Tuesday, April 30, 2019

EARLY READERS: Click, Clack, Peep!/Bunny will not Smile!


New York Times bestselling duo Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s beloved story about a noisy duckling is now available as a Level 2 Ready-to-Read!

There’s more trouble on the farm, but Duck has nothing to do with it, for once. This time the trouble is a four-ounce puff of fluff who just won’t go to sleep, and whose play-with-me “peeps” are keeping the whole barnyard awake with him.


How do you get a baby duck to hit the hay? Poor Farmer Brown will find out—and Duck might just find himself in trouble after all…


Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin have a magical partnership when it comes to the Farmer Brown/Click, Clack books.  The books are light and fun to read with lots of humor.  The illustrations are just as appealing as the rhythmic text.  The content of this book was originally published as a picture book in 2015.  But it works just as well as an early reader in terms of content.  Of course for reading aloud with a group the picture book would be the better choice.  But for a young reader developing their reading skills the smaller illustrations and larger text work well.  The story is just as funny in this version as it was in the original.  A young duckling hatches and won't stop peeping, driving all the other animals from the barn.  Duck takes charge after putting headphones over Farmer Brown's ears.  But as with many things that Duck undertakes, there's an unfortunate aftereffect.   


From the endless imagination of Jason Tharp comes a brand-new, interactive Level 1 Ready-to-Read that’s perfect for fans of Mo Willems, Jim Benton, and David Milgrim and for beginning readers who like to giggle!

A bear named Big has a problem. His friend Bunny will not smile, no matter what Big tries…so Big needs your help! With appealing comic-inspired speech bubbles and interactive storytelling that prompts kids to do everything from turning the page, to leaning in so Big can whisper an idea, to making their silliest silly face, beginning readers will giggle their way through this Level 1 Ready-to-Read.


This silly book revolves around a bear named Big who wants the reader/listener to help him get Bunny to smile.  It's an interactive book where the reader/listener is encouraged to respond to the characters in the book.  After reading this with several kindergarten classes and seeing their response, I can safely say that the book generally works well.  Not all children chose to respond to the book but most of them did.  And it is rather silly with plenty of places for young readers/listeners to repeat what is being said or done or to respond.  A fun book for young children who enjoy interacting with the stories they read/hear.

Friday, April 26, 2019

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: The Wishbreaker by Tyler Whitesides


Ace and Ridge are back to save their friend—and the world—in this sequel to The Wishmakers, which Chris Grabenstein, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, praised as a “fantastically fast-paced and funny read.”

Being a Wishmaker may be more trouble than it’s worth. Sure, you get a genie who can grant an unlimited number of wishes, but for each one you make you have to accept an awful consequence in return. Not to mention that you’re also given an impossible quest and only seven days to fulfill it!

Despite all that, Ace and his genie, Ridge, managed to complete their last mission—but they couldn’t save their friend Tina from being abducted by a rogue genie who’s bent on using his limitless power to rule the world. To rescue her, Ace must reunite with Ridge to become a Wishmaker once more, and they’ll need to team up with the unlikeliest of new allies. It’s not every day you get a second chance to save the world, so Ace is determined to learn from his past mistakes and wish for the best, literally.


Note: If you haven't yet read the first book in the series, The Wishmakers,  I recommend that you do so before reading this review.

Having loved every book I've read by Tyler Whitesides, including the first book in the Wishmakers series, I was eager to read this one.  And I wasn't disappointed in the least.  Whitesides has a remarkable ability to combine story elements and ideas in such creative ways that I never know what's going to come next.  

After the hi-jinks of the first book, and the cliffhanger ending I was thrilled to pick up the book and discover that it picks up right where the first book ends.  Ace is desperately trying to get his genie, Ridge back so that he can save Tina, who sacrificed herself to save her mother.  But Tina has been taken captive by a very powerful genie and Ace and Ridge have their work cut out for them.  Especially when Ace receives his quest (part of being a wishmaker, see the first book) and discovers that the Universe has assigned him a task that has nothing to do with saving his friend.  Teaming up once again with Jathon Anderthon and his genie, along with Tina's mother, Ace and Ridge set out to find and free Tina.  But consequences pile up fast as they make wishes frantically in an effort to catch Chasm before he unleashes his own plans to conquer the world. Juggling strange consequences (dancing on sidewalks, brushing away nonexistent cobwebs, and spinning heads, along with his own longing to discover his past, Ace must choose what he wants the most and what he's willing to give up to get it.

Once again, Whitesides has written a thoroughly entertaining, creatively-written story about the power of choices and living with consequences versus having to choices at all. A real winner of a conclusion for a fantastic fantasy series for any reader, young or old, whose ever wished for things to be different.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Hello, I'm Here!/Bloom Boom!


A poetic text and wonderfully intimate photographs follow a newborn sandhill crane as it takes its first steps into the world.

Will my legs hold me?
What if I fall?

