Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Taking the Plunge! Be Brave, Little Penguin by Giles Andreae

A colony of penguins are living together at the edge of the cold Antarctic Ocean.

There are fat ones, there were thin ones.
There were short ones and tall.
But little penguin Pip-Pip was
The smallest of them all.

And his size is not the only thing that sets Pip apart.

All the other little penguins are swimming and diving cheerfully in the sea.  Only Pip-Pip refuses to take the plunge. He hides out in his little igloo, playing solo, to avoid the teasing of the other little ones.

Pip's Mom takes his wing gently and leads him to the edge of the ice shelf, but Pip-Pip makes his case.

But what if the water's freezing, Mom?
What if I get in,
And it's just too dark and deep for me,

And what if there are MONSTERS?"

Mom doesn't contest his points, but she suggests that there are other possibilities.

"But what if in that water,
There are friends for you to meet.
And what if it's light and warm
And full of treats to eat?"

Hmmm. Mom's got a point. And he is a little hungry. Although his heart gives a big thump...
Little Penguin makes the jump!

And it's great! There are friends to play with, treats to eat, and the water's not so cold after all. In fact, Pip stays down long enough for Mom to begin to worry.

Suddenly he pops out of the sea and sails through air. Is Pip-Pip the first penguin to fly?

Whether it's venturing into a new play group or starting to school, sometimes little ones just need to screw up their courage and take the plunge into new activities, and in Giles Andreae's Be Brave, Little Penguin (Orchard Books, 2018 Am. ed.), little Pip-Pip spreads his wings bravely. With rhythmic and rhyming quatrains and the evocatively energetic and whimsical illustrations of artist Guy Parker-Reeves, youngsters may be empowered to try their own wings in doing something that's new. Share this one with Andreae's and Parker-Reeves earlier best-seller, Giraffes Can't Dance.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Girl Can't Help It! The Calculus of Change by Jessie Hilb

I have a secret passion for calculus. I like the idea of infinitesimal change, because it feels like somehow I can control it. I am in charge of getting the numbers and symbols where they need to go. What I can't control in real life is the sudden, catastrophic change that often comes without steps or warning and makes life insufferably different. Like a dead mom.

But it is in real life, in calculus class, that Aden is hit by a change she can't control.

A boy named Tate asks her to tutor him. Looking at him is like a shot out of the blue.

Talking to Tate is like swimming underwater. Everything silences, and it's just him and me. But I can't breathe.

He smiles. I'm toast.

The air seems electric when she's with him. They laugh together. They finish sentences together. They seem to sparkle together.

But Tate has a steady girlfriend, Maggie. Aden tries to forget about her and savor every moment she has with Tate. But she admits to herself that she is jealous of Maggie, thin and stylish in her skinny jeans, while Aden feels like a bubble in her long skirts and tunics. "Can a girl be pretty if she's also fat?" she wonders.

But times with Tate are like out-of-body experiences for Aden. He makes her feel beautiful. She lives for those times when they are together.

The rest of life seems a slow slog. Her younger brother Jon is restless, unhappy with her father's plan for him to win a lacrosse scholarship and confesses to Aden that he wants to go to Rhode Island School of Design and create video games. Her dad tries to keep the family together, but he is often irrationally angry, especially with Jon. And then her best friend Marissa confides that she thinks she's in love with one of their teachers.

"Lance? Lance who?"

"Lance Danson." she says, still looking down.

"Wait, what? As in Mr. Danson? "He's married. He has a kid! Dude," I say, "be careful there."

"I can't help it," Marissa says quietly.

Suddenly Aden is struck with the unsuspected similarity between them. Tate has a steady girlfriend, and yet, she can't help the way she feels around him, either.

Love does not follow the rules. There's no certainty about it.

Is attraction as quixotic as Cupid's arrow? Or can it be subject to rational calculation? Little Richard's classic song says "She can't help it, the girl can't help it." But Aden is the Queen of calculus class. She likes scenarios she can control. But she can't control the fact that her mother has been dead since she was seven. She can't help her brother Jon, who seems rudderless, diverted by drugs and his girlfriend, even though she's always been his substitute mom. She can't seem to get through to her dad, who seems to be sinking into unresolved grief and rage. And finally, her own self doubt gets in the way of logic. She feels she wants and deserves more from Tate, but if she doesn't get it, can she bear to turn away from him? She begins to do irrational things that make her wonder.

Jessie Hilb's The Calculus of Change (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2018) takes on the messy improbability of love and life, the things that can be controlled and the things that cannot, the things that can be helped and the things that cannot, in an absorbing story of young love and mature love lost and found, and hoped for that almost sinks her main character beneath the waters of her first love. No absolute answers are offered, except to keep swimming, to give it your best stroke, as Aden does in a book that will resonate strongly with young adult readers.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Habitat Help: The Great Penguin Rescue by Sandra Markle

On a mild June evening, a three-month old female African penguin chick wiggles out of her family's nest under a tree.

She moans in short bursts, over and over. It's the way a penguin chick says, "I'm hungry. Please feed me."

By the third evening when her parents don't return, she wanders away from the nest, peeping, begging to be fed. She's on her own and needs help--or she won't survive.

