Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Winter into Spring (FAMILY magazine reviews)

As the seasons shift, enjoy three very different springtime stories, from fanciful to traditional aspects of spring, also including a perhaps surprising African setting for a different perspective.

In Like a Lion Out Like a Lamb
by Marion Dane Bauer
illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Holiday House, $16.95 & $6.95, Ages 4-6

Veteran author Bauer sends the March lion in through a boy’s front door, traipsing muddy footprints and trading howls, in a rollicking, rhythmic, rhyming text, cadenced to perfection with McCully’s signature watercolor, pen and ink paintings. Deft language links “an enormous sneeze” with “breeze, trees, chickadees and bumblebees” in a smooth transition from lion’s growls to lamb, “who comes riding in, gliding in, striding in” to take charge of “grass and flowers, sunshine and showers; and babies, small and large.”
In a seemingly effortless partnership of words and images, this award-winning team mixes single and double-paged spreads using an expert blending of movement and change. The illustrator’s skillful harmony of color with white space complements the author’s subtle use of occasional repetition for a timeless celebration of spring.

and then it’s spring
by Julie Fogliano
illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Roaring Brook Press, $16.99, Ages 4-6

In less than two hundred words, debut author Fogliano launches a garden, and introduces readers to the uncertainty and hopefulness of a rookie farmer. A be-speckled youngster, accompanied by his ever-present rabbit, turtle and dog companions, observes the brown “all around” before “there are seeds.” Wishes and rain follow, but still for week upon week, “it’s just brown.”
Then there is worry: birds and (somewhat surprisingly) bears show up in the snow. And then the nearly audible “greenish hum,” is followed by a sunny day after a rainy day, with puddles still visible.
In a poetic repetition of “then” and “and,” the ending comes around in an understated but essential closing line and art; “but the brown isn’t around and now you have green, all around you have green.”
Caldecott medalist Stead uses woodblock printing techniques and pencil to contrast rounded cloud shapes and seed hills with rectangular stripes of farmland, fences, and the angled farmhouse. It is an astute coupling of deceptively simple language with spare but elegant, balanced illustrations.

Desert Elephants
by Helen Cowcher
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.99, Ages 6-8

Beginning in February and into June, springtime in West Africa is characterized by the migration of the “last remaining desert elephants.” They follow an ancient route and share the land with nomadic peoples; Dogon, Fulani, and Tuareg. The latter have a saying: “We live with the elephants and the elephants live with us.”
The author’s beautiful illustrations feature realistic paintings of the elephants, including one double page spread of an elephant face on, and others of journeying, sleeping, playing elephants in daylight, sunset, lakeside and mountain landscapes. As people and elephants interact, Cowcher’s storytelling shows the importance of radio for sharing information, negotiating, and music.
Several double page spreads feature not only the native people of Mali, but tourists, rangers and guides, and radio announcers. A family of newcomers, unfamiliar with the elephants’ patterns, has established a home in the path of the migration. As nearby villagers discuss a solution, cultural traditions and sayings are emphasized, helping readers understand the importance of sharing the land and working together.
A bright-colored map of the migration route is featured inside the front and back covers. Also, an Author’s Note arranged as questions and answers is included at the end.

Monday, March 19, 2012


by Lucia and James L. Hymes, Jr.

Baked beans,
Butter beans,
Big fat lima beans,
Long thin string beans.
Those are just a few.
Green beans,
Black beans,
Big fat kidney beans,
Red hot chili beans,
Jumping beans too.
Pea beans,
Pinto beans,
Don't forget shelly beans.
Last of all, best of all,
I like jelly beans!

from The Bill Martin Jr Big Book of Poetry edited by Bill Martin Jr with Michael Sampson, 2008, Simon & Schuster

Monday, March 12, 2012

TIPTOE (Monday Poem)

by Karla Kuskin

Yesterday I skipped all day,
The day before I ran,
Today I'm going to tiptoe
Everywhere I can.
I'll tiptoe down the stairway.
I'll tiptoe to through the door.
I'll tiptoe to the living room
And give a awful roar
And my father, who is reading,
Will jump up from his chair
And mumble something silly like
"I didn't see you there."
I'll tiptoe to my mother
And give a little cough
And when she spins to see me
Why, I'll softly tiptoe off.
I'll tiptoe through the meadows,
Over hills and yellow sands
And when my toes get tired
Then I'll tiptoe on my hands.

from The Bill Martin Jr Big Book of Poetry edited by Bill Martin Jr with Michael Sampson, 2008, Simon & Schuster

Thursday, March 8, 2012


by Lilian Moore

I like
the quiet breathing
of the night,

the tree talk
the wind-swish
the star light.

Day is
Day bustles.

Night rustles.
I like

from Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child's Book of Poems selected by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, Eva Moore, Mary Michaels White, Jan Carr, 1988, Scholastic