Monday, July 3, 2017

The Pond’s Chorus (Monday Poem)

by Joanne Ryder

One toad,
One song.
Two toads
Sing along.
Three toads,
Better yet.
Four toads,
A quartet.
Five toads
Catch five flies.
Six toads
Seven toads
Hum higher.
Eight toads,
Quite a choir.
Nine toads
Pause . . .
and then . . .
Ten toads
Start again.

From Toad by the Road: 
A Year in the Life of These Amazing Amphibians, 
by Joanne Ryder
2007, Henry Holt

Monday, June 26, 2017

When . . . (Monday Poem)

by Anna Grossnickle Hines

I treat you
as I want you
to treat me
even when 
you are upset
even when
I am upset 
can have

From Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace by Anna Grossnickle Hines
2011, Henry Holt

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Word (Monday Poem)

by Emily Dickinson
A word is dead
When it is said,
       Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
        That day.

From Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson, 
edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin
1994, Sterling Publishing

Monday, June 12, 2017

Doors (Monday Poem)

by Carl Sandburg

An open door says, “Come in.”
A shut door says, “Who are you?”
Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors.
If a door is shut and you want it shut,
    why open it?
If a door is open and you want it open,
    why shut it?
Doors forget but only doors know what it is 
    doors forget.

From Poetry for Young People: Carl Sandburg, 
edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin
1995, Sterling Publishing

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Happy Happy to Dads! (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Here are several books that honor dads this month. Set aside some time to share these super stories with someone(s) you love.

Thunder Boy Jr.  
by Sherman Alexie
illustrated by Yuyi Morales           
     Thunder Boy’s name might sound unusual, but it is not. His name and his dad’s are the same. They are called Big Thunder and Little Thunder. Little Thunder loves his dad, but he has a secret: “I hate my name!” he says and “I want my own name.” He wants a name that expresses who he is. All through the pages of this book, Thunder Boy describes names that might fit him. Some of the names he mentions announce what he’s done; other names he considers value his Native American ancestry.
      However, Little Thunder wants more than a name; he wants to be identified as himself. In this digitally colored picture book, Morales uses earthy shading by scanning clay brick colors and wood textures from parts of an antique house. This technique produces sensory illustrations that weave energetically through Alexie’s story.
     An ingenious method of text use intersperses a conventional font with comic book type bubbles. Little Thunder’s sister and dog are his companions on each double page spread. These additions add humor and movement to expand the emotional depth of this tale. The seamless blend of Alexie’s and Morales’s work creates an accessible story book for young readers and listeners that addresses acceptance and identity issues.

Little Brown, $17.99
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2

Dad and the Dinosaur 
by Gennifer Choldenko
illustrated by Dan Santat
      There are many things Nick is afraid of: the dark, giant bugs, manhole covers and what might be underneath them. "His dad was not afraid of anything." Nick wants to be brave like his dad, but he thinks he needs a dinosaur mascot to make it true. With the dinosaur tucked in his pocket or hidden inside his soccer sock, Nick can climb rock walls and score astonishing soccer goals.
      But when the dinosaur is lost, everything seems creepy to Nick: "The night was black as octopus ink, giant bugs were everywhere." When Nick tells his father that the dinosaur is the brave one, his Dad takes him searching again. When they find the dinosaur, Nick is reassured, especially after hearing dad say, "It's okay to be afraid. All guys are now and then."
      The mixed-media artwork by Caldecott winner Santat makes effective use of dark and light. Particularly expressive are the nighttime scenes, as Nick's imaginary fears suggestively sneak along the bottom of the page and at the edges of his vision. The spooky, fanciful illustrations keep this tale from becoming too frightening. This whimsical story invites young readers to safely explore what it takes to be brave and what is hidden within.

Putnam, $17.99
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3

and Tango Makes Three 
by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
illustrated by Henry Cole
      In this tale -- based on a true story about a penguin family living in New York City's Central Park Zoo -- Roy and Silo, two boy penguins, are "a little bit different." They are always together, even sharing a nest like the other penguin couples. When other penguin pairs start hatching eggs, Roy brings an egg-shaped rock to their nest, and Silo carefully sits on it.
       Silo and Roy are eager and hopeful in their care. “But nothing happened.” A watchful zookeeper notices an egg in need of fostering, and places it in their nest. The devoted dads become experts, not only as the egg hatches, but caring for the hatchling as she grows.
      The watercolor illustrations for this outstanding story feature irresistible penguins with expressive faces and attention-grabbing body language. Text and pictures are well matched, allowing readers the chance to simultaneously watch and hear the story unfold.
       An author's note at the end supplies additional information about Roy, Silo, Tango, and other chinstrap penguins.

Simon & Schuster, $9.99 (paperback) $17.99 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Pre-School – Kindergarten

Monday, June 5, 2017

Polliwogs (Monday Poem)

by Kristine O’Connell George

Come see
What I found!
Chubby commas,
Mouths round,
Plump babies,
Stubby as toes.

Come see
What I found!
Huddled in puddles,
Snuggled in mud.

From The Great Frog Race and Other Poems 
by Kristine O’Connell George
1997, Clarion Books

Monday, May 29, 2017

Dreams (Monday Poem)

by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field 
Frozen with snow.

From The Dream Keeper and other poems by Langston Hughes
1932, Knopf

Monday, May 22, 2017

19 Varieties of Gazelle (Monday Poem)

by Naomi Shihab Nye

A gash of movement
a spring of flight.

She saw them then
she did not see them.

The elegance of the gazelle
caught in her breath.

The next thing could have been weeping.

Rustic brown, a subtle spotted hue.

For years the Arab poets used “gazelle”
to signify grace,
but when faced with a meadow of leaping gazelle
there were no words.

Does one gazelle prefer another
of her kind?

They soared like history
above an empty page.

Nearby, giant tortoises
were kissing.

What else had we seen in our lives?
Nothing better than 19 varieties of gazelle
running free at the wildlife sanctuary . . .

“Don’t bother to go there,”
said a man at our hotel.
“It’s too far.”

But we were on a small sandy island,
nothing was far!

We had hiked among stony ruins
to the Tree of Life.
We had photographed a sign that said
KEEP TO THE PATH in English and Arabic.

Where is the path?
Please tell me.
Does a gazelle have a path?
Is the whole air the path of the gazelle?

The sun was a hot hand on our heads.

Human beings have voices
what have they done for us?

There is no gazelle
in today’s headline.

The next thing could have been weeping . . .
Since when is a gazelle
wiser than people?

Gentle gazelle
dipping her head
into a pool of sliver grass.

From 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East 
by Naomi Shihab Nye
2005, HarperTempest

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Key Lime (Monday Poem)

by Campbell McGrath

Curiously yellow hand-grenade
of flavor; Molotov cocktail
for a revolution against the bland.

From Florida Poems by Campbell McGrath
2002, HarperCollins

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Ever-Constant Sea (Monday Poem)

by Rod McKuen

Once upon a time
loving set me free.
Free as any bird who ever heard
the wind blow in the trees.

After love had gone
I had merely me
and my only friend
the ever-constant sea.

We’ve been through it all
my old friend and me.
Summertime and fall have shown us all
the world there is to see.

So, if I love again
if love is good to me
I’ll share it with my friend
the ever-constant sea.

From Listen to the Warm by Rod McKuen
1967, Random House

Thursday, May 4, 2017

It's Fun to Say, "It's Mother's Day!" (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Although these Mother’s Day books have been on the scene since the late 1980’s, the collective delight from both children and adults in the sharing of these well-told, much-loved, beautifully written, and enchantingly illustrated stories seems never to fade away. The enduring appeal of these captivating tales is not lessened by their focus on our beloved mothers. Have fun sharing with your own beloved young ones.

The Mother’s Day Mice 
by Eve Bunting 
illustrated by Jan Brett
            Illustrator Brett dresses her characteristically appealing small animals in colorful clothing to balance author Bunting’s lively story, set on a cool early spring morning. Three brave mouse brothers set out to find the finest gifts for their mother. Their search is a dangerous one: readers see a hidden snake, a prowling fox and a swooping owl.
            The underbrush, ferns and toadstools appear large, painted skillfully to suggest a mouse’s perspective. The ripe red strawberry is large enough that Middle Mouse sets it down to take a rest. The dandelion fluff ball looms over Biggest Mouse.
            Littlest Mouse wants to get honeysuckle from the cottage where cat (midnight black with a menacing, brilliant red mouth) lies yawning. But Littlest changes his plan when he hears someone playing “Twinkle Little Star” on the piano inside. Ultimately, his gift, a song they all can sing together, is the most surprising.
            This tender story is sweet, but not syrupy. Its carefully detailed illustrations, expressive language, and the animated pleasure of the mice that delight in their thoughtful gifts make this tuneful tale an utterly satisfying picture book to share.

Clarion, $5.95 (paperback) $15.95 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Pre-School – Grade 2

Hazel’s Amazing Mother by Rosemary Wells
            Author-illustrator Wells timeless animal characters are cuddly, but still get into trouble. Hazel, the title character, is a young badger who makes a wrong turn during an errand. Three bullies, led by Doris, a large beaver, surround her and her doll, Eleanor. They knock the stuffing out of poor Eleanor, and ride the doll carriage down the hill. It splashes into the pond.
            When Hazel calls, “Mother, I need you!” the magical part of the story is set in motion. Wells’ whimsical ink and watercolor illustrations pop with color and action. Hazel wears a bright yellow shirt that makes her stand out on each page. As the bullies tease her, the sky darkens with a raincloud.
            Hazel’s mother is blown by the wind and rain across town, grasping a picnic blanket. She arrives in time to direct the bullies’ clean up.
            As the chastened bullies complete the tidying, the sun comes out and the clouds slip away. Hazel’s mother finishes the repairs on Eleanor, and they enjoy their picnic before returning home. Love powers this fantasy for young children, charming Mother and child pairs who read this cheerful picture book, daydreaming imaginative rescues of their own.

Penguin, $5.99 (paperback) $16.00 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 1

Koala Lou by Mem Fox, illustrated by Pamela Loft
            In this surprising tale, with animal characters familiar in Australia, author Fox creates a captivating book as a gift to her native country. A baby koala, loved by all (including an emu and a platypus), is loved most by her mother. “Koala Lou, I DO love you!” her mother says, again and again.
            But, as new siblings are born, her mother gets busier, and doesn’t “have the time to tell Koala Lou that she loved her. Although of course she did.”
            Koala Lou decides to enter the Bush Olympics and “compete in the gum tree climbing event.” When she wins, she imagines her mother will “fling her arms around her neck and say again, ‘Koala Lou, I DO love you!’”
            Lofts uses a bright palette, snuggly animals, and energetic movement in her illustrations. Each double-page spread is loosely arranged within a frame, although parts of the painting escape from the edges and spill across into the text. This dramatic method ties the reader intimately to the tale.
            Koala Lou begins training; jogging, lifting weights, doing push-ups; even hanging from a branch with one claw. And, of course, climbing the tallest tree she can find. “Over and over and over again.”
            Yet, in spite of her planning, and training and hoping, Koala Lou comes in second. She goes and hides, crying her heart out. When she creeps back home, her mother is waiting for her: she flings her arms around her neck, and says the words Koala Lou has been longing to hear. This warm-hearted ending to a universal wish is a memorable conclusion.
Harcourt, $7.99 (paperback) $17.99 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 1

Monday, May 1, 2017

Invitation (Monday Poem)

by Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . . 
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

From Where the Sidewalk Ends: 
the poems and drawings of Shel Silverstein
1995, HarperCollins

Monday, April 24, 2017

Where Do You Get the Idea for a Poem? (Monday Poem)

by Karla Kuskin
Where do you get the idea for a poem?
Does it shake you awake?
Do you dream it asleep
or into your tiny tin head does it creep
and pop from your pen
when you are not aware
or leap from your pocket
or fall from your hair
or is it just silently
In a beat
in a breath
in a pause
in a cry 
one unblinking eye
that stares from the dark
that is deep in your head
demanding attention
until it is written
until it is rotten
until it is anything else but forgotten
until it is read.
From Moon Have You Met My Mother?: 
The Collected Poems of Karla Kuskin,
2003, Laura Geringer Books

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Road Not Taken (Monday Poem)

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

From Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost, edited by Gary D, Schmidt

1994, Sterling Publishing

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Surprising Biographies of Amazing Creativity (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Pick up a picture book biography of someone you may never have heard of to inspire you and a young person in your life. These outstanding books introduce us to people whose lives and enrich our own, giving us models and opportunities for conversations! Have fun!

My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey 
by Lesa Cline-Ransome 
illustrated by James E. Ransome
            The story of local Liberty City Miami talent, Robert Battle, is inspiring. It celebrates the African-American experience of family, faith and art.
Only the third artistic director for the highly respected and well-loved Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Battles’ early struggles, and warmly supportive family form the framework for this strong picture book biography. He overcame the need for leg braces as a young child. Also, his experiences of the music and faith of his church community, plus his youthful practice of music, dance and martial arts, were important in preparing him for dance classes. These latter seized his heart, mind and body, giving direction to his sense of himself.
            Ransome’s pastels capture family scenes, karate, and studio practice sessions. Especially important in Battles’ experience and dramatic for his future, is the double page spread of the Ailey dancers he watched onstage. This performance was featured as a high school field trip with his after-school dance class. The colors, costumes and fluid movements of the dancers’ bodies’ in Ransome’s illustrations, partner seamlessly with (wife) Cline-Ransome’s liquid language.
            This beautifully conceived and executed life story includes a foreword with photos from Battles himself. There are also an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, bibliography, website, and further reading included at the end.

Simon & Schuster, $17.99
Interest Level: Grade 2-5

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel  
by Kathryn Gibbs Davis 
illustrated by Gilbert Ford
            George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., a civil engineer who was a designer of bridges, tunnels and roads, had a dazzling idea. He wanted to create a structure for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that would rival France’s Eiffel Tower from the previous event. Although, Ferris’ decided that his structure would move!
            He and his engineering partner, William Gronau worked on a design that used steel as a framework instead of solid walls. This innovative project was devised during a time period that tempted inventors to show off new technologies. However, George had difficulty convincing officials of its safety. Still, there was nothing else that emerged to compete with George’s design. So, officials agreed to his plan, but granted him no money to build his proposed structure.
            George tried with no success to get banks’ assistance. Since time was running short, he became persistent in getting funding, supplies, parts, and workers in place. The successfully completed Ferris Wheel became a World’s Fair sensation.
            Digital mixed media, ink and watercolor illustrations in a somewhat cartoon-like style use colors to evoke an era before electricity. Also featured is the stylized electrical magic of the new invention at night. It could be seen from miles away!
            Not a typical biography, this nonfiction picture book is fascinating, well written and researched. Sidebars enhance the story, or explain parts of the text. Sources, bibliography and websites are included at the end.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3

Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi 
by Rachel Rodriguez 
illustrated by Julie Paschkis
            Beginning with Gaudi’s early life, readers see his delight in the natural world and his involvement in his family’s business as a metalsmith. Throughout his life - he trained as an architect – he includes nature both inside and outside his creations. Several of his imaginative, playful constructions, are featured. Among these are Vicens House, Guell’s Palace, Casa Batllo, and Casa Mila.  Descriptions use inviting twists of language and are partnered with sparkling, intricate illustrations.
            The gouache artwork is colorful, flowing, wild, and beautifully strange. The storyline is similarly simple and lyrical, with crazy details that suggest Gaudi’s colorful, striking and original structures.
This picture book biography is an inviting exploration into a daring artist’s feats of elaborate creativity. An author’s note, websites, and selected bibliography are important back matter.

Henry Holt, $19.99
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 4