Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Favorites

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

Sunday Is For God. By Michael McGowan
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.
Kiss Kiss by Selma Mandine.
Silly Little Goose by Nancy Tafuri.
Wow It's A Cow! By Trudy and Jay Harris
You're Lovable To Me. Kat Yeh.
Captain Small Pig. Martin Waddell.
The Very Little Princess. Marion Dane Bauer
Doodle Bites. A Tilly and Friends Book. Polly Dunbar.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Morris Goes To School

Morris Goes To School. B. Wiseman. 1970. HarperCollins. 64 pages.

Morris the Moose wanted candy. He went to the wrong store. The man in the store said, "We don't sell candy. Can't you read?" Then he showed Morris the candy store.

Has Morris gotten any smarter since his last adventure? Or is he still a silly not-so-little moose? Is wanting candy enough reason to want to go to school to learn to read and count? It is for Morris! So he tries out school. For one day. Will it be enough to master what he needs to know?

I liked this one growing up. It is silly. It is so obviously silly that it works.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Morris the Moose

Morris the Moose. B. Wiseman. 1959. HarperCollins. 32 pages.

One day Morris the Moose saw a cow. "You are a funny-looking moose," he said.
"I am a cow. I am not a Moose!" said the cow.
"You have four legs and a tail and things on your head," said Morris.
"You are a moose."

Are you familiar with Morris the Moose? He's been around awhile. I didn't grow up with this one, but I did know Morris Goes To School.

Morris the Moose is about a moose who is convinced that any creature with four legs, a tail, and "things" on its head, must be a moose. Silly logic. Reminds me of one of my favorite Veggie Tales Silly Songs, the Monkey song.

If you (or your little one) like silly books then this one might be for you!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 26, 2010

You're Lovable To Me

You're Lovable To Me. Kat Yeh. Illustrated by Sue Anderson. 2009. [December 2009]. Random House. 32 pages.

It had been a big day. It had been a hard night.

This Mama Bunny sure does have her hands full! What's a Mama to do with all her misbehaving bunnies? After all, they are sorry at the end of the day. You're Lovable To Me is another picture book about unconditional love, about parents loving their children no matter what. Mama reassures her bunnies, her babies, that they are loved always and forever. But who's there to reassure Mama? Why her Papa of course! This unexpected twist was so clever, so sweet.

When Grandpa came for evening tea,
he found a sleepy sight.
He smiled and got a blanket
and kissed Mama on the head.
He looked at her a long time,
and this is what he said....

Anyway, it's a cute book with a sweet message.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Good Night, Tiptoe

Good Night, Tiptoe. By Polly Dunbar. 2009. [October 2009] Candlewick. 32 pages.

Hector yawned. Tilly yawned. Everybody yawned! Everybody except Tiptoe.

Doodle Bites and Good Night, Tiptoe conclude the six book series, Tilly and Friends. The series is by Polly Dunbar. And it's easily become one of my favorites since I discovered them last year. (You can read my reviews of the first four: Hello Tilly, Happy Hector, Where's Tumpty and Pretty Pru. I reviewed Doodle Bites just yesterday.) Tilly, our young heroine, lives with her five friends (all animals, by the way) in her yellow house. Each adventure has focused on one of the characters, one of the friends. And yes, while they are a series, and they all complement one another well, you can read them in any order.

In Good Night, Tiptoe, it's bedtime. Everyone but Tiptoe seems to get this. That the time has come to go to bed, to go to sleep. But Tiptoe doesn't want to go to bed. He's just not sleepy. As Tilly tries her best to put him to sleep, to get all of her friends ready for bed, she realizes that Tiptoe might have the right idea after all!

These books are so fun, so playful, so delightful, so charming, so sweet, so right. I have just love, love, loved reading them all. Tilly and her friends have become my friends. I think the characters have been done so well, so authentically. I definitely recommend the whole series!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Doodle Bites

Doodle Bites. A Tilly and Friends Book. Polly Dunbar. 2009. [October 2009] Candlewick. 32 pages.

Doodle woke up feeling bitey! After she had chomped her breakfast, she chewed the mail. She even crunched and munched on the sofa. While she was nibbling the lamp, Doodle spied something very good to bite.