When most people think of endangered African animals, they definitely don't think of penguins. But the southern coastal islands of Namibia and South Africa are the home nesting grounds of the African penguin, a species which is as endangered as rhinos and cheetahs.

African penguins have raised their young there for millennia, but human activities have reduced their population from four million in the early 1800s to no more than 24,000 today. First, people scooped off the penguin guano, which forms a firm, cooling roof for the penguin's nests, to use as fertilizer, leaving the babies open to predators and excess heat. Then humans began to collect the eggs, prized for their unusual flavor. But penguins only lay two eggs per summer, and the number of chicks hatched was reduced by 75 per cent. Warming of the waters has forced the small fish that the penguins needed further offshore, often beyond their twelve-mile swimming range, and the parent birds were forced to compete with vast factory ships that net and process the small fish upon which the penguins depend. With only a quarter of their chicks surviving to breeding age, the African penguin will have a hard time surviving this century.

Luckily, African penguins now have help from those humans. Following a disastrous freighter fuel leak in 2000, people began to realize that Africa's penguins needed them. Animal rescue groups rushed to clean and feed the oil-soaked penguins, and many survived. Since that time, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums have managed to raise and return many young African penguins to the wild. Some of the nesting islands have been declared "no-take" zones, free from fishing vessels inside the 12-mile feeding limits of the small penguins. The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds began a successful rescue program for chicks whose parents fail to make the long swim home.

The jury is still out on whether these efforts will save the African penguin, but noted nature writer Sandra Markle's The Great Penguin Rescue: Saving the African Penguins (Millbrook Press, 2017) will recruit some enthusiastic penguin supporters. Well written and filled with engaging color photographs of her appealing subjects, this one is an easily accessible nature science book, appealing to middle readers, with ample backmatter (author's Note, a "Did You Know" section on African penguin physiology, a timeline, glossary, bibliography and notes) that support classroom research reports for elementary and middle-school students.

"Smoothly written and beautifully presented, another stellar animal conservation tale," says Kirkus in their starred review.

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Pass It On! The Pink Hat by Andrew Joyner

First, there wasn't a hat.

Then, there was...a pink hat.

Knitting by her window overlooking a busy street, a woman knits and knits until her knitting turns into a cozy pink hat, which she promptly stretches out to use as a foot warmer. But soon the woman drops it into her knitting basket and goes off to make herself a cup of tea.

But the hat doesn't stay there long. Her cat pounces on it, and bats it around... until he pushes it over the windowsill.

The wind catches the hat and blows it into the branches of a tree, where it catches the eye of some kids. One girl climbs the tree, but it is hard to reach the hat.... until the hat shakes loose and falls right onto a baby in a passing stroller, where his mother tucks it snugly around him and moves on.

That is, until... the baby gives a wiggle and a dog swipes it and makes a run for it. But when the dog gets bored and drops it, a girl passing by with a violin case rescues it.

The girl washed the hat ... and dried the hat.

She wore it again, and again, and again.

But that's not the end of the hat's adventures. It becomes a boxing glove, a mask for whomever is IT in hide-and-seek, and even a paintbrush sack... until....

She wore her pink hat,

And everyone else wore one, too!

The girl and dog join many women and some boys and men wearing pink hats in a crowd with signs that say GIRL POWER and WOMEN'S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS, while the woman and her cat watch the parade go by from her window. It's not just a hat. It's a movement!

Andrew Joyner's The Pink Hat (Schwartz and Wade, 2017)l highlights the hat, the only bit of color in his charming black and white  illustrations with a cityscape filled with all sorts of people and pets as they merge into a multitude of pink knitted hats in the Women's March of 2017. The hat, of course, is both a cozy cap with many possibilities and a metaphor for the march of January 21, 2017, just right for youngsters who will enjoy the adventures of the traveling hat along the way to its big day. This one is just right for International Women's Day in March. Share this one with Kobi Yamada's similarly themed What Do You Do With an Idea?

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sure Coiffures! Princess Hair by Sharee Miller

All princesses wear crowns.

But...not all princesses have the same hair.

Hair care can be a can of worms for everyone, but some princesses have a trouble fitting their tiaras on top of their tresses.

Do princesses with dreadlocks rock? Do princesses with curls twirl in pearls?

Princesses with braids throw parades.

Princesses with buns love to run.

Is a Mohawk or a Frohawk suitable for a monarch?

Is the head that wears the crown well-coiffed?

Not all princesses have hair like Rapunzel, and Sheree Miller's Princess Hair (Little, Brown and Company, 2017) takes a lighthearted look at  hair care in her catalog of coiffures, all with the message that princess hair comes in all kinds, that all types of crowning glories can be worn with crowns in place. Her illustrations of would-be crowned heads run the gamut of hair glam, and her happy and nappy princesses are royally and properly coiffured for whatever tiara sits on top. As Kirkus Review says of Miller's illustrations, "Spread by double-page spread, the book highlights a multitude of diverse hairstyles while young girls play dress-up, all the while wearing their princess crowns.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cute Sweet! Hugs and Kisses by Judi Abbot

Everyone needs kisses and hugs sometime.

Pandas do it. Bunnies do it. Even snails with slimy tails do it!

Penguin moms love to give warming cuddles even on the ice. Giraffes have a lot of neck to hug, but also think kisses are nice. In fact, kisses are high on their lists!

