Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Favorites

These are my favorite children's books I read in January of 2010.

Too Purpley. By Jean Reidy. Illustrated by Genevieve Leloup. 2010 (January 2010) Bloomsbury USA. 32 pages.
Bedtime for Mommy. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2010. (March 2010). Bloomsbury. 32 pages.
A Birthday for Bear. By Bonny Becker. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 2009. (September 2009). Candlewick Press. 56 pages.
Finn Throws A Fit! By David Elliott. Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. 2009. Candlewick Press. 32 pages.
Higher! Higher! Leslie Patricelli. 2009. [March 2009] Candlewick Press. 32 pages.
The Grasshopper Hopped. Elizabeth Alexander. Illustrated by Joung Un Kim. 2010 [January 2010]. Random House. 14 pages.
Milo Armadillo. By Jan Fearnley. 2009. (December 2009). Candlewick Press. 40 pages.
Me Hungry! By Jeremy Tankard. 2010 Board Book Edition. (February 2010). Candlewick. 34 pages.
The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy). Barbara Kerley. 2010. (January 2010). Scholastic. [Picture Book Biography/Picture Book Nonfiction] 48 pages.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Very Best Mother Goose Book Tower

The Very Best Mother Goose Book Tower. By Iona Opie. Illustrated by Rosemary Wells. 2010. (February 2010). Candlewick. 80 pages.

Earlier in the month, I reviewed Maisy's Book Tower. I started my review by asking if the product was a book or a toy! I still don't have the perfect answer for that one. Because this is really the first time that I've encounter stacking book towers. (Books meant to serve dual purposes as a book-book and stacking blocks.) We've got four books included in this set. Jack and Jill And Other Classic Rhymes. Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat And Other Animal Rhymes. Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake And Other Action Rhymes. Wee Willie Winkie And Other Lullabies.

Mother Goose can be tricky at times because there are more than a few variations to the text itself. And it can be frustrating (at times, at least for some readers) for the book to "get it wrong." For example, I got a little annoyed that "I'm A Little Teapot" is all wrong:

I'm a little teapot,
short and stout,
Here's my handle,
Here's my spout.
When the tea is ready,
hear me shout,
Pick me up and
pour me out!
Overall, I think there's a good mix of rhymes that are familiar (or familiar enough at any rate) and completely unfamiliar. Some of these are ones that I've not come across before.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Curious Baby: Music Play A Book and CD

Curious Baby: Music Play: A Book and CD. "By" H.A. Rey. 2009. (September 2009). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 10 pages.

George hears a song...

...and so can your little ones. In Curious Baby: Music Play, little ones are introduced to classical music selections from Mozart and Bach. (Three from Mozart. Two from Bach. To be precise.) The music is played by the Christy Oboe Quartet.

In addition to the music, the book offers a few quick verses about George appreciating music all day long and into the night...

High note, low note,
soft note, sweet note.
George taps along
to a gentle, rocking,
rolling song.
This book also offers tips to parents on how to "laugh, listen, and learn" with their curious babies.

Tips such as
Use your voice, by humming with the melody, to help your baby distinguish the difference between high and low notes, quick and slow notes.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, January 29, 2010

Me Hungry!

Me Hungry! By Jeremy Tankard. 2010 Board Book Edition. (February 2010). Candlewick. 34 pages.

Edwin is a little cave boy with a big appetite. But what's a growing cave boy to do when he's hungry, but his parents are too busy to feed him?! Find out in Jeremy Tankard's playful board book Me Hungry!

Me hungry!
Me busy!
Me hungry!
Me busy!
Me hungry!
Me hunt!
Can Edwin be resourceful enough to find his own snack?!

What did I love about this one? The playfulness of it. The humor. The art. I thought it just worked really well.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Higher, Higher

Higher! Higher! Leslie Patricelli. 2009. [March 2009] Candlewick Press. 32 pages.

Higher! Higher!

This one falls into the "I-can't-believe-I-haven't-reviewed-this-yet" category. It happens occasionally. I admit. I read a book. Love it. Read it to anyone and everyone I can. Brag about it to all my friends and family. And then somehow not get around to sitting down and typing up a review. Very sad when this happens. Even sadder--for me--because it means that I completely forgot to include it in my best-of-2009 posts. Because, you know, it so would have been topping the lists in the picture book category!

