Monday, December 31, 2007

Toys Go Out

Jenkins, Emily. 2006. Toys Go Out: The Adventures of A Knowledgeable Stingray, A Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.

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

Julia's Kitchen

Ferber, Brenda A. 2006. Julia's Kitchen.

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

Year of the Dog

Lin, Grace. 2006. The Year of the Dog.

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

Let It Snow

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.

The House Without A Christmas Tree

Rock, Gail. The House Without A Christmas Tree.

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

3 Starring Woof...

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 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

Merry Christmas from Little Miss!!!

On Wednesday, December 19th, Becky, LittleMiss, LittleMiss' Mama, and select other friends got together to celebrate Christmas early. LittleMiss as always was just adorable. She looked so adorable in her Christmas jumper. Here are the goodies LittleMiss took home:

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' she hoped these new sequels would be much-appreciated.

LittleMiss really enjoys her new books, "Colors Everywhere" and "When I'm Big" by Sam McBratney 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

Chronicle Book Contests

Chronicle Books is currently running two contests--one for Taro Gomi's Squiggles and Doodles series and another for our Ivy and Bean series. I've attached the links to the landing pages below.

Taro Gomi Squiggles & Doodles Creativity Contest:
Ivy & Bean Friendship Contest (for teachers and their classrooms):

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bookworms Carnival--I'm Hosting in January

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

The Apple Pie That Papa Baked

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

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

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.

The Princess and the Pea

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.

Ella, Of Course!

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

Jazz Baby

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.
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!
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!!!

Article Everyone Should Read...

Don't miss Liz Burn's article "Encouraging Reading" at ForeWord magazine.

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!

Go To Bed, Monster!

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

New Socks

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

An Orange For Frankie

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

Coriander The Contrary Hen

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.

I Don't Like Gloria

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.

Thank You Bear

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!!!

Hedgehog, Pig and the Sweet Little Friend

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!

Pigs Love Potatoes

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!!!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Online Advent Calendars

Online Advent Calendar--Learn about how Christmas is celebrated around the world.
Here is a beautiful advent calendar--online of course. You really have to see this one to believe it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Koala Lou

Fox, Mem. Koala Lou.

Koala Lou is an old friend of mine. Well, as "old" as a friend can be that was published in 1988. Quite honestly, I didn't 'discover' Koala Lou until I was in college. I loved, absolutely loved, taking children's literature classes. But back to focusing on the book...

Koala Lou is a book that shouldn't be missed. It's simple, beautiful, and timeless. "There was once a baby koala so soft and round that all who saw her loved her. Her name was Koala Lou."
Thus begins a book of a mother-daughter's loving relationship. "The emu loved her. The platypus loved her. And even tough little Koala Klaws next door loved her. But it was her mother who loved her most of all. A hundred times a day she would laugh and shake her head and say, 'Koala Lou, I DO love you!'" But as the years go by and Koala Lou has new siblings added to the family, there are times she begins to doubt her mother's love. What will she do to earn her mother's love and approval? And what can the mother do to share Koala that love is truly unconditional? Read and see for yourself!

Fox writes, "Like mothers and fathers and teachers, authors should not have favourites. I can’t help it: Koala Lou is my personal favourite, probably because it’s about sibling rivalry and not winning an important competition which means it’s about me."

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Robinson, Barbara. 1972. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

This little gem of a book is only 90 pages long. It's been a favorite of mine for years, and I really can't recommend it highly enough. It is just one of the best Christmas books ever.

The Herdman's were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker's old broken-down toolhouse. (1)

Meet the Herdman's: Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys. They're described as "six stringy-haired kids all alike except for being different sizes and having different black-and-blue places where they had clonked each other." (4)

The first chapter we see what they're all about--the troubles they cause, the fear they create among their peers, etc. But chapter two is when it really gets exciting.

Mother didn't expect to have anything to do with the Christmas pageant except to make me and my little brother Charlie be in it (we didn't want to) and to make my father go and see it (he didn't want to). Every year he said the same thing--"I've seen the Christmas pageant." "You haven't seen this year's Christmas pageant," Mother would tell him. "Charlie is a shepherd this year."
"Charlie was a shepherd last year. go on and go. I'm just going to put on my bathrobe and sit by the fire and relax. There's nevery anything different about the Christmas pageant."
"There's something different this year," Mother said.
"Charlie is wearing your bathrobe."
So that year my father see his bathrobe, he said.
Actually, he went every year but it was always a struggle, and Mother said that was her contribution to the Christmas pageant--getting my father to go to it.