Peek in as a sandhill crane hatchling makes its first wobbly stand and takes its first steps alongside its brother. With their parents close by, they flap their wings and dance before enjoying a buggy treat. Someday they will fly with the majestic cranes overhead, but for now, Mama's soft feathers beckon. With a lyrical narrative and lovely photo illustrations, this latest venture from an acclaimed creative team makes a perfect new baby gift -- and will appeal to bird lovers, too.


Helen Frost and Rick Lieder have created another beautifully poetic ode to the wonders of nature.  This book focuses on the experiences of a young sandhill crane chick as it emerges into the world.  One of the things I love most about Frost's and Lieder's work is how well the words and photographs go together.  As Frost writes, "I'm out in the world ---I don't know where. Mama? Papa? Hello, I'm here!" we see a close up photograph of the chick all alone in the nest.  The matching words and text creates a wonderful story that is neither too simple nor too detailed. As with their other works, Frost and Lieder have created a gorgeous book that honors the beauty that nature provides those who take the time to look.


Discover the magic—and the science—behind spring flower blooms with this companion to the celebrated Raindrops Roll, Best in Snow, and Full of Fall.

When spring arrives, flowers of all kinds sprout and grow buds and bloom. Sometimes, they bloom a few at a time. But other times, many will bloom at once in a colorful flower boom! This photographic exploration of flowers goes from the desert to the woodlands and beyond, celebrating their beautiful variety and the science behind these colorful displays.


I always enjoy getting my hands on another April Pulley Sayre book because I know that it will be lovely.  And this book lives up to that expectation.  With only a few words per page, Sayre's poetry beautifully complements the large photographs.  In this book, the topic is wildflowers and springtime and the beauty of a field of wildflowers.  The catchiness of the title and repeated refrain adds to the joyful feel of the book.   And at the back of the book there is additional information for those like me who want to know the names and locations of the different flowers.  A book that highlights one of wonders of the natural world in a powerful way.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

PICTURE BOOKS: From Tree to Sea/Trees/Seeds Move


From the edge of the sea to a high mountain top, everything has its place in the world and all living things are connected. The world around us has a lot to tell us if we take the time to look and listen. This tender and comforting picture book celebrates the wisdom in many of the things great and small that make up our wonderful world.


This wonderful book takes the reader on a journey through some of the beautiful scenery that nature offers us.  The natural world has much to teach us if we are willing to listen and pay attention.  The author shares the things that she sees when she looks at the world around her.  For example, she points out that bees can teach us the value of working together for the common good.  Soil supports plants and roots and other growing things. Humans can support each other in similar ways.  One of my favorite parts was where she pointed out that like whales our dreams can be enormous, yet "I can take only small strokes one at a time to make them come true".  The comparison between a large whale and a tiny rowboat is especially striking.  A beautifully ode to the natural world and the value that exists there for those willing to see it.  

Every tree has its own story to tell in this evocative collection of poems celebrating the many varieties—from maple to willow to oak.

There are so many different kinds of trees in the world, and each has special qualities that make it unique. This lyrical, fanciful collection of poems celebrates the singular beauty of each tree, from the gnarled old apple tree to the tall and graceful aspen.


I have a special appreciation for trees.  I think they are beautiful and an important part of the world we live in.  This book highlights several different kinds of trees with a poem and illustration.  It's a gorgeous piece of work, rather a piece of art in my opinion. For some of the illustrations the book has to be turned sideways because the glorious height of the tree is being portrayed.  Each illustration also shows a child enjoying the benefits of that particular type of tree.  A wonderful book that pays homage to importance and varying roles of trees in the natural world. 


Discover the fascinating and surprising ways that seeds move and find a place to grow in this gorgeous picture book from Caldecott Honoree Robin Page.

Every seed, big or small, needs sunlight, water, and an uncrowded place to put down roots. But how do seeds get to the perfect place to grow? This exploration of seed dispersal covers a wide range of seeds and the creatures that help them move, from a coconut seed floating on waves to an African grass seed rolled by a dung beetle, to a milkweed seed floating on the wind.


Robin Page has written another beautiful book about the natural world.  This book focuses on how seeds move from place to place before sprouting and growing into a full size plant.  Each two page spread focuses on one kind of seed dispersal such as burrowing or rolling or sinking with additional information about the specific seed being shown.  This is not only a beautiful book, which is to be expected from a Caldecott Honoree, but it beautifully teaches an important concept.  This is a book that is bound to be used by many teachers in their efforts to help children understand seeds and plants and how human beings interact with and effect both. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

MMGM: Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams


This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?


There are some books that touch your heart from the very first page.  For me, this was true of this book.  Genesis is a sympathetic character from the get-go because she arrives home in the first chapter to find her family's belongings sitting on the front lawn of the apartment building they've been living in.  What makes it worse is that she's not alone, she brought some of the popular girls home with her, hoping that finally she's made it into the 'in' crowd.  But her hopes have crumbled again as she and her mom stay at her grandma's house while their father, trying to compensate for his not paying the rent, looks for a new place for them to stay.

Genesis's father finds them a new place to stay, and it's really nice.  But Genesis is afraid to believe that it will last any longer than any of the other places they've stayed.  In addition to worrying about her family's situation, Genesis must confront her own self-hatred, created by her father's criticism's and her former classmates name-calling and teasing.  She even keeps a list created for her that lists reasons they hated her, and she's added her own reasons to it.

Her new school doesn't seem to offer much at first, but when she makes a couple of friends, and meets a choir teacher who believes in her, she starts to realize that the negativity she's heard her whole life just may not be true.  But between the secrets she keeps (including her efforts to change her own skin color) and the shocking history lesson she gets from her grandma, Genesis struggles to find hope or reason to believe in herself.

I found this a powerful story about self-esteem and how damaging verbal abuse can be, intentional or not.  Despite the heartache that Genesis deals with though, there is still plenty of hope in the book brought into her life through her new friends, her new teacher, and her loving mother.  I found myself cheering for Genesis as she fought her way through her pain to find a reason to begin again, letting go of the pain of the past to find faith in her future. I also learned a lot about a situation and culture very different than the one I grew up in.  I love books like this one because they encourage me to look outside myself to develop empathy for other people's struggles.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: You are Light/Circle


With a wondrously simple die-cut book, the Caldecott Honor-winning creator of the Journey trilogy brings his talents further into the light.

This is the light that brings the day.

Open this beautiful book to find a graphic yellow sun surrounded by a halo of bright die-cut circles. Now hold the page up to the light and enjoy the transformation as the colors in those circles glow. In an elegant, sparely narrated ode to the phenomenon of light, Aaron Becker follows as light reflects off the earth to warm our faces, draws up the sea to make the rain, feeds all the things that grow, and helps to create all the brilliant wonders of the world, including ourselves.


This rather unusual picture is all about the power of light and it´s connection to life.  The beauty of the simple text highlights the way sunlight brings dawn, which touches water, which rains and ´waters the wheat'and ´feeds the leaves´.  Eventually the light touches you and me connecting all living things.  What makes the book extra special is the use of die-cuts and colored plastic to highlight the various colors that the light brings to life.  The book needs to be held up to the light to be fully appreciated, but it´s worth the effort.  A deceptively simple, yet gorgeous reminder of the power of light to bring life.


Multi-award-winning, New York Times best-selling duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen deliver the final wry and resonant tale about Triangle, Square, and Circle.

This book is about Circle. This book is also about Circle's friends, Triangle and Square. Also it is about a rule that Circle makes, and how she has to rescue Triangle when he breaks that rule. With their usual pitch-perfect pacing and subtle, sharp wit, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen come full circle in the third and final chapter of their clever shapes trilogy.


Like most Mac Barnett books, Circle,  has an unusual twist at the end, leaving the reader to come to his or her own conclusions.  As Circle, Triangle, and Square get ready to play hide-and-seek, Circle reminds the others not to hide behind the waterfall because it´s dark.  When Circle opens her eyes, Square tells her that Triangle went behind the waterfall.  Circle sets out to find her friend.  It does indeed prove to be a bit scary and Circle´s irritation shines through when she finds Triangle, or at least seems to do so.  But as with most Barnett books, things are not as they seem, and the reader is not provided with all the answers, leaving the reader to come to his/her own conclusions.  This makes the book a remarkable personal one as each reader will come away from the book with his or her own opinion.  It also makes it a great book to use in teaching as it provides students with a chance to infer and speculate and participate in the story.  A fitting ending to an intriguing new way to learn about shapes.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

SERIES THURSDAY: HILO--Then Everything Went Wrong by Judd Winick


MORE ACTION! MORE FUN! MORE LAUGHS! MORE ROBOTS! What REALLY happened in Hilo's world before he came to Earth? D.J. and our favorite space boy, Hilo, take a DANGEROUS trip to Hilo's home planet to find out! But everything Hilo thinks he knows about his past is about to be turned inside out and UPSIDE DOWN! Hilo was supposed to save everyone...but what happens if it's Hilo that needs saving?! Is ANYONE who we think they are? Can Hilo and his friends figure out how all the pieces fit...before it's too late?!


Another exciting book in an appealing, standout graphic novel series for middle grade readers.  In this 5th of 6 books, the tension builds to a crescendo as HiLo and D.J. set out to discover the remaining missing pieces of HiLo's memory.  While they visit HiLo's world and discover that things have changed drastically since HiLo was there last, Gina, Izzy, Lisa, and Polly are left to cover for their absence.  Izzy create a couple of robots to fill their shoes, but it's immediately clear to Gina that both robots behavior are raising suspicions.  And the military is getting ever closer to discovering The Comet's identity.  The characters are delightful, even the villain is sympathetic at one point, and provide plenty of humor to balance out the intense fight sequences.  The colors are bright and eye-catching.  And the twist at the end is jaw-dropping in it's implications for the final book.  I very much look forward to reading the final chapter of HiLo's story and finding out what happens to all of the different characters.
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