Sunday, October 25, 2020

Hitching A Ride?Two Dogs On A Trike by Gabi Snyder

At least that's what he thinks, as he eyes a small poodle pedaling his tall trike by the gate. But there's someone else, unbeknownst, eyeballing the scene from the window, someone with a definitely slitty feline eye. The tall dog hops onto the back of the trike as the two roll down the sidewalk, all unaware that the cat is on their trail on silent cat feet. The two join a chubby dog on a scooter. It's three canines on one scooter with one fast feline on skates in hot pursuit, and soon the three dogs join a dachshund on his snug two-seater bike, unaware that the wily cat is following on a feloniously captured skateboard.
WAIT! There's a trolley with a Chihuahua conductor! Surely that will leave the cat in the dust!
But, no! Can a trolley outpace a cat in a race car? No, it can't. The dogs raise the ante! All six canines take the train, while the cat rides on top! Can they fool the feline by jumping on the ferry? Foolish dogs! Their feline pursuer spots them with a spyglass from a sub! The canines commandeer an airplane, but the cat follows in a chopper! The hapless hounds and their pilot pug hop into a hot-air balloon that's handy, but the cat has a firm hold on a helium balloon and is hot on their trail! Egads! Is there no escape from this cat, even in a flying saucer soaring in space?
Who is that feline figure in the last seat? Can it be ... the CAT? It's time for a countdown as the dogs reverse the trip, taking each means of transport, with the cat following suit, from ten down to one, with the cat matching his mode of transportation to theirs until they are back to where they started. Well, almost. (The cat finally finds a feline friend to share a ride with him.) It's up to ten and down again, in Gabi Snyder's clever cat and dog confrontation via transportation, in her new Two Dogs on a Trike (Abrams Appleseed Books, 2020). For early childhood learners this book has it all--rhyming words, counting practice, and the fun of learning about all sorts of vehicles, from recumbent bicycles to unicycles, from trains to planes. This one does double duty as a beginning reader as well as an early counting book, and there are plenty of comedic details in Robin Rosenthal's clever illustrations, with a wide range of dog breeds to identify to boot. Way to GO, Gabi Snyder!

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All Together Now! Cat Dog Dog--A Story of a Blended Family by Nelly Buchet

What happens when a man with a shaggy, set-in-his-only-dog ways terrier moves in with a lady with an orange cat and a giant great Dane dog? Can the pampered pets work out some sort of accommodation? Leaving his bachelor pad behind, the man loads a box of his belongings and (ahem) several boxes of terrier toys and his pet's canopied doggy bed into a rented van and drives over hill and dale. Meanwhile the lady waits on the porch of her suburban bungalow with a persnickety cat and towering big dog, who already have their own issues. HISSSS! All three pets have NO IDEA what is about to unfold! And as the two humans unpack all the boxes and put things in their places, the cat, dog, and dog start their first day with a multiple-pet shakedown. Right away, one of the dogs (who will remain anonymous) chews a hole in a box and a hole in one of the shoes inside. There are assorted territory disputes, especially between the cat and terrier, who do not share beds and toys and bowls well. Walking two dogs is not a treat, since each wants to go a different direction. Then there's the problem of who gets to sleep with the humans! There is, however, a bonding experience, as the cat, watching a bird outside on the sill, unlatches the window and all three pets escape. What happens? (Don't ask!) The upshot of the little adventure is not pleasant, with bandages on legs and tails and cones on all the pets' heads for a period of quiet co-convalescence. But after that little sortie, the three seem to worked out their pecking order. The two dogs play tug-of-war for the cat's amusement, and a change in the seasons shows all three in Halloween costumes, watching the first snowfall through a (well-secured) window, and all three sharing the big dog's bed before a roaring Yuletide fire. The pet blend ends well in a calm and placid home until... there's someone new... A BABY! Waaaaaaw! Who can sleep? Nelly Buchet's charming new title, Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family (Schwartz and Wade, 2020), tells a hilarious and happy-ending story with a vocabulary of four words (five if you count dog two times), DOG, CAT, BIRD, and  a FROG (who makes a cameo appearance in the front yard) that illustrates the old nostrum, "It takes a lot of living to make a house a home," and ends cheerily with dog and cat chasing the big dog with a Teddy bear in his mouth, as they exit, page right. Much credit for the success of this pettour de force goes to artist Andrea Zuill, whose illustrations tell the tale with great good humor. This new picture book for Buchet is a delight to read aloud to a child or for said child to use the limited text and many jolly details to enjoy a book solo and successfully! Among almost wordless books this one is a standout. Says Kirkus in their starred review, "A clever, winning readaloud for modern families!"

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Natural and Unalienable Rights: Mumbet's Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfe

Article I. All men are born free and equal and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights....
                   --Massachusetts Constitution, 1780.
Mumbet didn't have a last name because she was a slave. Folks called her Bett or Betty. Children called her Mom Bett or Mumbet.  Others were not so kind.

Mumbet was the property of the richest landholder in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, Colonel John Ashley. The Colonel's wife had the sharpest tongue in town.
But Mumbet was as strong the mountains around her. Once when Mrs. Ashley tried to hit Mumbet's daughter with a coal scoop, Mumbet took the blow and refused to bandage it so everyone could see what her mistress had done. One day Colonel Ashley held a meeting for county leaders who were critical of British rule, objecting to the enforcement of the King's laws and taxes on them without their consent. Mrs. Ashley sent Mumbet in with refreshments for the meeting, and she took her time serving the men, listening to the comments.
"Write this down," Colonel Ashley ordered a young lawyer, Theodore Sedgwick. "Mankind in a state of nature are equal, free and independent!"
Mumbet sat down her tray. Her heart fluttered. How could she secure her freedom?
Soon Massachusetts' representatives signed the Declaration of Independence and approved their new state constitution in 1780, and young men from Berkshire County went off to fight for independence.
Mumbet decided that she, too, would have independence.

Taking a market basket for cover, Mumbet went to office of Theodore Sedgwick and told him she believed that under the new Massachusetts Constitution, she, her daughter Lizzy, and all slaves in Massachusetts should be free.
"Yes, but...." Sedgwick gazed at Mumbet, standing strong as a mountain. "We will go to court together and test the new law. But if we lose..."
"I will be no worse off," said Mumbet, "And if we win, I will be free!"
Mumbet and Theodore Sedgwick won her case and also freedom for all slaves in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Mumbet's first action as a citizen was to change her name, officially, to Elizabeth Freeman, and it was she who before the United States became a nation, was the first successful 
American abolitionist. Gretchen Woelfe's Mumbet's Declaration of Independence (CarolRhoda Books)  is a moving and suspenseful account of how liberation of slaves came first to Massachusetts and how as Elizabeth Freeman she lived a life as the trusted and paid  housekeeper and "second mother" to the Sedgwick family, and also the mother of all free black women in the United States. Author Woelfe's author's notes credit Catharine Sedgwick, Theodore Sedgwick's descendant, for the details of Mumbet's epitaph:

"She had no superior or equal. She never violated a trust nor failed to perform a duty. She was the most efficient helper and the tenderest friend.  Good mother, farewell."

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Where There's A Will, There's A Way! Runaway Pumpkins by Teresa Bateman

It's the first field trip of the year. Kids are hustling; teachers are bustling! The bus is here! Children cheer!

It's down the road and round the bend, and then the visit to the pumpkin patch begins. The class spreads out, each one hoping to find the perfect pumpkin for their own jack o' lantern, the one that could win first prize at the Autumn Fair. But how can they choose when there are so many there?
So many pumpkins! Better be quick. Hurry and scurry, each one must pick!
Finally the bus driver stows each chosen pumpkin away, latched inside the big bins under the bus. The kids thank the farmer and climb aboard, and waving to the pigs watching from their stye, they pull away and head back to school.
Brains are busy; lots of possibilities there! Which one will win in the Autumn Fair?
Silly, scary, ghouly, goofy? Frightful, artsy, simple, spoofy?
But just as the kids wish the bus would go faster, the latches come loose and there is a disaster! Their precious pumpkins roll out with a smash and a crash. Now there are no pumpkins, just seeds, chunks, and pieces. The only pumpkin left is the huge one tied to the roof of the bus. While the bus drives on, midst gloom and doom, people come out to view the scene and begin to clean.

Back at school, the kids make the best of it, pitching in to make that huge pumpkin--their first group project--good enough to win the prize at the Autumn Fair.
But at the Fair...


And at the Autumn fair, there's plenty to share in Teresa Bateman's latest, Runaway Pumpkins (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2020). Teresa Bateman is the doyenne of rhyming stories, and this making-the-best-of-it tale is a jolly addition to pumpkin-time picture books for primary readers. And then there are plenty more where this one came from! (See more here).

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The Right Time: Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Kindness by Kimberley and James Dean

Pete the Cat is in good company in this celebration of kindness as a philosophy of life in Kimberley and James Dean's latest, Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Kindness(HarperCollins, 2020) For your kind consideration, Pete the Cat has curated some quotes about kindness from all of time and all over the world.
And Pete the Cat knows that a kind meow can keep the peace, warm the heart, and sometimes save the day in his groovy guide to everyday goodness. And as Pete always says, "It's all good!"

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

What's A Spook To Do? The Little Ghost Who Lost Her Boo! by Elaine Bickell


But the little spook's BOO seemed to be...nowhere!
What's a ghost with no BOO to do?
But this is a spunky little spook who sets off to look for her BOO! Off through the dark forest she flew, and then she heard a scary WHOOO! WHOOO!
But Mrs. Owl's hoot will never do.
Pigeon offers to loan her COO! and Rooster says she can borrow his COCKLE-DOODLE-DOO. The dark is fading with the dawn's early light, and Cow in her pasture even suggests her MOO! Little ghost thanks her, but it's just not HER BOO!,
There's no one left to help but YOU, the READER!

In a scary season book just made for reading aloud, Elaine Bickell's The Little Ghost Who Lost Her Boo! (Philomel Books) has all the right stuff--a Halloween setting, animal sounds, rhyming couplets, and reader participation! With skillfully charming drawings by Raymond McGrath, this one is just right for little ones from nursery school to beginning readers.
Share this one with the classic of scary sounds story, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. (See review here)

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Sunday, October 18, 2020

Nothing Like Home Weekend Dad by Haseem Hrab

One Monday morning, my dad moved out of our home and into an apartment.

He said he wouldn't be far, just a bus ride away. Down the street, past the park, and through the tunnel.

The boy slips some photos of himself into his dad's suitcase in case he might forget him during the week. On Tuesday's the boy goes to the grave of his hamster Abraham and remembers that his father cried when they buried him. On Thursday the boy and his mother have tuna sandwiches for dinner. The boy remembers that his dad hates tuna sandwiches.

On Friday his mom packs the boys' suitcase with pajamas, two pairs of jeans, two sweaters, socks and underwear, a toothbrush, and his toy, Wendell. When his dad rings the doorbell, the boy kisses his mom goodbye. They take the bus down the street, past the park, and through the tunnel. It's a long ride. Forty-eight minutes.
My dad says I have two homes now.

This home is home because dad lives here.

It's nothing like home because my mom isn't here."

It's not like home because they have pizza from a box for dinner at a tiny round table. It's nothing like home because his bedroom has only a sleeping bag and one pillow and a street light shines and a car horn's honk comes through the window.
"I'm scared."

On Saturday morning Dad suggests that they do something special, but the boy only wants to do the same things they always do--play cards in the morning and go to the park in the afternoon. After dinner, they go to bed. The boy wonders if his mom went to the pool without him.

Sunday is the same, and then it's time to go through the tunnel, past the park, and down the street to the boy's bus stop. The two stand awkwardly on the porch.
"Aren't you coming in, Dad?"

"I'm sorry. I don't live here anymore. I wrote you a letter.

Now that I'm not seeing you every day, I'm worried that you might forget that you are always in my heart." his dad says.

That night Dad finds Wendell waiting on his bed. And the next weekend, they take the bus past the tunnel, past the apartment, and to the store to pick out the boy's new bed.

Narrated by the unnamed boy who suddenly finds himself with two homes, Haseem Hrab's Weekend Dad (Groundwood Press, 2020) is a child's-eye view of the end of a marriage, told in straightforward language, portraying both the feelings of loss and the essence of hope, shown sensitively in the poignant line drawings of illustrator Frank Viva, which end with the boy sleeping with his letter and his Dad sleeping with Wendell. In a starred review, Kirkus says, “Viva’s illustrations capture the abundant emotional subtext with simple but effective lines. Unsparingly compassionate; an excellent addition to the collection of books about separation and divorce.”

Hrab is also the author of the the well-reviewed story of being the new kid in the class, Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend (Ira Crumb (1)), and Frank Viva is the author-illustrator of Outstanding in the Rain.

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Prolific Painter! Pete the Cat: A Pet for Pete by James Dean

Pete is going to the pet store... to get a pet.
At first Pete thinks he wants a bird. But when he sees a goldfish, he falls in love with her. It's Goldie for him! Back home Pete puts Goldie's goldfish bowl in his room. He feeds her some fish food.
Pet knows he can't swim with Goldie at the beach. He can't exactly play with a pet in a bowl! But there's one thing Pete CAN do!
He paints a picture of Goldie!
When his mom admires his painting, Pet gives it to her as a present. But when his friend Bob sees Pete's painting he wants one. Bob is wowed! He shows the painting to Tom, and then Tom wants one. And when Pete takes his painting to school for show-and-tell, the whole class is wowed! PETE HAS A PROBLEM. Now everyone wants a painting of Goldie. Pete tries to comply. He uses up all his paints and has to buy more at the art store. Pete has another problem. He wants to please everyone in his class but he doesn't even have time to do his homework! What to do? But Mom comes through with an idea of how everyone in town can see a painting of Goldie, in James Dean's Pete the Cat: A Pet for Pete (My First I Can Read) (HarperCollins), in which Pete takes advantage of the roof rack for his surfboard on their VW Beetle to display a giant painting of Goldie to everyone in town! This My First Shared Reading book gives all Pete the Cat fans an opportunity to enjoy Pete's artwork while they are practicing their reading. For seasonal fun, share this one with James Dean's Pete the Cat: Trick or Pete.

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Breath of Life: Your Respiratory System Works by Flora Brett

It all begins with your first breath. All of systems of the human body are necessary, but the respiratory system is the sine qua non, the one without which nothing works. Its job, to provide oxygen for the body and to carry away carbon dioxide, the waste product of metabolism, is the beginning of all human activity.

How does it work? It's as plain as the nose on your face. Long, wide, sharp or pug, acquiline or freckled, its job is to warm or cool the outside air in the nasal cavity and filter the dust and other substances--from the perfume of a rose to disease germs and particles--removing them from the air with its mucus and cillia (tiny hairlike projections (as the breath passes down the pharynx (throat) over the larynx (voice box) through the vocal cords to the trachea (windpipe) and through the two bronchii that carry air into the air and finally to the alveoli where the respiratory system meets the circulatory system in the capillaries that take up the oxygen and drop off the carbon dioxide molecules in the blood. 

Intake is controlled by the movements of the diaphragm which pull down to increase the space in the chest, helped by the muscles in the rib cage. Then the process is reversed, the "used" air is exhaled, following the THIS WAY OUT signs! 

That's it! Mission accomplished! But what a mission it is, keeping 2500 gallons (7950 liters) of air per day coming and going. And, by the way, the respiratory system is also necessary for humans to talk and sing, cough and sneeze and snore. 

It's all there and more in Flora Brett's Your Respiratory System Works! (Your Body Systems) (Capstone Books). In this nonfiction book author Brett provides the correct scientific terms for the parts of the respiratory system and how they work within the rest of human physiology and points out some other considerations young readers should be familiar with--the importance of exercise in keeping the cardiopulmonary system healthy and the airborne problems that can occur with this system--asthma, bronchitis, allergies, infectious diseases such as COVID-19, and inhaled smoke from cigarettes, fires, and from pollutants--as well as ways to help avoid them. 

Brett's text is well-written for its readership, defining the Latin terms assigned to parts of the system, with simple language and definitive paragraphs, accompanied by excellent color cut-away illustrations and photographs of the anatomical terms described. As all proper informational book authors should, the author also includes a full appendix with glossary, bibliography, list of websites, and index to allow young scholars to breathe easy with their science reports in the early grades. 

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Surprise Bundle of Joy! It's A Moose! by Meg Rosoff

The nursery was all ready for the new little bundle of joy, with crib and mobile, a rocking horse, teddy bear, rack-a-stack, and cute onesie pajamas and little blue suspender suits.



When she's taken to see the new arrival at the hospital nursery, the little girl carries a balloon that says "IT'S A MOOSE."

And a baby moose in a diaper is darling. She falls in love with the new family member.


Grandma observes that he has the same nose as her Great-Aunt Lydia!

But there are some unusual problems. When they take the baby out in his buggy, people tend to point and stare. He outgrows his baby clothes in no time, and before long they have to get a bigger car with a sun roof to accommodate his long neck and antlers when they go to the drive-through. He doesn't fit the furniture in the house, and from the dormer window upstairs, he begins to sing sad songs nightly under the moon.

So the family packs the car with provisions and heads north... way up NORTH... to the NORTH WOODS actually, where the moose soon finds another moose to play with. He sings a happy song.


And soon the family gets a post card from Moosie....
Dear Mom and Dad + Sis,
Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.

Meg Rosoff's It's a Moose! (Putnam, 2020) is a book that grownups won't be able to wait to read aloud and kid will want to read over and over! It's fanciful and funny and sweet, and filled with charming illustrations by artist David Ercolini. Ercolini's carefully-drawn, double-page spreads of the hospital nursery, the baby's room at home, and Moosie's birthday party--with the moose antler ring-toss and Pin the Tail on the Moose game and the young guests in antlered party hats--will keep young readers giggling at each comic detail with each page turn. This one is a real winner for the primary set, a joy for all. Says Publishers Weekly, "Rosoff begins with a goofy what-if . . . but deepens their story into something much more: one about how loving families stick together, embrace radical acceptance, and know when to let go."

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Save the Tiger! Tigers at Twilight (Magic Tree House) by Mary Pope Osborne

Jack and Annie walked past the Frog Creek Woods on the way back from the library.

"I miss Teddy!" said Annie.
"He is a really smart dog."

Jack agreed.

"And here!" said Annie.

"ARF! ARF!" The small dog barked from behind a bush. "Is it time to get our third gift?" asked Jack.

Teddy sneezed, as if to say "YES!"

Teddy leads them into the woods where inside their tree house they find a note from Morgan Le Fay.
"Now we have to get a gift from a faraway forest," Annie reads.

And with a tap of Morgan's magic book, the tree house rises above the trees and spins away, finally coming down to rest in what is indeed a forest, with two langur monkeys, Kah and Ko, waiting in the tree to guide them. Kah places his little paw in Jack's hand and leads him into the beautiful forest. Jack and Annie are amazed at the bright birds and flowers, but frightened by a giant python and a tree marked by the deep scratches left by a huge tiger. And then they spot a real tiger, unconscious with his foot caught in a steel trap. Jack and Annie spring the trap, and dash up a tree, afraid of the tiger.

Kah and Ko show them how to swing from the vines in the tree to the back of a patient elephant. Safe for the moment, they meet a hermit seated by a blue pool who asks Annie to pick him a lily from the pond. It's a beautiful bloom, but its stem ends in a muddy smelly root. Annie wonders how can anything as beautiful as the lily and the tiger can be so ugly at the same time?
"When you saved the tiger, you saved all of him, his graceful beauty and his fierce nature. This perfect lotus blossom grows from dark, thick mud," said the wise man. "It's beauty cannot live without its ugliness. Do you understand?

Take this lotus." he said.

"A gift from a faraway forest.... Our third gift," said Annie, thoughtfully.

Their task is complete and with a tap of the magic book the Magic Tree House returns them to its place in Frog Creek Woods, with only more task and gift left to free Teddy from his spell, in Mary Pope Osborne's book from her best-selling series, Tigers at Twilight (Magic Tree House, No. 19) (Random House). As she always does, Osborne also includes an appendix which explains much about the folklore and animals of India's tropical forest

Jack and Annie have only one last task to perform to free Teddy from his spell. For that transformation, see Osborne's Magic Tree House #20, Dingoes at Dinnertime (Magic Tree House, No. 20)

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

On Broadway and In The Heights! Game Changers: Lin-Manuel Miranda by Stephanie Kraus

Lin-Manuel Miranda was looking around a bookstore one day when he came across Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. He bought the best-selling biography and began reading it on vacation. The book describes how Hamilton, an orphan from the Caribbean, wrote his way out of poverty and helped shape a new nation.

How does a young guy turn the story of one of America's founding fathers into a record-breaking Broadway musical hit?

Lin-Manuel Miranda grew up with lot of music in his house--pop songs, salsa, and Broadway show tunes, which he loved, and although his family couldn't see all of them, he did see and love Cats, Les Miserable, and The Phantom of the Opera. He loved his piano recitals and he and his school bus driver led rap competitions on the way to grade school. Miranda played in school productions, as Conrad Birdie of Bye Bye, Birdie and the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Pirates of Penzance. He was hooked.
The musical theater was his calling!

After college Miranda helped composer Steven Sondheim translate the famous musical West Side Story (based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet) into Spanish, and after some roles on stage, Miranda decided to compose a show that took advantage of a diverse cast, and his result was the hit Broadway musical In the Heights, which won 13 Tony Awards. A hit like that is hard to follow, and that is why Miranda was in that bookstore, searching diligently for a subject that would inspire a different sort of show, and inexplicably, he settled on the subject of Alexander Hamilton, born in the Caribbean, a Revolutionary War general, member of the Constitutional Convention, and first secretary of the treasury of the U.S. in George Washington's first cabinet, and the only member of that administration killed in a duel by another politician.

In 2009, after a year of work on his idea, Miranda previewed his signature song "In the Room Where It Happened" at a White House gala with a standing ovation, and his complete musical Hamilton: An American Musical opened in 2015 to even more Tony Awards and even a Pulitzer.

Author Stephanie Kraus tells the amazing story of the Puerto Rican composer who brings American patriot Alexander Hamilton into Broadway history with new rap style, along with many other musical forms, in her biography, Beyond Words: Lin-Manuel Miranda (Time for Kids(r) Nonfiction Readers) (Time For Kids). As nonfiction for middle-school and high-school students, this book is illustrated with lively color photos, and the biographical part of the text is broken up with fact boxes, "Stop and Think," boxes, pie-graphs of the racial composition of Broadway plays, and other eye-catching features, along with basics such as an appendix that boasts a glossary, index, "Try It Out!" and "Stop and Think!" sections, and a bibliography with books, video, and websites. This stylish biography has much to offer readers in showing how success in any area involves everything a person learns--at home, in school, from associates, and in the life around him or her.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Meet and Greet! Welcome to the Party by Gabrielle Union

Sweet baby, there’s a party happening and it’s YOU who’s invited.

There's nothing like a new member of the family, and everyone's excited. Mom and Dad are proud to host your debut. The cousins can't wait to welcome you ... with the aunts and the uncles and the grandparents, too!
Say HI to your guests. They are happy to meet you.

They have waited so long, and can’t wait to greet you!
Down the red carpet goes the little invitee! There's Grandpa, Grandma, and all the family... . All take a place at the table, set with everything yummy! They'll laugh, share stories, and all kiss your tummy. They'll dance for you, sing to you, hug you, my sweet. 'Cause you're the one making our family complete!

There's no happier assembly than one introducing a new baby to life in a family, a time to party hearty, in Gabrielle Union's personal story of a much-wanted baby, Welcome to the Party (HarperCollins, 2020). With jolly rhymes and plenty of artist Ashley Evans' charming full-bleed illustrations of the special guest, the big occasion is celebrated in a happy reunion of assorted relatives. This first children's book by actress and best-selling author Union is great for parents with a new baby (and the new baby's siblings) and for grandparents as well, a perfect gift for birthdays and special days, and a great book to include with a Meet the Family photo scrapbook of the celebration.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Childhood Haikus: Seeing into Tomorrow: Haiku by Richard Wright and Nina Crews

The haiku from Richard Wright's childhood came from the closely observed landscapes and animals he knew, the railroad trains that rumbled down the middle of the town, the caws of the crows and the rustling of the leaves, a dusty road down which his bike travels, the blue of the skies in which his yellow kite rises, and a sunset that colors and changes everything. --Nina Crews

Empty railroad tracks. And the rails leap with life.
Like the classic style dictates, Richard Wright's haikus capture a tiny memory, a moment in time as a child might see it.
Suddenly mindful,

the tree was looking at me,

each green leaf alive.

In her Seeing into Tomorrow: Haiku by Richard Wright (Millbrook Press), artist Nina Crews sets Wright's haiku against photos of real boys in the real outdoors, arranged together to set off the meaning and feeling of each haiku, the photos and the text each a slice of life, caught in the moment. For reading aloud and for poetry lessons, this book is perfect for youngsters learning to listen to the music of words and to write their own poetry.
Says Publishers Weekly, "The clustered, overlapping photographs scatter and dissipate at the edges of the spreads, subtly reflecting the evanescence of the moments Wright describes."

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Taking a Break with the Bard! Stink--Hamlet and Cheese by Megan McDonald

It's school break time, and Stink has a choice to make. Shall he hang around the house all week and listen to his big sister Judy Moody babble about how superior she is, or go over to his friend Sophie's house and see what she's got planned for the week. It's an easy decision. Sophie's just got her latest yard-sale finds, including one unusual action figure:

"Here's the best one." She held up a balding guy with a big collar and puffy pumpkin pants.< "Hey!" said Stink. "Isn't that... ? It's William Shakesbeard!"
Sophie cracked up. "Close! It's William Shakespeare. I can't wait for Shakespeare camp. It's called Shakespeare Sprites." "You get to drink soda at camp?" asked Stink.
Sophie explains that a sprite is like a fairy, and that everyone in the group gets a part. And, Sophie points out, there are some other perks Stink might enjoy about the camp.
"Everybody gets a speaking part. Also, there's mad kings and murders and storms and shipwrecks and sword fights in Shakespeare. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part!"Sophie added. "At Shakespeare camp, you get to swear like people did in Shakespeare's time."
Swords AND swearing? Stink is sold! He signs up for the camp. He's unhappy about being the only boy there, but happy that that means that he gets to do most of the swearing and sword fighting and play Hamlet, with his own fake mustache and pumpkin-shaped shorts. But Fie! There be one fly in ye olde ointment! Stink's nemesis Riley Rottenberger is there, still determined to kiss him and embarrass him in front of a live audience. Riley even has a Shakespearean knock-knock kissing joke awaiting Stink!
"Knock Knock" "Who's there?" "Puck." "Puck Who?" "Pucker up, Stink!" Riley puckered up her lips! MWAH!
"Fie on thee, fly-faced maggot pie!"
But "All's well that ends well," and with a dose of "eye of newt and toe of frog" Stink manages to elude a Riley Rottenberger smoocharooney, tosses off some erudite Elizabethan swearing, and his Hamlet death scene brings down the house at the camp finale, in Megan McDonald's Stink: Hamlet and Cheese (Candlewick Books, 2019 ed.) With the comely comedic artwork of Peter H. Reynolds, young independent readers will find much merry-making indeed as Stink Moody treads the boards, hits the histrionic heights, and bests the Bard in another of of McDonald's novels packed with laughs and lower grade humor that will have the pages turning fast in the beginning chapter book for Judy and Stink Moody fans.

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Saturday, October 10, 2020

With A Little Help from My Friends: Rita and Ralph's Rotten Day by Carmen Agra Deedy

In two little houses,

on two little hills,

lived two best friends.

Every day Rita and Ralph run down and up two hills to meet together between their houses under their apple tree. They high-five and pinkie shake and play together until it's time to part and return to their houses. They are the best of friends. But...

Then one day... they played a new game: Sticks and Stones...

Ralph hits Rita right on her head with his stone.



Rita runs home, closes her door, and puts an ice bag on her head. She feels angry. Ralph feels sorry.

The hills between Rita and Ralph feel like a hundred years. But she is his best friend, so Ralph runs down and up and down and up all the hills to Rita's house. But by the time he gets there, he is feeling cranky about the whole thing.
"I'm SORRY!" he barks.

Rita won't come outside, so Ralph runs back down and up and down and up the hills to his house and closes his door. He's mad. Meanwhile, at her house, Rita is beginning to feel a bit sorry. She trudges up and down the hills to Ralph's house, but by the time Rita gets to Ralph's house she is angry again. She shouts up to Ralph's window that she wants her special pinecone back. Ralph throws it down to her.

Nobody's sorry now.

But after a sleepless night for the former best friends, they both leave their houses and head up and down and up and down the hills to meet in the middle under their apple tree.
"I'm sorry," says Rita.

"I'm sorrier!" says Ralph.

In a witty story of conflict resolution, best-selling author and illustrator Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrator Pete Oswald come together in Rita and Ralph's Rotten Day (Scholastic Press,2020), an appealing collaboration which portrays the process of managing emotions and reconciliation which seem to be an almost inevitable learning experience of childnood. Artist Pete Oswald sets up the up-and-down terrain which becomes a metaphor for these ups and downs of friendship in his clever illustrations of the two houses separated by four hills and dales and deftly uses the eyes of his characters to portray emotions of the two characters. Even their two pets, Rita's puppy and Ralph's kitty, and the flock of black birds flying from Ralph's house to Rita's symbolize their anger. It's a simple little story that has layers of depth supported skillfully by artist Oswald's charming illustrations and book design.

Says Shelf Awareness' starred review," A terrific read-aloud... Rita and Ralph's tiff, told with a sweet freshness, is a timeless, engaging tale with which any young reader is likely to identify."

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Friday, October 09, 2020

Snorkel Rabbit! Bunny Overboard by Claudia Rueda




A sailing we shall go with Bunny! It's over the waves, Mateys, as Bunny launches his little red sailboat. But he needs help! His sails need some BREEZE, please!
AHH! THANK YOU! But now Bunny needs someone to rock the boat, just for the fun of it. But THEN he wants more! But too much rocking is... OOOOO!
Kersplash! Too much rocking almost swamps the boat. A curious seal gives this maneuver a fishy eye, while Bunny decides it's time to drop anchor. Bunny suits up in his snorkeling gear, fins and all, and jumps off the stern of his sailboat. 


The fascinated seal watches as Bunny sinks to the sandy sea floor and spots an interesting rock. He just has to touch it... only to find it's not a rock, but... Whoops! an Octopus!!  Bunny disappears in a cloud of black octopus ink! He solicits some help in wiping off the ink. Restored, he tries to pet a friendly fish, but gets another surprise!
Ah, here's something that's not a skittish denizen of deep!
It's a sunken shipwreck, and after Bunny scares all the fish away, he decides to swim through a porthole. There's no treasure chest inside, but there is a very large sea shell. As the friendly seal peers through the porthole, Bunny gives the giant mollusk a tap and it opens to reveal a giant pearl inside.  TREASURE!

What an expedition this has been! Now Bunny's ready to weigh anchor and and head back to port. And with the friendly seal providing the wind power to fill the boat's sail, it's about time to seek the high and dry, in Claudia Rueda's latest, Bunny Overboard (Chronicle Books, 2020). 

With a game of "Spot the Seal" throughout the book, this recent sequel is a sure-fire toddler tale, and with the easy vocabulary and witty plot, it works well as a beginning reader as well. This one, Rueda's third Bunny tale, is also a salute to the interactive picture book pioneered by best-selling author-illustrator Herve' Tullet's Press Here (see review here).  Claudia Rueda's other interactive books in this series are Bunny Slopes: (Winter Books for Kids, Snow Children's Books, Skiing Books for Kids) (my review here) and Hungry Bunny.

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Like Night and Day: Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o

Sulwe was born the color of midnight. She looked nothing like her family. Not even a little.

The rest of her family--her mama and her sister--are lighter and brighter, like noon! At school the other kids call her sister Mich "Sunshine," but they call Sulwe "Darkie." No one plays with her. Sulwe tries a big rubber eraser to see if her color will rub off. It doesn't. It only hurts. She tries some of Mama's makeup. She eats only white food for a while. None of those things work. One night when she says her prayers, she wishes to be as fair as her parents. But in the morning she only sees her midnight face in the mirror. Seeing her tears, her mama reminds her that her name means "Star" for brightness.
"Brightness is not in your skin," Mama tells her. "It's who you are. It begins with how you see yourself."

But Sulwe doesn't understand. With her tears drying on her face, she falls asleep and into a dream in which a big, bright star soars through her window and tells her the story of two sisters, Day and Night. People call them different names. Day is called "Lovely." Night is called "Scary." They praise Day so much that one day Night just leaves the earth. At first the people love having Day always with them, but little by little things go wrong on the earth. Nothing goes the way they like it. And Day is lonely for her sister and goes into the sky to search for her. But when she finds her, Night does not want to return to earth where people call her bad names. But the people come to her with a plea.
"We need you." "You see," the Big Star explained. "We need both--and every shade in between."

And the next morning, Sulwe wakes up...

It takes all kinds and all shades to make an interesting world, in Lupita Nyong'o's Sulwe (Simon and Schuster, 2019). Of course, color is only one difference that divides people, but in this little parable it serves as a symbol of the many superficial differences that sometimes loom large in children's eyes. Awarded a Coretta Scott King Illustrator's Award for Vashti Harrison's vibrant illustrations, Nyong'o's book offers what Booklist's reviewer calls, "...A welcome celebration of Black girls, an important lesson for all kids (and grownups), and a necessary message for any child who has been made to feel unworthy of love on account of their looks."

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Thursday, October 08, 2020

The Adventures of an Artist! Here Comes Lolo by Niki Daly

Friday was always the day of the Star Awards.

Lolo has a red star for neat writing, and a blue star for clean hands, but she is a girl with higher aspirations. She hopes today will be the day she gets the Gold Star for reading. She finds it hard to concentrate all day, but at the end of the day at "Free Time," she loses track of time, reading book after book and adding them to her list. Suddenly it's Awards Time, and Mrs. McKenzie praises her for reading so many books and puts a Gold Star on her forehead!

Lolo is so proud that she runs all the way home, excited to show off her Gold Star to Mama and Grandma Gogo.

But when she gets home and points proudly to her forehead, there's nothing there!

Gogo and Lolo go back to look for it, but at the stall where she stopped for a donut, the owner's little girl Sharifa is wearing it on her forehead and protests so loudly that Lolo lets her keep the star.

Mama gives Lolo a kiss for being such an understanding big girl, and at bedtime Gogo has a hair clip with a big golden star for Lolo.

Lola's love for art pays off the next week when her friend Makalima buys the hat Lolo wanted, but suddenly agrees to swap the real hat for a portrait of her wearing the hat painted by Lolo. And when Lolo finds a lost engagement ring, she designs a standout Lost and Found poster, and a young woman named Belinda  calls with the description of her lost ring, and gratefully invites Lolo to come to her art classes every Saturday for free. She even invites Lolo, Mama, and Gogo to her wedding.

And when Lolo spots a mistreated and starving old dog tied in a neighbor's backyard, Belinda notifies Animal Rescue to take the dog to the shelter. She soon adopts the dog and names her "Hope," and brings her every Saturday morning to her art class.
And Hope always goes to Lolo first.

Niki Daly's upbeat beginning chapter book about budding artist Lolo, Here Comes Lolo (LOLO (1)) (Catalyst Press, 2019) introduces an aspiring and artistic young protagonist who makes good things happen around her. Lolo puts her art skills to work to help herself and others, and this first chapter book about the enterprising Lolo earns a gold star for author-illustrator Daly. Daly's second book about Lolo is Hooray for Lolo (Lolo (2))

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What Goes Around Comes Around! The Life Cycle of an Apple by Gillian Clifton


 Apple trees, like all seed-producing plants, go through a life cycle. Their seeds are dropped inside their fruit to be eaten by animals who eat them, or are released as the fruit rots to reseed the plant in the next growing season. They grow into sprouts and then seedlings with leaves, gradually form bark for production, and grow until they are mature enough to make their own fruit with its own seeds to grow more and more apples with more and more seeds. Plant scientists call this the mighty and mysterious life cycle, through which all living things go.
The plant begins its life cycle, drops seeds, and dies. By dropping seeds, the plant starts the life cycle all over again. The cycle is like a loop that happens over and over.
Computer programmers use the concept of cycles to produce looping actions that also repeat a series of operations. But nature got there first, and when the perennial apple-picking season rolls around this year, Gillian Clifton's look at The Life Cycle of an Apple Tree: Over and over Again (Computer Science for the Real World) (Rosen Classroom, 2018), takes a a cross-the-curriculum look at the ability of apple trees to provide a perfect illustration of the scientific concept of looping. Clifton's language is simple, but with a poetry of its own, (downright cosmic, man) with generous color photographs of every step in the growing cycle, from a tender, almost transparent sprout to a seedling with a few mature leaves to a tree heavy with fruit in autumn, ending with the sweet and hand-sized apple that every child will know well, right down to its core with those dark seeds.
A tree lives in another way, too. When the tree dies, it returns its nutrients to the soil. From there new plants may grow. This life cycle loop happens for every apple tree you see!
As proper informational books do, Gillian Clifton's easy-to-read nonfiction book offers a brief appendix with glossary and index, along with a section of large-group and individual enrichment activities for teachers and parents. For more autumn fun with the life cycle, share this one with this season's other star, the pumpkin, here.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Spring Sprint! Mr. Putter and Tabby Run the Race by Cynthia Rylant

It was April. Mr. Putter and his fine cat Tabby were feeling their April energy. Mrs. Teaberry next door was feeling it, too. She called Mr. Putter one April morning. "There's a race! A marathon!" she said. "Uh-Oh," thought Mr. Putter. "I don't think I remember how to run. Aren't we too old to run a marathon?"
But Mrs. Teaberry knows how to close a deal.
Mrs. Teaberry told him it was a race for seniors--no one but old people.
"There are prizes," said Mrs. Teaberry. "Second prize is a train set, with lights and tunnels.

Find your sneakers!"

Mr. Putter didn't find training for a marathon to be easy. He spent four days just looking for his sneakers. He tried touching his toes and settled for touching his knees three times a day. Tabby lapped some cream and napped. On the day of the race, Mrs. Teaberry had matching T-shirts that said The Zekers for them to wear. Her good dog Zeke had a jump rope. Tabby had a worried look as they arrived at the track. She and Zeke got on top of the car to watch. Zeke watched. Tabby napped.
"I didn't know there were so many seniors," said Mr. Putter.
"Oh, we're everywhere!" said Mrs. Teaberry.
"Uh-Oh," thought Mr. Putter, as he watched the seniors stretching and touching their toes. The seniors lined up and then they were off. All the runners passed Mr. Putter. Mrs. Teaberry was soon way out front. Zeke got so excited he jumped off the car, and with his jump rope still in his mouth, he ran after Mrs. Teaberry. Some of the seniors tripped on Zeke's jump rope and bumped into other runners; some fell, and some stopped running right on the track to protest having a dog in the race.
But one of them wanted a train set so badly that he ran past everybody.
He grabbed Zeke's rope and hanged on for dear life. Zeke ran fast. This made Mr. Putter run faster.
Mr. Putter and Zeke ran so fast that Mr. Putter won the first prize--a set of golf clubs. Mrs. Teaberry won the train set.
"Phooey!" said Mr. Putter.
Mr. Putter did not want the first prize. But Mrs. Teaberry did, and she promptly swapped prizes with him. And after every round of golf in April, she and Zeke stopped by Mr. Putter's house to watch the new Putterville Railroad stop at the junctions and go through the tunnels.
Mr. Putter had a train hat.
Mrs. Teaberry had a golf cap.
Zeke had his jump rope.
And Tabby had a nap.
You're never too old to share a train set, in the Newbery and Caldecott award-winning Cynthia Rylant's Mr. Putter & Tabby Run the Race (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Artist Arthur Howard's pen-and-ink watercolor illustrations are nothing short of comic genius, as always filling out the gentle and humorous renditions of the familiar characters in this outstanding series of books for beginning readers. Long may Mr. Putter and Mrs. Teaberry share their pets and a cup of tea together.

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