So, you might have guessed it already, but, I loved this one. I just didn't love it. I love, love, loved this one. Crazy about it. Think it's so clever, so right, so perfect. Loved the illustrations. Loved the simplicity of the text. The predictable genius of it all. A little girl. With her dad. Swinging on the swings. And loving every minute of it. (Loved the twist of this one too!)

This one almost begs to be read over and over again. And you know what, it holds up to multiple rereadings. You might even notice new things (in the illustrations, not the text) each time. Though this could just be me being slow to catch all the clever things hidden in plain sight.

I'm so happy to see this one will be a board book soon.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

All the World

All The World. By Liz Garton Scanlon. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 2009. [September 2009] Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.



A moat to dig,
a shell to keep

All the world is wide and deep

All the World won a Caldecott Honor this year. All the World is all about the imagery. Using a few words, a few rhymes to make it's point. I would say the book is more an illustrated poem than a traditional story book. Is this good or bad? Well, it depends on the reader. (As it always does. In my opinion, no book is quite so subjective as the picture book genre.) What is the reader looking for? Can the reader appreciate the poem? The imagery the poem uses? The rhythm and rhyme of it? If so, then, yes, All the World is quite a winner. (I'll admit, it reads better if you read it aloud then it does if you just read it silently). If not, then it falls a bit flat.

The illustrations. Did I love them? No, I didn't love them. Love as in think they were the best illustrations ever. But I did like them. I liked the feel of them. There is a bit of a retro feel. Some spreads are quite dramatic and powerful. Others are more quiet, more subdued. I really enjoyed some of these spreads quite a bit.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Lion and the Mouse

The Lion & The Mouse. Jerry Pinkney. 2009. [September 2009] Little, Brown. 40 pages.

Who, who, whooo

A mostly wordless picture book that happened to win the Caldecott this year. Is there a fair way to review a mostly wordless picture book? I'll try my best. This one is a telling of the Aesop's fable of the same name. A story that shows a lion being merciful to a mouse--by sparing his life, and a mouse returning the favor and being merciful right back by saving the lion's. Is it a story that particularly needs a lot of words? Maybe, maybe not. I think a certain familiarity with the story is helpful with this one going into it. But that could just be me. (On a side note, how familiar are kids today with Aesop's fables? Are they still being read or taught?)

Did I like it? Not all that much. But that really isn't so surprising. I so rarely "like" Caldecott winners. Do I think Pinkney's talented? Yes! Of course! But this particular book isn't quite my style.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Down, Down, Down

Down, Down, Down: A Journey To The Bottom of the Sea. By Steve Jenkins. 2009. [May 2009]. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages.

Can a book take you on a journey? This one can. (If you let it that is.) It will take you places where very few have gone. Jenkins takes readers on a journey into the depths--the dark depths--of the ocean.

Each spread offers readers information in an appealing and easily accessible way.

Glowing in the Dark

Nine of every ten animals live beneath the sunlit layer of the ocean are bioluminescent (by-oh-loo-muh-nes-uhnt) - they can produce their own light. Animals use bioluminescence to lure prey, confuse or startle attackers, or make themselves difficult to see. Animals also use light to attract a mate or send messages to one another. Because the ocean is so large and so many animals live here, bioluminescence is the most common form of animal communication on earth. Only the slightest glimmer of sunlight reaches this depth, and only animals with extraordinary sensitive eyes can detect it.

What an amazing book this is. The thing is if you'd asked me before I started it how interested I was in the ocean, in finding out more about ocean life, I would say not all that much. But reading this one, well, it made me interested, it made me curious. I'm so glad I read this one!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Curious Baby: My Curious World

Curious Baby: My Curious World. "By" H.A. Rey. 2009. [September 2009]. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 10 "pages".

Is it a toy? Is it a book? Is it a bumper for your crib? That's for you to decide I suppose. Or for your little one to decide as the case may be. (Whether it goes in the book basket or the toy one.)

This "book" is cloth--it makes a nice scrunchy, crinkly sound too--and has a friendly message that you can share with your little one. A message about being a curious baby. It also has a mirror on one of its "pages."