Here is where we learn that this won't be an ordinary pageant as we plainly see in chapter three at the casting. This year the Herdmans land all the big roles--through fear and intimidation, yes--but the roles are theirs just the same.

The first pageant rehearsal was usually about as much fun as a three-hour ride on the school bus, and just as noisy and crowded. This rehearsal, though, was different. Everybody shut up and settled down right away, for fear of missing something awful that the Herdmans might do. (43)

It soon becomes evident that this pageant will be one-of-a-kind, though no one quite expects it to turn out the way it does. Let the Herdmans surprise you this Christmas!

The Best Christmas Pageant is funny and charming and true-to-life. It makes a great read aloud too!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bessie P. Gutmann

Nursery Songs and Lullabies Illustrated by Bessie P. Gutmann
Nursery Poems and Prayers Illustrated by Bessie P. Gutmann

Together these books would make a lovely gift for expectant mothers and new mothers. The illustrations are sweet and subdued. There's just something 'precious' about them. I can't really explain why.

100 Books Your Child Should Hear...

Here is a a library's list of 100 Books Your Child Should Hear Before Starting School. The library is the Public Library of Westland. There are 100, but I'm listing only ten. I've got to motivate you somehow to go visit their site after all :)

  1. Where’s My Teddy?
    Alborough, Jez
  2. Miss Nelson is Missing
    Allard, Harry
  3. Happy Birthday, Moon
    Asch, Frank
  4. Ten, Nine, Eight
    Bang, Molly
  5. Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing
    Barrett, Judi
  6. The Three Bears
    Barton, Byron
  7. I Like Myself
    Beaumont, Karen
  8. Madeline
    Bemelmans, Ludwig
  9. The Mitten
    Brett, Jan
  10. Clifford, the Big Red Dog
    Bridwell, Norman
The site also includes Anita Silvery's 100 Best Books for Children The list begins with birth and goes through age 12.

Board Books: Birth to Age 2

Picture Books: Ages 2 to 8

Books for Beginning Readers: Ages 5 to 7

You will definitely want to finish the rest of the list which includes "Books For Young Readers: Ages 7 to 9" and "Books for Middle Readers: Ages 8 to 11" and "Books for Older Readers: Ages 11 to 12."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lookybook...Gail Gibbons...Thanksgiving

The Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians

Morris, Carla. 2007. The Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians.

What librarian could ever resist this book? It is the story of a boy, Melvin, who visits the library regularly. When the book opens, he's just a little boy. By the time it closes, well, he's all grown up. In between are lots and lots of trips to the library, lots of conversations with the three reference librarians, and lots of reading and research activities. The refrain "That's how librarians are. They can't help it" echoes throughout whenever a problem is solved quickly and efficiently. And the illustrations by Brad Sneed are just perfect, so charming. I just loved, loved, loved this one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Santa Who?

Gibbons. Gail. Santa Who?

Santa Who? is a 'history' of how Santa Claus came to be Santa Claus. In other words, how the modern, American version of Santa Claus came to be what he is today from various ancient traditions and lore. In Santa Who? Gail Gibbons draws upon many cultures to tell the rich history of the Christmas gift-giver. You may be familiar with a few of these facts, but chances are that you might just learn something new about Santa.

Christmas Around the World by Mary D. Lankford

Lankford, Mary D. Christmas Around the World.

Twelve countries are visited in Mary D. Lankford's picture book Christmas Around the World. Australia. Canada. Ethiopia. Germany. Great Britain. Greece. Guatemala. Italy. Mexico. The Philippines. Sweden. United States--Alaska. Each country receives a two-page spread. One page being devoted to text. The other page being an illustration by Karen Dugan. Overall, I think this is an interesting read. The book also includes a few crafts, a bibliography, and even a pronunciation guide.

This title is appropriate for third graders on up (or second graders with advanced reading abilities).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

All I'll Ever Want For Christmas Doll

McKissack, Patricia C. 2007. The All-I'll-Ever-Want-For-Christmas Doll.

