Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The New Monster Mash? Monster Boogie by Laurie Berkner


The kids are nestled all snug in their beds, when...

SOMETHING big, with horns, fangs, and claws comes through the door!


But the kids don't scream and run! They get up and DANCE!

They turn a little purple and begin to giggle, as the monster shows them how to do the Monster Wiggle!

Laurie Berkner, the famous song and dance gal for the preschool set, has an new assistant, who knows how to twist and shout, in her latest dance book, Monster Boogie (Simon and Schuster, 2018). As depicted in the lively illustrations of the note Ben Clanton, this monster is not exactly pretty, but he gets the tots away from their screens and moving--a good thing any day. Other books about polishing those monster moves are David Catrow's Monster Mash and Josie Bissett's Boogie Monster (read reviews here).

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Witches, Ghosts, and Bats--Oh, My! BOO! Touch and Feel Alphaprints by Roger Priddy et al


What do they do? Do they croak and wind up in the witches' brew?

No! They just say....


Blue monsters and lavender ghosts join flapping bats at a spooky boogaloo, in Roger Priddy's latest rhyming tactile outing for the scary season for tots, Alphaprints: Boo!: Touch and Feel (St. Martin's Press, 2018) Touch and feel fingerprints form parts of all these spooky folks, led by an adorable little googly-eyed frog in a purple witchy hat in this Halloween book for the very youngest.

Share this one with Baby Touch & Feel: Halloween and Little Bat: Finger Puppet Book. (Little Finger Puppet Board Books)

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

An Extra Treat: A Tiger Called Tomas by Charlotte Zolotow

Once there was a little boy named Tomas. He was very nice.

But when his family moved to a new house, he took it into his head that the new people might not like him.

So he never left the stoop.

Every day a little girl named Marie played hopscotch alone on the sidewalk, but when his mother urged him to play with her, Tomas said, "Maybe she wouldn't like me."

Tomas stays on his stoop. The lady across the street works in her flowers with her big black cat every day. The cat looks nice, but Tomas is afraid to join them. The same is true for a tall, sad-looking boy named Paul, and a man who walks his big black poodle up and down the street. The dog looks at Paul like he wants to play, but Tomas is stuck on his stoop.

But the day before Halloween, Tomas' mother brings him an orange and black tiger costume and mask. Tomas tries them on, admiring his long striped tail. He is pleased.

"No one will know me when I go trick-or-treating!" he thought.

But when Tomas the Tiger rings the bell at the house of the lady with the black cat, she says,

"Well, Hello! Happy Halloween, Tomas!"

She invites him to come over and play with her cat some time.

"He gets lonely," the lady said.

"So do I," said Tomas.

Tomas checks his mask to see if it is indeed still covering his face. It is. But Tall Paul knows who he is, and the man with the poodle invites him along on his daily walks.

Even a little witch with a broom knows his name and invites him over for a game of hopscotch.

It looks like Tomas' stoop is going to be empty on the day after Halloween, in the brand-new, revised edition of noted children's author Charlotte Zolotow's classic Halloween hit, A Tiger Called Tomás (Soucebooks/Jabberwocky, 2018). With an introduction by Zolotow's daughter Crescent Dragonwagon, this edition is the third revision of Zolotow's understated but poignant story of a lonely boy whose shyness keeps him from making new friends.

Artist Marta Miguens' new illustrations are as vivid as those in the 2003 edition and brighter than the original drawings in the 1963 edition, making this one a great addition to the story of how this timid doubting Thomas finds new friends. "A must-read for introverted kids, it's a worthy update to the 1963 original," Kirkus Reviews says.

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saurus-A-Rama! Roar! A Dinosaur's Tour by Michael Paul


They were all dinosaurs, and they were all different.

Compsagnathus was little, the size of a chicken. Tyrannosaurus Rex was very big, a little taller and longer than a big school bus, but Supersaurus was much bigger than a T. Rex and Gigantosaurus was larger than both of them.

Like the T. Rex, some other dinosaurs walked and ran on two legs. Carnotaurus did, but Triceratops stomped around on four thick legs.

