were in critical supply in civilian support agencies, and so the government turned to last pool of workers with these skills--women. In desperation, the government decided to hire both white and black women.

And women rose to the call. High school and college math teachers applied at Langley, and soon two complexes of offices were constructed. The "East Campus" housed white women workers, called "computers," while the "West Campus" became the workplace of many black women "computers." Salaries were comparatively high for those women, and they came to Langley because their families needed the money, but also because they loved mathematics.

An early hire among these women computers was former high school teacher Dorothy Vaughn, who moved to Langley, leaving her children to be cared for by her mother and husband, to follow her passion and to help her country.

Dorothy was a welcome addition to the computer pool. The women had too much work to do in too little time. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics planned to double the size of Langley's West Area in the next three years. The agency was scrambling to keep up with the American aircraft industry, which had gone from the country's forty-third largest industry in 1938 to the world's number one by 1943.

For a gifted mathematician, the chance to work with the physics and mathematics of building better airplanes was an exciting prospect. Dorothy Vaughn specialized in processing the data produced from Langley's new wind tunnels which tweaked aircraft design, moving warplanes from small single-engine fighters at the war's onset to jet-powered planes by its end, and, often working sixteen-hour days, distinguished herself as part of the Cold War and space race advances in flight.

So trusted were the Dorothy and the other black women mathematicians of NACA (now NASA) that when the U.S. was preparing to put the first man into a Mercury capsule to orbit the earth and return, John Glenn insisted on having one of Dorothy Vaughn's co-workers validate the computations of NASA electronic computers:

The human computers crunching numbers were something the astronauts understood and trusted. Spaceship-flying computers might be the future, but John Glenn didn't have to trust them. He did trust the human computer, Katherine Johnson.

"Get the girl to check the numbers," Glenn said.

If Katherine Johnson said the numbers were good, he was ready to go.

The little known story of NASA's black women mathematicians is revealed in Margot Lee Shetterley's Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition (HarperCollins, 2016), which was made into a movie which won the Academy Award for best picture in 2017. The previously little known story of the "human computers" was in itself a crucible of the massive social changes kicked off by World War II. Changes in civil rights and women's rights began there and continue to be worked out in into the present, and although astronaut Neil Armstrong made his step for mankind, Dorothy Vaughn and Katherine Johnson and their coworkers took perhaps an even more important step for womankind. This book is recommended for use in February's Black History Month in middle and high school classrooms and for International Women's Day in March. Booklist says, “The perfect impetus for discussion on a host of important historical themes germane to the 1950s, such as gender roles, racial prejudice and segregation, and scientific exploration."

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Help Find the Hat! Where's Your Hat, Abe Lincoln? by Misti Kenison


Abe is known for his tall black hat. He is already tall, but perhaps he likes the way it makes him look even taller.

But there's another reason that not everyone knows. Abe likes to keep important papers inside his tall hat.

And today he has an important trip to make. He really needs to find that hat. Who can help? Perhaps General Ulysses S. Grant?


Now that's an important meeting. Who else could help?

Clara Barton is taking care of soldiers wounded in the Civil War. Harriet Tubman is showing slaves the way to freedom. Thaddeus Stevens has a big speech to Congress on his schedule. Sojourner Truth is on a lecture tour. And President Lincoln's friend Frederick Douglass has a book to finish writing.

Who can help? William Seward joins Abe in looking everywhere in the White House. It's not in the East Room!

And then Abe looks in his office, and there is his hat, right where he left it! Where is Abe Lincoln going with his tall black hat and what will he be doing?

He is going to Pennsylvania, where he will take a single piece of paper out of that tall hat and read his speech.


Misti Kenison's little board book, Where's Your Hat, Abe Lincoln? (Young Historians) (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2017) gives youngsters an introduction to some of the famous names of the Civil War period. Part of the Young Historians series, this book is perfect for early childhood classes's first experiences with Presidents' Day, concluding with a timeline of the period and thumbnail biographies of the famous people mentioned in the text.

Share this one with Joan Holub's board book about those February-born presidents, Abe Lincoln and George Washington, This Little President: A Presidential Primer.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Trial by Multiple Choice: Bad Kitty Takes the Test by Nick Bruel

Good morning, Kitty!

Kitty is sleeping off a totally unprovoked attack by a flock of birds, resulting in an injurious fall from the tree, when she is awakened by her owner with an official letter from S.C.A.M, the Society of Cat Aptitude Management.

Who knew pussy cats had to pass an aptitude test?