Tilly has her quite a job to do in this one! Keeping the peace in the household when one of her friends is feeling bitey! Can she do it?! Read and see for yourself in one of Tilly's latest adventures. Who is Tilly? Who are her friends? Well, Tilly lives with her five friends (her animal friends). There's Doodle, of course, Tumpty, Pru, Hector, and Tiptoe. Each friend has their own book. But the great news is that you can read the books in any order. (You can read my reviews of Hello Tilly, Happy Hector, Where's Tumpty and Pretty Pru.)

Tears abound in this one. But peace may just be accomplished in the end.

What did I love about this one? Oh so much! I just love, love, love Polly Dunbar's Tilly and Friends series. They are such great books. They're cute. They're funny. They're charming. And each character has a chance to shine! I have really come to love each character.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Feeling Like A Pig

Do you have a favorite pig? Favorite literary pig that is! I have really come to love Olivia. But I haven't checked out the books yet. If You Give A Pig A Pancake is a super-fun choice as well. (Though I haven't reviewed it here yet.) And I'm really curious about Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson series. And then there are Mo Willem's Elephant and Piggie books! So there are many more pigs in my future...but here is a look at my current pigliography...

All Pigs Are Beautiful by Dick King-Smith
Princess Pig by Eileen Spinelli
Little Oink by Ay Krouse Rosenthal
I'm A Pig by Sarah Weeks
Cherry the Pig by Utako Yamada
Captain Small Pig by Martin Waddell
Me and You by Genevieve Cote
Happy Hector by Polly Dunbar
Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke
Ella, Of Course! by Sarah Weeks
Let It Snow by Holly Hobbie
I'll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie
Pigs Love Potatoes by Anika Denise
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith

Which pig books should I add to my to be read list? I'd love to hear about your choices!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Footprints On the Moon

Footprints On the Moon by Mark Haddon. Illustrated by Christian Birmingham. 2009. [March 2009] Candlewick Press. 32 pages.

Years ago there was a little boy who had the solar system on his wall.

A little boy imagines (or dreams) that he is part of the historic moon landing in 1969. That's a quick little summary of this picture book by Mark Haddon. That 'little boy' is the author. And the book is based on his recollections of what it was like--really like--to be growing up during this time. What it was like to watch the moon landing. What it was like to see men walk on the moon. What it was like to dream big dreams. Here's a bit of text to give you an idea of the writing style:

He borrowed library books and read about how astronauts had orbited the earth and walked in space and how they'd flown around the moon itself. And every night he hoped and hoped that one day they would find a way to land and walk across the tiny world where he had dreamed of walking.

And eventually, one cloudless night, they did.
This one was originally published in 1996 in the UK. It was reprinted in the US by Candlewick in 2009.

The illustrations were probably my favorite part of this one. (I thought that the text was a little heavy in some places.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11. By Brian Floca. 2009. [April 2009]. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages.

High above
there is the Moon,
cold and quiet,
no air, no life,
but glowing in the sky.

Here below
there are three men
who close themselves
in special clothes,
who--click--lock hands
in heavy gloves,
who--click--lock heads
in large, round helmets.

Told in verse, Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 is a kid-friendly look at this historic event: man's first trip to land on the moon. Written and illustrated by Brian Floca, it is an impressive book, no doubt. (It received a Sibert Honor.) I wasn't expecting it to be in verse. I would say that was a pleasant surprise for me. I had my doubts that it could work, and there were a few places, I admit, where I thought it didn't quite work as well as others. But overall, I was pleased with this one.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Good Night, Little Bunny

Good Night, Little Bunny: A Touch and Feel Bedtime Story. Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Sam Williams. 2010. [January 2010] Simon & Schuster. 12 pages.

Stars are shining brightly. The moon is overhead. Come, little bunny. Now it's time for bed.

This little bunny is getting ready for bed. It's time for pajamas, teeth-brushing, and bedtime-story-reading. And let's not forget the all-too-important kiss goodnight. There is nothing out of the ordinary about this bedtime board book. It's got cute illustrations in soft and gentle colors. The text rhymes a bit. It does have touch-and-feel elements on each page. Which is nice.

