Sunday, March 31, 2019

What's Up, Little Nutbrown Hare? Guess How Much I Love You? HERE I AM! (Finger Puppet Book) by Sam McBratney

Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare were playing hide and seek.

It was Little Nutbrown Hare's turn to hide, and he knew the best place to hide--in a hole in the tree. Big Nutbrown Hare pretends to search everywhere, until...

... Suddenly Little Nutbrown Hare pops his long ears and little pink nose out of the hole.


Little Nutbrown Hare giggles.

It's SO much fun to surprise his papa when he pops out. And it's still his turn!

Little Nutbrown Hare squeezes between some big rocks. He hides in a bunch of tall flowers, in some bushy weeds, and among the new green ferns. Papa never seems to see him until he pops out of his hiding place.

Finally he scrunches his long ears down behind a big log. Papa's search seems hopeless.

All this hiding and seeking had Big Nutbrown Hare exhausted!

It's about time for the final Big Reveal in Sam McBratney's latest father-and-son adventure, Here I Am!: A Finger Puppet Book: A Guess How Much I Love You Book (Candlewick Books, 2018). With its perennially charming soft illustrations by artist Anita Jeram, this latest  in the beloved best-selling Guess How Much I Love You? series, there's a furry long-eared little hare here who pops up to surprise his patient papa every time in this new toy-and-movable board book--the perfect Easter basket filler, sweet, but with zero grams of sugar, to delight youngsters, one that may inspire an Easter hide and hunt of its own.

For the youngest, there is also McBratney and Geram's companion interaction finger puppet book, Guess How Much I Love You: One More Tickle!: A Puppet Book.

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Saturday, March 30, 2019

STYLIN'! Dress Like A Girl by Patricia Toht

What to wear?

Should you care? Some say so.

There are strict rules that must be addressed,
Rules you will need when looking your best.

But there are choices. White is right for cool summer frocks, a lacy wedding gown, a doctor's crisp lab coat, or an astronaut's pressure suit.

Black is best for formal occasions, but knit caps and furs are for snowy seasons.

Game day calls for school colors for sure, but sleek swimwear is best when you dive the seafloor.

Express your true self, for there's only one you.
Can't find what you like? Then design something new.

Clothes make the woman, and there're plenty of ways to Dress Like a Girl (Harper, 2019), according to Patricia Toht in her new fun fashion guide for girls. Using a girl's sleepover as her scene, artist Lorian Tu-Dean has her little fashionistas try out out all sorts of uniforms, costumes, and self-designed stylings, in this jolly commentary on femme fashion in the twenty-first century. Author Toht's rhyming guidebook gives a nod to the rules, while counseling girls that the secret is "doing it your own way." Says Publishers Weekly, "Tu-Dean captures the joy of dressing up, friendship, and discovery in her mixed-media art."

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Friday, March 29, 2019

A Little Night Music? Duck On A Disco Ball (A Duck in the Fridge Book) by Jeff Mack

Every night it's the same story. Kids ask the same old question.

"Why can't I stay up late like you?"

Parents give the same old answers.

"Because we're grown ups, kiddo.

Little guys need their sleep."

But this kid has pertinent what-ifs: what if his toy duck gets hungry? What if he misses a big party? What if a huge rock rolls into the house?

No luck! He's tucked in with his lovie Ducky and a kiss on the cheek. Same old same old! But why is there always a hint of something he's missing? Like why did he find Duck in the fridge one morning? Or on top of the disco ball? There's got to be another reason why he's always being given the bum's rush to bed!

So one night I listened.

But I couldn't believe what is saw...

It's a wild and crazy parent PAR-TEE! His pajama-clad parents jump on the couch, and Duck does cannonballs on the cushions, while dogs, monkeys, and cows crash the party, telling dumb jokes.

"I just ordered a pizza!"
"Great! Will it be long?"
"No. It'll be round."

The party-goers' noshing trashes the house, as Mom grabs a guitar and Dad shouts into the mike:


Duck heads out, promising to procure one, and soon the living room is hit with a huge Rolling Stone!

"Heavy" says one hipster quipster.
"It doesn't get any boulder!" says the other.

At which point the parents drift out the window and fly through the moonlit sky with Duck, until they finally return just before dawn to bed down for some shuteye.

