BooksForKidsBlog

Friday, April 16, 2021

Too Much Speed! Not So Fast, Bash and Dash! by Rev. W. Audry

THIS IS BASH.

THIS IS DASH.

Bash and Dash are two small and new steam engines. You can tell by their names that they are all about SPEED! Every trip is a race!

Actually, Dash and Bash only like one speed--full speed ahead. They careen around the tracks, ignoring warning signs, not slowing down at junctions or watching for loaded crates swinging from cranes about their cab. There's a near miss at the crossroads, where logs from the log car tumble toward Dash!

WHO CAN STOP THEM?

Thomas tries to override their runs, but Dash and Bash barely miss the beeping bus crossing the rails. The two young engines turn and twist down the tracks without braking, trying to beat each other. They zip. They zoom. They don't observe the signs.

Watch out for that traffic jam! Oh, dear!

WHEW!

That near collision at the crossing seems to have take the steam out of Dash and Bash at last, in Rev. W. Audry's Not So Fast, Bash and Dash! (Thomas & Friends) (Step into Reading) (Random House). Poor Thomas is run ragged all over Sodor, trying to oversee and train these young engines to exercise proper speeds and caution, and perhaps they have learned their lesson, as the wise Thomas keeps the youngsters rolling down the rails in this introduction to two new engines in the Thomas and Friends series, which appropriately is set for the youngest beginning readers just revving up their reading engines.

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Blues Are Best! Sweet Pea Summer by Hazel Mitchell

MOM HAS TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL, SO DAD WAS TAKING ME TO GRANDPA AND GRANDMA'S HOUSE FOR SUMMER VACATION.

Strapped into the back seat, hugging her toy rabbit on her lap, the little girl shares snacks and sings with Dad, but she misses her mom more and more as the miles roll by. But in their pleasant little village Grandpa and Grandma welcome her warmly, and a litter of kittens play around her in her cozy bedroom.

And the next day, Grandpa proudly shows off his garden, one with carrots and lettuces coming along, but the girl is drawn straight to the fragrant sweet pea patch, especially the blue ones, the most beautiful of all. Grandpa suggests that if she cares for them well, she can enter them in the town Flower Show. He warns her gently that the blue ones are the hardest to raise. Every day she gently ties the new vines to the poles, pulls weeds, and waters them with Grandpa's secret flower formula. But one sunny morning there's a tragic scene.

ALL THE FLOWER BUDS HAD FALLEN OFF THE SWEET PEAS.

She looks for clues to the problem in Grandad's gardening book. She tries protecting them from chilly nights and shading them during sunny, hot days, and she waters them carefully from the watering can every day. But the new buds continue to fall off before they can bloom. Until one day when Grandpa is spraying his vegetables in the next patch, she gets sprinkled with the icy-cold water from his hose! Aha!

GRANDPA! STOP! STOP!

And with no more icy-cold showers, her sweet peas flourish, especially the blue ones, the prize-winning, only blue sweet peas in the village Flower Show. And that's not the only surprise at the flower show! Her parents are there!

I GAVE THE SWEET PEAS TO MOM!

It's a happy conclusion to Hazel Mitchell's Sweet Pea Summer (Candlewick, 2021), a sweet story of family solidarity with the kindness and gentle care that nurtures both a young child and fragile flowers together. Shown rather than told through author-illustrator Hazel Mitchell's homey pencil and water-color drawings, this lovely picture book portrays a warm and loving family working together to do what good families do, care for each other and their world.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Best Badge! Bug Blonsky and His Swamp Scout Survival Guide by E. S. Redmond



 

Abner Vanderpelt has six merit patches on his Swamp Scout vest. I have only three. OK, two--the yellow one is just a mustard stain.

Bug Blonsky has little hope of winning a bunch of merit badges at the weekend campout at Camp Win-Kee-Noo. For one thing, Abner Vanderpelt's mom is the Marsh Mother for the trip. Not only does her perfume attract mosquitoes (to Bug, mostly), but she is prejudiced in favor of scouts whose skills tend toward listening and following directions.

Bug's abilities, such as armpit farting and being a true Bigfoot Believer, seem unlikely badge producers. It doesn't help that Bug's mom packed his stuff in big sister Winnie's Sweet Dreams sleeping bag with the glitter-sprinkled pink cupcake on it. She also fails to pack toilet paper, of which there is a dire lack in the Camp Win Kee Noo, and the outhouse is already stinky enough to repell Bigfoot. Mom does, however, redeem herself by packing emergency supplies--Swamper Doodle chocolate cookies.

Since Bug has made paper airplanes out of his Swamp Camp Survival Guide, he has to wing it by composing his own camp manual, beginning with Rule #1...

Go to the bathroom BEFORE the bus ride.

It's a memorable day for Bug, his buddy, Louie, and the tenderfoot campers, with bug spray overkill, rubbery hot dogs, poison ivy, and a canoeing adventure in which Louie and Bug both lose their paddles and have to be rescued by the Buttercup Brigade girl scouts from across the lake, loudly chanting ...

"BUTTERCUPS RULE! SWAMP SCOUTS DROOL!"

At lights-out time Bugs and his best friend Louie decide to break out his cookies for a midnight snack for two, which tattletale Abner spies and says....

"You shouldn't eat sweets before bed, especially if you've already brushed your teeth!"

To which Bug replies...

"... Not a problem. We have no intention of brushing teeth or going to bed."

Bug and Louie have a daring plan: they use some of the cookies to set up an irresistible hairy monster trap and plan to pull an all-nighter waiting to capture Bigfoot. Just as they are about to fall asleep on stakeout, they hear woeful sounds coming from inside their trap. Is it Bigfoot? Or is it Abner Vanderpelt caught red-handed with Swamper Doodle crumbs all over his face?

It's Bug's best-of-a-lifetime chance to get even by ratting out goody-goody Abner to his freaked-out Marsh Mother. Should he?

But all's well that ends with Abner Vanderpelt's heartfelt nomination of Bug for the Steadfast Scout Award, in E. S. Redmond's forthcoming slapstick Blonsky saga, Bug Blonsky and His Swamp Scout Survival Guide (Candlewick Press, 2021). With type-cast cartoon characters and bad boy Bug Blonsky, still a believer in the powers of Bigfoot, coming together in Redmond's second book in series, this is a beginning chapter book just right for early elementary readers who go for wacky, boy-pleasing high jinks. E. S. Redmond's opener in this series is Bug Blonsky and His Very Long List of Don'ts.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Sorry, Darwin! Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use by Richard Haynes

MAN THE TOOLMAKER! So proclaimed natural history scientists until the last decades of the twentieth century.

Darwin himself had noted what appeared to be incidental tool use, but when Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees choosing and shaping twigs to extract high-protein termites from their mounds and demonstrating to their offspring how to do it, she realized that what she was seeing was a tool-using, tool-making culture being passed down through generations.

Soon researchers in the New Caledonian tropics observed native crows coaching the young into intentionally shaping stiff leaves into hooks to fish nutritious grubs out of logs. Once primed to look for that trait, nature scientists soon noted tool use among a wide range of animals, from the heron who dangles earthworms as lures for fish to primates who defend themselves by throwing rocks or coconuts and welding clubs and spears against preying lions. Nature science would never be the same.

