Thursday, February 28, 2019

War of the Sexes! Chicks Rule! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

The science-nerd boy chicks have posted a sign on their Rocket Club:


The girl chicks are more than miffed. They've got tech smarts, too!

Female chicks are motivated to MARCH!

Cool chicks and nerdy chicks
Quiet chicks and wordy chicks.

Biker chicks and rocker chicks,
Science chicks and soccer chicks.

Chicks who draw and chicks who read...

Signs and posters bloom in front of the boys' clubhouses.


Girl chicks realize  that carrying signs is not enough for the boy chicks have to get the message. It's time to be proactive! The girl chicks know they have to prove they can get it off the ground. And do they know the way to operate? Yes! Chicks know how to cooperate.

To mount their own space race, each chick must take her place. The chicks pitch in to raise their gantry and build their spacecraft, wing to wing, and....

Chicks of different flocks and feather,
Work to reach the stars together.

Their launch is successful, and it's no surprise that the No. 1 Nerd Boy Chick hastily makes a small change in his Rocket Club's sign:


It's the old war of the sexes, a boys against girls story, with some fun play on the word "chick" to mean girl, in Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen's second book in series starring her cute chick kids, Chicks Rule! (Abrams books, 2019). Even Shakespeare had a go with the war of the sexes, and this new one features storytelling with some jolly internally-rhyming couplets and the charming illustrations of Renee Kurilla, whose girl-chick characters are inspired, with surfer chicks and hijabi chicks who join in to do their share of protest marching and rocket constructing with great flare. A fun entry for our times for the primary set during Women's Month.

"I am woman, hear me peep!" quips Kirkus Reviews.

Barden-Quallen's other books include Tyrannosaurus Wrecks!: A Preschool Story, Quackenstein Hatches a Family, (see reviews here) and her popular Purrmaids series.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Elephant in the, Um, Intersection: Poe Won't Go by Kelly DePucchio

Prickly Valley has a public problem.

One morning the good people awoke to find an elephant sitting smack dab in the middle of the only road in town.

His name was Poe.

It didn't take long for a traffic jam to form around the uninvited elephant.

Not exactly what everyone wants--a sedentary elephant in the center of the roadway!!

The city's sole thorofare is not passable. Nobody's going anywhere in Prickly Valley until that pachyderm is persuaded to get a move on. Honking horns don't faze him. Parking tickets don't work. Pot-and-pan percussion is not persuasive. Trombone glissandos don't do it. Politicians' orations and proclamations fizzle.

People begged. PLEASE?

And booed. JEEZ!

And bribed. CHEESE?

Mice fail. Magnets don't avail. A magician's disappearing spells don't prevail.

When will Poe go? Nevermore?

Until one little girl named Marigold poses the pertinent question.

"Has anyone asked Poe why he won't GO?"

Marigold is fluent in kitten and articulate in hedgehog, so she agrees to interpret for Poe.

"He says he's waiting for a friend. His friend is very late."

But his expected pal is a lot closer than Poe knows. He's not under Poe's nose, exactly, but even, er, closer... in Kelly DiPucchio's latest, Poe Won't Go (Disney Hyperion, 2018). Author DePucchio's way with a well-placed rhyme and appreciation of absurd plot twists (the townspeople try to lift the recalcitrant pachyderm off his bum with bunches of helium balloons) make for plenty of giggle-bait for youngsters with well-planted page turns. The artwork and hand-lettered text by illustrator Zachariah Ohora is outstanding in its ability to evoke the absurdity of the whole situation and encourage scrutiny of the many characters in the crowd. This one is an engaging read-aloud for preschoolers and a fun read-alone for young readers.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Snoring at the Sharemore: There's A Dinosaur on the 13th Floor by Wade Bradford

"Welcome to the Sharemore Hotel," said the bellhop.

"Let me show your to your room."

"The sooner the better," said Mr. Snore. "I am very"--YAWN--"sleepy."

With his viola case and pince nez glasses perched on the end of his schnoz, the guest's eyelids are heavy and he is too weary to notice the two green pythons wrapped around the pillars behind the reception desk. But there is more in store for Mr. Snore at the Sharemore.

This hotel is far more suitably named than Mr. Snore knows. The bellhop shows him to his comfortable room and the ultra-drowsy guest dons his pajamas and lies down to sleep right away.

But then--he hears a soft SQUEEEAK! There's a mouse sleeping beside him on the other pillow. Mr. Snore phones the desk.

"This is Mr. Snore in room 104. Somebody is sleeping on my pillow."

The bellhop apologizes and leads his drowsy guest to a room on the second floor. But just as Mr. Snore drifts off to dreamland, he realizes that there's an unpleasant draft from his nose to his toes.

It seems that he's rooming with a snoring swine who's hogging all the covers.

A call to the desk clerk gets Mr. Snore transferred to third floor, where his ceiling starts to leak. But the next floor finds him sharing space with spiders. The next floor up sports two giraffes with their heads through holes in the ceiling, and the one above that turns out to have a maze of gerbil tunnels. The twelfth floor has no furniture, but it does have the sound of noisy penguins splashing loudly in the bathtub.

Mr. Snore is irate. He calls the desk and announces he going up to sleep on the 13th floor of the Sharemore!

"Oh, dear, no!" said the bellhop. "On the 13th floor is a--"

There's no rest for the weary in Wade Bradford's latest, There's a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor (Candlewick Press, 2018)--and no rest for the bellman either, as the Sharemore's lobby fills with an overflow of sleeping guests. Award-winning artist Kevin Hawkes makes the most of the absurdity of Mr. Snore's search for solo sleeping quarters, with the final two-page spread showing the lonely bellhop asleep at the desk with a mouse on his cap and surrounded by snoozing bunnies, gerbils, penguins and a dozing dinosaur. Says School Library Journal, "A fun addition to bedtime-themed books that is perfectly suited tone-on-one or small group sharing."

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Wishing Well! Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Pena

Today Carmela awoke to candles in her pancakes. Her mom told her, "Go ahead, mija, make a wish."

But Carmela's wish had already come true. She was finally old enough to go with her big brother.

Scootering along behind her brother, Carmela follows past the bus stop and the home improvement store, where her dad used to wait for someone to hire him to work. She spots a seeded dandelion and blows the fluffy floaters away.

"You're supposed to make a wish. Everyone knows that." her brother grouches.

Her brother clearly wishes that she were still too little to go with him, but Carmela just jingles her bracelet to annoy him a little. She holds onto her dandelion stem as she helps her brother wash their clothes at the laundromat, and thinks about her wish. Candy is her first thought, but then she imagines her mother sleeping in one of the many beds in the fancy hotel where she works. It's hard to choose just one best wish. And then, as her brother buys groceries at the bodega, she thinks about her father...

... her dad getting his papers fixed so he could be home.

But then Carmela's scooter wrecks, and her dandelion is crushed. What about her wish?

But her big brother relents and takes her to a field beside the ocean where dandelion parachutes fill the air and float in the wind over the sea.

"Now make your wish!" he says.

Her brother tells her that her wish won't come true if she tells it, and Carmela happily holds it in her heart, in Matt de la Pena's latest picture book, Carmela Full of Wishes (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2018). Working with the artist Christian Robinson, who won a Caldecott Award along with De la Pena's Newbery Medal in their Last Stop on Market Street (review here), this latest joint effort is a poignant and thoughtful story with restrained but eloquent style. Says School Library Journal, “Carmela’s journey of wishing, waiting, and wanting resonates on many levels."

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Awful Abecedarius! P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever by Raj Haldur and Chris Carpenter.


The bread aisle has not been cleaned in aeons!

Alas! Spelling in the English language has always been a wonder, as in... we constantly wonder why it's so weird! (And by the way, why is weird not spelled like beard?)

How do we no, er, "know" why we spell "photograph" the way we do, instead of "fotograf?"

And why is frog spelled with an "f" if a frog is an amphibian?

There is a reason. Although English is named after the Anglo-Saxon language, England suffered a chain of invasions in the post-Roman period, and, as English spread, it survived by soaking up words from those other languages like a sponge. Thanks to that, English probably has more ways to say things than most other languages (We can eat chicken or poultry, cow or beef), which gives us native speakers a lot of downright goophy, er, goofy ways of spelling odd words until you know where they came from. For example, Greek is responsible for pterodactyl, which meant "finger-winged" with a silent "p."

Raj Haldar's and Chris Carpenter's witty and best-selling P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2018) has a lot of fun with the oddities of English, especially those weird words beginning with silent letters, such as knight and knee and knot. What about gnat, gnocchi, and gnome, and tsunami, Tchaikovsky, and tchotchkes, or wren, write, and wrapper? Why is ewe not spelled like you? And why don't quinoa and quiche start with "k"?

Haldar's and Carpenter's tongue- (what's with the ue?) in-cheek exploration of unusual spellings makes for tons of fun (not tuns of fon), ably abetted by the witty illustrations of their creative comic colleague (there's that pesky ue again) Maria Tina Beddia, which make this one altogether The Worst Alphabet Book Ever. Great for elementary English logophiles who might as well learn to have some fun with our quirky (not kwirky) but beloved language. Have you heard it's a word nerd's delight and a spelling bee contestant's worst nightmare? (Or is that knightmare?)

A book that might benight or delight (or indict and leave contrite) even an errant but erudite knight!

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

How To: How to Give Your Cat A Bath (In FIve Easy Steps) by Nicola Winstanley

STEP ONE: Fill the bath tub with warm water.

That's too much water!


The water should come up to the cat's knees.


Cats have knees? (Who knew?)

The little girl with pom-pom ponytails has a lit-tle trouble following these five easy steps. Her cat, Mr. Flea, has no intention of getting wet. He's the mysterious disappearing cat in two flicks of a cat's whiskers.

Now where is he?

Where's that manual for How to Find Your Cat?

Our little pet care student decides to change Step One to having some cookies and milk to settle frazzled nerves! OOPS! She drops the tray!

The cat kindly laps up the spilled milk. But by now the water in the tub is too cold. Meeowwrrr! Mr. Fleas makes that more than evident! More hot water is needed.

STEP FOUR: Hold the cat in one arm and turn on the tap with other. OOOOOPS!

Chase cat downstairs!

Return to bathroom and mop floor. Our girl needs another cookie to quiet her nerves.

Meanwhile the unflappable Mr. Flea re-writes the procedure:

STEP ONE: Wait quietly while your cat licks himself clean.

Nicola Winstanley's little HOW-TO manual, How to Give Your Cat a Bath: in Five Easy Steps (Tundra Books, 2019), offers the wisdom of letting the cat take care of cleanliness. Face it, cat owners: You may indeed succeed in sousing your cat in soapy water, scrubbing him clean, and blowing him dry so that he is one perfectly sterile cat, but be forewarned: he's going to spend the rest of the day giving himself a cat spit bath all over, right down to the tip of his tail!

Winstanley's hilarious story of pet care will win chuckles from primary readers who will find the text easy going, with how-to steps designed in boldface font and the rest in a less austere font. John Martz' spare black-line drawings and bright colors make for fun page turning.

"The inevitable ending will delight both children and adults and this title will be requested over and over.” says Booklist's starred review.

For kids ready for beginning chapter books, share this one with Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty Gets a Bath (read review here).

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Friday, February 22, 2019

The Trouble with Giraffes: Two Problems for Sophia by Jim Averbeck

Sophia has achieved her heart's desire--her giraffe Noodle for a pet. But Noodle has a long tongue and when he feels affectionate, he bends down and comes in for a big--SLURP!

He was especially fond of Grand-mama.

The feeling was not mutual.

"And besides, he snores," she says.

So Sophia has two problems, perdurable problems as Grand-mama puts it--slurping and snoring.

But Sophia is a scientist, so she conducts some research with a leader in the field of giraffe tongues.

"Noodles neck-to-lung capacity ration creates a giant echo chamber," said Ms. Canticle, an acoustical engineer.

In layman's language, his neck is too long. But Sophia knows that long necks are part of what makes a giraffe a giraffe. The professor suggests teaching Noodle to twist and change the shape of his neck, but the results are negative.

And now Father complains that Noodle is not worth the costs of his upkeep, which are perpetual.

Sophia has learned two new words but still has no solutions. Ms. Canticle suggests some sound baffles, so Sophia constructs noise-reduction ear gear prototypes for the whole family. But they can't wear them all the time. Uncle Conrad demands an abiding solution to the snoring problem.

So Sophia designs a sound transformer for Noodles' snores.

Can Sophia's science come up with an abiding, perpetual, and perdurable solution to the problem? Can Grand-mama come up with a way to muzzle Noodle's sloppy nuzzle?

It's science plus family feeling to the rescue in Jim Averbeck's Two Problems for Sophia (Margaret K. Elderderry Books, 2018). As in their first book, One Word from Sophia, Yasmeen Ismail's spotchy, blobby illustrations and Sophia's perseverance make for a funny and fun "Can-I-Keep-Him" pet tale with a penchant for science and vocabulary. As Bulletin for Children's Books starred review says, "A welcome addition to positive portrayals of young girl STEM enthusiasts.... This makes an outstanding readaloud."

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Better to Have Loved and Lost...: Found by Jeff Newman and Larry Day

In the frontispiece pages, a young girl looks down from her apartment's rain-spattered window and spots a little shaggy brown puppy wandering in the rain in the dark alley below.

She fetches him inside and up the stairs to her room, where a bulletin board shows a poster of a big black and white dog.


From a basket under her bed the girl pulls out a dog dish which says PRUDENCE and plaid-cushioned dog bed and empties a bag of dog food into the dish for the puppy. When she returns from brushing her teeth, she sees that the puppy has pulled out Prudence's red ball and leash.

It's a sad moment that reminds her of her lost dog, but the girl climbs into bed. The puppy persists until he finally climbs into bed and sleeps with her.

The next day is a getting-to-know-you day as the new dog and girl play together, and soon she visits the pet store for a new collar and toy for her new dog. But on a pole outside the store she sees a lost dog poster with tear-off phone numbers.


Return to 207 South Melvin

The dog she has found is surely the lost Roscoe. What should she do? That night she hugs Roscoe through the night, but the next day she takes him to 207 South Melvin and returns him to an overjoyed boy.

Doing the right thing is hard, but on the way home she passes the animal shelter where a lonely bulldog's eyes meet hers. He puts his paw up to the glass as their eyes meet. Is her heart big enough for yet another dog?

"It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," says the old saw, and a happy ending is hinted at in the closing endpapers of Jeff Newman's and Larry Day's lovely little wordless story of lost and found dogs, Found (Simon and Schuster, 2018). Larry Day's illustrations are striking, done in pen and ink outlines with color added only where it helps to tell the story, in the girl's red raincoat and boots, Prudence's old red ball and Roscoe's new blue one, the brown storefront shelter and the brown and white bulldog inside as girl and dog reach out to the window together. This time it's a happy ending for both children and both dogs, one that quietly says a lot about love and loss. A beautiful story and beautiful book. "A story that will break hearts so it can put them back together," says Kirkus, in their starred review.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Choices: Tight by Torrey Maldonado

I have questions I should ask. Why you look so relaxed hopping that turnstile? What do you think would've happened if cops caught us?

But I don't ask. Those questions might make me look soft. Our train pulls out.

What we just did was crazy. And fun.

Bryan usually spends his after-school hours at his mom's office in the Community Center, doing homework and drawing superheroes, and when his mother suggests that he hang out with one of her clients, Mike, Bryan is uncomfortable. Mom says Mike is polite and makes good grades, but something about Mike seems edgy to Bryan. But his drawings of Flash and Black Panther are great, and soon Bryan and Mike are hanging out playing video games and calling each other "brother."

But things start to go south when Mike begins to dare him to do things he doesn't want to do--throwing rocks at cars from the roof of their building, forging a note from his mother so they can skip school, ducking the turnstile at the subway station, and "train surfing," hanging on to the back of a train for thrills. But when Bryan protests, Mike calls him "soft" and "Mama's Boy," but after they get a younger boy caught sneaking under the turnstile, Bryan sees that things are heading in a dangerous direction. But when Mike taunts him in front of his classmates, Bryan explodes in rage and beats Mike up. Suddenly Bryan realizes that this behavior is what keeps his own father in and out of jail.

I feel alone in all this craziness. Craziness I let myself get into for months. I feel like I can't talk to anyone. I hate it.

Bryan turns to his mom.

"You have choices," she says. "You can choose different reactions. You can choose different friends and different ideas of fun."

Widening choices and at-odds loyalties make early adolescence a hard time to navigate, and Torrey Maldonado's newest, Tight (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018), is a novel which offers a realistic view of the pressures from peers and parents and offers some ways to sort out the choices for dealing with them, thanks to a family that is working them out with him. A serious read for boys moving into the wider world and looking for values that work. Adds Kirkus, "Readers will be rooting for Bryan to make the right choices even as they understand the wrong ones."

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Snow Queen (er, KING): King Alice by Matthew Cordell


It's not a sled-and-snowball, snow-for-Christmas snow day. It's an icy, slippy, sloshy, slushy snow day where everyone has to stay inside.

It's a unscheduled official pajama day for everyone in the family--Burpy Baby, Frumpy Bun-on-Top-of-Head Mom, and, of course, Grizzled, Itchy, Yawny Dad, who does not want a sparkly-strawberry cupcake party breakfast with Queen King Alice (because he's been to that party and cleaned up after it). He also passes on another Super-Duper Make Dad Prettyday. (Don't ask.)

Then King Alice has a brainstorm.

"Let's make...a... book! About King Alice the First! A-a-a-n-d the royal brave knights!"

Dad is anointed as Royal Illustrator. But King Alice's inspiration fails after their royal breakfast, a tad messy around the mouth, especially Burpy Baby's, so the King declares...The End.

Dad's off the hook until she re-imagines the knights sipping at a PRINCESS TEA PARTY. All the knights are seated at their Round Table. It's all royal fun, until....

"Okay. I'm bored now."

King Alice decrees Chapter 2 is done with a walk away. Dad exhales, until...

"Chapter 5!" King Alice suddenly announced.

"What happened to chapters 3 and 4?" Dad wondered pointlessly.

After Chapter 5 (Pirate Party), King Alice is too fatigued to be creative and repairs to her television-viewing throne, where her imaginative juices are restored by an episode starring that ever-popular mythical, mystical beast, and the King declares there will be a ...



In the ensuing melee', Dad sustains a unicorn horn wound, and King Alice is banished to the Time-Out Throne, with only the cat as her equerry, until she issues a repentant proclamation.

"I am so, so, so, so, so sorry I bonked you with my unicorn, Daddy. You are funny and nice and you draw good... and will you play with me now, Daddy?"

And after a c-a-a-l-m-down dinner and bath for Burpy Baby and the King, all's well that smell's well, and with yet more snow falling outside the windows, the weary head who wears the crown is almost drowsing off, when an IDEA comes for tomorrow....


It's a funny and familiar tale of snowed-in togetherness, in his latest, King Alice (Feiwel and Friends, 2018) with Matthew Cordell's familiar scratchy-styled comic illustrations capturing the mess and moods of family life in a sweet and loving snow day in the life of a young family. Cordell, 2018 Caldecott Medal winner for Wolf in the Snow (see review here), admits to a fondness for stories about family and an affinity for the sketchy illustrative styles of Jules Feiffer, William Steig, and Quentin Blake, and this style is well suited for the untidy saga of King Alice, who inexplicably harps on neatness and definitely dotes on her daddy. Cordell's stories have insight and delightfully detailed illustrations that will give youngsters a lot to seek and discover on each busy page.

Says Publishers Weekly, "Readers will treasure their time with Alice's father, who allows his daughter to be exactly who she is, and King Alice, who leads her family on adventures even when they don't leave the house."

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Monday, February 18, 2019

When Words Seemed Weaker Than Whips: So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth's Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt


... a little slave girl was born in New York State, one of many children, most sold to work far away. Nine-year-old Isabella, too, was sold, along with a flock of sheep, for one hundred dollars. Mama Bett told her to remember that her family all looked to the same stars at night. Isabella looked at those stars ...

... and she asked God "if He thought it was right."

Isabella knew nothing but long days of hard work, but she grew strong and tall, and just before slavery became illegal in New York, she left with her youngest, Baby Sophia, and took refuge with an anti-slavery family who paid off her angry owner. But to get back her older children, Isabella stood tall and took her case to court and finally won back the custody of her family.

"I felt so tall within," she said. "I felt as if the power of the nation was with me."

Isabella stood tall and walked to New York City, where she managed to unite with some of her sisters, and then she felt a towering desire to help all slaves escape the whip of the owner.

It would be a journey--a sojourn--to tell the truth about slavery.

Isabella changed her name to Sojourner Truth, and she began to walk again.

Sojourner Truth began her long walk through her nation. She spoke powerfully in the non-slave-holding northern states--Massachusetts, Ohio, and Indiana. She walked to Washington, and met President Abraham Lincoln, "the best president who ever took the seat," and stood tall in front of a trolley until it stopped and let her ride. And when the slaves were emancipated and the Civil War was over, she walked with the Freedmen's Bureau to gain education for all freed slaves. Now she knew what she was in this world for.

Sojourner Truth walked all across the United States, delivering powerful speeches.

What she had to say was plenty. She spoke of a woman's right to vote. She spoke about making prisons more humane. She asked the government to offer land to former slaves. She spoke against capital punishment. She walked thousands of miles... and everywhere, she spoke of Freedom.


Sojourner Truth, born a slave, uneducated and poor, was a tall woman, still even larger than life in her farseeing dreams for her country, one who casts a very long shadow over human rights for all to this day. Gary D. Schmidt's So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth's Long Walk Toward Freedom (Roaring Brook Press, 2018) is an eloquent picture book depicting the long life of the tall woman who changed her world and helped end legal slavery in America and became an early advocate of women's rights. In vivid descriptions and arresting prose of his own and the poignant words of Sojourner Truth ringing down through the centuries, and perfect for Black History and Women's History months, Gary Schmidt's new book belongs in all libraries for children. Schmidt, twice a Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist (see reviews here), has the added talents of artist Daniel Minter, whose illustrations are lovely, stark, and memorable.

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Classics Illustrated: Snow White (The Classic Edition) by the Brothers Grimm; illustrated by Charles Santore

"Oh, if I only had a child as white as snow, as red as this blood, as black as this window frame!"

A young queen seated before a snowy window pricks her finger with her embroidery needle and makes a wish for her unborn child, little knowing that the beauty she wishes for her will be a sort of curse to her young daughter. The young queen mother dies soon after the birth of her lovely daughter, and when the King remarries, he chooses a handsome but fatally envious woman who fears the child's beauty will eclipse her own, and eventually
arranges for the murder of the child called Snow White.

So begins the Grimm Brothers' timeless tale of beauty, jealousy, and murderous hate, in which in the end evil is offset by the power of kindness, virtue, and love.

A medieval story, full of a scheming stepmother who arranges the death of her only rival, her beautiful stepdaughter, Snow White, this tale of malevolent envy represented by the evil queen, and innocent goodness, symbolized in Snow White's loveliness, the empathy of the huntsman, and the dwarfs' loyalty, is retold in traditional language and the stunning illustrations of noted artist Charles Santore in his forthcoming Snow White (Applesauce/Cider Mill Press, 2019). With great attention to the dress, trappings, and traditional symbolism of medieval palace and cottage life, the artist has indeed created a "classic edition," one which belongs with the likes of Nancy Ekholm Berkert's softly stylized and more diaphanous illustrations in her Caldecott-winning Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm (Sunburst Book). In this edition Santore's illustrations have the all-too-human but luminous look of an illuminated manuscript in the evergreen story of good and evil in which virtue cannot die, but merely awaits its rebirth. A first purchase for libraries and a memorable gift for serious fans of the Brothers Grimm.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Going for the Green! Esme' and the Emerald Fairy: The Search for the Sparkle Stone by Sara Clese and Lara Ede

Across the bridge almost hidden from sight,
stood a small museum with flags of green and white.

The museum kept all kind of things, from books to giant bones.
But best and most amazing were its sparkling precious stones!

The museum's curators, the Emerald Fairy and shy little Esme', are charged with keeping the gemstones sparkling clean. Little Esme' is too modest to admit that her wand's magic has the power to keep the precious stones sparkling, but when the wand stops working, the precious stones lose their bright glimmer. What to do?

Esme' and the Fairy call in their friends. Susie Fairy and Daphne appear and the search for the one book that holds the secret to the Mystery of the Sparkling Stone. Will Esme' find the courage to release her wand from the great White Cave?

All that glitters is not gold, and in Sara Clese's and Lane Ede's Esme the Emerald Fairy and the Search for the Sparkle Stone (Sparkle Town Fairies) (Make Believe Ideas, 2017), shy Esme' has the courage and all the right stuff to complete their mission, and the museum is soon aglow again in this entry into the Sparkle Town Fairies series. For kids who like more than a bit of bling in their picture books, there's plenty of sparkle and glitter from a giant emerald and two-way movable sequins on the cover and sprinkled inside this dazzling toy-and-movable book. Like their heroine Esme', young readers may need sunglasses as they read this one!

Other books in this glitzy series include Sparkle Town Fairies Rosie the Ruby Fairy, Daphne the Diamond Fairy and the Catwalk Catastrophe (Sparkle Town Fairies), and Sparkle Town Fairies Alice the Amber Fairy.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Vive La Difference! Sorrel and the Sleepover by Corrinne Averiss

Sorrel had never had a friend who was just the same, until she met Sage.

Squirrel girls Sorrel and Sage share the same favorite games and songs at school. They finish each other's sentences. They even have the exact same stripes on their tails.

So Sorrel is pleased when she gets an invitation to spend the night with Sage. What could go wrong? They are just alike.

But Sage's house is different--a huge fir tree with a thick trunk and lots of branches, filled with lots and lots of grownup family and dozens of cousins!

"I can't wait to stay at your house next time," said Sage.

Sorrel squirmed....

Sorrel's house is very different from Sage's. The trunk of her tree is skinny and wobbly in the wind. The branches are lumpy and some are broken. And Sorrel lives there alone with only her mother.

"Best friends don't have differences," Sorrel thought.

Sorrell comes up with some, er, creative reasons why she can't invite Sage can't come over: Her mom has come down with an upset stomach from eating bad nuts; a crowd of cousins are coming for the weekend; a water pipe has broken and flooded the kitchen. Finally, Sorrel comes up with a whopper: her mom has just painted their tree pink and they can't touch the wet paint.

But the next day, as Sage and Sorrel play hide-and-squeak, the wind blows a bunch of pink petals their way. Sage scampers off excitedly toward the source of the petals.

"This must be from your house. It's so... BEAUTIFUL!"

And Sorrel's modest little tree is beautiful, loaded with pink blossoms. Her mother invites Sage in for tea, and when Sage politely compliments her friend's mother on her choice of paint, the truth comes out. Sorrel explains that she was afraid Sage wouldn't be her friend if she knew her house was so different.

"You're so lucky. I don't know anyone who sleeps in pink clouds!" says Sage.

There's a insightful little lesson into what makes for good friends in Corrinne Averiss' Sorrel and the Sleepover (Barron's, 2018). Despite the cell phone which can be spotted on one page, artist Susan Varley's charming soft ink and water-colored illustrations stick to a muted retro style that alternates between spot-art on the verso pages and full-frame pictures on each recto, and her gentle jumper- and plaid-clad schoolgirl squirrels perfectly suit this quiet story of friendship found.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Some Bunny Loves You! I Love You, Funny Bunny! by Sean Julian

Some Bunny loves Funny Bunny...

... from whiskers to toes...

And, goodness knows... all the way to that pinkish nose. This Funny Bunny has style and a winning smile...

All their time is hugging time and singing time, reading time, and especially at bedtime.

Some big Bunny loves all the times with Funny Bunny!

Sean Julian's sweet board book is filled with soft and fuzzy love in his I Love You, Funny Bunny (ZonderKidz, 2019) in a rollicking, frolicking rhyming book that any bunny and every bunny would love. Julian's softly textured big bunny and baby bunny are an endearing pair of parent and child who clearly enjoy being together, reading, wrestling, talking and singing through their day.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Um + Gurm =Threep Frints: Best Frints at Skrool by Antoinette Portis

On planet Boborp, childrinx go to skrool.

... to listen when their skreecher spleeks...
... and to keep their tentacles to themselves.

Sometimes childrinx make new frints.

Yelfred and Omek were best frints at skrool, until... one recess in which Yelfred makes a new best frint--Q-B.

Q-B is COOL.

And poor Omek is out in the COLD, frintship wise. Yelfred and Q.B. split their yunches with each other. Omek sadly eats alone.

Yelfred and Q-B are playing the old "gurm's company, threep's a crowd" game.

Other stroodents begin to share too much of their yunches with each other. Spewd flies through the air and hits some childrinx in their faces. It's a . . .


The Boborpian yunch ladies are even less harpy than usual....! And the Boborpian skrool skreechers are not pleased with their stroodents.

Q-B and Yelfred get a long time-out by the Quiet Wall. And Q-B, Omek and Yelfred realize that they didn't get much of a yunch.

By the time skrool is out, all threep of them are hungry. Starping, actually. It's time to share some spewd the frintly way, as the threep new frints head over to Yelfred's house for some after-skrool smacks.

And all's well that ends well in a fun match of eye-ball in the peedle patch between the threep pals, in Antoinette Portis' latest, Best Frints at Skrool (Roaring Brook Press, 2018), the sequel to her first book in series, Best Frints in the Whole Universe. All kids in the primary grades will love artist Antoinette Portis' quirky alien kids, worm sandwiches and all, and second and third graders, who've likely developed a taste for wordplay, will delight in author Portis' Boborpian lingo, especially "skreecher" for "teacher" and "spewd" for "food." Funny endpapers offer more vocabulary lessons in how to spleek Boborpian--algazator (as in Later, 'zator!) bloox (books) and the Sturp signs (Whatever you're doing, don't do it anymore!) and how to count from um to gazango (one to ten) in Boborpian.

This blook is lotz of phun for primary skroodents!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Living Two Lives: Hedy Lamarr's Double Life by Laurie Wallmark

Cameras flashed. The glamorous movie star stepped out of her limousine and onto the red carpet. Everyone who was anyone in Hollywood was there.

Journalists and photographers crowded around her. If they only knew the story, the true story, behind the world's most beautiful woman.

In a slightly better world, some teacher might have seen that little Hedwig Kiesler was a gifted student and she might at least have grown up to be the loyal and brilliant assistant to some noted male physicist. But even though her father encouraged her interest in science, in Austria at that time most girls didn't do physics. Instead, what people noticed was that bright little Hedy loved to be on stage and that she was undeniably, incredibly beautiful.

So Hedy grew up to be a movie star.

After a few films made in Europe, young Hedwig Kiesler was discovered by Louis B. Mayer, American movie mogul, and invited to come to Hollywood. The brainy young actress learned English in six months, changed her name to Hedy Lamarr, and starred with Charles Boyer in a hit movie, Algiers. Hedy was suddenly a star, but with her charming accent and striking looks, she was soon stuck in stereotyped roles as the exotic foreign beauty, which she gamely played in film after film.
"People seem to think because I have a pretty face I'm stupid....I have to work twice as hard to convince people that I have something resembling a brain."

Hedy was bored with being beautiful.

For a diversion, she returned to her childhood interest in science and inventions. There was a war on by this time--World War II--and she became especially interested in the challenge of designing electronic control systems for torpedoes that the Nazis would not be able to intercept and disable before they hit their target.

And then Hedy had an idea that has literally changed electronic communications to this day. What if the torpedoes' radio guidance system sent a series of synchronized coded signals, switching radio frequencies with lightning-fast speed too rapidly to be intercepted by the enemy? Working with another amateur scientist, George Antheil, Lamarr conceived a completely new system called frequency-hopping spread spectrum. Not fully implemented in naval warfare at the time, frequency hopping was a technology whose time was soon to come with the beginning of the Soviet-American space race:

Frequency-hopping spread spectrum is the technology that helps keep phone calls and texts private. It's the trick that allows secure wireless communications between computers, spacecraft, and the Internet.

So if you are a military missileer, an astronaut, a drone pilot, or just someone sending texts from your cell phone or logging in on your laptop, you can thank Hedy Lamarr, the beautiful movie star who loved science. Things have changed a bit for women in science today. But Hedy's inventive idea is with us still--in our pockets or purses and all over our houses, our cars, and our world. In 2014 Hedy Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

"All creative people want to do the unexpected," she said.

Just in time for March's Women's Month, Laurie Wallmark's Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor (People Who Shaped Our World) (Sterling Children's Books, 2019) tells the fascinating story of the movie star who indeed re-invented herself in a second life and earned a place as one of the most important inventors of her time. With Katy Wu's lively illustrations of glamour girl Hedy and engaging book design, Wallmark's just published picture biography portrays the surprising story of the movie star who doubled as a singularly significant scientist of her century. In this highly readable biography for both leisure and research reading, author Wallmark appends serious backmatter--with a Timeline, "Secrets of the Secret Communication System," Selective Bibliography, and Additional Reading about Other Women in STEM, and even a complete videography of Lamarr's films.

Laurie Wallmark's other exemplary books about women in science include Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (People Who Shaped Our World) (see review here) and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Let Me Count the Ways: How Do I Love Thee? by Jennifer Adams

I love you with a whisper and song

and a roar...

I love thee by stars and firelight...

By spring's first snow drops

and fall's red leaves.

Channeling the feel and form of the Romantic Period's Elizabeth Barrett Browning's famous love poem, Jennifer Adams' How Do I Love Thee? (Balzer and Bray, 2018) re-shapes the original lines of the famous poem into a deft expression of childhood's affection for friends. Three different children share fun and exploration and the beauty of their outdoor world in ways that young readers can intuitively recognize as love for each other in the scenes they share, "with each breath," or as Browning put it, "Every day's most quiet need, childhood's faith."

Artist Christopher Siles Neal's delicate, evocative portrayals of childhood's lively and quiet moments through the year have a moving style children will feel in their bones. Author Jennifer Adams retains much of Browning's writing intact, but while retaining the cadence and feel of the original, uses child-friendly comparisons in place of the more romantic lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's nineteenth century poem.

Of Christopher Neal's artwork, Kirkus Reviews says, with "... softly colored in earth tones, the illustrations mix the real and the fantastical."


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Injured Pride! Tallulah's Ice Skates by Marilyn Singer

Tallulah loved ballet class.

But today her mind is far away from her plie and jete'.

Tallulah's eyes are on the skies, where snow is falling, along with the temperature. The town pond is frozen over at last, and she and her friend Kacie have a skate date after class.

Kacie was better at tap. But Tallulah was better at ballet.

"I'm sure we're both great at skating. After all, skating's a lot like dancing," she thought.

As she walks to the pond with her mom and little brother Beckett, Tallulah can't help imagining herself spinning on the ice like an Olympic star, her full red skirt standing out almost like her tutu does when she twirls. She can't wait to try it. But Kacie just wants to goof around, doing bunny hops. Tallulah demonstrates that she can already do a sliding lunge. She shows off her slide as Kacie tries it and takes a fall. Tallulah skates off toward fresh ice to try her spin. She poses, one toe of her skate pressed into the ice.

"Now presenting that graceful Super Skater--the one, the only, Tallulah!"

Tallulah starts her twirl and finds herself wobbling. Seriously. What's wrong?

An older boy skates by and points out that ice skating is different from ballet. You have to keep the whole blade on the ice, he says loftily, as he executes a perfect twirl with one foot above his head.

"All you ballet girls make the same mistake!" he remarks.

HMMPH! Incensed, Tallulah decides to show off the perfect arabesque she does in ballet.

Thunk! Tallulah lands on her backside. She's not hurt, but her pride is definitely injured. Suddenly, skating is not so much fun. Will Tallulah sit out the entire ice skating season?

Not this spunky dancer, in Marilyn Singer's latest tale of everyone's favorite little balletomane, Tallulah's Ice Skates (Clarion Books, 2018). Fun and friendship top skating fame, as Tallulah swaps spins for bunny hops and lunges and lunches with Beckett and Kacie and their moms. Ice is nice and will suffice!

In this latest Tallulah tale, author Marilyn Singer is again partnered with artist Alexandria Boiger, whose charming illustration of young danseuses have portrayed Tallulah's ballet adventures in all the books in this popular series, Tallulah's Tutu, Tallulah's Tap Shoes, Tallulah's Solo, Tallulah's Nutcracker, and Tallulah's Toe Shoes (See reviews here.)

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