The illustrations are done in Rey's classic style. Which is something that I can appreciate. Love the mirror, because babies *do* love to look at themselves and 'play.' Love the crinkly sound. Love the versatility of this one as well. Baby can do whatever he/she wants. Grabbing its soft pages, etc.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, January 22, 2010

Maisy's Book Tower

Maisy's Book Tower. Lucy Cousins. 2010. [February 2010]. Candlewick. 80 pages.

Is it a book? Is it a toy? That may be something your little one will have to decide for him/herself. This book tower is made of 4 chunky books. Think wee little board books. Little board books that are relatively close to actual-block size*. We have Maisy's Favorite Things, Maisy's Favorite Animals, Maisy's Favorite Toys, Maisy's Favorite Clothes. Each chunky book is 20 pages. Each page has a word/picture. So in Maisy's Favorite Things we learn that Maisy likes milk, juice, cake, jell-o, and flowers.

*If they'd made books this size when I was growing up I would have been oh-so-happy. These would so be books for Barbie. Well, not Barbie herself. But think Heart Family, Happy Family, or Kelly Dolls.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bring Me Some Apples And I'll Make You A Pie

Bring Me Some Apples And I'll Make You A Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis. Robbin Gowley. 2009. [January 2009]. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages.

Whippoorwill! calls the little gray bird. Whippoorwill! Whipporwill! The melody echoes through the quiet woods and wends its way down the hill to the just-waking farm. This is the sound Edna's been waiting for all winter long.

Who was Edna Lewis? She was a pioneering chef, teacher, mentor, and cookbook author. What Bring Me Some Apples And I'll Make You A Pie does is present a young child enthusiastic, passionate about food, about cooking, about family. It's a charming little picture book that presents an intimate look at Southern life. We get to "see" the seasons through small-but-eager eyes as various foods (fruits, vegetables) are planted, grown, harvested, and enjoyed by one and all. It's a celebration of love, of life, of family, and, yes, a celebration of food--natural food--too.

Edna plucks garden-warmed tomatoes from a vine heavy with fruit and places them in Mama's outstretched apron. "Southern dirt mixed with southern sun makes a right sassy tomato," Mama says. "My favorite lunch above all is a tangy tomato sandwich."

Sugar baby watermelons ripen in the fields. As the sun sets, the family gathers round, and Daddy plugs the melons till he finds a perfect one.
"Melons are just like friends," Granny says. "Gotta try ten before you get a good one."
Everyone savors the crisp, cool, juicy slices. The children spit the seeds as far as they can.
Daddy says, "Save some of those seeds to plant for new melons."
Between slurps, Edna says, "Save the rinds! We'll make watermelon pickle."

Can't you almost taste the food? Aren't the descriptions just right? Not many picture books make me hungry, but this one sure does! Good thing it includes some recipes: strawberry shortcake, corn pudding, apple crisp, pecan drops, and nut-butter squares.

You can find out more about Edna Lewis by watching this twenty minute documentary, Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie.

Here is an interview with her:

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Alex and Lulu: Two of A Kind

Alex and Lulu: Two of A Kind. Lorena Siminovich. 2009. [March 2009] Candlewick Press. 32 pages.

Alex and Lulu are best friends. They love to stop on their way home from school and play in the park. On sunny days, they just can't get enough running, jumping, and swinging.

While this dog-and-cat pair love to do a few things together, these two friends also have their differences. There are some things that Lulu loves that Alex just doesn't. And vice versa. So will these differences come between them? Alex worries that they might be too different from one another to be friends, best friends. Luckily, Lulu is able to reassure him, convince him that they can be best friends no matter what. That their differences are a good thing in fact.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

February Friend

Calendar Mysteries #2: February Friend. Illustrations by John Steven Gurney. 2009. [December 2009] Random House. 80 pages.

"I love Valentine's Day," Bradley Pinto told his twin brother. They were walking to school. Both boys had green caps pulled down over their red hair.

Douglas has been abandoned. Mr. Vooray's first graders found him in the closet. Poor Douglas! No wonder he's scared and confused. No wonder he doesn't want to eat or drink. It's a sad, sad world when rabbits can turn into mysteries waiting to be solved. Bradley and friends have the privilege of taking this unexpected-and-new class pet home with them for the weekend. But it's all so overwhelming for Douglas that the vet gives the kids bad news. His owner needs to be found. And fast. That is this rabbit's best chance. By using three photographs included in the box along with the rabbit and his cage (and food) can these four friends solve the mystery in time?

