BooksForKidsBlog

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Bella Noche! Hello, Moon by Julie Downing

GOODBYE, SUN.

The shadows grow long. Sleepy butterflies cling to the underside of leaves. Song birds flit to their nests.

DAY IS DONE.

The animals sense the change, Squirrels seek their dens. Snails creep under fallen leaves. The dog dashes for the open farmhouse door to sleep inside.

But the night animals are ready to go on duty.

MOONLIGHT CALLS. COME OUTSIDE.

Foxes pounce for a burrowing mouse. Owls fly on silent wings. Raccoons chitter when they find fruit with savory seeds. Bugs chomp on juicy leaves, while mice scurry at the shadow of a cruising owl. Baby foxes scamper to the shelter of their den at the flash of lightning and crash of thunder. It's time for these nocturnal creatures to hurry home and catch a catnap before first light.

HELLO DAY! GOODNIGHT, NIGHT!

And as the now wide-awake dog dashes out the open back door, the day begins again with opening morning glories all around, in Julie Downing's just published Hello, Moon (Holiday House, 2021), a hymn for the night and a song for the new day.

In pages wreathed by maple leaves of many colors--yellow green, bright green, and blue-green for the day and lilac, mauve, and deep green for the night, woodland places with the beautiful shapes of vines, toadstools and clover in all kinds of light, author-illustrator Downing marries her gorgeous colored pencil watercolor and acrylic artwork and the rhythm and rhyme of gentle poetry in a lovely tribute to day and night. As Kirkus Reviews advises, "Whether read as Zen nature walk, bedtime story, or gentle science starter, this story begs to be visited again and again."

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Saturday, October 23, 2021

A Friend In Deed! The Sleepover and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Fox and Chick are friends. Fox is accommodating to his young friend's ideas, but Chick comes up with some unusual requests. For example, one day Chick goes over to visit Fox and has a strange suggestion.

"FOX, YOU SHOULD THROW ME A SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY TODAY."

Fox logically points out he can't have a surprise party for Chick if Chick already knows about it. So Chick promises to forget all about the party. Fox agrees and tells Chick to come back in the afternoon. Chick asks why he should return then.

"SEE? I ALREADY FORGOT!" HE SAYS.

But Chick doesn't forget that to remind Fox that he wants a party with a chocolate cake with round pink sprinkles and no party hats.

Fox goes along with the plan--so well that when Chick arrives for his party, Fox keeps a straight face.

"WHAT SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY, CHICK?"

"I'M SO SAD! I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU FORGOT!" SAD CHICK SNIFFLES.

"SURPRISE! SHOUTS FOX.

The party guests appear at the door with Fox, who proudly holds up a big chocolate care with pink sprinkles! Chick is pleased: he observes that it's exactly what he would want, if it were his birthday, which it's not!

"WELL, THAT IS A SURPRISE," SAYS THE UNFLAPPABLE FOX.

And in Sergio Ruzzier's second beginning reader book in this series, Fox and Chick: The Sleepover: and Other Stories, done in the dry deadpan humor style of the beloved Arnold Lobel's award-winning Frog and Toad are Friends series, there are two more droll tales about these two unlikely friends--"The Sleepover" and "The Hammer," in which the patient Fox plays adult straight man to the hapless noodle juvenile character played by Chick, set in comic frames with speech balloons that entice early readers.

Says Booklist, "In pleasing and often amusing illustrations, Ruzzier motivate[s] beginning readers with the dual reward of verbal and visual humor. Original storytelling with quirky, character-driven humor.

Pair this one with Ruzzier's earlier Fox & Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride: and Other Stories, see my review here.

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Friday, October 22, 2021

The Littlest Things: The Rescuers of Tiny Creatures by Curtis Manley


Everyone wants to help little lost puppies or cuddly kittens. Many famous people support saving elephants and rhinos and gorillas. But Roberta cares about really little things--like gnats and bees, millipedes, and spiders!

"I rescue tiny creatures. It's a special job.." A job no one else seems to care about," says Roberta.

Roberta reads books about insects and helps beetles who get stuck on their back. She saves millipedes stuck on hot sidewalks. She removes a baby snail from the radishes in the garden. She tells lost ladybugs to fly away home! But only her cat and her little brother care enough to helps her. At school, the other kids think she is just weird!

"Ms. Williams! Roberta has been picking up worms again," tattles Luis.

"Oh, Roberta, don't touch anything!" said her teacher.

"No one has ever been harmed by earthworm slime," I say, but no one hears me.

But one day when Roberta gets to school, her teacher and all the kids are crowded into one corner of the classroom.

SPIDERS!

Hundreds of tiny spiders have just hatched and are climbing up everything in the room. Nobody knows what to do--except Roberta!

Quickly, Roberta shows them how to make small origami boxes for the spiders and teaches the kids to catch the spiders and take them outside and sit the open box beside the wall at the front of the school. Immediately the little spiders head for the wall and start to climb up the wall to the roof of the school. Ms. Williams gives Roberta the job of explaining why.

"They'll stand on tippy-toes and unfurl their spider silk. And then the breeze will float them away like balloons... to new homes!"

All the kids are wowed as they watch the little spiders soar away on the breeze. Some even want to take their box of spiders to watch from home. And one girl named Maria confides to Roberta that she wants to help her rescue little animals and even bigger animals, like pandas and pangolins, polar bears and elephants.

Author Curtis Manley's latest, The Rescuer of Tiny Creatures (Roaring Brook Press, 2021), has a lot to say about the value of kids who march to a different drummer, and the value to society that such differences in interests can play, especially those interested in science, (even KRAKENS!

Artist Lucy Ruth Cummins, who did the illustrations for the popular pumpkin season story, Stumpkin, (read my review here) adds humor and empathy for the characters in this story, even the millipede, (but maybe not the KRAKEN!) Author Manley also adds an appendix with a picture glossary of tiny critters (and the Kraken) and the directions to make a small origami box with lockable lid.

Writes Publishers Weekly's review, "... both a STEM tale about insects and a lesson in staying true to oneself, as Roberta’s distinctive interest takes her from odd kid out to minor celebrity."

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Today Is YOUR Day, Maisy Mouse! Maisy's Surprise Birthday Party by Lucy Cousins


It's Maisy's birthday, the sun is shining, and she's determined to make her day special. It's a pancakes-for breakfast day!

WHAT A BIRTHDAY TREAT!

Maisy dresses in her birthday best and goes outside to check the mail. There's a letter from Charley, inviting her to his house! Maisy hurries over.

THE DOOR IS OPEN! HOW STRANGE!

Inside, the house is very dark. Maisie fumbles for the light switch...

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAISY!"

All Maisy's friends pop out of hiding with presents from each one and...after Maisy opens them all, she thanks each one, and everyone has a turn to play with each present. And then, mysteriouly, all the lights go off again! What's happening?

A BIRTHDAY CAKE WITH CANDLES!

And Maisy makes her wish as she blows out her candles, in Lucy Cousin's brand-new Maisy's Surprise Birthday Party (Candlewick Press, 2021). Author-illustrator Cousins is the master of jolly stories for the toddler tribe, and in this Maisy First Experiences Book, with her trademark folksy black line and bright primary color drawings, she guides the very young through the big event of a first surprise party. Happy Birthday Wishes, Maisy, and Many More!

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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Intruders! The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit


The chickens were living on a safe, pleasant island in the swamp.

LIFE WAS COMFORTABLE. EVERYONE KNEW WHAT SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO DO.

UNTIL ONE DAY... THE CAPYBARAS CAME.

They had long, soggy, swampy-smelling hair. They looked like guinea pigs, only big, BIGGER, MUCH BIGGER! The capybaras made the island instantly feel overpopulated.

But the capybaras could not leave because...

HUNTING SEASON HAD BEGUN.

So the chickens kindly let them stay, but not before they agreed to follow the rules:

1. MAKE NO NOISE.

2. STAY IN THE WATER.

3. STAY AWAY FROM THE FOOD.

4. FOLLOW THE RULES WITHOUT QUESTION.

But one little peeper chick was curious about the littlest capybara. He ran after him and jumped on his back! The little capybara jumped into the water with the chick on his back and swam out into the water! The scared chick called for MAMA!

PEEP! PEE-EEP!

Mama Hen rescues him and reminds him that capybaras are wild animals, and they must keep away from those alien, smelly swamp dwellers.

Fall comes and with it the capybara hunters with their guns and dogs. But one day, on the way back to their nesting house, the little chick is chased by a dog with sharp teeth. It doesn't look good for the chick, until the capybaras turn around and scare the WOOOOFS right out of the dog with their size and show of even more sharp teeth.

So now it's all for one and one for all on Hen Island. The hunters go home empty handed. Hens and capybaras live together happily ever after, in Alfredo Soderguit's little parable of coming together for the common good, The Capybaras.

Using a minamalist art style of black lines with touches of red, illustrator Soderguit's little lesson on living together proves the motto "In union there is strength," and life on the island is good again!

Publishers Weekly applauds, saying, "Featuring a cast of adorable, expressive animals, this is a simple but multilayered tale of overcoming prejudice, learning to question the status quo, and creating community."

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Down to the Basics! Line and Scribble by Debra Vogrig


Line and Scribble couldn't be any more different. Line sticks to the ruler, and Scribble never does. Line likes rules, and Scribble doesn't have any!

LINE GOES STRAIGHT BY PLANE OR BY TRAIN.

SCRIBBLE TAKES A RIDE ON THE ROLLER COASTER.

Line is 100% a straight arrow. Scribble meanders. Her shape is always changing, like clouds or fluffy cats.

LINE ELEGANTLY COMBS HER HAIR STRAIGHT.

SCRIBBLE CURLS HER HAIR WITH STYLE!

Line offers Scribble a breadstick. But Line prefers cotton candy!

Can these opposites EVER get together? Will these opposites ever MEET?

Of course they can and do, as every artist will tell you, in author Debra Vogrig's and artist Pia Valentinia's just published, Line and Scribble (Chronicle Books, 2021). Kids love to play "Same and Different," and Line and Scribble certainly provide plenty of fun identifying straight and curvy things in their world, and yet--most things have both qualities! Artist Valentina chooses the colors red and black, executed with smooth and rough textures in a very attractive design that keeps youngsters turning the pages to see what appears next and eager to experiment with their own combinations of straight and curved lines.

School Library Journal says, "A delightful celebration of individuality, creativity, and friendship; a valuable addition to most collections.”

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side: If Only by Mies Van Hout

THE CHILD THOUGHT,

IF ONLY I WERE A BUTTERFLY,

THEN I COULD FLY EVERYWHERE,

Sometimes it seems that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. A little girl watches the butterflies fluttering around overhead and admires their freedom to fly freely. Little does she guess that the butterfly has other wishes. In her case, the butterfly wishes to be a stick insect, almost impossible to see on his tree, inconspicuous instead of flashy! But the slow-moving stick insect longs to zip and zag and whirl across the surface of the pond like the whirligig beetle. But the swift and shifty beetle wishes he could be a firefly with his own spotlight in the night!

THE FIREFLY THOUGHT,

IF ONLY I WERE A BEE,

THEN I'D ALWAYS HAVE FRIENDS TO HELP ME.

But the busy bee secretly longs to be alone sometimes, doing things all by herself, like the spider.

The spider, however, knows that she's a bit off-putting, with her eight long creepy legs and scary fangs!

IF ONLY I WERE A LADYBUG,

THEN EVERYONE WOULD THINK I WAS ADORABLE!

But there's a downside to being cute, as the ladybug longs to be as purposeful and strong as an ant! And while the slow-moving snail envies the ground-covering leaps of the grasshopper, he wishes he had the helicopter-like mobility of the dragonfly, who can even fly backwards!

And whom does the dragonfly envy?...

...Someone who can giggle and sing, play hide-and-seek and count and hop, and think up how to make all kinds of things out of all kinds of things--a kid-- in Mies Van Hout's jolly new picture book, If Only... (Pajama Press, 2021).

The old proverb that says "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride," warns against jealousy of what others are and can do, but for a human child, it's sometimes a good thing to imagine how to turn those wishes into new ways and skills in how to do things. In author-illustrator Van Hout's bouyant and imaginative collaged illustrations, youngsters can learn about backyard creatures, learn to appreciate the abilities of each, and be inspired with the possibilities that being a human child also offers

In its starred review, School Library Journal says, "Spread after spread of exuberantly busy, beautiful life…. A visual delight, this picture book offers openings for conversation about wishes, predictions, and one's own enviable strengths."

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Monday, October 18, 2021

Udderly Right! COW SAYS MEOW by Kirsti Call


COW SAYS...

MEOW!

(Copycat! says the boy.)

Clearly dismayed by Cow's all-wrong response, Cat answers in kind, with a "NEIGH," which prompts the boy to observe that the cat is clearly hoarse, after which a Horse comes up with a wild growl.

(I can't BEAR it!) laments the boy.

While this book on its face purports to be teaching animal sounds, the youngest among us may be a bit befuddled, while savvy youngsters will be relishing the humor and beginning to giggle at the wordplay. A bear appears next, who says BAAAAA!--to which our narrator responds...

"Ewe must be confused."

Meanwhile, on the verso page a sheep registers some surprise at the way this seemingly simple book about animal sounds is going, in Kirsti Call's latest, Cow Says Meow (A Peep-and-See Book) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021).

Author Call's latest is actually a rather sophisticated book, which is indeed about animal sounds, (In another bit of turnabout humor with the book's format, it can actually function to teach animal sounds just fine when read backwards! but also features clever wordplay between its narrators, a boy and girl whose comebacks to the misinformed critters use onomatopoeia in a pun-filled play on words with each page turn, as when Dog clucks, the boy tells him not to get his feathers ruffled.

In what seems like a nursery book with big cut-out eyes on both covers, there's plenty inside to keep primary graders giggling. Striking illustrations by Brandon James Scott provide the interlocutors plenty of openings for visual and verbal humor. With older readers, this book can be used to teach such sophisticated concepts as homophones, onomatopoeia, and puns. Fun as a read aloud for preschoolers and primary graders, this one has a lot of learning going for it!

Share this one with Cece Bell's I Yam a Donkey! (A Yam and Donkey Book) (Read my review here.)

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Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Wonders of Weiner Dogs: Dozens of Dachshunds by Stephanie Calmenson

THE DACHSHUNDS ARE COMING! THEY ARE ON THE WAY.

WHERE WILL THEY GO ON THIS BEAUTIFUL DAY?

The first solo dachshund is dashing, dressed to the nines in top hat and tux, followed by a duo of weiner dogs in their buns, with all the trimmings! Then come a trio of ice cream cone dachsies with cherries on top, trailed by four regal dachshunds in ermine and crowns.

It's clearly a parade of all kinds of dachshunds, shiny black shorthairs, sleek as wet seals, classy long-hairs with wavy long locks, and game day pooches in helmets and caps, waving shakers and brandishing baseball bats.

EIGHT STYLISH DACHSHUNDS SASHEY THROUGH THE CITY.

IN ALL KINDS OF HATS, THEY'RE SO HANDSOME AND PRETTY.

Then come ten soaring superhero hounds, masked marvels and caped crusaders, followed by eleven prehistoric dino-hunds and a dozen racing dachsies, saddled and bridled to finish the race. Where are they all heading, you ask? For what do they all bark?

It's DACHSHUND DAY down in the park, in Stephanie Calmenson's latest Dozens of Dachshunds: A Counting, Woofing, Wagging Book (Bloomsbury Books, 2021).

In rhyming couplets as bouncy as their subject, and with jolly illustrations of every weiner dog imaginable by artist Zee Persico, this brand-new book has oodles of applications, from teaching counting from one to a dozen, to sorting varieties of adorable dachshunds and all sorts of people who love them for their small size and big personalities.

Young primary students will want to sing along with Calmenson's closing song: "We love dachshunds, short and long. / They are bold, and they are strong. / They are loyal. They are proud. / They may be small, but their barks are LOUD!" Adds Booklist, "Delightful dachshund facts round things off in the back matter".

Share this one with a couple of famous weiner dog picture books, such as Margret and H.A. Rey's evergreen Pretzel (Curious George) and Dav Pilkey's hilarious classic Halloween tale, The Hallo-Wiener.

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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Chipmunk's Quest! Chirp! Chipmunk Sings For a Friend by James Swenson

CHIPMUNK LIVED ON A ROCK.

MOST DAYS SHE SAT ON THE ROCK, CHIRPING FROM DAWN UNTIL THE STARS SHONE DOWN.

She chirped happy songs, bittersweet songs, and some days her songs were quite sad. Rock was a solid friend, listening faithfully, but what Chipmunk really wanted was a partner to sing songs with her, so one day she took leave of her friend on a quest to find someone to sing.

She met a pinecone who agreed to join rock in their special place, and Chipmunk joyfully carried Pinecone back to Rock's resting place.

BUT PINECONE'S TALENTS, LIKE ROCK'S, WERE OF THE LISTENING SORT.

But Chirp longed, not for another friend to listen, but a friend to sing with her. The quest was long. She met a nice log who agreed to join Rock and Pinecone, but try her hardest, Chirp could not budge Log. Exhausted by her failure, Chipmunk began to sing a bittersweet song. Raccoon heard the beautiful song and agreed to help move Log to Rock's place, but the two of them were not up to the job. But at least Raccoon joined Chipmunk in a sweet but sad song, one that so moved Moose that he came to see who was singing.

And Moose did it! Once he got Log rolling, he rolled all the way to Rock's spot. And now when Chip sings all her songs...

RACCOON AND MOOSE SING ALONG TOO.

In James Swenson's just published Chirp!: Chipmunk Sings for a Friend (Simon and Schuster, 2021), illustrated affectionately by celebrated artist Scott Magoon, finding a friend doesn't necessarily come easily, but while music is good, music with friends is the best.

As Booklist points out, "Nicely phrased and using repetition effectively, the text is strongly in touch with young children’s impulse to befriend inanimate objects that come alive in their imaginations."

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Friday, October 15, 2021

Things That Go Bump...: Tiny T. Rex And The Very Dark Dark by Jonathan Stutzman

WHEN I AM INSIDE, THE DARK DOESN'T SEEM SO DARK.

OUTSIDE THE DARK IS VERY VERY DARK. THERE ARE NO NIGHTY LIGHTS TO TURN ON.

AND WHEN THERE ARE NO NIGHTY LIGHTS TO TURN ON, THE GRUMBLES AND NOMBIES COME OUT.

Tiny T. Rex and his brother Pointy are new to this sleeping out business. Mom had told them that if they were brave, they would find a light out there somewhere, but they are not so sure about that.

Is there light inside the stomachs of the Crawly-Creeps? Yikes! They need a plan.

While Dad in his chair is nodding over his newspaper, they sneak back inside and get a string of Christmas lights out of the closet. They hustle back out, put up a tablecloth tent, hang up lights all over the backyard trees, and huddle together, hoping their PLAN works.

WE HAVE MADE A SUPER-BRIGHT NIGHTY LIGHT!

But even Dad's snoring and Mom's crunching a celery snack inside sound like the Crawly Creeps and the Grumbles and Nombies coming after them. Are they brave enough to huddle together and look around for those lights Mom promised?

And the two little dino brothers discover that Mom was right. The stars always come out and the moon always rises, in Jonathan Stutzman's not-too-scary scary story about the things that don't quite go bump in the night, Tiny T. Rex and the Very Dark Dark: (Read-Aloud Family Books, Dinosaurs Kids Book About Fear of Darkness) (Chronicle Books, 2020).

Author Jonathan Stutzman's text builds tension cleverly as illustrator Jay Fleck's adorable T-Rex brothers, Pointy and the wee Tiny T., tough it out and fight the fright in their first night sleepout, and young readers will be find reassurance as well.

Share this one during the scary season with Stutzman and Fleck's just published Tiny T. Rex and the Tricks of Treating (Chronicle Books, 2021).

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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Best Case Scenario! Llama, Llama, Meets the Babysitter by Anna Dewdney and Reed Duncan



Mama Llama has an announcement. She is going out, and Grandma can't come. Little Llama will have a babysitter!

Llama Llama immediately goes right into disaster mode.

"WILL SHE PLAY MY FAVORITE GAME?"

"WILL SHE EVEN KNOW MY NAME?

Will she fix his favorite snack? What if Mama Llama does not come back?

Llama is both SAD and MAD! He makes a plan to be bad!

"I WON'T HAVE FUN!

INSTEAD I WILL RUN!

But when Mama Llama opens the door, he sees a face he's seen before. It's Molly, the girl at the ice cream store who makes his favorite cones. And not only that, but she has brought a bag full of small ice cream cups and toppings to sample. All's well that begins with ice cream sundaes with chocolate sauce and cherries on top! And then, there's kickball in the backyard with Molly, who never gets too tired.

ICE CREAM, READING, HIDE 'N' SEEK,

LLAMA COULD DO THIS ALL WEEK!

And as Mama Llama tells Llama it's time to hit the sack, Little Llama asks when Molly's coming back, in Anna Dewdney and Reed Duncan's just published, Llama Llama Meets the Babysitter (Viking Books, 2021).

Thankfully for youngsters, author Reed Duncan has taken over the late Anna Dewdney's warm and funny rhyming mother-and-son early childhood stories for youngsters yet to come, along with the delightfully expressive illustrations of JT Morrow.