Text previously published as Bedtime for Bunny. The illustrations are new.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'm A Pig

I'm A Pig. Sarah Weeks. Illustrated by Holly Berry. 2005. HarperCollins. 32 pages.

I'm a pig, I'm a pig,
and I don't give a fig
if you call me a pig,
'cause that's what I am.
I'm a pig, I'm a pig...

Our little pig is so so happy to be what she is, a pig. It's a celebratory picture book about being yourself, about loving life. It's a cute book. A bit silly perhaps. But fun. I'm not completely sure the rhymes always work, or that the rhythm always work, but for the most part I think it does. I just love the illustrations!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Captain Small Pig

Captain Small Pig. Martin Waddell. Illustrated by Susan Varley. 2010. [March 2010] Peachtree Press. 32 pages.

One day Old Goat and Turkey took Small Pig down to Blue Lake. They found a little red boat. "I want to go for a row!" Small Pig said, dancing about. "Turkeys don't go in boats," Turkey said. "Neither do goats," said Old Goat, but he climbed into the boat, and they rowed off onto Blue Lake.

Small Pig is off for a day of fun. A day of adventure. A day of new experiences. With two good friends by his side. Turkey. Old Goat. Small Pig. A day with such possibilities! A day Small Pig will never forget!

As the adventure unfolds, readers are introduced to some colorful characters. Grumpy Turkey who always has to complain. About every little thing. (I think I've been around some Turkeys in my day.) And lovable Old Goat. Who is a more positive friend.

I don't know why I liked this one. I admit it's a bit odd. But I did like it. I found it worked in a quirky delightful kind of way.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 19, 2010

Good Luck Bear

Good Luck Bear. Greg Foley. 2009. [February 2009]. Penguin. 32 pages.

One day while lying in the grass, a little bear found a clover with three tiny leaves. He showed it to his friend Mouse. Mouse said, "If you find one with four leaves, it means that you're lucky." Bear started looking for a four-leaf clover.

Will he find one? Or will he find something even better, something even more unexpected? Bear is back for his third book. (The previous titles include Thank You Bear and Don't Worry Bear. I reviewed Don't Worry Bear just yesterday.)

I liked this one. Perhaps not quite as much as I loved the first one. But I found it charming and cute. I thought it worked. I loved hearing from Bear's friends as well.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Don't Worry Bear

Don't Worry Bear. Greg Foley. 2008. [March 2008] Penguin. 32 pages.

Late one afternoon, a little bear found a caterpillar hard at work. "What are you doing?" asked Bear.
"I'm making a cocoon," said Caterpillar. "I'll stay inside for a while. But I promise you'll see me again."

Bear is worried. Very worried. He's met a new friend. A caterpillar. One preparing his cocoon. First Bear is worried that his new friend is going to get scared of the dark or too wet or cold. But again and again his friend assures him (and reassures him) that there's no reason to worry. Everything will be just fine. What can this little bear learn from a good friend? I like this one because I can identify with Bear.

Follow-up to Thank You Bear.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

My Name is Phillis Wheatley

My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom. Afua Cooper. 2009. Kids Can Press. 152 pages.

The green silk gown does me well, likewise the white bonnet. My mistress had insisted that I dress plainly.

A fictional account (I'm assuming) of the life of poet Phillis Wheatley. Covering her childhood through her death, it tells the bittersweet story of a slave girl whose poems were published. It tells of her struggles and heartaches. Too "genius" to mix with the slaves, too "inferior" to mix with the whites, her life definitely knew of loneliness. Even though her master and mistress were kind (relatively speaking) never for a minute does the reader get the idea, the impression, that being a slave was a good thing. (She was freed after her book was published, by the way).

I found this one to be emotional and powerful in places. The description of her crossing is especially moving.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Three Little Bears Play All Day

Three Little Bears Play All Day by David Martin. Illustrated by Akemi Gutierrez. 2010. [February 2010] Candlewick. 48 pages.