And when baby bears are feeling mad,

There's nothing like playing and laughing with Dad.

Dinosaurs may seem grouchy, it's true. But a scaly embrace can make them feel less blue.

What does everybody want and when do they want it?

Cute and sweet! Tout suite!

Kisses and hugs! Hugs and kisses!
That's what everyone always misses.

From pandas to fishes, it's a good thing to know we are loved, says Judi Abbot's cute and sweet little board book, Hugs and Kisses (Little, Simon, 2017). Using soft colors and gently curved lines, Abbot's cute critters are stand-ins for affection between human parent and child, giving youngsters the reassuring message that love between mothers and dads and their little ones is the way it is done.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Goodbye Moon, Hello, Sun! Good Day, Good Night by Margaret Wise Brown

When the sun came up, the day began.

Who saw the first light?

"I," said a bunny. "The only one."

A small brown bunny (and his orange-striped kitty) are the first ones in the little town see the sunrise over the green hills. Sitting quietly on his grassy hill, he watches the town wake up.

First comes the milkman (from the Harey Dairy), placing bottles of fresh milk on each porch as the early bird  tunes up with his first song of the day and catches his first worm for his nestlings. The first bees buzz slowly up from the hive.

Soon the whole town is abuzz, too.  Storekeepers sweep the sidewalk in front of the stores and get ready for their first customers.  Little ones wander out, looking for friends to play ball with them. And our bunny gets in a game and then does his chores, delivering the newspaper to each doorstep and riding his bike home.

Every day is a new surprise.

And all too soon it seems the sun begins to drop lower in the sky.  Bunny and Kitty watch the bees return from their work. Every bunny makes his or her way toward home, and the baby birds sleep under their mother's wings. Bunny says goodnight to the town as twilight comes.

Good night, Kitty. Good night, Bear.

Good night, people. Everywhere.

And if that couplet sounds familiar, it should. In the first publication of this never-before-published book, Good Day, Good Night (Harper, 2017), by beloved author Margaret Wise Brown, we hear the echoes of her most famous bedtime book, Goodnight Moon, still to be written. To bring this brand-new edition to life, noted artist Loren Long creates a cozy bedroom, with red windows and rocking chair reminiscent of that famous nighttime scene, as well as a most charming village of rabbits. Long's illustrations bring this lost story to life in a new book that celebrates the day and the night, and gives youngsters a look at that bedtime bunny's future days and nights. Says Kirkus Reviews, "With pleasing echoes of Brown's famous classic, including bookends of a cow jumping over a moon, this bedtime story will entice families back again and again."

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Read with the CAT! Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote the Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra

1954 was a great year to be a kid. There were 5 cent doughnuts and 1 cent lollipops. Bookstores brimmed with books like Charlotte's Web, The Lord of the Rings, and Horton Hears a Who.

Except a lot of the kids those books were written for couldn't read them. Kids in first grade were having a hard time learning to read.

What could the problem be? Kids knew the answer. School readers were just plain boring.

A grown-up writer named John Hersey realized that the kids were right. And he knew just who might write the kind of books kids couldn't stop reading--

The funniest writer in the land....Dr. Seuss!

Theodor Seuss Geisel--Dr. Seuss--already had written some best-selling children's books, and he was intrigued by John Hersey's idea. He had fun coming up with his fanciful characters and he loved making up silly words and funny names for them--like Ooblecks and Yergas and Whos. How hard could it be to write a short little book for first graders? He put on one of of his collection of funny writing hats and sat down at his desk, waiting for an inspiration.

But there was one big problem--THE OFFICIAL LIST.

The reading experts had a lengthy list of words that first graders were supposed to "master." They were not very inspiring words, nothing like the weird words he loved to put in his stories. Ted (as he preferred to be called) looked with dismay at the long, long, long list of rather dull words.

Dr. Seuss had writer's block.

Then he spotted the word CAT and the word HAT. "CAT rhymes with HAT, so I'll start with that," Ted thought.

But how could he work those ordinary Official Words into a story about this cat? Ted tossed some of the words around in his head and Whiz Bang! He had an idea! He would start with two bored and boring children, Dick and Sally, on a boring, rainy day, whose boring house is invaded by a Cat in the Hat who juggles, and the things he juggles would be those on the official word list--rake, cup, ball, book--even their fish goes up there in the air as the amazed (but no longer bored) kids stare. Sally is not sure the Cat can can keep all those things up as he jumps on a ball, and when they fall, oh, dear! Their goldfish comes down and lands in a pot.

He said,"Do I like this?

No! I do not!"

But the beginning readers of the land liked it, and they couldn't stop turning pages to find out what happens to the fish in the teapot and to the two kids whose mother they spot returning from the store to discover chaos indoors! The Cat in the Hat was a hit, and Ted, Dr. Seuss, soon followed it up with a series of beginner books, all built around The Official List, and all with the essential addition of Ted Geisel's rhythm, rhyme and sly and wry humor.

