Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Letter Perfect! : Stewart's Best Pen by Stephen W. Martin

When Stewart found Craig at Camp Aye-Wanna-Go-Hom last summer, they became best friends forever!

Craig was a pen with a blue cap, just what Stewart had to have for those required letters home. Craig knew just the right words to use.

Dear Mom,Camp is fun, except for the wolves, but I think we are in the clear....

Stewart and Craig do stuff together. Stewart wears his red cap backwards and Craig wears his blue cap backward, too. Craig makes a pretty fair short sword for duels and is useful for writing random notes about his sisters' doll.
If you want to see Molly again, bring ten unlicked cookies to my room.

But then on the way to school Stewart loses his best friend Craig. He looks everywhere--under his bed, under his cat, even in the detention room at school. Dad offers his favorite yellow pencil, but it's just not the same.
Stewart was at a loss for words.

Then in a few days, Stewart finds a letter for him in his mailbox--from Japan....
Dear Stewart, I'm in JAPAN! Crazy, right? I fell out of your bag and a nice boy named Tadashi picked me up on the way to the airport. Japan is super and the giant monsters are really friendly. Please write soon!

This changes everything!

Stewart has lost his best friend pen but gained a best pen-pal, in Stephen W. Martin's epistolary picture book, Stewart's Best Pen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Clarion, 2018).  A  friendship between a boy and a ballpoint is an far-fetched premise that is just the stuff of a funny, fantastic storybook, drawn to perfection by artist Karl Newsom Edwards' anonymous but clever pen. There are many forms of friendship, and this story makes a great class read-aloud for a class unit on letter writing in which students invent their own best pen pal and letters or simply create more trans-Pacific letters between Stewart and Craig. "The concise, witty text works seamlessly with Edwards' illustrations," says Booklist.

For more pen-palery, pair this one with Josh Funk's Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale, (See review here).

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Pachyderm Communication: Eavesdropping on Elephants by Patricia Newman

The air vibrates with deep rumbles that thunder like a bass drum.

In a tropical forest, families of forest elephants flap their ears. High-pitched screams and trumpet blasts accompany deep roars. Many overlapping voices--some high, some low--broadcast the news. Grandmothers, aunts, cousins, and even complete strangers twirl in circles to show their excitement.

Other families enter the clearing. The clearing echoes with overlapping harmonies....

Do you wonder what they're saying to one another?

Katy Payne did. Having already worked recording and interpreting whale vocalizations, she suspected that elephants, too, communicate in infrasonic tones too low be heard by humans without speeding them up, and from 1982 she and her team of scientist spent years recording thousands of elephant vocalizations in the forest of the Central African Republic. The scientists discovered that although they can't be translated like human words, much about elephant habits and social life can be interpreted from these vocalizations.

This collection of elephant communications has continued over several decades under several teams of animal behaviorists, with three initial goals:
Could acoustic eavesdropping uncover more about forest elephants' habits? Could it help protect them? And could the combination of sound and behavior help scientists decode what elephants are saying to each other?

With "mountains of data," the team decided that threats to elephant survival had to be the first priority, and current efforts are focused on using recorded sound data to locate and estimate the size, viability, and composition of elephant groups to protect them from losing numbers.
Said one researcher, "Figuring out the language of elephants is interesting from an academic perspective. But if we lose the elephants altogether, there's no point in figuring out their language."

And being the intelligent animals that they are, some small herds have learned to sleep in the day and actively socialize and feed at night when loggers and poachers are less of a threat--information gained by the many high-tech listening stations (and soon to be drones) collecting sonic data on elephant behavior.

Everybody loves elephants, especially kids, but visiting zoo elephants placidly shoveling up hay doesn't reveal the genuine problems that threaten the very survival of both African and Asian elephants. Endangered by ivory poachers, loss of habitat to farming and logging, and climate change, elephant populations are shrinking fast, and researchers of all sorts are cooperating to learn ways to preserve them for the future. In Patricia Newman's Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation (Millbrook Press, 2018), there are fascinating details in how various forms of science are converging upon saving the existence of these animals who share our human traits of large brains, life-long family loyalties, and long lives and memories. Author Newman adds an strong appendix for student researchers--sources, a bibliography, glossary, coda, and index, all to add to the purpose of saving the forest for elephants and its people.

Writes School Library Journal, "A great pick for middle school nonfiction collections."

