Thursday, January 18, 2018

SERIES THURSDAY: Frazzled by Booki Vivat


Meet Abbie Wu! She’s about to start middle school and she’s totally in crisis.

Abbie Wu is in crisis—and not just because she’s stuck in a family that doesn’t quite get her or because the lunch ladies at school are totally corrupt or because everyone seems to have a “Thing” except her. Abbie Wu is in crisis always.

Heavily illustrated and embarrassingly honest, Frazzled dives right into the mind of this hilariously neurotic middle school girl as she tries to figure out who she is, where she belongs, and how to survive the everyday disasters of growing up. With Abbie’s flair for the dramatic and natural tendency to freak out, middle school has never seemed so nerve-racking!

Packed with hilarious black-and-white illustrations and doodles throughout, Frazzled takes readers through Abbie Wu’s hysterical middle school adventures.


Middle school is a time of uncertainty for many budding teens.  Questions about friends, teachers, school work, and one's place in the universe all must be dealt with by children entering adolescence.  It's all very confusing, which is why Vivat's Frazzled series is sure to be popular.  

Abbie Wu, like many middle schoolers, is scared of starting at a new school.  And her fears come to life as she struggles to deal with new teachers, friends with different interests, and a feeling of impending DOOM!  Yes, Abbie like many teenagers is a bit over dramatic, but for children at that age, issues of friendship, belonging, and school lunch are important.  Just as Abbie finds something that she feels might be her 'thing', disaster strikes, leaving Abbie wondering just where she fits.  But with the help of an experienced older brother, and some good friends, Abbie may just survive, that thing called middle school.

The illustrations on every page and the light text make this an ideal read for reluctant readers as well as young readers who can't get enough of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries series.


Abbie Wu is FRAZZLED as she navigates locker thieves, diabolical cats, and other hazards of middle school.

This is the second book in a New York Times bestselling graphic novel series that NPR's All Things Considered called "hilarious"!

Things are looking up for Abbie Wu: this year she’ll run for class president and get a brand-new shiny locker. Until—she doesn’t…

In her second tumultuous misadventure, Abbie Wu tackles more unbelievably unfair and calamitous middle school days. From facing locker thieves and battling diabolical cats to having absolutely no idea what to build for her science project, Abbie Wu is still in perpetual crisis.

From author and professional doodler Booki Vivat, this second story follows Abbie Wu, your favorite hilariously neurotic middle school girl, as she tries to come up with solutions to what seems to be a series of inevitable catastrophes.

Akin to Smile by Raina Telgemeier, Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes is heavily illustrated, embarrassingly honest, and sure to appeal to anyone hoping to figuring out how to survive the ordinary mishaps of middle school.


I actually enjoyed this one more than the first one.  Not sure why, maybe because Abbie doesn't break any rules in this one, she's just struggling to cope with the pressures and stresses of middle school.  In this book, Abbie is trying to cope with some new challenges in her life: a pet cat at home that doesn't seem to like her, sharing a locker that should have been hers with a new girl that she knows little about.  And on top of that she has to partner up with the new girl in science on a major project.  Abbie isn't sure that she and the new girl, Jessica, are compatible, after all, nothing seems to rattle Jessica, whereas Abbie worries about just about everything.  Told in a combination of illustrations and text, much like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, this book is bound to be just as popular.  Combining realistic worries and concerns with plenty of humor and heart, Vivat has created a winning series.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Poison by Sarah Albee (Cybils Finalist)


For centuries, people have been poisoning one another--changing personal lives and the course of empires alike.

From spurned spouses and rivals, to condemned prisoners like Socrates, to endangered emperors like Alexander the Great, to modern-day leaders like Joseph Stalin and Yasser Arafat, poison has played a starring role in the demise of countless individuals. And those are just the deliberate poisonings. Medical mishaps, greedy "snake oil" salesmen and food contaminants, poisonous Prohibition, and industrial toxins also impacted millions.

Part history, part chemistry, part whodunit, Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines traces the role poisons have played in history from antiquity to the present and shines a ghoulish light on the deadly intersection of human nature . . . and Mother Nature.