And when the kid wakes up, the house is just like he left it. Was it all just a crazy dream? But then...

Why is Duck conked out behind the sofa--with a guitar?

It's a wild and crazy night in Jeff Mack's Duck on a Disco Ball (A Duck in the Fridge Book) (Two Lions Books, 2018). Mack's narration is laugh-out-loud funny, and his comic digital illustrations fit the text, sometimes done in spot-art vignettes, sometimes in full-bleed pages or double-page spreads as the action zooms out or focuses in on the kid who can't wait for his turn to stay up late. It's a bedtime story that fits kids' dreams. Pair this wise-quacking tale with Mack's prequel. Says Booklist, "This goofy bedtime drama is a worthy sequel to Duck in the Fridge (A Duck in the Fridge Book).

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Sweet Feet! New Shoes by Chris Raschka

It's time for mom to put my shoes and socks on! But...


Leaky shoes are not a treat. It's time for new shoes for those bare feet.

It's off to the store where you get new shoes. The problem is....

It's hard to choose!

Some shoes come in blues. But look at those yellow ones!


Maybe those orange ones will be cinchy!

And the proud owner of new orange shoes is soon off and running to show them to friend, Emma!

Caldecott winner Chris Rascha's New Shoes (Greenwillow Books, 2018) chronicles the process of buying new shoe for a toddler who wants a good fit, a certain look, and shoes that make for fast feet.

Chris Raschka's trademark illustrations focused on feet only show the whole process, from finding holes in the soles of old shoes, going to the store where feet get measured on strange devices, and trying on store shoes that may or may not feel just right. But this expedition is a success, with bright new sneakers to show off. Those young feet will wear out many a shoe, but this trip to the shoe store is special! Raschka's newest picture book is a good run through for the real thing!

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Sniffles Time: What a Cold Needs by Barbara Bottner


It needs Mom's cool hand on the forehead, your own box of tissues, and some well-worn pajamas...

It also needs a window open to the spring sound of birds singing, cozy socks and chicken soup made by Grandma, Granddad's kiss and some silly jokes from Daddy.

A cold definitely needs...

... a good book.. and if you're lucky, Grandpa strumming his guitar...

A cold needs a radio softly playing, a puppy snoozing on your bed, and...

... a long, deep afternoon nap.

Colds need someone to feel sorry for you and someone to tell you it'll go away soon.

What a cold needs is...

... love and ... a little time.

In a soothing book for youngsters, noted author Barbara Bottner's What a Cold Needs (Neal Porter/Holiday House Books, 2019) evokes the comforting care of a kind family during the all-too-common colds of childhood.

Artist Chris Sheban provides the gently charming illustrations done in the soft textures of smudged pencil and the pastel hues of the oft-washed pajamas worn by a girl, one whose whose red nose tells the tale of a short illness. Inevitably, that red nose fades to be replaced by the ruddy cheeks of a no-longer ailing girl--who can now play outside and come back in to hug her dad, who is now wearing the pajamas and red nose. Kids will love the humor of this book, and grown-ups will feel a touch of nostalgia for those days when they got new crayons and got to take their sick days in bed.

This book is a literary get-well card for sick kids, done, as Kirkus Reviews put it, with "with lyricism and whimsy."

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

All In the Family: One Third Nerd by Gennifer Choldenko

Fifth grade is not for amateurs.

You have to watch yourself. Kids notice stuff. What books you read. What sports you follow. What devices you own. And how nerdy you are.

A little nerdy is good; you can fix the game controller. But if you're the kid who gets the teacher's website up and running so everyone has more homework... that's too nerdy.

Liam figures he's in the safe zone--one third nerdy--but his third-grade sister Dakota's constant wild ideas and inventions are all nerd, and his little sister Izzy has Down syndrome and is an automatic hugger--anybody, anytime--so the chances of being embarrassed at school are almost too much for him. Then there's a new kid in his class, Moses, who's loves tennis as much as Liam does and who even has a tennis club with guest privileges, making it important for Liam to try to keep his sisters away from his new friend.