Author Judy Sierra, ably assisted by notable artist Kevin Hawkes, tells Ted's story well, and their Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat (Random House, 2017), (just in time for Dr. Seuss's annual birthday bash, Read Across America Day) celebrates Ted Geisel and the legion of other beginning reader authors who keep kids laughing, reading, and turning pages to this day. Geisel, who freely admitted that his trademark style of weirdly shaped animals and curious kids, houses, cars, and trees were done that way because he wasn't very good at realistic art, brought his fantastical characters and characteristic verse form to children's literature and his beginner books remain best sellers to this day. Author Sierra adds Ted Geisel's tips to young readers to "Write, Rewrite, Recycle Polish!" and appends a full list of his works up to the last published book. About this essential purchase for children's libraries, Kirkus Review says in their starred review, "Buoyantly told, rich in insights into the creative process as well as the crafts of writing, illustrating, and storytelling."

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Getting to the Mountain: Martin Luther King, Jr., Peaceful Leader by Sarah Albee

Once Martin's father took him to buy new shoes. The white salesman told them to move to the back of the store.
They left.

Martin grew up in a pretty yellow house with plenty of books and music. He was firmly disciplined but encouraged to ask questions. His parents and the members of his father's church were supportive, and he became a bright student, entering Morehouse College at age fifteen.

Martin was a happy child. But as he grew older, he realized that black and white people were treated differently.

After briefly considering studying law, Martin finally chose to become a minister, finally graduating with a Ph.D. from Boston University, and soon became the minister at a large church in Montgomery, Alabama, where Rosa Park's bus boycott had just beginning. He was chosen by his fellow black ministers as leader of the movement, and the rest is history.

Sarah Albee's just published Martin Luther King Jr.: A Peaceful Leader (I Can Read Level 2) (Harper, 2018) traces King's biography and the development of his philosophy of nonviolent resistance through many of the watershed moments of his life, from the desegregation of city buses in Montgomery through the Brown vs. Board decision of the Supreme Court, the sit-ins, the Birmingham marches and bombing, the March on Washington, his winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and his assassination in Memphis.

Albee's account for newly independent readers is written to appeal to early primary students, mentioning little Martin's loss of his best friend, a white neighbor boy, when he had to attend a black school while his friend went to a white school. Without dwelling on the violence of the period, Albee shows that King's choices were not easy during his life, and that standing up for equal rights brought both honors and an early death.

Dr. King had known that he might not live to see liberty and justice for all.
But he believed there were things worth dying for.

Artist Chin Ko provides realistic illustrations that reinforce the text well, and the author includes a timeline and photos from family and public events that catch the flavor of the times of King's life. For Black History Month, young history buffs, or biography books reports, this informative easy biography is perfect for young readers who are just learning to add to their knowledge of how the world they live in came to be.

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Under the Sea: The Mermaid by Jan Brett


Baby Octopus's floppy hat is clamped firmly down on his head, as Mama Okasan and Papa Otosan leave their meal waiting inside the cozy undersea house and set out for their morning constitutional. But their home soon has an unexpected visitor.

A dark-tressed mermaid, Kinira, soon swims by, with her pet pufferfish Puffy, and she has no compunctions about swimming uninvited into the lovely little shell house.


But Kinira is enchanted by the little house, especially the meal set forth, with three charming shell plates waiting for someone. She tries the food on the biggest shell, but quickly finds it too crunchy. The second breakfast is seriously slimy! But Kinira pronounces the food on the smallest shell perfectly pleasing.


Despite Puffy's cautions, Kinira tries out the chairs in the sitting room, breaking the smallest shell seat. Still undeterred, she swims into the bedroom, where she spots the sweetest and the smallest sleeping shell and curls up inside for a nap.

By this point, savvy kids will know exactly where this story is going, in noted author-illustrator Jan Brett's latest, The Mermaid(G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2017). As she did in her best-selling The Three Snow Bears, which also takes the familiar folktale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears out for another walk around the literary block, Brett provides a unique setting in a re-imagined version inspired by the undersea world around the Pacific island of Okinawa. Brett's heroine is an appropriately Asian mermaid, not with golden locks, but a golden crown which she leaves behind for Baby Octopus in a visually delightful re-creation of the beloved story of the intrepid young home invader. Children will giggle as Baby Octopus delivers his big line--along the lines of "Somebody's been crunching my crustaceans!" and they will cheer as the loyal Puffy pokes away at his sleeping mistress, waking her just in time to make her getaway, dodging the 24 outreaching tentacles and leaving behind her tiara as a consolation for Baby Octopus.

Brett's elegant artwork, done with touches of Japanese style and deliciously delicate colorization, is, as always, the centerpiece of the story, not to mention her trademark frames around each page, which reveal additional details of the story. Author-illustrator Brett is at the top of her game in this resplendent new picture book. As School Library Journal says sagely, "... readers could spend hours diving into all there is to explore. A one-on-one treat for folktale aficionados and, of course, for Brett's many fans."

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Art of Science: The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman

A girl kneels in her garden. It is 1660, and she has just turned thirteen; too old for a proper German girl to be crouching in the dirt, according to her mother. She is searching for something--eggs no bigger than pinpricks, leaf edges scalloped by the jaws of an inching worm.

Ah! She has found it; a crinkled brown cocoon, anchored on a branch like a sailor's hammock. Any changes since yesterday?

Her neighbors despise the creatures that fascinate her. They believe all flying, creeping things are born if filth and decay. But for years she has gathered flowers for her stepfather's studio for his still-life paintings. She has studied the creatures who ride on their petals. She has sketched and painted them. In learning the skills of an artist, she has learned to look and watch and wonder.

