Thursday, October 31, 2019

Eye of the Beholder! A Day So Gray by Marie Lamba

"Summer's lease hath all too short a stay," said Shakespeare,and he had a point. As the bright riot of summer shades fade into fall's muted hues, winter brings an admittedly limited palette to the landscape.

As two girls suit up for a chilly outing, one of them is feeling blue. The view out the window indeed shows few hues!

"This day is so gray!"

"No, it isn't!" says her friend.

The first girl points out that the field is blah brown, and so are the woods. But her friend makes her take a second look at the subtle shades to be seen even in winter.

She cites the warm brown of some trees, the deep red of berries clinging to the brown bushes, the purplish shadows beneath them. Her doubting friend persists.
"Well, this snow is boring white.

That cat is black."

But her perceptive friend points out the many shades of the snow. She says that the cat has markings of white, glowing green eyes, and a pink nose, too.

And when they come inside and warm up in front of the roaring fireplace, the picky girl says she hates orange. But then, there's the sunset, with so many other warm colors all together.

It's a day that is much more than gray, in Marie Lamba's forthcoming salute to the ways of bleak days, A Day So Gray (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Clarion, 2019), who shows how to "always look on the bright side of life" in the variety of different seasons. After all, the girl who hates the few hues of winter is really taking an overzealously black-and-white position on seasonal colors. Artist Alea Marley's appealingly vibrant wintry scenes and her charming little girls who make their cases well can speak for most of us who can, if we try, find something to love in all the seasons.

Hot chocolate, anyone? It's there, too, in shade and hue!

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Dressing Up? What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold

Riley is a free-form dresser.

On Monday, Riley wore a bunny costume because it was the first day of school and Riley felt shy.

Riley is the only kid in a bunny suit there, but one girl stopped crying when Riley let her rub the bunny ears.

On Tuesday Riley wears a superhero cape to the sometimes daunting dentist's office.

Wednesday finds Riley and grandparents going to a fancy restaurant, where Riley wears a ball gown.

Thursday was Space Day...
Riley decided outer-space jammies were the perfect thing to wear.

On a rainy Friday Riley put together red rubber boots, a police jacket, and a pink tutu.

A sixth-grade crossing guard says...
I like your tutu!

And when Saturday rolls around, Riley wears overalls and a yellow hard hat to help Dad. The hardware store guy gives Riley a really cool sticker, and it goes right into a pocket to keep for just the right friend.

And on Sunday, Riley's ensemble look like a veritable closet explosion--mismatched socks, purple jeans under a tutu, red fireman's boots, a monster shirt, and spiky dino helmet, and she finds a friend to give the special sticker to.

You know, some days you just feel being more than one thing. Firefighters are good, and dancers are cool, and monster dinos are the bomb!

Riley is a kid who can't be stereotyped, for sure, in Elana K. Arnold's latest, What Riley Wore (Beach Lane Books, 2019). In this story of a kid who dresses to a different drummer each day, youngsters who like the make a fashion statement will find a kindred soul, and those who dress to avoid notice will get a bit of encouragement to try a change in persona. Artist Linda Davik's simple and bright digital illustrations (with the look of paper collage) make good use of perspective shifts to show the various settings while keeping adventurous Riley in the center of the action.

As Publishers Weekly wisely points out, "... the creators take this timely subject matter into a refreshing realm: normalcy."

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Meet The Creator: MEGA Awesome Notebook by Kevin Moore

A long time ago in a microwave far far away....

Mom! Mom!

A kid wakes up in a silent house. In the kitchen there's a note:
Sorry, sweetie!Had to leave early for work. Lunch is in the fridge.Mom X0XX0

Pulling a slice of cold pizza from the fridge, he put its paper plate down on top of his green notebook and rushing to nuke it, he puts both in the microwave.

A cloud of awesomeness was released into the world.

When the kid recovers, he rushes for school. and when he opens his notebook, he begins to draw a dude he names Dud. And then a dog for Dud. And then another Dud. (They are a pair of palindrome pals!) Ha! Now it's a duel of Duds. The two compete at efforts to erase each other. It's a nasty little battle between the two little duds.

This is war, with a series of characters--the dumpy algebra teacher, a little smart alecky Einstein, devils, dragons, monsters, space cats, aliens, warring medieval fantasy critters, even Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer. Dud #I even creates Little Cretin, who provides rude sounds from several orifices.The Kid thinks it's time to shut down the whole notebook world.


The Kid stuffs his notebook into his backpack and it falls out as he runs down the hall, leaving footprints that say, "You're Not Crazy!" behind him. He runs for the front office to call Mom, who can't leave work to check him out. The school secretary offers him a Tylenol.

But as he trudges to his next class, he meets a girl named Val, who returns his notebook.
"It's hilarious," she says with a shy smile.

Inside the green notebook, Dud has had enough. He finds The Way Out and runs into the creator, who explains the notebook.
"It's where the creator hides his fears. Where no one can see."

And maybe the way to erase those fears is to face them out in the world, where they really live, in Kevin Minor's Mega Awesome Notebook (Schiffer Publishing, 2019), in which the real conflict is working out his fears about his family split-up. Resolving the conflicts inside and outside are one of the difficult tasks in early adolescence. Dealing with divorced parents, awkwardness with a girl, a grouchy math teacher, those can be more dread than dragons and deadly erasers, but maybe if he tells Val about his day....? That may just be the Way Out.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

But HOW DO I... Fly! by Mark Teague

This fledgling flight denier thinks he's got it all figured out.


It's been a cinch since he hatched. He waits in the nest and Mama Robin brings him breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. What's not to like?

The only problem is the lack of scintillation in his diet. Worms for every meal and snack? Bo-RING!


Baby Robin is the avian contrarian version of the terrible twos! Mama Robin is fatigued and frazzled with her youngster's tantrums!

But--OOPS! Baby Robin's little food fit flips him right out of the nest. He flutters and flops all the way to the ground. Now what?

Mama suggests he flap his wings and fly back up to the nest. Baby suggests she carry him back up on her back. Mama suggests he try flapping his own wings. Baby is stubborn. He's oppositional. He's a classic case of FAILURE TO FLEDGE!

He summons up images of alternative modes of flight--from piggy-back to pogo stick, from hot-air balloon to vintage aircraft. from super-hero soaring to ski jumping. Mama is steamed. Enough of this silliness. Autumn is coming. She's ready to fly to Florida--soon. Baby suggests alternate means of travel--

Orange Blossom Special? Skateboard? Little Red Convertible?

Mama Robin decides it's time to stop this stonewalling and scare her litigious little fledgling straight!

Cat? (Yawn!) Dog? (Piece of cake!)

OWL?.... YIKES!!!!!!!

It's up, up, and away for this reluctant little launcher, in best-selling author-illustrator, Mark Teague's latest, Fly! (Beach Lane Books, 2019). Mama knows best in this terrific wordless story, and although simple enough for a savvy toddler who understands the concept of speech bubbles, preschoolers can "read" this one with ease, and even older kids will giggle at the graphic absurdities and the subtleties of this war of the wills.

Teague, the illustrator of Cynthia Rylant's top-selling  Poppleton series, Teague's own Mrs. LaRue series, and Jane Yolen's uber-popular How Do Dinosaurs... (see reviews here), is a modern master of illustrative humor, and as Publishers Weekly's starred review says, "Teague proves that a picture can be worth a thousand words--and almost as many laughs."

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Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sweetie Pie: You're My Little Pumpkin Pie by Nicola Edwards and Natalie Marshall

What's round and sweet?

Babies and pumpkin pies!


Filled with icons of the autumn season--black kitties and baby bats, cute little ghosties and chubby pumpkins, sweets for the sweet--Nicola Edwards and Natalie Marshall's top-selling little holiday board book, with its soft tactile cover, die-cut peek-a-boo pages, and sweet rhymes to charm the youngest little readers, You're My Little Pumpkin Pie (Silver Dollar Books, 2018) is just the treat, with no tricks, for a first toy-and-movable book for the spooky season.