The first in the series is January Joker.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: The Champion of Children

The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak. By Tomek Bogacki. 2009. [September 2009]. FSG. 40 pages.

On a rainy day in 1889, a boy wandered the streets of Old Town in Warsaw, Poland. The people he saw were very poor, and they all looked hungry. Many of them were homeless children dressed in rags. The boy wished he could do something to help them. If he were king--and he imagined himself on a white horse--he would create a better world for these children, a world where no one suffered. This is the story of Janusz Korczak, a remarkable man who dedicated his life to helping children.

In this beautifully illustrated picture book biography, readers are introduced to the life and work of Janusz Korczak. It's definitely a book for older readers. (Not a picture book you'd grab for story time.)

What did I like about this one? Well, I thought the illustrations were amazing. They really drew me into this one. And the story itself while heartbreaking is oh-so-compelling. I mean it is the story of a child growing up with a dream... realizing that dream...and following it through to the oh-so-bitter end. It's a bittersweet story no doubt. Because the world isn't fair. Because not everyone gets happy endings. But it's an inspirational story as well of a man who dedicated his life to others. The book sums it up like this, "his insistence that children have the right to be loved, educated, and protected has continued to inspire people all over the world."

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, January 16, 2010

January Joker

Calendar Mysteries #1: January Joker. By Ron Roy. Illustrations by John Steven Gurney. 2009. [December 2009] Random House. 96 pages.

Bradley Pinto sat up in bed. His red hair was flat on one side. He blinked and rubbed his sleepy brown eyes.

Bradley and Brian Pinto team up with two friends, Nate Hathaway and Lucy Armstrong, to solve a mystery in this new series called Calendar Mysteries. These children (first-graders, I believe) all happen to be related (in one way or another) to the kids in the A to Z Mysteries also by Ron Boy. (I've never read an A to Z Mystery, by the way.) What is this mystery they're trying to solve. Well, it's about aliens and UFOs and abductions. The Pinto's dog and pony have turned up missing...along with all the older kids (Dink, Josh, Ruth Rose) who are supposed to be watching them while their parents are out for breakfast. Can these four youngsters solve the case without having to call the police?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Grasshopper Hopped

The Grasshopper Hopped. Elizabeth Alexander. Illustrated by Joung Un Kim. 2010 [January 2010]. Random House. 14 pages.

The grasshopper hopped into the pot,
only to find that the soup was too hot!
The grasshopper hopped out of the pot.
He had to find a cooler spot.

Hippity-hop, hippity-hop

In this rhyming adventure, readers meet a grasshopper who's hopping places he has no business hopping. (That pot of soup isn't the most dangerous either place either.) Where does this grasshopper belong? Will he find the right place to be?

This interactive picture book offers readers the opportunity to 'play' with the grasshopper. The reader can make the grasshopper hop on each page by manipulating tabs.

This one has a repetitive refrain which is a good thing. It means that readers can join in on the action if they want.

I think it is a simple story that offers a bit of fun as well.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lawn to Lawn

Lawn to Lawn. Dan Yaccarino. 2010. [January 2010] Random House. 40 pages.

"I can't wait to move to our new home!" said Pearl.
Betty, Flo, Norm, and Jack weren't so sure. They'd never even left the yawn before. But they all loved Pearl, and where she went, they wanted to go too.

I've enjoyed some of Dan Yaccarino's work in the past. (I loved Every Friday, and thought Go, Go America was just fun). But. I didn't care for this one. Not the art. Not the story. It just didn't work for me. Maybe it's a personal thing--a story about lawn ornaments and decorations that come to life and travel cross country may not creep out the average reader. You see, Betty, Flo, Norm, and Jack are lawn decorations. And Lawn to Lawn is like The Incredible Journey for lawn ornaments. These abandoned (and maybe abandoned for a reason*) objects want to make their way to Pearl and her new home. It requires you to a) easily suspend your disbelief and b) not be creeped out by the whole premise. I wasn't able to do either. But maybe you can.