Despite the tales that insects and worms were the devil's creatures, the minions of witches, Maria Merian suspected that the lovely butterflies (called summer birds) she added to enliven her flower paintings were born from eggs just as birds were.

Maria's father, Matthaus Merian, and stepfather, Jakob Marrel, were noted engravers of flowers in Frankfurt, and early on, Maria's artistic talents were recognized. She was set to gathering flowers, coloring the drawings by her stepfather and his craftsmen, and even taught the art of copper engraving to produce prints to sell. Girls were not allowed to become apprentices, but Maria worked as one without the title. She became a master of the art of water coloring, making brushes, grinding the materials for the pigment, preparing the paper or parchment for the image, and etching the copper plates. Soon she was turning out works worthy of sale to the most discriminating customer.

Marrel noticed her energy and her deft hands. She should not be encouraged to master oil paints, or paint figures or city scenes. These were the province of men. But she was one of the best students he'd ever had. He taught her all he knew of painting flowers for profit.

But Maria had something else besides artistic ability. She had scientific curiosity. In the midst of her womanly household duties and her work in the studio, she made time to study the insect life that were occasionally added to the flower prints the Marrel studio produced. She collected the tiny eggs of flies, moths, and butterflies, gathered cocoons and chrysalises and watched them carefully, making detailed drawings and keeping notes.

And she made a startling discovery--the concept of metamorphosis. Even flies did not, as Aristotle had taught, generate spontaneously from dung and carrion. Flies laid eggs, which hatched into larvae, maggots, which finally morphed into flies. Vivum ex vivo! Life arises from life.

Meticulously documented with images and observations, Maria's discoveries replaced superstition with empirical science. Without Merian there could have been no Darwin.

Maria Merian produced three celebrated illustrative texts of flowers, plants, and insects, and in her work she persisted in picturing her insect subjects in their natural environment, with the plants they needed for survival, making her also one of the first ecological scientists of her time. The pinnacle product of her work involved a year spent in Dutch Surinam in South America, and her paintings and descriptions of the exotic animals and plants she studied there became a landmark work picturing an almost unknown world.

The rains come, and the blazing sun. I must find a safe place to become who I was meant to be.

Like her butterflies, becoming what Maria was meant to be was not easy. Joyce Sidman's extraordinary biography of Maria Sibylla Merian, The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), extravagantly illustrated with the Caldecott-winning artist's own art as well as the prints created by her her subject, Maria Merian, portrays the metamorphosis of this enlightened seventeenth-century woman whose energy and talent transformed her into one of the foremost observational scientists of her time. Sidman uses this metaphor, staging her narration of Merian's life and work to parallel the stages of insect development, even utilizing the vocabulary--Egg, Hatching, Instars, Molting, Pupa, Eclosing, Expanding... and Flight as chapter headings in a exquisitely-told story of a landmark life, with an opening glossary, and appended timeline, quote sources, bibliography, further reading and index. To tell Maria Merian's full story requires both art and science, and Sidman's latest book is a stunningly glorious and beautiful biography of a woman whose love for both art and life, against all odds, helped transform human science.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

City Gardens: Florette by Anna Walker

When Mae's family moved to the city,
Mae wanted to bring her garden with her.

But there was no room
among the crowded buildings
for apple trees and daffodils.

Mae missed her greenery scenery, and she missed the many animals who shared the woods and the rolling fields of daisies and grasses.

The signs said KEEP OFF THE GRASS!

And the only wild animal was a angry-looking stone lion. Mae was lonely for the birds nesting in apple trees and for the cones and nuts she gathered in her treasure jar.

But the buildings are tall and gray, and the paving stones cover the streets and walkways.

Mae tries. She draws a garden in the courtyard with colored chalks--with butterflies, caterpillars, trees, birds, and beetles. But the gray rain soon washes them away. Inside, in Mae's room, with her crayons she turns the still unpacked moving boxes into blooming trees and flowers and sets up a picnic among them. But eventually the boxes must go, and that is the end of her garden.

Mae spies on the neighborhood with her binoculars and spots an empty space with trees and a swing. With her dog, her mother, and the baby in a stroller, Mae leads an expedition to the park. But it is paved with small stones. No grass.

But then Mae sees something--a familiar bird singing in an apple tree.

With her mom and dog trailing behind her, Mae follows the bird to a store seemingly filled with trees and ferns and flowers and vines. She looks wistfully through the big plate glass windows at the garden inside. It is so like her old out-of-doors. But the store is closed.

Still, growing from between the wall and sidewalk, Mae finds a small plant, and she gently takes it home to plant in her treasure jar.

With enough space for a plant to grow.

And little Mae's plant starts a movement, and soon potted plants crowd the windows and the courtyard below her building. Mae has her garden again, in Anna Walker's forthcoming Florette (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2018), and readers can rejoice that Mae has brought spring green to her neighborhood, blooming and putting down her own roots as well. Author and artist Anna Walker shows again that cityscapes can be green and alive, and her courtyard of hanging vines and evergreen endpapers are glowing and vibrant with her watercolored art.

Share this one with Peter A. Reynolds' Rose's Garden or Peter Brown's The Curious Garden.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Clocks to Computers! Grace Hopper--Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Willmark





That was Grace Hopper, super woman of her century.