But Liam and his sisters are united by the need to keep their much-loved German shepherd Cupcake, who has suddenly become inconveniently incontinent, leaving puddles all over their rundown basement apartment. Their grouchy landlord has threatened to evict the family if they don't get rid of their dog, and the vet says Cupcake needs a $3000 lab workup at the local vet school to be cured. Time is running out. Dakota banks on her idea of a drone-powered self-hovering umbrella to win the grand prize at the science fair, and Liam organizes a clean-out of the hundreds of newspapers in his friend Dodge's grandfather's house, in which Dakota discovers a trove of historic front pages to sell on eBay, but they still fall far short of $3000. And then it's Izzy herself who comes up with an alternative solution to their problem.

In her just published One-Third Nerd (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2019), the award-winning Gennifer Choldenko gives middle readers a likable fifth-grade protagonist within a family dealing positively with their problems, most immediately keeping their family afloat and keeping their beloved pet Cupcake. As the oldest, Liam's plate is full, but his family sticks together and he gets more than a little help from his friends.

As in her Newbery-winning Al Capone Does My Shirts (Tales from Alcatraz) and sequels, in this new book, humorously illustrated in humorous black-line spot-art by Eglantine Ceulemans, Choldenko provides upper elementary readers with a main character and family with the humor and cohesion of Bevery Cleary's "sticking-together" Quimbys in her Beezus and Ramona series. "Choldenko's pacing is exquisite... [A] great read," says Kirkus' starred review. "Simply endearing," says Booklist. Just what the doctor (or vet) ordered, I say, for a solid and upbeat realistic fiction novel for middle readers.

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Up and Down, All Around: A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes


It's lines of parading pastel pachyderms, papas, mamas, and petite baby elephants, five in each panel.

What are they doing?

They parade on each panel, left to right, trunks up, right to left, trunks mostly down, and left to right again, on each page.



The elephants enter a cave-like tunnel. In they go and out they come, holding onto each other's tails to find their way.

The elephants parade all day until night is near. YAWN! They trumpet up good night stars and get ready to sleep under them, all five curled up together.

Kevin Henkes' A Parade of Elephants (HarperCollins, 2018) is the perfect pachyderm parade for the nursery school set, always five elephants, always in a line, demonstrating up and down, in and out, back and forth, and all those directional concept words that little ones need to describe their world.

Kevin Henkes, one of the few creators of children's books to have won both Newbery and Caldecott Awards for insightful novels and brilliantly illustrated picture books, gives us inviting, slightly smudgy blackline illustrations filled in with lightly shaded pastel watercolors of elephants marching, marching, marching, through panels on each page to the music of his simple narration, right into a snuggled bedtime under a starry sky of their own creation." Says Publishers Weekly, "With clear, bold type sized for puzzling out letters, this spare offering will appeal to preschoolers who, like the elephants, are settling down to their starry sleep." "A must purchase for all libraries," School Library Journal adds in their starred review.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Invasion! Bad Kitty Kitten Trouble by Nick Bruel


Kitty doesn't like that kid who delivers the newspapers.

Every day, the same thing--he interrupts her nap on the porch, bonking her on the head with the newspaper, and then he rides off on his bike saying, "SORRY, CAT!"

But the newsboy is soon to be the least of Bad Kitty's problems. What's in the news is bad news--CONFLICT GROWING!

Her kindly owner explains.

"The fighting has gotten so bad in that neighborhood--even the cat shelters have been destroyed! The kittens are all scared. They're hungry and have no place to go.

There are oodles of KITTENS who have lost their homes. We should bring some of them HERE."

This is not good news for Bad Kitty. She is not pleased with the humanitarian effort. The refugee kittens play with her toys. They nap in her bed. They eat her cat chow. They even use her litter box!

Kitty pitches a cat fit. One of them doesn't even speak English!

"Sacre bleu! Le Monstre!"

Sent to stay with Uncle Murray, Kitty takes to her bed, where she is beset by a very bad dream, one is which legions of Uncle Murrays battle with each other and destroy her happy home and her peaceful neighborhood. Suddenly, she feels some compassion for the homeless kittens,

All's well that ends well, with an end to the hostilities, in which the displaced kittens have a safe return to their home neighborhood. One even expresses her gratitude to Bad Kitty.

Au revoir, cher Kitty. Merci, merci, merci."