This book is part of Candlewick's "Brand New Readers" series. It contains four stories: "Three Little Bears Jump", "Three Little Bears Juggle", "Three Little Bears Eat", "and "Three Little Bears Build." The text is simple. The focus here is not complex story-telling. Instead the focus is on providing young readers with books they can read themselves. The text is simple and predictable. The book even gives parents tips on how to help their little ones read.

Here's an example of the text:
Brother Bear jumps.
Brother Bear spins.
Sister Bear jumps.
Sister Bear spins.
Baby Bear jumps.
Baby Bear spins.
Baby Bear spins and spins and spins!
"I'm dizzy," says Baby Bear.
The "Three Little Bears Jump" is the simplest of the four. (Also the least exciting, in my opinion.) But some of the other stories are more complex, a bit more fun too. I especially liked "Three Little Bears Eat."

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bears On Chairs

Bears On Chairs. Shirley Parenteau. Illustrated by David Walker. 2009. [August 2009]. Candlewick. 32 pages.

Can five friends find a way to share four chairs? Find out the answer in this cute and adorable picture book by Shirley Parenteau. In Bears On Chairs, readers learn about sharing.

Here's how it starts off,

Four small chairs
just right for bears.
Where is the bear for each small chair?

Calico Bear
sits on a chair.
He likes it there
on his one chair.

Now Fuzzy Bear
wants a chair.
She climbs up there
on the second chair.
What happens when a fifth bear, Big Brown Bear, comes along? Can Calico Bear, Fuzzy Bear, Yellow Bear, and Floppy Bear find a way to make everything work out for everybody? Or will one bear have to give up his chair?

This one is definitely a rhyming book. But that wasn't a bad thing. I know I can be hard on rhyming books now and then. Because sometimes rhyming books--especially rhyming books that are cute and adorable--can be a bit dinky in places. But I thought Bears On Chairs worked quite well. The rhyming really works. I thought it was great fun. Cute and playful. I really liked this one and am happy to recommend it.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Big George

Big George: How A Shy Boy Became President Washington. Anne Rockwell. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. 2009. [January 2009] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages.

Three hundred years ago, there was no United States of America. Instead, there were thirteen English colonies in North America. In the one called Virginia, a tall boy loved to get on his horse and gallop through the woods alone. He wasn't afraid of bears, or wolves, or the native hunters with bows and arrows who shared those woods. George Washington wasn't afraid of anything, except making conversation. He was shy.

A picture book biography of George Washington. An obvious resource for classrooms and libraries. This one is written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Matt Phelan. I thought the text was nice. It's definitely informative. There is much to the story of a man, one of the most famous men in history I'd imagine, but it is not an overwhelming portrait either. We see him grow from a boy to a man within these pages.

The accompanying illustrations by Phelan are nice as well. I wouldn't say I'm the biggest fan of Phelan's illustrations. But these do work well with the story, the subject.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Belly, Happy Smile

Happy Belly, Happy Smile. By Rachel Isadora. 2009. [September 2009] Harcourt. 32 pages.

Friday is my favorite day. On Fridays I have dinner with Grandpa Sam. He owns a restaurant in Chinatown.

Louie is a young boy that loves spending time with his grandpa! He loves to spend time in his grandpa's Chinese restaurant. And that restaurant, that culture, is celebrated in Rachel Isadora's Happy Belly, Happy Smile. (Also it's a celebration of family and friends.) Isadora's illustrations are as unique as usual, which I've come to expect in her works.

Louie's fortune is a good one:

Happy food, happy belly, happy smile.

A very good fortune indeed! Who wouldn't like it?!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chester's Back

Chester's Back! Not a Melanie Watt Book. (By Melanie Watt) 2008. Kids Can Press. 32 pages.

A long time ago, in a faraway land, lived a cat named Chester.

Chester is back for his second adventure. And this playful cat is anything but cooperative for author Melanie Watt. Will this story ever get written? Will it ever have a middle and an end? Or will Chester keep frustrating the creative process? One thing is for sure, Chester is convinced he's destined for great things, he's the star of the show. And he doesn't want readers to forget it!

While I haven't read the first, it didn't keep me from enjoying the second very much. Perhaps loving Chester requires a certain personality, but I think it's cute and playful and all in good fun!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Mark Teague. 2009. [October 2009]. Scholastic. 40 pages.

You woke in the morning in such a bad mood...
then sat at the table and fussed with your food.
But then you blew kisses and waved from the door.
I love you, I love you, my dinosaur.

How unconditional is a parent's love? Is there anything a misbehaving dinosaur can do that would cause his/her parents to stop loving him/her? In How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You readers are introduced to some misbehaving dinosaurs. These dinosaurs can misbehave at times. But they can also be kind and caring and sweet. Yes, dinosaurs can be loving and stubborn.

The message of this one was a good one, in my opinion; it's always nice for kids to hear that they're loved no matter what. But.

Quite honestly this one just confused me. I *know* this one is supposed to be about unconditional love. (I think of other titles like I Love You Stinky Face.) And I *know* that the dinosaurs are supposed to represent children. The art just doesn't work for me in this one. Combining dinosaur "children" with all-too-human parents just doesn't work in my opinion. It makes for a very weird book. Of course, my opinion is just my opinion.)

This book is part of a very large series. (Though I'm just now getting introduced to it.) And apparently it's popular enough that it's ongoing. So you may like this one more than I did.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs?

How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs? by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Mark Teague. 2010. [January 2010]. Scholastic. 6 pages.

Yesterday I reviewed How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats? Today I bring you my review of How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs? Both books are part of a larger series. (Other titles, for example, include How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends, How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You, How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors, How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms, etc.)

Here's how this one starts,

How does a dinosaur
keep his dog clean?
Does he scrub it too hard?
Does he act really mean?

Does he often forget to leave
food in its bowl?
Does he dig up the bones from
the dog's hidey-hole?
Like the previous book, this one uses questions to build a framework for comparing and contrasting appropriate behavior. Readers learn how they should and shouldn't be treating their dogs.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats

How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats? by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Mark Teague. 2010. [January 2010]. 6 pages.

How does a dinosaur play with her cat?
Does she throw pillows at it and act like a brat?
Is the litter box left while she watches a show?
If the kitty complains, does she give it a throw?

Apparently there is a whole series of "How Do Dinosaurs" books. I don't think I've read any until now. This one is all about how dinosaurs love their cats. How they treat them right, like they should. Because these dinosaurs are good little dinosaurs. The book begins by asking these questions, creating a framework, and contrasting what you should and shouldn't do.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 12, 2010

Baby, I Love You

Baby, I Love You by Karma Wilson. Illustrated by Sam Williams. 2009. [December 2009] Simon & Schuster. 30 pages.

I love babies. I do. I really love babies. And I love books that celebrate loving babies. Books that sing praises of how cute, how precious, how sweet, how adorable, how wonderful babies are. Books that focus on those sweet little bellies, sweet little toes, oh-so-cute chubby cheeks, etc. I love books celebrating the bond between babies and their caretakers. I do. So I found much to appreciate in Karma Wilson's Baby, I Love You. Through sweet and simple rhymes, babies are celebrated. (I also love the fact that we're celebrating all babies, all skin tones).

Love my baby's
little hands,
love those
little fingers, too.

Love my baby,
little one.
Oh, my baby,
I love you!
I really enjoyed the illustrations in this one as well. The colors were sweet and gentle and complemented the text well.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Do Lions Say I Love You?

How Do Lions Say I Love You? By Diane Muldrow. Illustrated by David Walker. 2009. [December 2009] Random House. 14 pages.

How do different animals say I love you? How do animals show their love and affection for one another? How do animals communicate love and tenderness? In this gentle board book, readers are introduced (through rhyme) to various animals.
A hen says I love you
to her chicks with a cluck.

Elephants hug in their own special way.
"I'll never leave" is what they seem to say.
There were aspects of this one which I liked. But I didn't love this one.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bear of My Heart

Bear of My Heart by Joanne Ryder. Illustrated by Margie Moore. 2009. [December 2009] 32 pages.

There are so many bears in the world, dear, but there's no other one that will do.
You are the bear of my heart, dear, and I am the one who loves you.

Sweet. This one is sweet. You could probably tell by the cover alone, the title alone. You don't need me to tell you that this one is dripping in sugary sweet cuteness. And yet, there is nothing wrong with sweet books, cute books, if they're good. And there is much good in this one. This is little board book celebrating unconditional love between parent and child. The rhymes work. (Which is a must, in my opinion. If the rhyming doesn't work. If the rhythm is off a bit. If it doesn't make for a good read-a-loud, then what good is it really?) Nothing feels forced in this one. So I liked it. I really did.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Guess Who? A Foldout Valentine's Adventure

Guess Who? A Foldout Valentine's Adventure. Lola Schaefer. 2009. [December 2009] Simon & Schuster. 14 pages.

Can you solve the riddles and guess which animals want to be your valentine? This board book is playful at heart.

Here's an example of the rhymes/riddles:

Say you love me
more than a tad...
and join me on my lily pad.

Guess who?
I'm a...

The end reveals--as might be expected--a Happy Valentine's Day message to young readers.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kiss, Kiss

Kiss Kiss by Selma Mandine. Translated by Michelle Williams. 2009. [December 2009] Random House. 32 pages.

What's a kiss like?

How would you answer a teddy bear? If a teddy asked you to describe what a kiss is like? Find out how one small child does just that in this playful and loving book entitled Kiss Kiss. Readers learn that there are many different kinds of kisses: supersoft, prickly, noisy, chocolatey, wet, etc. You see, it all depends on who is doing the kissing. A kiss from your grandma is way different than a kiss from your dog!

Everybody gives you lots of kisses.
Yes, because everybody loves me. I get plenty of kisses from everyone!
Will this bear (who looks like he's been made real, by the way) finally understand what a kiss is...or will someone (I bet that you can guess who!) have to show him?

It's a cute book. Originally published in France, by the way.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Nonfiction Monday: Bad News for Outlaws

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. 2009. [September 2009]. Lerner. 40 pages.

Jim Webb's luck was running muddy when Bass Reeves rode into town.

Wow, wow, wow! After reading this one, it was really no surprise to me that it had won the Coretta Scott King Award (in the author category.) Because it was one amazing book. Have you ever heard of Bass Reeves? I know I hadn't before picking up Vaunda Micheaux Nelson's Bad News For Outlaws. But I found this picture book biography to be more than just informative, more than just interesting. I found it to be compelling in an almost magical way. The writing. It was just about perfect. Nelson sure has a way with words!

Being a peace officer in Indian Territory was rough and dangerous. The area swarmed with horse thieves, train robbers, cattle rustlers, and gunslingers. Bandits, swindlers, and murderers thrived. Travelers sometimes disappeared, never to be heard from again. A lawman's career could be short--and end bloody.
So Bass Reeves had a big job. And it suited him right down to the ground. Everything about him was big.

Many lawmen of the time weren't much better than the hard cases they arrested. But Bass was as right as rain from the boot heels up. He couldn't be bribed. And he shot only as a last resort, even when Judge Parker said, "Bring them in alive--or dead!" Some outlaws, like Jim Webb, forced gunplay. Whenever Bass could, he found another way.
Bass took many a bad man by surprise through the use of disguises.
This one is illustrated by one of my favorites. R. Gregory Christie. I just love his work. And Bad News for Outlaws is no exception. I think he did a wonderful job in illustrating this one. His work complements the text well. And it really does a good job in bringing Bass Reeves to life.

I really can't praise this one enough because I just loved it so much. Definitely recommended.

An interview with the author.
An interview with the illustrator.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mattoo, Let's Play!

Mattoo, Let's Play! Irene Luxbacher. 2010. [February 2010] Kids Can Press. 32 pages.

My Mattoo is a shy cat. He never wants to play. I don't know why I'm a very friendly person.

I really liked this one. It's about a little girl with a big personality having trouble playing with her cat. She can't quite understand why her shy little kitten may not like everything she does. Can this little girl find the perfect way to play with her cat?
Is there hope for this relationship yet?

What I enjoyed about this one--besides the large personalities involved--are the illustrations. I just love how imaginative and playful they are. I love the tone they evoke. They really complement the story, the text so well. I love how the illustrations show imagination at work.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

C'Mere, Boy!

C'mere, Boy! By Sharon Jennings. Illustrated by Ashley Spires. 2010. [February 2010]. Kids Can Press. 32 pages.

Dog wanted a boy. He asked his mama, "Can we get a boy? Can we? Please? Can we?" Dog's mama looked around the doghouse and said, "We don't have room for a boy. And who would take care of him?"

Dog is a pup who really, really wants a Boy. A boy all his own. The text shows him to be desperate for a Boy. Some of these situations are so absurd because of the twist, but it works in its own odd little way.

For example,

On Friday, Dog told his mama he was going shopping. "I'm not coming home until I find a boy," he said. First, he went to the mall. A sign read, NO DOGS ALLOWED! Dog was ordered off the premises. Next Dog went to the park. A sign read, DOGS MUST BE ON A LEASH. Dog was chased away.

The twist, in case you couldn't tell, was that it is a dog wanting a boy instead of a boy wanting a dog. It's the dog who wants to own the boy, train the boy, love and feed the boy. Will this dog ever find a boy?

This one is a bit text-heavy in places. So depending on your little one's attention span, it might be for the older picture-book crowd. (Maybe Pre-K to K?)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wow It's A Cow

Wow It's A Cow! By Trudy and Jay Harris. Illustrated by Paige Keiser. 2010. [January 2010] Scholastic. 16 pages.

Are you looking for a cow?
Do you want to find one now?

Search high and search low--
When you find one, you will know.
Now let me tell you how....

Readers can use rhymes (and animal sounds) to help predict in this fun and playful book. Wow It's A Cow is a farm-themed book with flaps to lift. It's a silly little book. And I'll try to explain just why it's so silly (and fun).

If it goes, "Neigh-Neigh,"
And it's pulling a plow,
It's not a cow!
Of course it's a....
In place of a horse...the illustrations show a cow! Lift the flap, and of course, you'll find it's *really* a horse that pulls the plow and goes neigh-neigh. It can be silly to see a cow there. But in some of the other rhymes, it gets even sillier.

If you hear "Quack, quack"
Coming from the pond somehow,
It's not a cow!
Just your luck,
It's a...

Yes, instead of a duck floating in the pond, readers will see a silly looking cow floating on its back, udders pointing towards the sky. Lift the flap to see the oh-so-appropriate duck.

Will readers ever find a cow, a real cow? Read and see for yourself!

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Silly Little Goose

Silly Little Goose by Nancy Tafuri. 2010. [February 2010]. Scholastic. 13 pages.

One windy morning, Goose sets out to make a nest.

Can this 'silly' goose find the perfect place to make a nest? Can she find the perfect place to hatch her eggs? This goose has a mission to find the perfect someplace. What does it take to be that perfect someplace? Read and see for yourself in Nancy Tafuri's Silly Little Goose.

I liked the repetitiveness of this one. As each time Goose tries (and fails) to find that perfect someplace, readers can join in with the refrain of "Silly Little Goose!"

I also liked the illustrations. The story they tell within the book. How the illustrations provide clues right from the start. If you catch them. If you know where to look. (For the record, I never catch onto these clues until the second or third reading. That's why I try to read every picture book a few times before I sit down to write up the review.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kitten's Spring

Kitten's Spring. By Eugenie Fernandes. 2010. [February 2010] Kids Can Press. 24 pages.

Morning hums,
Kitten listens.
Frog croaks,
Tadpole glistens.

I like this one. I liked both the text and artwork in this one.It's simple. But it works. With just two short lines on each spread, it's great for reading to little ones. As a young kitten explores her surroundings, little ones are exposed to all sorts of animals--pairs of animals really: cows have calves, frogs have tadpoles, ducks have ducklings, etc. I definitely like the wonder of it. Seeing kitten's wonder at the world around her, the natural environment. It captures the newness of it all. The text has a poetic flow to it.

Chicken clucks,
Chick scratches.

Duck quacks,
Duckling hatches.
Eugenie Fernandes is a popular author-illustrator in Canada.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Little Scholastic: Zoo

Little Scholastic: Zoo. Illustrated by Salina Yoon. 2010. [January 2010] Scholastic. 10 pages.

The lion

Zoo is one of the latest titles in Scholastic's Little Scholastic series of board books for the very youngest of readers. (This one is for 1 to 3 year olds.) The book serves as an introduction (of sorts) to colors and animals. It's a simple concept book.

This one is flexible, in a way, because it has pull-out pieces parents which parents can then use as color flashcards or as puzzle pieces. (Combine all four flashcards and you'll create the colorful peacock.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, February 1, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Open the Door To Liberty

Open The Door to Liberty! A Biography of Toussaint L'Ouverture by Anne Rockwell. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. 2009. [January 2009] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 80 pages.

In about 1743 a skinny, puny baby boy was born on the island of St. Domingue in the Caribbean Sea. Both his parents were slaves who'd been born in West Africa. Before their baby was born they had consulted a wise woman, an African-born slave who knew how to communicate with the powerful spirit world. She predicted that their son would be very special. She said he would grow up to be more than a man. He would be a nation.

Are you familiar with Toussaint L'Ouverture? The preface says "we don't hear much about him today, but what he did changed his world and ours." That has certainly been true of my experience, of course, that could be my education (or lack thereof.) I have a feeling the history textbooks that were used by the school I attended left out plenty of important people, significant people.

What we have is a biography written for mid-to-upper elementary-aged readers. I found it reader-friendly. (Illustrations are just one of the ways to make biographies reader-friendly. And these by R. Gregory Christie are very nice.) I found it informative and well-written. I found the story to be fascinating actually.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Blog Improvement Project #1 for 2010

What do I want to accomplish this year with Young Readers? This first assignment is supposed to give us a chance to share by "writing a specific list of things you’d like to achieve in the design and content of your blog."

I'm mostly happy with the design (template, color scheme) of Young Readers. I'm still happy with my header too. So I'm not looking to make any changes there. At least not at this point! But I am considering making a few changes with my sidebar content.

I have been considering adding a 'labels' feature to the sidebar since I discovered that you can select which labels appear. I never knew that before. I thought if you had 'labels' in your content, you'd have each and every one. Which would just be chaotic nonsense in my case. So today (as part of this project) I went ahead and added the labels feature to the right sidebar.

I have been looking for a way to clearly share with publishers links to the reviews I've written. Why is this important? Well, almost all the books I review at Young Readers are review copies. (This isn't the case with Becky's Book Reviews.) So I've been *trying* to use publishers as labels in my posts. I haven't been doing this long, so the listing is NOT complete by any means. I hope to be diligent about doing this with each and every post from now on. [I also clearly mark each post with a 'review copy' or a 'library book' designation in the labels section.]

I'm *considering* going back through older posts to add this information. But it would be a big project. I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to such a big project. But maybe if I took baby steps, I could get through it by the end of the year?

Consistency. I was so HAPPY to get a good start to the new year. I was able to post 29 times in January. With 28 of those posts being review posts!!! Of course, one month does not a whole year make. And I'm not taking this "new" consistency for granted. Not at all. So my goal is still to work on making sure I get reviews posted on Young Readers.

Variety. What do I mean by variety. I don't mean variety of posts necessarily. I mean variety of reviews. I also mean diversity in titles, authors, subjects, etc.

I'm hoping to be reviewing for a variety of publishers. Of course there are some publishers whose books I just don't have access to, or the same access to as others, but I can try to represent a good variety of publishers. So that the blog doesn't just cover one or two publishers all the time.

I'm also hoping to review a variety of children's books. I want to cover board books, picture books, activity books (like touch-and-feel, lift-the-flap, pop-up books, etc), early readers, chapter books. I want to try to cover these somewhat equally. Though that won't always be possible. I seem to have more picture books at hand than early readers. But I can try to seek out books.

It's also important for me to review more nonfiction (and poetry perhaps?!) on the blog. So I'll definitely be on the look out for that. I was disappointed in how few nonfiction books I read last year. So my goal is to participate each Monday in Nonfiction Monday.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers