Sunday, September 30, 2018

Deep Roots: Frankie Finds the Blues by Joel Harper


"Hello, Frankie."

"Hi, Grandma! What's up?"

"I have two tickets to a blues concert. Would you like to join me?" asked Frankie's grandmother.

"I like hip-hop," said Frankie. "What kind of music is blues?"

Frankie goes along with his grandmother. He's a happy kid and he definitely doesn't have the blues. But now the blues have got him, all right.

"The music is beautiful!" Frankie whispered.

Frankie is moved and excited by the music and as soon as he gets back home, he takes off for the garage to look for his old, abandoned guitar. Grandmother explains that what he's heard was fingerpicking, going back to slave days, and Frankie is determined to learn how to play that way. He listens to the CD his Grandmother bought at the concert, but he realizes he's going to have to have some help. He signs up for a lesson, which makes him remember why his guitar was abandoned in the garage.

It was hard work, and IT HURT HIS FINGERS.

But this time, he would not give up.

His friends tease him and tell him to play hip-hop, but Frankie knows what kind of music he wants to make. The blues have got him, and practicing in the park one day, he hears somebody say,

"Sounding real good!"

It's Walter, the old guy who collects cans in the park to sell, and he offers to show Frankie how he learned to play the blues. Frankie hands over his guitar, and then, again, something wonderful happens.

Frankie began listening to the most beautiful music.

The park paused to listen.

"The blues are the roots; everything else is the fruits," said Willie Dixon. Like all good music, blues comes from deep down, rooted in the human heart. And in Joel Harper's new Frankie Finds the Blues(Freedom Three Books, 2018), Frankie finds his teacher and his own way to play the blues, too. In a story of how music sometimes finds kids where they least expect it, author Harper combines family and roots American music in a story that shows how music seems somehow to seek us out to change our lives, actually "striking a chord" that lives within.

The softly-realistic blue-hued illustrations by Gary Kelley are infused with the universal feeling of the blues, evoking the mood of the music that ties us together with our past and present. With endpaper thumbnails of famous blues singers, male and female, black and white, a foreword by Taj Mahal, and comments by artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Keb' Mo', Charlie Musselwhite, and Mavis Staples, this one is a first purchase for school and public library music shelves.

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

A High-Five for the Stomach? Cookie Monster's Guide to Life: The Joy of Cookies

It's not as if cookies needed an advocate! But they've got one anyway.

It's everybody's favorite glutton--COOKIE MONSTER!


In his spoofy re-write of the culinary classic, The Joy of Cooking, Cookie Monster is all too happy to share his wit and wisdom about his favorite subject.

The mighty COOKIE may not solve every problem, but in Cookie Monster's book, it can't hurt! He passes out his crumbs of Cookie Wisdom along with his concept of just desserts. After all, the best cookie is the one in his hand, in his mouth, and of course, in his tummy. After all, a cookie in the mouth is worth two in the oven!

But Cookie Monster does not hesitate to give credit where credit is due!



While Cookie Monster's dietary advice should be taken with a grain of salt (and perhaps some kale chips), whether you like them crispy or chewy, with or without milk, homemade or store-bought, in C. M.'s philosophy, a cookie in the hand is worth two anywhere else, in The Joy of Cookies: Cookie Monster's Guide to Life (Sesame Street Workshop, 2018). This board book is full of fun, with the theory that nobody ever said anything mean with a cookie in his mouth, a good read-aloud to a kid old enough to giggle at a parody, and a good choice for anyone with a sweet tooth.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Holy Horoscope! Clara Voyant by Rachel Delaney

When Clara's no-nonsense grandmother Elaine retires from her job as statistician and leaves for Florida, Clara, an equally no-nonsense girl whose idea of fine literature runs to investigative reporting, finds herself suddenly transported to a different world. With her hippie-dippy mother Gaby ensconced in a tiny apartment over the herb shop where she now works, Clara, far from her grandmother's sleek, well-kept condo, is like a fish out of water in the quaint, definitely "multicultural" area of Toronto's Kensington Market, where her mom fits in, but she, Clara, does not.

The music for "Twilight Zone" seems to have become the theme song of her new life. When her mother invites Terence and Lily, two "interesting" new friends over, Clara steels herself for an evening of what she calls pure "woo-woo." In that she is not disappointed.