Poisons have been around as long as the earth has been.  Unfortunately, human knowledge and use of such poisons has steadily grown in both good ways and bad ways.  In this fascinating look at some of the best known poisons, the ways they have been used (for better or worse), and historical figures who may or may not have been poisoned, Albee has created a compelling account.  Starting with a brief introduction to poisons, what they are and where they come from, Albee moves on to discussing their use and misuse starting with the Ancient Roman and Egyptian societies.  Along the way she points out various famous individuals that may or may not have been poisoned.  She shares the rumors that existed and what little is known about each individual and the possibilities for his/her death occurring by way of poison (purposefully or accidentally).  Additionally, Tox Box features highlight specific poisons, their sources, how they poison, and the symptoms they cause.  Some side boxes talked about jobs that involved people working with poisons (often unknowingly in many cases) and the often horrible results.  The book continues through each century after the Ancient World, including the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, all the way up to the modern day.  I found much of the book appalling, considering how often we human beings have poisoned ourselves unknowingly.  What was even worse were the occasions when people knew what was happening and did nothing to stop it.  The sad thing is that we are still poisoning ourselves all to often, whether it's through environmental pollution, or using materials without fully understanding their effects.  And then of course there are the businesses that move factories to countries where restrictions on the use of such things are less regulated if at all.  Albee has created a thoroughly intriguing, if rather sickening, book.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018



A young girl makes a snowman, sleds, and has other winter fun!


This adorable board book revolves around a young girl's adventures in the snow.  The illustrations are the best part of the book, with the cute little girl and her dog at the center of each spread.  The text is broken up on each spread, half on one side and half on the other.  While the rhyming works on most of the spreads, there are a couple that stretch it a bit (round, mounds or crash, smashed), but that's a minor quibble.  All in all a sweet little book to read with babies and toddlers, especially those who love the snow.


Bear lovers, rejoice! Shake up a snowstorm in this gorgeous gift edition of the award-winning classic by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.

We're going on a bear hunt. We're going to catch a big one. Will you come, too? For over a quarter of a century, readers have been swishy-swashying and splash-sploshing through this award-winning favorite. This new hardback gift edition includes a 3-D snow scene on the cover to add fun and festive flurries to your favorite family adventure story.


This pop-up version of the classic book makes for a fun, interactive read.  And the snow globe feature on the front, allows the young reader/listener to shake the book up and down and make it snow.  Like to classic chant, this book takes the reader on a fun trip through a grassy field, a river, a muddy field, a dark forest, and a creepy cave.  The fun sound effects make for a perfect opportunity to get the listener or listeners up and marching around themselves.  Like so many things in life, the family eventually realizes that sometimes we don't really want to find what we go looking for.  The pop-ups make this a bit delicate, but the book is bound to get lots of love before falling apart.


Discover all the beautiful colors of the season in this novelty tabbed board book from Crayola that puts a creative spin on the winter hues!

Explore the colors of a perfect winter day! When you think of winter, do you think of the colors of the rainbow? Even when the world is covered in white snow, if you bundle up and take a stroll, you’ll see that there is color everywhere, from a snowman’s cornflower blue scarf, to a dandelion yellow sun, and more. It’s a winter colorland!

Don’t miss the instructions on the last spread for how to create colorful paper snowflakes!


It's so easy to get gloomy during wintertime with all the grays and silvers (not to mention the dirty snow).  But this book reminds us that if we take the time to look, there are plenty of beautiful colors to see.  Trust Crayola to create a book so bright and colorful and eye-catching.  Each page highlights a particular group of colors with each word highlighted so the reader/listener can then look for the color on the spread, making this a fun I Spy book as well as a book about colors.  In addition to the regular pages, there are instructions for making a rainbow snowflake.


Franklin soars onto the ice with Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang in this 8x8 storybook based on a classic Peanuts pastime!

When Franklin accepts Charlie Brown’s invitation to play hockey at the pond, the ace player doesn’t get the carefree afternoon he expects. First Peppermint Patty refuses to share the ice. Then a rival group of kids try to claim the pond for themselves.