Pair this one with Caitlin O'Connell's Sibert Award-winning The Elephant Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Big Who Knows: Right As Rain by Lindsey Stoddard

I like my bed because it has two inches of foam that remembers my body.

And then, there's my last memory of him, shaking me awake, whispering. "Hey, sleepyhead." Locking pinkies.

Maybe it won't be so bad to leave the bed behind.

"This way we'll start fresh...." Mom says.

With the grief for the loss of her big brother Guthrie, Rain's parents seem to exist in two separate worlds. Her mom hustles about, always rushing off to the next thing. Her dad withdraws to his bed and bedroom, sleeping in his clothes, barely speaking. And Rain knows it is all her fault.

Her mom decides they need a fresh start in a new place, and Rain finds her family leaving their comfortable house in Vermont, her school and best friend Izzy, and moving to a small apartment in New York City, where a lot of people speak Spanish and the school has no library. Her dad is still hiding behind a closed door, her mom is still busying about, and the sixth-grade girl in her building and in her new class seems already to have a grudge against her.

Rain sees the future as a Big Who Knows.

But her teacher is kind and her classroom library has a copy of The One and Only Ivan, the book she had to return unfinished in her old school, and Rain finds that she and Frankie share a passion for running.
I stretch long and gain half a stride on Frankie, but she crosses the line first and pumps her fist toward the sky. I finish just behind her but ahead of the footsteps that chased me the whole way.

"G-g-good race." I look back and see little wispy, tiny, stuttering Amelia. She smiles."Th-th-third place!" she says.

Frankie saunters over and puts up a hand for a high five, and Amelia and I go for it at the same time so our hands all kind of meet.

Frankie reluctantly invites her to join the relay team for the middle-school meet in a few weeks. Together Rain and Frankie recruit classmates Amelia, whose stutter keeps her from speaking to almost everyone, and little Ana, both small but fast runners.

But there is more to be done than just winning a race for Rain.
In books the parents get back together, and it's never the kid's fault if they don't.

But I can't forget that night, and how it is my fault....

Like Ivan, Rain still feels like the one and only, alone with a secret she can't tell her parents. But a lot happens in a few weeks as Rain discovers others dealing with their own loss. Grief after the death of a family member is hard, but Rain and her parents do find a fresh start in a very different place, in Lindsay Stoddard's Right as Rain (Harper, 2019), in which Rain and her parents each find some solace in involvement in their new urban community and in sharing their own guilt and loss at last. Rain is a strong character, revealing her feelings through Stoddard's sensitively written text and the poems she and her reluctant classmate poets share, and helping to build a new family relationship in the Big Who Knows ahead. Says School Library Journal, "This touching middle grade novel addresses the heartache of loss while also providing an insightful, accessible introduction to privilege, homelessness, and gentrification. Honest, gut-wrenching, and hopeful, this is a story about letting people in and discovering you’re a part of something larger.”

Lindsay Stoddard's first book was Just Like Jackie (Harper, 2018).

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

New Horizons! How Do You Do? by Larissa Theule

The day was hot.

The day before had been hot. And the day before that. And the day before that.

When one is all the time hot ... days grow long and the world small.

Water Buffalo and Crane are hot and their world is down to the size of the fly which Buffalo swats with his tail and Crane snaps at with his long beak.

That's about it, until...
"How do you do?" said a goat.

Goat is different. He seems to be dancing--in his own personal rain shower.

Water Buffalo and Crane have a sudden change of view. Crane does a little shimmy dance.
Crane gasped. "That's so lovely."

Water Buffalo and Crane forget that they are hot. They dance among the trees and over fields, following Goat through the sunshine, until, as suddenly as he came, Goat runs away, out of sight.

But Water Buffalo and Crane feel different. They see other animals and a landscape that await them.
"Meeting someone new makes the world feel not so--"

"--Hot," said Water Buffalo.

Sometimes making a cool new friend can expand your horizons. Things look different, in Larissa Theule's How Do You Do? (Bloomsbury Books, 2019). Author Larissa Theule uses the trope of the cool, cleansing shower to show the revitalizing difference that new friends and new horizons can bring to life. Artist Gianna Marino's lovely gouache illustrations carry out the theme of revitalization in the way we see the world. Says Kirkus Reviews, "“The story is serious about its shift from glum to optimistic, but the background colors and the animals' humorous expressions keep it light throughout--anyone who's needed this kind of intervention will relate.”

