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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Jump or Jiggle (Monday Poem)

by Evelyn Beyer

Frogs jump
Caterpillars hump

Worms wiggle
Bugs jiggle

Rabbits hop
Horses clop

Snakes slide
Sea gulls glide

Mice creep
Deer leap

Puppies bounce
Kittens pounce

Lions stalk--
I walk!

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Song (Monday Poem)

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Thou art the soul of a summer's day,
Thou art the breath of the rose.
But the summer is fled
And the rose is dead
Where are they gone, who knows, who knows?

Thou art the blood of my heart o'hearts,
Thou art my soul's repose,
But my heart grows numb
And my soul is dumb
Where art thou, love, who knows, who knows?

Thou art the hope of my after years--
Sun for my winter snows
But the years go by
'Neath a clouded sky
Where shall we meet, who knows, who knows?

From Jump Back, Paul
The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar
by Sally Derby
2015, Candlewick Press

Monday, July 24, 2017

On the River (Monday Poem)

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The sun is low,
The waters flow,
My boat is dancing to and fro.
The eve is still,
Yet from the hill
The killdeer echoes loud and shrill.

The paddles plash,
The wavelets dash,
We see the summer lightening flash;
While now and then,
In marsh and fen
Too muddy for the feet of men,

Where neither bird
Nor beast has stirred,
The spotted bullfrog's croak is heard.
The wind is high,
The grasses sigh,
The sluggish stream goes sobbing by.

And far away
The dying day
Has cast its last effulgent ray;
While on the land
The shadows stand
Proclaiming that the eve's at hand.

From Jump Back, Paul
The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar
by Sally Derby
2015, Candlewick Press

Monday, July 17, 2017

An Explanation of the Grasshopper (Monday Poem)

by Vachel Lindsay

The Grasshopper, the grasshopper,

I will explain to you:

He’s the Brownies’ racehorse,

The fairies’ Kangaroo.

From Johnny Appleseed and Other Poems by Vachel Lindsay

1970 Macmillan

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Adventuring with Animals (FAMILY magazine reviews)

The season of summer often supplies chances for travel and new adventures. Sometimes opportunities for trips are not always available. Books like these reviewed below can offer experiences of other cultures, other creatures and other encounters. Experiment by sharing these marvelous books with those you care about!

Leo the Snow Leopard: 
The True Story of an Amazing Rescue
by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff
            The Hatkoffs are known for several nonfiction books about specific animals from several continents. Partnered with engaging photos, these unique stories offer readers opportunities to understand the survival experiences of endangered creatures.
            In this book, a brave goat herder rescues a baby snow leopard, alone in the snowy Karakoram Mountains of northern Pakistan. The orphaned baby is too young to survive on his own, and the family of the goat herder cares for him until he grows too large. As an endangered animal, the goat herder contacts the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), whose offices are located in Gilgit, to help decide where Leo should live.
            Ultimately, the decision is for Leo to make his home at the Bronx Zoo in New York, which is part of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), “a leader in keeping and breeding snow leopards.” The decision for this location requires a team of three scientists to travel from the US to Pakistan to accompany Leo on his trip to the States.
            Unfortunately, a landslide, requiring the scientists to climb over the rubble, blocked the road to the Khunjerab National Park where Leo is located. Once Leo is ready to travel, the US scientists must again carefully crawl over the fallen stones to return. This time, however, with Leo in a cage!
            This remarkable tale, accompanied by wonderful photos of a baby Leo, a playful Leo, a regal Leo; tells of the many people and organizations whose joint efforts and international teamwork made it possible for Leo to thrive. End matter includes a small map of Pakistan, information about Snow Leopards, about the Wildlife Conservation Society, about Zoos and Captive Breeding, and about Endangered Species and International Laws.

Scholastic, $17.99
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 5

Hawk Mother: 
The Story of a Red-Tailed Hawk Who Hatched Chickens
by Kara Hagedorn    
         Although chickens are usually food for hawks, the injured hawk in this story, named Sunshine “because of her bright personality,” raises two roosters from eggs to chicks to crowing adults with the author’s assistance. Injured by a bullet, the hawk meets the author, who is also a zoologist, at the wildlife center where the rescued bird is being cared for and where the zoologist works.
          The two develop a trusting relationship and become friends. Since the bird can no longer fly, human care is necessary and the author adopts the bird, and takes her home. When the hawk begins building a spring nest, it’s clear that Sunshine expects her human partner to act like a mate and help. This happens for several years, although the eggs never hatch. Yet, together the two care for the eggs. Each time the author eventually removes the eggs and tears up the nest, so the mother bird doesn’t sit all summer waiting.
          One spring, however, the author gets fertilized chicken eggs from the neighbors’ farm, exchanging them for the hawk’s infertile eggs. The two continue to incubate the eggs together. As a zoologist, she is concerned that the hawk might eat the chickens as prey. But Sunshine treats them as her own young chicks even though chicken and hawk babies look and act very different.
           The photos that accompany this heartfelt story include several from the author as well as others. Also featured is an x-ray of Sunshine’s injuries, as well as photos of nest building, incubating the eggs, caring for and feeding the chicks, and even the adult roosters. This thoughtfully told story is carefully written and engaging. Not only is it personal, its environmental message is clear without being excessive. Back matter includes a Glossary (words are bold in the text), More About Hawks, and background on Sunshine and Kara’s Story.

Web of Life Children’s Books, $16.95
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 4

Saving Yasha: 
The Incredible True Story of an Adopted Moon Bear
by Lia Kvatum, photos by Liya Pokrovskaya
           Hunters come to a den inside a hollow tree where Yasha was born. Yasha could not escape and his mother was gone. He is captured, but then two scientists rescue him, feed him a bottle of milk and lead him into the Russian forest to a little wooden house.
Two other orphaned cubs join Yasha and the two scientists, becoming a kind of family. The moon bears explore, climb, sniff out plants that are good to eat, play in the water nearby, and learn “to live in the woods.”
           The scientists wear clothing to cover their smell, and do not talk to or play with the cubs. “They wanted to make sure the cubs would grow up to live as wild bears.”
            During the winter, for six months, the cubs sleep in a den built by the scientists, and when the snow melts, the bears travel deeper into the Russian wilderness. When a tiger pursues, Yasha escapes by scrambling up a tree. This success convinces the scientists the bears are ready to roam free.
            This heartwarming picture book captures the playfulness of the moon bears by a careful matching of adorable pictures with a well-written yet daunting rescue story. Information at the back includes a map of the area that shows Yasha’s forest and explains about Yasha and Moon Bears in general. Additionally, there is a Note from the Scientist, and a page with More About Bears.

National Geographic, $16.95
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 4

Monday, July 10, 2017

Summer Poem (Monday Poem)

by Mary Oliver

Leaving the house,
I went out to see

the frog, for example,
in her shining green skin;

and her eggs
like a slippery veil;

and her eyes
with their golden rims;

and the pond
with its risen lilies;

and its warmed shores
dotted with pink flowers;

and the long, windless afternoon;
and the white heron

like a dropped cloud,
taking one slow step

then standing awhile then taking
another, writing

her own soft-footed poem
through the still waters.

From What Do We Know: Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver
2002, Da Capo Press

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