"Do you know how to read the charts?" asked Terence.

"Clara swallowed. "The what?"

"Astrology," he said. "That's the study of planetary movements and alignment. What's your sign, Gaby?" he asked Clara's mother.

"I'm a Gemini. With a rising moon in Taurus."

Lily gasped dramatically. "Oh! That explains SO much!"

Terrence nodded. "On Friday nights, I have a seance at the Black Cat Cafe. Some people would like to contact friends or family in the afterworld."

"Terence has a real entrepreneurial spirit," Lily gushed. Clara didn't even have the heart to point out the pun.

Clara clings to her hope that the school newspaper will offer her a chance to shine at just-the-facts-ma'am reporting, but the ambitious senior editor Wesley, ever-clad in no-nonsense blazers, gives her the worst possible assignment--writing the regular horoscope column for the Gazette. With the help of Lily's astrology tome, Clara dutifully makes up prognostications for the signs of the Zodiac, and to her dismay, her column instantly becomes the most popular feature in the newspaper. To escape, she secretly resolves to freelance an investigative report on the middle-school's mysteriously purloined mascot, Buzzter the giant papier mache' bee.

With the help of Maeve, her new friend whose passion for drama has her auditioning for the part of a famous sleuth in the school play, the two decide to combine talents to find Buzzter and give Clara the chance to break a big story and shake her psychic charisma.

Going undercover as investigative reporter, Clara finds herself digging deep for Buzzter into the school's mulch bins, even as she fends off her following of fans who seem to believe that she has physic powers to foresee their future. Editor Wesley is thrilled with her star writer's popularity and gives her the nom de plume of "Clara Voyant."

And Clara herself can't believe that her predictions unpredictably keep coming true, despite her cynicism about all things woo-woo-ish, in Rachel Delaney's delightful novel, Clara Voyant (Penguin/Random House, 2018). Can Clara make peace with her inner psychic in her new setting? Author Delaney keeps the adolescent angst light, clever, and witty in a middle-school story that takes her heroine on a little walk on the woo-woo side. Adds School Library Journal, "Clara is an utterly likable character and readers will root for her, especially where readers enjoy a touch of the supernatural in their mysteries."

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Be Careful What You Wish For! Never Satisfied: The Story of the Stonecutter by Dave Horowitz

Once there was a stonecutter named Stanley. Stanley was good at his job, but cutting stone was a hard way to earn a living!

Hammering and chiseling is wearying work for a thin-skinned young frog, and when Stanley, coated with stone dust, is making his way to his hut one afternoon, he notices a businessman leisurely sipping his beverage inside the teahouse. He sighs out a wish:

"I wish I were a businessman!"

Suddenly Stanley is transformed, wearing a neatly pressed suit and briefcase, watching the world go by through the window of the shady teahouse. Now this is the life!

But then the king goes by, leading a procession, and Stanley can't help wishing he were emperor, with a retinue of attendants and sycophants to serve and praise him. And suddenly he is King Stanley! But leading his followers in the evening sun is hot work, and it occurs to Stanley that it might be better to be the Sun itself!

"Dude! I should be the Sun! "

Stanley's wishes become even more grandiose. As the sun he beams even more, a wayward cloud darkens his face, and he wishes to become the black cloud and obscure the sun himself. And then, scurrying before the wind, he wished to BE the unstoppable wind--until he blows smack into a great standing stone.

As the Wind, he blew his best, but the stone stood still. Still not satisfied, Stanley wishes to BE the unmovable stone. Nothing can affect him now. At last Stanley was satisfied with his state.

... until, the next day, when there appeared a young stonecutter....

Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it, is the theme of Dave Horowitz' droll rewrite of the Japanese fable of The Stonecutter in his Never Satisfied: The Story of The Stonecutter. (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018). Horowitz's text is simple, letting his skillful collaged illustrations provide the details of the story, in a wry retelling of an oft-told tale with its age-old truth. For a fun compare-and-contrast read-aloud session, share this one with Margot Zemach's classic same-but-different tale of too much wish fulfillment, It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale (Michael Di Capua Books).

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

To Eat or Not To Eat! Eat Pete! by Michael Rex


When he spots the monster, Pete is happy to see a potential playmate.


The monster clearly has another plan. He is very hungry and he only wants to do one thing!


Pete, however, is unperturbed, and even a young monster likes to play with cars, so the monster and Pete build roads and happily crash their cars. Then Pete suggests that they play pirates! Monster stifles his appetite and walks the plank like a good scalawag. Then Pete pulls out his blocks, and the monster forgets his hunger for the moment and builds a mighty castle.

Then Pete invites him to play super heroes. Suddenly the Monster is not in the mood for caped crusading. What he really, really, really wants to do is...



But now there's no one to play with. What's a lonely monster to do about this situation?

In Michael Rex's suspenseful conclusion, there are only two possible, er, outcomes. One is super sad, and the other is a bit gross, but all comes out well in the hands of a master picture book artist, in Michael Rex's Eat Pete! (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018), a monster story with a surprise ending that will have preschoolers giggling and gasping "EEEUUUWWW!" at the same time.

Michael Rex, the author of the inspired best-selling spoof, Goodnight Goon: a Petrifying Parody (read review here), conjures up a cute/scary critter reminiscent of Maurice Sendak's in the classic Where the Wild Things Are, along with a polite protagonist who's ready to forgive and forget to gain a fun playmate. Rex's latest has perfect pacing for the maximum read-aloud impact, and his illustrations are pure silly fun. This is a great book for the scary season or any time a funny monster story is on the menu. Share this one with Ryan T. Higgin's latest, We Don't Eat Our Classmates(see review here.)

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Building A Better Sandcastle: The Sandcastle that Lola Built by Megan Maynor

Lola's got a little green shovel and plastic pail and a perfect site with a view of the sea, and there's only one thing to do--build a sandcastle. She uses her pail to mold the first small tower. It's perfect, but not tall enough, so she shapes more layers until it towers as high as she can reach.

This is the tall, tall tower
of the sandcastle that Lola built.

She finds the perfect piece of green sea glass to attract mermaids and on tiptoe places it right on top!

But the beach is busy, and boy chasing a Frisbee does a perfect foot-plant right on the base.

"OOPS," says the dude with the Frisbee. "Sorry."

Lola enlists Frisbee Dude to help rebuild, and he gets into the spirit of the thing and builds a thick wall around all the castle towers. But before they can admire their work, a tot with the toy bulldozer beep-beeps right into the wall.

"DIG!" says the little guy. "More?"
"Yes," said Lola. "More!"

Lola gets Little Guy busy digging a deep moat around the wall that Frisbee Dude built, while she beachcombs for decorative shells, where she runs smack into a girl with a whole bucket full of finds.

"Here, you can have some.
I'm bringing them home to Minnesota." the girl said.

Minnesota Girl is soon enlisted to help make a shell road leading to the drawbridge of the castle.

These are the shells
that lead to the moat
that surrounds the wall
that protects the castle
that holds the sea glass
that signals the mermaids from the tall, tall tower.

The sandcastle that Lola, Frisbee Dude, Little Guy, and Minnesota Girl built stands tall and towering, and its creators are proud until--


With a crashing rogue wave, their sandcastle is gone. Lola is sad--until her new crew comes back, ready to build it back, better than ever.

And they do, as unseen mermaids give each other high fives under the sea before them, in Megan Maynor's utterly charming The Sandcastle That Lola Built (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018). Ever
since poet Robert Louis Stevenson's tot went down to the sea with a wooden spade to "dig the sandy shore," kids have loved to build beside the sea, and Lola is no exception. But she finds that a sandcastle constructed solo can't compare with one done by a crew of specialists, and their project is spectacular--towering turrets, a strong wall, a deep saltwater moat, and an approach paved with seashells, an edifice beside the sea worthy of any mermaid.

Author Maynor follows the familiar cumulative tale form of "The House That Jack Built," with good-natured humor that celebrates joint ventures, and artist Kate Berube's sun-warmed illustrations catch all the joy of those well-remembered childhood beach days. With nostalgia for grown-ups reading this story and with an easy-reading text for youngsters, young beach builders will surely dig this sandy shore story!

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Standing Out! Geraldine by Elizabeth Lilly



Geraldine is a drama queen, but this time she has good reason. In her old school, where everyone was a giraffe, she didn't exactly stand out in the crowd. But when Dad takes her to her new school, she's the only one who is DIFFERENT--in a great big way!

"Here, I feel like That Giraffe Girl."

Suddenly, Geraldine has become an introvert. Even her voice is tiny and timid.

At lunch time, Geraldine takes to hiding, or trying to hide, behind a tree, but her long neck seems to have no place to go. Then she notices she's not the only one lunching alone.

"I bet you've heard of me," the solitary girl says.

"I'm that girl who wears glasses and likes MATH and likes to organize her food."

Cassie and Geraldine hit it off and soon learn that they have a lot in common. Cassie is a bit different, but she's fun and does a fabulous handstand! Cassie discovers that Geraldine is more than just different, too. She's quite the dancer and a naturally dramatic actress.

And soon, bolstered by their friendship, Geraldine drags Cassie to brave the bunch at the lunch table.

"Cassie can stay in a handstand for 167 seconds," Geraldine announces.

Melinda Bucket is very impressed.

And Geraldine cracks up the whole lunch bunch with her outstanding imitation of the Queen of England, and soon nobody calls her Giraffe Girl anymore.

Geraldine knows that she will always stand out in a crowd in Elizabeth Lilly's Geraldine (Roaring Book Press, 2018) and that's a good thing. Author Elizabeth Lilly' portrayal of Geraldine lets her stand tall and be herself among her new friends, and Lilly's artwork make the most of the possibilities of that long, long neck, as Geraldine dries her eyes on the flag at the top of the flagpole. dunks the basketball on the playground, and is a natural starring as the tallest tree in the school play. Author Lilly's debut is a lighthearted look at being yourself and going with what you've got in a gentle but genuinely funny story about accepting differences. Says Kirkus in their starred review,"Lilly's bright, classic watercolors, brimming with whimsy and charm, create an immersive world of details big and small. Readers will fall in love with Geraldine in this stellar debut."

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

It Takes All Kinds! Box Meets Circle by Aaron Hartline

"Hello! I am Circle!

We should do something together.

Let's JUMP!

Easy for him to say! Circle is sunny and bouncy, and jumping is no trick for him. He boing-boings all around his new acquaintance, BOX.

That's just the way he ROLLS!

BOX, on the other hand, brings a lot of angles to the situation--lots of them, actually, if you're counting. But when he tries jumping, he falls flat! OUCH!

So BOX points out that he's got plenty of potential for sitting. He has six surfaces to sit on. And, Hey! SITTING can be fun, too!



Circle gives it a try. He fails. No matter how he comes down, he can't stay put! So he gives the situation some study, and gets an idea.

He tries sitting ON BOX. BOX IS a good platform for jumping!

Where there's a will there's a way, and BOX and Circle find a way to play after all, in Aaron Hartline's simple little fable of resolving differences, Box Meets Circle: Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase (Disney Pixar Studios, 2018). Disney artist Aaron Hartline shows that he can create a character with only a few minimalist (but expressive) lines, another odd couple of friends who make a way to be bridge the gap.

Pair this one with Morag Hood's Carrot and Pea: An Unlikely Friendship (review here) or Laura Vaccaro's Dog and Bear: Two's Company (Dog and Bear Series). (review here).

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saving the Spectrum: Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed) by Ged Adamson

Ava was excited.

Not because the rain was stopping. She was excited because the sun was coming out.

That means one thing...


Now, nobody doesn't like rainbows. But Ava is a special case.

And this rainbow is really something special, too--the biggest and the most beautiful anyone had ever seen.

"If only you could stay!" she said to the rainbow.

And amazingly, it did. It was still there when Ava awoke the next morning, curving over the whole city. The townspeople were awed and amazed, and as it seemed to be planning on staying, they decided to make the most of their new mascot. Pretty soon the word spread far and wide, and tourists began to flock into town to see the persistent rainbow. Ava was in her glory, spending lots of time hanging out and talking to the rainbow, her special friend.

But even for Ava, the everlasting rainbow was a mixed blessing. Soon the town was crowded with vacationing families taking selfies with the rainbow. Everyone wore rainbow t-shirts; all the toddlers hugged rainbow plush toys, and all of them milled around, spoiling the view. And when they got tired of the same old rainbow, they started looking for rare birds to photograph.

Hmmm! A rare and precious sight? thought the rainbow.

Tired of his notoriety, the rainbow decided to make himself scarce.

Ava was a little sad, but she had a sneaking suspicion that the rainbow might be back before too long, in Ged Adamson's Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed) (Harper, 2018). With folksy faux naif illustrations and a whimsical charm, Adamson tells the old story of too much of a good thing in a fanciful and once-over-lightly cautionary tale just right for fans who can't get enough of rainbows, unicorns, and fairy princesses.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Self-Made Critters!!: CLAYMATES by Dev Petty

Two blobs of clay, one gray, one brown, sit side by side on a worktable, waiting for... they know not what.

Gray Blob: "So... are you new here?"

Brown Blob: "Yeah."

Gray Blob: "Me, too."

Brown Blob: "What do you think is going to happen?"

Gray Wolf: "Something wonderful!"

Then it happens. Two apparently skilled hands appear and begin to shape first Gray Blob and then Brown Blob, squeezing, shaping, carving, embossing, sculpting, until side by side there sit a Gray Wolf and a Brown Owl, perfectly molded and detailed.

"Look at us! We're PERFECT!"

But the created critters feel the urge to one-up the creator. They can't help trying to tweak perfection!

Gray Wolf stretches his perky ears in the direction of long and droopy.


Brown Owl is not sure that the creatures should be messing with their creator's plan, but Gray Wolf insists he can fix any problems and cajoles Owl into letting him make a few nips and tucks. At first the freedom is intriguing. They can be ANYTHING! They can be any animal, even some who never were! But the two can't keep themselves from going just a little too far. Pretty soon they can't recognize each other.

"This was your idea, and it was a bad one!" said Owl.

Insisting that he can fix everything before the maker comes back, Gray, er, Wolf/Blob, jumps into a frenzy of re-shaping. It's the ever-popular "Hey! Watch This!" moment.

He and the former Owl emerge looking more like--Gray Hippo and Brown Peacock!

UH-OH! She's coming!

"Oh, No! I hope she doesn't get those pokey things out again!!"

It's the old story of the creator and the created, the sculptor and the statue, in Dev Petty's hilarious do-it-yourself makeover tale, Claymates Little, Brown and Company, 2017), It's the Pinocchio story, even the Frankenstein trope, told with great good humor by an odd couple of self-constructing friends, done in the humorous and detailed claymation-styled illustrations by artist Lauren Eldridge, who brings out the different personalities potentially resident in blobs of clay. Publishers Weekly says, "Petty's punchy, dialogue-only narrative and newcomber Eldridge's expressive sculpture give these clay buddies a surplus of personality... a giddy mix of naive and naughty."

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Can We Keep Him?: The Sloth Who Slowed Us Down by Margaret Wild

Amy's family was the speediest in the world. They walked fast, drove fast, shopped fast, ate fast.

There was never any time to talk, play, laugh, or laze.

It's life in the fast lane for Amy and her family until she finds a sloth hanging in a tree in the park and brings him home with the usual plea. Mom shudders while she watches her daughter pick bugs from his fur and orders up a bath for Sloth post haste.

It's a long, slow bath because...

... that's the way sloths do everything.

Mom and Dad are waiting impatiently at the dinner table.

"Chop Chop!" frets Mom.

But of course Sloth eats very, very slowly, savoring each bite and chewing carefully. While her parents cool their fidgety feet waiting, Amy tells them everything about her day, even the first prize trophy she won (naturally) in a race. Her parents are pleasantly surprised to hear it all.

Then Dad announces that there is just enough time for a fast jog around the block. But with Sloth along, nothing is done fast. The run turns into a slow stroll in which Amy and her parents have time to visit with the neighbors and their cat, toss a stick for a dog to fetch, and gaze as the moon and watch for Mars to rise in the sky. Back home, Amy gives Sloth a bedtime hug.

"Thank you," she whispered. "This has been the best day of my life!"

Sloth stayed for three glorious weeks.

His stay has been short, but his work here is done, and it is time for Sloth to move in with the new next door neighbors who are the latest fastest family in the world, in Margaret Wild's just published The Sloth Who Slowed Us Down (Abrams Books, 2018), in a theme that urges families to take time to enjoy life and each other. Artist Vivienne To's little Sloth is charming, with a sweet face and an an adorable curl of moss growing on his head, conspiring to slow down Amy's fast family, and her illustrations feature funny sight gags such as Mom reading a Slow Cooking book and Amy perusing 1001 Varieties of Moss, as all of the family enjoying a swim and a singalong in the park. Says School Library Journal, "Large, humorous illustrations and a timely message in these days of hectic activity make this a natural storytime choice."

And if you're in the slow mood for more sloth stories, there's Samantha Berger's Snoozefest and Frann Preston-Gannon's Sloth Slept On. or Eric Carle's "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," said the Sloth (see more reviews here.)

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Friendship--A Perfect Blendship: Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung


Everybody had his or her own little town: REDS dwelled in Redville, BLUES lived in Bluetown, and YELLOWS hunkered down in Yellow Heights. Everyone had their own place, and all was harmony among them.

Okay, YELLOWs are the brightest, and BLUES are the coolest, but the guy with the megaphone, Big RED, just had to say it!


But the BLUES keep their cool, and the YELLOWs  keep their glow, and gradually everyone chills out enough to mingle in the middle of their city. In fact, some of them got pretty close.

One Blue was drawn to a Yellow's warmth, and she fell for the Blue's calming effect.  They became inseparable and together they come up with a cute little baby, GREEN--bright and calming at the same time. But Big RED  has to voice his opinion loudly.


But little Green is just too cute to resist. And even some REDs begin to appreciate new possibilities. A Red and a Yellow get together and and get a standout little ORANGE! And before they know it, there's a pretty little PURPLE on the playground.

And soon the neighborhood is a very colorful place, in Arree Chung's newest, Mixed: A Colorful Story. With little Jade, Lavender, and Amber brightening up the whole cityscape. Chung's little lesson on secondary and tertiary colors is also a parable of how "it takes all kinds to make a world." Chung's theme goes down as easy as opening a box of new crayons in a lesson on the infinite possibilities there. Says Kirkus Reviews in their starred review, "A colorful story about celebrating difference as complementary and transformative."

Mix this one with Morag Hood's clever treatise on veggie diversity, Carrot and Pea: An Unlikely Friendship (Read review here.)

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Royal Bridesmaid! Royal Crown (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess) by Meg Cabot

I knew something was going to go wrong----something besides my having to entertain my awful cousin Lady Luisa all day (and night), I mean.

It seems like my family can never have an ordinary, universally televised state function without it turning into a disaster.

It's not easy being a seventh grader and a part-time middle school princess, juggling two very different lives, but since Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison Renaldo learned that her older sister Mia was going to be the new ruler of the tiny, ancient Mediterranean kingdom of Genovia, she has known that being a royal princess was part of her otherwise fairly humdrum life. But now big sister Mia's coronation is near, and Olivia, with her BFF Nissi along, are spending their winter holidays in the sunny seaside palace, and things are far from boring.

The cousins on the Alberto side of the family, having secretly exhumed their ancestral founder, are suing Olivia's side of family, claiming that their DNA is a closer match to the first Genovian ruler, Rosagunde, the warrior princess who saved Genovia from the Visigoths in A.D. 568. It's two days before the coronation, and Olivia, is looking forward to wearing her haute couture gown and carrying her sister's coronation train of state. Instead she finds herself in the middle of a Game of Thrones drama, intensified by her snooty cousin Luisa, who flaunts her "maturity" and her boyfriend Roger, the twelfth Duke of Marborough, and taunts Olivia because the boy she likes, Prince Khalil, has never even kissed her.

But Olivia gets one up on Luisa when she and Nissi discover Luisa, wearing her bikini and the Royal Crown of Genovia, jumping on Mia's bed while Duke Roger records it all on social media.

Roger, the Duke of Marborough, was snapping photos of Luisa as she jumped on Mia's royal bed, wearing the multi-million-dollar crown of Genovia. Beneath both their feet lay the Robe of State!

"Oh, yeah!" the duke was saying to Luisa. "Work it, girl! Work it."

Grandmere Grimaldi is scandalized, the crown and the royal robe of state have been besmirched publicly, the lawsuit for the throne is pending, and Olivia is afraid that Prince Khalil may not want a disgraced royal for his girlfriend anymore.

Uneasy is the head who wears the crown, they say, and even for the young maid of honor for the intended monarch, being a royal isn't all accolades and caviar, in Meg Cabot's latest in her series, Royal Crown: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess ( Feiwel and Friends, 2018), illustrated by the author. Author Cabot, famous for her Princess Diaries series, has delivered a royally funny sequel to her series, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess (see review here) and Royal Wedding Disaster: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess. Family life is complicated for young royals, and in this lighthearted middle-reader novel of a New Jersey girl who leads two lives, the sensible Olivia is bound to be everyone's favorite part-time princess.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Friends 4-Ever? The Party and Other Stories (Fox and Chick) by Sergio Ruzzier

Fox is happily harvesting his garden, thoughts of a hearty homemade soup ahead, when Chick appears, ready, as ever, to opine.

"Foxes are supposed to eat field mice, not carrots!"

"I don't like to eat field mice," Fox answers amiably.

Fox moves on to his onion and potato patch. Chick persists in his lecture, remarking pointedly that foxes are supposed to eat frogs and moles, not onions and potatoes, and adds grasshoppers, chipmunks, squirrels, lizards, and little birds to his list of appropriate foxy foods. Fox looks lustily at Chick with an appropriately toothy grin.

"Little birds??"

Ooops! Chick makes himself suddenly scarce, as Fox exits, chuckling slyly, page right, with his veggies in his basket.

In the title story, "The Party," Fox is reading happily inside his cozy cottage when Chick knocks loudly, asking to use his bathroom. Fox politely shows him to the proper door and is soon lost again in his book. Much later he notices that hours have passed and after inquiring politely he opens the door, finding the window open (and broken) and Chick hosting a riotous pool party in his bathtub for some invading frogs, mice, a duck or two, and a mole. Fox indignantly shows the invaders to the front door.

"I guess he didn't mean it when he said I could use his bathroom," Chick complains.

In his latest about his unlikely pair, Fox and Chick: The Party: and Other Stories (Chronicle Books, 2018), this inspired installment in his series about that odd couple of frienemies hits all the marks for beginning readers. Ruzzier brings back his unlikely duo, the patient, no-drama, straight man Fox, the foil for his thoughtless and downright goofy neighbor Chick. Ruzzier perfectly captures the trope of the patient, long-suffering friend and his persistent preschooler-ish partner, delineated so well in Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad easy readers and Bonnie Becker's A Visitor for Bear (Bear and Mouse) and sequels. Artist Ruzzier's graphic skills are evident in his minimalist drawings, in which a few deft lines impart expression flawlessly. Despite Fox's understated, stoical reserve set against Chick's loopy just-hatched cluelessness, Ruzzier's narration has an easy, wry sophistication, abetted by his comic book-styled framed illustrations which pace the story for maximum giggle quotients, great for read-alouds or for early readers alike.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Making A Friend: Little Robot Alone by Patricia MacLachlan

Every morning Little Robot put on his tracks:

One by one, tight and strong,
rolling, strolling, all day long.

But first, he pauses to plug in for a full charge and a robot-ready breakfast:

Oats with oozy oil are yummy,
slipping slowly down my tummy.

Little Robot trundles out of his cozy cottage, shaded by a willow and bounded by a blue pond. There are fish leaping, a duckling paddling in the pond, and squirrels aplenty, frisking up and down the tree. It is lovely and peaceful, but still Little Robot is lonely. He needs a friend, but realizes that if he wants a friend, he will have to work at making one.

One night he dreamed of a smooth, shiny shape.

His green bulb glowing, Little Robot assembles sheet metal, screwdriver and wrenches and shapes the friend of his dreams. He gives it a red button nose, pauses, and then presses it.


It's back to the old drawing board for Little Robot. In his workshop he adds a broom tail, some blue marble eyes, and some small treads for each of the four legs. He charges up the battery and presses the red button nose again.

The broom wagged.

Sometimes you have to work at making a good friend, and Little Robot has that friend at last, Little Dog, to be with him all day and rest with him at night, in Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest's Little Robot Alone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018). Newbery Award winner MacLachlan shapes a gentle story about making a full life for yourself, and artist Matt Phelan adds the soft-focused pencil and watercolored illustrations to set off this sweet and, for a robot tale, quaintly bucolic story, one that seems to promise more of Little Robot and Little Dog in future episodes. Says Publishers Weekly, "Little Robot is instantly winning--surprisingly expressive, sweet but never cloying, and in service to a higher and very relatable purpose."

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Quacking Up with Feathered Friends! Duckling And Friends by Ellie Boultwood, et al


What's cuter than a baby duck waddling along after its mother?

While a spring trip to the farm to meet the baby animals is great, it's now autumn, and those fluffy little yellow ducklings are pretty much looking like grown-up hens and drakes, busy ducking under the waters of the pond for some dinner.

But wait! Priddy Baby Touch and Feel books are the next best thing! Those fluffy feathers and paddling feet can be touched and felt by little fingers, and in Ellie Boultwood's charming rhyming text, toddlers can see, feel, and imagine what baby ducklings, lambs, foals, and calves coats are like. There's also a page for little ones to try out a BAA! or a MOO! or two!

There is even a chance for the virtual experience of touching a goat and his smooth furry coat, in Duckling and Friends Touch and Feel (Baby Touch and Feel) (St. Martin's Press/Priddy Books, 2017). Other sturdy board Touch and Feel Books with a down-on-the-farm theme are Bright Baby Touch And Feel Baby Animals (Bright Baby Touch and Feel), and Quack! Quack!: These Baby Animals Can't Want to Meet You (Baby Touch and Feel).

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Baby Bistro! SIP CHEW YUM (Busy and Bright Baby) by Scarlett Wing

The verdict is in! Little fingers love Lift-the-Flap Books!

In Scarlett Wing's brand-new Sip, Chew, Yum: Lift-a-Flap Board Book (Busy & Bright Baby) (Cottage Door Press, 2018), baby goes through the day with emphasis on those eating occasions.


On the very first page little ones get to lift a flap that shows Baby in his or her high chair with a bright "Good morning!"

Following flaps hide illustrations where Baby meets familiar foods--cut strawberries, blueberries, and orange slices for breakfast, with a hidden picture of Baby holding an orange. In turn Baby gets to discover Healthy Veggies (peas and carrots), things to Sip and Slurp (a sippy cup and bowl of alphabet soup, a bowl of spaghetti to slurp, and finally a broccoli floret, a tiny piece of cheese, and a YUM-some cookie to nibble under the final flap.

Bright primary colors add to the attraction of Amy Bray's simple illustrations, the minimal text introduces little eaters to the names of popular foods, and the savvy designers make sure that the flaps open in each direction, lifting up, pulling down, and opening from both left and right side of the flaps, subtly augmenting tactile skills of tots. A treat when Baby eats!

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Displaced Planet! A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade


Poor Pluto! He's a displaced person (er, planet).

After hanging out with the big boy planets for nearly a century, Pluto has just gotten a disturbing memo: He's been downgraded from the Platinum Planet Class.

After being one of the Big Nine, a prestigious elite, since 1930, suddenly Pluto finds he's out of the loop. Really.

To be a planet, the astronomers declared, a body has to have three characteristics:

It is in orbit around the Sun.
It has sufficient mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium (a nearly round shape).
It has "cleared the neighborhood" around its orbit.

And although Pluto has faithfully orbited the sun for ages, and although he is sortasphere-ish (Okay, so some of us have a few bulges in the wrong places!), it seems he isn't quite weighty enough to "clear" his orbit of other bodies.

Pluto is miffed. Hey! No collision! he argues. And he's got five moons! That's way better than Earth can do! Pluto feels he's been unfairly unfriended by the whole solar system!

With his faithful moons in tow, Pluto sets out to find somebody to hang around the sun with.




But Halley's Comet has his long tail. Pluto doesn't have any tail, so he can't be a comet. The meteorites look like they are having a high old time trying to strike the Earth, but Pluto still feels like Earth is his relative, not his target. Maybe he can find friends in the asteroid belt. He hails Ida the Asteroid, who points out that he's just not rocky enough for their group. He's a total misfit!


But, wait! There is another kind of body in the loop!


And they have their own group--The DWARF PLANETS. Haumesa, MakeMake, Ceres, and Eris recognize Pluto as one of them, in Stef Wade's sly story of solar system social groups, A Place for Pluto (Capstone Editions) (Capstone Press, 2018). There is plenty of humorous solar system back-and-forth banter, along with some solid science in this story of poor Pluto, the cast-off planet who sets out to find his new place in space. Stef Wade's clever picture book combines social awareness with astronomy, an unusual combination that works well in the case of the Pluto, the un-planet, especially in the guise of the usual social suspects in artist Melanie Demmer's clever cartoons of the in-groups of the solar system. Wade also appends an informational afterword, "What's the Deal with Pluto," that fills young readers in on Pluto's solar system history. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization."

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