In Nick Bruel's latest in his popular series, Bad Kitty: Kitten Trouble (Roaring Brook, 2018), even Bad Kitty and the newspaper kid discover the roots of their old feud and decide to give peace a chance. As always, Bruel's cartoon graphics are filled with hilarious sight gags that will keep beginning chapter book readers giggling and turning the pages in the latest in his perennially best-selling series that even grownups love. (See more here.)

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Say Yay! Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel

Greet the sun!

Tiny hands up

Next to the face, hands are the most expressive part of the human body. We throw them up when we dance for joy, or just play peek-a-boo with a baby.

We raise both hands when our parents dress us for the day.

We raise our hands when we know the answer to our teacher's question.

In the library we reach high for that book on the top shelf.

In dance class we raise our hands gracefully, and when we fall, we raise them to ask for a hand up. In the gym we go up to block a shot at the basket, and when we win we raise our trophy high over our heads.

We march, raising our signs high.

We begin small, but we grow big.

High fives all around.

Breanna J. McDaniel's Hands Up! (Dial Books, 2019) explores the language and feeling of gesture in her just-published picture book that shows the many ways we raise our hands. Some gestures are small and subtle, for sure, but the hands-up movement pulls us up straight and tall. It's a move we all share, one that can mean many things--from submission (put 'em up!) or jubilation--but it rarely escapes notice! In his faux naif styled artwork, Shane J. Evans portrays the many meanings of this basic human gesture. "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp," said poet Robert Browning, and Evans' illustrations express that high sentiment, too. Reach high. Jump for joy and say "YAY!"


Friday, March 22, 2019

Different Strokes? Pepper And Frannie by Catherine Lazar Odell

Pepper is plodding, pragmatic, and risk-averse. Frannie is individualistic, haphazard, and frankly risk-taking. But strangely enough...


How does that happen?


It's all in the way they approach and prepare for their activities.

Frankie is packing up for a weekend skateboarding festival, Wheels in the Woods, while Pepper is planning to take photos of wildflowers. But when Frankie misses her bus, Pepper proffers a ride up to the woods on her motorbike. So far, so good, although Pepper is a bit alarmed when Frankie hitches a ride behind her on her skateboard.

On arriving, Frankie urges her sedate friend to stay and watch the skateboarding exploits, and Pepper agrees to take snapshots. And what a photo op!

Pepper is mesmerized. She snaps photos perfect flips, ollies, and tailstalls on the half pipe.

That's all well and good until Frannie insists that Pepper must learn to skateboard, too. She drags her cautious friend into hopping on the board. Pepper takes some spills and declares that she is done, but Frannie keeps up the encouragement, and soon they are doing a creditable skateboard duet.

"If I can do this... I can do anything!" says Pepper.

Good friends can widen experiences, as shown in Catherine Lazar Odell's brand-new Pepper and Frannie (Page Street Kids, 2019). One of the joys of friendship is that friends can sometimes introduce us to things we didn't even know we liked to do. Author Odell plays off the differences between her two characters as they discover they have more in common than they knew. Odell's soft watercolor illustrations sweetly portray the two friends finding out new places and ways that they can go together, with more Pepper and Frannie adventures sure to be on the way.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

UP! Tessa Takes Wing by Richard Jackson

Tessa wakes up at moonset, just before sunrise.

"UP!" says Tessa.

Mom, Dad, and sister Maggie are still sleeping.

"Goody," she says.

Borrowing a set of wings from the butterfly mobile above her crib, Tessa floats over the floor, performing loop-the-loops and backflips.

Tess dives down to give Maggie's forbidden blue elephant a wild ride on her push toy. She uses Maggie's polka-dotted umbrella to drift down like Mary Poppins. Spying Maggie's books, she pretends to read to her dog Bingo. But with his tail Bingo knocks over the tea table Maggie has built with her blocks.


The jig is up! Fast she can, Tessa tidies up and soars back into her crib, just as a sleepy Dad comes to investigate, turning on the light to see Bingo in the middle of a big doggie yawn and Tessa bouncing in her crib.

"Honeybee!--you're up!"

("If only you knew....") thinks Bingo!

Tessa goes up in her high chair and then Daddy lifts Tessa up high, and Mom swings her  high around the room... and soon they are off for their morning errands... until it's ...

... naptime!