Velociraptor ran very fast, but Iguanodon was slow and plodding. Peloroplites lived all by himself or herself, but Corythosaurus liked mostly to hang out with his family. Ankylosaurus used his big wrecking-ball of a tail like a club, but Pachycephalosaurus just lowered his big armored head and charged at his enemies.

The dinosaurs are all gone now, but...


From his bold and bright cover to the end papers with profiled headshots of many more dinosaurs, Michael Paul's new Roar: A Dinosaur Tour (Crown/Random House, 2018) offer youngsters who know a little about dinosaurs and want to know more an intriguing compare-and-contrast look at a variety of dinosaurs, a good jumping-off place for more complex dinosaur studies. Paul's artwork has simple lines, but offers a complex and vividly saturated palette of bright and deep colors, carefully showing both scaled and feathered skins that make this prehistoric critter primer very much of an eye-catching introduction to every kid's favorite.


Friday, October 12, 2018

A Time to Shine: Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins

It was a few days before Halloween.

A storekeeper places some pumpkins on the shelf outside his shop, ten bright orange pumpkins and one big, bumpy-lumpy yellow winter squash.

The pumpkins are not all alike. One is tall and thin; one is small and squat. Some tip to the right; some lean to the left. But all have perky green stems, the perfect handle for the shopper--and all hope to become Jack o' Lanterns, glowing from one of windows on the street. All but one.

He was as big as a basketball--and twice as round. Orange as an orange!

He was perfect in every way from every angle. But--he had no stem.

Poor little stemless pumpkin with just a stump.

But Stem-Schmem! Little Stumpkin still has hopes. Surely there must be a family that prefers a stemless pumpkin. But the days go by. Children point to the pumpkin they want and leave happy. Every night another window on the street has a Jack o' Lantern glowing from an upstairs windowsill. Still Stumpkin has hope. Plenty of empty windows remain on the street.

But then there are no other pumpkins left on the shelf. And when someone buys the bumpy misshapen squash, Stumpkin despairs.

"The GOURD?" thought Stumpkin. "I guess that's that!"

But the shopkeeper hasn't forgotten Stumpkin, in Lucy Ruth Cummins' just-in-time for Halloween story, Stumpkin (Atheneum Books, 2018), as a perfect Jack o' Lantern, Stumpkin, helps light the night. Author-illustrator's Cummins' illustrations follow the Halloween color scheme, with human figures shown in black silhouettes set against the bright orange of the pumpkins, giving the pages an an engaging glow. A perfect story for just before a visit to the pumpkin patch, this is a gentle story with pathos balanced with humor, combined to show that all pumpkins should get their time to shine. The greater theme, of course, is that there is value in all things, the imperfect as well as the perfect, if we have eyes to see it.

For younger kids, pair this one before Halloween with Margery Cuyler's The Bumpy Little Pumpkin.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Counting Down to Party Time! Five Little Ninjalinos: A Halloween Story by Tina Galto

Five little ninjalinos strolled under the full moon.

They were hoping that their leader would be arriving soon.

Where can Night Ninja be? He was last seen trying to find a cool Halloween costume. What's with that?

One little ninjalino sees Gekko. One spots Owlette soaring through the air. Should they follow them? The third little ninjalino moans....

"Oh, That's just too far!"

Another little ninjalino tries to buck up his crew. There's no sign of Catboy! What's the matter with you?

Oh, No! There he is! The Five Little Ninjalinos go into defensive formation. It's fight or flight!

But no, it's neither one. There's just some decorating to be done!


There's a Halloween party about to get underway, and the PJ Masks want the ninjalinos to stay.

It's time to bury the nunchuks and celebrate Halloween together, with Tina Galto's ninja-themed version of the familiar holiday song in Five Little Ninjalinos: A Halloween Story (PJ Masks) (Simon Spotlight, 2018).  With the characters from the preschool program, PJMasks, it's time to count down with their sometime foes and party down just in time to share the celebration. Everyone is already wearing a mask, so let the fun begin. Holiday fun for PJMasks' many fans!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

No Fear Here! Sam Wu Is NOT Afraid of Ghosts by Katie and Kevin Tsang

You are probably wondering why Ralph Philip Zinkerman the Third calls me Scaredy Cat Sam.

Listen carefully. I am only going to tell this story ONCE.

The Event that Must Never Be Spoken Of Again occurred on a field trip to the Space Museum where, emboldened by his Space Blasters shirt, Sam Wu climbs into the Astro Blaster mockup and sets off the blast-off simulation and is convinced that he meets up with the Space Ghost of his favorite TV show. Sirens screech, lights flash, and the Astro Blaster seems about to blow up. Suffice it to say, the worst thing that can happen on a field trip happens to Sam.

I looked down.

Rising above the laughter, comes Ralph's voice.

"Sam Wu peed his pants."

To overcome his reputation as Scaredy Cat Sam at school, he settles on becoming the owner of the scariest pet in the pet shop, a snake which he names Fang. Now what can Ralph Philip Zinkerman the Third say? Just wait till he sees Sam's deadly constrictor!

His best friends, Zoe and Bernard, are impressed. Immediately they wangle a visit to Sam's house to see the Super-Dangerous Predator, and while they are there, the power goes out, and when the lights come on and Sam takes his friends up to see his snake, his tank is open and--Fang is GONE! After an almost sleepless night wrapped in pickle juice-soaked aluminum foil to save him from being strangled by Fang, Sam is desperate. The next day he begs Zoe and Bernard to come back and help save him from the Super-Dangerous snake, which seems to be living--and screeching--inside his very walls! Has Fang joined forces with The Space Ghost? Is Sam Wu is doomed to be a scaredy cat after all?

Sam gets by with a little help from his friends, in Katie and Kevin Tsang's Sam Wu Is NOT Afraid of Ghosts! (Sterling Books, 2018). In an intriguing combination of early chapter book and graphic novel with Nathan Reed's wild and crazy illustrations, somewhat reminiscent of the Captain Underpants series, kids will agree that Sam Wu comes through, with his reputation as not-a-scaredy-pants intact--at least as far as space ghosts and snakes go. Sam is a sympathetic multicultural protagonist, enjoying the differences in his Chinese family's food, finding new friends, and making his way through the trials of elementary school bullies and his own fears. Readers will want to see how Sam fares with another fear in Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of Sharks!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The Nose Knows! The Detective Dog by Julia Donaldson

Known as Detective Dog, Nell uses her fantastic sense of smell to sniff out the truth.

Who left the poo on the new gravel path?
How did the spider get into the bath?

With a wag of her tail
Nell the detective was hot on the trail.

Nell's sleuthing skills are kept busy by her person, Peter (who could have been neater), who needs Nell to find all the things he misplaces--one shoe in the tool shed, the book left under cover in bed, even the ball that bounced into the toilet. But on Mondays, Nell leaves her detecting duties behind and goes to school with Peter. There, she is the reading dog, who sits with the youngsters just learning to read.

Books about princes who turned into frogs,
Books about dragons--and books about dogs.

Nell loves the unforgettable smell of books, but on one Monday morning, that sweet scent is missing. In fact, so are all the books from the classroom shelves! It's a mystery, but Nell sniffs out a clue. There's a cap left behind by the robber, and Nell's nose knows what to do. Following his scent, she leads the teacher and class through the winding streets of the village and the fields nearby. Ignoring the bodacious odor of rabbits in the meadow, Nell tracks down the culprit.

Sniff, sniff, sniff! Peter cried "Look!"

For there sat a man with his nose in a book.

Surrounded by sacks of the children's looted volumes, the culprit is quite contrite. He claims he only meant to borrow them till tomorrow. At the word "borrow," Nell perks up her ears. She knows just the place for a rehabilitated book crook--the public library, where he can borrow any book.

It's another case closed for Nell in Julia Donaldson's winsome The Detective Dog (Henry Holt and Company, 2018 (First Am. ed.) Julia Donaldson's way with rhyme, rhythm, and meter gives her narration a bounce and verve that makes this one irresistible for youngsters, and artist Sara Ogilvie's splendidly flowing illustrations of her lovely canine crime hound at work have comic touches, as when Peter's kind classmates retrieve the ball and scarf Peter has misplaced along the way. A joyous book in praise of both dogs and reading, and what could be better?

Author Julia Donaldson is also the author of many beloved rhyming tales, such as The Gruffalo and the Halloween classic, Room on the Broom, (See two different reviews of two editions of this one here).

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Monday, October 08, 2018

Count 'Em! Ten Little Pumpkins by Rosie Greening

TEN Little Pumpkins are growing in a line,

Then the farmer picks one, and that leaves...


But these ten pumpkins don't seem to want to go to market!

What's a poor farmer to do, with a patch of persnickety pumpkins who seem to want to bounce, roll, and jump away on their own merry way?

These clever little pumpkins conspire to escape from the farmer's crate. One hitches a ride on a horsey, and another pumpkin performs a magic trick and makes himself disappear. A spooky ghost grabs one, a scary skeleton snatches another, and... soon they're all gone....

But not for long. After all, little pumpkins just want their chance to shine, and they are not about to miss their big scene...

Glowing all together on the night of Halloween!

Rosie Greening's new version of that staple fall counting book, Ten Little Pumpkins (Make Believe Ideas, 2018) has a few special touches that set it apart from the others, from the shiny black background which sets off Lara Ede's bright personalized pumpkins right down to the sparkly and trendy reversing sequins that allow the golden pumpkin on the cover to change from a carved face to one that spells out BOO! Jaunty illustrations and a rhyming countdown that begs to be sung makes this new holiday number book more than just another pretty pumpkin face in the crowd!

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Sunday, October 07, 2018

Too Many Tricks or Treats? The Twelve Days of Halloween by Jenna Lattice



When most kids think of counting on Halloween, they think of toting up the candy bars in the loot piled in their plastic pumpkin.

But Jenna Lattice's The 12 Days of Halloween (Pictureback(R)) (Random House, 2017) offers youngsters a chance to count along as the usual articles of Halloween count up (or down) to the big day! First, we need to decorate the front porch--

Two stuffed scarecrows, three grinning pumpkins....

And how about creeping spiders? Black cats yowling? Haunts a'haunting? And to anchor the count, a line to repeat: (Two times! But who's counting?)


One by one, day by day, the Halloween icons appear in the scene, trailed by that one poor misinformed trick-or-treater, still sadly unsatisfied, hopefully following the red devils, screechy witches, and toothy vampires to the doorbell, until he at last he gets his long-anticipated reward.

Children who know the tune to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" will get a pre-tricking treat out of singing along with this one, and if they don't already know how to count to twelve, they will after all the incidental learning as they sing this repetitive rhyming and rhythmic song. And for that October holiday, enjoy the fun of the proceedings portrayed in jolly holiday style by illustrator Colleen Madden.

And for a little reader treats, there are 30 comic stickers in the back of the book. And at the very end everyone gets to shout out, "HAPPY HALLOWEEN!"

For more fun singing famous recycled folk tunes, read this one along with Lucille Colandro's lilting holiday countdown, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! (A Board Book) (Read my review here).

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Saturday, October 06, 2018

Puttin' On The Ritz! Peppa Pig and the Halloween Costume by Neville Astley




Ah, that's the pressing, ever-present problem! What to wear?

To scare or not to scare. That is the question.

Peppi inspects the contents of the family costume box.



Well, that's out, thinks Pippa. Back to the box!

A clown? Nope, Pedro Pony already has dibs on that one. A nurse, maybe? Suzy Sheep nixes that. Okay. There's always a witch with a tall, pointy hat and broom. But WAIT! Candy Cat has already called that one! Little George's suggestion is no surprise:


No, no, no, and NO! None of those will do!

Peppa briefly entertains the thought of being a carrot! But Rebecca Rabbit has already claimed that costume. Of course she has.

Will Peppa Pig have a wardrobe malfunction on Halloween? Or will Peppa think outside the costume box in this latest installment in Peppa's holiday adventures? For the big reveal when it's time to hit the trick-or-treating trail, Peppa Pig and the Halloween Costume (Candlewick Press, 2018) has Peppa wearing a less-than-unconventional costume, but with some surprising accessories. Youngsters who are still undecided and dithering over what to wear for Halloween will find Peppa's dilemma familiar. Pair this one with Astley's popular Peppa's Halloween Party. (Peppa Pig: 8x8) for a Halloween duo.

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Friday, October 05, 2018

Standing Room Only! Room On The Broom by Julia Donaldson

The witch had a cat and a hat that was black....

She's just your ordinary, regulation witch, warts and all, when she and her purring feline familiar take off for some witchery by the light of a full moon.

But this witch seems not quite able to keep it together.

First she loses her pointy hat, but a dog retrieves that. And then he asks THE question:

I am a dog,
As keen as can be.
Is there room on the broom
For a dog like me?

The witch and cat make room and up they zoom... until the witch loses the bow on her braid. But a big black bird finds the bow, and with a simple request, just like that, off they all go, witch, dog, bird, and cat.

So far so good, until...

They shot through the sky
To the Back of Beyond.
The witch clutched her bow,
But let go of her wand.

A witch without a wand just can't go on, so there's another emergency landing. But down on the ground it's nowhere to be found, until from the bog comes a frog with the dripping wet wand:

He dropped it politely
Then said with a croak,
As the witch dried the wand
on a fold of her cloak:

I'm a frog,
Clean as can be,
Is there room on the broom
For a frog like me?

Of course there is, but there is yet another obstacle to their mission, a fire-breathing sky dragon in the mood for a crispy witch entree' with a side of critter fries.

But with a nod to the tale of the Brementown Musicians, this witch gets by with a little help from her keen, clean, and clever friends, in this new lap-sized board book version, Room on the Broom Board Book (Dial Books, 2017 (New Am. Ed.), and in this delightful cumulative tale, the witch stirs up a new and improved broom with comfy seating for all her friends.

Julia Donaldson's leisurely rhyming narrative provides plenty of room to interpolate funny voices and spooky sound effects, making this one of the very best picture books for Halloween read-alouds. This large-sized edition shows off artist Alex Scheffler's terrific, detailed, and comic illustrations that extend the text in a story that merits many readings. And for a killer-diller combo, share this one with Linda William's wonderful The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything for a drop-dead Halloween duo.

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Thursday, October 04, 2018

Stench Sleuth! Something Smells! by Blake Liliane Hellman

Early one morning, Elliot woke up to a most troublesome smell.

He suspects a skunk outside, but when he opens his window, there's just crisp, post-Halloween autumn air out there.

His sheets smell fresh and clean. His hamster Mr. Jiggles doesn't smell. A banana peel he'd left on his floor has no odor either.

It was time to move on to the usual suspects. Dad has just showered and smells like shaving cream. In the kitchen Mom is making breakfast, and his sometimes stinky dog Digsy happily smells like bacon! Elliot's breakfast smells like always, but his mom is a bit cranky.

"Not one more day in that costume, Elliot!" she grumped.

But Elliot is too busy sleuthing out the mystery smell. And besides, he loves his costume.

It was his best costume EVER! It glowed in the dark and was an exact replica of his skeleton!"

Elliot tries the trash can, but it is empty except for some cast-off Halloween candy. He checks the attic and the cellar. Nothing smells there. He's saved the most likely offenders for last. He surreptitiously tries to get a whiff of his baby sister Lilac's diaper, but all he smells is the maple syrup on her pancake. But Grandma is stirring something suspect on the stove....

Grandma's famous Gefarzenschnerffen!

Nope! He can't blame the Gefarzenscherffen either! But the stink is as strong as ever. Maybe worse!

Mom interrupts his investigation again.

"Not ONE more second in that costume, young man!" she said

By now smart readers will be guessing exactly where That Smell is coming from, and Elliot and his skeleton costume are set to hit the suds immediately, in Blake Liliane Hellman's brand-new funny family story, Something Smells! (Atheneum Books, 2018). Hellman provides the hints to close readers, and artist Steven Henry plants clues around the house that Halloween is far enough in the past that Elliot's costume has grown a bit overripe as well. And when good hygiene is restored, Elliot pulls on his new monster PJs. They smelled good and felt good and ...

