Saturday, March 17, 2018

Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail And... (This Is) Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

This is Peter Rabbit!

It's a shaped story book, complete with Peter's industrious siblings, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail, busy filling their baskets, and his partner in radish nibbling, cousin Benjamin Bunny.

Peter ventures out into the forbidden field of Mr. McGregor's gooseberry bushes for some adventures, but returns to his home burrow when it's time to say goodnight, in this new edition of Beatrix Potter's popular bunny tale.

It's a sturdy board book, a simple version of the classic story, and a crib toy, all in one, in Peter Rabbit Large Shaped Board Book (Frederic Warne, 2018 Am. ed.), with  Potter's delightful illustrations with all their soft water-colored appeal. This is one bedtime story that goes along for nighty-night time.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Put a Bunny in Your Basket: BUNNY and Friends (Touch and Feel)



Who wouldn't want one of those?

Bunnies for Easter and baskets often go together, but if you don't plan to have a hutch in your house, Roger Priddy's tactile-stimulating title, Bunny and Friends Touch and Feel (Baby Touch and Feel) (Priddy Books/St. Martin's Press, 2017), fits right into the Easter basket, with soft  fur to feel and a real cotton tail to touch.

Young ones are encouraged to stroke two bunnies, one with gray fur and one with brown, while a cottony little puff of a tail is there on each of them. And when little bunnies are ready for a nap, there's even a sturdy brown rabbit hutch. Is it rough, or smooth to the touch?

This sturdy little board book for the youngest is a great Easter basket stuffer for the very youngest Easter Bunny fans.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Somebunny Loves You! LOVE from PETER RABBIT

LOVE is all the smiles you give.

I'll never have enough.

Peter and Mama Rabbit count the ways of love--exploring the wide world together, and then going back home, snuggling together in their burrow.

It's holding hands when lost or lonely, cuddling when it's snowy outside, that "just right" feeling when they share time and hugs and kisses, and laughs, especially at bedtime.

With the beloved pastel illustrations of Beatrix Potter, this little book, sturdy but petite enough for small hands, Love from Peter Rabbit (Frederick Warne, 2017), is a sweet but sugar-free treat for the Easter season, especially for the Easter basket, along with the adorable Gund Classic Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit Stuffed Animal Plush, 6.5-Inch., for somebunny who's loved a lot.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Terror! Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

"Don't fight!" said Cas. "Can we turn the radio back on? Maybe they'll tell us help is finally coming."

Rashid clicked on the radio. The announcer was telling everyone that the firefighters were making progress:

"With one person of interest being questioned, authorities are working to find another individual they have confirmed is involved in this terrible bombing. A source confirms that the individual is one of the students trapped on the second floor of the school. With four bombs having already gone off, there appears to be one explosive device still inside the school that could detonate at any time."

Another bomb was ready to go off, and the bomber was one of them.

It is the week before the new academic year begins. Six students leave their homes to go to their school, each one concealing the real personal reason to be there--from setting up a complex prank to suicide and murder.

Diana knows that all her father cares about is for her to be the flawless Congressman's daughter.

She was determined to prove him wrong.

Rashid thinks of the looks he'd gotten at school since his beard, the one he wasn't allowed to shave off, had grown.

Hitching up the bag, Rashid frowned. If he was going to change things, he had to do it today.

Z's mom has died of cancer, and without money, he'd just received the letter telling him he's about to become homeless.

Z grabbed his father's old army duffle. He had things to do. He was going to school, and he wasn't coming back.

Frankie's sister has  figured out he's pulling some big prank on the Junior Varsity guys. Frankie knows he made a mistake with Tad. But it's a mistake no one in school would ever believe about their star quarterback.

Frankie adjusted the bag on his arm and pushed all thoughts of Tad to the side. It was time to finish what he'd started.

Everywhere--on the football team, at school, at home, Tad is tired of pretending to be someone only he knows he can no longer be.

He grabbed his gym bag. Everything was there. He was going to insist on being noticed. And it wouldn't be just his life that changed if he went through with this.

Cas had thought things might be different in her new school, but they have already decided she wasn't good enough.

She jammed the stupid scarf into her bag and yanked open one of the glass doors to the school. She was done with it all.

Now, bruised and bleeding, some with broken bones, all six of them are trapped in a collapsing building with a raging fire spreading inside. Outside fire fighters can't enter because of the remaining bomb that may explode at any moment. They came with very different purposes, but now all but one have only one thought, to survive, and for that they need each other.

Joelle Charbonneau's forthcoming thriller, Time Bomb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) is a mystery thriller, a survival story as timely as yesterday's news, and a sensitive story of six teenagers at a pivotal moment in their lives, a story in which they know that, although one of them is a terrorist, they need all of them if anyone is to escape death.

Noted for her trilogy, The Testing, a series of dystopian novels about a band of competitive teens who come together to save their society, author Charbonneau knows how to create believable but disparate characters whose fate depends upon their ability to meet a challenge to their survival. Introducing the protagonists in brief thumbnail chapters written in their own voices, she gradually reveals their secrets while keeping the reader guessing who the real bomber is until the ending. No one of them comes out of that building the same as they went in, in a page-turning survival story of school violence that will have readers wondering what they would do when the bombs go off.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bully to Buddy! The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark by Deborah Diesen

Deep in the ocean
On a warm summer day,
Bubbled lots of lovely laughter
And sounds of happy play.

It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood for Mr. Fish & Friends. Even Mr. Fish's pouty mouth is all smiles, and the small fry fish and their fellow crustaceans frolic in the waters of Tommy Tickle Park. In oceanic terms, all's well in the sea's swells.

But then a shadow literally passes over this perfect pelagic scene. It's a.... SHARK!

The shark showed his teeth,
And growled as he swam.
"Move aside, micro-fishes!
It's my turn! SCRAM!"

The small denizens of the deep dive down to the bottom. Flounder flaps until he is hidden in the sand. The rest swim for cover. No one wants to make trouble taking on Snaggletooth the Shark. Even Pout-Pout Mr. Fish suddenly feels puny.

After a gnarly pass over Tommy Tickle Park, the shark swims on, and the tiny small fry and spineless crustaceans begin to venture out again and start to play. But the little one ones scatter again when the shark glides by and taunts them:

"Fear the fin!"

But the third time Snagglepuss makes a pass, Mr. Fish  begins to feel his inner superhero beginning to blossom.  He rallies his comrades and faces the big fish down:

"Mr. Shark," said Mr. Fish,
"You have broken up our fun.
Bully isn't who you are,
But it is what you've DONE!"

Boys and girls, don't try this with a real shark at your beach, but Mr. Fish has a good point about facing up. If you can't overpower a bully, maybe you can co-opt him by appealing to his better self and fitting in with the group, and in Deborah Diesen's The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark (A Pout-Pout Fish Adventure) (Farrar, Strous and Giroux, 2017) shows her hero Pout-Pout Fish converting the shark to one of the gang, one who even follows the rules: 1) BE KIND! 2) BE FAIR! 3) IF YOU SEE SOMETHING WRONG, SPEAK UP! As always, Mr. Fish learns and returns a new lesson, but it is artist Dan Hanna's detailed and delicate deep-sea illustrations that are the seaside center of attention in this latest under-the-sea adventure.

Pair this one for preschoolers with Anna Dewdney's delightful take on taking on bullies and bullying in her Llama Llama and the Bully Goat. (Read my review here.)

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Monday, March 12, 2018

#TooManyTweets! Wordy Birdy by Tammi Sauer




Wordy Birdy can't even wait until the first page of the book. She starts talking on the book jacket flap, blabs all over the endpapers, and prattles through the title page, promising drama, heart, humor, and... a few words about tuna salad!

She spouts off about her favorite and un-favorite foods (spaghetti, and tuna salad), jabbers about her family tree ("My cousin is a penguin... really!"), and can deliver a steady stream of questions in the blink of an beak ("Is Bigfoot real? Are we there yet?").


Listening is not Wordy Bird's thing. But her friends Raccoon and Rabbit put up with the steady stream of tweeting because--well, they don't exactly know why they do! They are just...friends, and when Wordy Birds ignores some signs she should pay attention to--


--do they abandon her to her own fate? Do they save their own skins? Do they flee in fear?


It's friends to the end even in the face of a barrage of blather from the wordy one, in Tammi Sauer's newest, Wordy Birdy (Doubleday and Company, 2018). At least there are no awkward silences with Sauer's loquacious bird on the page, as her loyal buddies bail her out of a bad scene with a bear and share cake and conversation as they celebrate their escape.

It's a silly story of some serious friendships with the blabby bird even chatting occasionally with the reader. With gloriously comedic illustrations by the talented Dave Mottram, whose clever artwork is all over the page along with Sauer's text, this is a perfect readaloud for a chatterbox kid or two you may know!

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Too Much of a Good Thing? The Two Mutch Sisters by Carol Brendler

The Mutch Sisters were collectors. It started when they were very little girls.

First there were two toy teapots.

One for Ruby, one for Violet.

As Ruby and Violet grew, so did their collections. But Violet
and Ruby had radically clashing tastes. The rotund Violet favored the rococo--fussy, flowery, and fancy in clothes and cushy, kitschy, and curvaceous in furnishings. The spare Ruby sought the minimalist in everything, simple, straight-lined, neutral colored, with perhaps a touch of stripes. Even their two cats were different. Soon their spacious home grew crowded and cluttered. The two Mutch sisters had too much of everything.

The day came when Ruby could not even find a spot for her teacup at teatime.

"This house isn't big enough for the both of us. I'm moving out!"

Ruby began removing her half of the collections.

One gargoyle,
One glockenspiel,
One brass spittoon,
One French bassoon.

Leaving Violet alone among her now lonely bibelots and curios. Ruby moved across town into a no-nonsense moderne house where she found just the right place for each of her artfully-arranged objets d'arte.

"I like it!" Ruby said...

But something was missing.

Violet finds something missing, too, and there's only one thing to do, in Carol Brendler's forthcoming The Two Mutch Sisters (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2018), a humorous and doubly punny and homophonically-titled tale of two sisters whose penchant for tchotchkes turns them into hoarders. But as Brendler's perfectly paced narrative points out, there's one thing you can't have too much of, and that's the company of a sympathetic sister. Youngsters will love Violet's plan to bring the two sisters, their cats, and their teacups together again, and artist Lisa Brown's final two-page spread polishes it off with just the right style of gently comic illustrations done up in crayoned blackline and watercolored illustrations, right down to Violet's chest of tools and pack of mules. Vive' la difference!

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

St. Patrick's Day Tricks! The Gingerbread Man & the Leprechaun Loose at School by Laura Murray

One Monday in March the mischief began with a HEE HEE HEE from a wee little man.

"FO FIDDLEY-FEE! You can't catch me!

I'm a leprechaun on a mess-making spree!"

But that leprechaun is messing with the wrong man--Gingerbread Man--who knows a thing or two about being loose on the school himself!

Gingerbread Man sprints down the Kindergarten hall after the leprechaun, spotting a note hastily taped to the wall by the green-clad malefactor.

The Woodwinds, the Strings, Percussion, and Brass
Are Turned Topsy-Turvy, Awaiting Your Class

And it's true! When his class follows the Gingerbread Man to their band room, they find it is indeed a musical mess. The kids quickly put the tipped tubas and flipped flutes back in place, but their Gingerbread Man is already moving on to find the green-clad miscreant.

As Gingerbread Man strolls through the halls on patrol, he follows some telltale dropped shamrocks leading into the Boys' Bathroom. What a distressing sight it is.

He yelled with a blush:

"Where are your manners! Remember to flush!"

Is any place safe--including the Gingerbread Man's own gingerbread house--with a tricky leprechaun on the loose? Well, Gingerbread Man hasn't lost a race yet, in Laura Murray's latest, The Gingerbread Man and the Leprechaun Loose at School(G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2018),  and in this latest salute to St. Patrick's Day celebrations at school, the pot of gold is in Murray's jolly rhymes and artist Mike Lowery's kid-friendly illustrations. Chasing down the wee man's pot of gold is a time-honored early childhood class activity to familiarize young pupils with the school, and this story makes a great storytime lead-in for the hunt around the school. And for a rip-roaring emcore, there's Adam Wallace's best-selling How to Catch a Leprechaun and Lucille Colandro's classic St. Paddy's Day parody, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Clover! (peruse review here).

Including in this series are other primary grade classroom-centered gingerbread adventures such as The Gingerbread Man Loose at The Zoo, The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck and The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas.

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Friday, March 09, 2018

That's the Glory of... LOVE by Matt De La Pena and Loren Long

In the beginning there is light and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed,

And the sound of their voices is love.

There are many ways to love, but they all begin with family, with parent and child, in Matt De La Pena's newest picture book, Love (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2018), illustrated lovingly by noted Caldecott artist Loren Long.

De La Pena, 2016 Newbery Award winner for Last Stop on Market Street, writes about love from the first experiences of the soft, warm smell of the crib. But new experiences come fast--the harsh sound of the fire alarm and the first visit to the park, with the big kids shoving past to climb up the slides. Step by step, mastery comes.

Soon you are running among them, and the echo of your laughter is love.

There are scary times when everyone gathers around the television set and speaks in low voices, sad times when they grieve the loss of one of them, and loud times when people laugh about fun times that came before.

There is love in the made-up stories your uncles tell.

And the man in rags outside the subway steps plays love notes that lift into the sky like tiny beacons of light.

Author De La Pena counts the many ways of love in a family in glad times and sad times, the power of love that enables the child to grow up and leave to find his own way in the world.

But it won't be luck you live with, because you'll have love.

It's another happy collaboration for Newbery Award author De La Pena, this time with the noted artist Loren Long, whose human figures and landscapes are both intimate and monumental in their impact. Says Kirkus Reviews, “From the moment prose and art appear in the opening spread, de la Peña and Long usher readers into a patient, pensive meditation on love. . . . Timely, timeless, and utterly necessary.”

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

Slow Going: The Great Easter Race (Sesame Street Scribbles) by Craig Manning



All the Sesame Street gang are there, warming up for the Easter Race and stretching their legs . They're not running for the roses! They're running for the EGGS!

There are other entrants for the big race, too--a leggy, over-confident rabbit and a very slow but steady turtle.

(SPOILER ALERT! You may already know who's going to win this race!)

Turtle trudges off, muttering his mantra ("Slow and steady wins the race....") while Rabbit streaks away, out of sight, losing all the other runners in his dust. But this Bunny is easily distracted by the new spring things along the race route. Cookie Monster is positioned under a tree with a basket of cookies, and they're all free! Bunny munches awhile and, seeing Turtle toddling along in the distance, zips off again. But what's this! There's Ernie, with a dozen cutesy ducklings! Runner Bunny just has to stop and play with them.

It seems that fabulous running rabbit is having a bit of trouble staying on task. But there's Turtle, tootling along, still behind, but closing, so Bunny blasts off again. But it's not long before he slides to a sudden stop. What does he see up in that little tree? Peeping birdies in a nest? He just has to take a peep, too. And then, while he's under that tree with the nest....


By this time it's clear where this one is going, in Craig Manning's breezy retelling of Aesop's ancient fable of The Tortoise and the Hare replayed with Easter trimmings and the Sesame Street regulars, The Great Easter Race! (Sesame Street Scribbles) (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2017). It's three for the price of one, with artist Ernie Kwiat's jolly pastel illustrations of the Sesame gang, costumed for Easter, as they act out one of the oldest tales in human literature and join in discovering the surprises spring brings, while, for young Eastertide celebrants the Easter Bunny makes a surprise cameo appearance with some colorful treats for all.

And for those who like their Easter-related fables with gears and wheels, pair this one with Kristen Larsen's Mater and the Easter Buggy (Disney/Pixar Cars) (Read review here).

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

ROYGBIV! Peppa Pig and the Easter Rainbow by Neville Astley

Peppa and George are going on an Easter egg hunt.

Peppa is psyched. She wants to find eggs in every color, so she and little brother George set off on the hunt, Peppa with a basket and George with a net!

Whoever hid all the eggs meant for them to be found. In no time Peppa has almost met her goal when the two of them arrive at a field with tall, tall grass. How will they spot Easter eggs in there?

But not to worry!

"Here comes Grandpa Pig!

His big mower will cut that grass fast!" Back and forth he goes.

The two rush into the now beautifully mowed field. Just as Peppa makes her quota of colors, a brief rain shower interrupts their fun. But there's a bright side to that...
"Do you know what happens when it's sunny and rainy at the same time?" asks Mother Pig.

"I know!" said Peppa. "You get a RAINBOW!"

And then Peppa notices that she has a rainbow of Easter Eggs...

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet!

Perfect! And now for that TREASURE at the end of the rainbow....

And what better way to learn the order of the colors of the rainbow than a jolly Easter egg hunt, in Peppa Pig and the Easter Rainbow (Candlewick Press, 2017). Neville Astley's popular preschool TV star Peppa Pig is always teaching George and all the youngsters who get to share her stories, and this one cleverly combines a lesson on colors and weather phenomena with Easter egg hunting. Share this one with Peppa's Easter Egg Hunt (Peppa Pig) for a perfect pair, eggs-zactly right for kids who can't wait to find those Easter eggs wherever they may be.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Double Foul: After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay

"Bunny's got the world looking out for him. I'm the only one in Wallace’s corner.”

If a middle-class black kid can be called a "golden boy," Bunny Thompson is that.

When Whitman High School's star sophomore player takes a scholarship at the upscale private St. Sebastian High School, he does it for the right reasons. His father's bookstore is failing, and his mom's night-shift job at the hospital is barely supporting the family, and Bunny feels that family loyalty means he must take an offer which can guarantee his college education.

But Nasir, left behind at Whitman High downtown, feels his best friend has deserted him for a posh spot on a team with the sure shot at a state championship. And when Nasir finds out that his cousin Wallace has been trying to raise rent money for his grandmother and himself by betting against Bunny and St. Sebastian, Nas feels duty-bound to do something to help. But Bunny keeps playing well and St. Sebastian keeps winning, and Wallace comes under heavy pressure from the gang to pay back his losses. He's frightened and begins carrying a gun in his car. Desperate, Wallace comes to Nasir and begs for help.

"Help me win one of these bets."

"How am I supposed to do that?" I ask.

"Make it so Bunny's not a factor. I mean, I want you to catch him on some recruiting violations so he can't play anymore. Be my inside man. Find something I can leak," Wallace says.

Reluctantly, Nasir agrees to help his cousin. He manages to steal Bunny's phone, which Wallace uses to send an email purportedly from Bunny to the New Jersey Athletic Association admitting that St. Sebastian offered him money to transfer and play basketball for them. Called on the carpet, Bunny explains that his phone has been stolen, but his coach benches him before the last regular season game, which his team surprisingly rallies to win without him.

Nasir is caught in the pivot position. If he clears Bunny by confessing he took the phone for Wallace, he's in major legal trouble and Wallace is left to the dubious mercy of the gamblers. And even when the Athletic Association learns that the email's IP proves Bunny couldn't have sent it, Bunny feels he's being double-teamed. He's caught between his loyalty to his friend and possible responsibility for Wallace's death and trying to throw the game to make his school lose the state championship.

Randy Ribay's After the Shot Drops (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) deals with the complexity of choice, showing once again that intricate conflicts of maturation can be mirrored in sports. Ribay avoids making race the center of the story, putting issues of family loyalty, class, school and team, friendship, and doing the right thing in play in this masterfully-paced young adult novel in which the three boys provide their own first-person narrative in succeeding chapters.

There are no slam-dunk answers for either Nasir or Bunny--or for Wallace, for that matter--in this taut narrative of moral equivalences. Although the focus is on the interplay of personalities and loyalties in the character-driven story, Ribay also deliver some taut game-play championship action in what is the climax--but not the denouement--of this novel. A variety of viewpoints, from Bunny's girlfriend Keyona to his father, sad at the loss of the bookstore than he loves, offers appeal to a wide range of young adult readers who will find some guidance in threading their way through those inevitable conflicts of conscience that growing up brings.

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Monday, March 05, 2018

One Wisdom to Rule Them All: The Spinner Prince (Pride Wars) by Matt Laney

I AM LEO, PRINCE OF SINGARA, and I am about to die.

Time of death: tomorrow afternoon.

Cause of death: slaycon bite. It's not a pleasant way to go.

It is the custom in the Kingdom of Sinhara that on the first full moon after the thirteen anniversary of his birth, a crown prince must travel to the borderlands and kill a beast, the venomous slaycon, before he can succeed to the throne. But Leo, the grandson of the revered Raja Khan, feels unready.

I'm not exactly a textbook specimen of the Singa race. Most younglings at thirteen are nearly full grown and ready for battle. I'm small for my age. My mane has not yet bloomed. My roar is a cublike yowl.

But Leo is unlike his peers in an even more dangerous way. In a kingdom which values science and logic above all, he is a Spinner with the forbidden fiction affliction, the urge to storytelling. If discovered, Spinners are under penalty of having their tongues cut out and being exiled to the land of the enemy, the Maguars, and Leo has long struggled to conceal this trait which forces itself upon him at unwonted times. His grandfather is old, and the time has come for Leo to prove himself. worthy of his succession. But as he begins his journey to face the slaycon, he suffers an attack of the affliction which leaves him weakened but with a stranded spirit companion who promises to appear on his behalf in his ordeal.

Leo slays the beast with the advice of the spirit Oreyon whom he summons by name, but when he makes his return to the Khan's Palace, he is not feeling triumphant. His uncle Tamir is clearly gathering forces to overthrow his claim to the throne, and when Leo journeys to the Academy for his two years of required training, he finds that the corps there is also filled with followers of Tamir. Only his quadron, the four fighters to whom he is assigned, are loyal to him. And then comes fearful news.

The Academy leader reaches the high table, her eyes downcast. "We are .... honored to have General Dagan visit, but she brings difficult news.

Our great leader and lord, Raja Kahn, is dead. He took his last breath this morning."

His rivals are spreading the story that the Border Wall has been breached by the Maguars and that invasion from their ancient enemies is imminent. And when Leo returns to Singara, guarded only by his youthful quadron, his enemy Tamir is clearly determined that he will never assume the throne of the Khan of Singara. But one of his spirit mentors, Shanti, shows him a different way.

"The only way to vanquish Hasatamara, the true enemy, is not with war but by bringing the Singa and Maguar back together as one Pride of Leos."

Can young Leo, who shares the storytelling second sight of the Maguars, be the force that reunites the long separated lion people into one peaceful kingdom? In his first book in a proposed series, The Spinner Prince (Pride Wars) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), author Matt Laney draws on diverse folklore and literary (shades of J.R.R. Tolkien!) roots to create a story of post-apocalyptic times when humans are replaced by a race of highly evolved lion nation-states, once one people but divided for centuries into two warring kingdoms, one devoted to reason and science and one which follows religion and art.

There is a deep metaphor at the heart of what appears to be a heroic adventure story, in quasi-medieval martial setting, of the grand division of mind into its two opposing areas, left brain and right brain, art and faith vs. science and logic. The stripling Prince Leo, still far from his mature physical powers, has been both cursed and blessed with the power of understanding both lineages of their race, and the closing of the book ends with Leo leading his meager but loyal forces through the Border Wall into the lands of the Maguar in a quest for the one wisdom to rule them all.

Young Leo's struggles with what it means to lead and its vivid settings and fast-paced martial action keep this thoughtful story of power and wisdom moving along in an intriguing fantasy hero story for middle readers, one which promises several sequels.

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Sunday, March 04, 2018

A Brother from Another Mother? Dino Duckling by Alison Murphy


Mama Duckling struggles to balance on top of her big, strange, blue egg, sitting tall among her relatively small duck eggs. Incubation is a challenge.

And when her eggs crack, the little ones are cute yellow bundles of fluff, but the big egg hatches out as one indisputably Ugly Duckling. But Mama Duck loves them all, and although it's a stretch, manages to take all her babies under her wings.


Mama Duck gets busy teaching her hatchlings all the things they need to know as they grow--swimming, catching fish, how to share with each other, and how to navigate by the stars. The three little ducklings take to it like, well, ducks to water. Dino Duckling? Not so much.

It doesn't come easy to Dino Duckling. It's one thing to believe being different is a good thing, but the other creatures in the pond don't always see it that way. His swimming style is mostly thrash and splash, and the swans take umbrage in having their feathers ruffled and their elegant glide interrupted. In the lovely little pond, Dino Duckling is the equivalent of the metaphoric bull in the china shop.


And as the summer goes by and the ducklings lose their yellow fuzz and grow sleek feathers, Dino Duckling stays the same--only BIGGER. MUCH BIGGER!

And when autumn arrives and it's time for the ducks to fly south for the winter, Dino Duckling just can't get this migration thing off the ground. He's left alone, weeping in the willows by the river.


But Mother Duck doesn't despair. Where there's a will, there's a way, and she comes up with a just ducky solution to send them all south in style, in Alison Murphy's Dino Duckling (Little, Brown and Company, 2018). Dealing with all kinds of differences in the family and in the wider world is an important matter, even for pre- and primary schoolers, and Murphy's sweet and funny story spells out her premise with bouncy rhymes and with visual humor in her gentle illustrations of a family determined to break the mold to make sure they leave no sibling behind. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Reassurance for the Dino Duckling in every family!"

And if you need a pair to share, try Kallie George's Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and sequels. (See reviews here.)

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Saturday, March 03, 2018

It Takes All Kinds: Most People by Michael Leannah




It takes all kinds to make a world. People don't always look the same, or dress the same, or act the same. Some people are boisterous, walking down the street with a group, all talking and laughing at the same time. Some people are reserved, quietly sitting on a bench alone or feeding a baby or walking a dog.

There are plenty of differences in Michael Leannah's Most People (Tibury House Publishing, 2017). Artist Jenifer Morris portrays all those visible differences in size and shape and color and dress and subtly suggests other differences between individuals. But there are also similarities.


A burly tattooed man helps an elderly lady go ahead of him, up into a bus. A man stops to help a girl who has fallen off a bike.


But the good people outnumber the bad, and most people respond by trying to help, in Leannah's little essay on human nature. Morris' illustrations feature realistically but charmingly rendered backgrounds, a cityscape and landscape where kids and dogs play, with gently colorful cartooning that celebrates humanity in all its many faces.

Says Michael Palaccio, author of the best-seller Wonder in the New York Times Review, "...perfectly pitched for its young audience, who will enjoy piecing together the story-within-a-story of the two main characters as they illustrate the messages of the text within the context of their own lives, “Most People” works especially well because it doesn’t just tell children to “be” good. It shows them how to “do” good."

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Friday, March 02, 2018

Spring Fling: Little Blue Truck's Springtime by Alice Schertle

Little Blue Truck is back and just in time to see what's new!



Little Blue Truck is on the road with his best friend Toad, and everywhere they look, Toad and Little Blue see something magically new, in Alice Schertle's latest, a lift-the-flap delight that reveals brand-new farm friends to meet.

Down at the barn, the stall door opens to reveal Mama Sheep's babies--twin white lambkins!

There's a new born calf in the cowshed, and in the sty Mrs. Pig has ten pink piglets. And and what do they see hidden in the clover?



The birds and crickets are singing. Frogs in the pond are leaping. And Little Blue Truck can't keep from beeping!

Alice Schertle's cheery rhyming Lift-the-Flap book reveals all the spring surprises in her latest Little Blue Truck's Springtime (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), a joyful way to introduce tots and preschoolers to the happy renewal of the springtime. Accompanied by his pal Toad, the famous anthropomorphic little farm pickup truck shows youngsters all the new life of spring, from ducklings swimming behind Mother Duck in a line to chicks exiting from their eggs in Mrs. Hen's nest. Schertle's happy rhymes are set off in lovely landscapes pictured by artist Jill McMurray, whose pastel watercolors speak sweetly of springtide.

Other books by this talented pair include the first in series, Little Blue Truck Board Book,, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, Little Blue Truck's Halloween, and Little Blue Truck's Christmas, all preschool classics. (See reviews here)

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Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Thought That Counts! Thank You, Mr. Panda by Steve Anthony

"Who are all these presents for, Mr. Panda?"

Mr. Panda is carefully prepping a package for Mouse, wrapped in paper printed with his trademark colorfully sprinkled donuts and tied with a big, floppy bow.

Lemur is curious. He trails along behind as Mr. Panda presents his gift to Mouse.

It's a nice sweater, but when he tries it on, Mouse loses sight of his hands and feet.

"It's too BIG!

"It's the thought that counts!" says Lemur (sagely).

Octopus receives six long, knitted socks, embellished with more donuts.  But, er,

"I have EIGHT legs!" he complains.

But the loyal Lemur adds that what counts is the thought behind the gift.

Elephant gets a similarly wrapped gift but carries it off page, saying he'll open it another time. Lemur is speechless.

Mountain goat gets a scarf, which he dutifully ties around his neck in a bow, but clearly the gift kinda gets his goat.

"It's too LONG!"

Lemur hastens to add his reassurance that the motive is the message, so to speak. There's just one lovely, donut-print-wrapped gift left. Lemur pointedly wonders out loud who the lucky recipient may be. And Mr. Panda says that this present is for Lemur himself.

"Thank you, Mr. Panda!"

Lemur rips eagerly into the wrappings, only to find that his gift is a generously over-sized pair of donut-printed tighty whities.

Lemur is, shall we say, more nonplussed than pleased. Now, what can Mr. Panda say to that as he nonchalantly strolls off-page?

Mr. Panda gets the last line, which young readers will hasten to chime in on, in Steve Anthony's latest chapter in his ongoing story of our current etiquette expert, Mr. Panda, Thank You, Mr. Panda (Scholastic Press, 2017 Am. ed.) Author Steve Anthony is a master of understated drollery, while slyly instructing his young readers in the niceties of manners, and his whimsical illustrations are good for some giggles, as are his final endpapers showing all the gift recipients modeling their gifts. Earlier books in this series are Please, Mr. Panda (A Board Book) and I'll Wait, Mr Panda: Board Book. (Read reviews here.)

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