Friday, September 15, 2017

Off to School for New Readers! (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Ready to Read? Looking for some great stories for the newest readers? Here are some terrific titles to try!

A Brand-New Day with Mouse and Mole 
by Wong Herbert Yee
            In this delightfully amusing Level 3 easy-reader, two friends find new ideas for being together. Think Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad” series, only with more advanced vocabulary. The similar quirky illustrations are done with litho pencil and gouache. They follow the friends through the day with sometimes-comical, occasionally surprising, and always actively energetic artistry.
When Mole greets a brand-new day, his initial pleasure is brief because moths have made holes in his clothes. Mouse, his friend, helps chase away the moths and together they decide to eat first at the diner and then look for replacement clothes at the new store next door.
Mole thinks of a creative solution to problems with the clothes. The two friends go fishing and then unexpectedly end up in the pond. The fourth and concluding chapter shows the two friends as they each choose resourceful and inventive means to share with each other.
Repetition is used to identify characters, to connect different parts of the story between chapters, and to draw readers attention to a circling pattern of relationships between the characters, through the language of the story and the ideas developed by the skill and cleverness of the projects.
This charmer will hold the attention of beginning readers and their families!

Houghton Mifflin, $3.99 (paperback) $15 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Grade1 - 3

The Infamous Ratsos 
by Kara LaReau, 
illustrated by Matt Myers
            Brothers Louie and Ralphie Ratso who live in the Big City, want to be tough like their dad, Big Lou. Their mother has been gone for a while and they remind each other that talking a lot, and riding the bus instead of walking are for softies. They try to think of what they can do to show how tough they are.
            But, each time, their efforts to be tough backfire. Others think they’re heroes, or thoughtful, generous, and helpful. When they think they’re finally going to get in trouble, their dad shares a letter from school honoring the brothers for their kindness.
            Ink and watercolor illustrations in black and white are comic book style; humorously dressed animal characters, with eyeglasses, droopy ears, and prickly looking expressions. Expressive faces and body language show the contrasts between before and after the Ratso brothers’ actions. The added depth strengthens the storyline of this award winner, making the seventh, and final chapter convincing in its departure from what the brothers (and early readers!) might expect.
Candlewick Press, $4.99 (paperback) $14.99 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2

Frank Pearl in the Awful Waffle Kerfuffle  
by Megan McDonald, 
illustrated by Erwin Madrid
               From the author of the Judy Moody and Stink series comes their friend, Frank Pearl who wants to win a contest. He enters the yo-yo contest showing off his amazing Flying Skunk trick. Frank takes his parrot, Cookie, to the Pets Are Family contest at the Fur & Fangs Pet Store. And, in the third chapter of this cheerful book, Frank and his friends participate in the third-grade Breakfast Bash and Waffle-Off, a Saturday contest at school to raise funds for their field trip.
               The colorful digital illustrations show a spectacled Frank as he works to win. There is plenty of action; the children’s expressions and the animals’ actions are engaging. Frank and the other children are active and involved in their community.
               McDonald’s characteristic good humor combined with Madrid’s comedic sense of fun and timing make this a winning choice for independent readers.
Candlewick Press, $4.99 (paperback) $12.99 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2

Monday, September 11, 2017

Indy (Monday Poem)

by Peggy Archer

He likes
     rides in the car.
     Near or far.
He's an
     Indiana race-dog ---
     winner of the cup.
A speed-racer,
     race-car pup.

from Name That Dog! Puppy Poems from A-Z
by Peggy Archer
2010, Dial

Monday, September 4, 2017

Snickers (Monday Poem)

by Peggy Archer

My dog's a creamy caramel
With chocolate ears and whiskers.
She's just a little nutty, too.
That's why I call her Snickers.

from Name That Dog! Puppy Poems from A-Z
by Peggy Archer
2010, Dial

Monday, August 28, 2017

Little WInd (Monday Poem)

by Kate Greenaway

Little wind, blow on the hill-top,
Little wind, blow down the plain;
Little wind, blow up the sunshine,
Little wind, blow off the rain.

From Time for Poetry: A Teacher's Anthology
edited by May Hill Arbuthnot
1951, Scott Foresman

Monday, August 21, 2017

Skipping Along Alone (Monday Poem)

by Winifred Welles

Oh, how I love to skip alone
Along the beach in moisty weather;
The whole world seems my very own,
Each fluted shell and glistening stone,
Each wave that twirls a silver feather.

I skip along so brave and big
Behind the sand-birds gray and tiny,
I love to see their quick feet jig,
Each leaves a mark, neat as a twig,
Stamped in the sand so clear and shiny.

And fine and faint as drops of spray
I hear their little voices calling,
"Sweet, sweet! Sweet, sweet!" I hear them say--
I love to skip alone and play
Along the sand when mist is falling.

From Time for Poetry: A Teacher's Anthology
edited by May Hill Arbuthnot
1951, Scott Foresman

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Summary of Summer Stories (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Before classes begin, there’s still time to finish the season of sunshine with stories that favor the lazy heat and relaxation of holiday flavored summer experiences. Taste a sample of these refreshing treats from a treasury of warm weather choices to savor.

And Then Comes Summer 
by Tom Brenner
 illustrated by Jaime Kim
            This storybook declaration of summer delight is also a celebration of all things familiar before technology intrudes. A suburban setting suits the rhythm of the language, the rituals of remembering, and the sounds and smells of the season: “When every day is like a Saturday,” and you get your bike ready to ride, host a lemonade stand, “play hide-and-seek until darkness wins,” watch the holiday parade and fireworks, eat ice cream, and head to the lake for a camping trip.
            The brilliant acrylic illustrations sizzle with excitement as a group of multicultural neighborhood children race, and scurry and bounce across the sunny pages with joyful energy. Jubilant figures with waving arms, leaping legs, and smiling faces splash and dash through summer’s gleeful freedoms accompanied by exuberant, lyrical language. A perfectly radiant read!

Candlewick Press, $16.99
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 1

There Might Be Lobsters  
by Carolyn Crimi
illustrated by Lauren Molk
               Eleanor and Sukie are at the beach. “Sukie (is) just a small dog”; scared of big sandy stairs, beach balls that are “big and beachy,” “whooshy,” salty waves that are too wet, and . . .   “besides, there might be lobsters”! Eleanor kindly carries Sukie and the stuffed toy monkey, Chunka Munka, down the stairs. But she’s also exasperated, cradling the scared pup in her arms after Sukie sits far away from the beach ball Eleanor tosses her way.
               Pen and ink, with acrylic and watercolor illustrations begin before the dedication and copyright, and continue with the title page. Throughout the picture book, paintings of the sandy sunshine of a splish-splashing holiday harmoniously sustain the lively language of this warm-hearted tale. When waves pull Chunka Munka out to sea, Sukie barks for the monkey toy to come back, paddles “past a big beachy ball,” and braves the salty waves to save him.
               While Sukie’s doggy fears are reflective of many children’s anxieties about new experiences, the humorously tender text matches Sukie’s forlorn expression and droopy body language to create a gently funny summer story. Italics let readers and listeners in on Sukie’s imaginings, and carry the comedy of the repeating line about lobsters! This refreshing account is a delightful treat for vacation sharing.
Candlewick Press, $16.99
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 2

Blue Sky White Stars 
by Sarvinder Naberhaus
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
The poetry of this picture book’s powerful words celebrates both America and its flag. The author’s spare verses and repetition capture the pride and strength of the ideals that the United States embodies in its people, landscape and the fabric of its multilayered culture.
Award-winning artist Nelson’s stunning images of American icons - Liberty, New York harbor’s revered statue, magnificent snowcapped mountains, remarkably long lines of covered wagons, glorious fireworks, Colorado’s majestic Grand Canyon, Wrigley’s well-known baseball stadium, a soaring Apollo 11 spacecraft, an eagle in flight, the momentous moon landing – invoke the multiple meanings the words convey.
This is clearly not a conventional story with typical illustrations; it therefore allows for a dynamic, teachable moment. Naberhaus’ brief, well-chosen phrases are carefully matched to Nelson’s richly symbolic artistry. Together they represent a shared history and present an opportunity to reflect on one’s knowledge and experience.
Beautiful oil paintings of many-colored faces, highlight gender, ethnic, age, and racial diversity, with the cover featuring the starry eyes of reflected holiday rocket explosives. Back material includes notes from both author and illustrator, with additional notes available on the author’s website to provide background material about the book for further discussions.

Dial, $17.99
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Picnic (Monday Poem)

by Dorothy Aldis

We brought a rug for sitting on,
Our lunch was in a box.
The sand was warm. We didn't wear
Hats or Shoes or Socks.

Waves came curling up the beach.
We waded. It was fun.
Our sandwiches were different kinds.
I dropped my jelly one.

From Time for Poetry: A Teacher's Anthology
edited by May Hill Arbuthnot
1951, Scott Foresman