Grace was one of those kids who had to know how everything worked. She took apart all the clocks in the house, and put most of them back together so that  they kept on tickin'. Instead of doll buggies, she got a construction set for Christmas and with it built an elevator that worked. She was always trying to fix things to work better.

She was great at math and managed to finish high school in two years, but her entrance into college was delayed because she flunked Latin. (Dead languages are hard to fix!) But when she had to do it, she passed the exam and was admitted to Vassar College, where she, of course, shone at math and science--and pranks. She continued at Yale, where she didn't mind being the only woman in her Ph.D. program, and with her advanced degree, returned to Vassar to teach. But then World War II began, and, and eager for adventure, Grace tried to enlist in the Navy. The Navy said she was too small, but Grace's amazing skills were soon needed managing the new Mark I computer, and Grace Hopper became a WAVE and a computer geek along with the best of them.

But the huge mechanico-electric computers of the time had a lot of problems. One time Mark I refused to run a new program. The crew worked frantically trying to find the problem, until finally Grace pulled a pocket mirror from her purse to peer inside the giant apparatus.

There was a moth trapped inside, preventing a vital switch from working. Carefully, Grace DE-BUGGED the computer.

And from that day to this, a computer glitch has been called a BUG!

Grace went on to work on the UNIVAC, an even more monstrous apparatus. And she had a better idea--to write the code in English, so that everyone could use it or change it, so she devised a different machine language, using English commands, which eventually became known as... (wait for it!) COBOL!

It was a significant breakthrough, and nothing could stop Grace's rise in rank in the Navy--until she reached mandatory retirement age at 60. It was a short retirement, however, because the Navy was forced to call her back into active duty, where she remained for the next 20 years, ultimately reaching the title of Admiral Grace Hopper.

It's no wonder the Navy called her "amazing Grace," and in Laurie Willmark's new picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Women Who Changed Our World) (Sterling Books, 2017), elementary readers can get to know that amazing Grace who broke the mold for women in mid-century America. Along with Katy Wu's charming and witty illustrations, author Willmark's lively narration of Hopper's life story is short and breezy enough for a read aloud, but detailed and pithy enough to serve as an inspiring science book report or biography report, and with a full bibliography, ("Women in STEM") and a timeline, this introduction to the adventurous code-breaking Grace is a perfect subject for International Women's Day study on March 8.

And for a great class read aloud novel, share this one with a story of the world's first computer programmer ever, Ada Byron Lovelace, in Jordan Stratford's The Case of the Missing Moonstone (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, Book 1) (see my 2015 review here.)

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

THE BARK KNIGHT RISES! Dog Man and the Cat Kid by Dav Piikey

George:"What up, Poochies? We're George and Harold."

Harold: "Me, too! As you may remember, we're in 5th Grade now."

George: "That means we're totally mature. Anyhoo, our new teacher has been making us read all of these old-timey books lately. So anyway, East of Eden is actually a pretty cool book about good and evil and stuff."

Harold: "It totally inspired us! So now we started making a brand-new Dog Man graphic novel!

It's a tale of good... ... a tale of evil... and STUFF!"

Yes, dear readers, Dog Man (that modern medical transplant miracle--a canine police dog's head on a sturdy human cop's body) is back again. It seems that Petey (The World's Evilest Cat) is back, bent on revenge against his arch enemy, Dog Man. In the last installment of their story, Petey attempted to clone himself, the better to defeat Dog Man, but to his dismay, his clone comes out of the box as Petey, an itty bitty kitty, too sweet for maleficent mischief, who is adopted from the Free Kitty box by the unknowing Dog Man.

But Pete the Evilest Cat has plans to pervert his clone by way of the worst sort of cat chicanery. Disguised as the Mary Poppins-ish Kitty Sitter, Pete tries to flip poor Petey into an instrument of evil, but it's a hard sell--until Pete discovers that kittens are suckers for ice cream cones--and pretend-play as supervillains.

Pete the Evilest Etc.: "Finally I get to dump this old lady disguise and dress like my true self... A filthy...rotten... deplorable... despicable... loathsome... IGNOMINIOUS... SUPERVILLAIN!

And now it's your turn! We start with a mask... add a cape... and finish with retractable steel claws....

Dude! We are TOTALLY rockin' these bad guys costumes!"

Petey the Kitty: "This is just for PRETEND, right?"

Pete the Evilest: "Sure kid! It's ALL just for make-believe!"

Can Pete the Evilest Cat corrupt Petey the Kitty's innocence in a nefarious plot to sink the hortatory movie of Dog Man's crime-fighting career being filmed at Gassy Behemoth Studios? Or will Petey's basic goodness and a bunch of Dav Pilkey-esque gizmos overcome evil once more? Will Pete find himself foiled yet again? It's all there in the already best-selling sequel, Dog Man and Cat Kid: From the Creator of Captain Underpants (Dog Man 4) (Graphix/Scholastic Press, 2018). Filled with Pilkey's usual story-telling devices, hilarious sight-gags, fun flip pages, kooky characters, a cameo, er, ending from Captain Underpants, and a bunch of sly John Steinbeck take-offs that adults will appreciate, this one is yet another example of that certain brand of frenetic silliness unique to Pilkey's trademark type of graphic comic novel.  Pilkey is surely the genius of his particular and peculiar genre.

