BooksForKidsBlog

Thursday, June 17, 2021

How the Race Is Run! I Am Darn Tough by Licia Morelli


How do you win a race?

First, you have to finish the race!

But as all competitors know, things don't always go your way.

STUFF HAPPENS!

As our girl takes her runner's stance for the start, things look good.

I REMEMBER TYING MY SHOES.

The sun is warm and the breeze is just right, and... she's off! The ground crunches under her feet, her stride lengthening as she moves. But the path is not smooth: There are patches of mud and puddles. There are rocks and roots ready to bring her down, and soon . . . . one does!

. . . TRIPPING AND FALLING. . . MY KNEE BLEEDING. . .

But she gets up and hobbles a few steps before finding her rhythm again. And then... there's the hill ahead... Running up and up is hard! There's a pain in her side, and the sun is too hot. But she can't stop now. She takes a deep breath.

I'VE DONE THIS BEFORE. I AM DARN TOUGH!

And her stride lengthens, her cramp fades away, and she catches up with the other runners, smiling, laughing with the others, seeing the finish line ahead.

THROUGH THE TAPE. ARMS UP!

I AM BRAVE!

And the race is run, in Licia Morelli's I Am Darn Tough (Tilbury House, 2020), beautifully illustrated by artist Maine Diaz, in a fun run, but learning that what it takes to finish the race is first to master yourself and not falter on the way to the finish. Stay the course! Says School Library Journal, ". . . a surprisingly poetic glimpse of the heart of the athlete, with a welcome, winning heroine."

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

There Goes the Neighborhood: The Genius of the Anglo Saxons by Izzi Howell

Whether English was your language of birth or acquired later in life, you are lucky to be a speaker of one of the world's most-used and prolific tongues.

But English is like the little engine that could. Brought to the British Isles by a small group of tribes on the eastern coast of Europe when the Roman Empire pulled out of "Britannia" after around 410 A.D., the invading Angles gave their name to the land and speech--what became "English" and England. The neighboring Saxons and Jutes also contributed to a very different culture from that of the previous nearly 400 years of Romanic Britain.

Following the arrival of imperial Romans, Britain had become a civilized jewel in the crown of the Roman Empire. But unlike the sophisticated Romans with their universal language and their engineering and organizational prowess, the new immigrants were mostly illiterate farmer-herders. While the Romans had excelled in stone masonry and decorative arts, the newcomers built wood-and-daub houses with straw-thatched roofs, raised grains, and herded sheep. Unlike their former rulers' body of literature, the new settlers' written language was meagre, with angular letters called runes in an early alphabet and a partially shared culture. Constantly bedeviled by subsequent raids and invasions by the Norse Vikings, many of those linguistic cousins joined the Anglo-Saxons and the native Celtic Britons, and settled down as well, and after centuries, added their dialects and skills to the mix. By the time that King Athelstan managed to unite the six Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into one, local dialects were beginning to coalesce into a language with stable vocabulary and its own literature.

But it is to a later Saxon king, King Alfred (the Great), that English owes much of its current status. Alfred was the first ruler to insist that all citizens speak and read English, instituting reading and writing in their own language for all children, and what is now called "Old English" became a full-fledged national language, like the Roman Empire's Latin, on its way to becoming a world language in an empire "upon which the sun never sets."

But leaving that accomplishment to a yet unborn Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Queen Elizabet I, Izzi Howell's The Genius of the Anglo-Saxons (Genius of the Ancients) (Crabtree Publishing, 2019) goes on to discuss the other contributions of the Anglo-Saxons--their early version of local democracy and royal oversight through their powerful Witans (groups of powerful and wise local leaders who could even unseat a king), their system of laws, their citizen-soldiers, the Burh, their skills at metal working and penchant for shipbuilding and wide trading--all set the scene for the importance of this small group of early immigrant people whose influence ultimately helped created a vast empire.

Ample color photos of Saxon fabrics, goldsmithery, and graphic arts--jewelry and weapon-making--as well as the household arts of village life, fill these pages divided into sections on food, laws, weapons and armor, and social life in this fascinating book, part of The Genius of the Ancients series, which includes ancient Egyptian, Mayans, Romans, Greeks, and Viking societies, all perfectly paced for middle readers just beginning to be interested in the wide world and including an appendix with glossary, timeline, index, and bibliography with websites for the young historians among us.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Cloak and Dagger and Spangles: World War II Spies and Secret Agents by Stuart A. Kallen

World War II's fields of battle are famous in many accounts, photographs, and film. But there was another war, one fought in secret by mostly unknown and unnamed agents, who fought, not just with weapons, but with with their wits and special skills to bring the war to its end in 1945. Some of these shadowy warriors planted explosives and staged assassinations behind the lines, but other agents worked in secret, unknown, moving among the enemies themselves. Great Britain drew upon the students or graduates of their most elite universities, Cambridge and Oxford, and the United States similarly recruited quite a few young men educated at Harvard and Yale.(/p>

But some of these secret agents were women, most unusual women indeed.

Josephine Baker began her career as a chorus girl in the mid-1920s at the Cotton Club in New York. But soon her ambitions took her to France in 1925, where she became the toast of Paris for her exotic dancing at the Folies Bergere, at times with her pet cheetah, and later opened her own successful nightclub. But when the Germans invaded and occupied Paris, Baker volunteered to work undercover against the Nazis.

"The people of Paris have given... me their hearts, and ... I am ready, Captain, to give them my life," she said.

After joining the French Intelligence Service, Josephine Baker pretended to cooperate with the Nazis, traveling to performances all over European countries under German control. Attired in glamourous furs and jewels, as a star Baker was able move freely with her entourage, acquiring information about troop movements and concealing it in invisible ink within her usual sheet music arrangements as she moved from city to city. She even smuggled photos of defenses and troop movements, if need be, on her own body at great risk. Another brave but quite different woman was spy Viginia Hall, of the British Office of Strategic Services (the famed OSS), known to the Nazis only as "The Limping Lady," worked closely with the French Resistance movement, training battalions of fighters, setting up safe houses, communicating stealthly with her handlers in London, and earning the Distinguished Cross for her heroism.

One spy for the OSS who ultimately gained fame for his service with British Naval Intelligence was Ian Fleming, whose missions broke codes, stole documents dealing with secret weapons, and kidnapped a coterie of Nazi scientists who eventually cooperated fully with the British. Ian Fleming became a novelist after the war, and after a success with the children's book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, turned his exploits as a secret agent into his famed series of James Bond novels. And like Fleming, wartime undercover agent Graham Greene also became a celebrated author of best-selling spy stories.

Not one of the usual dapper spy sorts, another unlikely secret agent was Morris (Moe) Berg, a third-string catcher who played on several major-league teams with the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in off-season exhibition games in Japan before the war. Berg photographed significant governmental and industrial places in Japan, and his information guided U.S. bombers to many strategic targets during the war.

In Stuart A. Kallen's World War II Spies and Secret Agents (Heroes of World War II (Alternator Books ® )) (Lerner Books), readers will meet several colorful and yet crucial secret agents whose bravery and special skills helped military forces win World War II. In fascinating stories of quite unusual and courageous people, this short non-fiction book gives middle graders a look at an important period and the personal history of the unlikely people who helped end the war for the rest of the world. Writes School Library Journal, "A perennial favorite time period among students receives a fresh treatment."