It looks like Franklin will never get to skate, until he brainstorms a brilliant play to please everyone. With Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Lucy, and Snoopy on his side, he challenges the rival kids in a winner-take-all game of hockey. If Franklin’s team wins, the pond belongs to everyone.


Franklin wants to play hockey with Charlie Brown, but Peppermint Patty is practicing her figure skating routine.  The boys leave and go watch Snoopy and Woodstock play hockey.  After Snoopy and Woodstock destroy the birdbath, they return to the pond to see if Patty is done.  They arrive in time to see Patty being bullied by a bunch of older kids.  With Franklin offer of assistance the two groups begin to play hockey. This is a cute enough book for those who enjoy the Peanuts gang.                                     


Way up high in the Rolie Polie Sky is a little round planet of a really swell guy…

Olie’s Rolie Polie world has turned snowy! But when the sun turns back on, what will happen to Olie’s new buddy, Mr. Snowie? Find out in this classic picture book-turned-beloved-TV-show from the brilliant mind that brought you The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Rolie Polie Olie wishes his world would turn snowy, but it’s forever sunny—until one day when the sun blows a bulb. Olie’s wish comes true, and—joy, oh joy—it snows! Rolie and his sister Zowie build a snowman buddy, Mr. Snowie, to join in on their snow day adventures. But when the sun gets a new bulb, all is not bright: Mr. Snowie is in danger of melting! There’s only one solution: a rocket trip to Chillsville. Past the dangerous North Wind, Rolie, Zowie, and Mr. Snowie find a cool world filled with frosty friends to eat snowball pie and dance a chilly cha-cha with. And then they get the greatest surprise of all—a visit from Klanky Klaus! Talk about one awesome snow day!


Snowie Rolie is a story of friendship and sacrifice.  On an unusual day when it snows, Olie and Zowie create Snowie, a new friend.  They have a great time until the sun replaces its bulb and heats up again.  Then Olie and Zowie are forced to find a way for their friend to survive.  Eventually they realize that Snowie can't stay where he's at, and they take off for Chillsville.  After a crash landing, they find some more new friends and a place for Snowie to stay safe.  While it's hard to say goodbye, Olie and Zowie know it's the best thing for their friend.  Joyce has created a sweet story of friendship found, friendship lost, and friendship remembered.  The illustrations are bright and cheerful and make the book fun to read.


A young owl experiences the magic of a first snowfall--the quiet wintery wonder, the pristine beauty, and snowballs!--in this follow-up to the adorable Hoot and Peep

It's Peep's first winter, and it's going to snow very, very soon. Peep has so many questions for her older brother Hoot: Does snow drop, polppety splop, like the rain's song? Does it scrinkle scrattle like falling leaves? But Hoot can't remember snow very well. The one thing he knows for sure is that it is worth waiting for.

But Peep doesn't have his patience, and as she flies around the gorgeous Paris skies, she tries her best to make up her own snow song. But once those first snowflakes start to fall, Peep realizes just how wise her older brother really is for waiting...and just who she wants to cuddle up to when the snow starts to really sing.

With all the wonder and the joy of a first snow day, and perfect for fans of The Quiet Book and Little Owl's Night, this tender follow-up to Hoot and Peep is certainly worth waiting for, too.


In this sweet follow-up to Hoot and Peep, the two young owls experience the first snowfall of the winter together.  And while Hoot tries to help Peep understand what snow is, he has a hard time because he hardly remembers himself.  But he does remember enough to take Peep to a great place for watching the snow come, if only Peep could find the patience to wait for it.  Once again, Judge has created a tender story of a sibling relationship as Hoot's patience meet's Peep's eagerness.  The illustrations are adorable and the words fun to read out loud.

Monday, January 15, 2018

BLOG TOUR: Don't Forget Dexter! by Lindsay Ward


Introducing Dexter T. Rexter, the toughest, coolest dinosaur ever. At least he likes to think so.

When his best friend, Jack, leaves him behind at the doctor’s office, Dexter T. Rexter panics. First he tries to find Jack. Then he sings their special song. Then he sings their special song even louder. But when Jack still doesn’t appear, Dexter starts to wonder. What if he’s being replaced by another toy? It can’t be—after all, he can STOMP, RAWR, and CHOMP! Right? Right?!