The noted Richard Jackson's latest picture book, Tessa Takes Wing (Roaring Brook Press, 2018) is a delightfully designed fun fantasy about a baby who is definitely a morning person, one who relishes early solo expeditions on the wing. Julie Downing's jolly illustrations of the lighter-than-air Tessa are whimsical excursions into fantasy with great good humor and sight gags such as the flock of butterflies that flutter around Tessa whenever the grownups are not there. Bingo even grabs the bottom of one of Tessa's footies, pulling her pajama bottoms down to show her diaper decorated with--what else?--butterflies.

Says Publishers Weekly, "More poem than story, it's also a wonderful reminder that everyone is capable of a rich fantasy life."

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

No Talking!! Quiet Wyatt by Tammi Sauer

Quiet Wyatt liked quiet.

He was a spectacular tree in the school play.

He was a total star at Ninja Camp.

Naturally, his teachers appreciated his appropriate silence. That's probably why Wyatt's teacher paired him with Noreen on their nature field trip.

Noreen was anything but quiet.

In fact, Noreen is the notorious class motormouth. Wyatt's teacher logically assumes that if Wyatt won't talk to her, Noreen will have to keep quiet.

Wrong! Wyatt's quiet just gave Noreen more chances to spout off, especially how good she is at everything outdoorsy. Demonstrating her superior canoe paddling technique, she falls in. Her idea of bird-watching is to clamber out on the limb to look at baby birds in the nest. Her trailblazing leads to the poison ivy patch, and her ziplining is so exciting that she shows off cartwheeling right over a trail sign and caterwauling at the top of her lungs: la la la La La LA LA LA!


Rumble, Rumble, RUMBLE! Emergency! Wyatt had to break his silence:


Noreen stops to thank Wyatt for the supposed compliment and spots the approaching avalanche.


Pulled out of harm's way just in time by Wyatt's silent ninja snatch, Noreen is (almost) speechless.

It seems Noreen really falls for the strong, silent type, in Tammi Sauer's Quiet Wyatt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Clarion Books, 2018).

Arthur Howard, the quaintly comic creator of the illustrations in the best-selling early readers series, Henry and Mudge & Mr. Putter and Tabby Books: Set of 6 (Henry and Mudge and a Very Merry Christmas ~ Henry and Mudge Get the Cold Shivers ~ Henry and Mudge and the Wild Wind ~ Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat ~ Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake ~ Poppleton Has Fun) and Mr. Putter and Tabby Box Set of 6 ; Level 2 Readers is back to bring this school field trip tale to a quietly satisfying conclusion.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Bunny Girl: The Little Rabbit by Nicola Killen

Ollie and her toy bunny had been waiting a long time for the rain to stop.

At last the day had arrived!

Ollie in her bunny suit and yellow rain boots ventures outside, her buddy rabbit stowed in a basket. They have a date with some puddles just waiting to be splashed in!

But before they reach the puddles, a spring wind whooshes past, bringing glittering silver blossoms past them.

Suddenly, Bunny twitches his nose and everything is changed.

Ollie thought she must be imagining it, but when she looked again, Bunny's ears were moving, too!

Ollie watches in amazement as Bunny jumps out of his basket to join a group of rabbits at play and disappears through a big hole in the hillock and is gone. Ollie follows, emerging near a pond, where she spots Bunny crossing over some stepping stones. And there's a storm brewing ahead.

The water was rising and Bunny was in danger!

But then Ollie recalls that she still has her yellow umbrella along. Can she turn it upside down and use it as a rescue vessel?

It's a bit of a down-the-rabbit-hole story, in Nicola Killen's latest in series The Little Rabbit (The Little Animal) (Simon and Schuster, 2019). Luckily for Ollie, there's an easier way home--right through the convenient die-cut openings in the page, where she and her toy bunny have a magical flight with her umbrella among golden petals on a favorable spring breeze. There's no place like home, and, like Dorothy in her return from Oz, Ollie soon finds herself snugly tucked into bed. Bunny seems to be back to being a cuddly toy ..., but she spots a tiny nose twitch that may mean more adventures ahead for Ollie and Bunny.

Nicola Killen's sweet spring fantasy is illustrated primarily in grey line drawings, with accents of seasonal yellows and greens that direct the young reader's attention. Accents in glittering silver and gold presage the whimsy of this fantasy tale and die-cut openings in the pages ground the two adventurers and open the way to their happy return. Says Publishers Weekly, this just-published bunny tale offers "light enchantment [in] this quiet story of a rainy day adventure."