He was never going to take them off!

Says School Library Journal, "A winning read-aloud selection perfect for storytime and one-on-one sharing."

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Wednesday, October 03, 2018

HOWL! A Werewolf Named Oliver James by Nicholas John Frith

Dinner was at six o'clock sharp.

Oliver James has his marching orders. As soon as band practice is done, he is supposed to go to the bus stop with his band buddies and take the first bus home for dinner.

The kids cluster with their instrument cases to wait at the corner in the purple twilight, just as a full moon rises.

But suddenly something strange happens. Leaving their instruments behind...

...All his friends ran off before the bus arrived.

And then the bus speeds right by the stop, the passengers staring out the windows--all wearing horrified expressions on their faces.

What's going on? Oliver wonders. Ah, heck! And now it begins to rain. How is he supposed to get home on time? A man walks up to the bus stop and Oliver inquires when the next bus is due.

"HELP! A WEREWOLF!" The man screams and runs away.

"WHERE? Oliver asks, looking all around.

Then Oliver James spots his reflection in a rain puddle. HE is the werewolf. But ... what? HOW?

But Oliver realizes that being a werewolf has some awesome possibilities. He can outrun a train. He can leap gas stations in a single bound. He can pick up delivery trucks with one hand. Then he spots his friend Sam! Boy, has he some news for him!


Oliver shows off his howl. OWWW-OOWOOO! Sam is out of sight instantly, and Oliver realizes he can clear the street with a single howl!


A whiff of the Thai restaurant down the street reminds Oliver that he is about to be late for dinner. Uh-oh.

But wait! He's got extra-super speed!

Oliver James has just one worry. How is he going to explain his sudden transformation to his parents?

There's yet another surprise in store for young readers, in Nicholas Oliver James' clever A Werewolf Named Oliver James (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018), a charming little fantasy just right for the runup to October's semi-scary stories. Frith's tale is paced perfectly, with every page turn a new revelation, and his stylized illustrations done in purples and browns sets the mood for a bit of Halloween fun, just right for a howlin' good read-aloud.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Hair-Raising Tale! I Double-Dare You! by Paul Battault


Youngsters take the dare to touch and feel assorted monsters--an ogre with a wiry beard and great big teeth and a wrinkly, warty witch--and whisk them both away with a wave of the hand.

Kids can tickle spooky ghosts and warn away howling wolves.  They can face down a fire-breathing dragon and squish a giant squid's tentacles until he take it on the lam!

But where did they GO?

Are they in this closet?


Fear not, kids! You've scared them into falling asleep inside this nice safe closet, in Paul Battault's funny touch-and-feel board book, I Double Dare You! (Twirl Books, 2018). With appropriately semi-scary monsters created by artist Charlotte Ameling, this toy-and-movable book preps tots for the scary season with jolly critters with plenty of tactile appeal in a virtual tour of mixed monsters.

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Monday, October 01, 2018

Boo to You! Eek! Halloween! by Sandra Boynton

There's a full, full moon in a dark, dark sky.

It's the dark of night. Why is not all quiet in the henhouse? Roosters should be roosting. Hens should be snoozing.

Why are the chickens creeped out?


A pumpkin with slitty eyes--that FLICKER?

A giant mouse? A duck with humongonous feet! And what's that clanky contraption traipsing by? What's that he's saying?


In Sandra Boynton's new Eek! Halloween! (Oversized Lap Edition) (Boynton on Board) (Workman, 2018 new ed.), tots get their initiation to the dress-up fun of trick-or-treating. In this stunning larger edition, Boynton's signature board book art introduces her classic comic critters and builds tension until Pig gets to broadcast the big reveal. Says the Washington Post, "With humorous rhymes and boisterous, expressive drawings, EEK! Halloween! is a treat."


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Deep Roots: Frankie Finds the Blues by Joel Harper


"Hello, Frankie."

"Hi, Grandma! What's up?"

"I have two tickets to a blues concert. Would you like to join me?" asked Frankie's grandmother.

"I like hip-hop," said Frankie. "What kind of music is blues?"

Frankie goes along with his grandmother. He's a happy kid and he definitely doesn't have the blues. But now the blues have got him, all right.

"The music is beautiful!" Frankie whispered.

Frankie is moved and excited by the music and as soon as he gets back home, he takes off for the garage to look for his old, abandoned guitar. Grandmother explains that what he's heard was fingerpicking, going back to slave days, and Frankie is determined to learn how to play that way. He listens to the CD his Grandmother bought at the concert, but he realizes he's going to have to have some help. He signs up for a lesson, which makes him remember why his guitar was abandoned in the garage.

It was hard work, and IT HURT HIS FINGERS.

But this time, he would not give up.

His friends tease him and tell him to play hip-hop, but Frankie knows what kind of music he wants to make. The blues have got him, and practicing in the park one day, he hears somebody say,

"Sounding real good!"

It's Walter, the old guy who collects cans in the park to sell, and he offers to show Frankie how he learned to play the blues. Frankie hands over his guitar, and then, again, something wonderful happens.

Frankie began listening to the most beautiful music.

The park paused to listen.

"The blues are the roots; everything else is the fruits," said Willie Dixon. Like all good music, blues comes from deep down, rooted in the human heart. And in Joel Harper's new Frankie Finds the Blues(Freedom Three Books, 2018), Frankie finds his teacher and his own way to play the blues, too. In a story of how music sometimes finds kids where they least expect it, author Harper combines family and roots American music in a story that shows how music seems somehow to seek us out to change our lives, actually "striking a chord" that lives within.

The softly-realistic blue-hued illustrations by Gary Kelley are infused with the universal feeling of the blues, evoking the mood of the music that ties us together with our past and present. With endpaper thumbnails of famous blues singers, male and female, black and white, a foreword by Taj Mahal, and comments by artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Keb' Mo', Charlie Musselwhite, and Mavis Staples, this one is a first purchase for school and public library music shelves.

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

A High-Five for the Stomach? Cookie Monster's Guide to Life: The Joy of Cookies

It's not as if cookies needed an advocate! But they've got one anyway.

It's everybody's favorite glutton--COOKIE MONSTER!


In his spoofy re-write of the culinary classic, The Joy of Cooking, Cookie Monster is all too happy to share his wit and wisdom about his favorite subject.

The mighty COOKIE may not solve every problem, but in Cookie Monster's book, it can't hurt! He passes out his crumbs of Cookie Wisdom along with his concept of just desserts. After all, the best cookie is the one in his hand, in his mouth, and of course, in his tummy. After all, a cookie in the mouth is worth two in the oven!

But Cookie Monster does not hesitate to give credit where credit is due!



While Cookie Monster's dietary advice should be taken with a grain of salt (and perhaps some kale chips), whether you like them crispy or chewy, with or without milk, homemade or store-bought, in C. M.'s philosophy, a cookie in the hand is worth two anywhere else, in The Joy of Cookies: Cookie Monster's Guide to Life (Sesame Street Workshop, 2018). This board book is full of fun, with the theory that nobody ever said anything mean with a cookie in his mouth, a good read-aloud to a kid old enough to giggle at a parody, and a good choice for anyone with a sweet tooth.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Holy Horoscope! Clara Voyant by Rachel Delaney

When Clara's no-nonsense grandmother Elaine retires from her job as statistician and leaves for Florida, Clara, an equally no-nonsense girl whose idea of fine literature runs to investigative reporting, finds herself suddenly transported to a different world. With her hippie-dippy mother Gaby ensconced in a tiny apartment over the herb shop where she now works, Clara, far from her grandmother's sleek, well-kept condo, is like a fish out of water in the quaint, definitely "multicultural" area of Toronto's Kensington Market, where her mom fits in, but she, Clara, does not.

The music for "Twilight Zone" seems to have become the theme song of her new life. When her mother invites Terence and Lily, two "interesting" new friends over, Clara steels herself for an evening of what she calls pure "woo-woo." In that she is not disappointed.

"Do you know how to read the charts?" asked Terence.

"Clara swallowed. "The what?"

"Astrology," he said. "That's the study of planetary movements and alignment. What's your sign, Gaby?" he asked Clara's mother.

"I'm a Gemini. With a rising moon in Taurus."

Lily gasped dramatically. "Oh! That explains SO much!"

Terrence nodded. "On Friday nights, I have a seance at the Black Cat Cafe. Some people would like to contact friends or family in the afterworld."

"Terence has a real entrepreneurial spirit," Lily gushed. Clara didn't even have the heart to point out the pun.

Clara clings to her hope that the school newspaper will offer her a chance to shine at just-the-facts-ma'am reporting, but the ambitious senior editor Wesley, ever-clad in no-nonsense blazers, gives her the worst possible assignment--writing the regular horoscope column for the Gazette. With the help of Lily's astrology tome, Clara dutifully makes up prognostications for the signs of the Zodiac, and to her dismay, her column instantly becomes the most popular feature in the newspaper. To escape, she secretly resolves to freelance an investigative report on the middle-school's mysteriously purloined mascot, Buzzter the giant papier mache' bee.

With the help of Maeve, her new friend whose passion for drama has her auditioning for the part of a famous sleuth in the school play, the two decide to combine talents to find Buzzter and give Clara the chance to break a big story and shake her psychic charisma.

Going undercover as investigative reporter, Clara finds herself digging deep for Buzzter into the school's mulch bins, even as she fends off her following of fans who seem to believe that she has physic powers to foresee their future. Editor Wesley is thrilled with her star writer's popularity and gives her the nom de plume of "Clara Voyant."

And Clara herself can't believe that her predictions unpredictably keep coming true, despite her cynicism about all things woo-woo-ish, in Rachel Delaney's delightful novel, Clara Voyant (Penguin/Random House, 2018). Can Clara make peace with her inner psychic in her new setting? Author Delaney keeps the adolescent angst light, clever, and witty in a middle-school story that takes her heroine on a little walk on the woo-woo side. Adds School Library Journal, "Clara is an utterly likable character and readers will root for her, especially where readers enjoy a touch of the supernatural in their mysteries."

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Be Careful What You Wish For! Never Satisfied: The Story of the Stonecutter by Dave Horowitz

Once there was a stonecutter named Stanley. Stanley was good at his job, but cutting stone was a hard way to earn a living!

Hammering and chiseling is wearying work for a thin-skinned young frog, and when Stanley, coated with stone dust, is making his way to his hut one afternoon, he notices a businessman leisurely sipping his beverage inside the teahouse. He sighs out a wish:

"I wish I were a businessman!"

Suddenly Stanley is transformed, wearing a neatly pressed suit and briefcase, watching the world go by through the window of the shady teahouse. Now this is the life!

But then the king goes by, leading a procession, and Stanley can't help wishing he were emperor, with a retinue of attendants and sycophants to serve and praise him. And suddenly he is King Stanley! But leading his followers in the evening sun is hot work, and it occurs to Stanley that it might be better to be the Sun itself!

"Dude! I should be the Sun! "

Stanley's wishes become even more grandiose. As the sun he beams even more, a wayward cloud darkens his face, and he wishes to become the black cloud and obscure the sun himself. And then, scurrying before the wind, he wished to BE the unstoppable wind--until he blows smack into a great standing stone.

As the Wind, he blew his best, but the stone stood still. Still not satisfied, Stanley wishes to BE the unmovable stone. Nothing can affect him now. At last Stanley was satisfied with his state.

... until, the next day, when there appeared a young stonecutter....

Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it, is the theme of Dave Horowitz' droll rewrite of the Japanese fable of The Stonecutter in his Never Satisfied: The Story of The Stonecutter. (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018). Horowitz's text is simple, letting his skillful collaged illustrations provide the details of the story, in a wry retelling of an oft-told tale with its age-old truth. For a fun compare-and-contrast read-aloud session, share this one with Margot Zemach's classic same-but-different tale of too much wish fulfillment, It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale (Michael Di Capua Books).

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