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Sheepish? Who's Sheepish? Sheep Dog and Sheep Sheep by Eric Barclay

Sheep loves to dance. She knows all kinds of fancy dancing...

... the Wildflower Dance..., ... the Get This Spider Off of Me Dance...

and of course... the Pee-Pee Dance.

And sometimes in her ecstasy she closes her eyes and... bumps into things.

And one day she bumps into a very hairy dog.
"I'm the sheep dog," he said. "I watch sheep."

Immediately Sheep Sheep has a bone to pick with Sheep Dog over their respective job descriptions. Sheep insists that as a sheep, she is the expert at sheep watching. She also points out that he can't be much of a sheep watcher with all that hair in his face and skips off to the farmhouse for a fetching ribbon to tie his forelock into a dainty topknot.

Sheep Dog has to admit that he can see better with his new hairdo and to prove it, he rescues Sheep Sheep from a diving eagle. As she trips off for some binoculars to improve his vision, Sheep Dog spots another carnivorous critter looking for a tasty lamb chop.

Saved, Sheep Sheep dances off to fetch a map, requiring Sheep Dog to save her again from a breach in the bridge! Oblivious, Sheep Sheep declares Sheep Dog now equipped for sheep-watching duty.
But where are the sheep? Neither of them can spot a single fleece. This lamb is adamant. Now whose fault is that?

It seems that Sheep Sheep failed to do her due diligence as she looks around and finds that she is indeed a only sheep in this particular pasture, in Eric Barclay's sweet sheep saga, Sheep Dog and Sheep Sheep (HarperCollins, 2019). Barclay's comic and clueless Sheep Sheep is an adorable foil for the dutiful Sheep Dog, devoted to doing his darnedest to protect his little charge, and in this charming little story illustrated by the author, the two emerge as a delightful storybook duo. As School Library Journal puts it, "Barclays's quick-witted text is as endearing as his pastel pencil and Photoshop illustrations..."

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Super Sister! Lucia the Luchadora and the Million Masks by Cynthia Leonor Garza



It's hard being a superhero with a little sister along who leaps in bib overalls and lands like a lummox!

In disgust, Lucia rips off her silver mask and tosses it on the grass.

And when she looks back, it's gone.

Lucia mounts a mask hunt, and finally finds it, along with little sister Gemma, in her treehouse. But Lucia is not happy to see it.

Lucia tattles to her grandmother, who mends her mask and agrees that Gemma is wrong to ruin her big sister's things. But Abuela also points out that Gemma is just trying to be like her--a superhero! Gemma is not convinced that imitation is the highest form of flattery. She doesn't warm to Abuela's dictum that adventures are best shared, either. But she does like her grandmother's super idea.

There are mariachi music and fruit sweets there--and Mil Mascaras--lots and lots of masks! There is even a little lost kitten that Grandmother falls in love with, too--and they can keep it!

And perhaps when Gemma has her own mask, she will leave Lucia's alone. Perhaps the perfect mask will transform her clumsy little sister into a real superhero luchadora!

And then Lucia realizes that she has mask-lust, too. She takes off her old mask and tries on lots of new ones, each with its own possible super-special powers. But where is her old one? Lucia looks frantically through all the new ones! Is her silver mask lost forever? Lucia is near tears when little Gemma offers her own new mask!

Sometimes an energetic and adoring little sister can come in handy, in Cynthia Leonor Garza's Lucia the Luchadora and the Million Masks (POW Books, 2018),, and it looks like the shared adventures have already begun for Lucia and Gemma. Garza's super-story is illustrated in bright mercado colors in the vibrant spot-art and full-bleed pages painted by artist Allyssa Bermudez. Of this super sweet sister story, Kirkus says in its starred review, "Garza’s buoyant wordplay and delightful characters also continue to shine. Equally, Bermudez’s vibrant, action-packed pictures epitomize pure zany fun."

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

True Tales of Two Pals: Big Dog and Little Dog: Tales of Adventure by Dav Pilkey

On their adventure walk Big Dog and Little Dog see something a little strange.

Big Dog thinks it is a kitty.

Ssssss. But it does not smell like a kitty.

Big Dog and Little Dog like adventures. But they absolutely do not like smelling like that kitty smells.

Some adventures make for bad smells.

But there's always another day for Big Dog and Little Dog, who know how to make the best of each day--and night.

One night Big Dog and Little Dog go happily to their own beds, one big and one little. But then they both get lonely. Does Little Dog move to Big Dog's big bed? No. They both sleep on Little Dog's little bed. It's little, but it's not lonely.

Big Dog and little Dog like to make the most of fun on days with muddy puddles... and then they shake and shake and share the fun and mud with their owner! And one day they have to play inside. There are no smelly kitties and no muddy puddles, so they play with the sofa. They play tug of war with the cushions. But what is this white stuff coming out of the cushions? This adventure has not gone well.

In the five funny doggy tales in Dav Pilkey's Big Dog and Little Dog Tales of Adventure (Green Light Readers Level 1) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019), there are two dog buddies who share their good and bad days in this easy reader for emerging readers. Author Pilkey's black-outlined colorful characters keep the stories fun, and Pilkey also adds some games and puzzles about each story to reinforce the vocabulary and pages that practice the sequencing skills presented in each Level 1 story. Dick and Jane never had so much fun as Big Dog and Little Dog do!

Pilkey is of course the much celebrated author of doggone good giggle-bait classics such as Dogzilla, Kat Kong, The Hallo-Wiener and the best-selling Captain Underpants: 10 Book Set and its many sequels and spinoffs. Dav Pilkey even claims his own authorial cred, earning an actual Caldecott Honor medal for his book The Paperboy.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Watchtower: Hello, Lighthouse by Sophie Blackwell

On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.

It is built to last forever, to send its light out to sea, guiding ships on their way.

Nothing seems more lonely than a lighthouse, but the lighthouse needs its keeper to trim the wick and tend its light, and he soon arrives, all alone, to live in the round rooms--kitchen, bedroom, office, and the all-important light room--and to faithfully keep his logs. It is a solitary life, his light sending out its one message. I'm here.
Hello, Hello, Hello!

But then his wife arrives, belayed over in a bosun's chair to join him, and in time a baby comes, and the rooms are bustling with family life, love and duty--small lives of monotony and bravery, routine and high adventure, the ephemeral amid the eternal as quiet seas change to giant waves that engulf the little island and sailors on sinking ships need rescue at sea.

Sophie Blackwell's 2019 Caldecott Medal book, Hello Lighthouse (Little, Brown and Company, 2018) is a real tour de force of a picture book. Her precise, somewhat stylized style has the feel of an eighteenth century New England handbook, the stalwart straight lines of the lighthouse set against the curves of the ever-changing ocean, its light piercing the night to steer ships to safety. Blackwell's story juxtaposes dull sameness and dire dangers, all in lovely artwork that enlivens her narration, a single family's daily life and their work, lighting the way for others to safe harbor, with the eternally changing sea all around them. This beautiful book, complete with gatefold sea view, brings to life a now-lost period, but Blackwell's detailed watercolor illustrations celebrate its time and the lives of those who kept it bright. A unique and engaging book that is a must-have.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Stormy Weather! The Storm by Sam Usher

When I woke up this morning, the wind was rattling the windows. I couldn't wait to go outside.

Granddad said, "It's a perfect day to fly the kite! But we'll have to find it first."

There's a big storm a-brewin'! It's time for some breezy fun.

Boy and grandfather look for the kite in the kitchen. They don't find it, but they do find Granddad's old cricket bat. He demonstrates his swing, and they move on to the study, where Granddad's stack of mail remind them of their trip by boat to post a very important letter. In the cubby under the stairs they come across the telescope, which reminds them of the time they picnicked in their secret cave.

And then they find the KITE!

With caps and scarfs and jackets to keep them warm in the wind they head out to the park at last!
The kite flew so high.

Granddad said, "Hold on tight!"

And well they should, as the wild wind lifts them up, along with all the other airborne kite flyers, into a carnival of kites--whale kites, clown kites, a gorilla kite, even a dragon kite. Boy and Granddad hitch a ride on the dragon as they struggle to hold on to the string. The boy drops it, but Granddad grabs him in time for them to ride the kite down, just as the sky darkens and lightning spikes! But luckily, the wind blows them back to their own doorstep, and inside, over a cozy cup of tea, the two watch as the storm crashes and flashes at the windows.
"The best adventure is an adventure shared," Granddad said.

And it's quite an adventure in Sam Usher's Storm (Seasons with Granddad) (Templar/Candlewick Books, 2018). With whimsical watercolor illustrations, the boy and his unflappable grandfather share another memorable escapade, the sort that grows in the telling. Any kid would love to have such shared adventures with such a grandfather to remember. Says Kirkus,"Usher's watercolor and ink illustrations and his shifting use of color, light, and shadow evokes peril excitement, and finally the security of the kitchen. Other books in the Seasons with Granddad series are Sun (Seasons with Granddad), Rain (Seasons with Granddad), and Snow (Seasons with Granddad).

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Purloined Posies! The Case of the Missing Chalk Drawings by Richard Byrne

Out in the school playground, all the chalks are having recess fun drawing flowers.

But when they came back from lunch...


The chalks draw a blank! Who could have made their flowers disappear? Their teacher, Mrs. Red, makes some big red signs.

The chalks draw even more flowers. But when the little chalks come back after story circle time, the flowers are gone AND the fence for the schoolyard seems also to have been erased! Obviously there is a pitiless posy pilferer in the neighborhood. Mrs. Red calls the police.

Sgt. Blue lines up some suspicious-looking characters. None of them seem to have been caught red-handed until Sgt. Blue has them all turn around. One has a chalk-dusted red bottom! Aha!

But the culprit escapes in a cloud of chalk dust! Not to be outdone, Officer Blue has the little chalks prepare a trap--the most colorful drawing of all, one that the evil Eraser cannot resist!

Aha! The suspect soon appears. Sgt. Blue is about to collar the crook. But the Eraser pleads an alibi that all the chalks cannot refuse.


Chalks and erasers go together like ying and yang, in Richard Byrne's artsy mystery story, The Case of the Missing Chalk Drawings (Henry Holt and Company, 2018). Author Byrne's well-paced page turns perfectly set up each vignette, with his many-hued, googly-eyed chalks bright against black background pages, and this case is cracked with a solution which suits all. As School Library Journal says, "In addition to being pure fun, the story demonstrates the importance of understanding motives before judging actions."

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Looking for Love: Love, Z by Jessie Sima

A little robot named Z goes out one day hunting for adventure and finds a message in a bottle. All that is still legible on the letter are two words.


Little Z doesn't have a clue what "love" means and who or what "Beatrice" might be, but they sound important. At bedtime he asks his family of rusty robots, as they sweetly tuck him in to bed with a story and a clanky kiss. They can only say...

But Z cannot leave the question unanswered. Setting out on a quest, he spots a sturdy sailboat with a kitty for a captain.
"Hello, I am looking for Beatrice. I am looking for what love is, and she will have the answer."

But as they sail on, nobody has a clue.
"What's a Beatrice?"

But everyone has a different definition of what love is. The crow says its sharing delicious food--even if you want it for yourself. Kids playing in the park all have their own ideas. One says it's butterflies. One says it's a million puppies, and another thinks of snowflakes on his tongue.

All of these don't really compute for Z either. Beatrice must be the only one who knows. He has to find her. Z and Kitty Captain sail on until, weary, they spot a small island with a cozy house. They disembark and knock at the friendly-looking blue door. A woman opens it.
"Hello. I'm Beatrice," she says.

She brings Z and Kitty in beside the fire and Z explains the object of their mission. Beatrice says she has to think about that query, so she does, while she offers fresh baked cookies, plays a game of checkers with Z, and they dance to her old Victrola. At last she explains.

"You'll know it when you feel it,"

Z is unsure what to make of her answer, but as he prepares to power down, there's a sudden knock at Beatrice's door.

It's Z's whole family of old rusty robots who've been searching for him, bringing his favorite bedtime story, his night-light, and good-night kisses from all, and at last Z has a feeling that does compute, in Jessie Sima's Love, Z Simon and Schuster, 2018).  A sweet story in which Z goes looking for love in all the right places, Sima's soft and simple illustrations extend the storytelling, right down to Z and the rusty robots shoving off for home, leaving Kitty and his flotsam bottle, tagged "Love, Z" with Beatrice. Sima's other books include Not Quite Narwhal, smf Harriet Gets Carried Away (read reviews here).

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Going with the Floe! Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival by Lindsay Moore

Polar bears are patient beasts,
as patient as glaciers.

A female polar bear rides the currents bearing a large chunk of ice toward the Arctic coast. For her, this journey is no pleasure trip. She has to survive as the ice mass melts into an shrinking ice floe. Her journey is not just for herself, but for her unborn cubs, who need to be born in a den on land. When the floe melts from under her, she knows what she has to do.
I am a sea bear... meant to paddle.
I swim with narwhals...
and glide under whales...

The second night the waves grow in height and the wind in wildness.

There's nothing left to do but swim.

And swim she does, finally pulling herself onto shore after three days of swimming. But spring melt means summer is coming. Summer is a lean season for polar bears, while the seals grow fat at sea, and the mother bear tries to feed her fast growing cubs, knowing that summer always ends soon in the Arctic, and she must teach them the ancient ways of patience.

Lindsay Moore's brand-new Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival (Greenwillow Books, 2019) is a lovely, lyrical and hopeful look at the dilemma of Arctic animals caught in a food web that is threatened by changing climate. In a sweetly-told nonfiction picture book, Moore's beautifully layered blue-green multiple media--watercolor, colored pencil, crayon, and ink--are superbly executed, and the book's design is perfect for its picturesque subject. The author also includes a useful appendix for young nature science lovers.

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Dear Spring, Come In! William Wakes Up by Linda Ashman

When William wakes, he feels a change in the air and hears a distant but welcome song.

"It's been a long and wintry wait--
We need a cake to celebrate!"

William turns to his bedfellows--a motley assortments of snoozing animals--but only Chipmunk makes it up to join him.

But cake baking is a big job, and soon little chipmunk crashes! There's way too much for two to do!

The two return to the bedroom and proclaim that spring has arrived, and Porcupine ceases to snore and offers to sweep the floor. But he, too, soon tires of his task....

William returns to recruit some help from the others, still lost in slumber.
"Today's the day--
A special guest is on the way!"

Groundhog gets up and hustles out to help, but before long, he's too tired to tidy up, too. William heads back to the bed, where only Bear and Raccoon are still dozing. Bear rouses himself, not to late to help decorate the cake!

The house is spiffy, the cake is nifty, and everyone is ready to welcome their long-awaited guest. At last Raccoon rouses himself and rolls out.
"Did I hear 'cake?'
Don't start without me--
"I'm AWAKE!"

Will Raccoon get cake? Will he make up for sleeping on the job? There's a lot to do before the bluebird of spring appears, in Linda Ashman's just published William Wakes Up (Disney Hyperion, 2019). And there's a slice of cake and work aplenty waiting for Raccoon (perhaps beginning with the washing up?) in Ashman's charming salute to spring. With her engaging rhyming narration, Ashman's page turns build tension as one by one, each character makes his appearance until the mystery guest finally flies in for the picnic, while artist Chuck Groenick's wide-eyed and willing William, his cozy cottage, and his animal friends are perfectly crafted characters for this upbeat and heart-warming seasonal story.

Linda Ashmon's and Chuck Groenick's companion book is William's Winter Nap.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Midnight Special: Night Train: A Journey from Dawn to Dusk by Annie Cronin Romano

Night train wakens to the dusk,
Journey starting, day departing--

The romance of the steam train--the rhythm of the rails, the chug and the clatter, the screech of the brakes and the lonesome whistle--all are the subject of Annie Cronin Romano's book, Night Train: A Journey from Dusk to Dawn (Page Street Kids, 2019), on the continuing mysterious appeal of the midnight special, its headlight piercing the dark and its horn blowing for the crossing as it moves through the dark, mostly sleeping world.

Its drivers driving, its smokestack billowing, the night train crosses the trestles over the rivers, pushes through tunnels underground, blows by small stations, dark and deserted, steams by small towns sleeping, snug and safe.
Boxcars rattle, spooking cattle.
steady crawling, never-stalling, night train.

As it passes through dark wheat fields, cattle standing like sleeping statues, or horses racing the train in their fields, perhaps those people lying awake in the wee hours find reassurance that the night train is on duty, getting the goods to people who will be waking soon, moving sleepy people in the passenger cars to their destinations, a trusty servant who doesn't mind working the night shift.

Author Annie Cronin Romano captures that romance of the legendary midnight train in her forthcoming book with lyrical blank verse that conveys the sound and presence of that train as it makes its way, left to right, through the dark world and through her picture book until the break of dawn ends its run, backed up by Ileana Soon's blue-black illustrations of the train and the landscapes it traverses, until it comes to rest, its work done for the day.
Journey finished, dark diminished--
sunlight streaming
finally dreaming
night train.

Says Kirkus Reviews, "Romano's rhythmic poem is filled with repeated sounds, internal rhymes, and evocative imagery...Soothing words and steady rhythm make a solid bedtime story for young listeners..."

For younger sleepyheads, pair this one with Sherry Duskey Rinker's top-selling Steam Train, Dream Train (review here), or for somewhat older bed-goers, share Andrea Rosenbaum's exceptional Trains Don't Sleep (review here).

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Easter Egg Hunt! The Easter Surprise (Sweet Pea and Friends) by John and Jennifer Churchman

Sweet Pea the sheep had promised Fern a surprise today.

Fern the Bunny is curious. She heads for the barn, but on the way she hears two squirrels chattering. What is going on?
"I didn't put it there, did you?" one squirrel says.

Fern sees it, a beautiful painted egg. But it doesn't have stripes or polka dots. It has a lovely little miniature painting of Mo the Kitten right in the middle. Fern hurries to show it to Mo. But Mo has something to show, too!
"Look what I found! " Mo says.

He has found an egg painted with a picture of Keeper, the goose. It's a mystery, and Fern and Mo are on the case!

One thing leads to another! Following the trail, they find that Keeper has found an egg that leads them to Maisie the sheepdog and then to Little Finn the lamb who has an egg with a painting of the rooster on it. Another clue! They dash to the chicken house. The detectives soon have a basket full of beautiful eggs, but the chickens say they know nothing. Who could have left them?

John and Jennifer Churchman's latest in their series about the animals on their Vermont far, The Easter Surprise (Sweet Pea & Friends) (Little, Brown and Company, 2019) lets youngsters join in the fun of an idyllic old fashioned egg hunt, with tall grasses and clumps of wild flowers concealing the not-too-well hidden eggs, real eggs colored by someone who is happy to watch the youngsters find the eggs one by one. John and Jennifer Churchman provide the soft watercolor illustrations combined with photos of their own farm animals in a lovely story of an old-fashioned Easter egg hunt which will encourage sharp-eyed youngsters to help with the search.

John and Jennifer Churchman's popular series began with The SheepOver (Sweet Pea & Friends) (see reviews here).

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Monday, April 15, 2019

The Importance of Being Earnest: The Good Egg by Jory John




This good egg is a natural, free-range good egg. Back on the farm, life was simple, eggs-actly the same for all.


The Good Egg tries to be helpful to everyone--carrying groceries for old ladies and fixing flat tires for folks in need.

But the rest of the guys in his carton are not such good eggs. They break all the rules, and they joke that that's just how they roll!

Keeping up his Grade AAA rank and keeping all those rotten eggs in line is HARD. He tries not to let his fellow eggs spoil his attitude. but being soft with them is only making him too hard-boiled, and ...

The Doc advises a yolk transfusion and some eggs-treme solitude.

Finally the Good Egg discovers that he's a lonely only egg, and that's not so good. It takes all sorts to make a well-rounded carton, in Jory John's newest, The Good Egg (Harper, 2019). The sequel to John's top-selling 2018 book, The Bad Seed, offers some good life advice mixed with plenty of punny yolks, er, jokes, and eggs-pertly comic artwork by gifted illustrator Pete Oswald. Says Kirkus in their starred review, "Both text and art complement each other perfectly.Eggs-quisitely excellent."

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

One Chic Chick: Furry Chick by Annie Auerbach



As soon as her fuzzy, furry, touchable feathers are dry, Baby Chick is ready to start the day. She's a farm chicken, so she is welcome to trot behind Mama and introduce herself to all the new baby animals in the barnyard--a piglet with a curly tail and a little wobbly gray filly. And what's that wiggly thing? A worm, just in time for -- lunch!

Annie Auerbach's little touch-and feel board book, Furry Chick (Mini Friends Touch & Feel) (Barron's, 2018), lets Baby Chick lead the tour of the baby animals that come with the spring. Laura Rigo's adorable colored illustrations make this furry chick a better (and longer-lasting) treat for the Easter Basket that any sugary peeps!

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