Cheery rhymes and charming illustrations celebrate the fun of the season!

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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about... Pirates by Ed T. Fox

Everyone thinks they know about pirates. They wear fancy three-cornered hats, doublets, and swords, usually have a parrot on one shoulder croaking about "pieces of eight," shout YARRR! and are always outlaws. Right?

Well, sometimes.

Outlaws? Well, most were just thieves with ships. But some had legal licenses to loot their nation's enemies. Privateer Henry Morgan was knighted by King Charles II of England, and Queen Elizabeth I granted captains like Sir Francis Drake secret privateer licenses to prey on England's enemies at sea, quietly taking her royal share of the loot which Drake took from those Spanish galleons. Spanish sailors called Drake "El Draque," (the Dragon!). In fact, Drake's ship, The Golden Hind, became a major tourist attraction in London.

It was there for around 80 years before it rotted away!

And what about those skull and crossbone flags? Did all pirates fly them from their mizzen masts?

Sorry. Most pirates had their own personal, but equally frightening, flags.

Did Blackbeard really set his long beard on fire to terrify his enemies?

Not exactly, but that's what he wanted them to think! Actually, he stuck lighted matches in his hair when he attacked.

Did all pirates say Yarrr and Arrrr?

Not at all. That line was invented by Disney movie actor Robert Newton, who seems to have taught us all how to "talk like a pirate."

Were all pirates guys?

No. Anne Bonny and Mary Read found some fame as pirates, and the real Pirate Queen has to be Ching Shih, who commanded a fleet of pirates manned by 40,000 sailors!

Did pirates steal nothing but gold?

Gold was great, of course, but pirates would also take valuable cargoes such as spices, tobacco, slaves, and sugar. One crew even captured a load of guano (bird poo), a prized fertilizer from South America.

Just about everything you ever wanted to know about pirates and piracy, ancient to modern--and a lot you didn't know you didn't know--can be found in Ed T. Fox's DKFindout! Pirates from the Findout series, by Dorling Kindersley, 2017), which advertises and delivers "Fun Facts, Amazing Pictures, and Quizzes," a full glossary, an index, as well as endpapers with a Timeline of Pirates. With excellent full-color art and photographs, old posters, spot art of everything from weapons to pirate-wear, and even an interview with the marine archaeologist who explored Blackbeard's sunken flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, this slim volume is great for reports and browsing, and even for designing authentic pirate costumes for Halloween.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Alien Stranger! E. T. The Extraterrestrial by Melissa Mathison

It was the week before Halloween. Elliott wanted to play with his brother Michael, but he said "NO."

I can fight goblins, too!" said Elliott

"Just go get the pizza," said Michael.

Elliot trudges out to pay for their pizza delivery, feeling a bit sad that his brother no longer wants to play with him. But when he hears a noise and spots some strange tracks, he forgets all about Michael and follows the odd footprints into their dark shed.
It definitely wasn't a coyote!

But when Elliott tries to convince his family that there's something or someone really weird out there, Michael is only interested in the pizza.

When Elliott goes out to look for the strange goblin by day, he sees uniformed people with odd equipment searching the area. Wanting to help the strange visitor, Elliott leaves a trail of candy to try to attract the little stranger to the house. And when he and sister find the alien being snacking in their house, they disguise him as a treat-or-treater and sneak him into the woods, where he tells them he's going to "call home." And what the two see is a Halloween night Elliott will never forget.

If trick-or-treat excursions aren't exciting enough, Melissa Mathison's picture book version E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Classic Illustrated Storybook (Pop Classics)(Quirk Books, 2019) gives young readers a a quick preview of the blockbuster movie, E.T. But you'll need an alien costume and perhaps a hankie for the sweet and sad parts, just right for the scary season. And don't forget the Reese's Pieces!

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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Go West, Young Man! Oregon Trail by Jesse Wiley

It's a double blast from the past--1850 and 1985!

The pioneers who braved the dread Oregon Trail, the wagon train journey from Independence, Missouri, over flooding rivers, snowbound and avalanche-prone Rocky and Cascades Mountain passes, and parched deserts, all the way to the West Coast, have been celebrated in history, novels and movies, and--in 1985-1995--in some of the very first classroom video games, to be played on the latest technology, the Apple II-e computer!

It was a real breakthrough in audio-visual teaching materials, joining the venerable 12mm film and filmstrips of old--a computer video game in which, instead of a Pacman scoring by chomping, the young player was challenged to role-play a wagon train family making their way through real hazards. Like the real pioneers of history, some of the hazards proved deadly or turned the would-be West Coast settlers back. American history had never been taught with this kind of fun and games, which also used another 1980s-style interactive literary venture, the multiple-outcome "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure"series, in which each choice sent them to another section of book or game to achieve success or meet disaster.

And indeed, in Jesse Wiley's new four-book series, The Oregon Trail (paperback boxed set plus poster map) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019), middle readers will find that going westward was often a "doomed-if-you do, doomed-if-you-don't" proposition, with as many ways to fail--fatal snakebite, wolves, starvation, quicksand, river-fordings, outlaw gangs, and a malevolent moose--as faced the intrepid real pioneers themselves. Even precipitation could be hazardous to your health:

You sink back against the tree trunk and huddle into a tight ball. Your arm is on fire; it might even be broken. You wish you'd followed Tatsa to her village.

Suddenly a hailstone the size of a baseball knocks you in the head. You are concussed, and it will be days before you wake up. Your journey ends here.

Amidst the page-turning adventures, there's a strong dose of reality which establishes a theme which is true for all times in history--CHOICES MATTER!

With different characters and episodes, the four choose-your-own pioneer accounts in this boxed set are Gold Rush!, (7) (The Oregon Trail) Alone in the Wild (The Oregon Trail), The Wagon Train Trek (The Oregon Trail), and Calamity in the Cold (The Oregon Trail Book 8), all with bibliography, maps, and guides to making it all the way, with famous real mountain guides who intercede, e.g., Jim Beckwith, John Bidwell, and Lewis Southworth, and this set is page-turning and engrossing introduction to a significant period of history.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Usual Suspects: Who Stole the Hazelnuts!: A Forest Mystery by Marcus Pfister

All was quiet and all was still.
Until there came a scream so shrill.
The voice shrieked, "This is what I feared!
My hazelnuts have disappeared!"

Squirrel is freaking out. Someone has filched his nuts!

He's certain one of his forest friends must have swiped the cache, so he questions each one--Mole, Mouse, Bunny, and Hamster--but all decline to cop a plea.
"I know for a fact it isn't ME!"

Fox, however, takes a different denial defense. He's no vegan, he laughs.
"Me? Steal nuts? Don't be daft!
Chickens I'd steal. Lovely to chew.
Stay around, and I'll chew you, too!

Whoa! Squirrel makes himself scarce after that warning. Sadly he returns to his tree, without his precious hazelnuts and distinctly rumbly in the tumbly. But what does he see right under his tree?

What he sees there makes Squirrel quite sheepish, and he has to confess! He's the one who caused all this distress!

He's one repentant rodent, in Marcus Pfister's tale of the missing trove of nuts, Who Stole the Hazelnuts? (NorthSouth Books, 2019). Pfister's false accusation story is a good cautionary tale for youngsters who can be too quick to accuse others, and the noted author-illustrator's delicious rhymes and gorgeous illustrations make this a memorable seasonal mystery. Pfister's artwork, known for lush watercolor illustrations as in his top-selling The Rainbow Fish series (see reviews here), make this one an elegant entry into the autumn stories lineup, and David Henry Wilson's skillful English revision from the original German loses nothing in the translation. Recommended for all primary seasonal collections.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Little Spooky Stuff! Where's the Witch? by Ingela P. Arrhenius

Let's look for all the Halloween spooks!

The very youngest little book lovers now have a Halloween board book just for them. Inside on each double page spread there's a Halloween character hiding under an easy felt lift-the-flap just waiting for little fingers to view the big reveal.

Where is that SKELETON? Oh, lift the flap and.... there's one!

There is a SPIDER, inspecting a pumpkin with possibilities!

There is a VAMPIRE, complete with matching black sarcophagus for napping!

Is there a WITCH! Lift the flap to see her fly in front of the moon!

But where are YOU? I dare you to lift that curtain and see!

And there, behind the soft flap, is a mirror and ... Who is that looking back? Who's that you see?

It's YOU, in Angela P. Arrhenius' little toy-and-movable board book just right for the youngest Halloween-goers, Where's the Witch? (Nosy Crow Books, 2019). There's a little vocabulary lesson built into this first book, in which the usual suspects of the holiday are cute comic characters from the spooky season in this small, easy-for-small-fingers fun first Halloween book.

Among the several other beginner board books by Ingela P. Arrhenius are Where's the Duck? and Where's the Unicorn?

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Spooky Spoof! Mother Ghost by Rachel Kolar


Poor Mother Goose! Her venerable rhymes and tales are so familiar, making them fair game for parody, and Rachel Kolar's enticing Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018) has a holiday blast spoofing those famous verses with a Halloween twist.

Artist Roland Garrigue's rococo style and black and purple palette make the most of the Halloween tropes--bare, leafless trees provide perches for ghosties, and a zombie-esque Mary Quite Contrary sits on a tombstone eating worms--and that spider for dessert.

Old Mother Hubbard goes to her cupboard for a dog bone, only to have a skeleton claim it for one of his own. A spooky bat is the stand-in for the homey Mrs. Goose, and instead of a little lamb, her Mary has a pet ghost, white as a cloud, who follows her everywhere wearing his shroud. And as for that other nursery rhyme Mary....

All of Kolar's nursery characters are decked out as familiar Halloween characters as the diddle-diddle cat fiddles for a ghoul, while Little Boy Drac blows his horn in this seasonal spoof of an old favorite collection that most kids will find rhyming, irresistible chuckle-bait. A first choice for children's holiday library collections and a sure-fire funny read-aloud.

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Kitty Wrangler!The Pawed Piper by Michelle Robison

I wanted a cat to cuddle.

Now what do cats like?

Maybe grandma can help. She has a great tuxedo cat named Hector--who, grandma says, loves catnip, and cardboard boxes, and spreading out all over any newspaper in sight!

Our girl assembles lots of boxes and pots of catnip and stacks and stacks of old newspapers for her room... and leaves the window open to all kitty comers. At first, none appear, but in the middle of the night she discovers...
Something purry... furry... and cuddly...

It's Hector with hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats... (Wait! That's another story, but there were lots of them!)
67, exactly!

All kinds of cats fill her bedroom--fat cats, tiny tiger cats, spotted and striped cats, happy cats and grumpy cats... including one that secretes herself in the sock drawer. It's a CATegorically amazing day, but when she tries to take Hector home that afternoon, it's like, well, herding cats,--until she's stopped in her tracks when she spots all the missing cat posters (hundreds and millions and billions... and, well, you know!) on a wall. She has to take all the cats back to their homes, and at last, with tired feet and a heavy heart, she heads back home, still cat-less!
I'd forgotten all about the cat
in my sock drawer. She'd been so quiet.

And now I knew why!

Now she has a family of kittens, and when it is time for each of them to have new homes, there's one kitten who stays to cuddle... forever!

Recalling Wanda Gag's classic Caldecott-winner, Millions of Cats (Picture Puffin Books) Michelle Robinson's new The Pawed Piper (Candlewick Press, 2019) shows that there's the right cat for everyone somewhere. Robinson's cat tale is a thoughtful, quiet one of how to find the right cat... or giving the right cat a chance to find you. Chinlun Lee's pastel illustrations use soft watercolors in all the hues of cats who cuddle and purr and snuggle... and come home to stay.

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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Meet the Folks! The Addams Family by Alexandra West





Iterations of the Addams Family's story go back at least four generations of fans for the famed macabre family. Created in single panel cartoons in the The New Yorker by Charles Addams back in 1938, the characters which spoofed a bizarre American family grew in popularity and in 1964 became a live-actor hit on the black-and-white television screen. An animated version and a full-length TV movie continued the story in the 1970s, and in the 1990s a full-length theater live-action movie, with Academy Award nominations, as well as several more cartoons versions, were followed by a hit Broadway musical production. Now, proving that a old tropes, like the grisly Addams, never die, the 2019 3-D full-length cartoon version just opened in theaters for the Halloween season. (See trailer here).

As a boost for print media, Harper and Row's respected series of I-Can-Read  books has a paperback introduction to the fantasy family. The Addams are such  a venerable property that it's truly an "All in the Family" franchise that great-grandparents and grandparents can easily share with youngsters, and Alexandra West's and Lissy Martin's easy reader, The Addams Family: Meet the Family (I Can Read Level 2) (Harper I-Can-Read, 2019) is a good way to prep primary graders for the movie and give them some emergent reader print experience as well.

Fetch the book from Cousin Itt, THING!

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Friday, October 18, 2019

The Oldest Rivalry! The Evil Princess Vs.The Brave Knight by Jennifer L. Holm (Vs. Matthew Holm)

In a modest medieval castle dwelt a fair-featured but evil princess and a maddeningly exemplary good knight. They shared a castle.

They shared a manky cat.

But there were issues.

The Evil Princess has a definite ignoble streak. Princess Iniquitous knows just how to time a well-placed royal slipper to trip up her rival, Mr. Nicey-Nicey Knight.

The Good Knight protests innocence to the Magic Mirror. He is merely dutifully patrolling the castle. That's what a good knight does, to which his rival responds....
That's what as evil princess does!

This twosome know just how to pull each other's chains.

Sent to their respective bed chambers by their nanny, Magic Mirror, the two plan their strategies, the Knight sulking at the injustice of it all, and the Princess planning malicious spells to perpetrate on her uber-righteous rival. But being evil or guiltless is no fun alone. For that they each need each other!
WE NEED a QUEST! proclaims the Princess.

And the two manage to cooperate in rescuing a damsel in distress in the moat (actually their cranky cat whom they dunk in their bathtub). The Good Knight is valiant in a daring rescue of the feline from the rubber ducky moat monsters, but The Evil Princess can't resist giving the happy hero a malicious shove into the suds. The Good Knight may be brave, but he's not so virtuous as to forego grabbing the Princess by the hair and sousing her in the suds, too. All's fair in love and war.

And neither one of them is a bit sorry, in that picture book sister-and-brother pair Jennifer and Matthew Holm's latest, The Evil Princess vs. the Brave Knight (Book 1) (Random House, 2019). Three-time Newbery winner Jennifer Holm's author chops are audacious, while her little brother Matthew holds his own in the art department, making for a mischievous story that's told skillfully by this sibling pair who probably know a thing or two about sister-brother rivalries. Says School Library Journal, "This enjoyable tale will be a hit where parents need to make quarreling kids see the funny side of their battles."

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Mixed Family: Moldilocks and the Three Scares (A Zombie Tale)? by Lynne Marie

Life as one of the undead isn't going well for little Moldilocks.

Other kids aren't exactly eager to play with her. Wherever she goes, people seem to find another place to be right away.

Morose, Moldilocks wanders alone in the moonlight one night, until she comes upon a haunted house. Perhaps she can find a bite and somewhere to sleep there.

But inside lives an unusual family--the Three Scares. Papa is a monster in the Frankenstein mode; Mommy is a mummy, and Baby is a tiny vampire just cutting his first fangs. Inside the spooky residence, the three are just sitting down to supper.

This soup is so hot, it's boiling my bolts!" yelled Papa.

"It's so hot, I'm unraveling!" moaned Mommy Mummy.

"It's so hot it's giving me a fang-ache!" cried Baby.

Papa suggests they take their dog Plasma out for a moonlit walk while their supper cools.

And no sooner do they depart than Moldilocks approaches, tracking the homey smells of the house. In she goes, unable to resist Baby's bowl of soup. Apparently it's just right for zombie sipping, and with a full tummy, Moldi moves on to the parlor where there are three chairs. Tired and growing sleepy, she tries them all and settles for the smallest chair--Baby Vlad's--upon which to crash--which is just what happens.

Savvy young readers will think they know exactly where this one is going, but there's a jolly surprise ending, in which the Three Scares return to find a different head on Baby Scares' pillow, and it seems the homeless Moldilocks is just what the family needs to be complete.
"Wanna play Corpse and Robbers?" begs Baby.

From its rhyming spoofy title to its perfect take-off on the traditional English cautionary folktale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, author Lynn Marie's and illustrator David Lorenzo's punny and funny modern folk tale of the blended family uses the familiar Three Bears mold with a novel monster trope twist in their Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale (Sterling Press, 2019 (Am. Ed.)

"Lorenzo's acrylic-and-colored-pencil illustrations feature rich and vivid colors; lots of bones, skulls, and spiderwebs make up most of the home's ambience. How this unusual family finds exactly what they were missing makes for a satisfying tale,” quoths Kirkus Reviews.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Baby Spook Book! Peek-A-Booooo! by Sandra Magsamen

It's a treat you don't eat!

The littlest among us can have a sweet Halloween treat for the spooky season, too. Sandra Mangamen's latest baby-and toddler board book,
Peek-a-Boooo! (Heart-felt Books) (Scholastic Press, 2019) begins with a question about what the tot can "be" for Halloween---a monkey? a honey bunny? an astronaut who flies in the sky?

Beginning with its soft and touchable die-cut Jack o' Lantern on the cover, this little toy-and-movable creation is both a book and a toy. Little ones can reach right through the cover, lift the soft felt flap on the facing page, and see, not just a bunny or a bee, but --themselves in the hidden mirror.  Based on the favorite interactive game of babies for millennia, this small book is a fine introduction to books and the holiday.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Finding Home: Home Is a Window by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard



Home is a door where someone is waiting with a hug. It's a cozy chair with a sleeping dog and a little bit of green by the window.

It's a long table with a family sharing dinner and drying dishes beside Mom after dinner.

It's a favorite quilt on your bed to cozy under at night, with the light from Ms. Vera's window next door as the nightlight on your wall.

It's a stairway with family pictures hung all the way to the top, things that stay the same, day to day.

But what if... one day all those things go away? What if they are packed up and loaded up, and all you have of home is your pillow in the car and...


What makes a house a home? Familiar things, yes, but mostly the family inside. In Stephanie Parsley Ledyard's Home Is a Window (Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, 2019), the cozy quilt becomes the tablecloth for a floor picnic surrounded by boxes, and there's a window with with a plant and Mom and Dad just beyond.

Moving is a common childhood experience, and Ledyard's sweet story of family life reinforces the theme that home is where the heart is, where there's a hug waiting just beyond the door. Pixar artist Chris Sasiki's richly evocative illustrations done in homey faux naif paintings in soft muted colors ease the sense of loss and suggest that the new home will be a happy one, with a window with a little bit of green. Share this one with Deborah Underwood's Bad Bye, Good Bye (see review here)

Stephanie Ledyard is also the author of Pie Is for Sharing.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Can't Scare Me! Nothing Wee About Me! A Magical Adventure by Kim Chafee

It was finally Sunday again.
Liesel had only one thing on her mind!


So it's off to Grandma Rose's house for a special "wand"--a much-used soup ladle, which Grandma warns doesn't work so well anymore. But Liesel only makes one big wish and is whisked away in her yellow submarine to a mysteriously medieval island.

Using the versatile ladle as a periscope, Liesel spots the island volcano's lava flow and sees her mission!

She has to warn the villagers to save themselves from the red-hot danger!

But the islanders don't cooperate with the rescue plan. Brandishing her ladle, Leisel convinces a pirate to join her rescue effort, but a giant dragon defiantly defends the castle keep.
"Go away, wee girl, or join the prince as a prisoner in my castle," the dragon roared.

"Not a chance, Dragon," snapped Liesel."There won't BE a castle once that volcano goes kablooey.


And pirates, dragons, a prince who needs to potty, and a lava-spouting volcano are no match for a confident girl and a magic ladle with all its old powers, in Kim Chafee's funny and fantastical tall tale, Nothing Wee about Me!: A Magical Adventure (Page Street Kids, 2019). With a brave heroine with spunk and big ideas and the jolly, spirited illustrations of Laura Bobbiesi which greatly extend the text, Chafee's story has a reassuring premise for little readers that courage counts more than size.

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Snug in the Storm: Goodnight, Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

The birds are swiftly winging their way toward their nests, and with best friend Toad at the wheel, Little Blue Truck is heading homeward, too. Lightning is starting to flash as they dash toward their snug garage.

Such a wet and stormy night!
Their warm garage was a welcome sight.

But before they even close the door, they have a guest with a request!
"Maaaaa!" said Goat. "Please, Little Blue!"
"Can I come in and stay with you?

And Goat is only the first to arrive. Hen flies her coop to roost on top of Little Blue, followed one by one by the other farmyard animals--Goose, Pig, and Duck, who take cover in the warm, dry garage. Pig wriggles in under Little Blue, and Duck and Goose flap and ruffle their feathers to shake off the rain. Even Cow shows up to squeeze into the now quite crowded little red garage.

Somehow, when they're all together, the lightning's crashes and flashes don't seem so very scary!

The storm ends with a bit of soft rain, and with a jolly, "Climb right in!" Little Blue Truck gives the sleepy friends all a ride back to their waiting coop and perches, stall and pen.
The rain had stopped,and way up high,
the moon was a smile in a starry sky.

With the happy image of the crescent moon's smile, a dark and stormy night ends with kind words and comforting companionship, in Alice Schertle's forthcoming sequel in her beloved series,Good Night, Little Blue Truck (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019). Author Schertle's perfect little rhymes offer soothing succor, and for kids who find crashy, flashy thunderstorms a bit frightening, with the comfort of companionship they find that a nighttime rainstorm may even induce a few yawns. With jolly illustrations "in the style of the late series illustrator Jill McElmurry," artist John Joseph keeps the rustic scene warm and sweet with McElmurry's familiar soft pastels and rounded touch.

Who wouldn't want to ride out a scary storm and be put to bed with Little Blue Truck! It's the best bad-weather bedtime story ever! Share this one with Schertle's seasonal Little Blue Truck's Halloween (see review here.)

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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Spelling Lesson! Clever Little Witch by Muen Thj Van

Linh is the island's cleverest little witch. She's got all the right stuff--a trusty flying broom, a book of magical spells, and the right familiar--a magical pet to help her!

But she's got something else that is not a magical asset:


In case you don't know, a baby brother is trouble. He tries to ride your broom, boo-hooing when he crashes and gets a boo-boo! He chews the pages from your spell book and spits them up.

Linh tries giving him away.

The Forest Fairy can't deal with dirty diapers. The Orphanage sends him back for keeping all the little werewolves awake!

So Linh decides to turn him into something less annoying than a baby brother--a gold fish! He's already eaten half of the page with the spell for turning brothers into goldfish, but Linh figures she can wing the rest.

Her spell works--sort of. First her baby brother becomes a hoppy frog, and then clumsy seal. The third try is the worst of all.

Dragons are WAY more trouble than baby brothers, as Linh learns in Clever Little Witch (Margaret K. Elderberry Books, 2019), and Linh decides that she's going to have to give her spelling tests a rest and let her baby brother grow up the usual way. Artist Yum Hyewon's little witch is endearing as well as daring, and her baby brother manages to be adorable, even as a dragon, making this brother-sister duo a engaging pair without a scare for spooky season reading. As Kirkus Reviews says, "A charming take on sibling rivalry."

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