This hilariously neurotic dinosaur will do whatever it takes to get his friend back—even asking the reader’s advice—in this first book of a brand-new series.


Dexter T. Rexter is afraid he's been forgotten by his boy, Jack.  One minute they were playing together and the next, Jack is gone.  Dexter tries anything he can think of to find Jack.  He sings his song, he tries to escape, he asks the fish and receptionist for help, but he can't find his boy anywhere.  He's afraid that his boy has found a toy with better features to play with (like a car). Finally, despair takes over and Dexter fears he's alone forever.  This bright colorful book with it's large readable text makes for a delightful read aloud.  Losing a toy is a common childhood experience, but I haven't seen it told from this point of view before which makes it a clever way to talk about fears.  The book is humorous as well as Dexter's panic reaches hilarious levels.  But he doesn't give up!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

YA NONFICTION: Japanese Internment Camps

These two books cover the same subject and they do it very well. But one is much more thorough, and thus shocking, than the other. But I highly recommend both of them.  This is a subject of great importance.


On the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor comes a harrowing and enlightening look at the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II— from National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin

Just seventy-five years ago, the American government did something that most would consider unthinkable today: it rounded up over 100,000 of its own citizens based on nothing more than their ancestry and, suspicious of their loyalty, kept them in concentration camps for the better part of four years.

How could this have happened? Uprooted takes a close look at the history of racism in America and carefully follows the treacherous path that led one of our nation’s most beloved presidents to make this decision. Meanwhile, it also illuminates the history of Japan and its own struggles with racism and xenophobia, which led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, ultimately tying the two countries together.

Today, America is still filled with racial tension, and personal liberty in wartime is as relevant a topic as ever. Moving and impactful, National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin’s sobering exploration of this monumental injustice shines as bright a light on current events as it does on the past.


On February 29, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 calling for all necessary measures to protect the country, especially ‘military areas’. The purpose of the order was to justify moving all Japanese American people living on the mainland to what were called internment camps (really concentration camps). Marrin presents a thorough look at what led up to this decision (going back to our encounters with the Japanese in the 1880s), what happened as a result of that decision, and what happened afterward. This compelling narrative holds nothing back, providing a look at blatant racism as a cause of Japanese Americans being uprooted, but also the cause of Japanese aggression and brutality during the war. Some of the stories and photographs included are rather graphic, but necessary in telling what really happened. In addition to telling the stories of those imprisoned by their own government, Marrin tells the stories of some Japanese Americans who played key roles in helping the Allies win the war, as interpreters with military intelligence and also as soldiers in segregated units. Discussion of the legalities of the executive order and how it has been dealt with since are also included. The last chapter compares the events that lead to the unfair imprisonment of the Japanese Americans to the current furor over Muslim extremists after September 11, 2001. Marrin repeats the quote by George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He makes a very strong case.


While Americans fought for freedom and democracy abroad, fear and suspicion towards Japanese Americans swept the country after Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Culling information from extensive, previously unpublished interviews and oral histories with Japanese American survivors of internment camps, Martin W. Sandler gives an in-depth account of their lives before, during their imprisonment, and after their release. Bringing readers inside life in the internment camps and explaining how a country that is built on the ideals of freedom for all could have such a dark mark on its history, this in-depth look at a troubling period of American history sheds light on the prejudices in today's world and provides the historical context we need to prevent similar abuses of power. 


No matter how many times I read about the events leading up to and including the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, it makes me sick every time.  Every ideal represented by the American flag was violated by imprisoning people for no reason other than their race.  Some of the details provided by Sandler are all too reminiscent of the Nazis and the Japanese Empire (other than murder).  I've always believed that when we behave like those we fight/condemn we are no better than they are, and this time in our history shows that all to clearly.  Sandler does a nice job summing up the events that led to the imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, including a discussion of Japanese immigration and Pearl Harbor.  He goes on to present facts about how and why it was decided to force the Japanese Americans into concentration camps (supposedly a risk of sabotage and spying, which was never proven against any of those imprisoned).  Those is favor of this plan out numbered those against.  In addition to explaining about life in the camps, Sandler discusses the Japanese Americans who served in the military, both as interpreters and combat soldiers.  Life after the camps and the search for redress are covered in the second to last chapter.  The last chapter focuses on the possibilities of such a thing happening again and the importance of not letting it happen again, even after September 11.  A powerful account of historical events that should be known, in order for it to never happen again.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Windows by Julia Denos/The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse by Mac Barnett/Claymates by Dev Petty


Walking his dog at dusk, one boy catches glimpses of the lives around him in this lovely ode to autumn evenings, exploring your neighborhood, and coming home.

