Monday, December 31, 2007
Toys Go Out is a book that I loved. It is a book I love now as an adult. And it is a book I would have loved as a kid. It stars three lovable, unique characters: Lumphy, a stuffed buffalo, StingRay, a stuffed stingray, and Plastic, a red ball. The three share adventures in and out of the Little Girl's room--and on and off the High Bed. The book is told through six short stories.
"In the Backpack, Where It is Very Dark" explores the strangeness of going to school for show and tell through the eyes of toys that DON'T know where they are going or why. Did they do something wrong? Are they on their way to the dump? Why is it so dark? And why does it smell so bad?
"The Serious Problem of Plastic-ness" focuses on Plastic's identity crisis. Told that "the truth" can be found in books...and that the books hold the answer to everything. She tries finding out what kind of animal 'Plastics' are--their natural environment, what they eat, what they do, etc. What she finds shocks her. It seems that there are no animals named plastic. In fact, it says she's artificial. What does artificial mean anyway? As Plastic explores her environment and asks probing questions, she finally realizes who and what she is.
"The Terrifying Bigness of the Washing Machine" focuses on the adventures of Lumphy, who by chance gets dirty and has to brave the washing machine, Frank. What he finds through it all surprises him.
"The Possible Shark" focuses on StingRay as she is left home from the family beach-trip because she is "dry clean only." And follows the dangerous adventures of Plastic as she experiences some of what the ocean and beach have to offer.
"How Lumphy Got On the Big High Bed And Lost Something Rather Good-Looking" focuses on Lumphy and StingRay. Lumphy has always been jealous that StingRay got to sleep on the High Bed with the Little Girl. He wants his chance to become a favorite. A bedtime essential. He begs and begs to get his chance. Can StingRay deliver? Will Lumphy get his wish? Or will he find that sometimes you don't want what you wish for after all...
"It is Difficult to Find The Right Birthday Present" focuses on all three toys as the Little Girl's birthday approaches. It's hard to find a birthday present when a) you're a toy who can't leave the house b) you have no money or no clue as to what money even is or what it can buy and c) everything in the house already belongs to the Little Girl or her family. Are gifts of the heart just as exciting to receive?
Sunday, December 30, 2007
There are not enough words to describe how much I loved Julia's Kitchen by Brenda A. Ferber. I enjoy much of what I read. I love many. But there are a few that touch my heart and I know that I'll always alwayslove. Julia's Kitchen is now one of them. It is the story of a young girl, Cara Segal, as she goes through a heartbreaking journey of grief and sorrow when her mother and sister die in a fire. When we first meet Cara she is happy and carefree. Having stayed overnight at a friend's house she is unaware that her life is forever changed. One phone call changes everything. Suddenly a happy family of four is a confused and grief-stricken family of two. Having been her mother's pet, the two liked to bake together, she is struggling trying to connect with her father emotionally. Her mother, Julia, owned her own catering business "Julia's Kitchen" and Cara loved helping her mother. Now she's vowed never to eat another dessert. Cara's journey of how she learns to live again, love again, believe in God again, and yes, even bake chocolate chip cookies again is unforgettably touching. And there is even a recipe for those cookies in the book!
Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner 2007
VOYA Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers 2006
Junior Library Guild Selection 2006
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Call me prejudiced, but anytime the word “dog” is in the title of a book, I tend to regard it with suspicion. Is this another tragic dog story that is designed solely to make you weep??? Fortunately, the reviews (not to mention the cover and flaps) soon persuaded me that this was not that kind of ‘dog’ book. No, THE YEAR OF THE DOG is clearly a book about a Chinese-American family (or to be more precise a Tiawanese-American family). The bookend events of this book is Chinese New Year. The book follows the life of a young girl, “Grace” (or Pacy) through the course of a year. Along the way she makes new friends, learns some important lessons, and learns more about who she really is. The highlight of the book for me was the character’s transformation as she begins to take pride in who she is and embraces her culture by writing and narrating a book for a contest at school. Another highlight for me--that I absolutely loved--was the storytelling nature of the book. Chapters would be interrupted as family stories were shared. I loved the whole atmosphere of this book.
The author, Grace Lin, has written several picture books. This is her first novel. “I wrote it because this was the book I wished I had growing up.” I consider The Year of the Dog an essential must-have for any collection, and a must-read for every child. It really doesn’t get better than this. And the good news??? I just discovered that there will be a sequel THE YEAR OF THE RAT coming in 2008!!!!
Monday, December 24, 2007
Hobbie, Holly. 2007. Toot & Puddle: Let It Snow.
Toot & Puddle. It's Christmas time again, and these two friends are wondering what to give the other. The two friends are different from one another, but they know each other so well. Still, like in most relationships there's that time where you really have to stop and think about what you want to do, what they would really really want to receive, and what you can do. (For example, your friend might really really want it to snow for Christmas. But you can't make it snow. No one can make it snow. It either does or doesn't.) These two piggy friends know just how to celebrate and young readers will be happy to celebrate along with them in Holly Hobbie's newest book Let It Snow.
This short little book--88 pages--would make a great holiday read aloud. The book is set in the mid-to-late forties. Our narrator, Adelaide or "Addie," is a young girl--maybe ten--who is being raised by her father and her grandmother. The story opens the week before Christmas. Addie and her best friend, Carla Mae, are chatting away about school, about their classmates, and about Christmas. There are several main keys to the plot--buying "secret santa" gifts for classmates, class parties, etc.--but the heart of this one is the uncomfortable relationship between father and daughter. Here is a girl who loves life living with a man who isolates himself, who has built a wall around his heart since his wife died. This is the story of how a father's heart was melted, and how a relationship was rebuilt. Back to the title, back to the plot, Addie's one desire is to have a Christmas tree. She feels she's the only kid in town without one. And it's not because they're "poor." Although the family isn't rich by any means. No, it is because her father is stubborn, is mean, is closed off to the idea of celebrating really celebrating the holiday again. But don't think that the father is presented as a villain through and through. Without a doubt, he's just a broken-hearted man who doesn't know how to live life without his wife, who doesn't know how to love his daughter, who doesn't know how to move forward.
I hadn't read this one in years--probably since I was in elementary school--but I am so glad I read it this year. Addie, her grandmother, her father, her best friend, and let's not forget that Billy Wild, her secret santa who gives her a heart locket! All the characters are just so memorable. This one just feels right.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Three touch-n-feel books that stand out this past year are Woof's Bedtime, Woof's Bathtime, and Woof's Snacktime. All three are by Caroline Jayne Church. (Also available although not one I received a review copy of...is Woof's Playtime. I'd imagine it would be just as charming as the other three in the series.)
If I had to pick a favorite of the three, it would be Woof's Bedtime. It had me at hello. The cover pictures a black and white dog asleep in bed with what appears to be a teddy bear. Woof is tucked in all nice and cozy with a touch-n-feel yellow blanket. If that yellow blankie isn't enough to draw you in...the first spread features a mirror. Trust me. Babies love nothing more than mirrors. Any book with a mirror is sure to be a big winner. This one's no exception. Other features include fuzzy blue socks, a lift-the-flap bedtime story, and a bedtime scene where the reader can tuck Woof in...a liftable yellow blankie. The illustrations are bright and colorful. The interactive features are just fun, fun, fun. So I definitely recommend this one.
Woof's Bathtime is also a fun treat. Interactive features include touching a "sticky" substance supposed to be bubble bath or soap...a rippled texture representing a bath brush, and a nice red touch-n-feel towel. A liftable touch-n-feel bath towel I might add. I'm sure it doesn't get past young readers that they can lift the towel up and see the dog's behind--cute tail and all. But the surefire winner of this one is once again a mirror.
Woof's Snacktime is also fun. Interactive touch-n-feel features include a tablecloth, sticky cake icing, and furry bellies on Woof and a friendly cat. This one is my least favorite of the bunch. Though I'm not sure why. Perhaps as an adult, I am more critical of white furry bellies on orange kitties, I don't know. Another detail that I noticed was out of place at least on my review copy was that the text calls for a shiny red ball. And the illustrations present a shiny blue ball. But that being said, it could just be my copy that was later corrected in other printings. A parent could easily substitute the word "blue" for "red" when reading aloud and the child would be none the wiser.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
3 books by Sam McBratney
2 books by Beatrix Potter
But LittleMiss wasn't quite satisfied with just her goodies. No, she wanted--she really, really wanted her Mama's new potholders.
And really, who could resist such bright and colorful creations? Not LittleMiss, certainly. And....wait a minute...she's not the only one....
Pilly, or Pilgrim, can't resist them either! Who could have ever guessed that homemade, quilted pot holders would be the smash of the 2007 holiday season??? Pilly and Sarah both like to chew on them. Hot pink must taste good!
Becky knew that LittleMiss' daddy loved reading the book Guess How Much I Love You to his little darlin'...so she hoped these new sequels would be much-appreciated.
LittleMiss really enjoys her new books, "Colors Everywhere" and "When I'm Big" by from Miss Becky. She loves hearing how little Nutbrown hare learns about growing up and the beautiful colors in the world around him. Normally LittleMiss' Daddy reads her stories about the little Nutbrown hare, her Mama just couldn't wait so she had to give her sneak peek.
The two books really are delightful especially if you're already a fan of Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram. In Colors Everywhere, Big and Little Nutbrown Hare discuss the colors they see around them in nature on a bright summer's day. Sky blue. Leafy green. Berry red. Flowery yellow. Nutbrown brown. And in When I'm Big, Big and Little Nutbrown Hare discuss how everything grows and changes. Tadpoles become frogs. Acorns become trees. Caterpillars become butterflies, etc. Overall, I say these two books are definitely too much fun to resist if you can't get enough of these two hares.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
I probably *should* have announced this a week or so ago. But I wanted to let everyone know that I am hosting the 7th edition of the Bookworms Carnival. I will host it at my other blog, Reading with Becky, but all big announcements will be hosted here as well.
The theme for January 2008 is
Best Books of 2007
There are several options. You could create your own "best of" list of books you've read and loved in the past year. You might want to make this a list with notes or commentary. But that isn't a requirement necessarily. Or you could submit a book review of the book you think is THE BEST of the year. Your list can be general or specific. Your focus can be looking at all books or just books about pirates in space fighting spiders. :)
The deadline for submission is January 11th.
Submissions for this carnival are by email. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com. Please use the word Bookworms AND/OR the word Carnival in your subject line. Thank you!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Thompson, Lauren. 2007. The Apple Pie That Papa Baked. Illustrated by Jonathan Bean.
Apple Pie. While reading a book about apple pie isn't nearly as delicious as actually eating a slice of apple pie, it is a treat all the same. A treat meant to be enjoyed, shared, and repeated often. The text by Lauren Thompson is simple and repetitive. The text builds upon itself, repeating line after line, and soon children will be able to join in 'reading' this book.
This is the pie, warm and sweet, that Papa baked.
These are the apples, juicy and red, that went in the pie, warm and sweet, that Papa baked.
This is the tree, crooked and strong, that grew the apples, juicy and red . . .
While the text is great. It's the illustrations that really stand out and make this one a winner. Jonathan Bean's artwork is inspired by two legends in the field of illustrators: Virginia Lee Burton and Wanda Gag. These are not your typical illustrations; these are not your typical colors. The art is thoroughly charming. I just loved the feeling these pictures evoke.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Isadora, Rachel. 2007. The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
I love fairy tales. I do. I know not everyone does. Not everyone can review a book with the same amount of enthusiasm. But what's not to love about this new retelling of a classic tale? Similar to The Princess and The Pea, also by Rachel Isadora, The Twelve Dancing Princesses is a familiar tale in an unfamiliar setting. Once again, Isadora has chosen to set her story in Africa. You'll recognize all the classic elements of the original story--the king, the daughters, the bet. "The king made it known that whoever discovered where the princesses went at night could choose a princess for his wife. If after three tries they failed, they would lose their life. Many tried and failed." This is the story of the one man who was successful and got to pick a princess for his bride. What makes this book, this series, unique is the artwork. It's rich. It's vibrant. It's detailed. It's just amazing.
Isadora, Rachel. 2007. The Princess and the Pea.
I don't know about you, but I always love a good fairy tale. I love new picture book editions of favorite stories. Each illustrator, each author, tackles the subject differently. Each has a different vision, a different imagining of the story, the characters, the setting. The Princess And The Pea uses the familiar story but places the setting in Africa. There is still a prince looking for a princess to marry. There is still the princess-who-doesn't-look-like-a-real-princess who shows up in the midst of a storm. There is still the testing by pea to see if the princess is a really real princess. There is still a happily ever after ending. But the art, the illustrations, definitely give you a different feel than what you may be used to. Most of the story, as I said earlier, is traditional. But there are three foreign words...three ways to say hello in Africa. Selam (Ethiopia; Amharic), Iska Waran (Somalia; Somali), Jambo, Habari (Kenya; Swahili). Overall, I liked this one a good deal.
Weeks, Sarah. 2007. Ella, Of Course! Illustrated by Doug Cushman.
Ella is a pig. Pigs made it big in 2007. There are piggies, piggies everywhere. Ella is a problem-solving piggy. But when Ella starts causing more problems than she solves, well, something has to be done. It all started with Ella's birthday. Her fourth birthday. Her present from her grammy? An umbrella. A blue umbrella--a sky blue umbrella with puffy white clouds. She loves everything about her umbrella. But most of all, she loves the whooshing sound it makes as it opens. She loves her umbrella so much she wants to take it everywhere with her. The problem? Umbrellas really don't belong everywhere. Especially when "everywhere" is mostly inside instead of outside. She whoosh-clicks into lamps. She whoosh-clicks into other people. She whoosh-clicks jars of honey at the grocery store. You get the idea. Ella has become a trouble-maker. Will Ella find a way to love her umbrella, to treasure her umbrella AND still be a problem-solver?
My favorite thing about Ella, Of Course! is the illustrations. Some of them are just perfect. They capture the playfulness of the text, the story. And the truth is that whether she's the cause or solution of the problems...she's one adorable little piggy.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Wheeler, Lisa. 2007. Jazz Baby. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.
I read this one months ago--probably back in the summer--and fell in love with it completely. I didn't only read it five or six times in a row. I read it aloud that many times. Sure, it's fun to read aloud to someone. But I was by myself. But I just couldn't get over how wonderful the words sounded. That doesn't always happen with picture books--even good picture books. Rhythm and sound can be tricky. And in my opinion, Jazz Baby is perfection. Jazz Baby is all about a family spending time together making sweet, sweet music. Brother's hands tap. Sister's hands snap. Itty-bitty Baby's hands clap-clap-clap! But this isn't just immediate family--no, there's plenty of room for everyone. Grandpa. Granny. Mama. Daddy. Auntie. Uncle. Cousins. They're all there. They're all having fun. They're just having the time of their lives. This is one of my favorite parts, I'm sharing it because I think it's a good example of how the text just works:
Mama swings high.Really who could resist the line "bouncin' baby boogies with a bop-bop-bop"??? The whole book just is so perfect, so right. If you love Al Perkins' Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb you're going to love this one too!!!
Daddy swings low.
Swingin'-singin' Baby says,
"Go, Man, Go!"
So they Boom-Boom-Boom
And they Hip-Hip-Hop
And the bouncin' baby boogies
with a Bop-Bop-Bop!
A reader may be born at age three, or thirteen, or thirty. That “one book” that provides the “click” moment of reading=fun could come anywhere, at any time. Be ready for it!
Wing, Natasha. 2007. Go To Bed, Monster!
I loved, loved, loved this one. I did. Consider it the playfulness of Wing's text alongside the fabulous illustrations. The book opens with Lucy, our girl heroine, not wanting to go to bed. (Familiar premise isn't it?) One night, Lucy tossed and turned. She could not, would not, did not want to go to bed. Lucy wants to draw. And she is a mighty imaginative artist as we soon find out. What Lucy draws come to life. (Think Harold & The Purple Crayon). What she draws are "an oval body. A square head. Rectangle legs. And circle eyes." But she's not done yet. What her drawing needs to be complete are triangles--small triangles--that turn these shapes into one yellow-green (or green-yellow) monster! The first thing the monster says is "Roar!" But Lucy is SO not afraid of her own creation. "You don't scare me," said Lucy. "Let's play!" So the two play together. They do many fun things--fun activities--together. I won't list them all. That might spoil the fun. But eventually, Lucy begins to get tired. She then has the monumental task of putting a monster to bed. The monster wants many things--has many excuses--that will be familiar to young children. The book is fun, playful, and just a joy to read. The day I got it, I must have read it five or six times.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Shea, Bob. 2007. New Socks.
This one is one of my favorites of the entire year. It is so new. So fun. So unique. This is what the book says about itself: Imagine the best book ever. This is better. It's about my New Socks, and it's about me. Read it. You'll like it. Curious? Our little hero, our narrator, is presumably a chick with new socks. These new socks give confidence, give greatness, give inspiration. They are some mighty powerful socks, let me tell you. Hey New Socks...I'd like you to meet someone...Wood Floor! Whoa! Isn't that just too cute, too funny??? And Watch me not be scared on the big-kids slide! In New Socks! Good job, brave New Socks, good job! I love the text; I love the illustrations. This one is truly a must-read.
Bob Shea's Site
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Polacco, Patricia. 2004. AN ORANGE FOR FRANKIE. New York: Philomel. ISBN 039924302X
Author and illustrator, Patricia Polacco is known for her outstanding picture books. With endearing books such as THE KEEPING QUILT, MRS. KATZ AND TUSH, CHICKEN SUNDAY, PINK AND SAY, and THANK YOU, MR. FALKER to her credit, her readers expect the best, and AN ORANGE FOR FRANKIE will not disappoint. Drawing again from her family history, Polacco shares the story of one memorable Christmas centering the tale on Frankie, her great-uncle who died in childhood. As the story opens, the Stowell family is eagerly waiting for the return of their father and the gifts--nine oranges--he'll be bringing back for Christmas. Meanwhile, the family is preparing their home for Christmas and even caring for those in need as they give hot food and drink to the engineer and a group of hobos traveling through the local train station. Frankie, the youngest son, sees one man in particular whose need he can fill; he gives away his warmest--and best--sweater to an old hobo. The father soon returns with oranges for all--but the oranges must be saved for Christmas. He gives his children a warning not to even think about touching the oranges he places on the mantel with the greens. Frankie, however, can't resist just one touch. Then it's off to the pageant, where Frankie plays an archangel. It is only after the pageant that he realizes that the orange--which he stuffed into his sweater to conceal it when his mother came into the room--is gone. He then confesses all. He's soon forgiven and there are enough love and oranges to go around for everyone--each of his family gives him one section of their orange tied together into one orange with a ribbon. AN ORANGE FOR FRANKIE is a wonderful Christmas story that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Chaconas, Dori. 2007. Coriander the Contrary Hen. Illustrated by Marsha Gray Carrington.
This is a fun book about a contrary hen. A hen that prides herself from being different from the crowd, of following her own rules, of doing whatever she wants as long as it's the complete opposite of what's expected, what's demanded, what's commanded. Coriander will be bossed by no one. Noticing that all the other hens had their nests in the henhouse, she decides to build her nest in the middle of the road. It just so happened that the driver of the pickup truck didn't choose to run over her. He chose to stop. Mind you, he wasn't happy about it. He was full of grumbles and complaints. So there you have it, a hen holding up the traffic on a country road. Any predictions???If you guessed that there would be a traffic jam and a lot of unhappy people...then you're good at this... Any guesses as to what happens next...well, I won't spoil it for you. But I'll tell you this much--it doesn't end up with the farming family eating fried chicken.
Umansky, Kaye. 2007. I Don't Like Gloria. Illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain.
This picture book is all about pet politics. Calvin, the dog, doesn't like the fact that his owners brought home a new pet. Gloria, the cat, has now become the center of attention. When Gloria 'provokes' Calvin--eating his food, sleeping on his bed, etc.--it is Calvin who gets in trouble. The two continue bickering until one day there's another unpleasant addition to the family--a rabbit named Jeffrey. This one is simple enough. And I liked it. I think it is plenty enjoyable. But after reading the magic that is Thank You, Bear...I'm not in love with it. For pet lovers, owners, (dog, cat, bird, rabbit, whatever) this will be a funny, true-to-life read about the adjustment period pets must go through when a new one is introduced.
Foley, Greg. 2007. Thank You Bear.
Sometimes I read a book and it's magic through and through. I just love everything about it. It just works. Such is the case with Thank You Bear by Greg Foley. It's simple. It's sweet. It's true. There is a purity about it almost. Bear, our hero, finds a little box. Something he exclaims "is the greatest thing ever!" He knows, he really knows that his friend Mouse would love this box. And so Bear begins his journey to give his friend a present. Along the way, he encounters many different animals--a monkey, an owl, a fox, an elephant, a squirrel, a bunny. Each one tells him that a box isn't that great, isn't that special, isn't much of a present, isn't much of anything really. Bear ponders this, and while he's pondering all those messages Mouse happens to find him. And guess what? Mouse sees the box and loves it. Mouse agrees with Bear that it is the greatest thing ever!!! And the book ends with a big, sincere "Thank you, Bear!!!" It says so much with so little text. I just love, love, loved it!!!
Anderson, Lena. 2007. Hedgehog, Pig, and the Sweet Little Friend. Translated by Joan Sandin.
It's always interesting to read international books, especially picture books in translation. This one comes from Sweden. Hedgehog is apparently a recurring character, but this is the first I've seen of him. While I wouldn't say this one is a wonderfully, wonderfully outstanding book that you can't do without--I will say that it's a nice, pleasant, enjoyable read. Hedgehog is dining with her good friend Pig when they hear a knock on the door. Standing there alone and afraid is a young pig who is lost and wanting her Mama. The two take her in for the night. Give her a nice, hot meal. Give her a warm and cozy place to sleep. Both reassure her that the next day they'll set out to find her mama. And sure enough, the next day the three set off for town. Their noses lead them to the piggy's mother--a baker. And all is well and good again with the world and everyone enjoys a nice sweet roll.
Cecil, Randy. 2007. Gator.
Gator was once the happiest carousel animal in the world. He loved the flashing lights, the sound of the calliope, and the feeling of wind on his face. But most of all, he loved the laughter. Gator is the story of a carousel animal that is saddened by the closing of the amusement park. His life is dull and he and his other carousel buddies are all forgotten. Gator decides to seek out a new life, a life where laughter can once again be found. His journey takes him to several places--the local duck pond, the zoo, etc. Will he ever find that joyous sound of children laughing? Is there a way to breathe new life into his old home? Read and see for yourself!
While I didn't love, love, love this one. I think it is a fun title. It was certainly enjoyable. My favorite part was when he realized that the animals were real--there were such things as real, live ducks. And to Gator's amazement they could fly!!! And of course he has to visit his real, live alligator counterparts. He finds them big and scary--unlike him in every way. So overall, I recommend this one!
Denise, Anika. 2007. Pigs Love Potatoes. Illustrated by Christopher Denise.
What's not to love about a family of potato-lovin' pigs? It all starts with one hungry little piggy. A piggy that wants a potato. But what one piggy wants, another and another and another and yet another will soon want. Soon Mama piggy is cooking ten potatoes for nine hungry piggies! Luckily, these pigs know how to help Mama best and remember to say thank you at the end of the meal! This is a fun counting book (1-10) featuring a family of piggies and their piggy neighbors.
One pig wants potatoes
So Mamma starts to cook.
Then one pig's little brother
Decides to come and look.
Now Two pigs want potatoes
And soon begin to yelp
So Mamma scolds her two pigs
And tells them they must help.
If you have a child that loves piggies, this one is a real treat!!!