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It Can't Hurt! Hugga-Loula by Nancy Dearborn

 

HUGGA LOULA LAY ON HER BED READING A BOOK. SHE HEARD A TERRIBLE RACKET COMING FROM THE GARAGE.

Dad is rummaging frantically through his big tool box, looking for something. Hugga Loula rushes downstairs and outside to see what the hullaballoo is all about. It seems he can't find the special pliers he NEEDS! Loula tries to console him.

"IF YOU'RE GRUMPY AND MAD, FRUSTRATED OR SAD, JUST GIVE A SHOUT AND HUG IT OUT!"

And, sure enough, after a hug,  a brief search turns up the slip-joint pliers, and Dad finishes the job in jigtime.

But before Hugga-Lou can get back to her book, she hears a racket coming from the kitchen, which is piled with pots and pans and cooking implements scattered everywhere. Mama is frustrated as she searches for her smallest sauce pan. She NEEDS that pot! Hugga-Loula runs through her mantra, and after a big hug, she helps her mother locate the small pan. With a smile and a thank-you, Mom gets back to work in a jiffy.

Mission accomplished, Hugga-Lou returns to her reading, just as there's a desperate ruckus emanating from her little brother Stevie's bedroom. She finds him with the contents of his toy box scattered all over the floor, complaining crankily.

"I NEED. . . I NEED. . . "

Hugga-Loula repeats her magic words and with a hug helps Steve spots the truck he HAS to have. His frown turns upside down, and it seems finally everybody is happy, so it's back to her bedroom and her book for Hugga Lou at last. . . !

Or IS IT?

With a quick knock her whole family rushes in, saying that what they NEED is to hug her and thank her for her help, in Nancy Dearborn's latest Hugga Loula (Familius, 2021), with Huang Junyan's jolly illustrations assisting. Everyone gets by better with a little help from their friends (or family,) and although a big hug may NOT make a missing object miraculously turn up immediately. . .

IT CAN'T HURT!

Learning emotional maturity is a great skill that may take a lifetime to master, but little Hugga-Lou demonstrates  to young readers just how sympathy, a hug, and a helping hand work well for young and old. As School Library Journal puts it, "Modeling compassion for family and loved ones with hugs and patient listening, this is a perfect lesson for social emotional learning."  And we could all use a lesson in that these days!

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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Into the Wild: We Became Jaguars by Dave Eggers

MY GRANDMOTHER CAME TO VISIT. I HAD MET HER ONCE, BUT SHE LIVED FAR AWAY.

HER HAIR WAS WHITE AND VERY, VERY LONG.

But when the boy's parents go out and leave him with his grandmother, she has a strange suggestion. She gets down on all fours on the carpet.

LET'S BE JAGUARS," SHE SAYS.

And as they crawl off the rug, they become jaguars, making their way through the tall grasses to the cul de sac and then into the woods. The boy has been there before, but never as a jaguar. The birds and squirrels flew and ran way when the two jaguars together leap lithely into the branches of a dark tree.

His jaguar grandmother ate a rabbit she caught.

I SAID I WAS ALLERGIC.

WE JAGUARED ON.

The two run sleekly up a mountain and see the world laid out before them. They drink the divine water from a lake and run across the ocean so nimbly that they do not even get their feet wet. They stop to rest somewhere in the Himalayas.

I REMEMBERED I HAD SCHOOL. "I SHOULD GO BACK SOON," I SAID.

And his grandmother drives him to school just in time, in Dave Eggers' brand-new adventure, We Became Jaguars (Chronicle Books, 2021). With Dave Eggers' sybillant storytelling and the beautifully dreamlike mixed media scenes in Woodrow White's illustrations, this is a very different visit from Grandma, to say the least, a fantasy that youngsters will want to relive over and over. Says School Library Journal, "The playfulness isn't restricted to language. White's illustrations are ... sumptuously depicted. . . . . So fantastic it feels real, or so real that it feels fantastic?"

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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Little Like Me! The Secret Fawn by Kallie George

THIS MORNING, MAMA SAW A DEER. DAD AND SARA SAW IT, TOO.

The younger girl in the family seems to miss everything because of her age. She misses picking the very first apple because she's too short to reach it, so her big sister gets to do that. She misses the meteor shower because she has to go to bed early. And now she's missed seeing the deer because she was trying to dress all by herself. Stealthily, she puts a sugar cube in her pocket and slips out of the house to look for the deer by herself.

There are a lot of false alarms. The movement behind the apple tree is not a deer. The glimpse of something brown turns out to be the neighbor's dog greeting her. She shushes the dog, hearing a splash at the pond. Is that the deer drinking or a fish jumping? Is that crack in the bushes a deer's step? No, it's a squirrel frisking by, carrying a nut for his breakfast, reminding the girl that she is hungry for hers. She puts the sugar cube on a rock in case the deer is hungry, too.

I LISTEN AND LOOK. I SEE SOMETHING.

NOT A DEER. A FAWN. "HELLO," WE SAY WITH OUR EYES.

The girl watches as the fawn rises and goes to look for its mother, and then she heads home to look for her own, who is waiting with a plate of pancakes just for her.

But the little girl does not hurry to tell her family of her secret sighting.

They saw a deer, but SHE saw its fawn, in Kallie George's just published, The Secret Fawn (Tundra Books, 2021), a sweet story, a sort of coming-of-age for a youngster who treasures her unique bond with the very little fawn. Author Kallie George's skillful narration shares the mystery of the little girl's encounter with another creature all on her own, and the charming illustrations of Elly McKay also capture the emotionally moving magic of a meeting with the little fawn.

Says Hornbook, “Cut paper adds definition; salt stippling creates the impression of apple blossoms; the whole becomes a world set apart from the ordinary. The protagonist, too, is out of the ordinary: returning home, she keeps her encounter with the fawn secret, her rich inner life bringing its own rewards.”

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Friday, June 11, 2021

Superheroes Need Sleep! Bedtime for Superheroes by Katherine Locke

EVERYBODY KNOWS superheroes have busy days!

EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT BEING A SUPERHERO IS HARD AND MESSY WORK!

Besting bad guys requires the right gear--anywhere from tutus and tights to capes and coats, hoods and cowls. Some superheroes go undercover in ordinary tees and jeans!

Fighting evil generates a lot of noise, too!

BASHES AND BAMS! CRASHES AND KAPOWS! ZAPS AND ZOINKS!

Superheroes have to be versatile--able to fight octopuses and robots, natural disasters and dinosaurs in any setting, from the library to the grocery, as well as in shadowy alleys! It's yucky work!

EVERYBODY KNOWS BAD-GUY GOO--STICKY, STAINS, SMEARS, AND SPLATS!

BLECH!

It's hard work, but somebody's got to do it! But when the sun goes down, superheroes need baths and toothbrushing--and bedtime! Wherever they snooze, from beddie-bye to rocket ship, everybody agrees...

SUPERHEROES NEED SLEEP!