Before your city goes to sleep, you might head out for a walk, your dog at your side as you go out the door and into the almost-night. Anything can happen on such a walk: you might pass a cat, or a friend, or even an early raccoon. And as you go down your street and around the corner, the windows around you light up one by one until you are walking through a maze of paper lanterns, each one granting you a brief, glowing snapshot of your neighbors as families come together and folks settle in for the night. With a setting that feels both specific and universal and a story full of homages to The Snowy Day, Julia Denos and E. B. Goodale have created a singular book — at once about the idea of home and the magic of curiosity, but also about how a sense of safety and belonging is something to which every child is entitled.


In this ode to the joys of living in calm, peaceful, and safe residential neighborhoods, a young boy takes his dog for a walk.  As he walks through the neighborhood, he takes a peek inside the lives of his neighbors, through their windows.  I enjoyed the story, but my favorite part was by far the exquisite illustrations.  It was fun reading the text and then looking for the windows showing the various described activities.  In some ways this is an I Spy book, allowing the reader to catch a glimpse of what the people in the neighborhood are doing at twilight. The detailed illustrations make this especially appropriate for one-on-one reading and sharing and discussing.  Would that all neighborhoods were like this one.


This is a story about a mouse and a duck who get swallowed by a wolf.

Early one morning a mouse met a wolf
and was quickly gobbled up.

When a woeful mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he quickly learns he is not alone: a duck has already set up digs, and, boy, has that duck got it figured out! Turns out it’s pretty nice in there, with delicious food and elegant table settings, courtesy of the wolf’s unchecked gluttony. And there’s something even better: no more fear of being eaten by a wolf! In fact, life is pretty good, until a hunter shows up. . . . With a nod to traditional fables and a wink to the reader, the award-winning Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen offer a tale of cooperation and creative cuisine that is sure to go down easy.


Mac Barnett has done it again.  Created a story so unusual no one else could possibly have come up with it.  Most creatures would find being swallowed by a wolf to be a bad thing, but the duck and mouse decide that it's not so bad.  Somehow the two avoid being eaten and turn the wolf's belly into quite a comfortable home.  When a hunter threatens their home, the duck and the mouse find they may have to stand up for what they have claimed as their own.  Jon Klassen's dry, neutral illustrations perfectly complement the tongue-in-cheek nature of the story.  This book works especially well with older readers who can appreciate the ironies inherent in the story.


Meet the claymates: two balls of clay that can become anything--even best friends!
What can you do with two blobs of clay? Create something amazing! But don't leave them alone for too long. Things might get a little crazy.

In this photographic friendship adventure, the claymates squish, smash, and sculpt themselves into the funniest shapes imaginable. But can they fix a giant mess before they're caught in the act?

This book is not only really funny, but the amazing illustrations do so much of the work. The characters are sitting on an artist's desk waiting for her to shape them, they are blobs of clay after all. One is friendly and open, the other worried and nervous. After the artist provides them a shape, they start experimenting, but things get out of hand. One of my favorite things about the book is the facial expressions the illustrator gives the characters, combined with the back and forth dialogue and you have a winner of a book.  After sharing this book with a number of classes (older and younger), it's safe to say this is one of the best books of 2017.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

SERIES THURSDAY: The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate/Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package


Noseholes and elephants! A pet-eating monster interrupts a perfect playdate with Princess Sneezewort . . . but who is that new masked avenger?

Princess Magnolia and Princess Sneezewort have plans . . . mysterious plans, like a princess playdate! They dress-up slam! They karaoke jam! They playhouse romp and snack-time stomp! But then a shout from outside Princess Sneezewort's castle interrupts their fun. It’s a monster trying to eat someone’s kitty! This is a job for the Princess in Black. Yet when the Princess in Black gets there, she finds only a masked stranger and no monster in sight . . . or is there? Action and humor abound in this ode to friendship that proves that when shape-shifting monsters intrude on your plans, two heroes are better than one.


One of the things that I love most about this series is the idea that anyone can become a hero no matter how rough around the edges you might be.  In this fifth book in the series, the Princess Magnolia finds herself up against a rather tricky foe.  As she travels to visit Princess Sneezewort in a neighboring kingdom, a monster has, unknown to her, hitched a ride on her carriage.  As she and Princess Sneezewort enjoy their 'playdate' the monster attempts to eat several pets in a park nearby.  Naturally, the Princess in Black rushes to the rescue, but this time she gets help from a surprising source.  Princess Sneezewort, having read an article about the Princess in Black, is determined to be a hero, so she dons a disguise and rushes off to help as the Princess in Blankets.  But the monster is particularly tricky and can change his shape.  Only by working together, using their own unique talents, can the two princesses defeat this monster.  Once again, the Hales have written a delightfully funny and adventurous story about following one's own path.  Pham's illustrations are gorgeous and complement the story beautifully.  A truly winning series that is bound to be loved by young readers.


What will it take for a cynical older sister to realize she's a born accordion player -- with music in her heart?

Eugenia Lincoln is a practical person with no time for gee-gaws, whoop-de-whoops, or frivolity. When an unexpected package containing an accordion arrives at her house, she is determined to have nothing to do with it. But her plans to sell the accordion, destroy the accordion, and give the accordion away all end in frustration. How can Eugenia stop being tormented by this troublesome package? Might she discover that a bit of unforeseen frivolity could be surprisingly . . . joyous?


Once again, Kate DiCamillo delights with her insights into a mostly unlikable character.  Anyone who has read Mercy Watson remembers Eugenia and her sourness as well as her dislike of pretty much anything that doesn't fit into her neat, orderly world. But it's fun to read about a different side to Eugenia as she discovers that sometimes it's the unexpected things in life that bring the most joy.  When an accordion is delivered to her house, Eugenia is seriously annoyed.  All she wants to do it to get rid of the thing.  The last thing she expects is for someone to show up offering to teach her how to play it.  But after several efforts to get rid of the unwanted instrument, Eugenia discovers that maybe, just maybe, there is more to her than she ever imagined.  With Van Dusen's fun illustrations to complement the story, DiCamillo humorously reminds readers that there is always hope, even for a rigid, cranky old lady.



Come along for a joy ride in this enthralling tribute to the daring women - Motor Girls, as they were called at the turn of the century - who got behind the wheel of the first cars and paved the way for change. The automobile has always symbolized freedom, and in this book we meet the first generation of female motorists who drove cars for fun, profit, and to make a statement about the evolving role of women. From the advent of the auto in the 1890s to the 1920s when the breaking down of barriers for women was in full swing, readers will be delighted to see historical photos, art, and artifacts and to discover the many ways these progressive females influenced fashion, the economy, politics, and the world around them.


This beautifully designed book presents the reader with a history of women and the automobile.  It was fascinating to read about how women stepped forward from the beginning to enjoy this new technology, despite its flaws, and despite opposition from many people.  Macy does a great job of introducing the reader to the basics of the creation of the automobile and how specific women were involved in the creation and development of the horseless carriage.  The book documents how women enjoyed learning to drive as well as using their newfound skills to improve their lives and that of women everywhere.  There are chapters about some of the women who proved that females were perfectly capable drivers by driving across the country.  Stories about the first female race car drivers were intriguing.  I especially appreciated the chapters on how women used their driving skills to help fight during World War I as well as working for women's rights.  The illustrations and photographs are well chosen and nicely complement the text.  The side notes include articles from the time period and the feature articles highlight interesting facts about women and cars.  The back matter makes this a great resource for teachers as well as a fascinating read in and of itself.  Short biographies of influential women are also included.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider/Little Fox in the Forest/The Book of Mistakes


A lyrical biography of E. B. White, beloved author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, written by Barbara Herkert and illustrated by Caldecott honoree Lauren Castillo.

 When young Elwyn White lay in bed as a sickly child, a bold house mouse befriended him. When the time came for kindergarten, an anxious Elwyn longed for the farm, where animal friends awaited him at the end of each day. Propelled by his fascination with the outside world, he began to jot down his reflections in a journal. Writing filled him with joy, and words became his world.

Today, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web are beloved classics of children’s literature, and E. B. White is recognized as one of the finest American writers of all time.


Lauren Castillo's beautiful illustrations wonderfully complement this brief look into the world of one of children's literature's most beloved authors.  As a young boy, E.B. White loved animals and writing, but struggled with school and being around people.   His love of writing carried young 'Andy' into adulthood, even leading him to his wife.  But his love of animals lead him to Maine and a farm full of animals.  It was there that he was inspired to write down the stories about Stuart Little, the mouse raised by humans, that he'd been telling his nieces, nephews, and children for years.  The animals he loved also inspired him to write Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan.  His love of words and story shine through in these children's books that have become classics.  This tender book gives the reader a glimpse into the life of a quiet man who left a powerful mark on the world of writing.


A wordless picture book in which two friends follow a young fox deep into the woods and discover a wondrous and magical world.

When a young girl brings her beloved stuffed fox to the playground, much to her astonishment, a real fox takes off with it! The girl chases the fox into the woods with her friend, the boy, following close behind, but soon the two children lose track of the fox. Wandering deeper and deeper into the forest, they come across a tall hedge with an archway. What do they find on the other side? A marvelous village of miniature stone cottages, tiny treehouses, and, most extraordinary of all, woodland creatures of every shape and size. But where is the little fox? And how will they find him?


Many children have experienced the trauma of losing a beloved toy.  But few have gone on a journey as enlightening as this one.  In this delightful wordless book by Stephanie Graegin, a young girl takes a well-loved stuffed fox to school to share with her classmates.  On her way home, she sits her bag down while she enjoys swinging on the playground.  But her pleasure vanished when she catches a glimpse of someone running away with her toy.  Leaving her bag behind, she chases after the culprit.  A friend grabs her bag and follows her.  Up to this point, the book's illustrations have been in various shades of bluish-gray.  When the two kids discover the world of the forest, color starts seeping into the illustrations.  The best part of the book in my opinion is when the two children find themselves fully immersed in the animals world, this is where color fully integrates the illustrations.  When the girl finally faces off with her toy thief, it's sweet to see some compassion exhibited. I also loved the way the end papers give clues about the beginning and ending of the story.  A beautifully illustrated tale of surprise and discovery as well as understanding exhibited by the different characters.


Zoom meets Beautiful Oops! in this memorable picture book debut about the creative process, and the way in which "mistakes" can blossom into inspiration.

One eye was bigger than the other. That was a mistake.
The weird frog-cat-cow thing? It made an excellent bush.
And the inky smudges... they look as if they were always meant to be leaves floating gently across the sky.

As one artist incorporates accidental splotches, spots, and misshapen things into her art, she transforms her piece in quirky and unexpected ways, taking readers on a journey through her process. Told in minimal, playful text, this story shows readers that even the biggest "mistakes" can be the source of the brightest ideas -- and that, at the end of the day, we are all works in progress, too.

Fans of Peter Reynolds's Ish and Patrick McDonnell's A Perfectly Messed-Up Story will love the funny, poignant, completely unique storytelling of The Book of Mistakes. And, like Oh, The Places You'll Go!, it makes the perfect graduation gift, encouraging readers to have a positive outlook as they learn to face life's obstacles. 


Admittedly, this isn't going to go on my list of favorite picture books, it's a little too odd for that.  And I'm not a fan of odd.  But that doesn't mean the book doesn't have a great deal of merit.  The idea of turning mistakes into something new and creative is certainly a great theme.  And it's definitely interesting to see the way the author/illustrator turned mistakes into something different.  There is a lot here worth sharing, especially with children who tend to give up on things when they make mistakes.
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