Christmas always came to our house, but Santy Claus only showed up once in a while.

It's the Depression. And Nella and her two sisters are wondering if Santy will make an appearance this year. Nella more than anything wants the beautiful Baby Betty doll she saw advertised in the paper. She imagined what it would be like to play with her. She talked about how she was the only thing she ever wanted...ever. I flat-out refused to give up my dream. So, without my sisters knowing it, I wrote Santy Claus a letter and sent it all the way to the North Pole. Will Nella get her wish? Will the Baby Betty doll be hers? And if she does get it...will she share with her sisters? Read and see. This one is too good to miss!

Christmas Around the World

Kelley, Emily. 2004. Christmas Around the World.

This book is part of the "On My Own" holiday series. It is a book designed for children--kids--to be able to read on their own. That seems so obvious, doesn't it. Yet when I was looking at my local library, there were few books I thought were really appropriate, really accessible to young readers. There were many great books to choose from. But they all seemed more appropriate for children in upper elementary school. Those in fourth and fifth and sixth grade. This title, on the other hand, looks accessible to younger readers, second graders on up. There are fewer details perhaps. But the book still serves an important purpose: showing kids that though some things may be different between cultures, there are always similarities as well that unite us. The countries "visited" include Mexico, Ethiopia, China, Germany, Lebanon, Sweden, Australia, and Russia. Note: to make these books even more appealing to kids, the author has included a few pages of Christmas jokes and tongue twisters.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Adult Reference Books for Parents, Teachers, Librarians, etc.

I was searching Amazon, and I decided to compile this list. I figured that if I was interested, other people might be as well. These books could be sitting on your local library shelves just waiting for you to 'discover' them. My library has a great section the Parent-Teacher section. Most of these have the dewey number of 372. something or 649. something. A few of these I've looked through. Most are just ones I've read about on Amazon. So I can't "testify" about any of them too much. But I know this...if I had the time...and the resources...I'd love to read all of them at some point.

Story Stretchers for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos: Experiences, Activities, and Games for Popular Children's Books

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Gryphon House (September 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0876592744
  • ISBN-13: 978-0876592748

Growing A Reader From Birth by Diane McGuinness

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (January 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039333239X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393332391

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; 1st printing edition (September 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156010763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156010764

Reading with Babies, Toddlers, and Twos by Susan Straub and KJ Dell'Antonia

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc. (April 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402206127
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402206122

Baby Read-Aloud Basics: Fun and Interactive Ways to Help Your Little One Discover the World of Words by Caroline J. Blakemore and Barbara WEston Ramirez

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: AMACOM/American Management Association; 1 edition (July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081447358X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814473580

The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition by Jim Trelease

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics); 6 edition (July 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143037390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143037392

How To Get Your Child To Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (June 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565123085
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565123083

Playful Reading: Positive, Fun Ways to Build the Bond Between Preschoolers, Books, and You by Carolyn Munson-Benson

  • Paperback: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Search Institute Press (February 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574828576
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574828573

What Should I Read Aloud? A Guide to 200 Best-selling Picture Books by Nancy A. Anderson

  • Paperback: 165 pages
  • Publisher: International Reading Association; 1st edition (August 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872076792
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872076792

Friday, November 9, 2007

Give the Gift of Books

Books make the perfect gift for any occasion. Especially baby showers. Why? Because it's never too early to start a little one out on books. Why give a book? Books grow with the child. Books are interactive. Your giving the gift of reading and quality time and happy memories. Here are a few websites that explain the benefits of reading to your child from the very beginning.

Reading Books to Babies
Exploring Books With Babies
Baby's First Teacher
Enticing a Restless Reader
Reading to Babies, Toddlers, and Young Children: The Why? The What? And The How?
Reading to Your Baby
Reading and Language: About My Baby
Grow Up Reading--Babies
Babies, Books, and A Lesson in Happiness by Mem Fox

There are also plenty of books out there on the subject as well. A search on Amazon or the online catalog of your local library will bring you many results. The experts all agree, books are a good thing.

I'm not an expert on babies by any means. But I can testify to the benefits of having been read to growing up. I am who I am because of my mother. Reading was a loving, pleasurable bonding time. My happiest memories are of being cuddled up with my mom while she's reading to me.

I love to give books at baby showers. Sure most people don't register for books. But they're an important part of a baby's development just the same. Here's my trick. I either go for the boxed gift sets like Goodnight Moon, Runaway Bunny, or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. OR I make my own gift set. For example, I love to pair small stuffed animals with books. My favorites? Ty Pluffies. This little lion would pair GREAT with the classic book The Tawny, Scrawny Lion. Also available is an adorable little elephant that would go with The Saggy, Baggy, Elephant (one, two, three, kick!). Also available is the line Ty Baby.

And what about buying some classic Golden Books and pairing it with this great audio CD. It features: The Poky Little Puppy, Scuffy the Tugboat, Tawny Scrawny Lion, and The Saggy, Baggy Elephant.

Here is a list I compiled a few months ago listing 2007 releases of board books. Of course, with Amazon, older titles are available as well. I'd suggest just browsing around in the stores yourself. Read the books and see how "fun" they are. Every time I go to Target, I love to take a few minutes to browse the board book and picture book section. I usually end up reading quite a few. And compiling a few mental lists. Unfortunately, the publishers have all been difficult to track down. But oh how I wish I could get my hands on Roger Priddy's books. There is also quite a nice line called Piggy Toes Press.

One last tip, sometimes mothers-to-be let their friends and family in on what they are planning to name the baby. Sometimes it works out that the baby-on-the-way will have a literary namesake. In cases like these, it is very fun to get that book as a shower gift. It's usually unexpected and quite appreciated.

Say Cheese

School picture day has never been so much fun as it is in Say Cheese by Lauren Child. Picture day is fast approaching as Charlie and Lola prepare to be their best. But Lola, like always, will need a miracle to get through the day all clean and tidy by the time it is time for pictures. Will Lola take that perfect picture? Can she resist the many temptations that will beset her before school, during art, during recess, and during lunch? You'll have to see for yourself what this duo ends up doing to get the 'perfect' picture for their mom!

Young Readers Challenge

This challenge is for those interested in reading more children's literature. (From board books, novelty books like bath, shape, or pop-up, picture books, early readers, chapter books, etc.) Think of this as referring to the "E" (Easy) and "J" (Juvenile or Junior) sections of the library. The challenge will go from January to December 2008. Any books written for the 12 and under crowd. (Interested in reading books for the 13+ crowd? Then join the Young Adult challenge.)

Choose 12 or more books for the challenge. You can choose with a theme--Calecott winners and honor books OR perhaps Coretta Scott King Award winners and honor books. Or not. You could choose a handful of authors to focus on--Laura Ingalls Wilder, A.A. Milne, C.S. Lewis, E.B. White, etc. And read a few books by each. Or you could read twelve books by the same author--like all Beverly Cleary or all Judy Blume or all Barbara Parks. You might want to read twelve books about horses or ponies. Or you might want to read twelve books in a series. Or twelve fairy-tale related books. You could even get elaborate and read 26 books A-to-Z. A theme is NOT required. A list is not required. Choose what you like. Choose as you go. Or plan it all out now. Whatever you want.

This would be a great challenge to join with your kids. You can read aloud to them. Or for older children, you can read a book together and take turns.

To sign up for the challenge leave a comment and/or join Mr. Linky. Link to your main site where you'll be posting reviews OR post a link to a specific post where you're mentioning the fact that you're joining the challenge. You don't have to list your books yet if you don't know. Your post can simply say...I'm joining this challenge...I'll come up with my list later. But I would appreciate it if when you do create your list you'll update that post. Or come back and leave another comment with a specific link.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Must Have for Charlie and Lola Fans

Lauren's Child picture book, I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato, has just been released in pop-up format. The original book was a great treat. Charlie and Lola are the unforgettable brother and sister duo. Lola is a picky eater, and it's up to her big brother Charlie to make sure Lola eats a nice, healthy meal. This book was one of the first in the cartoon series as well. So while the story may be a familiar one, it's a must-have in my book. Why? Well, the pop-ups are fun. They make Lauren Child's playful illustrations even MORE playful than before. (Which is hard to do, by the way!) The publisher of this one is Candlewick press.