Apparently, Bad Kitty has been recalled by the powers that be for being guilty of uncatlike behavior.

Your cat license has been REVOKED.

In order to renew your cat license, you have to take a special course on being a cat, followed by a TEST.

Bad Kitty is incensed, but the next morning she finds herself in class, at a desk, along with her associate Chatty Kitty, one very odd kitty who looks like a chicken with clip-on cat ears, and another less-than-catlike student, Uncle Murray, who thinks he at the Driver's License Division for a simple license renewal.

And Bad Kitty's instructor is none other than Strange Kitty, with his usual top hat, rep tie, and erudite manner.

Bad Kitty knows how to deal with this situation. She promptly falls asleep.

She doesn't miss much. Strange Kitty rolls in the A-V cart with TV set and an up-to-date playback device known as a VCR, and starts an instructional video, "Our Friend The Cat," a ProTest, er, TestPro Production, starring their ever-popular avuncular host, Uncle Barney.

Then comes the multiple choice pre-pre-pre-pre, etc., test, proctored by a supervisor who also looks suspiciously like a graduate of ProTest, er, TestPro's Poultry Policing Department.

"Maybe we should get started," said Strange Kitty.

The ProTest, er, TestPro's procter replies in multiple-choice format:

A) Gosh! You think?
C) What a brilliant idea.
D) All of the above.

Answer: D

Will Bad Kitty make the grade or be a feline failure? Of course, between catnaps Bad Kitty craftily analyzes her test and comes up with egg-zactly what the test demands, in Nick Bruel's latest beginning chapter book, Bad Kitty Takes the Test (Square Fish, 2017). Author Bruel and his oddball cartoon cats poke zany fun at multiple-choice testing and chickens, and Bruel even appends "A Final Note" which quotes Strange Kitty's tips on test taking, as well as a scintillating interview of the author-illustrator by none other than Uncle Murray. And isn't that worth a passing grade?

A) True
B) False
C) Who cares? Cats are a blight on society and the world would be better off without them.
D) Chickens rule.

Other killer-diller Bad Kitty beginning chapter books include Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble, Bad Kitty Gets a Bath, Bad Kitty Goes to the Vet, and Bad Kitty School Daze.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

That's Abe! Long, Tall Lincoln by Jennifer Dussling

Abraham Lincoln said of himself: "I am not a pretty man."

When accused by a partisan of being two-faced, the lanky, craggy-faced president joked, "If I had two faces, do you think I'd be wearing this one?"

Jennifer Dussling's new Long, Tall Lincoln (I Can Read Level 2) (Harper, 2017) makes the most of Abe Lincoln's colorful boyhood adventures to appeal to young readers, as well as the true story of a poor boy who, despite only a few months of schoolroom time per year, read any book he could get his hands on, not an easy thing in frontier Kentucky and Illinois.

The boy Lincoln was drawn to language, mimicking "stump speakers" who passed through the countryside. He even managed to educate himself far beyond the average child, even "reading law" in an attorney's office to become a lawyer himself, and an honest one to boot, living up to the story that he walked miles to reimburse a woman he'd overcharged as a store clerk.

Author Dussling not only portrays something of Lincoln's growing-up years, but also describes his affection for his young boys, along with their pets and rowdy ways, giving young readers an idea of what being a child their age must have been like in the White House in the sober days of the Civil War. She even includes the letter from a young follower named Grace, whose suggestions for Lincoln led him to grow his beard, advising "All the ladies love whiskers."

In those years Lincoln dealt daily with war planning and what to do about slaves in the Southern states, resulting in the Emancipation Proclamation, of which he said,

"If my name goes into history, it will be for this act.

This one in Harper's 60-year-old I-Can-Read series is great for primary-grade classroom libraries and for those customary February Presidents Day book reports--inexpensive, packed with facts and humorous tales of the young Abe Lincoln and the president who always had time for his harum-scarum boys, and with lots of details, including period photos and a Lincoln timeline for young independent readers in search of actual historic information for those reports, speeches, and costumed parades built around the civil holiday.

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Unthinking It: Don't Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan

Sometimes Sophie worried.

She didn't worry on weekdays when she went to school and played with her friends.

Sophie is a part-time worrier. The problem is--she worries about things at night when she (and everyone else) are supposed to be sleeping.

At bedtime when everything was quiet and still and there were no games to play and lessons to learn, Sophie started to worry.

It's a common human problem, not limited to anxious little girls. Thoughts that go bump in the night or things that might happen tend to take over all of our brains in the still of the night.

Sophie anguishes over all the little what ifs of her life--what if she forgets her lunchbox or Mum makes Brussels sprouts for dinner and actually insists she eat them?

Her family tried to help.

Her brother Oliver loans her a thrilling book to read in bed, but the cover illustration gives her the worrisome willies. Dad offers hot milk with honey at bedtime, but soon Sophie is fretting about wetting the bed!

Finally Mum comes up with an intriguing suggestion.

Close you eyes and... don't think about purple elephants.

Sophie tries not to think about cute little purple elephants, clever purple elephants doing circus tricks, plushy little purple elephant toys.... but when it comes right down to it....

It's really hard NOT to think about purple elephants.

But, funny thing... Sophie finds that when she thinks about nothing but purple elephants, she slips right off to sleep, in Susan Whelan's Don't Think About Purple Elephants (EK Books, 2017 Am. ed.), in a charming little bedtime story craftily crafted for the child insomniac. Artist Gwynneth Jones adds to the fun with a passel of watercolored purple pachyderms that cavort through Sophie's dreams. Pair this one with Lemony Snicket's clever tale of the dark at the foot of the stairs, The Dark (Bccb Blue Ribbon Picture Book Awards (Awards)) (read review here.)

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

This Is Your Life, Pete the Cat: Meet Pete by James Dean


Pete is a groovy cat who needs no introduction to most kids. But for those tykes just being introduced to books, his creator, James Dean, has provided him with a vita of his own, a brand-new tabbed board book, Pete the Cat: Meet Pete (Harper Festival, 2017).

With tabs at the top and right side of this sturdy board book, young readers can access thumbnail pictures and descriptions of Pete and his besties--Bob, his brother, who teaches Pete what he needs to know; Pete's Mom and Dad, who are far-out parents who drive him to lessons and teach him new stuff to do; Callie, the nicest cat around, Emma, a dandy dog who plays catch with Pete; Grumpy Toad, who hits the road on his monster cycle; Gus, Pete's shy but persistent percussionist, and Marty the Monkey, who take care of the necessary silliness for the group.

For tots who are likely to need a cast of characters before tackling the many adventures of Pete The Cat, this little board book is a handy guide, not only to all things Pete, but also as an introduction to the concept of the table of contents for any book, a nice gift for the youngest Pete fans!

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Friday, January 19, 2018

North Pole or Bust! Chicken in Mittens by Adam Lehrhaupt

Zoey stepped out of the barn. So did her best pig, Sam.

Fresh snow covered the farm.

"We can be EXPLORERS!" said Zoey.

"It's cold!" said Sam

"ARCTIC Explorers! said Zoey.

Zoey and Sam share a pair of mittens--one on each of their heads.

With their skis on their feet and their mitten on their heads, Sam and Zoey set out. They have two objectives: reach the North Pole and find a Yeti!

Zoey and Sam are full of zeal until they come to a barbed wire fence. They can't climb over it on their skis. Perhaps they can go under it?

It takes a lot of wiggling from Zoey and waggling from Sam, but finally they leave the fence behind and approach the mountain. Sam and Zoey are now stalwart mountain climbers.

But what goes up must come down, and the two Arctic explorers become downhill sliders--way downhill!

"NOW I'm cold," said Sam.

But Zoey zooms toward a strange, shaggy, snowy figure. Could he be their Yeti? She asked directions to the North Pole but when the figure remains silent, she gives him a sturdy tap. The snow slides off to reveal a shabby scarecrow on a tall pole. Oh, well. Maybe this is the NORTH POLE, then.

Sam suggests they call it a successful expedition to the polar region (well, sort of) and head for home, in the newest beginning reader in the series by Adam Lehrhaupt,Chicken in Mittens (I Can Read Level 1) (Harper, 2017), featuring his hearty partners Zoey and Sam who include young independent readers in their reading adventures. Other books in this new one in Harper's celebrated sixtieth year of I-Can-Read series by author Lehrhaupt and artist Shahar Koban are Chicken in Space (see review here), and Chicken in School.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Long and Short of It: Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L'Arronge



Lilli L'Arronge's delightful little treatise on parent-and-child doings, Me Tall, You Small (Owlkids Books, 2017) plays with the contrast between adult and child in daily life. One is tall and the other is not, but one has a bit more energy than the other, especially on a camping trip where Tall carries Small (and their gear) up a considerable mountain.



Tall gets soaked while Small rides in cozy comfort in his little bike trailer. Small refuses to take NO! for answer where a can of cookies is at stake, and when Tall tries sneakily to put the cookies too high for Small, the smarter little one takes over, stacking a cart, table, and trash can up so that he can be reach as high as tall, too.

Terrifically translated from the French by Madeleine Stratford, author-illustrator L'Arronge depicts two charming, cozy, cuddly, but non-specific animals as stand-ins for human parents and children, in a sweet and funny treatise, playing with comparisons, that show the many ways parent and child share the joy of being together, eating ice cream, snuggling in bed, bandaging boo-boos, and sharing splashing in puddles, chomping sausages, and just sheer silliness in quiet times and joyfully rowdy times.



"Being winsome without being wince-inducing is no easy task, and this playful, tender book may inspire real-life parent-child pairs to come up with some me-vs.-you comparisons of their own," says Booklist.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

To Market, To Market! Clark The Shark Lost And Found by Bruce Hale

"Today is our field trip to the Farmers' Market," announced Mrs. Inkydink to the class.

"WOOHOO!" shouted Clark the Shark. "I've never seen a farmers' market!"

It's field trip time, and all the ebullient Clark can think about is the fun he's going to have with his friend Joey Mackerel.

Mrs. Inkydink, on the other hand, knows all the things that can go wrong on a field trip with her class of little golliwogs, so she launches into her Rules for A Field Trip lecture.

1. Hold hands with your partner!
2. Follow all directions!
3. Keep to your inside voices!

Of course, Clark the Shark is not listening. In fact he's busy telling Joey that a field trip means It's Playtime!

Right off the bus, Clark charges forward, with Joey at his tailfin, trying to keep up, as they swim toward the food vendors.

"LOOK at the food! YUM!"

The farmers' market is like a great big theme park to Clark and he dashes into the action, stuffing his toothy face, juggling goodies, dancing his funky shark dance, and swimming too fast for even the loyal Joey to keep up. It's a fine and fishy fun field trip. Until... Clark stops to look around.

Their class was out of sight!

He can't even see Joey! Clark The Shark is lost! Now he wishes he'd been listening to Mrs. Inkydink.

Is Clark the Shark lost at sea? In Bruce Hale's Clark the Shark: Lost and Found (I Can Read Level 1) (Harper, 2016), young readers will giggle at Clark's attempts to dredge his teacher's words out of his easily-distracted brain. Luckily, Mrs. Inkydink is on the job and all's well, with Clark (perhaps) learning his lesson for the day.

Author Hale handles his hyper Clark The Shark well by this point in the series, and perhaps young readers will get the message that there are times when it's really important to pay attention to the instructions. Illustrator Guy Frances adds plenty of underwater humor to the setting, and the two creators even add an appendix to this Level One I-Can-Read title, "Clark The Shark's Bite-Sized Facts" about (what else?) sharks!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Corps de Ballet? Dance Is For Everyone by Andrea Zuill

Mrs. Iraina and her ballerinas were surprised.

There was a new student in their dance class

They decided it was okay for her to join.

Besides, who would be brave enough to tell a 450-pound alligator she couldn't?

The big green 'gator seems to be able to follow all the moves, so Mrs. Iraina carries on with class, making a mental note to stock up on alligator snacks to keep her little dancers safe. They name the alligator Tanya.

There was one hazard, though.

Tanya didn't seem to know what was going on with her tail!

Ballet teachers have to be creative with the dancers they have, and for their recital Mrs. Iraina and her little ballerinas come up with a novel production with a setting which is, er, suited to Tanya's talents--"The Legend of the Swamp Queen," with the kids in animal outfits and you-know-who dancing the title role!

The audience is enthralled with the star ballerina--so strong and so fully immersed in her role!

And what an unbelievably realistic costume!

It's a hit, in Andrea Zuill's Dance Is for Everyone (Sterling Books, 2017). There are plenty of giggles as the little dancers gawk at their big green classmate and try not to trip on her tail, and author-illustrator Zuill provides plenty of sight gags as Tanya trips the not-so-light fantastic to extend the humor of this tale. Says School Library Journal, "The illustrations are quirky and the plot is engaging, with jokes adults will appreciate peppered throughout. The narrative coveys the story's message of inclusion in a subtle manner, but the book's title makes this important theme abundantly clear."

For a further taste of Zuill's comic picture book talents, see her delightful walk on the wild side with a trio of pampered pooches, in Wolf Camp (read review here).

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