Other books in this series are Dog Man: From the Creator of Captain Underpants (Dog Man 1), Dog Man Unleashed: From the Creator of Captain Underpants (Dog Man 2), and Dog Man: A Tale Of Two Kitties (Dog Man 3) (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition), and the forthcoming Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas: From the Creator of Captain Underpants (Dog Man 5).

Watch the terrific and appropriately clamorous book trailer here!

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Catamorphosis! Bad Kitty: Camp Daze by Nick Bruel



Ever since Kitty got hit in the head by her food dish in a game between Baby and Puppy, she's been acting like a dog. Her ears flop forward. Her tail curls up. Her tongue laps out of her mouth and she pants excitedly. She growls. She barks at the mailman. She chews up the mail. And she wants to play chase with Puppy constantly.

Poor Puppy is too pooped to play. Kitty begs.


Kitty! Don't whine! Since when did you start whining? Play with Baby!"

Puppy collapses in his bed, exhausted.

Nobody but Baby has figured it out.

"KIDDY DOG!" she says.

"No, Baby. Kitty is a cat."


The head of household decides that what Poor Puppy needs is a few restful days at a dandy camp for dogs, run by (who else) Uncle Murray. Kitty howls in dismay, but Puppy can't wait to escape his new playmate. But Kitty Dog is clever enough to stow away in Puppy's duffel bag. And though she fails the sniff test, her WOOF passes muster with the other canine campers. Uncle Murray launches into a pep talk aimed at raising morale.

You guys are really on edge. That's why you're out here, in nature with no stress, and especially no--


Kitty Dog fakes it pretty well, until she fails the Fido fetch tryouts, sustaining repeated tossed bones to the head which set off a series of multiple personality changes.


Dog camp is a HOWL with Kitty carrying off her counterfeit canine identity well until she and Uncle Murray find themselves eyeball to eyeball in a standoff with a bear, at which time Kitty's inner cougar comes through--thanks to the mystical materialization of Bastet, Egyptian patron goddess of cats.

It's a case of I AM CAT! HEAR ME ROAR!


Bad Kitty comes through once more, in Nick Bruel's latest in his best-selling beginner chapter book series, Bad Kitty Camp Daze (Roaring Brook Press, 2018). Author Nick Bruel Cartoonist Nick handles the transmogrifications of Kitty from cat to dog and back again comically and capably, with Bad Kitty at last happily exchanging her camp tent for her comfy cat bed, still trying to catch her daily 22-hour catnap. School Library Journal finds this latest Bad Kitty book doggone good, saying "A seamless melding of text and illustrations. A must-have for early chapter book readers."

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Plethora of Pets! Fancy Nancy: Oodles of Kittens by Jane O'Connor

As Bree and I split the last pastry, suddenly we hear crying. It's coming from outside!

EE-yewww! EE-yewww!

On a dismally drenching day, Nancy Clancy and her best friend Bree are drowning their sorrows at a tea party in Mrs. DeVine's parlor when they hear an arresting sound. The two throw on their raincoats and dash outside to investigate. The sound is coming from inside Mrs. DeVine's doghouse, Chateau Jewel.

And inside there is a cat! A fluffy orange cat--and oodles of teeny-tiny kittens....

1, 2, 3, 4, 5!

Mrs. DeVine opines that the cat is a stray, with no home, and as she helps the girls carry the little feline family inside, she tells them that a new mother cat is called-- A QUEEN!

"OOH-LA-LA! How fancy!" says Nancy!

Nancy and Bree spend a lot of time after school at Mrs. DeVine's house with the kittens as their eyes open and they begin to chase each other and explore all over. Mrs. DeVine names the mother cat "Maj," short for "Majesty," and Nancy and Bree claim the little white and black kittens--which they name "Sequin" and "Rhinestone," for their own.

Nancy absolutely dotes upon her new pet.

"I shower Sequin with oodles of affection. Taking care of a kitten is a full-time job!"

Nancy is so taken with her new kitten that she has no time for her "old" pet, Frenchy! Frenchy begs and begs, with her food bowl and then her leash in her mouth, but Nancy is to absorbed in kitten care to notice.

But Frenchy is clearly not pleased with the new pet. She growls and barks at Sequin. Nancy can't understand why her dog is not happy with the new member of the family.

Maybe Frenchy is jealous," says Mom. "She sees you giving Sequin so much attention!

You don't remember," Mom adds, "but after JoJo was born, you were very jealous."

Even grown-up dogs get jealous, and Nancy gets it that even "mature" pets need their share of loving care, and when Sequin escapes from the house and can't be found, it's Frenchy's turn to show what good grownup dogs do best, in Jane O'Connor's newest full-format picture book, Fancy Nancy: Oodles of Kittens (Harper, 2018). With a cover that is lavish with glitter and with the chichi and charming-as-ever illustrations by artist Robin Preiss Glasser, this one will please Nancy Clancy fans and pet lovers of both the canine and feline persuasions.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One Size Fits All! Not So Small At All by Sandra Magsamen

Have you ever felt like you're just too small

To do important stuff in the world at all?

But look closely! There are plenty of teeny-tiny creatures that do really significant things for us all.

After all, bees are pretty small, but what they do is neat. They pollenate, so we have flowers, grains, and veggies, to eat.