Author Richard Haynes introduces middle readers to recent research into animal tool use in his fascinating book, forthcoming today Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use (Candlewick Press, 2021), divided into chapters on tools for hygiene, health and healing, hunting and harvesting, comfort and pleasure, with humorous and realistic illustrations of Stephanie Laberis. Beginning with cleanliness, Haynes describes how primates like chimps and gorillas use leaves as napkins, toilet paper, and handy-wipes for freshening their fur. They choose plant parts as toothpicks, and fibers for tooth flossing, including macaques who snatch hairs right off passing human heads for dental floss!

Tropical animals like hippos and elephants smear mud, dust, and leafy debris as a sunscreen on their wide backs, and elephants choose sharp sticks to loosen ticks from their skin. Spider monkeys use crushed ants and noxious millipedes as insect repellants. Other primates know the right leaves for disinfecting wipes, and orangutans know the best plants for poultices for easing pain.

And for defense against other animals, monkeys and apes are skilled at collecting and hurling objects--rocks, logs, and even feces--at enemies and fending off snakes and preying cats with forked or pointed sticks or dropped rocks. Small boxer crabs wave poisonous anemones in their claws. Sea otters put flat stones on their bellies, place a mollusk on top and batter it with a big stone until the shell is broken and the nuturitious meat is all theirs! Capuchin monkeys pound dry soil into dust with stones to get at roots and tubers. And then there are the probe makers--monkeys and apes have learned to probe or dig with prepared sticks. The bottlenosed dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia, use their noses to probe the shallow sea bottom for burrowing fish, teach their young to protect their tender noses by shaping live sponges to fit over them for foraging the rocky sea floor.

Animals also teach their young how to make themselves more comfortable. Noticing that branches can offer shelter from rain, orangutans figured out that separated from the tree, they became portable umbrellas to take along in the rain. Elephants select the best branches as fly swatters, and the tailorbird sews large leaves together to make homes for their brood. And just for fun, crows convert found objects like jar lids into sleds for sliding down roofs, and ravens choose objects for games of catch on the wing or as toboggans in snow. Animals as large as American bisons have been observed "ice-skating" just for joy of it.

Should we humans feel displaced from our lofty position as the only tool user on Earth? Or should we rejoice that we are not the only ones planning ahead on the planet? We share many characteristics with our fellow creatures which we now recognize, one of which is the ability to shape and use tools. As author Richard Haynes puts it...

"LIKE US THEY THINK, THEY STUDY, THEY CONSIDER. WHAT SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE IS NOW POSSIBLE, THANKS TO THE USE OF A TOOL.

Haynes also adds those helpful human literary tools, a glossary, bibliography, and index. Says Kirkus, "Readers will devour this dynamic and informative explanation of the inventiveness to be found within the animal world."

For more astounding books on toolmaking animal geniuses, see my reviews here and here.

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Monday, April 12, 2021

Coming Home: Leonard (My Life As A Cat) by Carlie Sorosiak


This was not the way it was supposed to go!

It's unclear when things started to go wrong. Perhaps it was when I began to sprout a tail....

I was a cat, crashing into North America. Faster, faster, landing paws-first in a tree. And what a sensation--to feel.

For almost three hundred years, I had wished for hands. Humans might take these things for granted, but I promised myself, centuries ago, that I would not. It was so tremendously exciting, as I hitched a ride on that beam of light. This trip to Earth was about discovery. And I was ready. I chose the most magnificent creature on Earth: the common human--a national park ranger.

But instead of a ranger in Yellowstone National Park, the space traveler finds himself a cat, being rescued from a tropical storm in Turtle Beach, South Carolina, saved from drowning by a smallish girl in a yellow slicker, proving her claim to be a Girl Scout by grabbing the scruff of his neck and pulling him to safety.

Glimpsing a human up close was something like a miracle.

Olive, too, is not exactly where she would have chosen to be. Her mom has parked her for the summer with a grandmother she hardly knows while she and her fiance' head west to find a new home for all three of them in California--where Olive doesn't want to be. It's hard enough not fitting in with kids she's always known, and she has no idea what kind of creatures California middle school kids will be.

But Olive explains to her grandma Norma that she couldn't let the cat drown, and the once incorporeal being begins getting used to a real body--with a tail he didn't quite know what to do with--and the strange feeling of affection he feels for the the girl who saved him, the girl that seems to understand and want to care for him. Humans are both like and unlike the ones in "I Love Lucy" or "Dora the Explorer" that he had studied before. Olive helps him get used to a dish with crunchy things to eat (eating was new) and his own litter box (another very new experience) and a collar and leash so she can take him everywhere she goes. She begins to tell him all about everything, and he realizes that on earth, there is both the feeling of touch and personal feelings--fears, hopes, love. She even gives him a name--Leonard. How she knew he wanted a yellow raincoat like hers, he doesn't know, but she ordered it for him. She takes him to the aquarium where Norma and her friend Q work, and Leonard knows just the way to call the penguins, and Olive begins to suspect that he is no ordinary cat. And when she falls asleep with her laptop open and on, Leonard decides to type a message to tell her what he really is.

"I am an alien."

Leonard confesses how he came to be a cat in a storm-tossed tree in South Carolina instead of a ranger at Yellowstone Park, and he has to tell her that he must be there, beside the geyser Old Faithful at just the right instant in a month if he is ever to return to his own helium planet and re-claim his immortality as member of his Hive. Olive is both amazed and sad at the thoughts of losing Leonard, but she promises to try to come up with some way to get him to the right spot to return to his own place in space. In the days it takes Olive to persuade Norma and her friend Q to drive them to Yellowstone, Leonard has the surprising experience of enjoying everything he does. Even the long car ride--that most human of trips--the roadside cafes where they eat pancakes, the long dark nights of driving through rainstorms, the camping out under the trees and skies, and the feeling of being part of a sort of family is wonderful. Leonard knows that Norma and Q's making the drive straight through from South Carolina to Wyoming come out of their love for Olive, and that Olive, who loves him deeply, deeply enough to make him a Yellowstone Ranger's badge for his raincoat, enough to do everything to help him go back, is doing it all because she loves him.

"I realize that even though I've lived in a different body, I have really and truly lived."

Leonard realizes that as a mortal, even a cat, he can make a choice. As he nears Old Faithful, he hears the Hive counting down to activate his energy beam.

THREE, TWO....

Which way is home?

In a unusual fantasy filled with pathos and humor, Carlie Sorosiak's just published novel, Leonard (My Life as a Cat) (Walker Books, 2021) is about how and what it is to be mortal, from the tap of beginning raindrops, sunshine on shoulders, the surge of the ocean, the touch of a hand, and the love they are capable of sharing, even with a supposed stray cat. In a parallel with Olive, who has to choose to stay with Norma or go to California, Leonard has to decide to forfeit the immortality of the mind-meld of the Hive for the mortal life in the deep relationship of belonging in a impromptu family. What is it to be a mortal creature in the one part of the world he can call home? Young readers will love Leonard, alien or mortal, and also feel the warmth of love and place in this genuinely moving, very human science fiction novel.

Writes Kirkus Reviews, "A comforting read about connection and compassion."

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Color of the Seasons: One Yellow Sun by Michael Arndt

The countdown begins with ten and goes down again as far as it can go, ending with zero, a nice round number. (We'll keep negative numbers for another numerical day!)

First comes a set of ten silvery beads, then nine round rocky pebbles in a conservative gray, and eight equally rounded raisins. (Raisins are more oval shaped, but that's a book for another day.)

Following the sweetness of the raisins, it's please pass the seven green peas! Rolling out next are blueberries, six of them, and yes, they are blue! Then we see five rounded, rollable purple grapes, four pink and spherical, burst-able bubbles, three red bouncy balls, two orange (of course) oranges warmed to summer sweetness by one bright yellow sun, and hiding, somewhere out of that sun... perhaps in Ultima Thule...

Zero snow-white snowballs.

Author-artist Michael Arndt draws upon his graphic imaging chops and a little die-cut, board-book wizardry to make each one of the pages count, in his brand-new One Yellow Sun (M books: see + read) (Andres MCMeal, 2020), with natural colors as seen in something round, in his introductory concept book which covers shapes and colors through the seasons. For the littlest color-lover, this is a tasty combination done with warmth, bright hues, and a surprise on each page as it is turned. A brightly designed "graduation" page for emergent readers takes youngsters up and down again numerically and verbally. Early preschoolers will enjoy guessing what comes next beneath each die-cut color clue, and beginning readers will be able to identify the word for each rounded object. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Simplicity at its finest—-don’t miss this innovative board book that’s as beautiful as it is educational.”

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Saturday, April 10, 2021

There's a Time and Place for EVERYTHING! Spork by Kyo Maclear

SPORK WAS NEITHER SPOON NOR FORK, BUT A BIT OF BOTH.

HE HAD A MUM AND A DAD WHO BOTH THOUGHT HE WAS PERFECT.

But they were the only ones. He didn't fit any of the compartments in the cutlery tray--except that short, fat one where bottle and can openers and unidentifiable widgets are tossed, not nested, higglety-pigglety.

CUTLERY CUSTOMS WERE FOLLOWED CLOSELY

Sport tried to fit in. He tried a derby hat to make him look more spoonlike. He tried a little crown to look fork-ish. The real spoons and forks spurned his efforts to fit in. He envied the spoons their ability to scoop soup and the forks their skill at twirling pastas. But Spork was for neither fish nor fowl nor soup to nuts. He never got to enjoy the soapy swim in the dishpan after dinner with the others. But then a new diner arrived.

THE MESSY THING APPEARED AT THE TABLE. IT KNEW NOTHING OF CUTLERY.

IT SMEARED AND SPILLED AND DRIPPED!

This messy eater needed something different, and it's SPORK TO THE RESCUE!

There is a time and place for everything, and Spork finds his best place in the highchair tray, in Kyo Maclear's subtle tale of tableware, Spork (Kids Can Press). Kids will instantly empathize with a character excluded from the group, and, of course, Spork represents more than appears on the surface, perhaps being the multi-cutlery metaphor for a multi-cultural world. Artist Isabelle Arsenault's less-is-more multi-media illustrations are humorous and engaging, and author Maclear make her point that differences serve us well without the bitter taste of didacticism. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Maclear's text feels nearly effortless. The inanimate-object identification also pairs brilliantly with Arsenault's melding of mixed media and digital art."

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Friday, April 09, 2021

Ready to Read, Ready to Roll! Roller Bears by Eric Seltzer

Spring has sprung and the bears are up and ready to roll!

THEY WAKE UP EARLY AND SKATE UNTIL LATE!

The bears suit up in helmets and pads in red and blue and roll out for fun on wheels. What do they do? Some skate solo, and some in pairs, and when they get tired, they snooze in big chairs!

They skate to the park to swing and slide. And then they go for a hot-air balloon ride. They plan for a party and arrive from afar. Some row their own boat, some drive in a car. One bear brings a cake in the shape of a skate. There are presents and things to drink, and bears dressed in pink who skate in a rink.

But autumn comes and then it grows chilly. They hang up their skates. The bears just can't wait. They take to their beds to hibernate!

Eric Seltzner's early beginning reader, Roller Bears (Ready-to-Reads) (Simon Spotlight, 2020), illustrated whimsically by Tom Disbury, uses rhyme and rhythm and visual cues to help early readers who are ready to roll to sound out the vocabulary in this short and lively Ready to Read book.

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Thursday, April 08, 2021

Conflict Resolution! The Infamous Ratsos: Ratty Tattletale by Kara LaReau


The Bully Boys are at it again. No sooner has little Tiny declared that he loves Mondays than Kurt Musky and Sid Chatterer snatch him up to toss up and down the school hallway.

"Cut it out, guys!" yells Tiny.

"Aw, he's so cute when he's angry," says Sid.

"Stop being so uptight, Crawley," says Kurt.

Millicent is moved to call a teacher, but Tiny stops her, saying that will only make it worse. Ralphie's warnings to the rowdies don't help, until at last Mrs. Beaver, the third-grade teacher steps out of her door and dispatches the two bullies to the principal's office. But now Ralphie knows he'd better watch his back.

And he's right. At lunch Sid and Kurt flip his lunch, and Ralphie has to clean up the mess while the bullies snicker. Still Ralphie is mum about the bullying around his big brother Louie, hoping to handle the problem himself. But at recess Sid and Kurt gang up on Tiny in Bombardment, and when Ralphie nails them with two balls, one after the other, he and the two bullies are all O-U-T of the game! Now, Ralphie knows he's on the two troublemaker's hit list. And when school's out, he finds his backpack in the trash can with a note:

PREPARE TO GET TRASHED!

Still, Ralphie is determined to keep the harassment to himself. Walking home with his brother Louie, he suggests they take a new way home, one that takes them by Mrs. Porcupini's, who offers them some of her hot cookies and cold milk. Just as the famished Ralphie is about to take a bite, the two bullies appear.

"Well, well, well," said Kurt, cracking his knuckles. "If it isn't our old pal, Ratty Tattletale!"

Now Louie gets what's going on and tells his little brother he should report the bullies to the principal. Ralphie refuses, on the grounds that tattling is not cool.

But when Ralphie tries to enter the arms race with Kurt and and Sid's pea shooters, things take a turn for the worst, resulting in the smashing of Mrs. Porcupini's window, and Ralphie agrees that it's time to 'fess up to their dad, Big Lou, about what's been going on, in Kara LaReau's latest in her The Infamous Ratsos series, The Infamous Ratsos: Ratty Tattletale (Candlewick Press, 2021). Choosing when to fight your own battles and when to ask for help is not easy, but in this Geisel Honor-winning series, all ends with a peaceful solution in what Ralphie calls "A smashing success." Along with Matt Myers' funny illustrations, author Kara LaReau's beginning chapter books offer comic considerations of those real-life early school days problems for developing readers.

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No Knock-Knocks! Interrupting Cow by Jane Yolen

"KNOCK KNOCK!"

HER NAME WAS DAISY, BUT EVERYONE CALLED HER "INTERRUPTING COW."

Most of us can enjoy the occasional Knock-Knock joke, but the residents of Daisy's barn are sick of silly jokes and constant interruptions of every activity. But her hapless friends can't resist saying "Who's there?" which results in Daisy's rolling on the barn floor helplessly, overcome with chuckles, followed by all her stable mates turning their backsides on her as only cows can!

Banned from the barn, Interrupting Cow tries out her comedy act on the ducks in the pond. They are not quacked, er, cracked up by the routine. Daisy gets the same result from some picnicking horses.

WHO'S THERE?" THEY NEIGHED.

"MOO!" SAID DAISY, DISSOLVING IN YUCKS.

Again, Interrupting Cow watches the horses' hindquarters disappearing over the hill. Like all her audiences, they fall for the joke but at the punchline, she's the only one left laughing. Not good for a comedienne! She gets the same reaction from the rest of the farm animals. Not a snicker from any critter!

But as Interrupting Cow wanders into the shady woods, she sees a dark shape in a tree, and she decides to try again.

"KNOCK KNOCK?"

"WHOOOO?" RESPONDS THE OWL.

"MOO!" SHE SAYS.

"WHOOOO?"

It seems that Interrupting Cow has found a straight man who is the comedy partner of her dreams, in Jane Yolen's Interrupting Cow (Simon Spotlight). Author of the Caldecott Medal book, Owl Moon, and with illustrator Mark Teague the hilarious and best-selling How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and the rest of the series, has close to 300 childrens' books to her credit, and now, with artist Joelle Dreimedy, Yolen has already created a sequel to this new gloriously silly story, Interrupting Cow and the Chicken Crossing the Road.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2021

I Won't Dance! Can't Make Me! Merci Suarez Can't Dance by Meg Medina


Merci Suarez is starting seventh grade, and everything is different. Mami asks what's wrong with her, her grandfather Lolo seems more lost in Alzheimer's disease, her aunt, Tia Ines, has eyes for their friend Simon, and her friends from sixth-grade seemed obsessed by the upcoming Heart Ball--which means two things Merci dreads--romance and dancing.

And it doesn't begin well. Miss McDaniels summons her and leads Merci and a boy named Wilson Bellevue down a hall, her ring of keys rattling ominously.

We stood in front of the Ram Depot, formerly known as the the custodial closet. "I think you two would make a fine management team at the school store," she said as she opened the door. A metal cashbox and calculator sat on a cast-off desk with uneven legs. A box of pencils was against one wall, near the dust bunnies.

"Isn't there anything else?" Wilson asked. "The Earth Club? "Rinsing recyclables?" I secretly agreed with him.

Miss McDaniels bribes them with free desserts, key lime pie from the cafeteria.

"Every. Single. Day," she promises dramatically.

But Wilson Bellevue turns out to be kind and funny and easy to be with. Merci can't say the same for her so-called friends, Edna Santos, in her full glory as chairman of the Heart Ball Committee,and her once BFFs Hannah and Lena seem to have changed into boy watchers, too.

"I guess I didn't get the memo that people were changing things about themselves in seventh grade."

"I'm the same Merci as always except taller. Boring."

As the year goes on, Merci also is called on to wrangle her rowdy Kindergarten twin cousins, and Tia Ines and Simon become a dating (and kissing) couple. Her grandfather Lolo recedes into himself, becoming more lost in dementia, and Merci's mother seems to depend on her more and more. She feels like life is moving too fast, that things at home are changing and everything is swirling around her, and she can't seem to catch the rhythm of any of it. But when the  Heart Ball comes around, Merci's skills at photography and graphic editing are called upon, and even the new hairdo and the makeup and the dance dress are all right, and for once she feels like part of everything--until disaster strikes. As the dance ends, the expensive camera loaned by Edna's father is smashed in the flurry of movement from the crowd. 

 Wilson sees it fall, too. It's cracked and broken, and in a frenzy of despair, Merci frantically packs it up in its case, and seeing Miss McMillan making her way toward her, she runs out of the gym. In her anxiety, Merci can think of only one thing to do. She sells her beloved bicycle that Papi spent so much money on last year to pay for the loss. 

There are plenty of changes ahead for Merci Suarez as she comes to understand more about the many ways of love and finds her own rhythm, ironically on the dance floor of her aunt Ines' new Suarez Family Dance Studio opening, in Meg Medina's sequel to her 2020 Newbery Award winner, Merci Suárez Changes Gears, her just published Merci Suárez Can't Dance (Candlewick Press, 2021). In this funny and moving coming of age novel, Merci is a character that middle readers will love (if they don't already), and this new second novel, painful and heartwarming in the way of young people growing into a wider world, is a must purchase for school and public libraries. "Fans of Merci will root for her as they are immersed in her vibrant world full of unique characters and heartfelt surprises," says Booklist's starred review.

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Monday, April 05, 2021

Too Cute to Succeed? Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens by John Patrick Green

THE CITY OF MEWBURG IS PREPARING A FOR A BIG PROJECT...

THE CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW MAYOR'S MANSION! THE CITY PLANNER HAS TO PICK AN ARCHITECT!

The plans before him are terrific. Laying the blueprints he's been perusing with pleasure down on his desk, he asks the candidate's name.

"MARMALADE," SHE MEWS.

She's adorable, but the City Planner insists that a cute kitten cannot be capable.

Marmalade finds herself ejected and out on the sidewalk, fuming that being a cute cat is a handicap in the construction business. Angry and hurt, she decides she needs a drink to calm her down.

ONE SAUCER OF MILK....

AND KEEP 'EM COMING!"

But when the Joe chomping a sandwich at the counter coos that she's adorable, Marmalade has had it. She's earned her credentials the hard way in college, but how can she overcome the cuteness handicap, the idea that she's too cute to cut it in the construction trade?

But on her way out of the diner, Marmalade meets up with another cat fighting discrimination against cute kittens--Sampson, the dishwasher at the diner, an electrical engineer who is too cute to get a gig in the construction trade. They come up with a plan: if they can't get hired because of the bias in the workplace against being adorable, they'll just start their own business. On their way down the street they meet Bubbles, the blue-eyed white kitten whose dream is to plenty of pipes to plumb, and despite the putdown of being offered piddling jobs like untangling Christmas lights, the three discover that they are employees on the site of the new mayor's mansion. The three kittens confiscate the blueprints and realize that the mayor's mansion is doomed to self destruct catastrophically. Can the Kitten Construction Company save the day?

Of course they can! Overcoming the distractions of balls of yarn and laser light toys, the three professionals succeed despite an overkill of cuteness to prevent the coming civic cat-astrophe in author-illustrator John Patrick Green's Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens (Kitten Construction Company, 1) (First Second Books). You can't judge a book by its cover or a kitten by its cuteness! With more than a touch of humor that satirizes the workplace, this graphic novel will appeal to cat lovers, kids of all ages, and grownups as well. Says School Library Journal, "Don’t be fooled by the smiling kittens in construction hats adorning the cover―this lighthearted graphic novel doles out an important message about the dangers of judging by appearances."

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Sunday, April 04, 2021

Voyage to Bedtime! Off to See the Sea by Nikki Grimes


"BATHTIME," I WHISPER IN YOUR EAR."

GAMETIME! thinks the toddler child, scuttling to hide beside the sofa where dad grins and points a thumb to Mom, on the trail of the little escapee, who stifles his giggles, hand over mouth, as he begins the nightly game on the way to bedtime. Little bedtime deniers are common and mom, already in her comfy clothes, is up for the game!

And Mama knows just the right metaphor to entice the tot.

"COME!" I COO.

"BATHTIME IS FULL OF MAGIC!"

The flowing faucet becomes a tropical waterfall that fills the lake and the child slip-slides into the soap-bubbly waters.

"MONSTERS AHEAD!"

A rubber ducky rises from the deeps, but he bobs away as the child's feet kick up giant waves to deflect the yellow monster and they...

"...CRASH ON THE SHORE... ... THE FLOOR!"

Big shiny bubbles bounce into the air, reflecting their faces, as the tot dives into the water's depths. But Mama knows what he seeks and quickly, before he can make his move, she...

"...PULLS THE PLUG!"

With blubs and glubs the waters of the world swirl away as if by more bathtime magic, and despite the squeals, as Dad flies the toddler up, up, and away into the towel, there is that welcome sign of parental victory for yet another night.

"YOU... YAWN."

Parents know that bedtime can be a battle royale and/or a little bit of heaven, as Nikki Grimes' poetic story, Off to See the Sea (Soucebooks/Jabberwocky Books, 2021), reveals with great charm and skillful storytelling. The award-winning author is joined by artist Elizabeth Zenon, whose artful mixed-media illustrations will make even veteran parents remember and reminisce over the memories of a warm, sweet-smelling toddler's yawns and snuggles. Bathtime is magic, a magical transition toward sleep in a child's day, made memorable in this gentle story for parents and young children. Says Booklist, "This ebullient account of a common childhood experience bursts with love and universal appeal."

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Saturday, April 03, 2021

This Place Is For The Birds! Free by Sam Usher

WHEN I WOKE UP THIS MORNING, ONE OF THE BIRDS WAS SICK.

When a boy finds a ailing bird stretched out on his windowsill one morning, he knows who to call--Granddad, who has books on everything! They make the bird comfortable while Granddad consults a volume on bird facts. He gives the bird some water, and when the bird revives, Granddad prescribes putting him outside.

"DO I HAVE TO?"

But Granddad insists that the bird would not want to be kept inside.

THAT'S THAT!

But while the boy and Granddad are whipping up a pile of pancakes, the bird strolls back inside, warbling a greeting. Granddad suggests putting him on a blueberry bush, near the window, and it seems that that is that. But at lunchtime, the same bird shows up again on the kitchen table. Granddad suggests giving him free range of the bird bath. But at teatime that afternoon, there he is again, hopping across the kitchen floor. The boy is overjoyed.

"I THINK HE LIKES US! HE KEEPS COMING BACK!"

And indeed the bird does settle down, perching on Granddad's newspaper. Granddad determines that they must make a trek to find the bird's home tree, so with their backpacks loaded with expedition supplies, the two follow the bird, who flies straight for a big tree atop a steep mountain. It's a hard climb, but...

"WE MADE IT!"

The birds, perched wing to wing on the branches of the tree--pelicans to parrots, owls to ospreys--and many varieties unknown to man, are singing and peeping and hooting and warbling to greet them. And after refreshments, the boy and Granddad are given an avian airlift for their return flight home....

THEY FLEW US ALL THE WAY HOME, BACK IN TIME FOR BREAKFAST!

It's a genuine flight of fancy, in Sam Usher's new first book in a prospective four-book series in his FREE (Candlewick/Templar Books, 2021) in which grandfather and grandson fly as free as birds with their new feathered friends. For young readers who like to spread the wings of their imaginations, fans of author-illustrator Sam Usher's earlier boy and Granddad books, the Seasons series (see review here) will want to continue their fanciful adventures in the great outdoors.

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Friday, April 02, 2021

Power to the People! The President of the Jungle by Andre' Rodrigues, et al

LION WANTED A SWIMMING POOL. SO, BECAUSE HE WAS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE, HE RE-ROUTED THE RIVER TO FLOW INTO HIS FRONT YARD.

Lion was one of a long lineage of jungle rulers, so what he wants is what he gets. But diverting the river has a very bad outcome for the other animals. Baby animals are thirsty without their river. Armadillo complains that Lion only considers his own needs. Crocodile calls for a protest, and Sloth rouses himself to suggest they get a new leader who cares about everyone's well-being. They all show up in Lion's front yard for a demonstration. Protest signs are waved right under Lion's nose.

#OCCUPY THE JUNGLE!

SAY NO TO THE LION'S POOL!

GIVE US BACK OUR RIVER!

"THIS KING NEEDS TO GO!" CROAKS CROC.

The animals agree that they need a new leader. Owl suggests that instead of a kingdom, the jungle needs a democracy and for that they need ... AN ELECTION! There must be candidates, who campaign, describing what they think is best for everyone in the jungle, and everyone in the jungle gets to vote, and the winner will be the one who ends up with the most votes. Everyone agrees, and together they agree on the RULES--to wit, VOTES are secret, and no one can offer gifts in return for a vote, and the candidate with the largest number of votes wins. They agree to have an election once a year.

Sloth, Snake, Monkey, and Lion decide to become candidates. There are TV speeches, rallies, selfies, leaflets, discussions of issues, denigrations of each other by the candidates, and finally debates!

LION GOT DISQUALIFIED FOR GIVING VOTERS PEANUTS SO THEY'D CHOOSE HIM.

It's an all too familiar scenario, in The President of the Jungle (Nancy Paulson Books, 2020), by Andre' Rodrigues, Larissa Ribeiro, Paula Desgualdo, and Pedro Markun, who take a genuine but light-hearted look at that most critical time in any democracy, the election. With a glossary appended and spirited collaged illustrations with sly comments in speech balloons, this picture book is a humorous but insightful primer about voting and voters, elections and democracy.

In their starred review, Kirkus Review says succinctly, "A fun, lively, accessible primer on the democratic process (good for weary adults, too).”

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Thursday, April 01, 2021

Moving House! Moose, Goose, and Mouse by Mordecai Gerstein

Even the rubber ducky in the bathtub is unhappy.

MOOSE SAID, "THIS HOUSE IS WET AND OLD."

GOOSE SAID, "IT'S FULL OF MOLD!"

"ACHOO!" SAID DUCK. "IT'S VERY COLD."

Clearly it is time to move to a better house. Moose wants one that's sunny, Goose votes for funny, and Mouse prefers one that comes with a bunny.

The three hop a train to search for a new house, taking a seat in the pink caboose. They all approve of the caboose. But the engineer takes the the mountain route, and the tracks carry the three up and up, and then up and down and up and up, until the caboose, uncoupled, comes loose. Yikes!

"HELP!" YELLED MOOSE.

"IT'S NO USE!" SAID GOOSE.

"THIS IS FUN," SAID MOUSE. "RIDING IN A LOOSE CABOOSE!"

The tracks take the loose caboose down, down, down, until the tracks end, inexplicably, into a palm tree which stops the upended caboose and the three at the edge of the sea. They survey their new neighborhood.

Hey! This isn't so bad. The seaside is sunny!" notes Moose. Goose finds an upside down caboose quite funny!

"IS THAT A BUNNY?" SAID MOUSE.

What more could they ask for, in Mordecai Gerstein's Moose, Goose, and Mouse (Holiday House, 2021), his latest and last book for children, with kid-pleasing digital paper collage with co-artist Jeff Mack in a goofy and good-natured look at an unplanned household move with a jolly surprise ending. A sweet and easy beginning reader in rhyme and a noodlehead tale of three zany housemates who find an new neighbor, this one is a Seussian candidate for a new classic. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Madcap humor at its finest."

Mordecai Gerstein received the Caldecott award as the author-illustrator of his stunning The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (see my review here).

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

How Many Hatchlings? Ducks On The Road by Anita Lobel

It's a sparkling, sunny, spring morning. The trees are leafy and the flowers are blooming, and Mama and Papa Duck are proudly parading their new ducklings down the road to the pond. Then little ones trail their parents in a proper straight line...

... UNTIL, THE TENTH DUCKLING IN LINE TURNED BACK TO QUACK,

"HELLO, FROG!"

Unaware that one duckling has quit the queue, Mama and Papa march on, with nine ducklings in tow behind them.

And one by one, the rest of the ducklings also stop along the way to greet the animals they meet: first Frog, each duckling in turn stops to salute a newly-met neighbor--Mouse, Squirrel, Rabbit, Cat, Dog, Pig, Sheep, and Owl, and one surprise.

The tenth duckling turns around to greet--another duckling.

"HELLO, DUCK!" THEY SAID TO EACH OTHER.

And when Mama and Papa reach the pond and look back to introduce their TEN little ducks to their destination, they discover something surprising:

"OH, NO! OUR LITTLE DUCKS ARE GONE!"

"NO. HERE WE ARE!" QUACKED ELEVEN LITTLE DUCKS.

The suprised parents find more than they expect--nine new animals, furry, feathered, and amphibian, and especially one more duckling than they had counted on!

"ELEVEN DUCKS?" QUACKED PAPA.

"EVEN BETTER!" QUACKED MAMA.

And there's always room for one more duckling to splash into the pond, in the celebrated author-illustrator Anita Lobel's latest, Ducks on the Road: A Counting Adventure (Simon & Schuster, 2021). A Caldecott Medalist herself, Anita Lobel, part of a notable author-illustrator pair with her husband Arnold Lobel, creator of the famous Frog and Toad are Friends series and other notable picture books, has come up with a counting book filled with cute and curious ducklings and a surprise ending. Count on Anita Lobel for a picture book just right for the spring season, illustrated in her delightful artistic style that gives youngsters a chance to count ducklings and other familiar animals along the way. Anita Lobel's Caldecott Award went to her for her classic On Market Street and her charming story of how woolly sheep provide warm winter wear, A New Coat for Anna.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Garden That Keeps On Giving! The Ugly Garden by Grace Lin

IN THE SPRING I HELPED MY MOTHER START OUR GARDEN. IT WAS HARD WORK.

WHEN WE STOPPED TO REST, I SAW THAT THE NEIGHBORS WERE STARTING THEIR GARDENS, TOO.

But the neighbors get their gardens dug faster because they use big shovels. Ours are small.

And when the neighbors' seeds sprout, green leaves begin to show right away. When ours came up, the green things look like grass blades!

Soon the neighbors' gardens are beginning to bloom--with big flowers of all kinds of bright colors. They smell so fragrant that the bees buzz all around them.

OUR GARDEN WAS ALL DARK AND UGLY. I SAW ONLY BLACK AND GREEN-PURPLE VINES AND WRINKLED LEAVES. OUR VEGETABLES WERE BUMPY.

SOME WERE JUST PLAIN ICKY!

It's very sad.

But one day we pick our vegetables, and Mom works hard, peeling,  chopping, and dropping a mixture of them into a really big pot of water on the stove.

And it's not long before a delicious aroma is drifting out of the kitchen, all the way into the neighbors' yards. The neighbors begin to follow their noses to the kitchen door, bringing bunches of beautiful flowers to trade for some  of the soup. They all sit down and have an ugly vegetable soup party!

IT WAS THE BEST DINNER EVER!

It takes all kinds to make a world and all kinds of gardens to make people happy, in the award-winning Grace Lin's spring tale of two kinds of gardens, The Ugly Vegetables (Charlesbridge Books). Author-illustrator Lin's cheery story of garden envy is resolved in appreciation for all that the good earth gives us, edible and beautiful. Grace Lin is also the author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

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Monday, March 29, 2021

Bedtime Countdown: Arithmechicks Take Away by Ann Marie Stephens

TEN CHICKS IN THE COOP WITH THEIR FRIEND MOUSE!MAMA SQUAWKS! "TIME TO HIT THE HAY!"

NO WAY!" THEY SAY!

Arithmechicks scatter for cover, with one hightailing it to conceal himself behind Mouse. Mama does the arithmetic. 10-1= 9. Mama catches three. 9-3=6. Four chicks hunker down, but Mama catches them. 6-4=2. The two chicks split up.

READY OR NOT HERE COMES MAMA!

But just as Mama corrals them all, one chick calls for a subtraction redaction! They scoot and scurry and conceal themselves again, in cubbies and cabinets--all except for 1. 10-1=9!

But Mama swoops down and wraps her feathery wings around that one wayward Chickie Little. It's a happy hug. Now the others are jealous.

WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US?

Now that it's getting dark in the chicken coop, they are ready for a bedtime story and to hop quickly into their nesting boxes to count sheep--or whatever chicks count to fall asleep. Mama counts chicks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 little nestling chicks snoozing--and one mouse, too.

The Arithmechicks are back, in Ann Marie Stephens' brand new mathematical exercise book, Arithmechicks Take Away: A Math Story (Boyd's Mill Press, 2020).

The youngest kids will love counting up the chicks as they scurry to hide in different combinations of numbers, while older arithmetickers will enjoy discovering the different patterns in which the clever chicks conceal themselves in the snug chicken coop. How many different ways are there to make a group of ten chicks? Let's count the ways, and in her appendix, author Stephens provides diagrams--a decomposer, a number line, a number bond, and a subtraction equation, and even that original calculator--ten fingers--all ways to come to ten. Artist Jia Liu individualizes each chick and alternately conceals and reveals their hiding places for counting fun for preschoolers and primary students.

Pair this one with its companion book, Arithmechicks Add Up: A Math Story. Kirkus Reviews' account says, "Feathery fun for the newly numerate. Take it away, Arithmechicks!"

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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Make Room! Two Many Birds by Cindy Derby

Housing is in short supply in Birdville, and birds are  flocking  to rent a roost in a leafless apartment. The line is long, and the prospective landlord is a curmudgeonly cop, a blackbird with a megaphone whose rules are authoritarian:

NO RESTING! NO NESTING! NO PESTING!

NO HAIR GEL! NO POOPING ON THE GROUND!

(A Birda-Potty is provided on the grounds.)

The avian authoritarian surveils the premises strictly from his towering seat, abandoning bis watch only for his acorn meals, served by a servile waiter in black tie. The rest of the birds gingerly clutch their crowded twigs in fear, afraid of an infraction which will leave them perchless.

But there is a free spirit among the feathered residents who sneaks her nest in, concealed as a hairdo, and inside that nest are ....

... which in due course, become...

TWO MANY BIRDS!!!!!!

But when the intractably curmugeonly cop evicts the young mother and her brood, the birds of a feather flock together, and taking flight to a nearby pasture, they cultivate the watchman's acorn stock and grow enough trees for a powerful flock of their own, filling the air with the sweet song of birds, and with new signage:

NO SHOES? NO SHIRT?

NO PROBLEM!

FREE AS A BIRD is the watchword for Cindy Derby's new flight-of-fancy, Two Many Birds (Roaring Brook, 2020). Author-illustrator Derby, who was the recent winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal for her illustrations in Deborah Underwood's Outside In, makes use of her insightful and unique storytelling and artwork in this latest timely story. There always room for one (or two) more in this off-beat story of population growth that also advocates planting plenty of oak trees. For another quirky story written and illustrated by Cindy Derby, check out her recent outing, How To Walk An Ant.

"... worth perching prominently on the shelf," tweets Publishers Weekly's starred review.

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Growing Time: Zee Grows a Tree by Elizabeth Rusch

Growing up is hard to do!

On the same spring day that Zee emerges as a newborn, a new seedling Douglas fir emerges from its pot at Coopers' Christmas Tree Farm. Her parents name it "Zee's Tree."

 As her parents care for baby Zee day and night, they also take care to see that the baby tree gets the right nutrients, water, and temperature for it to thrive. As baby Zee gets big enough to get around on her own, the tiny fir, still inches short of a foot tall, is planted in the soil, and at first it grows below ground, putting down deep roots. Both grow, but Zee and her tree are a little shorter than most of the others of their age, but her father says...

"EVERYONE GROWS AT DIFFERENT RATES."

And Dad's right: during that summer Zee gets to big for her spring clothes and Zee's Tree grows a whole foot taller in a month--now taller that she is!

Zee gets all new clothes--school clothes--as she boards the Kindergarten bus, and her tree gets its first trimming, too. Soon Zee is a first grader and then it's time to lose some baby teeth. Her tree puts on new buds and begins to shoot up, too.

But late in spring, the rains stop and the tree's top branches grow brown in the drought. Zee waters her tree often, and following directions, spreads ice cubes around its roots to keep the soil cool.

"DON'T WORRY. I'LL TAKE CARE OF YOU!" SHE SAYS TO HER TREE.

In the fall she spreads mulch to keep the moisture in the ground around her tree, and come cold weather, she and Dad put up a windscreen to keep away the dry, ice-chilled winds of winter, and when her eighth birthday rolls around in the spring, Zee's Tree is sturdy and well again.

In fact, by late fall it is so tall and beautiful that Zee needs a ladder to put the star on top for its first year as an outdoor Christmas tree, in Elizabeth Rusch's newest, Zee Grows a Tree (Candlewick Press, 2021). With loving attention to care for a child and the cultivation of a young tree, this how-to story book, part fiction and part nonfiction, shows how a child transfers the love devoted to her nurture to the growth of her very own tree. In author Rusch's gentle text, the little fir tree grows and thrives along with its young arborist, shown in the soft but realistic artwork of Will Hillebrand, and bolstered by an index of tree-growing terms and a brief bibliography of books about the joy and skills of growing your own tree. Says School Library Journal, "... a brilliant combination of storytelling and factual information."

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Saturday, March 27, 2021

Calamitous Catitude! Bad Cat by Nicola O'Byrne


Fluffykins is on a tear, one of those calamitous rampages that cats sometimes indulge in!

When a big orange tabby discovers a vase of flowers near the edge of a table, there's only one likely outcome--

CRASH! SPLASH! TINKLE-TINKLE!

"FLUFFIKINS! THAT WASN'T VERY NICE.

DON'T WALK AWAY! I THINK YOU NEED TO APOLOGIZE!"

Fluffikins spots a basketful of colorful yarn balls, just ready for knitting.

But not for long!

No apologies are forthcoming as Fluffikins continues his cantankerous rounds. He rips the upholstery on the sofa, stretches out territorially on the computer keyboard, unreels the toilet tissue in the bathroom, and scales the blinds on the window..., that is, just before he goes potty on the floor.

It's time for some kitty timeout in the great outdoors.

"NOW GO AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE DONE!"

Fluffikins' owner has had it. Fluffi is one housekeeping cat-astrophe after another. He cools his paws in the great outdoors while his owner cleans up.

But, wait! Now it's raining repentant cats outdoors--with Fluffikins' desperate, sad, and soggy face at the window!

MEOOOW!

One might expect that about now Fluffikins will morph into an apologetic, purring bundle of fur, but, true to type, once inside, he makes a beeline toward the goldfish bowl..., in this hilarious account of a truly bad cat day. Any one who has raised a cat from cute kittenhood to more cunny catitude will have to laugh at Fluffykins in O'Byrne's latest, Bad Cat! (Candlewick Press, 2021).

The noted O'Byrne's superbly comic artwork is the perfect foil for her one-sided dialogue with a rip-roaring cat, one who can't resist tampering with the lettering on his own title page. Readers who have cats will relish this portrayal of the sly mischief and charm of these mercurial mood-shifting pets, in the illustrator's outsized full- and double-page focus on this rambunctious feline. Although perfect for giggly preschool read-alouds, the brief text and plentitude of visual cues make this story a great choice for emerging readers as well.

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Friday, March 26, 2021

Beware of Predators Bearing Gifts! My Best Friend by Rob Hodgson

HI, THERE! I'M MOUSE AND I WANT TO TELL YOU ABOUT MY BEST FRIEND... GREAT OWL!

What a good friend Giant Owl is! He takes Mouse to live with him in his tree. And Great Owl loves to play with Mouse.

WE PLAY CHASE, AND SOMETIMES GREAT OWL NEARLY CATCHES ME.... BUT NOT QUITE.

And Great Owl loves to share his food with Mouse--all the donuts Mouse can eat and more! Such a generous friend!

Mouse has some questions, of course, about his best friend's sometimes strange behaviors. He won't let Mouse out of his sight, and Mouse never gets to enjoy a moment alone! And when Mouse tries to get a bit of space, Great Owl is a bit rough when he grabs him. It is annoying. But Great Owl shows Mouse how much he loves him when he gives him a trendy wire house that fits right over his head. How does Owl know that Mouse's favorite thing to do is have a sleepover--especially in his new portable house! ZZZZZZZZ!

But then.... Mouse awakes in a very dark place....

It's a strange turn in the plot, especially since Great Owl begins to feel some gastric distress! Glurk! Ooooch! Burble! ACCKKK!

At this point in the tale, youngsters will have figured out exactly where Mouse is and will cheer when Great Owl is forced to disgorge his, er, friend with an enormous BURP, in Rob Hodgson's tongue-in-cheek story of a devious and dubious friendship, My Best Friend (Francis Lincoln Childrens Books, 2020). This bit of dark humor is just right for savvy primary graders who know a bit about the role of predators in the food chain and will begin to giggle as the wily predator fattens up his prey and his true intentions become more and more obvious--while Mouse remains, well, in the dark! "A fresh page to the annals of obliviousness," quips Booklist.

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Thursday, March 25, 2021

Ask Me Another One! Riddles at School (Riddle Me This) by Lisa Regen

 

Why is a piano so hard to open
Because all the keys are inside.

Lisa Regen's Riddles at School (Riddle Me This!) (Windmill Books) is not for the unschooled. These are real brain teasers, and some of the them are real brain twisters too:

What chemical substance is this: HIJKLMNO?

Water (H to O)

Author Lisa Regen covers school subjects, but some of her teasers also require logic.

If a doctor is likely to catch a cold at work, what does a pilot on the job catch?
A PLANE!

And for those lovers of vocabulary, there are specialty riddles called Tom Swifties, in which the fun is to complete the sentence with an appropriate adjective turned into a adverb.

"I itch all over, but I won't go to the doctor," said Tim, _ _ _ _ ly."

RASH

In this title from the Riddle Me This series, author Regen pretty much covers the curriculum, with all subjects, right down to the music room.

"What does the violinist say when she hits a wrong note?"
"Fiddlesticks!!"

For riddle-loving readers, this one gives middle readers a chance to have their riddles and be educated, too. Other books for the scholarly riddler are Regen's Riddles at Home (Riddle Me This!) and Underwater Riddles (Riddle Me This!).

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Can't Please 'Em All! Pete the Cat~Too Cool For School by Kimberly and James Dean

PETE WANTED TO LOOK COOL.

HE ASKS EVERYONE, "WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?"

Pete begins with his Mom.

"WEAR YOUR YELLOW SHIRT!" SHE SAYS. "IT'S MY FAVORITE!"

Pete puts on the yellow shirt and starts out for school. But everyone has a different suggestion. His big brother Bob likes the blue shirt better.

His teacher favors long pants, and the school bus driver prefers polka dot socks with his red shoes. Callie the cat says she loves his shorts with the fish print. Pete pulls the shorts on over his long pants, feeling rather silly, and when Grumpy Toad advises he wear cowboy boots with his ensemble, Pete is beginning to feel more than a bit ridiculous. Still, Emma Dog proposes that a striped tie would please her, and Coach counsels a two-toned baseball cap to set it all off.

Pete is way too hot in all those clothes. He wants to please everyone, but... does he look cool?

NO. PETE LOOKS SILLY.

Pete discovers a truth. You can't please everybody, so you might as well suit yourself. Pete sheds the extra clothes for his tee, his shorts, and his red shoes, and learns a lesson, To look cool...

.. BE YOURSELF!

Kimberly and James Dean's early reader, Pete the Cat: Too Cool for School (My First I Can Read) (Harper I-Can-Read Books), offers a little sartorial advice along with Harper's little reading lesson that will get the giggles as Pete sweats in front of an air conditioner on full blast and ponders the wisdom of crowd sourcing his school wardrobe. Youngsters just starting out with reading will find gentle humor, visual cues, and a few life lessons in the company of Pete the Cat.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Wheels? Wheee!: On the Go Awesome by Lisl Defletsen

Wheels are wonders and things that go on them are wonderful!

TRAINS ARE COOL. CONDUCTING A TRAIN THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS?

CHUGGA CHUGGA, AWESOME!

Excavators on their big wheels are excellent! And it's extremly excellent to operate one. Digga Digga Doo! Watching planes take off is exciting, but being in the pilot's seat is even better! Up, Up, and Away!

Subways are super. Monster trucks are crushingly terrific! Sailing a ship is splendid, and captaining an ocean liner across the sea?

AYE, AYE! AWESOME!

Cruising the country in your camper is cool. Spacecraft rolling out are stunning and superb!

VISITING A LAUNCH PAD? STELLAR!

FAR OUT!

Wheels are the way to go, in Lisl Defletsen's On the Go Awesome (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020), a picture book of the all the ways we know to go, illustrated with rollicking rolling stock by artist Robert Neuberger. A good way to introduce youngsters to the variety of vehicles in our world... and with a vocabulary lesson on superlatives along the way. Kids that dote on big equipment or various vehicles for human transport will want to park this one to their story book garage

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Monday, March 22, 2021

E Pluribus Unum! All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

The school bell is ringing. It's time to cine together in a classroom. What will it be like? Well, all kids like a lot of the same things.

LET'S ALL TAKE PART.

WE'LL ALL MAKE ART.

Kids are clapping and singing, and then sprawling on the floor to finish coloring their pictures of things they like. And then it's time for recess.

OR IF YOU COME FROM FAR AWAY...

ALL ARE WELCOME HERE.

Kids of different colors and in different clothes are ready to run outside. They like to swing and slide, and hop on the merry-go-round and take a ride!

Back in the classroom it's time to learn about dinosaurs and slime, bugs and volcanos. The world is full of different things to know. And when at lunch, there are a dozen kinds of bread in different people's lunches, anyone can have a taste. There are so many new things to try that school time seems to fly. Tomorrow is another day, another time to say, "All are welcome."

Author Alexandra Penmore's rhyming story of a day at school, All Are Welcome (Alfred E. Knopf) demonstrates her theme that diversity is the best way to deal with adversity, as our motto E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One) bravely says, and she shows all kinds of kids who get to school in all kinds of ways, sharing their school days. Artist Suzanne Kaufman fills her busy and colorful illustrations with humor and fun as the kids sing and play, learn and share their day with each other in this New York Times best-selling picture book about school days for all.

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Sunday, March 21, 2021

How Did This Happen? Secrets of Pollution and Conservation by Andrew Solway

Humans have lived on earth for several hundred thousands years, but only in the past 10,000 years has the population increased rapidly. Mastering tool-making, farming, herding, and manufacturing of goods beyond one family's needs pushed human population into rapid growth. Along the way, some forests were obliterated, some becoming deserts, some species, such as the mammoth, were hunted to extinction, and with Industrial Revolution and its invention of steam engines, powered by wood and coal fueled exponential growth of populations. And long with the benefits came pollution of air, soil, and water and loss of species and habitats forever.

Noted children's science writer Andrew Solway's Secrets of Pollution and Conservation (Science Secrets (Hardcover)) (Cavendish/Brittanica) is a well organized and straightforward exposition of how all that happened and what we are trying to do about the problems of too many humans competing for what is now too few, diminishing resources.

Solway introduces middle readers to the processes and vocabulary of human efforts to conserve the resources that support human life on earth--food chains and food webs, ozone and other greenhouse gases and the role of pollutants such as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS), acid rain and ozone layer--to cite a few, and what they have to do with the survival of our species in a future threatened by global warming. With simple experiments that illustrate problems such as particulate pollutants from burning fossil fuels, for example, early earth science students meet hands-on with the problems produced by population growth and the waste products--smoke, heat, and the detritus of human wastes, from greenhouse gases to oil spills and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The author of Food Chains and Webs: What Are They and How Do They Work? (Let's Explore Science), Solway's direct writing, set-in boxes, "Science Secrets," and dozens of illustrations, graphs, and charts illuminate the text, which is accompanied by an appendix with a glossary, bibliography, and index, make this nonfiction book good for science reports, science fair activities, and just plain learning about the world students live in now and in their future.

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