Being a kid requires a lot of super-duper powers to get through the day, and Katherine Locke's Bedtime for Superheroes (Running Press Kids, 2020), affirms that bedtime is sometimes one of the most demanding deeds of the day for both parent and child, with ordinary little heroes who require that special magic--sleep--that helps them grow and polish their powers. Artwork by Rayanne Viera shows all kinds of superkids doing super deeds with zest and settling down to sleep as well. Share this one with Shelly Becker's Even Superheroes Have Bad Days. Read my review here.

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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Something from Nothing: The Whole Hole by Vivian McInerny

ZIA HAD A HOLE IN HER POCKET. THAT DIDN'T STOP HER FROM STUFFING SMALL THINGS IN IT--SPARKLY ROCKS, GOLFBALLS, AND JUMPY FROGS.

SOMETIMES THEY STAYED. SOMETIMES THEY DIDN'T.

But, as holes in pockets do, the hole gets bigger and bigger, until Zia fall right into it. That might be scary, but after all, the hole is hers, and since Zia didn't like anything scary, she decides to have some fun. She imagines it is her favorite fishing hole, where she catches a big fish, and then a swimming hole. Floating on her back, Zia notices that one of the fluffy clouds above looks like a thirsty lion, so she imagines a watering hole for the lion. But Lion, wanting the whole water hole to himself, tells the other cloud animals that there is a hungry crock lying in wait in the water. The others cloud animals are not wholly convinced.

THE GIRAFFES FOUND THE LION'S STORY HARD TO SWALLOW.

"WHAT BUGS ME," SAID THE ANTEATER, "IS THAT I BELIEVE THE LION IS LYING."

"SOUNDS LIKE A TALE TO ME," SAID THE SNAKE, ALMOST WHOLLY TAIL HIMSELF.

Sick of the bickering, Zia dives deep down into the watering hole, and pulls the plug on the whole scene. But now what she's got now is a muddy mudhole. But when Zia gets mud, she makes mud pies, lots and lots of them. It's fun, but that leaves her with a bigger hole. So she thinks BIG. She spreads a blanket over the big hole, tops the blanket with some tasty peanuts, and she has a deadfall trap just right to catch a big elephant. But when she does, she realizes that she can't get a BIG elephant out of a deep hole! It's wholly impossible.

So she drops into the hole and excavates a deeper hole all the way to the other side of the earth, where the elephant is back in India where he belongs.

"SEND ME A POSTCARD," ZIA TELLS THE ELEPHANT.

But Zia is not wholly done with her hole yet, not until she gets that hole right back where it belongs, in Vivian McInerny's funny and punny The Whole Hole Story (Verify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021). With artist Ken Lamug's hilarious illustrations, youngsters will chuckle at all the things you can do with nothing, which is what a hole is, right? Booklist seems wholly pleased with this one, writing "This charmer of a picture book takes an Alice in Wonderland approach to a young girl’s discovery of a hole...A vivacious tribute to creative thinking and play."

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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Snow Day Friend: A Thousand White Butterflies by Jessica Betancourt-Perez and Karen Williams

OUTSIDE THE WINDOW THE U. S. IS COLD AND GRAY.

THE TREES WITHOUT LEAVES LOOK LONELY.  LIKE ME.

Isabella misses the trees, green with leaves and the warm air of Colombia, her Papa, and the friends she played with in the sun.

But today is the first day of school. She's already up and dressed in her new jeans and fluffy yellow sweater, with her schoolbag packed with brand new crayons she hopes to share with new friends. But her grandmother tells her to look out the window!

EVERYTHING IS SO WHITE!

IT LOOKS LIKE A THOUSAND WHITE BUTTERFLIES.

School is cancelled, and Isabella is sad. No new friends to share her crayons with today, she thinks.

"I HATE SNOW!"

But as she sits sadly by the window, she sees a girl outside, slipping and sliding, and suddenly falling down on her back in the snow. Isabella quickly puts on her puffy parka and stiff snow boots and hurries out to ask the girl if she is hurt.

"I MADE A SNOW ANGEL!" THE GIRL SMILED.

"MY NAME IS KATIE! SHE SAID. "LET'S MAKE A SNOWMAN!"

And there's no day like a snow day to make a new friend and learn to build a snowman, in Jessica Betancourt Perez's and Karen Williams' new A Thousand White Butterflies (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2021), and soon Isabella and Katie are making plans to walk to school tomorrow. The authors imbed Spanish into the text seamlessly, with meanings clear within the context, and also appends a glossary of Spanish words, while artist Gina Maldonado portrays the flow of emotions with empathy in her gently charming illustrations of friendship found. "An encouraging story of new beginnings," says Kirkus Reviews.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2021

It Takes An Island: When the Babies Came to Stay by Christine McDonnell


THE FIRST ARRIVED ON THE MAIL PLANE. THE HARBORMASTOR OPENED A CANVAS BAG. INSIDE WAS A SQUALLING, RED-FACED BABY.

THE NEXT TWO CAME ON THE FERRY.

THE FISHERMAN FOUND THE FOURTH, ASLEEP ON A PILE OF NETS, SMELLING FAINTLY OF MACKEREL.

The babies each had a note asking someone to take good care of them, but the harbormaster, the ferryman, and the fisherman said they had their own work to do. The mayor said he was much too important. But the librarian thought the babies should stay on their safe little island. Who could take them? The Librarian usually knew the answers to questions.

"I'LL DO IT MYSELF," SAID THE LIBRARIAN.

She made a nursery for the babies in a freshly-painted storeroom. The Fisherman made rocking cribs from lobster traps and the Mayor rocked them whle he read his important newspaper. The others provided coverlets and curtains made from canvas and fishnets. The Librarian named them alphabetically--Agatha, Bram, Charles, and Dorothy. She called them A, B, C, and D, and said their last name was "Book." The babies grew and thrived. As time passed they learned to walk, led by Bram. Their rescuers taught them sea chanties and how to blow the ferry horn and how to tie many kinds of knots, and the mayor let them spin in his important desk chair.

The Librarian, of course, taught them to read.

When they started to school, a few kids asked them why they lived at the Library.

"WHERE ARE YOUR REAL FAMILIES?"

And the Librarian, who usually knew the answers to questions, told them they were the Book Family and the island was their home, in Christine McDonnell's sweetly moving When the Babies Came to Stay (Viking Books, 2020).

With a dreamlike, almost fairy-tale story of foundlings taken in and raised on a kind and close-knit island, what would seem to be a perilous fate turns into a nurturing community in which the adorable foundlings, pictured in Jeanette Bradley's intimate and outstanding art, find reassuring love and stability, a place where they truly belong, something all children crave. Kirkus Reviews says, "While the fantasy plotline of the babies' arrivals is whimsical, the story is grounded in an emotional reality that will appeal to and delight children. Charming and lighthearted with broadly applicable messages of love and acceptance."

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Monday, June 07, 2021

Outside! I See You See by Richard Jackson

MOM CALLS, "MAISIE, WILL YOU WALK THE DOG?"

DOG PULLING, MAISIE PUSHING, THEY SET OFF.

Tinker, like all dogs, is always ready for a walk, so Maisie and her brother Jonah decide to go outside to see what they can see. And what they can see is wondrous!

Tinker trees a cat and they see a tree with pointed leaves, which become the ears of a multitude of cats. A border of tall blooms becomes a popsicle garden. A swooping bird's trajectory becomes a sliding board, and two rows of wet sheets blowing on two clotheslines become a secret tunnel. The dangling branches of a weeping willow become bell ropes to pull to begin a carillon of chiming bells.

"I HEAR IT!"

TING-A-LING. JINGLE...

BONG! BONG! BONG!"

The fluffy clouds are dinosaurs, and flower petals blowing in the spring winds becomes a flight of goldfish with fluffy fins and then falling orange snowflakes all around.

It's anything but a humdrum, everyday, walk-the-dog day when children let their imagination roam free as the spring winds, in Richard Jackson's joyful I See You See (Atheneum Books, 2021), illustrated magically by artist Patrice Barton. This one challenges youngsters to go outside and see what they can see. Says Kirkus Reviews, "A warm, quiet ode to imagination."

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Sunday, June 06, 2021

Smile, Darn Ya! Bunny Will Not Smile by Jason Tharp

"HEY THERE! MY NAME IS BIG"

"I HAVE A PROBLEM OVER HERE ON THE NEXT PAGE...
"BUNNY WILL NOT SMILE!"

Big Blue Bear is always trying to get Bunny to do stuff. And Bunny likes to say, "NOPE!"

Bear tries bribing Bunny with bunches and bunches of carrots. Bunny is apparently bored with bunches of carrots. So Big tries dressing up like a clown and making silly balloon people. Bunny is not amused. Bear tries boisterous busking with a rock band. Bupkis!

Bear has to bring in the experts. He challenges his readers to do something super silly.

"OKAY. GET IN REAL CLOSE SO BUNNY CANNOT HEAR!"

"I NEED YOU TO MAKE A SUPER SILLY FACE."

And Bear's readers are more than on board with that idea, and Bunny bursts into a big wide grin, in Jason Tharp's Ready to Read book, Bunny Will Not Smile!: Ready-to-Read Level 1 (Ready-to-Reads) (Simon Spotlight). Author-illustrator Tharp's interactive easy readers are certain to bring at least a smile to the kids who can read this one out loud when they see Big Blue Bear's selfie of himself and Bunny, both with big smiles. Check out Tharp's other Bear and Bunny book, Bunny Will Not Be Quiet! (Ready-to-Reads) and his latest, It's Okay to Be a Unicorn! and his silly skunk in It's Okay to Smell Good!

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Saturday, June 05, 2021

A World Away! Home Is In Between by Mitali Perkins



 

"GOODBYE HOME!" SHANTI WAVES TO WARM MONSOON RAINS AND TO THE GREEN PALM TREES OF HER VILLAGE.

In only one sleep and a long airplane ride, Shanti finds herself in what seems like another world, with cold rains and chilly winds scattering red and orange leaves from the trees and tall brick houses--a town where there is no one she knows. In her apartment, it's like the village they left behind, the same stories in Bangla and Mama's luchi for dinner, but outside in a restaurant, she must keep a napkin in her lap and her elbows off the table when she orders a bowl of macaroni and cheese. But her father's laugh is big, like always. Then, when they call their relatives at home, they are celebrating a holiday that the people in the new town don't know. In the new town the children are dressed in odd costumes and trick-or-treating, while Shanti only gives out candy at the door.

"NEXT YEAR, JOIN US," SAYS TONYA.

And at Christmas, Santa leaves a stocking for Shanti--at Tonya's house! Although it is a different kind of dance, Shanti joins Tonya at ballet class. Shanti watches Bollywood movies at home and Hollywood movies with Tonya and her friend Malcolm. And when it snows, Shanti and Tonya join Malcolm in his snow fort, throwing snowballs. One kid on the other team is impressed.

"YOU CAN THROW! DO YOU PLAY TEE BALL?"

"WHAT'S THAT?" ASKED SHANTI.

"BASEBALL, SILLY! WHERE ARE YOU FROM? MARS?"

Suddenly, Shanti is tired of being in between. Where does she belong? Where is home? She sleeps.

And when she wakes, she sees the same blue sky that is above the village and above the town. It's spring, with warm sun and green trees in the town.

And Shanti sees that she can be home wherever she is, in Mitali Perkins' sensitive story of an immigrant child learning to be at home wherever she is, Home Is in Between Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021).

It's a big world with many different places just a sleep and a short journey away, as portrayed by artist Lavanya Naidu's charming pictures of kids being kids on both side of the globe and the families that nurture them everywhere. Between them, artist and author give youngsters an idea of what it feels like to be the immigrant, the stranger in a strange land. Says School Library Journal, "This book can serve as either a validating mirror or an illuminating window. A warm read-aloud, it is a must-purchase for all picture book collections."

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Friday, June 04, 2021

Making a Difference: Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

Jeremy longs for those shoes--the cool black hightops with two wide white stripes--the kinds that the B-ball stars wear. They show up first in his class at school on just one boy--Brandon--and then on a lot of the other boys, who strut down the halls to the bathroom just to show them off. Brandon even brags that his shoes make him the fastest runner in the class.

Jeremy tells Grandmother that he wants those shoes.

"THERE'S NO ROOM FOR "WANT" AROUND HERE. JUST NEED," SHE SAYS. "WHAT YOU NEED IS NEW BOOTS FOR WINTER!"

Then one day at school one of Jeremy's old shoes fall apart in a kickball game, and the guidance counselor takes him down to the box of spare clothes, but the only shoes that fit him are like baby shoes, with Velcro instead of shoestrings and a cartoon animal on the sides. And when Jeremy comes back to class, all the boys in the class laugh, everyone except Antonio Parker.

"I'M NOT GOING TO CRY ABOUT ANY DUMB SHOES," JEREMY TELLS HIMSELF.

But Grandmother notices and and takes him downtown to search for the shoes he wants at the thrift stores. At the third store, Jeremy spots the perfect pair, brand new, and tries them on. There's barely room for his toes, but Jeremy laces them up happily. Grandmother is not fooled, so Jeremy buys the shoes with his own money--$2.50! A few days later, Grandmother puts a new pair of snow boots in his closet and says nothing about Jeremy's feet, already sporting several bandaids.

But Jeremy's sore feet force him back into the sneakers with the dumb cartoon. He notices that Antonio's shoes are mostly held together by tape. His feet are smaller than Jeremy's, and suddenly Jeremy knows what he has to do.

I RUN ACROSS THE STREET AND PUT THE SHOES IN FRONT OF ANTONIO'S DOOR, PUSH THE DOORBELL--AND RUN!"

One good turn deserves another in Maribeth Boelts' Those Shoes (Candlewick Press), and when the next day brings snow, Jeremy proudly pulls on his brand new boots, never worn by anyone! Author Boelts handles this story of shoe envy and product bullying with diplomacy and a touch of humorous irony as well, and artist Josh Z. Jones' artwork perfectly portrays the all-too-real feelings about footwear that elementary kids have. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Boelts blends themes of teasing, embarrassment and disappointment with kindness and generosity in a realistic interracial school scenario."

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Thursday, June 03, 2021

Not Feelin' Groovy! Pete the Kitty Goes to the Doctor by Kimberly and James Dean

PETE THE KITTY WAKES UP. IT'S TIME TO GO TO SCHOOL.

HE STRETCHES. OUCH!

Pete's dad comes in to see why he's not up.

"MY BELLY DOES NOT FEEL GROOVY," PETE SAYS.

Dad tells Pete to rest, and Pete soon feels a little better, so he gets out of bed to play with his trains. He's expecting a groovy day playing at home. But in a while Pete's dad comes back and tells him he has an appointment with the doctor. Now Pete has a tummyache and he's a little scared, too!

Dad tries to make him feel better.

"THE DOCTOR IS COOL. SHE IS NOT SCARY," DAD TELLS HIM ON THE WAY.

The doctor's waiting room has lots of cool, far-out toys to keep Pete busy. Soon the nurse comes to take him to the doctor's examination room, where she checks his temperature and looks in his ears and eyes with cool tools. She feels his tummy and then listens to his heart with a stethoscope and lets him listen to hers.

THE DOCTOR GAVE PETE A COOL STICKER!

It's all new and interesting to Pete, and he's glad when the doctor tells him he only needs to rest at home until he feels well, and sure enough, he soon does.

Dad knows best, in Kimberly and James Dean's Pete the Kitty Goes to the Doctor (My First I Can Read, a beginner reader than takes Pete to the doctor for an actual illness. A chance trip to the doctor for Pete serves as a vicarious experience to prepare real children for more than the routine "well-child examination," one in which they actually feel unwell and may fear what will happen in the medical office.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2021

How Do We See The Sea? My Ocean Is Blue by Darren LeBeuf

What is the ocean? It's too big to be any one thing!

It's the rough wooden boardwalk, warming the girl's walk down to the beach. It's the warm brown sand where she and her mother spread their beach towel, their home base for the day.

THIS IS MY OCEAN.

The ocean is wide, spread across the horizon, but it can be as small as a handful of sea water with a tiny hermit crab in it. It is as dry as driftwood and as wet as a splash in her face as the girl and her mother play in the waves. It's as rotten as a dead fish at the high tide mark, or as fresh as the breeze over the sea oats. It is as sparkly as the sun on the water and as dull as the brown beach sand where she sketches an octopus.

MY OCEAN SPLASHES AND CRASHES AND ECHOES AND SQUAWKS!

Seagulls fuss and flap. There are dolphin smiles as they race with a boat, surfacing and diving. Meanwhile, a pelican facing into the wind on a post is still as still can be.

The ocean is as pink as a wet starfish, as orange as a rusty anchor, and as white as a sun-bleached seashell. But....

MY OCEAN IS MOSTLY BLUE, ENDLESS BLUE.

The ocean is many things, but mostly blue, in Darren LeBeuf's lovely little tone poem to a glorious day beside the sea, My Ocean Is Blue (Kids Can Press, 2020), portrayed with skill in Ashley Barron's mixed-media collaged illustrations, in a picture book that itself is a collage of sensations and feelings. Nothing is better than being a child on a day at the seashore, but this book will take parents reading it aloud down to the sea along with their children. Says Kirkus Reviews, "A joyful marine romp!"

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Tuesday, June 01, 2021

On the Home Team! It's Big Sister Time by Nandini Ahuja

MOM AND DAD BROUGHT HOME SOMEONE NEW TODAY. "IT'S OUR BABY!" THEY SAID.

"HOW LONG WILL THE BABY STAY?" I ASKED.

The girl is taken aback when her parents tell her the baby will stay forever and that he will be her best friend. He's not much of a friend at first. He's noisy. He smells really bad sometimes. And as soon as he can move around, she learns that he doesn't know ANY of the rules--like, Don't knock down your sister's best block tower.

"YOU HAVE TO TEACH HIM THE RULES OF THE HOUSE," HER DAD SAYS.

"YOU'RE THE BIG SISTER!"

The Big Sister decides that her Rule #1 will be "Do not play with my toys!"

But that's easier said than done. She soon finds that it's easier to let him have something she doesn't really need, like her crib blanket. When her grandparents come over to teach her how make a dessert, it all right if he wears the chef's hat, so long as she gets to stir and gets the first taste. When she plays superhero, he's happy with just one small scarf for a cape. When she builds a fort from cushions and pillows, it's sort of fun to read a cozy story to him inside it.

"ON MOVIE NIGHTS I GET TO SIT BETWEEN MOM AND DAD.

But there's something nice about offering to have her brother sit on her lap sometimes, too.

THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE IS, "WE STICK TOGETHER."

A family is on the same team together in Nandini Ahoja's It's Big Sister Time! (My Time) (Harper Festival Books, 2021), illustrated sensitively and sweetly by the artwork of Catalina Echeverri, which shows the the markers in the development of sibling affection, as a feeling of oneness and togetherness slowly grow between big sister and baby brother as part of a family. Says Kirkus, "A sweet debut that offers a tongue-in-cheek instruction manual for new big sisters."

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Monday, May 31, 2021

The Homecoming: The Vandeerbeekers Lost and Found by Karina Yan Glaser

"WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?" LANEY ASKED.

ISA ROCKED HER BACK AND FORTH. "I DON'T KNOW. IT DOESN'T SEEM RIGHT, DOES IT?"

When big sister Isa discovers clothes neatly folded and hidden in the storage building in the community garden, she realizes someone has been sleeping in the chilly shed, and she names him the P.M., for "Person of Mystery." Isa secretly begins to leave food there every night, but when six-year-old Laney discovers a secret, everyone in their multi-racial, multi-pet family is soon in on it. Then Isa's twin Jessie overhears a conversation between their elderly neighbor, Miss Josie and her great-nephew Orlando, Jessie's special friend. Orlando is explaining that he didn't call Miss Jessie back because his phone suddenly stopped working. Orlando's mother has disappeared again, and Miss Josie tells Orlando his mother wants him to go back Georgia until she returns, unless...

"UNLESS WHAT...?" ORLANDO ASKS.

"UNLESS YOU WANT TO STAY HERE. WITH US. PERMANENTLY."

Now Jessie guesses who the P.M. is, and of course, the Vanderbeeker kids get involved, as they always do. Their parents find out that Orlando's mother stopped paying rent before she left, and Orlando was evicted. Telling no one, he's kept going to school and sleeping in the garden shed. For one thing, Orlando feels responsible to their formerly reclusive upstairs neighbor, Mr. Beiderman, who is training with him to run in the New York Marathon, and to his friends on the cross-country running team, and he really doesn't want to go back to Georgia to live with another great aunt. But when Miss Josie's elderly husband, Mr. Jeet, takes a turn for the worst and dies, things become even more complicated. Miss Josie learns that she cannot be Orlando's guardian because she has only one bedroom in her apartment, and of course the Vanderbeeker's apartment is full, with ten-year-old Oliver sleeping in what is really a large closet as it is.

It all comes to a climax when, on the day of the Marathon, Jessie finds a note from Orlando, saying he's fulfilled his promise to Mr. Beiderman and doesn't want to burden everyone else and has taken the early bus to Georgia. In a flurry of Vanderbeeker activity, word is passed through the runners in the race to Mr. Beiderman, who makes an on-the-spot decision and then a phone call.

"THAT'S MY TRAVEL AGENT! SHE'S GOING TO GET US ON A FLIGHT THAT LEAVES AT THREE THIRTY. OKAY WITH YOU?" HE ASKS JESSIE.

THE VANDERBEEKERS WERE STUNNED. THEIR NEIGHBOR, WHO ONLY A FEW YEARS BEFORE REFUSED TO LEAVE HIS APARTMENT, HAS A TRAVEL AGENT?

Mr. Beiderman and Jessie make their plane to Atlanta just as the cabin doors are about to be closed, and all's well that ends well for Mr. Beiderman, who does have a second bedroom and decides to become Orlando's guardian, and for Miss Josie, and the Vanderbeekers, who welcome their young friend home at last, in Karina Yan Glaser's fourth book in series, The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020).

And that's just ONE of the plotlines is this latest novel for middle readers from the popular Vanderbeeker series. With a lively family of kids originally ranging in age from five to thirteen, loving parents, and a lively, close-knit urban setting, there's something for a wide range of readers in these upbeat stories of modern family life. (See all reviews here.)

A child once wrote to the beloved children's author Beverly Cleary, sayiing she liked the way her books were "happy-sad," and Karina Yan Glaser's Vanderbeeker stories have that quality, too. And for fans of the Vanderbeeker family, I recommend another series of the adventures of a large family, beginning with The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy.

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Sunday, May 30, 2021

I'm WHAT? It's Big Brother Time! by Nandina Ahula

MOM AND DAD BROUGHT HOME SOMEONE NEW TODAY. "IT'S OUR BABY!" THEY SAY.

When the boy asked how long Baby is going to visit, they say it'll be forever!

"BABY WILL BE YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND!" THEY SAY.

What? Who knew?

This baby doesn't seem like much of a bargain. He cries loudly. He's a mess most of the time. And sometimes he smells not so good. But he mostly stays put where Mom and Dad put him.

But soon Baby begins to crawl around and knocks over the boy's tallest block towers! The boy complains to Mom and Dad, but they say he'll have to teach Baby the rules.

"YOU'RE THE BIG BROTHER!"

But as time goes on, the new Big Brother gets the hang of his new job. He teaches baby to enjoy hiding in pillow forts and even lets him use his own blankie, since it seems to fit him better. When Big Brother insists on sitting between Mom and Dad on movie night, he finds that if Baby sits in his lap, they can both be in the middle. He teaches Baby how to clean up his big messes. He shows him how to share his toys and his grandparents. When Baby becomes a roommate, he teaches him how to be quiet at bedtime! And when the Big Brother has friends over to play, Baby has to be on his side. After all...

"WE'RE A TEAM!"

In Nandina Ahula's brand-new It's Big Brother Time! (My Time) (Harper Festival, 2021), the sequel to her book, It's Big Sister Time! (My Time), (see review here) older siblings find a new and very important role within the family as they find the responsibilities and fun of being the oldest. As in the previous book, Catalina Echeverri's adorable illustrations show the humor and joy of a growing family.

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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Playing in Harmony: Clarinet and Trumpet by Melanie Ellsberg

CLARINET AND TRUMPET WERE FRIENDS FROM THE FIRST NOTE.

"TRUMPET, YOU'RE A BLAST!"

"CLARINET, YOU'RE SHARP!"

The two made good music together--until a newcomer marched into the band room.

Suddenly Clarinet realized that she and Oboe had a lot in commen--silvery keys and a reed! Perhaps they should have their own section in the band and hang out together. Trumpet didn't belong with his friend any more, especially when Clarinet squeeked at the fanfare he wrote for her. Trumpet couldn't help but B flat! He started to play with Trombone. French horn tried to hit the right chord by joining with section. Then the Woodwinds invited Flute to play with them!

THAT EVENED THE SCORE!

There was no harmony in the band room until a new guy came swinging in.

It was SAXOPHONE!

He had a reed, but he was brass--a happy hybrid who smoothed the discord and jazzed up the band's sound right away!

"DIG IT!" CROONED SAX.

The percussion instruments, who had been afraid of striking the wrong beat, came out to join in, and all the band was harmoniously and melodiously in tune, in author Melanie Ellsberg's funny and punny, off-beat introduction to the instruments in the band, Clarinet and Trumpet (book with shaker) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020), a picture-book parable with plenty of wordplay with musical terms and a pitch for cooperation in music and life. With the comic illustrations of artist John Herzog to lighten the mood, this small book offers both social and musical learning for young readers with the just the right rhythm for young readers. An added attraction is the built-in shaker in the book to help young readers join the band. Says School Library Journal, "A lyrical tour de force about individuality, friendship, and community...."

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A Child Went Forth.... Eric Carle and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

"There was a child went forth every day,

And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,

Or for many years or stretching cycles of years."

Born in an earlier century, Walt Whitman was not writing about caterpillars or children's picture books, or the now late Eric Carle who died this week, but Eric Carle certainly believed in Whitman's description of how children absorb and acquire a view of their world, taken into and is shaping their world view early on. Ostensibly about a little caterpillar who ate everything he encountered and grew up to become a beautiful butterfly, Carle's best-seller, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a about how caterpillars become butterflies, but is also metaphor for the child who takes in everything, the "consumer" of this book and many others by Carle and others, that help him or her grow up with a healthy understanding of the beauty and bounty of our world. Our view of how the things work in this world is shaped by every experience we take in, and it is a lucky child who is privileged to make Eric Carle's very human and acute artistic sensibilities a part of his or her maturing mind. We become in part what we see and read, and for that part of it created by Carle, we thank him for his life's work.

Hail and Farewell, Eric Carle.

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Friday, May 28, 2021

Growing Season! Maxine and the Greatest Garden Ever by Ruth Spiro

Maxine and her goldfish Milton were partners. She invented gadgets with gears and pulleys to feed fishy snack foods to Milton, and he ate them gladly.

Maxine the gismo maker had another friend, Leo, who liked to make things, too, but from a different point of view.

One day Maxine and Leo had the same idea. Spring was on its way and they decided it was time to make a garden. Leo drew a lush and blooming garden as his plan. Maxine's plan was more mechanical. Milton just wanted the garden to have a fish pond, and Maxine and Leo were on board with that!

MILTON GRINNED FROM GILL TO GILL

Despite their different modus operandi, their garden grew as big and full of produce as their expectations. In fact, they were a little too productive! All the animal critters in the area considered their plots as their neighborhood food court--with foods of all kinds for all tastes. Bunnies munched carrots! Raccoons raided the other root veggies, along with squirrels and skunks. Birds ate the fruit and seeds.

Leo and Maxine needed some way to keep the freeloaders out!

"SOMETHING THAT LOOKS GOOD?" SUGGESTED LEO.

Leo designed a bear scarecrow. It was big, but it was too cute. The critters loved it. Then Maxine decided it was time to harden their approach and concocted a scary robotic scarecrow. Maxine wrote code, and Leo sewed. They installed lasers to trip the Robo-eyed klaxens blinking with disco balls. It cleared the critters, but it was a bit too much, even for Maxine!

Maybe the best garden ever is one that is shared with the neighbors, in Ruth Spiro's just published Maxine and the Greatest Garden Ever (Dial Books, 2021), detailed in artist Holly Hatam's illustrations. Maxine and Leo compromise, the critters approve the nibbles, and Milton enjoys the beautiful view from his bowl, and all agree theirs is the best garden ever.

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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Twin Trailblazers: Goodnight, Astronaut by Scott Kelly

I WAS BORN FOR ADVENTURE, A BLUR OF ENERGY TIMES TWO.

Scott Kelly was born a twin, and as little kids, he and his twin Mark fought sleep every night, but their mom said...

blockquote>"DREAM... AND GO ANYWHERE!

GOODNIGHT, MY ASTRONAUTS!"<

In toy helmets made from boxes, the two dreamed of blasting off in their treehouse and from their family boat. They looked up to the stars as they camped in the woods. And when Scott Kelley was grown, he became a Navy pilot, soaring off an aircraft carrier's deck, in a "Tomcat" jet. In Navy scuba gear he explored the ocean floor to learn how to manage in astronaut gear. He trained under the stars above Mt. Everest to get used to thin air. And at last he was ready!

AFTER ALL THE HARD WORK AND DREAMING, I FINALLY LEAVE THE EARTH ON A SHUTTLE CALLED DISCOVERY.

AN ASTRONAUT AT LAST.

From the veteran captain of the Shuttle Endeavor and two-time commander of the International Space Station, living in space for a year, Scott Kelly's brand-new autobiographical picture book, Goodnight, Astronaut (Crown Books, 2021) tells the story of how he and his equally adventurous brother Mark (who has run for public office, perhaps the more dangerous career) realized the double dreams of their childhood in this twin-told tale with illustrations by Izzy Burton.

Since Scott and Mark are identical twins, medical studies of their health in space and back on earth were invaluable to the study of the human body during extended time in space, and the twins were perfect for biological study of the effects of life in space. For more of the Twin Trailblazers, see Scott and Mark Kelly's companion book, Endurance, Young Readers Edition: My Year in Space and How I Got There. Mark Kelly is also the author of the imaginative space adventures, Mousetronaut: Based on a (Partially) True Story (Paula Wiseman Books) and sequel Mousetronaut Goes to Mars.(Paula Wiseman Books) (See reviews https://booksforkidsblog.blogspot.com/search?q=Mark+Kelly.)

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Dreams Can Come True! Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn by Shannon Hale

KITTY THINKS SHE MIGHT BE A UNICORN.

With cardboard and glue, yarn and some poster paints, she creates a just-her-size unicorn horn and with her itty-bitty horn on top of her fuzzy fur, Kitty fancies she had become...

.

But her co-pets, Parakeet and Gecko, beg to differ. She's a cat, they agree. They point out her fuzzy fur and her tiny little tail. They tell her she has soft kitty paws with claws, not hard hooves that prance! Itty-Bitty Kitty puffs out her tail....:

NEIGH! NEIGH!!"YOU'RE A CAT!" SAID PARAKEET.

"THAT'S THAT!" ECHOED GECKO!
<

But that's not that! Just as Kitty-Korn sadly takes off her horn, they hear it...

CLOP! CLOP! CLOP!

"NOW THAT'S A UNICORN!" CRIES GECKO!

And Kitty-Corn is happy to find out that the Unicorn likes her fuzzy fur, tiny tail and her crafted unicorn horn, and they play all afternoon until at last their merging shadows rest together in the setting sun, in Shannon Hale's Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn (Abrams Books, 2021), illustrated in completely unashamed, totally adorable, pink cuteness by artist Leyuen Pham. Fanciful dreams can make for good fun in this book for young unicorn fanciers. Writes Publisher Weekly, "What ostensibly starts out as an almost criminally cute tale of pretend play transforms into something much more: a celebration of claiming and naming one’s identity and having it affirmed by others."

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

What the World Needs Now. . . : The Kindness Book by Todd Parr

WHAT IS KINDNESS?

KINDNESS IS THINKING ABOUT OTHERS' FEELINGS AND HELPING THEM FEEL GOOD.

There are kind deeds--opening the door for someone, giving food to a food bank or flowers to someone who needs cheering up, or saying thank you, or welcoming someone new.

It can be avoiding doing things that hurt people's feelings or just being there when someone needs not to be alone. Kindness can be NOT doing things like making fun of someone having a bad hair day or sometimes letting people just be themselves. Kindness is saying, "I'm sorry" when you are not kind. Kindness can be just a smile or a wave to someone you know, or someone you don't know. Kindness can be helping plants grow or being nice to animals.

>

DON'T FORGET TO BE KIND TO YOURSELF!

Author-illustrator Todd Parr, the emperor of emotions and professor of feelings, spreads the word in his recent The Kindness Book (Little, Brown and Company, 2019), designed to display the ways to spread good will to all. Parr's signature simple figures delineated with wide black lines show the many ways to be good to others and to ourselves, and are especially in tune for preschool and primary-age youngsters. Share this one with Parr's The Feelings Book.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Taking Turns: My Friend Ben Won't Share by Charles Beyl

I'M CHIP AND THIS IS MY FRIEND BEN.

BEN COMES TO PLAY AT MY HOUSE.

Chip and Ben make a good pair. They like to play the same thing, but with different parts of the job. Chip likes to build big forts and Ben likes to construct the towers inside. Ben likes to make up stories, and Chip likes to draw the illustrations for the stories. And when Dad brings them sandwiches to eat outside, they split the lunch, each eating the part he likes best..

In good weather Chip and Ben play trucks. One sunny day Ben only wants to play with Chip's big truck. He doesn't give Chip a turn to have his truck back.

CHIP WANTS HIS DUMP TRUCK.

Chip grabs the front of the truck, and Ben holds on to the back of the truck. They both pull as hard as they can.

SNAP!

The truck is now in two pieces. Chip doesn't want to play with Ben anymore, and Ben goes home alone.

But soon Chip finds making forts with no towers is not much fun. Drawing pictures isn't so great without a story to put them in, either. Meanwhile Ben wonders who is going to eat the twigs in his sandwiches.

It's time for a truce, in Charles Beyl's My Friend Ben Won't Share (A Chip and Ben book) (Albert Whitman, 2021), and with the judicious use of Duck Tape and the help of Mallard, the two parts of the truck are mended, and now perhaps a bit wiser, Chip and Ben are back on the road again, in this early reader story of a happily mended friendship. Kirkus Reviews writes, "... a pleasingly subtle variation on a familiar theme."

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Monday, May 24, 2021

Missing Person Mission: Duck Duck Moose by Mary Sullivan


It's a serene morning on the farm until as frantic girl races up with a disturbing query--

WHERE IS GOOSE?

Oh, dear! Moose takes charge! The tractor is still attached to its trailer, perfect for a missing person search...

GET BIG MOE!

Big Moe is cranked with amid some clunks and pows as Duck and Duck and Moose climb into the trailer and the girl takes the wheel, all with one mission, to find Goose immediately. Bucolic bystanders, Horse and Sheep, point the way they saw Goose go. But soon there's an obstacle--the gate is locked and the key is hanging on the tree, way up there. Leaps and flapping attempts to reach it fail, so Moose tries a totem pole arrangement, with the two ducks on top of each other on top of his head. The top duck stretches high into the tree and ...

BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ!

A swarm of hornets bring them all crashing down in the mud.

THONK! WHACK! STING! STANG! STUNG!

Mission aborted. After soaking in a bubbly bath, the three call it a day, and plastered with bandaids, Goose, Goose, and Moose repair to bed, still sad and without the mysteriously missing Goose.

The Caldecott-winning author-illustrator Mary Sullivan's latest, Duck, Duck, Moose (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021) is a beginning reader full of merry mayhem with onomatopoeic words and obvious affection for the muddled characters' missing friend (who, in the conclusion, shows up with beach bag, surfboard, and a mystified expression at her reception). With controlled vocabulary, visual cues, and plenty of repeated words and phrases, this slapstick story is filled with action and humor, perfect for early readers.

Sullivan's literary output is filled with delightfully humorous picture books that charm young listeners as readalongs, readalouds, or beginning readers: Ball, Treat, Up On Bob, Frankie, and Nobody's Duck. (See reviews here).

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Sunday, May 23, 2021

Know Thyself! I'm a Hare, So There! by Julia Rowan-Zoch

"HELLO, RABBIT!"

A small rodent with a furry tail cheerfully hails a passing creature from his sentry post on top of a saguaro cactus. But the passerby seems a bit picky about his choice of nomenclature.

"RABBIT? DID YOU SAY RABBIT?"

"I'M NO FLOPSY, MOPSY, OR COTTONTAIL! I'M A HARE! H-A-R-E, CHIPMUNK!"

"I'M A HARE, SO THERE!"
/p>

Hmmm. Two can play at that pedantic game, the little rodent thinks.

blockquote>"TECHNICALLY, I'M A GROUND SQUIRREL," HE POINTS OUT. "BUT YOU ARE A JACKRABBIT."

Jack launches into a lecture on how hares are different from rabbits. They have bigger ears and feet. Newborn rabbits have no fur, whereas hares have a full coat and are born with their eyes wide open and ready to go. They can jump way higher and further than those pipsqueeky bunnies. Jack continues his exposition with a discourse on differences between tortoises and turtles, sheep and goats, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!

Chippie (a.k.a Ground Squirrel) interrupts the disquisition, leaping to Hare's head as a shaggy, howling interloper leaps from behind a rock. Dog? Wolf? Coyote? Who cares?

"GOTCHA, RABBIT!"

It's time for Hare's hind legs to do the stuff that their species is famous for and start leaping, in author Julie Rowan-Zoch's latest, I'm a Hare, So There! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021), a cleverly paced hare tale with dowright hilarious illustrations and a lot of incidental information about the speciational differences of animals of the Sonorran desert. The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books calls this one "A sneakily educational readaloud."

This most recent picture book makes a good partner with Cece Bell's top-selling I Yam a Donkey! (A Yam and Donkey Book) I Yam a Donkey! (A Yam and Donkey Book) and You Loves Ewe! (A Yam and Donkey Book). (See reviews here.)

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Saturday, May 22, 2021

Cake Contest! Angelina Ballerina Cupcake Day by Katherine Holobird

ANGELINA WAS SKIPPING HOME FROM BALLET CLASS WHEN SHE SPOTTED A FLYER IN THE VILLAGE SQUARE.
"CHIPPING CHEDDAR BAKING CONTEST COMING SOON!" IT SAID.

Angelina and her mother love to bake together, and when Angelina tells her mom about the contest, they quickly consult their collection of recipes and fix on a favorite--Berry Ballerina Cupcakes. Soon they are off to the market to buy the ingredients, flour, sugar, butter, and delicious fresh strawberries. Back home Angelina assembles their baking implements and mom turns on the over, just as Angelina's little sister comes in and asks to join them in the kitchen. They all pitch in, sifting and stirring, and the cupcakes are quickly in the oven.

While Polly and Angelina practice their twirls, the scent of baking cupcakes fills the kitchen. But just as mom is taking the delicious-smelling pan of cupcakes out of the oven, Angelina has a dismaying thought!

OH, NO! THEY'D FORGOTTEN TO BUY THE INGREDIENTS FOR THE FROSTING!

But the show must go on! With a few pretty ribbons for decoration from her friend Alice, Mother and the three girls are off to the Chipping Cheddar Square for the contest. As usual, Miss Quaver takes first prize, but the consolation prize is that...

... they get to eat the Berry Ballerina cupcakes!

Things are tu-tu delightful for Angelina Ballerina in her latest beginning reader book, Cupcake Day! (Angelina Ballerina) (Simon Spotlight, 2020) from Katherine Holobird. With the signature pastel illustrations of Helen Craig along for the contest, it's a win-win conclusion that ends with tea and cupcakes in the cozy kitchen in this ever-popular series, just right for primary grade readers.

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Friday, May 21, 2021

Identity Crisis in Aisle 4! Avocado Asks by Momoko Abe

AVOCADO WAS JUST FINE IN THE FRUIT AND VEGETABLE AISLE OF THE SUPERMARKET... UNTIL ONE DAY A SMALL CUSTOMER POINTED AND ASKED...

"IS AN AVOCADO A FRUIT OR A VEGETABLE?"

Suddenly Avocado is in the middle of an identity crisis. He consults the motley mix in the veggie display. He's not leafy like the cabbages, crunchy like a carrot, and none of them have sizable seed right in their middles. He queries the fruits. He's not juicy or sweet, and there's still that pit problem.

THERE MUST BE SOMEWHERE I CAN FEEL AT HOME!

Does anyone have these problems in the meat section? Fish or Fowl?

Nope. He's shaped like an egg, but he's clearly NOT one. He's not cheesy, or spicy. Avocado feels his insides melting into... something like...

GUACAMOLE!

Then he's accosted by a round and rosy, clearly plant-based guy.

He's a TOMATO. He's a fruit but rarely eaten out of hand. He spends most of his time hanging around with the vegetables. He's equally good in cold or piping hot dishes, and he's indispensable in pasta and pizza, appearing in many a soup and salad! He's very versatile! And Tomato and Avocado have a lot in common, often collaborating in their joint concoction--guacamole! They make ordinary fruits and vegetables...

GREEN WITH ENVY!

Momoko Abe's Avocado Asks: What Am I? (Doubleday Books, 2020) is the story of a deliciously delightful identity crisis in the fresh produce section, with the quiet lesson is it's not where you come from but what you can offer, while imparting to young readers a bit of plant science. Author-illustrator Momoko Abe, assisted by her clever artwork, adds the simple message that it not what you are called but what you actually can do that matters. And in the playful spirit of her story, she offers a new botanical brain teaser for young readers: What are rhubarb, mushrooms, horseradish, or coconuts?

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