Share this one with another milestone story, Llama Llama Loose Tooth Drama (Viking Books, 2020).

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Too Much of A Good Thing? The Bruce Swap by Ryan T. Higgins


There was a forest in front of the little cabin Bruce the curmudgeonly bear shared with three goslings and four mice.

Sure, it's the North Woods, so there are some evergreens around the lake, but Bruce's yard was mostly a forest of signs beginning with the word NO--NO TALKING, NO SWIMMING, NO FISHING, NO CAMPING, NO PICNICKING, NO TRESPASSING...! Bruce was no fun. The mice longed for adventures. The geese just wanted--sandwiches!

ONE MORNING THERE WAS A LETTER IN THE MAILBOX AT 13 GO AWAY LANE!

It was a letter from Bruce's fun-loving cousin Kevin, saying he's coming for a fun-filled vacation. But nobody knew that--because one of the goslings ate the letter. So on the day of fun-loving Kevin's arrival, nobody knew they were about to have guests! Bruce went fishing, leaving a note, but one of the goslings ate that, so nobody knew that either.

So when fun-loving Kevin arrived with outdoor equipment and a bag of sandwiches, the mice and geese thought he was Bruce. But not the party-pooping Bruce they knew. This was a different Bruce.

"ALL OUR WISHES HAVE COME TRUE!" SAID THISTLE.

"WAIT! THIS MUST BE BRUCE'S DOPPELGANGER!" SAID RUPERT.

"DINGLE POOPER?" ASKED NIBB.

But no matter! This version of Bruce was nothing but fun. He gave them all the candy they could eat and then inspired a candy battle. He pulled out a pogo stick and hopped all over the cabin. He ordered endless pizzas. Then he flooded the cabin to make an indoor swimming pool. His rowdy buddies showed up and finished wrecking the cabin, so the party moved outside. Dingle Pooper Bruce taped Rupert to a kite and sent him up for his first flight. The cabin and yard were a dreadful MESS! Since MESS is not fun, fun-loving Kevin and his chums piled into their van and left the premises.

SOME OF THE FUN WAS.... QUESTIONABLE.

"NO MORE FUN! NO, NO, NO! PLEASE!" THE GOSLINGS PLEADED.

THEY ALL WISHED FOR REGULAR BRUCE TO COME BACK!

There's such a thing as too much fun for the mice and goslings, who were actually glad to see the real party-pooper Bruce putt-putting back up the road on his motor skooter, in Ryan T. Higgins' latest in his Mother Bruce series, The Bruce Swap (Disney Press, 2021). (But at least there's plenty of pizza left over!)

Author-illustrator Higgins combines hilarious comic illustrations, oddball family affection, and one of children's literature's greatest grumpy bears in his Mother Bruce series, which began with Mother Bruce (Mother Bruce, Book 1) (Mother Bruce Series, 1)

"A gentle, silly picture book about balancing fun and responsibility," says Kirkus Reviews

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

On Second Thought.... We Want A Dog by Lo Cole

WE WANT A DOG!

But there are SO many kinds of dogs! It's hard to choose. Lazy? Crazy? Long? Strong? Tall? Small? Frumpy? Jumpy? Choices, Choices!

ONE THAT BARKS? ONE THAT FARTS?

Ummm.....

ONE THAT DROOLS? ONE THAT BREAKS THE RULES?

Er, well, uh...

ONE WITH FLEAS? ONE THAT PEES ON CHRISTMAS TREES?

On second thought--NONE OF THAT! Maybe what we want is. . .

A CAT!

British rhymster Lo Cole's latest, We Want a Dog: (Dog Books, Rescue Pets, Gifts for Dog Lovers) (Sourcebook/Jabberwocky, 2021), lets his penchant for internal rhymes romp, as he describes some of the er, less pleasing behaviors of man's best friend running loose in this witty look at sniffy, whiffy, shedding and shredding canine characters. Cole's irresistible red and black illustrations of pooches, shown spot-art style, and his nifty, nimble language make this short book a joy for young readers to take out for a run. Says Kirkus' starred review, "Lively, rhyming text is perfectly paired with expressive, energetic artwork."

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Monday, October 11, 2021

Neighbors: Bird House by Blanca Gomez

 

ON A SNOWY DAY, MY ABUELA AND I FOUND AN INJURED BIRD.

ABUELA TOOK CARE OF IT.

The bird has a broken leg and back at home she bandaged it and put the little bird in an upright bird cage in their living room. The bird seems happy, and the cat is curious. As the little yellow bird's leg heals, Abuela lets it fly around their apartment to keep its wings strong.

IT WAS FANTASTIC!

The cat is fascinated. And Abuela begins to build a little bird house.

And when the bird's leg is healed, Abuela says it is time to let it fly free again. The cat is a bit upset, and the girl is sad, as the little yellow bird flutters up and soars away, soon lost among the tall buildings and the clouds. But Abuela and her granddaughter put up their bird house right away, right beside the door.

SNOW MELTED INTO SPRING.

And one day, when Abuela is watering her flowers on the balcony, the yellow bird returns to check out the new bird house and become their new neighbor....

In author-illustrator Blanca Gomez' newly published Bird House (Abrams Books, 2021), there are many gentle lessons, the nurture of a grandparent for a small child, and the care and the respect for all creatures that share our world. Gomez' meticulous paper collage illustrations are both simple and softly evocative of the theme of this lovely story.

Says Kirkus, "The simple, flowing first-person narrative flits from page to page in a gentle lilting commentary on harmony and respect."

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Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sharing the Wealth! Nia and the New Free Library by Ian Lendler

For as long as anyone could remember, the Littletown Library had been there. The people stopped paying attention to it. The librarian retired, and nobody noticed....

Finally a tornado passed through and took the old library away with it.

NO ONE QUITE KNEW WHAT TO DO WITH THE EMPTY SPACE.

Someone suggested a skyscraper. Another wanted a parking lot. Nia's idea was different.

"WE NEED TO REBUILD THE LIBRARY."

The mayor pooh-pooh her idea, saying that people just didn't read anymore. The banker thought it cost too much.

A DISTRACTED MOTHER SAID, "MY SON AND I GET EVERYTHING WE NEED ON LINE. I'M LEVEL 10!"

But Nia had a different idea. It took a while, but soon she had written a red wagon full of books. She asked the Grocer.

"THIS IS THE NEW FREE LIBRARY! "WOULD YOU LIKE TO CHECK OUT A BOOK?"

"HEY, YOU WROTE THIS WRONG?" SAID THE GROCER.

Everybody's a literary critic! Nia handed him a pencil and told him to fix the mistake, and he got busy.

"MY SON'S PHONE JUST DIED."SAID THE BUSY MOM. "COULD HE LOOK AT ONE OF YOUR BOOKS?"

A man complained that Nia's Where the Mild Things Are is not the right title.

And when the boy complained that the drawings were terrible, Nia gave him a pencil with a nice new eraser. Another person said Nia'a Sherlock story had the wrong ending, so she told him to write a new one. Everyone found out that writing and illustrating books is hard, but soon Nia has a conspicuous big pile of rewritten books. So the grocer gave her some empty crates for bookshelves. Others thought it would be good to have walls and a roof to keep the books dry. Everyone found some building materials and tool boxes to help.

"A GOOD LIBRARY HAS TO HAVE LIONS IN FRONT" SAID SOMEONE.

Somebody volunteered the lions from the facade of the bank.

"WAIT! WE NEED A LIBRARIAN!" SEVERAL SAID.

Many of them volunteered, a snazzy opening was scheduled, and soon the new library was filled with kids listening to stories and people checking out books and senior citizens learning to use computers.

A LIBRARY IS BUILT BY MANY HANDS!

And in Ian Lendler's just published Nia and the New Free Library (Chronicle Books, 2021), that's how Newtown soon had a fine new library. Artist Mark Pett's humorous caricatures of townspeople sets off wll Ian Lendler's deadpan rewriting of the classic folktale, Stone Soup. " "(A) charming, kid-friendly take on grassroots activism." says Shelf Awareness.

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Saturday, October 09, 2021

"Grateful Homage: A Day for Rememberin' by Leah Henderson


Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was established to honor those who gave their lives fighting in the Civil War. This is the story of the first Memorial Day celebration.

Nine days. Papa up early and gone again. He said important work has to be done--man's work.

Young Eli goes where his papa says he needs to go--to school, learning to count and read. They aren't enslaved anymore, but he knows something important is happening. The men are rebuilding the Old Race Track Building, and finally, on day ten he gets to march off with them, helping to whitewash the fence and columns and get ready for the celebration on the next day.

Dressed in his best, he and the other children carry flags and bundles of flower petals, crosses, and wreaths, singing about "John Brown's Body," singing for the buried Union soldiers who died there fighting for their freedom.

Thousands of hands sprinkle thousands of spring blossoms. The graves become a bed of petals and roses. The flag snaps in the breeze.

Pastors preach sacrifice, abolitionists proclaim freedom. We will never forget those Union soldiers... what they've given of themselves for the priceless gift of our liberty.

Once known as Decoration Day, today Memorial Day is a holiday observed nationwide on May 30, but in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1865, the memorial service for the dead of the Civil War was held by ten thousand newly freed slaves and abolitionists at the Washington Race Track on May 1, 1865, the very first of many days of remembrance across the country.

In Leah Anderson's beautiful commemoration of the first memorial day observation of the Civil War, A Day for Rememberin': Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day (Abrams Books, 2021), is told through the eyes of a young newly emancipated boy who is already learning to read and work with numbers, helping to begin the tradition that became a national holiday as the he meaning of this observation was eventually widened to include victims of all American wars.

Henderson's account is respectful, engaging, and moving, and the Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Floyd Cooper's monumentalist artistic realism brings the story touchingly to life. With an author's note and historical account of the holiday, The Roots of Decoration Day, Charleston, 1865, a timeline, a list of other cities with claims to the first memorial day celebrations, selected bibliography of books, newspapers, and period journals, as well as videos by PBS and the Hisory Channel, this book is a solid resource for young scholars fascinated by the Civil War.

"An enchanting account of the first Memorial Day, this book is recommended for all," writes School Library Journal.

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Friday, October 08, 2021

Hard Science! Rocks and Minerals by Seymour Simon

Breathes there a child with soul so dead who never to himself hath said, "Hey, look at this rock!"

Rocks can be mundane--as common as dirt (from which metamorphic rocks are made), or they can be as breathtaking as gemstones such as emeralds and rubies or the icicle-like stalactites and stalagmites of calcite in your local cave, and they are probably the most common collection items for most kids, common objects that generate those questions of what and why that are the basis of science learning.

Seymour Simon is practically the Dean of science books for school-age readers, and his latest geological non-fiction, Rocks and Minerals (Harper Books), is both solidly informational and beautiful to boot, chock full of eye-capturing illustrations and photographs of rocks and minerals in all their glory. In simple languange, Simon begins with the inner structure of our very rocky planet, defining the crust, mantle, and inner and outer cores, accompanied by a full-page cutaway illustration.

In the principal section of book, Simon follows up with the basic facts about the type of rocks--igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary--describing the history of how they come to be on our planet as well as their characteristics--the rock cycle that creates form, shape, color, density, and cleavage and fraction and their various uses by humans, from precious gemstones for jewelry to slate for blackboards and marble for monuments.

Simon devotes the second part of the book to describing how young proto-geologists--called "rock hounds"--can use the fascinating aspects of rocks and minerals for fun and education, explaning how incidental rock afficionados can develop their collections through a process of taking notes on where each is found, identification, classification, and labeling that may pay off in assignments and school science fair duty. As a solid science writer should, Seymour Simon appends an author's note, glossary, and index. AS he says, "Even a common rock that you find outside your door may have been formed millions of years ago. Every rock and mineral is a part of our planet's long history. You, as a rock hound, are not just a rock explorer, but also an historian."

Publishers Weekly gives this excellent sample of nonfiction science books a solid plug: "Simon includes a substantial amount of detail while still keeping his explanations accessible."

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Thursday, October 07, 2021

Houdinipus: The Octopus Escapes by Maile Meloy


THE OCTOPUS WAS HAPPY IN HIS CAVE.

The view is one of a kind. Colorful fish swim lazily or dart around, some in schools and some solo. Jellyfish and starfish and mussels are visible from his door. Chilly waves breeze by and some tumble around him and leave messy sand for him to sweep out. Crabs come by for dinner. Everything is great in his life, until...

...something odd floats inside his cave. It's a glove, and he takes it for his own. And since it's empty, he slips inside of it to get out of sight.

BIG MISTAKE!

An arm with five fingers grabs the glove, and Octopus soon finds himself in a tank inside a big glass building called an aquarium. A human with a clipboard stares at him.

SAD GRAY SHARKS WERE IN GLASS HOUSES OF THEIR OWN.

THE HUMANS GAVE HIM TESTS THAT LOOKED LIKE TOYS. THEY TAUGHT HIM TO TAKE PICTURES.

But the octopus missed his cave and all the different fish and the starfish and mussels. He missed everything being different every day.

HE TRIED TO TELL THE HUMAN HE WAS BORED.

But when she doesn't seem to understand, Octopus decided to escape. That night Octopus pushed open the top of his little tank and crawled away.

HE TOOK ONE PICTURE SO THEY WOULDN'T WORRY. HE SQUEEZED UNDER THE DOOR AND DROPPED...

Off the pier he fell into the ocean, his ocean, and swam and swam until he came to...

HIS CAVE.

Octopus hadn't thought his home was special until he was taken away to be studied in an aquarium, but in Maile Meloy's charming "no-place-like-home" story, Octopus uses his smarts and his shape-changing skills to return to his home, sweet home, in The Octopus Escapes (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2021), illustrated in beautiful vibrant paintings by Felecita Sala. Her sly red octopus helps show young readers how intelligent and dexterous octopi can be in this nature story, based on the achievements of real octopi in recent aquarium studies. For more of those great escapes that would make Harry Houdini jealous, see Inky the Octopus: The Official Story of One Brave Octopus' Daring Escape (Includes Marine Biology Facts for Fun Early Learning!).

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Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Join The March!

Biscuit and the Big Parade

by Alyssa Satin Capucilli




"IT'S TIME FOR THE BIG PARADE!COME ON, BISCUIT!"

The big bass drum leads the snare drummers and the twirling girls down the street. Flags are waving and the spectators are cheering!

WOOF! WOOF!

But Biscuit pulls on his leash. He doesn't want to sit and watch. He wants to be in the parade. When the firefighters trucks rumble by, Biscuit has to make friends with the firefighters big dog!

RUFF! WOOF! WOOF!

"BISCUIT! YOU CAN'T MARCH IN THE PARADE!"

But just then the clowns come by, led by a fat clown holding a bunch of helium balloons by their strings. The rest of the clowns blow their hand horns. Oooga! OOOOGA!

The big clown is so distracted that he loses his grip on the balloon's strings! Up they go!

THERE GO THE BALLOONS!

But of couse Biscuit saves the day, jumping as high as he can to catch all the balloons just in time, in Alyssa Satin Capucilli's Biscuit and the Big Parade! (My First I Can Read) (Harper I-Can-Read Books).

It's the season for watching and leading parades--and just the right fun for a puppy hero as he rescues the balloons and marches right along with the drummer in front of the band!

RUM-PA-PA-PUM! WOOF! WOOF!

Whether its a Halloween parade, a Veteran's Day parade, a Championship Game band or the Thanksgiving parade, they are all fun, and it's an especially good time to read a book starring in this popular beginning reader book with a puppy like Biscuit!

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Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Making the Sale: Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima

There was once a house that was an apparent drag on the real estate market--never rented or bought.

WHY? (Could it be the black cat that always sat on the FOR SALE sign?)

"I THINK"... SAID THE HOUSE... "I MIGHT BE HAUNTED."

"IF I AM ON MY BEST BEHAVIOR, NO ONE WILL NOTICE."

But all the spooky signs were there. The house tried to stand quietly and appear habitable, but everything was dusty and draped with spiderwebs. The stairs squeeked and the door hinges creaked. Dead tree branches scratched ominously at the windows. The timbers groaned. Drafty passages moaned. The black cat shredded the curtains and the raven croaked in the tree outside.

But the house had to admit that it liked its familiar noises.

"I'LL JUST HAVE TO FIND PEOPLE WHO LIKE THAT I'M SPOOKY. . . . "A FAMILY WHO WILL HELP THIS HAUNTED HOUSE BECOME A HAPPY HOME."

And when a family of wispy ghosts discover the listing, they and their spooky domicile live hauntingly together ever after, in author-illustrator Jessie Sima's latest, Hardly Haunted (Simon and Schuster, 2021).

It's a happy Halloween habitat for youngsters who like their spooky season stories on the droll side, in which there are different strokes for different spooks--who prefer to be happily haunted and hauntingly happy. Says Publisher's Weekly, "... a lovely twist on finding one’s place in the world, told with a light touch and plenty of ominous onomatopoeia.

Another hit by Jessie Sima which also celebrates the out-of-the-ordinary in her best-selling Not Quite Narwhal. (See my review here:)

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Monday, October 04, 2021

Planting Planning! How To Help A Pumpkin Grow by Ashley Wolff

DIG IT! SPADE IT! SEEDS TO SOW!

Gardeners have to plan for the future. It's early spring, with just the first tree blooming, but Farmer Dog is already getting ready to grow pumpkins for the fall.

He has his seeds in a pail and an intriguing assortment of umbrellas in a box and stakes out where his patch will be fenced and tilled. He spades away in his plot, but he is not alone. Curious animals appear, a goat who's been tasting the blossoms on the tree, a gray mouse who watches from a hole in a tree, a duck dunking for tidbits in the pond, a rabbit nibbling weeds, and a crow with a clear interest in seeds--all are drawn closer as the building and tilling continues.

When Farmer Dog raises an umbrella over each planting place to shelter the seeds from the late spring snow, the curious critters come closer. With a knowing eye especially on Crow, the farmer asks...

WANT TO HELP A PUMPKIN GROW?

And all the animals DO! He shows them how to take care of the growing plants, and they are eager to help. Crow steps up to hold the hose as Farmer Dog waters the little plants. Rabbit eats the weeds and Duck pulls them up, while Mouse watches from the fence. Goat helps wind the vines around the fence and stakes so the leaves can get plenty of sunshine and soon the little white pumpkins become big orange pumpkins, still growing in the long days of summer sun.

TWINE THEM, VINE THEM.

WATCH THEM GO!

FILLING UP THE GARDEN--WHOA!

All the animals pitch in to pick and load the pumpkins on a cart, and now it's Goat's turn to show off, as he steps into the traces to pull the load of pumpkins to the kitchen.

PICK THEM! STACK THEM!

OVERFLOW.

And in the kitchen there are soon piles of pumpkin seeds, some to toast and eat and some to save for next year, and there are plenty of golden pumpkin pies all in a row, even a small one for little Mouse. They're all happy they helped to make them grow.

And that's not ALL! There are still enough pumpkins to . . .

CARVE JUST SO

PLACE THEM SO THE CANDLES SHOW.

And what's left now for their pumpkins to do but...

GLOW!

A bright and shining new pumpkin book for the scary season, veteran author-illustrator Ashley Wolff's latest How to Help a Pumpkin Grow (Beach Lane Books, 2021) does it all, with warm rhymes, and fall scenes of a variety of animals adding to the fun of growing and processing pumpkins to share with all.

This new book by the celebrated illustrator of Joseph Slate's classic Miss Bindergarten books for early graders is a real winner, sure to take its turn in the read-aloud rotation of autumn stories, introducing various animals while also working in the themes of pumpkin gardening, cooperation according to abilities, seasonal stories, cooking, and Halloween and Thanksgiving symbols.

While including all these items in the early education curriculum, Wolff also works in a charming visual joke in which she "hides" the little mouse throughout the story: Mouse, visible partially on almost every page, offers some counting fun for sharp-eyed young "readers." All this comes with the warmth of color-saturated acrylic gouache illustrations that glow with the outdoor pleasures of the growing seasons, especially autumn.

Says Kirkus Reviews, "A rhythmic seasonal read-aloud with rich, detailed illustrations." A first purchase for school and public libraries for sure!

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Sunday, October 03, 2021

Cave Dada Cuisine! Cave DaDa Picky Eater by Brandon Reese

"DADA WAKE!"

"BABA WANT... EAT!"

Cave Dada is cranky and creaky and hoping to sleep in, but he knows that when cave tykes wake up, they want breakfast quicky quicky!

"DADA NO WANT HUNT GATHER." "DADA WANT RELAX."

But this cave kid is picky picky!

He wants an EGG! No berries! No peas. Nothing ELSE will please... but ...

EGG!

But Giant Chicken Henimus does not cooperate!

"SQUAWK! BUCK! BUCK! BOCK! FLAP! FLAP!"

Cave Dada emerges in a cloud of feathers with one egg! But he trips and the egg flips right onto the fire stone with a SPLAT!

"WAAA!"

WAIT!

"DA DA! LOOK!"

"DADA... COOK"!

UMM! YUM!

... And that, Cave Kiddies, is the story of how Chef Cave DADA created the first breakfast omelet, the first recipe in Pleistocene haute cuisine, in Brandon Reese's latest, Cave Dada Picky Eater.. Author-illustrator Brandon Reese is also the creator of Cave Dada: (Daddy and Baby Book, Dada Book, Gifts for New Dad). "Facial expressions are masterful. . . ..," says Kirkus Reviews.

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Saturday, October 02, 2021

When Winter Comes Knocking: A Story For Small Bear by Alice B. McGinty

 

WHEN A LATE AUTUMN WIND SWIRLED INTO THE DEN AFTER NOONTIME NAP, SMALL BEAR SHIVERED. Brrrrr!

"I SMELL FROST," SAID MAMA. "TONIGHT WE START OUR WINTER SLUMBER."

This comes as news to Small Bear. And she begins to worry, snuggling up to Mama to ask an important question.

"WILL YOU TELL ME STORIES BEFORE WE SLEEP?"

Mama Bear assured Small Bear that there will be time for stories IF she doesn't dilly dally in getting ready for hibernation.

Small Bear agrees, but it's hard to say goodnight when the sun is rising in the sky and her favorite hole in the Spruce is so comfy to climb into and it's so much fun to climb high in the fragrant branches. But she remembers what Mama said and collect spruce twigs to make a warm bed in their den. She joins Mama as they shimmy and shake off the dirt from their fur in the pond, its waters warmed by the midday sun. It's hard to resist spending the afternoon eating the acorns under the oak tree and the extra fat acorns that are still waiting for nibbling in the top branches.

The forest is filled with food and fun. But Small Bear must not dilly-dally! The sun seems to be setting. And where is Mama now?

"MAMA!?!"

Small Bear hurries back to find Mama, and inside their den their fresh-smelling bedding is waiting.

"STORIES?"

Hibernation means a long bedtime and lots of stories, beginning with...

"ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A SMALL BEAR WHO LOVED TO DILLY DALLY...."

And we all know what happens after hibernation, but Small Bear will have to wait for that one, in A Story for Small Bear (Schwartz & Wade, 2020). McGinty's storytelling is sweet and lovely, as are Richard Jone's soft-hued illustrations of a loving mother and a child who longs to play and to please. Hibernation means a long bedtime, but we, dear readers, know that story will end with the joys of springtime to come.

"... Forest scenes play out, together with McGinty’s expert prose and pacing.” says Publishers Weekly's starred review.

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Friday, October 01, 2021

What A Difference A Cape Makes! A CAPE! by Marty Kelley

What's that red thing among all the white towels and sheets in the linen closet?

Hmmmm! Gotta check that out....

The boy ties two corners of the towel around his neck. He sheds his nondescript shorts and tee and sweeps his hair up into powerful wind-swept pompadour.

IF I HAVE A CAPE, I MUST HAVE AS SUPERPOWER! Everybody knows that.

Dad, deep in his magazine, is not impressed.

"MAYBE I HAVE SUPER STRENGTH!" THE KID SUGGESTS.

He tries to lift the couch. Dad, unimpressed, warns him that he's likely to hurt something doing that!

He throws the cape over his head to see if it's like Harry Potter's Cloak of Invisibility.

Dad indicates that he's still visible. And jumping off the couch is not FLYING.

He tries out his super-freezing breath on Dad. Dad says it smells like he needs to brush his teeth! He's ready and set to show off his jet-powered running shoes. Dad says he can't run inside the house. Drat! What good is a cape if you can't show off your super-powers?

"YOU HAVE A SUPER POWERFUL IMAGINATION." DAD SAYS.

SHAZAM!

After all, it's the costume that makes the man. And the boy and his dad must share that power, 'cause when Dad dons his own terry-cloth cape, the two super heroes soar together in spirit in Marty Kelley's just published A Cape! (Sleeping Bear Press, 2021). The fun of this short, comically illustrated picture book is in the juxtaposition of the kid's buoyant imagination and dad's predictable bubble-popping logic of the realities of superhero-dom. And as is often true, it's the kid's job to ask... Where's the fun in all that? And everyone will get a good last-page giggle out of dad in his heart-print shorts and matching hero hairdo giving his son a chance to soar. Here's to more boys and dads and super silly superheroes!

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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Don't Fade Away! Ghoulia and the Ghost with No Name by Barbara Cantini


It was a lovely snowy evening at Crumbling Manor. Ghoulia was a little weary from her snowball battles with her village friends, but inside the candle-lit mansion all thoughts were turning toward the up-coming "Dead-But-Not-Departed" New Year's Eve party.

But up in her tower, Ghoulia was feeling a little spooked. She had the creepy feeling that someone was watching her.

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She heard noises on the roof. Just a split second before he vanished, Ghoulia spotted a boy sitting on a patch of snow. He was glowing, too!

And in the morning there are mysterious, ashy tracks around Uncle Misfortunes fireplace. And in the early evening, there was a tap on the window that almost made her drop the book she was reading. And when Ghoulia and her dog Tragedy peered out, they saw a faded ghost boy floating outside!

"Let me in!" he commanded. "I don't have anywhere else to go!"

"What's your name?" asked Ghoulia.

"I can't remember!" moaned the little ghost.

Ghoulia knew that was a perilous state to be in for a ghost. Without a name and with no one to remember him, he was beginning to fade away. Unless he could find his name to remember, he would finally disappear. Kind Ghoulia knew she had to help. She decided to consult the most knowledgeable ghost she knew--Grandfather Coffin, who explained about Oblivion--the place where ghosts go when no one, not even themselves, still remembers their names.

Now Ghoulia knew what she had to do, but... HOW? Ghoulia visited the Crumbling Manor's extensive library. She made a photo of the little ghost, and used it to identify the little ghost's clothing as in the style of about 1810. Then Ghoulia asked for help from Auntie Departed, who told her that the local church kept records of all births, weddings, and deaths, but warned her that she dared not enter the church. Dreadful, unknown things might happen, she suggested. Ghoulia, with her fingers well crossed, promised that she would not.

But the gutsy Ghoulia was not one to let an old auntie's tales get in her way when someone needed her help, in Barbara Cantini's Ghoulia and the Ghost with No Name (Book 3) (Amulet Books, 2020), and with the help of the official Church Registry there was a newly re-discovered name, Nicholas, added to the guest list for the Dead-But-Not-Departed party at Crumbling Manor.

Beginning chapter book readers will find this third book in the Ghoulia series a spine-tingly spoof, a tongue-in-cheek ghost and ghoul story, illustrated in, er, lively color cartooning by the author. The author also appends more spooky fun, "Nicholas's Memory Games." For the first book in this early readers' series, see my review here.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Dare to be Brave! Gustavo the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago

Gustavo was a ghost who enjoyed doing the normal things that paranormal beings do--passing through walls, making objects flying and glowing in the dark.

But there was nothing he loved more than playing the violin.

Gustavo had a crush on a pretty monster named Alma, and he longed to join all the others in their games, but the little ghost was too shy even to allow himself to be seen. He was even afraid to order a cone at the Eye Scream shop.

And the worst part of it?

Making friends was terrifying.

Gustavo knew he had to be brave. Then he had an idea. He composed a letter.

"Dear Monsters,

I would like to invite you to my violin concert on the next full of the moon at the cemetery.

I would be thrilled to see you there.

Gustavo

On the assigned night Gustavo arrives at the cementery. There is no one there. There is only one thing he can do. Gustavo picks up his violin and begins to play.

Will Gustavo find the courage actually to "appear" to his would-be friends? Flavia Z. Drago's Gustavo, the Shy Ghost (Candlewick Press, 2020) offers young children a shared story of shyness and the gift of acceptance from those who would be friends, all while they giggle over the comic "paranormals" being themselves in the story, illustrated in  Drago's jolly style. Says School Library Journal, "Gentle storytelling and vibrant mixed-media illustrations make for an enjoyable seasonal story."

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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Crossover! The Little Blue Bridge by Brenda Maier

ONE DAY RUBY SPOTTED SOME BLUEBERRIES ACROSS THE CREEK.

"LET'S GO PICK BERRIES TO BAKE IN A PIE," SHE SAID.

DID SOMEONE SAY PIE?

Ruby's older brothers perk up their ears.

"OKAY WITH ME!" SAID OSCAR LEE.

"LET'S GIVE IT A GO." SAID RODRIGO.

"I'LL FIND A WAY" SAID JOSE'.

Ruby is used to being belittled by her big brothers. She's a girl. A little girl! But when they see big bully, Santiago, guarding the downed log that serves as a bridge across the creek, they get second thoughts. Jose', oldest brother, gives it a try, but Santiago demands a snack before letting him use his bridge. Jose' thinks fast.

"WAIT FOR MY BROTHER. HE PACKS A BETTER SNACK." OFFERS JOSE'.

Rodrigo gives it a go, promising that his next brother has a better snack in his pack. But Santiago claims that he's the boss of the crossing, Oscar Lee suggests he give the shakedown to his sister. A little sister? Santiago can't believe his luck. He's the boss and no little girl can beat him out of a fast snack! But Ruby claims she's carrying no snacks. No snack? Go back! Santiago proclaims.

"I THOUGHT YOU MIGHT SAY THAT!" SAID RUBY.

But little Ruby knows there's more than one way to cross a creek. And with some found blue planks and some pretty green vines, she begins to build her own bridge, while her brothers busily fill their pails with berries. Grasping the concept, Santiago pitches in to help Ruby complete the bridge and pick more blueberries, too.

And, oh my, there's plenty of blueberry pie for all and soon plenty of trip-trapping back and forth over the bridge for the new blueberry pie pals, in Brenda Maier's latest, The Little Blue Bridge, the companion book to her first fractured fairy tale, The Little Red Fort. Both books are super companion reads for savvy primary graders who are familiar with the original folktales of The Billy Goats Gruff and The Little Red Hen, and will love spotting and pointing out the parallels in the plots of the two classics. With the colorful individualized characters in the illustrations of Sonia Sanchez, Maier's latest is a good way to give youngsters a taste of the fun of the fractured fairy tale.

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Monday, September 27, 2021

There's More Than One Side to Everything! Turtle in a Tree by Neesha Hudson

It's absurd! A greyhound sees something that should not logically BE!

A TURTLE IN A TREE?

His friend, the little bulldog, declares that that cannot BE! Surely that's a squirrel up in that tree. Everyone knows--turtles don't climb trees. Squirrels climb trees. Ergo, That must be a squirrel up there. The bulldog climbs up on the greyhound's shoulders for a closer look.

"I SEE A LONG BUSHY TAIL." SAYS THE BULLDOG....

But the greyhound sees something else.

"A ROUND, LUMPY, TURTLEY SHELL!"

Whatever it is in the tree starts tossing acorns at the two dogs. HA! Proof positive. It's a squirrel!

TURTLE!

SQUIRREL!

TURTLE!

SQUIRREL!

Then--the moment of truth! A squirrel leaps down from the tree! HA! The greyhound admits he was wrong. But before the bulldog gets a chance to celebrate...

THUNK!

A turtle drops like a stone from the tree! What are the odds? A squirrel AND a turtle together in a tree? Could that ever BE?

And as the squirrel rides off on the turtle's back into the sunset (Well, actually, off for a cruise on the turtle's back in the pond), the two dogs ponder what they have learned.

It seems that sometimes two different things can be true at one and the same time, in author-illustrator Neesha Hudson's philosophical little parable, Turtle in a Tree. (Dial Books, 2021)

It's an amazing world, one in which a turtle may be in a tree and a squirrel might take a dive into the pond!

Perhaps Lewis Carroll's Alice was right--believing "six impossible things before breakfast" is the way to go to prepare for life in this amazing world! Says Booklist, "Using sparse text, chuckle-worthy sound effects, and several absolutely wonderful and expertly placed wordless spreads, Hudson is clearly a storyteller and artist who understands intuitively how to use silence and image to amplify laughs."

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Sunday, September 26, 2021

First Sleep-Over: Charley's First Night by Amy Hest

IT WAS SNOWING THAT NIGHT, AND CHARLEY WANTED ME TO CARRY HIM HOME.

SO I CARRIED HIM HOME IN MY OLD BABY BLANKET

Henry, a tow-headed Christopher Robin look-alike, is totally snockered with his new puppy. He carries him upstairs to show him his room and the cabinet where his mom thinks she hides his birthday presents.

Henry's parents start out with hard-nosed pet ownership rules: Henry does the feeding and dog-walking, and the cleaning up of dog puddles, and the putting-to-bed of Charley on the dog bed they make for him downstairs in the kitchen. Henry lay down with Charley so he wouldn't be afraid, and the tired pup falls asleep almost instantly with the company of Henry's teddy bear and his ticking alarm clock...

LIKE ANOTHER LITTLE HEARTBEAT IN THE NIGHT.

As instructed, Henry went up to his bed and fell asleep with thoughts of playing with Charley in the snow tomorrow. But he soon wakes up.

"DON'T CRY, CHARLEY. DON'T CRY!" THOUGHT HENRY AS HE RAN DOWNSTAIRS.

He picked Charley up and walked him around the house. He put him into his bed under the table and rubbed his back and scratched him behind his ears, and Charley fell asleep by the light of the moon.

"'NIGHT, CHARLEY," WHISPERED HENRY.

It was a long time, but then Henry woke up to the sound of Charley, crying plaintively downstairs in the moonlight.

CHARLEY WANTED ME TO PUT HIM IN MY BED.

I THOUGHT ABOUT WHERE MY MOTHER AND FATHER WERE PRETTY CLEAR ABOUT WHERE CHARLEY WAS NOT TO SLEEP.

WE DIDN'T MEAN TO FALL ASLEEP....

And on that last page of notable author Amy Hest's boy-and-his-dog classic, Charley's First Night (Candlewick Press), there's no doubt where Mom and Dad find Charley when the sun peeps into Henry's bedroom. With the admittedly charming (darling, sweet, heart-warming, lovable) characters in this book, created visually in the soft, pastel illustrations of the acclaimed picture book artist Helen Oxenbury, winner of Britain's Kate Greenaway Award (the English equivalent of our Caldecott Medal), this is a moving boy-and-dog story that is the essence of learning to love another creature.

Says School Library Journal, "From Charley's adorable face and poses to Henry's mother's reflection in a mirror as she looks at the pair asleep, the pictures have a timeless quality and beautifully complement the story."

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