Killen's companion book for the winter season is The Little Reindeer (The Little Animal) (see review here).

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Kitty on Duty: There Are No Bears in This Bakery by Julia Sarcone-Roach

There are no bears in the Little Bear Bakery.

If it flutters, scurries or scampers here,
I know about it.

The name is Muffins.
And this is my tale.

Surveillance is Muffin's game and the night shift is her domain.

When the baker goes to bed, Muffin goes to work. She knows the clangs and crunches of the alley raccoons, the squeak-scratch of the inside-the-wall mice. She thinks she's heard it all, until... there's a mystery growl in the bakery, and she discovers the back window open.

I slipped into the darkness like icing melting down a hot cake.

And that's when I saw it. It was the biggest mouse I had ever seen.

Actually, it's no mouse. It's a very hungry baby bear whose little belly is growling. What's a kind kitty to do but offer some of the bakery's wares?

I was on the case!

But where there's a hungry baby bear, there's bound to be an angry mama bear nearby! And there's a clue...

It smelled like a dumpster on a hot day.

Muffins tail and eyes get way bigger than usual.

But Mama Bear is grateful that her baby is safe and well-fed, and Muffin finds herself engulfed in an overwhelming bear hug as warm as a sun-warmed (but smelly) bath mat.

It smelled like the bath mat needed a bath.

All's well that ends well, with two well-fed bears beating a satisfied retreat and Muffins, her work here done, calling it a night, curling up for a quiet pre-dawn nap on the baker's bed--until he wakes up to a big surprise, in Julia Sarcone-Roach's There Are No Bears in This Bakery (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019). Sarcone-Roach's storytelling is drolly narrated by her clever cat-sleuth Muffins, and her delightfully smudged and watery nighttime palette extend the the text brilliantly with many details to please the eyes of young readers. Says School Library Journal, "The front endpapers feature a scrumptious array of iced buns, cookies, donuts, and eclairs, while the back ones show the remnants of the night's feast—-nothing but crumbs and a half-eaten doughnut near a small gray mouse exclaiming, 'I love sprinkles!'" This one is a kid-pleasing winner!

For more fun with food, this one is a perfect pairing with Sarcone-Roach's best selling doggy tale, The Bear Ate Your Sandwich (see my review here.)

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

What Scares A Bear? Bear's Scare by Jacob Grant

Bear was sure his house was clean.

His rooms were tidy. He took good care of everything inside.

Face it! This bear is a fussbudget.

He simply cannot abide disorder.

He is disgusted by dust.

He cannot bear a single cobweb in his domicile.

But he loves to fuss over his friend, a small stuffed Teddy appropriated named Ursa.

Each day Bear makes sure his home totally spit-spot. But then, one day, he wakes to find things awry. There is even a book on the floor.

And there is a cobweb on the bottom of that book. Who would dare do such a thing? Bear inspects his housekeeping. Sticky spider webs have appeared virtually everywhere. There is only one conclusion.

"Ursa, we have a spider problem," said Bear.

Willy-nilly, Bear wields the weaponry of housekeeping. He sweeps the offending webs off the ceiling and pulls his provisions out of the pantry, seeking the offending arachnid. He pokes his broom around under the bed, and in such tight quarters, poor Ursa's foot get caught and ripped off. Bear tries to glue the offending foot back on and makes a sticky mess of it.

Bear collapses on the floor and looks around. The spider webs have proliferated and the house is a wreck. He moans and groans.

"My poor friend. I never meant to make such a mess."

Finally Bear roars into high gear, ransacking the place for some mending materials. But when he returns, he finds a surprise.

His dear Ursa was good as new.

Who could sew such fine stitches with such delicate threads? Who indeed?

Perhaps persnickety Bear can learn to share his quarters with spiders after all, in Jacob Grant's funny mini-fable, Bear's Scare (Bloomsbury, 2018). Bear's OCD seems to be cured, and he's acquired some appreciation for arachnids after all, especially since these scholarly spiders share his love for reading, too.

