BooksForKidsBlog

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. She 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 going under the turnstile, Bryan sees that things are heading in a dangerous direction.

And when Mike taunts him in front of his classmates, Bryan explodes in rage and beats Mike up. But 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

GOOD MORNING, SIR DAD!

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 ...

UNICORN PARTY!

"STAMPEDE!

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....

SEQUEL!

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

IN SLAVERY TIME WHEN HOPE WAS A SEED....

... 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.

IN FREEDOM TIME, WHEN HOPE KINDLED A FIRE IN THE DARK AND HAPPINESS WINKED OVER THE HORIZON...

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 . . .

... SPEWD FLIGHT!!!

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 another world, some teacher might have seen that little Hedwig Kiesler was a gifted student and she might 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 or 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."

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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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Saturday, February 09, 2019

Counting: Ten Little Kisses by Taylor Garland

No, nobody has to kiss a pig (except this lovable pink-nosed porker,) but it's always fun to see baby critters play in the sun and curl up for a cozy bedtime kiss.

Three cozy lions frolic freely around their sleepy family. Four fluffy kitties take turns grooming each other, while five piglets get bliss just from an oink and a kiss.

Six little chimps love to be silly, while seven gentle elephants tie their trunks into a love knot to show they love each other a lot.

Eight graceful giraffes can kiss at great height. But nine bunnies kiss in their burrows at night.

Ten penguins prefer hugs at the zoo.

No matter how many cute critters you can see, there are always hugs--for you, baby, from me!

Taylor Garland counts the ways to say I Love You in 10 Little Kisses (Little, Brown and Company, 2018), an appealing board book for preschoolers which teaches animal names along with counting skills, illustrated by affectionate animal photos.

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Friday, February 08, 2019

Till When?: I'll Love You Till The Cows Come Home by Kathryn Cristaldi

I'll love you till the yaks come back

for a crazy snack...

In a Cadillac.

How do I love thee? There are lots of ways in literature to count up how, how much, and how long, and Kathryn Cristaldi's just-published I'll Love You Till the Cows Come Home (Harper, 2018) uses the old saying with a comic twist to answer kids' pertinent question for parents... Till when?

I'll love you till seals set sail
for the Isle of Kale.

Past manatees and a humpback whale....

Love will last till all the yaks climb out of their Caddy, till the ants march in with chocolate cake on their chins, to bed down with geese and wandering sheep, and wolves and deer and frogs who all close their eyes...,

Till the moon sprinkles moondust from the skies....

And with a wonderful bit of rhyming whimsy from author Cristaldi, the cows do come home in the gloaming--from a mission to Mars, disembarking from their spaceship just in time for bed. Artist Kristyna Litten portrays fanciful animals--frogs on big wheels, geese flapping down for a bedtime snack of melty s'mores--and it all ends with the answer to the question: Till when?

I will love you till then, and again and again....

Of this quirky bedtime tale, Kirkus Reviews, jokes, "In a crowded genre, this zany title is out standing in its field—along with the cows."

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Thursday, February 07, 2019

American Mogul Mojo Meets Old Magic: The Boggart Fights Back by Susan Cooper

Big, bald Mr. Trout stood up, beaming, one hand on the boat's windshield, peering at the rocks. "Hey! Seals! It'll be a perfect side trip from the hotel--perfect--come swim with the seals, folks! We'll give them snorkels and flippers!"

The helmsman said politely, "Seals are a protected species in Scotland, Mr. Trout."

William Trout snorted and waved his free hand. "So what? Dolphins swim with people all the time at my Florida resort! And here's our biggest selling point--the castle!" He flung out his arm in a sweep toward the very small island.

It was not much more than a rock itself, but from the grass back rose the neat square shape of the oldest and smallest castle in all of Scotland, Castle Keep.

The twins Allie and Jay had just arrived from Canada to spend summer vacation with their Granda, who runs a store on tranquil banks of Loch Linnhe in the Scottish Highlands. But their first morning is ruined by the roar of two huge yellow bulldozers emblazoned with a large black T, piling up raw dirt into a berm between the store and the loch. It seems real estate mogul Trout has been secretly buying up the land around Loch Linnle to construct a mega resort, planning to level the green shores into a golf course and condos, dredging the little lake into a huge marina for luxury yachts, and taking over Castle Keep, where the twins know their friends the Boggarts--mischievous magic shapeshifters, one of which can take the shape of the Loch Ness Monster--abide and sleep over the long winters.

Allie and Jay make a secret midnight crossing of the loch to the castle to warn the Boggarts The last of the McDevon clan which once owned Castle Keep, the twins beg their friends to help save the Keep and the fragile lake. One Boggart is eager for action as Nessie as soon as Trout ventures out in his luxury yacht.

The Boggart said, "The man has to go. Watch me!"

In a great spray of water, Nessie broke the surface, his long grey-green neck towering over the boat. He opened his mouth, showing rows of alarmingly pointed long teeth, and gave a shattering bellow. Snarling, Nessie peeked down at William Trout, waiting happily for his shriek of terror.

But Trout wasn't scared. "It's the Loch Ness Monster," he cried. "We've got the Loch Ness Monster in our loch here! He's mine now. Just wait till I tweet about it!"

There is only one force, the sleeping powers of the Old Magic, which can stop the ruin of Loch Linnle and save Castle Keep. To rouse it, the Boggarts know that they must swim to the Western Isles and call out the fearful ancient beings, even the dreadful two-headed Nuckalavee, from their deep sleep, to bring justice and peace back to the little lake, in Susan Cooper's latest, The Boggart Fights Back (Margaret K. Elderry/Simon & Schuster, 2018). As in her earlier books in the series, The Boggart and The Boggart and the Monster, the Newbery-winning author (for her The Dark Is Rising Sequence: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree) creates adventure in lovely fantasy language which evokes the magical powers of the earth contained in ancient Celtic folklore in this story of modern greed meeting the ancient magic which guards the natural world.

Says Booklist, "... generations of family members and the timeless Scottish spirits are portrayed with finesse...The setting makes a powerful background, and its heritage and folklore provide story elements that are interwoven with modern-day reality in an unusually seamless fashion."

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Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Love's A-Poppin'! Love YOU: A Pop-Up Book by David A. Carter

What you are is...

THE COLORS OF THE RAINBOW.

David Carter's Valentine's Day treat, I Love You: A Pop-Up Book (Abrams, 2017), salutes the reader in a paragon of paper sculpture, a brief treatise on love illustrated by little masterpieces of pop-up book art that virtually explode with each page turn.

Among the pages there are spring branches adorned with blossoms and leaves, reaching out toward the reader, a rainbow with dangling hearts, a rolling, watery wave that ripples onto the shore, and an explosion of glittery hearts for the grand finale. It's like fireworks contained inside book covers.

Author-illustrator David Carter is a veteran of the toy-and-movable pop-up genre, and this creation is a work of art and a Valentine salute and inspiration to young readers and artists.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Cat Psych 101: I Hate My Cats (A Love Story) by Davide Cali

Okay. Cats are quirky. If you have a cat, you can't deny it.

Take Ginger for example. Does she play with her cute cat toys? NO. Ginger prefers to play...

... with peas.

Does she purr and rub her head sweetly against her owner when they cuddle? No. She saves that to do with--avocados.

Does she lap from a lovely little water bowl that says KITTY on the side? NO.

She only drinks water from the sink.

And then there's Fred. Does he curl up for a nap in his cozy cat bed? Or snooze sweetly on a stylish black leather hassock? NO. Where does Fred sleep and leave his unwanted black cat hair?

On sweaters (preferably white ones) and ....on towels (obviously white ones.)

Or in the sink.

Why do cats suddenly ambush your bare feet from behind the curtains? How do they manage to take up most of the chair or bed when you want to take a rest? Why do cats always want to lie down on the newspaper you are reading (or sit down on your keyboard right in front of the screen?) How is it that they can walk the narrowest handrail with the skill of high-wire walker, but always manage to knock over vases full of flowers or cups full of coffee? How is it that they make messes right where you will invariably step in the wee hours of the morning?

How is it that we forgive all and still leave little treats in their little bowls at bedtime?

Davide Cali's I Hate My Cats (A Love Story) (Chronicle Books, 2018) accurately describes the curious, puck-ish nature of cats in this affectionate and funny treatise on life with cats that ends with the forgiven felines joining the author lovingly in bed, with Fred agreeably lying on his head with his tail where his owner's mustache would be--if he had one.

Anna Pirelli's illustrations are both subtle and prescient in portraying Ginger and Fred in all their piquant catitude, with one final lights-out double-page spread in which the chastened cats finally join their guy in bed, with only the luminous alarm clock dial and the two penitent kitties' eyes visible. A book for cat lovers who know their critters and love them for the quixotic nature that makes them the second-most popular pet. Says Booklist, "A perfect encapsulation of the madness of cats, and those that love (or hate) them."

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Monday, February 04, 2019

More than the Moon? I Love You, Little One by Clare Lloyd

HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME?

A little bunny asks the big question, cuddling with a parent under the big full moon.

Is he loved more than the moonglow in the night?

A series of baby animals ask a parent the big question. Is his love for the little one more than Father Wolf's love of running? Is it taller than Papa Monkey's love for tall tree-climbing? Does Mama Penguin love her baby more than the snow?

Is it deeper than the whales' beautiful blue sea? Is it more soft than the owls' fluffy feathers?

And of course the answer is I love you so much, as much as I can love, in Clare Lloyd's I Love You Little One (Dorling Kindersley, 2018). Author Lloyd and artist Claire Petane set each pair on their own two-page spread within their own two-color palette. The monkeys share a green and black landscape, the big and little wolf are shown in a gray-blue and black setting, while big and little elephant are shown against an orange and black world. This is a little book about love that offers its own built-in read-aloud storyteller and lights up the big moon that begins the story. It's a book about love and a toy-and-movable book for Valentine's Day or any day, because love is an everyday thing.

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