*Perhaps Pearl's parents noticed their daughter acting strange and getting *too* cozy with the lawn art.

NOTE: I showed this one to my mom. She actually liked it. She thought it was funny. She was actually laughing out loud as she read it. So clearly, this book has the potential to please some readers out there!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nate The Great And The Hungry Book Club

Nate The Great and the Hungry Book Club. By Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat. Illustrated by Jody Wheeler. 2009. (November 2009) Random House. 64 pages.

My name is Nate the Great. I am a detective. My dog, Sludge, is a detective too.

Believe it or not, this is my very first Nate the Great book. And I liked it. Nate the Great has not one but two mysteries to solve in this one. Both about books. His friend, Rosamond, has a problem. She discovered it after one of the meetings of her book club. Her cook book--that she uses to prepare tasty treats for the club meetings--is missing a page. It was "torn, ripped, ruined." (Sad, sad start isn't it?) So Rosamund invites (Nate may say forces) him to attend her next book club meeting to see if he can solve the mystery. Is one of her book club members at fault? And if so, who did it? And why? This next meeting leads to a second mystery. Another missing page from another book? What is going on here? Is it the same culprit at work? Will Rosamond's books ever be safe again?

It was fun. It was cute. I especially loved listening in on the discussion of the book club as they read (and discussed) Harvard Hedgehog.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Birthday for Bear

A Birthday for Bear. By Bonny Becker. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 2009. (September 2009). Candlewick Press. 56 pages.

Swish! Swish! Swish! Bear dusted his shelves. Whisk! Whisk! Whisk! Bear swept his floor. He was very, very busy today. Bear was always very, very busy on his birthday.

How many chapters will it take for one persistent little Mouse to win his best friend Bear over to the ideas of celebrating his birthday? Any guesses? It takes a lot of effort on his part. But will it be worth it? Can Mouse and Bear have the best birthday ever?

I loved this one. It was great fun. I loved some of Mouse's tricks and schemes. Of course, these were all done with the most loving of intentions. How does Mouse operate? Well, I'll show you.

"Happy birthday, Bear!" cried Mouse.
"It's not my birthday," lied Bear.
"But it says so right here," said Mouse, waving a party invitation.
"Let me see that!" demanded Bear.
He peered at the card. It read:

Dear Mouse,
Come to Bear's birthday
at Bear's house today!
Balloons and presents
and birthday cake.

"This is your handwriting!" protested Bear. "You wrote it."
"Did I?" asked Mouse, most innocently.

So you see, Mouse has quite a big task ahead of him. Can he do it?

This one is a sequel to A Visitor for Bear. (Though you don't need to have read it in order to enjoy this one.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, January 11, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Tarra & Bella

Tarra & Bella. The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends. By Carol Buckley. 2009. (September 2009). Penguin. 32 pages.

Meet Tarra, the elephant, and Bella, the dog who won her heart.

This is a sweet story--a true story at that--about friendship. Who would have thought--who could have known that a dog could be best friends with an elephant? Tarra and Bella live at an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.

What did I love about this one? Besides the sweet story I mean? Well, I loved the photographs. They are the heart and soul of this one.

In addition to the story--which has appeal for elephant lovers of all ages--we also have the opportunity to learn more about elephant sanctuaries.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Milo Armadillo

Milo Armadillo. By Jan Fearnley. 2009. (December 2009). Candlewick Press. 40 pages.

When it was nearly Tallulah's birthday, her parents asked her what she would like for a present.
"I want a pink fluffy rabbit," said Tallulah.
You'd think it would be easy to find a pink fluffy rabbit.
But it wasn't.

This one has charm on its side. Granted, it wasn't love at first sight. (Much like Tallulah's experience, mind you). But by the end, this one had me hooked. It's a book-with-a-lesson, in a way, but it isn't a lesson that hits you in the head over and over again either. If I had to sum it up, it would be by quoting a Rolling Stones song--and how often does that happen in a picture book review I wonder?!--

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need

So, back to the book, what is this one about? Well, it's about Tallulah, the little girl, not getting a pink fluffy rabbit. Instead Tallulah gets a homemade gift (and knitted at that) from her Grandma. She asks for a rabbit, but well, mistakes were made along the way, and the result is a creature that looks more like an armadillo than a rabbit. Can a little girl learn to love-and-appreciate this oh-so-lovingly-handmade toy? Or will her heart always yearn for that old pink fluffy bunny?

This one reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in Arthur's Perfect Christmas. The one where D.W. *almost* melts down because she didn't get Tina-the-Talking-Tabby. Disappointments are part of growing up. And this little book about how-it-can-all-work-out feels right to me.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Perfect Gift

The Perfect Gift. By Mary Newell Depalma. 2010. (January 2010). Scholastic. 32 pages.

Little Lorikeet found something that the larger lorikeets had missed! "I will take this to my grandma," She thought. But it was not easy.

It definitely wasn't easy. This little bird has the toughest time trying to bring the luscious, red, ripe strawberry to her grandmother. When it falls into the water, all seems lost. But with a little help from some new-friends, Lorikeet keeps on keeping on. She perseveres. Determined that she just has to have a gift--the perfect gift--for her grandma. She doesn't want to visit her and not have something to give her. What's a bird to do when all seems lost? Can she find a new perfect gift?

This one has a crocodile. I was being oh-so-silly and completely didn't catch the foreshadowing of the cover! So I was VERY surprised at the turn of events. Luckily, Lorikeet made the right choice.

How often do you miss the obvious? Are you good at picking up clues? Or am I the only silly one out there?!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'm Number One

I'm Number One by Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Bob Graham. 2009. (December 2009). Candlewick Press. 32 pages.

"I'm A-One," said A-One.
"I'm BIG A-One.
Let me tell you:
A-One rules.
A-One is number one...

See the toy soldier? He's one big (but silly) bully. He loves to boss the other toys around. He loves to make them feel small and worthless. Is there a way that they can turn the tables around? Make him realize how un-fun he is being? Is there a way for this bully-of-a-soldier to make nice with the other toys?

I didn't much care for A-One. At all. I almost almost felt like calling Sid. Not really. Even bad toys deserve a second chance, right? Maybe? This is a book about what-not-to-do-if-you-want-to-have-friends. Being a bully just isn't right.

What did I think of this one? Well, it wasn't quite for me. But that's okay. It may be right for you.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Finn Throws A Fit

Finn Throws A Fit! By David Elliott. Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. 2009. Candlewick Press.

Finn likes peaches.

Brilliant from cover to cover. This one is perfect, just perfect. A true been-there-felt-that kind of book just right for parents (and all adults really who've ever been around young children). What is this one about? Finn. Throwing. A. Fit. Not just a little fit. A managed fit. This is a full-blowout-need-back-up-fast kind of fit.

Today, Finn is cranky.
Anything could happen.
Thunder in the nursery!
Lightning in the kitchen!

All of the book works, the text just feels right. But my favorite-and-best line that just works oh-so-well (and makes me grin) is this one:

It lasts until it doesn't.

That is just so-very-very true. Anyway, I loved this book. Just loved it. And I think you'll enjoy it too!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bedtime for Mommy

Bedtime for Mommy. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2010. (March 2010). Bloomsbury. 32 pages.

Time for bed, Mommy!

This bedtime book is practically perfect in every way. It's written by one of my very favorite authors, Amy Krouse Rosenthanal. It's also illustrated by one of my very favorite illustrators, LeUyen Pham. What is it about? Well, it's about a little girl who puts her mommy to bed. Everything from reminding her that it's getting time for bed, to making sure she's taken her bath and brushed her teeth. It's a sweet book; a cute book; an again-again book. It isn't the first picture book to reverse roles or to put a twist on the traditional bedtime story, but everything is so well done it goes straight to my favorite-and-best list.

I love, love, love the illustrations in this one. Pham takes a fun concept, a fun premise, and makes it work really, really well. I love how both the mom and the daughter are drawn. The way these two interact with each other, their scenes are just perfect, just right.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, January 4, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: The Extraordinary Mark Twain

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy). Barbara Kerley. 2010. (January 2010). Scholastic. Picture Book Biography/Picture Book Nonfiction).

According to Susy, people were...well, just plain wrong about her papa. They thought they knew Mark Twain--after all, he was a world-famous author, quoted here, there, and everywhere. Thousands of people had read his books and attended his lectures.
People probably thought they were Mark Twain experts.
But they were wrong, and Susy was "annoyed." Greatly.

Wow. What a way to start the new year! A great--really quite amazing--picture book biography about a very interesting writer, a very funny writer, Mark Twain. And it's written by the oh-so-talented Barbara Kerley. I had very high expectations for this one. And I wasn't disappointed.

So what is it about? It is about Mark Twain, obviously. It is about how his daughter--his then thirteen year old daughter--decided to write a biography of her father. Her observations, her thoughts, how she knew and loved him. Conversations they had together. The life they shared together as a family.

There were so many things I loved about this one. The subject. (I may have discovered Twain quite late in my life--didn't meet him until adulthood--but it's one of my goals to read more Twain.) The presentation and style. Very reader-friendly. Very appealing to the eyes and the ears. The illustrations were so bright, so bold, so appealing. (At least to me.) They definitely helped draw me into the story. The use of primary source materials. How easy it was--as a reader--to know which was which. What parts of the story were drawn from actual quotes from Mark Twain and his daughter Susy.

What I loved the very, very most about this one was that each page--or most pages at least--had a little "journal" to open up and read. These journal sections contain actual entries from Susy's biography. In her own words--in her own way--despite the misspellings--she's able to convey what her father was really like in a way that no one else ever could.

The amount of work, the details, that went into this one just amazed me. It made me want to know more. I think it is both kid-friendly AND teacher-friendly. (For example, she has a sheet on how children can write "an extraordinary biography" of their own.)

Definitely recommended!!!

Source of book: Review copy provided by publisher.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Where Teddy Bears Come From

Burgess, Mark. 2009. Where Teddy Bears Come From. Illustrated by Russell Ayto. Peachtree Press. 32 pages.

In the middle of a deep, dark forest, all the creatures were fast asleep except for a little gray wolf, who tossed and turned and couldn't sleep a wink.

I *really* meant to have this one reviewed for Christmas. I read it. I shared it with a couple of friends. I talked about it with my family. But. It didn't get reviewed in time. Instead of pushing it completely aside, I thought I would go ahead and review it now.

What is this one about? And why should you read it? Why should you make it a part of your holiday season next year? It's about a little wolf who has trouble sleeping. He realizes after hearing a couple of bedtime stories that maybe-just-maybe having a teddy bear could help him out, help him to settle down and sleep peacefully. So he asks his mom where teddy bears come from. She sends him on a journey, a quest. She sends him to the Wise Owl who knows everything. And the Wise Owl sends him...well, I won't tell you just where he goes and who he sees...Will this wolf's quest end in success?

I really enjoyed this one because it has plenty of twists. Of course, if I tell you about those twists now, it would spoil your fun in discovering this one on your own. But trust me, it's a fun, fun story.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Animal Crackers Fly the Coop

Animal Crackers Fly the Coop written and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley. (March 2010). 2010. 40 pages. Bloomsbury (Walker) 40 pages.

Hen loved to tell jokes. Jokes like Why did the chicken go to the library? To check out a bawk, bawk, bawk.

This one is a retelling of the Brementown Musicians. Hen and her friends (a dog, a cat, a cow) want to be comedians. They want to make it big. Do these run away animals stand a chance in the real world? Do they have what it takes? Read for yourself in this joke-filled adventure.

Expect a thousand-and-one puns in this one. Not that it isn't fun. It is. Just expect jokes here, there, and everywhere.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, January 1, 2010

Too Purpley

Too Purpley. By Jean Reidy. Illustrated by Genevieve Leloup. Bloomsbury USA. 32 pages.


The heroine of this fun little picture book is a little girl who isn't quite sure what she wants to wear...but she sure knows what she DOESN'T want to wear. As she tries on dozens of outfits, each one has something wrong with it...

Too purpley,
Too tickly,
Too puckery,
Too prickly.

Will this pig-tail-loving little heroine ever find clothes that are just right to wear? I loved this one. (It could be that I'm partial to pig-tails. But I think it goes much deeper than that.) This one is fun and colorful. Getting dressed can be a struggle between parents and children, and this scenario feels right to me. It's something that I think people can relate to.

I just love, love, love the fun illustrations. So bright, so bold, so colorful, so very right. They complement the story so well.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers