Thursday, June 04, 2020

Out of the Box? The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder

When the little box turtle hatched, his parents noticed something missing.

Terrance has no shell!

His parents try to assure him that he's more than a carapace, and little Terrance adopts his friend Hermit Crab's technique, finding a stout cardboard box that's a perfect fit. It provides coverage for storms and a refuge from prying eyes. But the other little box turtles diss his pseudo-shell.
"Your shell is weird!"

So Terrance ditches his box (to which a raccoon has been attracted), and takes off in search of a better box for his booty.

A discarded mailbox is strong and features a rakish red flag, but the postman insists on delivering mail to it. Terrance tries a hatbox, a music box (POP goes the turtle!), a boombox (LOUD!), and a lunchbox, a flower box, and disastrously for Terrance and a cat using the facilities, a litter box. (STINKY!)

Terrance gives up!
The Hermit crab showed what it meant to be a friend.

His friend Hermit Crab offers his own little shell to go bare-bottomed himself, but Terrance declines the offer, deciding to go back to his old brown box. But it seems that Raccoon has taken it to the recycling center, and it's looking a bit worse for wear.

But with a little help from his friends, Terrance patches it up and paints it in bright stripes. The other turtles pronounce it weird, BUT....

... with his buddies also wearing snazzy boxes, there's a happy ENDING to this story, in Vanessa Roeder's insightful story of overcoming physical differences, The Box Turtle (Dial Books, 2020). Roeder's cute and comic illustrations tell the story of her endearing hero and his ingenious adaptations, and his empathetic friends. Young readers will also empathize with Roeder's Terrance while giggling at the visual humor of the downside of mailboxes, music boxes, and litter boxes as substitute turtle shells. Booklist says,"Roeder renders an adorable, rosy-cheeked (all four cheeks, when he’s going about shell-free)... A sweet, affirming message brings things together in the end."

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Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Brainy Bookathon! Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk by Megan McDonald

"Brains! Take that! You're dead, Fred Zombie!"

"I'm not dead! I'm un-dead!" said Voodoo Zombie.

Stink and Webster were playing Attack of the Knitting-Needle Zombies when Fred Zombie's eyeball fell off.

Only one more week!" said Stink.

"Till what?" asked Judy Moody, poking her head in Stink's door. Sometimes she was a Nosy Parker!

"DUH! The Midnight Zombie Walk!" said Stink and Webster together.

And it's a Zombie-craZy week for Stink and his big sister Judy Moody and all the kids at Virginia Dare Elementary School. The whole school is having a monster readathon, going for one million minutes of reading, to be celebrated Friday at a Zooper Zombie Bash!

Book Release Party for Nightmare on Zombie Street, Book 5

Between totaling up their minutes of reading, the kids have a zombie-licious week. "Everything in Zombie starts with Z," said Stink, er, Zink, to Webzter." So Stink and Webster try to raise some cash to buy Book 5 of the Zombie zeries by having a Blowout Yard Zombie Sale and a Zmellatorium Ztand on their front sidewalk. Stink and Webster turn Stink's ventriloquist's dummy into Charlie Vampire, and Mrs. Moody appears, dressed in bloody-hand printed apron as the school Zombie Lunch Lady, to dish out servings of Scrambled Brainz (eggs) and Soppy Toes (mini-franks in red sauce) in the renamed school "Vomiteria;" and the two pranksterz scare the witz out of Judy with their talking Charlie Vampire, while the third graders sponsor a definitely un-dead Read-Aloud-athon for the first graders on Friday.

In Megan McDonald's Zombie-riferous Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk (Candlewick Press), there's a strong plug for the joy of reading and hardly a moment without a zombie giggle, in this title in the author's best-selling series of beginning chapter books for young readers. "Gross, creepy, and hilarious, zayz Booklizt.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Dad's Day Done Your Way: Fathers' Day Roundup

Maybe Mothers' Day came first--in the calendar and in history--but parents deserves equal time, and authors and illustrators have long been busy creating Dads' Day stories. Fatherhood takes all kinds, considering that nature seems to have shaped a lot of models of fathers across the varied genomes of known species, but basically a good dad is one that is there at the right times. Human dads come in all shapes and sizes, too.

A list of stories for younger readers in which dads get their due is here.

And for dadly advice from a grown-up father for a dad to read to himself, there's the humorous look at Dad-Hood by that master of maleness, Dave Barry, You Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About.

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Monday, June 01, 2020

It Began with Ah-Choo! Katie Woo Has the Flu by Fran Manushkin

Katy sneezes... and sneezes... and sneezes.

"I feel funny! My tummy hurts, too," says Katie Woo.

"I think you have a bug," said her mom.

Katie protests that she can't have bugs in the her tummy, but Mom explains that means that Katie must be sick with the flu.

Katie feels hot, and the thermometer shows she has a fever.
"Back to bed," said Mom. "No school for you."

And Katie Woo stays in bed all day. Mom brings her a bowl of soup and some toast for lunch, but it tastes awful. Katie feels too sick to eat. Mom brings her some pills that she says will make Katie feel better.

"Pills are such a pill!" moans Katie. She's so hot that she feels shivery. At last she falls asleep but her dreams are all bad dreams.
"Boo on the flu!"

But after a few days, Katie wakes up feeling better. Soup and toast taste like the best food in the world. She talks on the phone to her friend Jojo.
"I feel like new," says Katie Woo.

Illustrated by Tammie Lyon's winsome pictures of the little patient, Fran Manushkin's Katie Woo Has the Flu (Picture Window Books) gives her spunky heroine a chance to say Shoo to the Flu in this story of the inevitable sick days of the school year in this easy-reading story.   For a Woo duo, pair this one with Manushkin's Katie Woo, Where Are You?

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Cherchez La Femme! Hug It Out! (Big Nate by Lincoln Pierce

Big Nate, the middle schooler class slacker, is plugging his way through sixth grade, complaining that his teacher Mrs. Godfrey's loud voice is keeping him from sleeping in class. And that's not ALL! His friend Francis is still a fount of annoying trivia facts, his grandparents volunteer to chaperone the field trip to the museum, and the class pet, Sherman the Hamster, is still sulking sarcastically under his shavings.




Big Nate gets to catch up on his napping when he gets beaned in a baseball game, but then Mrs. Godfrey does more than keep Nate from snoozing in class. His conference with her scares him sleepless!


And so Big Nate finds his fate is in the hands of his arch-nemesis, GINA, the most annoying know-it-all in the class. Will a late spring cram session save Big Nate's summer?

Against the odds, his tutor Gina pulls it off and Big Nate makes a 94 on the final exam. School's out and Nate is free to be... a summer slacker!

But fate steps in at... of all places, at the amusement park, where Francis loses his lunch on the UPCHUCKER, and Nate finds himself paired on THE FLAMETHROWER with a girl--a girl he's never seen before... and...

Big Nate is IN LOVE, but the cute girl disappears into the crowd before Nate can even find out her name, and now his summer vacation suddenly has MEANING and PURPOSE, in Lincoln Pierce's Big Nate: Hug It Out! (Volume 21) in his mega-popular graphic book series. Although Pierce's cartoon books are categorized as light humorous fare for middle readers, his comic skills have  gained plenty of more mature followers as well, continuing his best-seller status---along with those other hit cartoon graphic series, Dav Pilkey's The Adventures of Captain Underpants: Color Edition and Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Diary of a Wimpy Kid 1). Share this one with Pierce's latest, Big Nate: Blow the Roof Off! (Volume 22) and Big Nate: The Gerbil Ate My Homework (Volume 23).

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

What Can You Do with An Idea? How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex

At first, this book wasn't a book.

It was an idea.

Most kids probably don't give a thought to how books come to be. It's like they've just always been there on shelves in libraries or book stores. But they have a story all their own.

They start with an idea in the mind of a writer--a piece of a story--it could be the middle, or the ending, or the beginning. It could be a mental image of a character, or an appealing event that makes other things happen. It is the author's job to come up with characters, plots, dialog, and a conclusion that satisfies the reader. Sometimes an artist is called on to help the reader visualize the characters and action.

But that's only the beginning of a book.

So... Mac Barnett, the hopeful author, writes a draft of his book.
I had a bunch of words on paper. The words were the first draft.

But a first draft is not a book.
Neither was the second draft. Or the third. Or the twelfth.

With the twentieth draft I was done. So I sent my words to my editor.

Is it a book then? NO. There's many a slip between cup and lip, and Barnett's last draft is not the last one after all. The editor suggests many changes in his draft. Author Barnett is not pleased.
"You're not the boss of me!" he says.

That line hadn't worked with Mac's dad either, but finally author and editor agree on the final draft. Is it a book yet?

NO. It needs an illustrator to make the ideas easy to understand, so artist Adam Rex is called upon to do some drawings. He gets to argue with the editor while Mac gets to forget about this book and work on another one for a while. At last the manuscript and illustrations are approved. Now the book is ready to be printed and bound.
Now, the fastest way would be to print the book nearby in New York or Philadelphia or maybe Miami.

But NO.
The book was printed in Malaysia.

Malaysia is half a world away from New York. All the freshly printed copies have to be loaded on an ocean-going freighter. There are tiger and pirate problems in between. Mac Barnett has time to grow a very long beard while he waits.

And in Mac Barnett's How This Book Was Made (Hyperion Books), the author admits that "a book is not real until it has a reader." Books have come a long way since a story was mostly a storyteller on one end of the log and a listener on the other, but at the heart of it all that's what happens, and what happens in the creation of a book is a story in itself. Barnett's humorous story of how that happens IS the story of this tour de force of a story-within-a-story. Publishers Weekly says,"Barnett and Rex concoct another self-referential story, this one about the process of bookmaking. As in their collaboration, Chloe and the Lion, Barnett and Rex star as writer and illustrator. With the help of an editor (“she is like a teacher, only she works in a skyscraper”), a tiger, pirates, and a cast of thousands (well, maybe dozens), the manuscript leaves Barnett’s desk, undergoes editing, and arrives at the printer in Malaysia....Rex's artwork features paper models and a painted globe in addition to the pencil-drawn figures, lending the work the three-dimensional texture of a puppet play."

Perfect for Book Week read-alouds for Book Week, this one covers a lot of territory, not all of it on the Road to Mandalay!

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Friday, May 29, 2020

It Wasn't Easy: A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

Shayla thinks she knows how to stay out of trouble at school. She tries to camouflage her "big ol' forehead" that Steph makes fun of. She follows the rules, does her work, and keeps a low profile in her classes.

She finds an escape from her fears at lunch at their special table outside with her long-time friends, Isabella, who is Puerto Rican, and Julia, who is Japanese-American. They call themselves "The United Nations," and try to stay out of the cliques that are beginning to separate students into ethnic groups in seventh grade. But Shayla notices that Julia is beginning to choose the Asian kids sometimes at lunch and fears she will be left alone if Isabella changes, too.

But then Shayla allows herself to recruited for the girls' track team. She likes running, but the all-Black team seem to be a clique of their own. Clearing the hurdles is hard to master, and Shayla fears being excluded if she fails the team.

And middle-school romance seems to be breaking up old friends. Shaya finds herself in her first crush for the smooth, green-eyed Jace, while being pestered by Tyler, who keeps trying to talk to her in the halls on the way to class. "Talking" is the first stage of seventh-grade romance, and when at the dance Tyler uses a prank game of "Command" to give her a big, sloppy kiss, Shayla feels humiliated. Her friends are embarrassed for her, but distant. Tyler won't leave her alone, and his girl cousin threatens her for trying to avoid him. Shayla's strategy of going along to get along isn't exactly working. Why is seventh grade so hard?

But when two innocent black people are shot by the police, Shayla's low-profile persona is shattered, and she finds herself wearing the Black Life Matters armband and demonstrating outside of the school, and when Principal Trask demands she remove her armband, Shayla points out that there is no mention of armbands in the school dress code and refuses.

Sometimes being in trouble for the right cause is the right thing to do, in Lisa Moore Ramee's A Good Kind of Trouble (Balzer and Bray, 2019). First-time author Ramee' manages to capture a time when young people are forced to choose the inconvenient truth over personal comfort, and in this coming-of-age story the author has her fainthearted protagonist learn to take risks, clearing the hurdles, and journaling her character's personal progress toward finding the self she wants to be.

Publishers Weekly's starred review puts it this way: "Ramée effectively portrays the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the difficulty of navigating complex social situations while conveying universal middle school questions about friendship, first crushes, and identity. Shay’s journey is an authentic and engaging political and personal awakening.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Never Too Old! Mr. Putter and Tabby Make a Wish by Cynthia Rylant

It was a beautiful morning.

Mr. Putter and his good cat Tabby were eating crumpets with jam and drinking tea. Mr. Putter picked up his newspaper and noticed the date.
"Good heavens, Tabby! Today is my birthday!"

Mr. Putter starts thinking about birthdays--especially the ones he used to have when he was a boy. Back in those days he got great presents, like a scooter and a model airplane. He had great birthday parties with friends and balloons--and a cake with candles.
But now Mr. Putter was to old for scooters. Too old for cake.

(He'd need a fire hose to put out the candles!)

But the truth was, Mr. Potter wanted a birthday anyway.

He decides to call his neighbor Mrs. Teaberry and invite her and her good dog Zeke for tea. That would have to do.

Mrs. Teaberry accepts the invitation happily. But she says she has to wash the dishes first.

Mr. Putter waits. He reads some of the newspaper. Mrs. Teaberry calls and says she needs to curl her hair. Then she calls to say she has to unclog the bathtub, and then she calls to say she's searching for Zeke's favorite ball. Mr. Putter has finished his newspaper and now all he can do is fret.
Mr. Putter CAN'T WAIT!

He was getting older by the minute.

But then Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke show up with balloons tied to Zeke's tail, a present dangling his collar, and a huge cake with dozens of candles. Now all Mr. Putter needs is someone to help him blow out all those the candles, and for that Mrs. Teaberry is perfect, in Cynthia Rylant's  Mr. Putter and Tabby Make a Wish (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), illustrated delightfully by noted artist Arthur Howard. A Newbery Award author and a Caldecott Award illustrator equal one terrific I-Can-Read story, full of humor and the joy of friendship.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A Gift for Dad: I Love You, Dad! (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood) by Maggie Testa

Daniel Tiger want to make something special to show the way that he loves his dad on every day.



Then Daniel thinks of making a toy trumpet or toy trombone to play....

He thinks about making a cake. But what if it gets smushed?

Dad assures him he would still love that cake because Daniel made it for him. Daniel considers making a picture as a way to say he cares. Dad smiles.


In Maggie Testa's I Love You, Dad (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood) (Simon Spotlight), there are many ways to show love for Dad on his special day or on any day. This sweet little padded board book is a great way to introduce the idea of a day honoring all dads and one very special dad, too.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

No Book Killers Allowed? Jasper John Dooley Public Library Enemy #1 by Carolyn Addison

After school Jasper John Dooley and his friend Ori rode their bikes to the library with Jasper's mom.

"I'll be back in ten minutes," Mom said. "Stay in the children's area, okay?"

Jasper and Ori weren't really listening. They were reading a new sign:

3:30 TO 4:30 P.M., Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Molly the Dog was frowning. Jasper decided he was going to pick a book to read that would make Molly look happy.

He picked a very interesting book about making things out of toilet paper tubes. He couldn't wait to start reading it so he would be ready for the next chance to read to Molly. He was in such a hurry that he decides to read in the bathtub. Bad idea!"

Jasper knocked the book into the suds. Dad tried to help by drying the book in the oven with his cheese nachos, but while they are trying out the nachos, the oven made a funny sound:

Smoke was pouring out. The book was burning and Dad grabbed the fire extinguisher. When the book kept on burning, Dad shoveled it out the back door into the rain.
Nobody would ever read that book again!

The book was toast! The only thing readable about the book was its price tag--$25.00!

Ori offered to help Jasper come up with the money to pay for the book. They decide to set up a stand in the front yard to make money.

With butter $1--With butter and Jam $1.50

They had some customers, but their profits did not rise to their projected expectations.
Nobody paid.

Will Jasper ever raise $25.00? Will he ever get to read to Molly the Dog?

Or will he forever be banned in the library as THE BOOK KILLER?

But Jasper John Dooley and best buddy Ori Spivak had learned a few things about business ventures and come up with a KILLER DILLER fund raiser called the READ TO A PET FIESTA HOOPLA CELEBRATION (with Toast!), and all's well that ends well, in Carolyn Addison's laugh-filled installment in this beginning chapter book series, Jasper John Dooley: Public Library Enemy 1 (Kids Can Press). With a bow to helpful and forgiving librarians, this one, filled with Mike Shiell's numerous clever cartoon illustrations, is a great salute to libraries, books, reading, and private enterprise.

Says Kirkus Reviews, "Another winning entry in an altogether satisfying series."

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Monday, May 25, 2020

May Time, Bunny Time! Too Many Bunnies by Tomie De Paola

"Well," said Daddy Hopkins, looking out on a fine spring morning, "it's time to plant our gardens."

"This year," said Mommy Hopkins, "Daddy and I want all of you children to help,"

"Oh, Goody!" cried the fifteen little Hopkins.

Mommy and Daddy need to go buy some carrot seeds, but first they give all the bunnies their assignments.

The five quintuplets, Willy, Wally, Wiley, Wendy, and Winny get spades and start to dig. The quads Bonny, Bunny, Billy, and Biff get rakes. The triplets Flossie, Frannie, and Fuffie are set to make the rows, the twins Skipper and Skeezer are assigned to plant seeds, and little Petey is sent for the hose to water the rows.

But if too many cooks spoil the broth, too many gardeners can make a mess of the garden.

When Mommy and Daddy Hopkins return with the seeds, the bunnies are all milling around, doing everything at once. It's a muddy muddle.

But Mommy knows how to manage a mob of bunnies, and soon has them working in their teams, in best-selling author-illustrator Tomie de Paola's Too Many Bunnies (Little Simon Books), in a lovable board book that explains planting and teamwork, illustrated appealingly in true de Paola spring-styled pastel watercolors. Great for planting time, share this one with Katy Hudson's inimitable Too Many Carrots (See my review here).

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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Be My Tidy Buddy? Kiki and Jax: The Life-Changing Magic of Friendship by Marie Kondo and Salina Yoon

Kiki the red squirrel has a mania for collecting--pine cones and nuts, of course, but all kinds of other stuff that fit her fancy.




But when her friend Jax the gray owl comes over to play soccer, Kiki can't quite come up with her ball. When Jax suggests they go swimming, her swimsuit is nowhere to be found.

But when the disappointed Jax comes back with a gift the next door, Kiki's front porch looks like an obstacle course, so he just leaves the gift box as close to the door as he can get.

But Kiki finds a book inside the box that shows her how to organize her stuff. First she puts the items that are alike in separate piles. Then, one by one, she packs away only the best things, the ones that "spark" her heart, as the book from Jax told her.

It's TIDY TIME, in Marie Kondo's how-to book, Kiki and Jax: The Life-Changing Magic of Friendship (Crown Books, 2019).  The Theodor Geisel Award-winning illustrator, Salina Yoon's illustrations of a nutsy squirrel who buries her stuff higgledy piggledy around the house and a wise little owl who helps her clear it away will give youngsters an engaging lesson is tidying up in Queen-of-Clean-Up author Kondo's picture book for kids who keep TOO much! Pair this one with Yoon's hit story, Penguin and Pinecone (see more books by Salina Yoon here.)


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Hit the Suds! Go Wash Up by Amanda Doering Tourville

Nobody wants to be sick.




He makes sure his nails are clean. And he rub-a-dub-dubs in the tub and scrubs from top to bottom. And Owen is old enough to know how to shampoo his hair, too.

Every night and morning Owen know what else to do.

Owen puts on clean clothes every day, including underwear. Clean clothes can help keep him from getting germs. And covering his face with a tissue when he coughs and sneezes keeps him from spreading germs that can make others sick.

In her easy-reading Go Wash Up: Keeping Clean (How to Be Healthy!) (Picture Window Books) offers even the youngest children the basic ways to keep healthy by keeping clean, illustrated by Ronnie Rooney's cheerful artwork appealing to preschoolers The author appends a short bibliography and index. Other simple human health and hygiene helpers in this series are Get Up and Go: Being Active (How to Be Healthy!) and Fuel the Body: Eating Well (How to Be Healthy!)

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Friday, May 22, 2020

The Show Must Go On! Corduroy Takes A Bow by Viola Baker

Lisa held Corduroy tight as they walked up the steps.

She had never been to a big theater like this before. Neither had Corduroy.

The big lobby was all a-bustle with ticket-takers and ushers handing out programs, all lit by golden glowing chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Lisa and Corduroy look around with excitement. And then the chandeliers blinked off and on.
"That means the play will start in a few minutes. We should find our seats!" said Lisa's mother.

The play was about Mother Goose rhymes and Lisa couldn't wait. But when a big man sat down right in front of her, blocking her view of the stage, Lisa's mother quickly folded their coats into a cushion and when Lisa stood up so Mom could put it in her seat--Corduroy slid to the floor under the seat in front of Lisa without notice.

But Corduroy is one resourceful bear. He wandered under the seats down to the orchestra pit in front of the stage, right as the curtain was about go up, and climbed on the tallest thing around--a big kettledrum! A stagehand spotted Corduroy and deftly snatched him up quickly from behind the curtain and tossed him in among the props. Corduroy landed in a basket in the branches of a fake tree and suddenly found himself being trundled onstage, as the actress playing Mother Goose began to sing "Rock-a-Bye Baby." Corduroy realized that his basket was that rocking cradle.
Corduroy gets dizzy!

But that's SHOW BIZ! The bough duly broke and down it did fall, Corduroy and all. The show must go on, so "Mother Goose" grabbed up Corduroy and together the two of them take that bow as the curtain came down.

That's SHOW BIZ, and Corduroy is the star of the show, in Viola Baker's new title, Corduroy Takes a Bow (Viking Books, 2018), a welcome return of that wandering toy bear in his green overalls, illustrated with loving care in the patched-pocket style of beloved author-illustrator Don Freeman. It seems that youngsters can't get enough of Corduroy, a bear after their own minds whose curiosity leads him into irresistible adventures. Best read aloud after kids are familiar with Freeman's originals, Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy. "A delightful new act for ever-curious Corduroy—and an entertaining introduction to the theater." says Booklist.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Duo Does It All! The Two and Only Kelly Twins by Johanna Hurwitz

Arlene Kelly and Ilene Kelly were sisters. In fact, they were identical twins. That meant they looked exactly alike.

But there was one difference. Arlene had been born at 11:55 P.M. on July 17, and Ilene had been born at 12:03 A.M.on July 18.

"We must be the only identical twins who have different birthdays," said Arlene.

Despite that one difference, they were very much alike. They both liked the same clothes and colors, so they had identical outfits to wear for every day. But then, on their not-quite identical seventh birthdays, they didn't have identical choices for a pet.
"I want a kitten," said Arlene.

"I want a puppy," said Ilene.

The disagreement went unresolved until one night Dad brings home a box from work--with two ferrets inside. They look exactly alike, so that even the twins can't tell them apart. They name them Frankie and Fannie Ferret, and of course the ferrets are identical, too.

But when school starts, the twins discover that they are no longer so special. There are now triplets in second grade--two identical twin girls named Claudia and Roberta Best and a brother named Simon Best. Roberta boasts that they are the "Best identicals" ever.

Ilene is so annoyed with Roberta that she makes up an identical triplet, too, covering her story by saying their identical sister Marlene goes to a different school for young geniuses. But the twins soon see that keeping up their cover story is going be hard, and after one playdate when Ilene has to be pretend being both herself and "Marleen," the twins finally agree to confess their "joke" to the Bests.

When Halloween rolls around, naturally Ilene and Arlene both want to dress as witches. But the moms with the kids on their block decide to split the trick-or-treaters into two groups, so the twins go separate ways. And then, on their second street Arlene runs into a problem at every house.
"You have enough!" said one lady.

"You again? Don't be so piggy!" said a teenaged girl.

Being identical twins in the same costume can be a problem. But when Arlene wakes up with appendicitis in the middle of the night, Ilene has to go it alone at school and at karate class all week, and finds that it's not altogether a bad thing. Dressing alike and fooling people is fun, but sometimes it's easier to make new friends as just yourself, as both girls learn during their separation, in veteran author Johanna Hurwitz's first in her new beginner chapter book series,The Two and Only Kelly Twins (Candlewick Press, 2018). For double the fun, pair this one with Hurwitz's companion chapter book, Double or Nothing with the Two and Only Kelly Twins. Says School Library Journal, "This gentle twin story explores big questions about identity in an approachable way for budding chapter book readers."

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Shared Lives: Catastrophe by the Sea by Brenda Peterson

Catastrophe wandered too far from home.

His whole world now is the beach at low tide.

He's damp and hungry and misses having someone to play with him.

An octopus jets ink at him and slithers under a rocky ledge. He pats at an anemone and provokes a squirt of salty seawater. He is stung when he paws the anemone's tentacles.
"I thought you were dead!" Catastrophe says.

"I'm as alive as you!" the anemone spouts.

But the sea anemone is as curious as Catastrophe about this strange creature on the beach. She tells Catastrophe her name is Naimonee, and the cat sees that the natives of this strange world are friendly. She introduces him to the sea slugs, the sand dollars, the dancing crabs, and the ancient barnacle, Buddy, stuck to his rock with ancient glue.
"Happy homebodies are we," they sing.

Catastrophe's friendly seaside tete a tete is abruptly interrupted by the first wave of the incoming tide and he is tumbled to and fro before he comes to rest far up the beach from his friendly tidal pool friends. He's wet and chilly and still hungry. But that's not all.
Now that the tide is in, he's much lonelier.

But as Catastrophe searches for his new friends, he hears the sound of running feet. He tries to flee, but finds himself a captive in a child's hands.
"You're the one on the LOST CAT posters!" a girl says.

There's no place like home for all of us creatures, and with the farewells of his tidal buddies in his ears, Catastrophe is on his way home, a happy cat, but changed by his experience of life in a different world.

In Brenda Peterson's Catastrophe by the Sea (West Margin Press, 2019), young readers are suddenly awash in the concept of biodiversity, the multitude of seemingly alien creatures with which we share the miracle of life.

There is power in a story that lets readers walk on different feet or swim in different waters. This motif is portrayed in the carefully crafted book design, in swirling lines of type, in the lovely paint and paper collage illustrations of Caldecott Award-winning artist Ed Young, and the sibilant sounds of author Peterson's text. The theme of fellow-feeling between living creatures is driven home to readers just as its cat character returns to his very different, but very happy home. Author Peterson appends more information for young beachcombers with notes by the Seattle Aquarium. Says School Library Journal, "Young's distinctive collage artwork is phenomenal and adds texture and detail. A harmonious picture book that celebrates biodiversity and builds empathy."

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Brave Enough for Two (A Hoot and Olive Story) by Jonathan D. Voss

Hoot was Olive's very best friend in all the whole wide world.

But, as you know, best friends don't always like the same things,

Take, for instance, ADVENTURE.

Olive liked adventure, as long as it came between the covers of a good book.

Hoot preferred to find his outside in the wide world.

So, one fine day, Hoot persuaded Olive to put down her book and take him outside to find something daring.

And their finds were exciting. Olive found an abandoned laundry basket (which on its own was not exciting) but the bunch of helium balloons tied to it suggested a great adventure to Hoot--a virtual hot air balloon ride!
"I'm not brave like you," said Olive."Don't worry," said Hoot. "I'm brave enough for both of us."

So they step into the basket, just as the breeze lifts them high off the ground. Olive is worried when she sees how far they are from the ground, while Hoot rejoices that he feels how a cloud must feel.  What an adventure to float across the sky!

But clouds do more than just float, and the real clouds darken and rain begins to fall. There's thunder and lightning and wind, and.... Olive is afraid that they will be blown far and get lost.
"We can never be lost so long as I'm here," said Hoot.

It's brave talk from Hoot, but Olive has had enough of high-flying adventure. She begins to untie the balloons, one by one, and they drop down, the basket settling in the fast-flowing river. Their basket is tossed and then blown to shore, torn by the current. Hoot is soaked and heavy with water. It's getting dark, and now Hoot is afraid. And now Olive sees that her friend needs for her to have courage.
"As long as you're here and I'm here, we can never be lost," said Olive.

And now Olive comes through with courage for two as she carries the sodden Hoot until they find their way home. All's well that ends with two adventuring friends safe and sound, in Jonathan D. Voss' Brave Enough for Two: A Hoot and Olive Story (Henry Holt and Company), a beautifully illustrated story of a great adventure ironically set safely within the covers of a picture book. Voss's illustrations, done with strong, flowing lines and deep but glowing colors, have the feel of movement, and his story of courage shared is heartwarming for young readers. "[A] supportive story of friendship and taking chances, illustrated in burnished-toned compositions that take on a cinematic expansiveness," says Publishers Weekly.

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Outbreak! Pandemic (Global Prospectives) by Robert Green

Sadka Srichaphan lookd proudly over his city of Bankok. He was proud because he was playing host to students from all over the globe for the International Global Issues Summit.

"It's wonderful," said Asgar Knudsen. "I can't believe how easy it was to get here. I flew directly from Copenhagen. It's amazing how air travel has made the world so small!"

"Do you know," said Sadka, "there's a global traveler even more suited to international travel? This traveler knows no boundaries," he said. "He can travel on a plane without anyone knowing, and he is very hard to stop!"

"He is disease." sad Sadka.

A global conference which brings people from everywhere together is the perfect place to encounter the subject of pandemic, the cosmopolitan phantom at the feast of globalization.

Sadka Srichaphan goes on to describe such a disease. It must be novel, one for which humans have not acquired immunity, and it has to be virulently contagious, spreading quickly and easily through any contact. Epidemics, nationwide diseases, and pandemics, worldwide diseases, he explains, are not new to humans, but common throughout history. Sadka goes on to tell his young scientists to describe several major pandemics of the past century, the 1918 Influenza, incorrectly called "Spanish" Flu (which actually began at a U.S. Army base in Kansas near the end of World War I), spreading to Europe when the troops arrived, some already exposed in the crowded conditions of the troop ship, and finally occurring throughout the world, even Arctic villages, killing 50 million worldwide.

The students also learn about the "Avian Influenza," which initially spread from birds to humans, and then from human to human. The "Bird Flu" luckily proved not to be contagious enough to spread worldwide and was stopped by isolating human victims and destroying infected birds. But another "novel" Corona disease, called SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, soon appeared in Asia and spread to Canada and Europe. It was very nearly a pandemic but the use of masks and isolation eventually stopped its spread.
"It was a very close call," Sadka Srichaphan told his young listeners.

But now another "novel" SARS-type Corona virus, named COVID-19, has come a pandemic. Robert Green's Pandemics (Global Perspectives (Cherry Lake)) (Cherry Lake Publishing) offers readers in the middle grades a brief survey of the history of pandemics and some understanding of the new problems of easy spread and of control of such diseases. Green's account, aimed at preteens and young teens, will involve students in understanding the nature and necessity of worldwide disease control and offers an appendix with glossary, bibliography, maps, and index.

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Aquarium Anxieties! Fancy Nancy: Peanut Butter and Jellyfish (I-Can-Read) K by Jane O'Connor

With summer vacations in view, May is a big month for field trips, and kids who have a class field trip to an aquarium are lucky, but... not all the sea creatures look cuddly and some aren't exactly cute! And in this easy reader, author Jane O'Connor and her customary illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser have Fancy Nancy almost have an uncommon meltdown when she confronts the several cases of a particularly unusual species.

Fancy Nancy likes the sparkly, snazzy, and spectacular tropical fish. Their colors are varied, their patterns are pretty, and with trailing, diaphanous fancy fins and elegant shapes, they are what Nancy calls "tres magnifique!"

But when Nancy, her best friend Bree, and their friends move on through the aquarium, Bree pulls Nancy toward one case that she thinks Nancy is going to love. The jellies' many colors and their undulating mantles are almost mesmerizing as they swim along. But Nancy has another reaction when she sees those trailing tentacles:

"C'est terrible!"

In Jane O'Connor's Fancy Nancy: Peanut Butter and Jellyfish (I Can Read Level 1) (HarperCollins), the usual ebullient Nancy can't bear to look at the jellies. But as usual, her teacher Ms. Glass knows just what to do. Artist Robin Preiss Glasser outdoes herself depicting the denizens of the deep at the aquarium and Nancy rises to the occasion. This book makes a perfect read-aloud to prep students for a field trip to the aquarium, and its controlled vocabulary works for early primary readers to practice solo reading skills.

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