Grant draws his bear big and brown and blocky, deliberate in all he does, while his jolly, round little spiders stay busy spinning and sewing with a will--that is, when they are not sharing a book with Bear and Ursa. This picture book is probably not a cure for arachnophobia, but it does give spiders their chance to shine. Says Publishers Weekly, "Grant gets comic mileage from Bear's stricken expression; a view of the bear's big rump as he searches under the bed will make readers smile. Insisting that everyone look and act as we do blinds us to some pretty wonderful possibilities." Or as the American sage for the age says, "Different strokes for different folks."

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Nothing Like a Noodle Tale! Noodleheads Find Something Fishy by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton,. and Mitch Weiss

"Hey, Mac! Someone threw away this perfectly good fishing stick!!"

Mac and Mac, the Noodlehead brothers, aren't too smart, but they know a fishing rod when they see one.

"I wish we knew how to fish," said Mac to Mac.

"We can learn," said Mac to Mac.

That's a dubious statement, but first the not-overly-bright brothers have to figure out how to get the fishing rod home to show to Mom. Carrying it horizontally, they soon discover that they can't get it through the opening in the hedge around their house, until Mac finds the solution and breaks the rod into two pieces.

Now it can catch twice as many fish!

Mom is only too happy to shoo her little noodleheads off for an fishing expedition with sack lunches, and suggests they find some water and look for a school of fish.

Fish go to school? They must be smart.

"Wait! Fish live in water?"

The Macaroni twins have a lot to learn about fish and fishing in Tedd Arnold's latest, Noodleheads Find Something Fishy (Holiday House, 2018). Multiple award-winning author-illustrator Tedd Arnold, His Royal Highness of Humor and the Sultan of Silliness, has kept beginning readers giggling for decades, and in this title he serves up platesful of silly verbal and sight jokes in his Noodleheads series. In this latest in series, Arnold reinforces his reputation as the Nabob of Noodle Tales.

For this one, folklore storytellers Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss provide age-old noodle tale tropes and Arnold supplies the silly illustrations shown in comic book style panels and in easy-reading text. Despite their, er, ill-conceived schemes (or perhaps because of them), Mac and Mac are Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award winners for their Noodleheads See the Future. Arnold is also the author-illustrator of the famous Fly Guy series of beginner readers (see reviews here), as well as classic fun books such as No Jumping on the Bed! Parts (Picture Puffin Books), and Van Gogh spoof, Vincent Paints His House.

"A must-buy for graphic novel collections," says School Library Journal'sstarred review, and Kirkus Reviews puns "Fans won't want to miss the boat on this one."

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Friday, March 15, 2019

Art of the Deal: Persuading Miss Doover by Robin Pulver

To Jack, Samir is his best friend ever.

To Miss Doover, Jack and Samir together are nothing but trouble.

Jack offers to give Samir his whoopee cushion if he will sneak it into Miss Doover's desk chair. And when Mr. Humphrey, the principal comes in to announce that the field trip is canceled, the two boys titter at Jack's drawing of "Mr. Harrumphry."

Mr. Humphrey is not amused at his likeness. Miss Doover is embarrassed at the behavior of her students.

Miss Doover sank into her chair, her head in her hands.


Jack and Samir are re-assigned seats--on opposite sides of the room.

And the next day, when Jack tries to persuade Miss Doover to give them a do-over, she has an idea.

"Class, Jack and Samir have given me an idea! For today's writer's workshop, write a four-sentence persuasive essay."

The brains of the kids are full of things to persuade their teacher to do--give them two hours of recess, a class pet, no more tests....

Samir hands his essay in quickly.

Miss Doover should not have confiscated the whoopee cushion.
Jack gave it to me.
I have a burning need to put it in my dad's chair at home.

And Samir's concluding sentence certainly nails his case:

Miss Doover doesn't even like it.

Jack's essay has only two sentences.

People will be sobbing at my funeral.

Threats, bribery, and hyperbole don't work: Miss Doover is NOT persuaded. Will the two best friends get the point of this lesson at last? In Robin Pulver's latest. Persuading Miss Doover (Holiday House, 2018), Jack and Samir may be a little slow on the uptake, but young readers will laugh at the class's first lame arguments for chocolate chips instead of raisins in the cafeteria cookies and how two-hour recesses will help them have fun learning. But thanks to Miss Doover's persuasive efforts, the two partners in mischief do learn their lesson. Stephanie Roth Sisson's classroom illustrations are spot on, and readers will actually have fun with this lighthearted lesson in writing and school behavior. Share this one with Pulver's first book, Thank You, Miss Doover, in which Jack learns how NOT to write his great-aunt a thank-you note.

Great for fans of Margaret McNamara's classroom story, How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? (Mr. Tiffin's Classroom Series). (see review here.)

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Just Call Me Dumb Cluck! Duck Is Stuck by Zoubida Mounssin

Duck's wings are tired. It's been a long flight.

He lands on the icy lake for a bit of respite. In no time he falls asleep, deeply asleep. And when he wakes up...


He flops his feet. He flaps his wings. No go! Duck is stuck in the frozen pond.

Uh-Oh! It wouldn't be so bad to get stuck in the muck. Ducks love swamps and swamps are mucky places. It's not so unusual to be stuck in a truck. Trucks break down a lot. But... a duck stuck in the ice?

Snowflake the rabbit comes along and is curious.


This is embarrassing. Seriously.

Duck has to explain the obvious and ask a bunny for help. Snowflake obliges, with vigorous thumping from her fairly impressive back feet. No cracks.

Blackbird lands on the ice with the same question. He pecks at the ice. Not a dent!

Next the now familiar question comes from the Moses the Moose. Moses has four big hooves, but he's afraid he'll crack the ice and then they'll all fall in the drink! Who can help?

Just then a little fish named Rachel observes the problem from the underside of the ice where Duck's feet are quietly turning blue. And she knows what to do! Quickly she swims to the lodge of the best animal plumber in the pond--Bert the beaver!

And Bert the Beaver's got just the tool for the job. He applies his big wide tail to the problem.



And Duck finally catches a break, in Zoubida Mounssin's Duck Is Stuck (Clavis, 2018). Mounssin's critter characters deliver their repetitious lines in perfect deadpan style, while illustrator Pascale Moutte-Baur provides the humor on her pages divided by the ice, with the mortified Duck shown above and below. Her clever illustrations have the look of paper collage and utilize both split page and varying perspectives to heighten the theme of crowd-sourcing cooperation! Three cheers for teamwork!

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Blood of Life and Death: Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

"Blood magic is rooted in emotion," he said. "Pain, pleasure, fear, passion--anything that heightens your emotion can be used to increase the strength of your spell. But therein also lies the trouble. It's easy to let the magic overtake you. It's like a dam on a river. If you aren't careful, you can bring the whole dam down on top of yourself."

Princess Aurelia senses that she is a witch, possessed of forbidden blood magic. But she is a royal witch in the witch-hunting kingdom of Renalt, with a power-grabbing Tribunal that would destroy her and her family if they knew of her power. Warned by the wraithlike spirit of the Harbinger, Aurelia sees that her only chance of escape will be her upcoming wedding with the prince of the kingdom of Achlev. Concealing a wedding dress made by her mother the Queen and taking her little brother Conrad, Crown Prince of Renalt, Aurelia flees her kingdom, for protection switching identities with her maid Emilie, helped by her dearest friend Kellen and an enchanted Empyrean horse, Falada.

But her wedding is to be with a reclusive and reputedly frail prince, and Aurelia finds Achlev no refuge. Its protective wall, held up by enchanted gates, has been breached by evil magic which has destroyed the spell of two of its three guardian gates. The decaying kingdom itself is roiled with hate, greed, and murderous plots, led by her betrothed's father King Domhnall, who is "managed" by the evil Toris de Lena, and in Achlev, not everyone is what they seem. But Aurelia, as Emilie, finds love and help in the person of a young man who calls himself Zan. And when Zan, protecting her, is stabbed and near death, it may be only Aurelia's blood magic that can save them all and reveal their true identities to each other.

Crystal Smith's forthcoming Bloodleaf (The Bloodleaf Trilogy) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019) is a fantastical, frightening, gory, romantic,young adult novel filled with both appalling and lovely imagery, set in a dystopic, vaguely medieval world of two rival but interrelated kingdoms. This novel is for readers who like their images vivid and their plots convoluted, with the qualities of both A Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, the grimmest of the Grimm Brothers tales, and the inbred internecine warfare of classic mythology. This first of a planned trilogy is not for the faint of heart or the hyper-sensitive psyche, but for young adult readers it is a rousing and romance-tinged page-turning fantasy adventure.

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