Ants are mighty mites who can move big freight. All they have to do is cooperate!

A little worm can squirm and turn soil over, acting like a wiggly little bulldozer.

Sandra Magneson's brand-new Not So Small at All(Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2018) points out the great things that small things do, and reminds youngsters that they have what it takes to do important work in the world, too.

You see, small can be big in so many ways.

It's just by being you that you'll always amaze!

Fun, kind, caring, creative, honest YOU.

And to make little ones feel that they have the power within to do great things, author Magsamen appends an empowering list of "Big Facts About Small Things." Artist Magsamen offers simple blackline faux naif illustrations with humorous small ones doing big things to inspire the little ones to think big as they grow big.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

And the Winners Are.... 2018 American Library Association's Youth Media Awards

The American Library Association has announced their prestigious 2018 Youth Media medals, including their most famous awards for youth fiction, nonfiction and picture books at their annual conference in Denver, Colorado. And here are the winners!

Taking the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature was Hello, Universe, by Erin Estrada Kelly, published by Greenwillow Books.

The three Newbery Honor Award Books for 2018 were Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut," by Derrick Barnes, Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds, and Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book went to Wolf in the Snow by author-illustrator Matthew Cordell, published by Feiwel and Friends. Caldecott Honor Awards went to illustrators Elisha Cooper for his Big Cat, Little Cat, to Gordon C. James for Crown, an Ode to the Fresh Cut, to artist Thi Bui for A Different Pond, and to Jason Chin, for his Grand Canyon.

The Coretta Scott King Author Medal went to Renee Watson for Piecing Me Together. King Autor Honor Awards went to authors Derrick Barnes' Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, earned the King Illustrator Award, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Medals went to Gordon C. James for Crown: An Ode to a Fresh Cut, and to James E. Ransome for his artwork in Before She Was Harriet: The Story of Harriet Tubman.

The Coretta Scott King/Virginia Hamilton Award for lifetime achievement went to author-illustrator Eloise Greenfield.

The Michael L. Printz Medal for Excellence in Young Adult literature was awarded to Nina LaCour for We Are Okay, published by Dutton Books.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the the best book for beginning readers was given to author Laurel Snyder and artist Emily Hughes for Charlie & Mouse, and the Young Adult Nonfiction Award was given to Deborah Hiligman for her Vincent and Theo: the Van Gogh Brothers. The Pura Belpre' Award for Latino literature went to La Princessa and the Pea, written by Juana Martinez-Neal.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for continuing contribution to children's literature went to author Jacqueline Woodson, and Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961, written by Larry Dane Brimner, received the Robert Sibert Medal for the most distinguished informational book for children.

Other awards and prizes for contribution to children's literature can be seen here.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Father of Our Country: George Washington The First President by Sarah Albee

In 1776, the colonists in America declared independence from Britain. The two sides called it the American Revolution.

Of course, to King George and his subjects in Great Britain, it was a rebellion, and he sent warships, cannons, and more troops to put down the uprising in his largest colony.

The Americans needed an army, and for that they needed a general.

George Washington was the general who led the American army. He was brave and fair. 

After a long and difficult war, with some battles lost and some won, the British Army surrendered, and the Revolutionary leaders asked Washington to continue to lead the country. But Washington declined. He chose to return to Mt. Vernon, the farm in Virginia he had inherited from his brother Lawrence. He had married a widow, Martha Custis, with two children and even more land, and Washington wanted to become a successful planter.

He said, "I retire," he announced.

But the new country needed help, and Washington returned to public life to help write the Constitution and became the first president of the new United States, guiding the nation through two terms. Sarah Albee's George Washington: The First President (I Can Read Level 2) (Harper-Collins, 2017). This Level 2 beginning reader is a fine introduction to historical biography for early independent readers. It provides a full summary of Washington's life, including his family story, his early work for the British Crown and service with the British army in the French and Indians' War and his leadership in the formative days of the new American republic.

Illustrator Chin Ko supports Albee's narrative well with active and realistic illustrations with much visual information for young readers, and the book offers a substantial supportive appendix with a timeline of Washington's life, a special photo essay on slave life at Mt. Vernon, with a fascinating section on the black double agent spy who was part of Washington's critical spy network that helped win the war. This is a great book for classroom libraries and an informative and rather absorbing read for early primary students suitable for a biography or history report in that period leading up the Presidents Day.

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Yikes! Stripes! Bumblebee Boy Loves... by David Soman and Jacky Davis

What does Bumblebee Boy drive?


There's a new caped crusader on the job.. He's got the striped shirt. He's got the boots, the mask, and the cape..., and he's ready to BUZZ!

He can leap (block) cities in a single bound.

He can save his little brother from a monster (who look a lot like the family cat)!

If he has to, he can even read his little brother Owen a story that banishes the bedtime blues.

Who is that masked marvel? In Jacky Davis' and David Soman's new board book, Bumblebee Boy Loves... (Dial Books, 2017), preschoolers who love their best-selling Ladybug Girl series have a new character to follow--her neighborhood friend Sam. With a three-dimensional die-cut cover and Soman's charming illustrations, there's a lot to love in this pair of adventurous boys. Says Kirkus Reviews, "A sweet addition to this growing series about would-be superheroes."

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