VIEWS: 1 PAGES: 122 POSTED ON: 10/11/2012
Acorns and Stew, Too By Ruth Orbach Picture Book Reviews (September 22, 2011) Lenore, a young girl, happy in her life, does not want her duck friends to leave for the winter. With good application of creativity, she saws and hammers, cuts and sews, paints and digs. Ultimately, she finds a solution to keep her good friends, the ducks, home for the winter. A delightful story, sure to please even if one is short on time. Black and white ink drawings are brightened by vibrant colored accents. This book sends a message to young readers that one person, inspired, hard working and devoted, can accomplish anything. ♥♥♥♥♥ For Immediate Release (September 29, 2011) I was initially attracted to this book because of the vintage style illustrations. They remind me of a few of the treasured picture books from my childhood. Then I read that this was originally published over twenty-five years ago as "Acorns and Stew." This is a revised edition with original illustrations, but updated contemporary text. These are not vintage style illustrations, but the real deal! Lenore loves living in her beautiful row house, with its sunny yellow door and a giant tree right growing right outside her front stoop. She adores curling up in her cozy room, the fuchsia comforter spread neatly across her big yellow bed. Her cat, Sam, follows her everywhere, sleeps in her bed, and curls up under the kitchen chair while she eats breakfast. Most of all, Lenore loves the ducks who live by the lake. She feeds them every day and they love her right back. With all this happiness, why is Lenore worried? Cold weather is coming and Lenore knows her ducks will have to fly away for the winter. Cut to illustration of the little girl and the ducks with tears running down their cheeks (and beaks). Lenore brainstorms and comes up with an idea she believes will work. She gathers up the materials and starts sawing, hammering, painting and sewing right there in her cozy house. On the first day of winter, Lenore treats the ducks to a banquet table loaded down with a feast, which includes acorns and stew (book title!), porridge, biscuits, and plums. Then she buttons each one into the winter coats she stitched up, and directs them to the tiny, colorful houses she built. The ducks will be able to stay all winter long! This book cracked me up. Ducks enjoying acorns and stew, wearing overcoats and living in brightly colored homemade houses. Completely illogical ... and wonderful. Black and white drawings punctuated with splashes of bright pinks, oranges, and yellows give the book such a happy feel. Now you know that if you happen to see a duck wearing an overcoat this winter, feel free to offer him an acorn or a dish of stew. Waking Brain Cells (November 28, 2011) First published 25 years ago, this book has a classic feel combined with a great story. Lenore loved a lot about her life, but most of all she loved the ducks who lived near the lake. She visited them every day and fed them bread and other food. But winter was approaching, so Lenore knew that soon the ducks were going to fly south. She made them little houses to live in, fed them on stew and acorns, even made winter coats for them. In the end, the ducks did not fly south. They stayed with Lenore. I love the ending of this book, where the ducks stay for the winter. So often, children in stories are infinitely creative and resourceful, but they don’t create real change. Here the universe shifted a bit to make room for Lenore and her dreams. Orbach writes with real joy. She delights in the small moments of creation that Lenore has, the attachment of the ducks to Lenore is evident too. She has created a book where emotions are tangible and hard work really makes a difference. Orbach’s art has a vintage feel. The illustrations are done in ink on white and then colored with wild bursts of color. The yellow is warm, the red pops, the pink is beyond bright, and the yellow is neon. It all makes for an eye-poppingly bright book. At the same time, the illustrations have a whimsical feel. The bright colors and the whimsy make for an interesting contrast with one another. I hadn’t read this years ago, so I’m very happy to find it now. Here is a sweet, clever and empowering story for children. Appropriate for ages 3-5. Anna Hibiscus Hooray for Anna Hibiscus! Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus! Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus! Written by Atinuke Illustrated by Lauren Tobia KidsBookShelf.com (January 2011) Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa with her whole family, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and all! There is always someone around to laugh with, play with, even fight with, and best of all you never have to sleep alone. But one holiday Anna's mother decides to take Anna, her brothers, and their father on a holiday alone. The soon discover that sometimes alone is more hectic than having many people around! A fun story about family and love. (Ages 4-8) Bookends– Booklist Online (January 5, 2011) Cindy: Lynn found this gem of a series, and I am so glad. Good storytelling in early chapter stories is always a treat and Anna Hibiscus (Kane Miller 2010) one sings on many levels. Most stories for this age level are set in the United States so to have an African setting is awesome, especially since the cultural details are woven into the charming stories in a subtle way. Having just spent the holidays in a house with 23 relatives and only one shower, I can relate to Anna’s bustling household with her mother, father, twin brothers (Double and Trouble) and many extended family members. In the first story, Anna’s father decides to take his nuclear family to the beach for holiday, but the rest of the family slowly is added to the mix, and the vacation is much less stressful once they are all together again. Atinuke is a professional storyteller from Nigeria and her craft serves her well in delivering Anna’s stories. If Ramona Cleary were from Africa, “Amazing Africa,” then her story might resemble this one. Anna’s passion, imagination, enthusiasm, naivete and fears are infectious and readers will be eager to continue on to the next books in the series to find out what will happen to her next. Great find, Lynn! Lynn: Anna and her charming family stole my heart in the first book in the series, Anna Hibiscus. My heart was completely theirs with the second book, Horray for Anna Hibiscus, and I’ve been urging everyone I meet since to read these. I’m a school librarian to my toes so many of the reasons I love these books are connected to the potential for classroom use. As Cindy says, an early reader set in another country is a rare bird and one set in a modern African city with a middle class family is even rarer. But there is so much more. Atinuke explores universal issues of family and growing up with grace and humor. She presents issues of economics, class and poverty with a skillful subtly, never lecturing but succeeding beautifully in opening young reader’s eyes. Having recently had to search for books on economics for the primary grades for state curriculum benchmarks, I wanted to jump and down when I read the story called Anna Hibiscus Sells Oranges. Here is a lesson on economics that is perfectly designed for the primary classroom. All the stories are wonderful for reading aloud or for the new independent reader and these stories can be used in a myriad of ways. Whether it is a story about hating to have your hair combed and braided or one about a warm climate child yearning to see snow, these are stories that all children can connect to. I understand the importance of helping young readers understand that Africa is not a homogeneous place. I do wish Atinkuke had specified a country but the strengths of the books outweigh this issue. The most important concept in the Anna Hibiscus books - that people in other countries may do some things differently but are like us in so many ways - is beautifully conveyed and carries the day. Two more Anna Hibiscus books are now available and they are on my order list already. Don’t miss this outstanding and unique series. Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children (January 2011) Anna Hibiscus lives in a lovely old house in Africa with her twin baby brothers (aptly named Double and Trouble), parents, aunties, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. With all these people, Anna is never lonely, and everyone does what they can to contribute to the needs of the household. Their compound, which encloses the most beautiful garden that Anna has ever seen, is nestled in a busy city filled with markets, lagoons, roads, skyscrapers, and shanty towns. In this setting, Anna navigates through a series of adventures and learning moments that take her anywhere from the garden to the market and well beyond, even to Canada where her mother was born. Each of these adventures is described as a short story in a series of four books. This first installment of the series kicks off with a family holiday outside of the city. Just Anna and her baby brothers and parents. Double and Trouble are too much trouble though, and ultimately, the entire family, grandparents and all, have converged on the beach house to help out. In another one of the book's stories, Anna learns just how fortunate she is when she experiences firsthand the tough life lived by the children who sell fruits and vegetables on the street outside the family compound. The book series is written by a gifted story-teller, Nigerian-born Atinuke, and illustrated by Lauren Tobia with an abundance of expressive sketches. Many of the stories include some sort of an economics theme, including the role of markets, the contrast between abject poverty and wealth, and the gender division of labor within the home. Although the author does not specify which country Anna is from, which could contribute to unrealistic generalizations, the books provide young readers with a unique view of the wonders of life in a large extended family in an urban African context. Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children (January 2011) Anna Hibiscus lives in a lovely old house in Africa with her twin baby brothers (aptly named Double and Trouble), parents, aunties, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. With all these people, Anna is never lonely, and everyone does what they can to contribute to the needs of the household. Their compound, which encloses the most beautiful garden that Anna has ever seen, is nestled in a busy city filled with markets, lagoons, roads, skyscrapers, and shanty towns. In this setting, Anna navigates through a series of adventures and learning moments that take her anywhere from the garden to the market and well beyond, even to Canada where her mother was born. Each of these adventures is described as a short story in a series of four books. This second book in the series has Anna taking a big step: she has become old enough to attend school. As her father reminds her, growing-up children need to go to school so they can work to make Africa a better place. Anna certainly has her work cut out for her when she is selected to sing a solo for a visiting president from another country. Her learning also progresses outside of school, especially when she accompanies her aunty and uncle on an errand to another part of the city where children beg and scavenge through trash to survive. The book series is written by a gifted story-teller, Nigerian-born Atinuke, and illustrated by Lauren Tobia with an abundance of expressive sketches. Many of the stories include some sort of an economics theme, including the role of markets, the contrast between abject poverty and wealth, and the gender division of labor within the home. Although the author does not specify which country Anna is from, which could contribute to unrealistic generalizations, the books provide young readers with a unique view of the wonders of life in a large extended family in an urban African context. Biblio Reads, (February 17, 2011) Anna Hibiscus is destined to become a favorite, memorable character in children's literature. The stories are fascinating, well-told and fun even though Anna encounters hardship outside her family's compound, and modernity attempts to trounce tradition. Again, Atinuke weaves family love and blessings amid poverty and hardship, blending the two in the honest and innocent perspective of Anna who tries to help those in need. In this third book Anna is preparing to visit her grandmother in Canada and she is so excited about the chance to see and play in snow. As the family helps her prepare she worries about leaving them for a month and wonders if they will miss her. You will love the family ties and values and Anna's big heart. You will feel the dry, hot, dusty heat of harmattan (the season when the sand blows over the land), you will sigh with anticipation as Anna prepares for her journey and you will laugh at her twin baby brothers (Double and Trouble) and their antics as they get in the way and make mischief. For those who have read the first two Anna Hibiscus books and loved them, you will not be disappointed. NC Teacher Stuff (February 22, 2011) Anna Hibiscus is back in two new books (at least new to the U.S.) and the stories are just as charming as in the first two books. In Good Luck Anna Hibiscus!, Anna and her large extended family are preparing to send her on a visit to Granny Canada so Anna can visit her mother's homeland. Cold and wintry Canada is very different from tropical Africa, so Anna's family has a lot to do to get her ready. Each of the four sequential stories in the book contain lessons learned through the lens of a loving African family. In Have Fun Anna Hibiscus!, Anna goes to Canada to visit her grandmother and learns new life lessons in a different culture. Spending time with Granny Canada and her dog Qimmiq gives Anna an expanded perspective on life and a new appreciation for both Canada and Africa. The Anna Hibiscus series of short chapter books have been some of the most satisfying books that I have read recently. Rich characters and settings abound in these stories. Anna is a winning protagonist who is not perfect, but always seeking to do good. Her family, in Africa and Canada, are loving, warm people who are funny and opinionated. You will want to read both of these books so you can compare the two cultures and observe the changes in Anna's thinking. The conflict between the old and the modern will make for interesting discussion with your students. These books would also be great mentor texts for how setting affects the plot of a story. Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children (January 2011) Anna Hibiscus lives in a lovely old house in Africa with her twin baby brothers (aptly named Double and Trouble), parents, aunties, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. With all these people, Anna is never lonely, and everyone does what they can to contribute to the needs of the household. Their compound, which encloses the most beautiful garden that Anna has ever seen, is nestled in a busy city filled with markets, lagoons, roads, skyscrapers, and shanty towns. In this setting, Anna navigates through a series of adventures and learning moments that take her anywhere from the garden to the market and well beyond, even to Canada where her mother was born. Each of these adventures is described as a short story in a series of four books. Anna begins and ends this third book with two different scenarios preoccupying her thoughts. In the book’s first story, the dusty African wind known as the Harmattan has blown sand from the Sahara Desert all over the city. The next four months will bring no rain, only dusty, dry wind. While the family’s compound has a well that will supply them with enough water if everyone is very careful, Anna is distressed to learn that many children in the city have no water, and she thinks of a way to help. By the last story, Anna is preparing to visit cold Canada, home to her grandmother and an abundance of ice and snow. The book series is written by a gifted story-teller, Nigerian-born Atinuke, and illustrated by Lauren Tobia with an abundance of expressive sketches. Many of the stories include some sort of an economics theme, including the role of markets, the contrast between abject poverty and wealth, and the gender division of labor within the home. Although the author does not specify which country Anna is from, which could contribute to unrealistic generalizations, the books provide young readers with a unique view of the wonders of life in a large extended family in an urban African context. Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011) The amazing African world introduced in the first two Anna Hibiscus books has turned from lush to dry and dusty. It's harmattan season, when the wind blows sand from the Sahara Desert, nearly Christmas time. Soon Anna Hibiscus will travel all the way to Canada to visit her other grandmother and see snow. Four linked stories describe incidents from daily life: careful dry-season bathing with buckets, family nap time, shopping for cold-weather clothes in a modern department store and a more satisfying traditional stall and the week Anna’s family seems to have forgotten her—until they produce their going-away surprises. As in other titles in the series, these gentle stories are illustrated on nearly every page with Tobia's gray-scale sketches. Accurate cultural details will appeal to readers curious about life in an unfamiliar world. This suburban family compound in a generic sub-Saharan country reflects the author’s own Nigerian childhood. The third-person narration moves briskly, with plenty of dialogue. Novice readers may find unfamiliar dialect challenging: “In dis your compound you throw water for ground," a peddler selling fruit outside the family home complains, pointing out that while Anna's family uses leftover wash water to water the plants, city children have no water at all. Once again, Anna demonstrates a growing social consciousness. Readers may begin Anna's story here; they will certainly want to go back to read earlier stories and will look forward to learning what happens next. (Fiction. 5-9) In the Pages... (February 15, 2011) Good Luck Anna Hibiscus! and Have Fun Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke These are delightful beginning chapter books (ages 5-9). Anna is a dear little girl that lives in Africa - you see her world from her fun viewpoint and learn about the wonderful African culture at the same time. My beginning reader devours these!!! Don't miss any in this series!! Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children (January 2011) Anna Hibiscus lives in a lovely old house in Africa with her twin baby brothers (aptly named Double and Trouble), parents, aunties, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. With all these people, Anna is never lonely, and everyone does what they can to contribute to the needs of the household. Their compound, which encloses the most beautiful garden that Anna has ever seen, is nestled in a busy city filled with markets, lagoons, roads, skyscrapers, and shanty towns. In this setting, Anna navigates through a series of adventures and learning moments that take her anywhere from the garden to the market and well beyond, even to Canada where her mother was born. Each of these adventures is described as a short story in a series of four books. This fourth installment in the series sees Anna embarking on her much- anticipated month-long voyage to Canada to visit her grandmother. Anna experiences a roller coaster of emotions, including great sadness in saying goodbye to her family, sheer excitement from seeing and feeling snow for the first time, and utter panic in facing a dog inside of grandmother’s house. She does not know what to feel when a group of children invite her to join them for skating and sledding. They seem to be interested in her only because she is from Africa, not because she is Anna Hisbiscus. Anna will have to speak her mind and let them know she does not want to be prejudged before she can truly enjoy herself in these new winter activities. The book series is written by a gifted story-teller, Nigerian-born Atinuke, and illustrated by Lauren Tobia with an abundance of expressive sketches. Many of the stories include some sort of an economics theme, including the role of markets, the contrast between abject poverty and wealth, and the gender division of labor within the home. Although the author does not specify which country Anna is from, which could contribute to unrealistic generalizations, the books provide young readers with a unique view of the wonders of life in a large extended family in an urban African context. Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011) Raised in a suburban compound among an extended African family, Anna Hibiscus travels to Canada to visit her other grandmother and see snow. These four connected stories describe her departure, her first joyful experience of snow, making friends and celebrating Christmas with her grandmother. Through Anna's eyes, cultural differences become clear. She wakes alone for the first time in her life. She misses familiar spicy foods but enjoys chocolate cereal. She struggles to put on tights and warm clothes. She fears her grandmother's dog. At home, dogs live outside and might bite, but in Canada, Quimmiq rescues her from a snowdrift. In this thoroughly modern world, Anna calls her family on the phone, takes pictures of everything, and even packs a cooler full of snow to take home to her baby brothers. This fourth in the series adds an extra dimension to the cultural richness of these titles by making the contrast between worlds explicit. Christmas is both familiar and new, with different foods, old and new carols and one splendidly decorated tree instead of lights everywhere. The Nigerian-born author has drawn on her own childhood travel to make this experience real for young readers today. On every spread, Tobia’s sketches, black and white with gray fill, add interest and appeal. A welcome addition to the sparse collection of stories for young readers about modern African life. (Fiction. 5-9) Waking Brain Cells (April 4, 2011) In the first two books about Anna Hibiscus, readers were treated to a glimpse into life in Africa among a large extended family. But Anna Hibiscus has even more family, a grandmother who lives in Canada. Book three in the series tells the story of Anna Hibiscus’ preparations for heading to Canada for the first time. The first few stories reintroduce Anna Hibiscus’ family, including her baby brothers who get into all sorts of trouble. The other stories tell of trying to find warm clothes suitable for a Canadian winter in Africa and how her family gives her a send off. Book Four follows Anna Hibiscus to Canada starting with her plane trip. Those of us in North America will see snow with fresh eyes, enjoy Anna Hibiscus’ first attempt at ice skating, and will enjoy getting to know her grandmother’s dog too. This series continues to be a celebration of family, expanding now to far-flung families and new adventures. Atinuke tells all of her stories with a storytellers structure and tone. There is repetition that echoes throughout the series, tying them all together nicely. At the same time, her structure remains easy and friendly, offering an inviting cadence to old and new readers alike. The entire series is illustrated by Lauren Tobia. The illustrations weave throughout the book, creating a window into the cultures shown in the stories. They make the book welcoming for newer readers who will find a great friend in Anna Hibiscus. If you were a fan of the first two Anna Hibiscus books, make sure to check out these two as well. They are just as lovely as the first. Appropriate for ages 6-9. Pugent Sound Council for Reviewing Children’s Media (April 2011) One of four Anna Hibiscus books straight out of the UK by Nigerian born Atinuke. These stories are set in her childhood memories of living in Africa. Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. Hot Africa... so the stories begin. With unexpected but easy to read African dialogue or patois, this story immediately sets the tone of something new, something curious. Each little chapter stands alone, but consolidates into the whole story of Anna leaving to visit her white Grandmother in Canada. A very heartwarming glimpse of how it takes a loving, fussing, caring, extended family to get one little girl ready for her first trip. After reading this one, I could easily buy the other books in this series. Starred review, Kirkus Reviews. Seven Impossible Things – Kirkus Reviews (April 8, 2011) “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa.” This is how most chapters begin, the introductory information making it so that you could pick up any story at any point, though they’re all interconnected, and follow. Anna’s life is very different from that of the typical American suburban family: She lives inside a big compound with her Canadian mother and African father; her grandmother and grandfather; her aunties and uncles; lots of cousins; and her twin baby brothers, Double and Trouble. While most Americans merely appreciate on a theoretical level the notion of a village raising a child, Anna’s family lives it: “It is not good to be alone,” she hears her family whispering to her mother on one particularly stressful day in Book 1. “We have to help each other. A husband and three children is too much for one woman alone.” Though her life in Africa is culturally different (and children will learn about daily, suburban African home life), what makes these books work is the universality of Anna’s inner world, one full of exclamation marks and joy. (“Anna Hibiscus started to sing. First her heart, and then her mouth joined in” are my two favorite lines.) She lives with a loving (sometimes frustrating) family; she longs for adventure (to see snow in Canada, where her maternal grandmother lives); she feels pride when she conquers her fears (Granny Canada’s dog with the pointy teeth in Book 4, not to mention singing in front of her entire school and a visiting president in Book 2); and, by paying attention to the world around her and with a bit of nudging from her family, she learns about social justice (sharing her allotted amount of water with the poor, parched girls on the street during the time of the harmattan winds in Book 3). Books 1 and 2, released in 2010, escaped my attention then. With last month’s release of Books 3 and 4, I’ve finally found them. And I highly recommend them. Like Anna, both my heart and my mouth join in. These are funny, delightfully child-centered stories. I hope we are treated to more of Anna’s adventures. Biblio Reads (February 27, 2011) he only complaint I have about Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus--or any of the Anna Hibiscus books--is that I come to the end too quickly! In Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus, we meet Granny Canada and watch Anna discover what it's like to visit a cold country, play in the snow and make friends who have never met a girl from Africa before. Anna handles the differences between her home country and Canada with courage and grace and opens the young reader's mind to a world much larger than his/her own country and culture. The Horn Book Magazine (May/June 2011) STARRED “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa.” So begins each linked short story in this series, loosely based on the author’s own childhood in Nigeria. Set in contemporary Africa, the stories put the reader smack-dab in the middle of Anna’s large family, including her parents, twin brothers Double and Trouble, aunts and uncles, and many, many cousins. This is a modern family, with cell phones and laptops. In these third and fourth entries in the series, Anna’s eyes are opened to life outside her big white house. In Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus!, harmattan winds from the Sahara cover the land with dust. Anna realizes that the children outside the gate do not have the same access to water and she, along with wise adults, comes up with a plan to help. In Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna flies to snowy Canada to spend a month (including Christmas) with her white grandmother, whom she has never met. Everything is on a small scale in these books, allowing the reader to easily identify with the situations. Anna does not try to save Africa from drought; she just tries to alleviate the thirst of her neighbors. Like the rest of her family in Africa, Anna fears dogs, but she comes to love Granny Canada’s beloved Qimmiq. Tobia’s detailed illustrations add depth and energy to the stories—showing Anna in all her emotional states and giving new readers the visual support they need. Readers ready for chapter books will love Anna and her sprawling family. Educating Alice (May 12, 2011) Atinuke’s Anna Hibiscus Books I am overdue writing this post about the remarkable, amazing, and wonderful Anna Hibiscus books by Atinuke. After reading Betsy’s review last summer I requested the books and fell completely and totally in love with them. Since then I’ve been delighted to see others in America become equally smitten, say the folks over at Horn Book who have just given two in the series well-deserved stars. My special thanks to reviewer and teacher Robin Smith who just now reminded me of them as she mentioned them on the ccbc-net discussion list as exemplars for raising issues of economic differences for children. For those still unfamiliar with this charming series, the books are from the point of view of a young biracial child, Anna Hibiscus who lives in “… Africa. Amazing Africa.” In each of these early chapter books mostly set in an unnamed city, professional storyteller Atinuke gently, authentically, and lyrically strings together a series of episodes that present life for one extended Nigerian family. There are threads tying each set of stories together — Anna’s anxiety about having to sing in front of an important audience or her visit with her Canadian grandmother — but it is the individual little stories that make these books so powerful. Having lived and taught in Sierra Leone I’m fairly obsessed with bringing material to American children that communicate an authentic viewpoint of life in West Africa. While she does not identify Anna’s home country, author Atinuke’s background is Nigerian and I can only say that what she describes rings true to me from my own experience a few countries to the west. (I’m going back to Sierra Leone this summer for the first time which will be quite an experience!) Like Robin, I too admire Atinuke’s deft handling of the class and economic issues that are familiar to me from my time in West Africa. I’ve heard some complaining about the author’s decision not to identify Anna’s home country and I have to say I disagree. The choice to begin each story with a lyrical storytelling trope — that Anna lives in “amazing Africa” is lovely and clearly an artistic choice. Yes, some Americans have trouble understanding that the continent of Africa is not a country, but that doesn’t mean every book written for children and set in Africa must identify the country in order for American children to get the right idea. Even without naming the country, Atinuke does one of the best jobs I’ve seen giving a feel and sense of what life is like for one West African child. And because of that I’m looking forward to her new series, The No. 1 Car Spotter, this one from the point of view of a young boy living in an African village. *** Has been named an “LMC Editor’s Choice 2011” selection. LMC Editors’ Choice list comprises the following: “The selection of the best of all the exceptional titles reviewed in LMC the previous publishing year … selected because of their significance and value in the school setting. Some cover important or controversial topics or issues; some cover unusual topics not previously explored in the K-12 market; some offer a different approach to a familiar topic or reflect a new trend. “ Meridian Magazine (June 3, 2011) Anna Hibiscus, by Atinuke, is a new series that features a little girl and her family and friends as she lives in Africa. The stories are rich and enriching as you begin to understand a different culture far away. "Good Luck Anna Hibiscus!" and "Have Fun Anna Hibiscus!" are the latest installments. Read Kiddo Read (July, 2011) In this first of a series of four chapter books we meet the exuberant Anna as she goes about her life in “... Africa. Amazing Africa.” While the city Anna lives in is never identified, the story is based on the Nigerian childhood of author and professional storyteller Atinuke. The stories are uniformly delightful – from a beach vacation with her African father, Canadian mother, and twin baby brothers where Anna learns the value of her extended family to an experience that helps her better understand the profound economic disparities that exist in her world. Told in episodic chapters that are perfect for single- reading sessions, each book in the series has a connecting theme moving Anna a little farther outside the compound where she lives with her grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Like all young children joining the bigger world, Anna learns simple lessons with the gentle and supportive assistance of her adult family members and the readers learn along with her. In Hooray for Anna Hibiscus, she begins school, making her five or six, and manages after great trepidation to sing in a stadium for a visiting head of state. The final two books, Good Luck Anna Hibiscus and Have Fun Anna Hibiscus, focus on her preparations for and then visit to her Canadian grandmother at Christmas time where she achieves her desire to experience snow. Adding to the joy of these charming stories are Lauren Tobia’s deceptively simple black-and-white illustrations; they represent Anna’s energy and the life around her beautifully. Perfect for emergent readers to read on their own, this book and the rest of the series (Hooray for Anna Hibiscus!, Good Luck Anna Hibiscus!, and Have Fun Anna Hibiscus!) are also great read-alouds. For children wanting more of this sort of story, Grace Lin’s The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat or Sara Pennybaker’s Clementine series might serve well. And for more on contemporary African life through the eyes of a biracial child, check out Penda Diakite’s I Lost My Tooth in Africa. WRAL.com (July 13, 2011) And "Anna Hibiscus," by Atinuke is the first in a series from Britain now being published here. Anna lives in "amazing Africa" with her extended family. Young readers will be enchanted by their introduction to life and culture in Africa with Anna. Adult readers of Alexander McCall Smith's #1 Ladies Detective Agency books will understand the charm of gently being immersed in a new land. For ages 7 and up. Jean Little Library (July 15, 2011) Anna Hibiscus is back! When I first discovered these beginning chapter books, I completely fell in love with them. They are unique in the beginning chapter book genre, especially realistic stories, which is overwhelmingly full of obnoxious and/or quirky girls in school with the occasional boy-constantly-in-trouble character. Anna Hibiscus takes the reader to a whole different culture and will introduce children to the idea that books really can make you travel to a fascinating and completely different land, something which is often advertised (how many times have you seen posters for traveling with books?) but rarely fulfilled except in fantasy. In her third book, Anna Hibiscus and her family are living through the Harmattan, when the wind blows sand over their garden and the city and water is a precious commodity. In her first story, Anna and her family are carefully guarding their water to drink, wash, and keep their most beautiful garden green. But when the girls at their gate who sell oranges tell them of the drought in the city, the family decides together to water the children of the city instead of their garden. In her second story, Anna gets in big trouble because of her twin brothers Double and Trouble. But in the end, her grandparents make everything right. Anna’s third story reminds us of her promised trip to her mother’s relatives in Canada and the fulfillment of her wish to see snow; before she can go, she needs warm clothes and we get to see the contrast between the various stores in the city and the warmth and love between Anna’s mother and her mother-in-law. Finally, Anna is having second thoughts about her trip, especially when everyone seems to have forgotten her already! How can she go away for an entire month? But then her family shows her their wonderful surprises and she knows she will take their love with her on her wonderful adventure. Anna is a cheerful and sometimes stubborn little girl whose experiences in a family, culture, and country very different from the United States will fascinate beginning chapter readers. She tends to look very young on the covers, so you will need to do some booktalking to get kids to take a break from their usual bland fare of girls and boys like them in schools like theirs in towns like theirs. School Library Journal (August 1, 2011) Gr 1-3–Fans of the series will not be disappointed in these latest books about Anna Hibiscus. In the first, the African child and her family help her prepare for her first trip to Canada to visit her grandmother; the second book continues with her actual trip and the fun experiences in the snowy north for the Christmas holiday. Once again, Atinuke handles the complexity of life in Africa (and the differences between life there and in North America) with deftness and grace. Serious concepts like racism, poverty, and social activism are covered as simply and expertly as dealing with taking the blame for a sibling’s misbehavior without becoming heavy-handed or unsuitable for early chapter- book audiences. Although elements of Anna’s life may be foreign to some readers, her sweet nature and youthful troubles are common to children everywhere. The expressive black-and-white images that weave seamlessly through the texts enhance the stories beautifully. “Anna Hibiscus” is a lovely, rare bird of a series, providing a modern view of another culture in warm, approachable language. Meridian Magazine (June 2011) Anna Hibiscus, by Atinuke, is a new series that features a little girl and her family and friends as she lives in Africa. The stories are rich and enriching as you begin to understand a different culture far away. “Good Luck Anna Hibiscus!” and “Have Fun Anna Hibiscus!” are the latest installments. The Classroom Bookshelf (September 26, 2011) Master storyteller Atinuke is back with two new early chapter books in the Horn Book Award-honored series about the delightful African girl who has captured the spirit, adventure, innocence, and questions of childhood. In Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna prepares for her first visit to her maternal grandmother in Canada, while in Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna finally travels to Canada for the Christmas holiday season. As in the first two books of the series, each chapter can work as a single read-aloud, beginning with the memorable lines, “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa,” offering a separate episode in Anna’s life, and highlighting the importance of family support. The chapters provide both mirrors and windows into a childhood that is simultaneously familiar and foreign: in one, she must find clothes warm enough for her first snowy winter; in another, she suffers false accusation that she ate a whole jar of sweets when in actuality she was trying to stop her infant twin brothers from doing so; and in still another chapter, she grapples with the notion that Granny Canada treats a dog as a friend and family member ("Dogs live outside and eat rubbish"). With the help of Lauren Tobia’s appealing pen-and-ink illustrations, Atinuke presents the portrait of Anna and her extended family as devoted and determined; middle-class, multicultural, and modern; good-natured and generous; strong and sensitive. Furthermore, Anna continues to explore issues of privilege, prejudice, and social class, learning a new life lesson at the end of each chapter. However, the set up is entirely buoyant and engrossing—and Atinuke’s voice so nuanced and captivating—that the books deftly avoid sounding didactic. If you or your students haven’t yet made friends with Anna Hibiscus, get ready to be instantly charmed. Growing Up Santa Cruz (September 28, 2011) As I’ve said before in this column, the well written, easy-read chapter book is an elusive item (as rare as a thin fantasy novel for 5th to 8th graders*). Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke is so good that you could read it aloud to your 6 to 9-year-olds as easily as your 7 to 10- year-olds could read it independently. It is rare that an early chapter book is worth reading aloud; there are only a handful that I can think of: Lady Lollipop, Bink and Gollie, How Oliver Olson Changed the World, Jake. Add Anna Hibiscus to that very small roster. And it’s a series. And they’re all equally delightful. Each chapter is a gem— autonomous—just enough for a bedtime read. “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa.” Many of the stories begin like this. Anna lives in a very large, white house, in a compound plump with mango trees, in an unnamed West African city near the coast along with her extended family of parents, twin toddler brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and a multitude of cousins. Anna is perhaps 7 years old: smart, funny, and kind. Each chapter is one of the small, daily adventures lucky children have: singing alone in a school program; buying winter clothes for a visit to “Granny Canada;” worrying about the return of an aunt, working out of the country, who may have forgotten traditional ways and values (she has not); working out how to help the children who sell fruit at the gate of the compound (Atinuke is not condescending towards privileged, middle-class Anna, or towards the children at the gate). We learn about different points of view without the author trying to teach us. I don’t know how Atinuke does this, but she does. In one story there’s a horrified discussion among the relatives about a child sleeping alone, lonely, in her own bedroom. There’s a small sigh from Mom, who is from Canada, and white, and who remembers that time alone can also be nice. Anna’s dad, catching the sigh, plans a small holiday upriver with just the members of the immediate family. I love it; it’s not stated, his understanding his wife’s desires. It’s just love and so he does it, although really, he’s pretty profoundly uncomfortable, and the writing is so vivid, we too are uncomfortable. And we love her (the mom) and all, but how can you have a real vacation with just five members of your immediate family? All the stories are like this. You are Anna Hibiscus, and you learn a lot about yourself and others. It’s just lovely. This charming, approachable, gentle series, with its warm, expressive language, is a welcome window into an unfamiliar, wholly-familiar world. East Lansing Public Library (October 4, 2011) We all know about the Newbery and Caldecott and (I hope) the Printz awards. Another award I respect is the Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards. An honor book this year is Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke… so I looked it up to read it. For some reason I thought it was about a girl growing up in Hawaii. I guess it was the “hibiscus “ in the title (talk about stereotyping!). But Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. These two sentences are the start of every chapter, and the 4 books in this series are amazing books. It’s unusual because I think there are few books for beginning chapter book readers that take place in other countries, and none that I can think of in Africa. By getting to know Anna, readers take a look at our own American culture through her eyes, and see that there are many ways to live in our world. Anna lives with her big, extended, loving family in a compound in the middle of a city ( the country is never named). In the four books, Anna learns about others in her city who are not as privileged as she is, is surprised that her Canadian mother grew up in a house with only her mother and father and her own room,(how lonely!), overcomes stage fright when she is asked to sing in front of the president of her country, and visits her grandmother in Canada and sees snow. The author, Atinuke, is a storyteller, and the tales do have a kind of rhythm to them. They would be great to read aloud. More stories from Amazing Africa, please, Atinuke! A Book and a Hug (October 2011) Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore. No, we've headed all the way to Africa. Meet Anna Hibiscus and her wonderful family full of children named Miracle, Sweetheart, Double, Trouble, Angel, Joy and Charity and her Auntie Comfort who lives in the United States and her grandparents for whom the entire family bends a knee out of great respect. There is Uncle Tunde who understands what Anna needs and who shares his heart and his cell phone for texting when a text just must be sent. There is the wisdom of the grandparents who worked so hard so that Anna Hibiscus could live in a great white house with orange trees and not have to sell oranges on the streets. There is Granny Canada who invites Anna HIbiscus to come to visit her to see the wonder of snow. Will Auntie Comfort break the grandparents' hearts when she comes to visit by ignoring her African roots? What lesson will be learned when Anna Hibiscus tries to break out of the silence and boredom of her compound by selling oranges from the family trees? Will Anna ever see that mysterious wonder called snow? Can Anna's mother get the peace and quiet she needs by getting away from the chatter and intrusion of so many family members who sleep together, eat together, work together and play together? The richness of family comes roaring through and the storytelling is a joyful collage of tradition, wonder, and gratitude. Four stories are told with such insight into the universal hearts and minds of children and the messages are warm, wise and reassuring us that the world is truly a wonderful place to be. Heartwarming and not to be missed. 112 pages Ages 7-10 A Child’s Bookshelf (November 2, 2011) If you have an elementary-age child looking for a new storybook friend, then you will delighted to discover Anna Hibiscus. Each of the four stories in this collection begins with simplicity: “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa.” Inspired by the life experiences of the Nigerian-born author, Atinuke, the sensory bustle of Anna’s city reflects a deep and abiding rootedness, a sincere love of place. But it is Anna Hibiscus herself who makes each story sing. Anna lives with her mother, her father, her brothers (Double and Trouble), her grandparents, her aunties, her uncles and more cousins than she can count. She lives in a very large house where the children all climb the old mango tree and Uncle Bizy Sunday shops and cooks for everyone. Family is the center of Anna’s life, a net that cradles her through each of her adventures. In “Anna Hibiscus on Holiday”, Anna’s Canadian-born mother wants a nice, quiet vacation. She travels with her husband and children to a small island with a beach cottage. Solitude isn’t as grand as it seems, though, as the twins insist on crawling off the veranda and there isn’t a break from cooking or cleaning. What’s a family vacation, after all, without a little more family along? In “Auntie Comfort”, Anna learns that moving away, even across the ocean, doesn’t mean losing your roots. When Auntie Comfort comes to visit from America, Anna is worried that Grandfather will be disappointed, that Auntie Comfort will have forgotten “the proper African way.” Rich with details of daily life — finger bowls and tailors and cellphones – this story highlights both the tight bonds and the elasticity of Anna’s extended family. “Anna Hibiscus Sells Oranges” offers a wider view of the city, outside the walls of Anna’s compound. Fascinated with the girls who sell oranges on the street, Anna defies Grandfather and sells the fruit of her family’s garden. Grandfather’s subsequent lessons in compassion and economics give Anna a new, more mature perspective on work and gratitude. In “Sweet Snow”, Anna longs to see, touch, and taste the Canadian snow of her mother’s stories and pictures. When Granny Canada offers to fly her over for a summer visit, Anna has to find a sensitive way to let Granny know how much better a winter trip would be. Her creativity and sincerity win over everyone in her large and lovely family. My own family has fallen in love with the curiosity and effervescent energy of Anna Hibiscus. Boo-Monkey, my five year old, listened raptly as I read to her. Seven-year old Rainbow Girl read the book on her own, and then she read the remaining three books in the series. She loved them all. As for me, I’d like to move in with Anna Hibiscus and her uncountable cousins. I’d like to climb the mango tree and navigate the city’s lagoons in a canoe and eat the delectable cooking of Uncle Bizy Sunday. In leiu of all that, I’ll keep reading these stories to Boo- Monkey, enjoying the company of our new storybook friend. Book Notes (November 2011) Anna Hibiscus is the heroine of a series of books by Atinuke (Kane Miller). Anna lives with her large extended family in a compound situated in an African city. With so many cousins around, Anna never lacks for playmates. The aunties and uncles all have essential roles that contribute to the way the family functions. Anna's mother grew up in Canada and obviously had to adjust to this communal outlook. However, the very first story in the first book reveals the advantages of having many people to look after one another when Anna, her parents, and brothers try to take a vacation by themselves. Before long, everyone migrates from the city to the beach to help the holiday run smoothly. By making Anna's family relatively prosperous and placing them in a city, Atinuke avoids the images of starving Africans in refugee camps or remote tribal areas that often dominate the news. In later books Anna's wish to see snow comes true when she visits her grandmother in Canada. However, her African family makes sure she does not forget them. Atinuke's love for "amazing Africa" and the people who live there shine through the pages and in the character of Anna. The books would be good read-aloud selections since each chapter has a narrative arc of its own while advancing the overall plot. Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus Flowering Minds (November 21, 2011) This book is the fourth book in the Anna Hibiscus series written by Nigerian author, Atinuke. Anna Hibiscus is a young helpful, caring, brave, adventurous girl who lives in Africa. She has never been away from Africa, where she is surrounded by her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Anna Hibiscus is going to go to Canada to visit her grandmother. There are a number of first experiences in this book for Anna Hibiscus: traveling on a plane, seeing snow, having a dog in your home, meeting Granny Canada, playing with kids from a different background. Anna Hibiscus beautifully handles the ups and downs, that come with experiencing a new culture and place. When it is time to return home to Africa she is sad to leave, but is anxious to tell her family about all the wonderful things she did like sledding, her best friend Qimmiq, and of course chocolate cereal! This book has a great balance telling a story that any child could relate to and introducing aspects of multiculturalism. Anna Hibiscus may be from Africa, but some of the experiences she has such as seeing snow, trying to make new friends, being around a dog for the first time. She could have easily been a girl from Florida visiting a cold, snowy, Canada for the first time. The author does a great job at capturing the excitement and the not so great things that come along with being in a cold environment. For instance being in a cold place means getting used to wearing lots of layers of clothing and being cold when you first get out of bed in the morning. But being able to see snow falling or go sledding makes it all worthwhile. Aspects of multiculturalism can be observed, when you see Anna Hibiscus adapt to Western food which comes in packages and isn’t quite as spicy as her native food. But, she does love her new discovery chocolate cereal. She is afraid of dogs since in her hometown dogs are strays, running around carrying diseases. Neither she nor her family can fathom having a dog in your home. Anna Hibiscus learns a dog can be your best friend. This book as so much heart, which is why I love it. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Anna Hibiscus responds back to a statement made about her inability to ice skate since she is African. Anna Hibiscus replies “My name is Anna Hibiscus … I could not skate because it was my first time. Not because I am African.” I love this line and only wish I had this book, when I was growing up in rural Pennsylvania as one of a handful of immigrant Indians. I love Anna Hibiscus’s courage to stand proud. One of the funniest scenes for me was early in the book when Anna and Auntie Jumoke are on the plane and Anna gets hungry. Auntie Jumoke comments on the food cart “That is not food … It is plastic, pretending to be food.” Auntie then pulls out of her bag boxes filled with their native food. This totally reminded me of my grandmother and Aunty who take food with them whenever they travel. I think this book is applicable to all young girls no matter whether they be Caucasian, African, Asian, Latino, or any other place in the world. It has something for everyone. Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus The Fanfare books are selected by the reviewers and editors of The Horn Book Magazine from the more than five hundred books we review each year. In this third entry in a remarkable early chapter book series set in Africa, Anna hatches a plan to help her neighbors in need after a drought. As usual, Anna and her sprawling, contemporary family are relatable, while Atinuke’s focus on the everyday and her spot- on dialogue mesh flawlessly with Tobia’s lively illustrations. The News Star – “Recommended Holiday Titles for Young Readers”(December 8, 2011) Looking for chapters book for early to advanced readers? The "Anna Hibiscus" series by Atinuke, involving a young girl living in an enormous family in Africa, is a delightful way to introduce children to engaging stories and an adorable heroine while broadening their horizons at the same time. Anna Hibiscus’ Song Written by Atinuke Illustrated by Lauren Tobia Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2011) In amazing Africa, Anna Hibiscus discovers her own special way to show her happiness after trying out what other family members do. From her perch in a mango tree, Anna Hibiscus observes the activities of her extended family in the compound where she lives. Her grandparents relax, her aunties pound yam, cousins scatter corn. Atinuke (Anna Hibiscus, 2010, and its sequels) brings Anna to a picture-book audience in this gentle evocation of modern West African life. Tobia illustrated the Anna Hibiscus chapter books with gray scale drawings, but here she presents Anna in full color. Digitally tinted drawings begin with endpapers revealing Anna’s home, which is set between a shoreline and a bustling city, by day and by night. Varying from vignettes accompanying the text to full-bleed full-page and double-page spreads, these illustrations emphasize the warmth and love in her family, as described in the simple, dialogue-rich text. Though unmentioned in this story, they reveal what readers of the earlier books know: Anna is comparatively light-skinned; her mother is white. All the adults dress in a Nigerian style; the girls wear simple dresses. The large figures and rich colors against the white backgrounds show well to a group. Anna’s arms are always up; she’s ready to embrace the world. Young readers and listeners will surely embrace her as enthusiastically as chapter-book readers already have. (Picture book. 3-7) Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children (August 2011) The endearing character Anna Hibiscus has returned, this time in full color in a lushly illustrated picture book. Anna’s positive outlook and good cheer run abundant as she engages with members of her extended African family in the family compound. She especially likes playing with her cousins and helping her aunties to pound yams in the courtyard. This book offers young children a brief glimpse of one of the economics themes found in the Anna Hibiscus easy readers, namely the gender division of labor within the home. As with the easy readers, this picture book illustrates some features of the daily way of life of a large extended family in an urban African setting. Publishers Weekly (August 8, 2011) With this effervescent tale, Atinuke introduces younger readers to the African heroine of her early chapter-book series. As Anna Hibiscus sits in a mango tree watching her family members’ various activities, she “feels so happy, she almost floats out of the tree.” Bouncing from one relative to another, she proclaims her happiness, and they all tell her what they do when they’re happy: Grandfather counts all the reasons why, Grandmother squeezes her husband’s hand, aunties pound yam, Uncle Tunde dances to music from the car radio, Papa tells Mama how much he loves her, and Mama sits “still and quiet.” Anna’s “happiness grows” with every encounter, and she eventually discovers her own way to best express her joy (the title provides a hint). In Tobia’s cheery illustrations, the family’s vivid clothing contrasts with the cool greens of the lush vegetation. Focusing on the tight bond between the characters, Tobia accentuates Anna Hibiscus’s outsize personality and loving rapport with her family. Readers will easily identify with Anna’s glee—“I am so happy, I think I am going to explode!”—and find it infectious. Book Page (August 10, 2011) “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa / Amazing Africa.” For those who have enjoyed the early chapter books about young Anna and her close-knit family, this is a familiar refrain. In Anna Hibiscus’ Song, the first picture book collaboration between author Atinuke and illustrator Lauren Tobia, readers get a beautifully expanded view of Anna and the world she inhabits. Anna is one lucky girl. Sitting in her mango tree, she can see so many things: her grandmother and grandfather on the veranda, her aunties pounding yams, an assortment of cousins and uncles and even the chickens busily pecking in the courtyard of the home she shares with all her relatives. She is overcome with happiness just thinking about how wonderful life is. As each of Anna’s family members weigh in on how they deal with the exhilaration that comes with deeply rooted contentment, Anna grows more and more overcome with joy until she is sure she will burst. Atinuke, born in Nigeria and now living in Wales, is a gifted storyteller. Her short, clean sentences and lively dialogue imbue the text with joy as Anna leaps around, peppering her many relations with questions. Tobia’s illustrations are a perfect complement to the story. Pencil drawings, enhanced with a rich color palette, add effervescence to the tale, depicting the multi-hued textiles worn by the characters and the vibrant flowers and birds in the family garden. Anna’s joie de vivre is contagious and young readers who have paid careful attention to the title will surely predict how Anna’s joyfulness will manifest itself. Let’s hope that this picture book is the first of many “songs” that Anna’s creators will sing. NC Teacher Stuff (August 22, 2011) Anna Hibiscus is so happy that she isn't quite sure what to do with herself. Living in amazing Africa with her extended family brings so much joy. Grandfather suggests that she hold her hand out and count the reasons why she is so happy. There are simply not enough fingers to hold Anna's happiness. Other family members give suggestions (e.g. dancing, helping pound yams) and each one increases Anna's joy, but none of them feels exactly right. Finally, Anna's mother mentions that she likes to sit still and quiet when she is happy. Anna tries this and something wonderful happens. She hears the birds and they inspire her to create a song. This is the outlet for her happiness that Anna has been seeking. I am delighted that the character of Anna Hibiscus is now appearing in a picture book. The chapter books are favorites of mine and this book will be equally appealing to younger readers who are not familiar with Anna. Students know all about being happy and will be able to easily make connections. This would be a great opportunity to channel those thoughts through a graphic organizer like a bubble map or to create a book of all the things that make us happy. For beginning writers, this would be an engaging activity. I also love that the setting of the book is a place that is unfamiliar to most students and therefore a fresh perspective. Anna Hibiscus' Song is a terrific introduction to a beloved character. Picture Book Reviews (September 24, 2011) Anna Hibiscous lives with her family in Africa. She is a happy and vibrant girl but she doesn’t quite know how to articulate it. She listens to her grandma, grandpa, mama, papa, auntees, uncle and cousins explain what they do when they are happy. Anna Hibiscous tries out each suggested method and is finally lead to her own form of expression. A wonderful book experience that includes dialog and artistic content indigenous to Africa. The feel of the book and the quality of print heighten the pleasure. I only wish the talented author offered more insight as to the cause of Anna Hibiscous’ happiness, but certainly one can speculate that a life surrounded by a full, hardworking and attentive family and the amazing landscape of Africa would bolster anyone’s mood. ♥♥♥♥ School Library Journal (October 2011) Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. From her perch in the mango tree, she surveys her extended family and is so happy that she does not know how to express her joy. Each relative tells her what they do when they are happy and she tries all of their methods. Finally, her mother tells her to sit quietly, so Anna climbs back up into her favorite tree and sits still. Soon, the birds come to the tree and sing. Then Anna Hibiscus knows what she can do–sing. And she does. This simple, predictable tale has a warm, loving feeling, and the plot and theme are universal. Children everywhere will think about what they can do when they are so happy that they cannot contain themselves. Large, colorful cartoon illustrations depict the action and help readers anticipate the story’s climax. The end pages show a large urban setting, yet the illustrations reveal the extended family living in close, friendly quarters filled with lush vegetation. The text, illustrations, and format convey a sense of unity that stimulates aesthetic appreciation. The Horn Book (November/December 2011) Fans of Atinuke’s chapter book series will enjoy this picture book; those new to Anna Hibiscus’s life in “Africa. Amazing Africa” will have their appetite whetted. In the mango tree in her family’s compound, Anna Hibiscus observes her large loving family and feels so happy, “she almost floats out of the tree.” She says to each relative, “I am so happy! What can I do?” Grandmother says she holds Grandfather’s hand when she’s happy. In their turns, Uncle Tunde dances, the aunties pound yams, the cousins play, and Papa tells Mama how much he loves her. Anna Hibiscus copies them, but her happiness cannot be adequately expressed until she finds her own way—in a glorious song. Tobia’s textured watercolors, using a muted green and brown palette, allow the young protagonist’s fuchsia dress to pop, drawing the viewer’s eye to her. Readers will appreciate the full-color art (the chapter-book art is black and white) that depicts the richness of the gardens, avian life, and glorious clothing the aunties wear. Children might notice the different colors of skin, too, from Mama’s white skin to Anna Hibiscus’s light brown skin to the rich dark brown of the rest of the relatives. Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (December 2011) This is the picture-book debut for Anna Hibiscus, who lives in "Amazing Africa" and who has previously appeared in a series of early chapter books. In this exuberant story, Anna perches at the top of a mango tree, looking down on the members of her extended family and rejoicing in her good fortune to the point where she is so happy that "she almost floats out of the tree." Her family members offer advice on less precarious ways of celebrating joy, from counting the reasons for happiness to dancing to doing cartwheels, and each encounter makes Anna even happier until she is almost bursting with delight. In the end, Anna chooses to sing, and she composes an on-the-spot jingle about her happy feelings that she belts from the top of the mango tree. There's not a whole lot of plot here, and the happiness theme could grow a bit thin were Anna not such a vivacious, affectionate child; instead, this is a rightly patterned ode to joy that features a close-knit extended family in an interesting setting. Tobia's airy illustrations, homey lines tinted with planes of digital color, vividly capture the warmth of Anna's family and village and offer relevant cultural details (the aunties' patterned head wraps and skirts, the lush gardens). Anna herself is portrayed as an energetic little girl with light brown skin (her father is black, her mother white) and cornrows, zinging around town in her raspberry-colored dress. Partner this with Cunnane's Chirchhir Is Singing (BCCB I 0/11) for a melodious pairing of irrepressible African girls who just can't stop themselves from expressing their joy. Jean Little Library (November 25, 2011) Anna Hibiscus stars in her own picture book! After several great beginning chapter books, the team of Atinuke and Lauren Tobia have created a lovely and joyous picture book. Anna Hibiscus is happy, so so happy! She goes to each member of her family in turn, asking what they do when they are happy and is invited to join in squeezing hands, pounding yams, turning somersaults, dancing and more. Anna Hibiscus' joy grows until she finds her own special happiness activity - singing! The simple, joyful text celebrates the everyday happiness of life, while Lauren Tobia's illustrations show an exciting world very different from that of American children, but still full of special places to go and things to do, and loving families. Children and parents will want to think about their own happy things to do and explore the simple, uncomplicated happy things in life like spending time with family, singing and dancing, after reading this exuberant tribute to family. Verdict: This picture book is a great introduction to the wonderful world of Anna Hisbiscus. Kane Miller is now a subsidiary of Usborne, so librarians and parents will want to either order direct from Usborne or Kane Miller, or purchase a like-new copy on Amazon, since this book may not be available through your usual vendor. Definitely worth a little extra effort though! Book Talk, King County Library System (December 1, 2011) Nigerian storyteller Atinuke has written several early chapter books starring happy little Anna Hibiscus, but Anna Hibiscus' Song is her first picture book. Anna lives in "Africa, amazing Africa," with her large extended family. In this story, Anna is so terrifically happy she doesn't know what to do with herself, so she goes around asking each of her family members what they do when they're happy. Grandma, Grandpa, aunties, cousins, Uncle Tunde, Papa and Mama all give Anna different ways to express happiness, but Anna decides her best way is to sing. A more joyful picture book would be hard to find. Lauren Tobia's illustrations are friendly, bright and full of energy. Of course, this book is significant not only for the quality of the writing and art, but also for its setting. There aren't many picture books published in the United States about modern middle-class families in Africa. Anna Hibiscus' Song provides a window into a different culture and an ebullient picture book reading experience. It would be a great book to share with 3- to 7-year-olds during the holiday season when spirits are high. The Artful Parent (December 8, 2011) Since I first posted about how much we loved Anna Hibiscus, we've re-read the entire series a couple more times. Back to back. And sometimes Maia has asked for random chapters from one of the books. She likes them that much. And I like the writing and the characters well enough that this is a pleasure and not a chore. Apparently a bunch of you bought the series after I posted about them (what did you think?) and so the publisher was kind enough to send me the new picture book version of Anna Hibiscus. Written and illustrated by the same talented duo—Atinuke and Lauren Tobia—Anna Hibiscus' Song is full of color and joy and perfect for younger children. It's lovely… Anna Hibiscus is still the same loveable Anna Hibiscus she is in the chapter book series, and she still "lives in Africa, amazing Africa," but the story is shorter, simpler, and, of course, more lavishly illustrated. In this picture book version, Anna Hibiscus is happy and seeks advice from various family members for outlets for her happiness. She tries counting blessings, dancing (above), and finally bursts into song. This is a sweet, sweet book. Politics and Prose, Holiday Favorites (December 2011) Nigerian-born author Atinuke first caught our attention with the Anna Hibiscus chapter books. Now she and illustrator Lauren Tobia welcome younger readers to the same enchanting world in Anna Hibiscus’ Song (Kane/Miller, $15.99). Surrounded by her family in their home, Anna Hibiscus is so happy that she doesn’t know how to express her joy. She asks all of her relatives – parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins – what she can do. Each of them has a different way of being glad, and Anna tries them all. Finally, she discovers what she can do when she is happy: sing! Ages 3-6. JLM The Best Family in the World Written by Susana López Illustrated by Ulises Wensell The Horn Book Guide Contrary to her fantasies, orphan Carlota's terrific new parents don't turn out to be pastry chefs, pirates, etc., but they do bring her yummy pastries and pretend to dig for buried treasure. The light-handedness of the storytelling belies the book's depth, and the domestic scenes of Carlota and her new family are as wondrous as the scenes she Big and Little By Ana Martin Larrañaga Washington Parent (July 2011) Planning a vacation with baby? You can maximize suitcase space without minimizing read-aloud fun with four board books that come packed in their own sturdy cardboard sleeve. An added bonus: all four for the usual cost ($7.99) of one. Friendly parent-and- child critters accompany cheerful rhymes about a day spent in one of four places. Little ones can “Stomp in the Swamp” with elephants, “Splash in the Sea” with blue whales, “Snuggle in the Snow” with polar bears and have “Fun on the Farm” with chickens. Rollicking and reassuring, each romp ends with a cozy hug under a night-time sky. The Big Snuggle Up Written by Brian Patten Illustrated by Nicola Bayley Growing Bookworms (August 17, 2011) Honestly, who could resist a picture book called The Big Snuggle-Up? Not me. The Big Snuggle-Up was published in England by Anderson Press and brought to the US by Kane Miller. It's a simple story set in a small stone house in the country. As a winter storm approaches, the narrator invites a scarecrow in out of the snow. The scarecrow is followed by animal after animal, a cumulative list building on each page spread. Eventually, everyone settles down for a quiet, cozy evening. Brian Patten is a well-known British poet. His soothing text works well for read aloud, from the very first page: "I asked a scarecrow in out of the snow, Please by a guest in my house. The scarecrow said, "Can I bring a friend, For in my sleeve lives a mouse."" Patten uses just the right verbs for each animal, as when a "robin peeped out from its freezing nest" or when a cat "allowed itself to be let in". I think my favorite part is: "A donkey looked in and said, "I'm unable To find my way back to the stable."" Each page spread ends with: "Into the house and out of the snow Came ..." (a list of animals) The growing list of animals invites children to participate in the reading, as they remember dog, cat, fawn, etc. Children will certainly remember the refrain at the end of each list "and an old scarecrow." I like that Patten doesn't always choose conventional rhymes, matching, for example "fur" and "chair". I think this keeps the text from being too sing-songy. I think that "Into the house and out of the snow" is going to become part of the vocabulary of my home (even though we don't have snow here). Much as I liked the text, what made me love this book were Nicola Bayley's detailed colored pencil illustrations. Light glows from the windows of the little stone house - anyone can see why the animals would find it inviting. The scarecrow is cheerful and friendly, with a pine branch sticking out of his hat and a jaunty, ever-so-slightly floppy posture. The animals practically step from the page, with bright eyes, and every hair or feather lovingly depicted. Readers will want to try to stroke the squirrel's tail, and feel the butterfly's wings. The donkey is particularly adorable. Even as the animals are detailed and realistic, Bayley adds whimsical details, like the scarecrow turning on the water faucets for the heron in the bath, and a cozy armchair missing part of a leg, propped up on a pile of books. Kids will enjoy searching for such details. The butterfly can be found, through careful searching, just about every page, adding additional visual interest. Bayley is best known for her detailed illustrations of cats, and her affection for cats comes through in this book, too. When a cat joins the party, he casts a baleful eye on a butterfly that lands on his tail. He then proceeds to be scene-stealer in several subsequent pages. In short, The Big Snuggle-Up is aptly named, and the perfect read for a cold winter night. It's a wonderful combination of rhythmic text and soothing yet visually intriguing illustrations. Highly recommended! Kirkus Reviews (September 14, 2011) Predators and prey alike arrive to snuggle into a boy’s cozy cottage to sleep through a winter storm in this visually breathtaking work from illustrator Bayley and British poet Patten. The unseen young boy’s initial invitation, extended to a scarecrow, opens the door for all manner of beasts to ask for refuge. Before night fully falls, the fireside is packed tight, with creatures ranging from donkey and owl to fox and fawn. Rhyming couplets introduce each newcomer, while the refrain cumulatively lists each animal that has found shelter from the storm: “A robin peeped out from its freezing nest, / ‘Would you mind if you had another guest?’ / Into the house and out of the snow / Came a robin, a butterfly, a mouse, and an old scarecrow.” Not all of Patten’s rhymes are music to the ears, however, as when he rhymes “fur” with “chair” and “flew” with “snow.” But Bayley’s gorgeously realistic animals, which appear so lifelike that they could step right out of the pages, more than compensate. Indeed, they appear so real as to seem incongruous when juxtaposed with the more cartoonish scarecrow, with his bright colors and patterns. A sweet complement to a wintry night by the fire snuggled up in a lap… but beware those who take a page from the boy’s book and invite in a menagerie of their own. (Picture book. 3-7) The Midwest Book Review (September 2011) The bitterness of winter’s cold is nothing to be left out in. “The Big Snuggle-Up” tells of one vicious winter day where a scarecrow enters the house to get warm. But he’s not the only one looking to get warm, as others join him and they learn that there’s more to staying warm and happy than hot cocoa and the fire. A story of friendship and that there is always room for more of it, “The Big Snuggle-Up” is excellently composed and illustrated by Brian Patten and Nicola Bayley, a choice addition to any picture book collection. Picture Book Reviews (September 26, 2011) Autumn is over and a scarecrow isn’t dressed for the snow. He is invited into a small, warm house and the welcome is extended to his mouse friend. One by one, all sorts of animals find warmth and comfort under the same roof. This rhyming tale helps young children identify a variety of animals in an appealing and realistic artistic style. It is also a good example of sharing and caring. The add-on verses are fun for kids to read aloud. ♥♥♥♥♥ School Library Journal (October 2011) A child invites a scarecrow to come in from the snow, and the scarecrow asks if he can bring a mouse with him. A butterfly, a robin, and other woodland creatures soon join the group until the house is full of friends all snuggled and warm around the fireplace. Patten tells this simple story of generosity and kindness with delightful rhyme, meter, and alliteration. The poem begs to be read aloud, lilting and dancing on the tongue: “A squirrel scampered down from a sycamore tree,/‘I’ll bring you some nuts, if you’ll shelter me.’” Children will enjoy joining in at the end of each stanza when the growing list of visitors is repeated. The text is printed in a large, easy-to-read font on a cream-colored background and surrounded by Bayley’s colored pencil and crayon illustrations. The art is meticulously crafted, with attention given to every hair and whisker. The style of the pictures is similar to Bayley’s illustrations for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (Candlewick, 2005), but they are done on a larger scale and in slightly softer hues. The scarecrow is a little cartoonish, but the animals look realistic and soft enough to pet. A lovely book about sharing and compassion. The Bloomswell Diaries By Louis L. Buitendag Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011) Steampunk elements, a quest by a boy for his disappeared parents (who are actually British secret agents) and a desperate effort to rescue his older sister from sinister forces combine in this briskly paced adventure story set in an indeterminate past, most likely the early 20th century. Benjamin Sebastian Bloomswell has been brought from his home in London by his parents, who are going off on yet another “business trip,” to stay with an uncle in New York City for his safety. Things get ugly and dangerous quickly: News of his parents’ apparent death abroad hits the newspapers; Uncle Lucas is dispatched in a hurry; and Ben is kidnapped by nefarious goons and placed in an unsavory “orphanage,” from which he soon escapes. Risky, adventure-filled escapades ensue, and Ben eventually and improbably makes his way his sister in Switzerland, who is equally in danger. While much that occurs throughout is exciting, many plot details are wrapped up too neatly and too quickly, and many interesting points don’t seem to coalesce. Familiar tropes and a big but contrived surprise at the end—siblings off on a thrilling quest, unknown malevolent characters, the mysterious fate of the children’s parents and a brief reference from out of nowhere to a murky scientific experiment lurking in the wings—will appeal to readers, particularly undemanding ones. (Steampunk. 9-12) Booklist (April 1, 2011) When young Benjamin Bloomswell’s peripatetic parents head off on yet another mysterious trip, the boy is left with his American uncle for safekeeping. Alas, the parents vanish, and the uncle is (presumably) murdered. As for Benjamin, he finds he must then flee for his life, pursued by bad guys and the malevolent tin men who are their enforcers. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg in this first novel that combines mystery, science fiction, and old-fashioned adventure. Accordingly, the path to closure is strewn with red herrings, so many that the reader will join Benjamin in thinking, “Oh, this is so confusing!” Ah, but it’s confusion that keeps the pot of the plot a-bubble to the end. Speaking of which, not until the cliff-hanger will readers realize this is the first volume in a prescribed series. Some may cry foul, but most will have enjoyed this romp of a tale enough to look forward to answers in a subsequent book. Charlotte’s Library (March 7, 2011) Young Ben Bloomswell is used to his parents going off on business of their own; they always come back. But this time is different. This time, they've taken him from England to stay with his uncle in New York, while his sister is sent to a boarding school in Switzerland, part of his parents' plan to keep them safe. And this time, his parents might not be coming back for him. A newspaper article claims they're dead. His uncle warns him that his parents have made powerful and ruthless enemies--men who would love to have young Ben as a hostage. But his uncle proves powerless to keep him safe, and disappears under mysterious circumstances. With evil men who's motives he doesn't understand at all pursuing him, Ben sets off on his own to try to get back to Europe--first to find his sister, and then to find his parents. But to get there, he'll have to escape from the kidnappers who have imprisoned him in an most unpleasant orphanage, become a stowaway on board a ship (carrying very unusual passengers indeed) and face an army of metal automatons....all the while not knowing who to trust, and desperately seeking the answers to his questions about his parents--what have they been doing, to acquire such fearsome enemies, and more importantly, where are they now? The Bloomswell Diaries is a very nice take indeed on the Child Fleeing from Mysterious Bad Guys story, and I enjoyed it lots. Here's why. 1. The story moves briskly in a series of swoops from one perilous situation to the next, but not so briskly as to be dizzying, and the relatively peaceful ocean voyage in the middle provided a nice break from the swooping. I like things to be brisk, but I also don't want to be overwhelmed--I thought Buitendag's pacing was just right. 2. The writing pleased me lots (my inner editor was beautifully quiet throughout); it was neither too verbose or too terse, and there was a lightness to it that made the reading of it fun. Lots of the explaining is done with very natural sounding dialogue, and although we are privy to some of Ben's thoughts, we are not overwhelmed by the author spelling them out for us in too great detail. 3. Ben is very much an Every Boy--there's not much to his particular character that made him distinct in my mind--but his normalcy worked well here. He's anxious, uncertain, and not gifted with special gifts--smart enough, and sharp enough, to make it through, but not so much so as to be unrealistic. My one substantial complaint concerns the metal automatons. I have nothing against them, per se, and, in general, like the added interest they can bring. But I think that they need a bit more historical depth and assorted cultural reverberations than Buitendag gives them. The book would have been essentially the same story if they had been flesh and blood...and so I was jolted from my acceptance of the story when they were on stage. But perhaps in the sequel (surly there will be one, because although one ending is reached, there's lots more that needs to happen), the world building will become clearer and I'll enjoy the story even more! Reading Review (April 18, 2011) The Bloomswell Diaries is an interesting book that I found myself really enjoying. The story seems to place in the 1940's or some time close to that. But, the story doesn't seem to take place in our reality. Why do I say that? I say this because there are tinmen in the story. The tinmen are robots that are used for all kinds of things and seem to be quite plentiful all over the world. So, this story seems to take place in an alternate reality to our own reality. Cool . . . I like that. This novel is the first book in a series, but I'm not sure how many books there will be before the story concludes. As for the storytelling, I quite enjoyed the plot and the writing and found all of the characters to be interesting. Young Readers will instantly bond with Benjamin Bloomswell and root him on as he evades the bad guys as he makes his way to Switzerland with his new-found friends, Mr. Holiday and Whip. Louis L. Buitendag has created an interesting world full with an old-time feel that can also seem a little menacing. At first I thought the story had the feel of the books in A Series of Unfortunate Events. But after a while I found this not to be true. This book has its own distinctive feel and it isn't quite gloomy like the series just mentioned. Yet, I could draw some interesting comparisons, but I won't. Let's just say that I found the story to be highly entertaining and quite a fun read. I would like to know more about the tinmen. I cannot quite figure out how they shoved Ben inside of one. I look at the tinman on the cover and just don't see how he could fit inside one of them. There isn't much information in this book about the tinmen and I can only hope that we will learn more about them in future books in this series. The artwork on the book cover is in a style that I really enjoy. Plus, I think the artist, Adam Ziskie, make Ben look like Charlie from the 1971 movie, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I also think that is kinda cool. Overall, The Bloomswell Diaries is a great start to series that has a lot of promise. The book ends and Ben still has to go off and find his parents. So, the story is far from over. I cannot wait to see what adventures Ben will find in the next book. ReadKiddoRead! (May 2011) The Bloomswell Diaries is a steampunk adventure story, centered on eight-year-old Benjamin Bloomswell. (If you’re unfamiliar with the term, steampunk is a new science fiction genre. Think Jules Verne, steam-powered machines, airships, and Victorian aspects.) While Benjamin is no hero, the events that occur in the novel would test any child’s character, and readers watch as Benjamin rises to the occasion. A surprise visit to Uncle Lucas in America takes Benjamin from his safe London home when his famous mother and father are called away on unexpected business. There Benjamin reads in a newspaper that his parents have been declared dead. Confused and scared, Benjamin asks his uncle, who does not confirm his parent’s death, but rather reveals that there is more to the Bloomswell family than young Benjamin knows. The family has enemies who want to steal their fortune. That very evening, kidnappers break into Uncle Lucas’s home. Benjamin is captured and taken to a gloomy, foreboding orphanage. It is there Benjamin learns the true nature of the plot against his family, and realizes he is the only one who can save them. A brave escape leads Benjamin to a shipyard, where he gains passage to England. The voyage brings new challenges, each of which Benjamin overcomes with courage and perseverance. Adversity and danger take a back seat to Benjamin’s newfound bravery. Little did Benjamin know, but he was a hero all along. The world of The Bloomswell Diaries is one where thieves dwell in shadows, mechanized Tinmen run on clockwork, and nobody is to be fully trusted. The book’s texture is distinctly turn-of-the-century, yet imbued with a fantastic steampunk flavor. The combination heightens the adventure, which is nonstop - every turn of the page brings new conflicts, difficult obstacles, and challenging characters that Benjamin must defeat in order to rescue his family. While the action is daring and exciting, it is without unnecessary violence to make it inappropriate for younger readers. Book Trends (September 23, 2011) Review: Imagine your life, only two days after your parents leave you with your uncle, you read the newspaper with a nice cup of tea and see an article about your parents' death. This is the life of Benjamin Sebastian Bloomswell in The Bloomswell Diaries by Louis L. Buitendag who is a great author who put many of the elements to create a great book into one. The story begins in England, a nice and cozy place to relax and enjoy yourself. Ben's life never happens to change though considering he isn't allowed to leave the house when his parents aren't home (which they never are). His parents always have important meetings to go to for business, ones that Benjamin cannot attend. Now, Ben's life finally has a chance to change as he must go live with his Uncle Lucas in New York City, while his sister Liza goes to Switzerland for a school. Benjamin has never been separated from his sister, and the only thoughts he ever has are about her and about his parents; he never worries about himself first. Then, one day, he gets taken by a police officer and is thrown in a mysterious building - one without any friendly invitation. Doors and windows are cracked and broken, there are creaky floorboards and stair steps - all the things you need for a haunted house. When Benjamin realizes he's in an orphanage, countless questions come to mind. How did it come to this? Why did he have to go to New York (the only question he wonders too)? How is his sister doing? Where is Uncle Lucas? The Bloomswell Diaries is a book that in not only filled with suspense, but it also incudes a little humor and plenty of imagery to make it feel like you are the main character. Once I started reading, I just couldn't stop! The book is very well detailed, creating strong mental images of all the places Benjamin visits throughout the book. This helps to make the story feel more realistic and compelling. The Bloomswell Diaries is an awesome book, and I would recommend it to any middle school reader. Madigan Reads (November 18, 2011) This is a fast-paced action/chase/adventure written with plenty of boy appeal. There's a bit of mystery as Benjamin Bloomswell is left with his uncle while his parents are on a business trip. Soon, he's shocked to discover that his parents are being reported dead in the newspapers. As he makes his escape from an orphanage in order to reunite with his sister, he's forced to stowaway on a ship headed from New York to Europe. The story didn't feel as steampunkish as I expected. Except for the rarely seen mechanical clockwork men there aren't very many sci-fi'ish touches. Benjamin hides inside one when he's smuggling himself across international borders. This is a solidly middle-grade level read - there's not even a hint of romance, and the main part of the story focuses on the mystery of what's happened to Benjamin's parents. There's an almost dreamlike sense behind the chase scenes, as Benjamin escapes from one pursuer, only to have to stay one step ahead of another generic bad guy. While this is an American-published book, it has the feeling of having been translated - it feels just a touch alien, which is not at all a bad thing. Fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, or The Incorrigible Children of Aston Place by Maryrose Wood, who are looking for more stories of plucky, determined orphans fighting against conspiracies and impossible odds will enjoy The Bloomswell Diaries. A Book and a Hug (December 2011) Ben Bloomswell has grown up with parents who are often gone. They always come back, but this time things are different. For starters, his parents have sent him to stay with an uncle in America instead of having him stay in England. His sister has been sent back to her boarding school in Switzerland as part of their parents plan to keep them safe. Ben wakes up his first morning in the states to discover an article that claims his parents have died. His uncle tells Ben that his parents have made enemies in their work—enemies that would love to take Ben hostage. However, before his uncle can come up with a plan to keep him safe, he mysteriously disappears. Pursued by men who want to kidnap him whose motives Ben doesn’t understand, Ben escapes capture from them and their robotic automatons that carry out the demands of the bad guys. Ben decides he must find a way to get to Europe to protect his sister, and then together theywill search for their parents, whom Ben feels must still be alive. This novel is full of action, and will be a hit with fans of adventure stories. The story moves quickly and keeps readers on the edge of their seats wondering if Ben will accomplish his goals. The one complaint is that while the important story line is resolved, there are other unresolved plot lines at the end of the story, guaranteeing a sequel is probably (hopefully) on its way! Boom Bah! Written by Phil Cummings Illustrated by Nina Rycroft The Horn Book Guide An impromptu parade features high-spirited farm animals and their kitchen instruments. Soon the whole barnyard is booming, bahing, and tra-la-la-ing. Rycroft's large, clean pencil and watercolor illustrations are as exuberant as Cummings's bouncy rhyming text, which, with its quick tempo, keeps the pace lively and the volume up. Grab a cup, bowl, or whatever you can find, and join the fun. Butterflies By Susanne Gervay Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2011) This Australian import powerfully depicts the lasting damage of third-degree burns. Katherine, almost 18, suffers from the many aftereffects of the severe burns she sustained as a toddler. She lives with her loving older sister, Rachel, and her slightly controlling Italian mother. Her father, who abandoned the family shortly after Katherine’s accident, is now trying to reestablish a relationship with them, one of many issues Katherine faces. As she contrasts her life to that of her lovely best friend, Jessie, she deals with bullying by a classmate, the clumsy, ambiguous romantic advances of William, the willingness of some adults to classify her as disabled while she strives for normalcy—by relentlessly driving herself on a swim team, for example—and, primarily, her quest to improve the appearance of her scars. Her italicized inner monologues, contrasting with the present- tense, third-person narration, gradually move from angry and self-pitying toward a more mature self-acceptance, but they fail to ring true given the extremely spirited actions she’s taken. “I’m sick of it. Unfair. Unfair. Just leave me, that’s right,” she thinks when she arrives home to discover her mother and sister are still out. This relentless negativity diminishes Katherine’s appeal as a character. While vividly documenting the devastating aftereffects of severe burns, this effort never fully captures the protagonist’s spirit, making for a frustrating, emotionally draining read. (Fiction. 11 & up) Booklist Online (November 28, 2011) Most teenage girls look in the mirror and see at least one thing they’d like to change. Katherine envies them. A horrible accident left a three-year-old Katherine severely burned and led to a childhood of operations and pain. Now she only wants to be a normal teenager, to date and hang out with her friends without living in the shadow of her scars. Will one more surgery finally make her happy and beautiful? Gervay, acclaimed Australian author of the Jack series, is recognized for her ability to highlight a tough issue, eliminating ignorance and leaving her readers with an unforgettable impression. Here it’s examining the pain, both physically and emotionally, that a burn victim carries for the rest of his or her life. How Katherine has to fight the continued difficulties from her accident to attain a life of normalcy is eye-opening. The dialogue is lyrical but at times unconvincing as a teenage voice. Despite that, Katherine’s journey—learning where contentment lies, and the truths she discovers—applies to us all.— Bethany Fort Cats, Cats! Dogs, Dogs! By Michelle Nelson-Schmidt Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2011) There's neither bark nor bite to be found in this brief ode to a toddler favorite. Uninspired rhymes describe individual dogs' physical appearance (shaggy, little, etc.) or their character (including stubborn, lazy or sad). Awkward phrases are expressed with a forced exuberance, unlikely to inspire any potential canine enthusiasts. “Big dog, big dog, what a giant you are. / You're almost as big as a little car!” A husky bulldog receives a portrayal that's more stereotypical than original: “Fat dog, fat dog, just look at you eat / I think you've had too many treats!” Each puppy boldly dominates its page, while visual elements (such as a bone) extend to the facing page, where the text is placed. The conclusion places a mirror in the center of a facial outline; the gushing voice encourages youngsters to imagine their similarities to the pups. Static expressions keep motions frozen in time. The uniform textual layout fails to provide enough variety to capture young children's interest, but some examples cast a knowing wink to adult pet-owners, who may recall familiar experiences (as when the hound trembles when the vacuum cleaner approaches). The feline companion (Cats! Cats!) receives the same trite treatment. Just doggone blah. (Picture book. 1-3) Kiss the Book (October 2011) This is a short picture book about all of the different kind of dogs. It doesn't actually talk about dog breeds. It rhymes and has cute pictures. You read about fast dogs, lazy dogs, shaggy dogs and more. At the back of the book, there is a mirror and you can see what type of dog you look like. Picture Book Reviews (September 24, 2011) Cats can be fluffy, sneaky, angry, silly…descriptive words portray the persona of cats. This book expresses the many personalities, emotions and traits of felines in rhyme. A mirrored end page is a happy surprise conclusion. Simple, vibrant drawings attract the attention of young readers. Heavy stock paperback. ♥♥♥♥ Picture Book Reviews (September 24, 2011) The many different physical and character traits of a variety of dogs are described in simple rhyme. Dirty, happy, lazy, pretty, shaggy, fast and more. An easy read and enjoyable introduction to adjectives for beginners to read alone or fun to read aloud to the very young. A reflective page at the end gives children a chance to gaze at themselves and contemplate the traits that define themselves. Simple, colorful cartoon drawings throughout. Heavy stock paperback. ♥♥♥♥ Chloe and Levesque: Over the Edge Chloe and Levesque: Double Cross Chloe and Levesque: Scared to Death Chloe and Levesque: Break and Enter By Norah McClintock Reading Reviews (February 2011) Double Cross is a book that I enjoyed a lot more than the first book in the Chloe & Levesque Mystery series, Over the Edge. There wasn't as much teenage angst and I really liked getting to know Chloe Yan a lot better. Again, I must repeat that even though the series is entitled Chloe & Levesque Mystery, Chloe's step-father, Levesque, really isn't in the book all that much. Ross Jenkins played a bigger role in this story than Levesque did. I kind of thought that maybe some of the main character in Over the Edge would appear in this book, but only Ross Jenkins did. Not a big loss in my mind, because this book was much better than the first on in this series. The story was more interesting and the plot was better developed. The character of Jonah was not very likable and I though he was a little over the top with all of his anger issues. He never seemed to trust Chloe until the book was nearly over. Gosh, if someone was helping me solve the murder of one of my parents, I probably would be a little nicer to that person. Norah McClintock has created another wonderful story in Double Cross. I really like the main character of Chloe Yan and actually hope to learn more about her in future books. As for Ross Jenkins, I hope that he is used more in future books and will become more of a main character. Then there is Levesque. Someday he must learn that Chloe is pretty good at tracking down the truth and that she needs to have some actual training. Yes, she is only in high school, but as the Chief of Police, he should be able to teach her some things. I also wonder why he doesn't play a larger role in these stories? This series is intended for readers 11 and older, but I think that the true target audience is about 14 and older. This has something to do with the subject matter, which is usually murder, and the amount of teen angst in the stories. Still, the book has nothing bad in it that would offend someone in fourth grade, so if a Young Reader likes a good murder mystery, then they may really enjoy these stories. Overall, Double Cross is an excellent tale that kept me highly involved in the reading wondering if Chloe was going to be able to find out what really happened to Mary Shackleton. I cannot wait to see what kind of mystery she stumbles upon in her next book entitled Scared to Death. It sounds kind of frightening. Book Trends (March 9, 2011) I have read many creepy mysteries, but this is the best suspenseful mystery I have read. Norah McClintock has succeeded in writing another gripping mystery in the Chloe & Levesque series. The details on every page make you daydream the story in your head. Break and Enter is a very suspenseful book because the plot makes you read all the way to the last page to see who lives to breathe again. In this book I like how Chloe starts off hating everyone, but her relationships with her enemies change when they start to do things for each other. This book is special because from the first sentence the book is interesting and many books do not get to the point until the second chapter. Norah McClintock nailed this book with a boatload of creative writing and filled it with suspense along the way. In my opinion, the ending was exceedingly thrilling because of the detailed action and the dangling question of who will die next. To conclude, Break and Enter is a book that shows you the thrills of crime and murder. This book is great for people who like horror movies because it can create one in your head. Break and Enter will make you want to read all the other Chloe & Levesque books as well. Norah McClintock does a great job writing crime novels so do not read alone at home. Review written by Ravi (6th grade student). Kiss the Book (July 1, 2011) Mr. Lawry has a bone to pick with Chloe and someone is using that tension to make matters worse – going so far as to frame Chloe for murder. Add in Davis, a cocky transplant from Toronto who hates everything about small town East Hastings, including everything to do with the school newspaper and Chloe is not destined for an easy time. In order to clear her name and solve the murder, Chloe will have to put herself into danger again. Scared to Death Book Trends (February 4, 2011) I think this book is an amazing story with interesting characters and ominous tension rising throughout the book. Chloe is a smart character who is open to new ideas which, is one of my favorite things about her. She is also the one telling the story. What I don't like is Chloe is impatient and she likes to complain, but that is mostly shown in her thoughts and not her conversations. Levesque is a quiet and grumpy character who is a serious policeman. Ross, who is Chloe's friend and Jake are both suspects in the book. They both liked Tessa and have bad alibis, which make them prime suspects. Also they are both very hard for me to like because they are both one sided and do not listen to anybody. The author has a wonderful use of dialogue, and the conversations reveal a lot about the characters. The best thing about this novel is the plot which is well thought out and has a high level of suspense. The ending wraps up the book completely making it a good stand alone novel in the series. You get hooked right when you learn Tessa's death is not an accident which is only right after the first chapter. I think this book is set at a medium pace until the ending where the action rises. The paranoia looming over Chloe about someone watching her keeps the excitement up throughout the book. I suggest this book for middle school kids and anyone looking for a good mystery. Kiss the Book (July 1, 2011) Chloe is not really great friends with Tessa, so when Tessa shows up looking for Levesque, Chloe is quick to point her at the police station and out of her life – for good, as it turns out, because Tessa is found dead not long after. Now Chloe is on the hunt for a murderer, but is it the on-again-off-again boyfriend or is it Ross, the editor of the school paper and Chloe’s friend, who seems to have been seeing Tessa on the side? Or is someone else, with a darker purpose, lurking in the wings. I have finally got my hands on most of McClintock’s titles. She is from Canada, so we haven’t seen much of her in the U.S. before now. Now I have 31 titles by her on my shelves – she has definitely turned my holy trinity (Cooney, Duncan, Nixon) has now become a quartet! Reading Reviews (August 17, 2011) Scared to Death is another murder mystery that occurs in the small town of East Hastings, Ontario, Canada. Chloe Yan finds herself wondering why another student at her school has died and would like to know who is involved. Even though her step-father is chief of police, he doesn't give her much information. He only wants her to stay out of it. In fact, he usually keeps the details of the murder to himself, and Chloe has to do her own investigating, which he doesn't know about. I wonder if Levesque will ever notice that Chloe is a pretty darned good investigator. Once again, Norah McClintock has dreamt up a nasty little murder in s a small town. Does it matter that it takes place in Canada rather than the Untied States? No, our two countries are pretty similar. Does it matter that Chloe is only in high school? No, she seems to know how to discover and follow a lead. Does it matter that Chloe's step-father is chief of police? No, he is little to no help. Police business, and all that. What matters is that these stories are well-thought up and very well-written. Young readers will instantly bond with Chloe Yan and become deeply involved in the stories. What I like about the Chloe and Levesque Mysteries is that they are not gruesome. The high school kids are well-developed and believable. I should know as I have a sixteen year old daughter and I also work in a high school in a small town. I find that I always look forward to picking up and starting a new book starring Chloe Yan and wonder what kind of trouble she will find herself in. I do wonder how so many kids can be killed in East Hastings, though, without thinking that something is seriously wrong with the town folks. I have worked at my school for eight years and there hasn't been a single killing, and Chloe has experienced three in nine months. That seems like an awful lot of kids dying. Overall, Scared to Death is another really great novel about a killing of a young girl who was seeking out help, but didn't find it in time. I never fear that Chloe won't get to the bottom of the mystery, even though sometimes it feels like she isn't making any headway. So, if you are looking for a great mystery series starring high school students, pick up a copy of this book today. You will love it. The Church Mouse By Graham Oakley KidsBookShelf.com (January 2011) Arthur the mouse likes living in the church, and it's safe because Sampson the church cat treats Arthur like a brother. But Arthur was lonely since there were no other mice living there. Then Arthur gets a great idea, and the parson agrees to give it a try. So Arthur heads into town to find other mice and invite them to live in the church with him. They do odd jobs for the parson and in exchange the mice will be paid in the best quality cheese. The mice love the idea and all seems to be working out quite well, until the day Sampson falls asleep during the sermon and dreams about chasing mice. The people of the congregation are outraged and refuse to come back until all the mice are gone, but can Arthur and Sampson redeem themselves before it's too late? A beautifully illustrated story about friendship and acceptance. (Ages 9-12) Children’s Bookwatch (February 2011) “The Church Mouse” is a quaintly charming illustrated tale about an English church mouse named Arthur who decides, after conferring with his pastor, to invite many mice friends to live with him in his church. The church cat, Sampson, is a gentle soul who never threatens Arthur, and cheeses of several different types are promised for all if the mice live up to their promise to tidy things up at the church. Unfortunately the plan works rather too well, and the mice begin to overpopulate the church. Even Sampson, the mouse-babysitting cat, goes on a rampage during harvest festival and chases stray mice. But one spooky night an intruder tries to steal the church’s valuable candlesticks. Sampson and Arthur and the mice spring into definitive action. The amazing creative teamwork solution that is fabricated by Sampson and the many mice will keep children laughing and giggling for days. Incredibly detailed watercolor and ink illustrations accentuate the quirky humor always present in “The Church Mouse.” With its unusual partnerships and unusual creative solutions, “The Church Mouse” is a must for children ages 5-9. The Horn Book Guide All the denizens of that church in a busy little town, not very far away, are back--Arthur, the original lonely church mouse, Sampson the cat, the officious schoolmouse, etc. The cover of this reissue is different from the 1972 original, but inside can be found the same detailed illustrations and child-appealing events (e.g., mid-sermon melees, burglars, acrobatics). Through the Looking Glass Reviews (November 2011) In a busy town, in the church, lives a mouse called Arthur. Arthur’s best friend is Sampson, a cat who has heard so many sermons about “the meek being blessed” and universal brotherhood, that he treats Arthur like a friend and not like a dinner on four legs. Though Arthur has a good life, he is a little lonely. Then one day he gets a brilliant idea, which the parson approves. Arthur goes into the town and he invites as many mice as he can find to come and live in the church. The parson will pay the mice in cheese, and in return they will do some odd jobs around the church. The town mice love this idea. What could be better than a life in a place where there are no mouse traps and no nasty cats or dogs or other dangers. The plan works very well for a while. The mice clean up the church, polish the brasses, arrange flowers, and other chores, and in return they are fed by the parson and have a life free of care. Then one Sunday Sampson falls asleep during the sermon, and when he wakes up he discovers that he is chasing mice all over the church, causing chaos. In his dreams Sampson dreamed that he was his former unreformed self, the self that chased mice instead of befriending them. The people in the congregation are furious, and they demand that the parson get rid of the mice or they will “never come back.” The parson has no choice but to ask the mice to leave. In this delightful picture book, readers will see how a friendship develops between two unlikely animals, and how that friendship is tested and saved. With wonderfully detailed illustrations and a text that is touched with humor in all the right places, Graham Oakley gives readers a tale that children and adults alike will enjoy sharing again and again. Conspiracy 365: December By Gabrielle Lord Book Trends (December 15, 2010) Gabrielle Lord does not disappoint in her final installment in the Conspiracy 365 series. December is a tad longer than other books in the series, but every page is filled with one hair-raising event after another. Readers will find their stomach in knots as they plow through page after page of exciting plot. The book ends with a 1 ½ page epilogue. Here is where Lord could have done more. Readers have been reading about Cal and his friends and family for an entire year. They've become entranced by Cal's journeys and he has nearly become "real" in their lives. A longer epilogue would have been much appreciated as dedicated readers hate to see the year come to a close. Nevertheless, the Conspiracy 365 series will always be the first series recommended to school libraries and middle school readers everywhere. In a world filled with technology where kids can become absorbed so easily in Wii or Xbox, it's comforting to know that there are writers out there who can break the mold and write a book, or even a series, that will have kids putting away the games, shutting off the computers, and absorbing themselves in a book! Dancing Through the Snow By Jean Little Jen Robinson’s Book Page (June 3, 2011) Dancing Through the Snow is lovely, too. It's the sort of book that makes the reader think and stop to appreciate things. It brought tears to my eyes on several occasions, and also made me laugh out loud. It's a quiet book, set in the snow of a Canadian winter, but there are moments of pure joy (like the one captured on the cover). The story begins as 11-year-old Min Randall girds herself up for being rejected from her fourth foster home, right before Christmas. Min was abandoned "in a washroom at the Canadian National Exhibition" when she was three, and has been largely unwanted ever since. She surrounds herself by virtual walls, and hardly ever speaks. When an unexpected rescuer scoops her away from social services on a whim, taking her to a warm, loving household, Min knows better than to trust her good fortune. But she can't help having her cold heart thaw out a bit, as she spends what is for all practical purposes her first real Christmas. Dancing Through the Snow is about what it feels like to be abandoned, and what it feels like to be finally wanted. It's about learning to trust, and what makes up a home. It's also about puppies, sledding, coping with bullies, and the horror of the tsunami in Indonesia. Dancing Through the Snow is about love and family and blueberry pancakes. Min is a complex character, one who evokes sympathy, but is too strong to evoke pity. Here she is: "Min herself despised people who blubbered. Crying let your guard down and made you easier to hurt. As the door banged shut behind the two women, Min set her jaw and sat, waiting for the paid to come out and reveal what they had decided to with her next. Pressing her feet flat on the floor, she reached back automatically for the comfort of her braid. Her back was rigid, as though she had been carved out of stone like the family downtown. Or wood maybe. A totem-pole girl. But the thick rope of hair she clutched was warm and soft -- and hers." (Page 19) The Canadian winter is everywhere through the text, like this: "The doctor drove on through the late afternoon. Snow was still falling in lacy, lazy flakes. The oncoming evening had turned their cloudy white to a soft grey. Despite the islands of yellow light cast by the streetlamps, the dusk deepening into night was strangely eerie and Min, peering out the window, shivered." (Page 30) There are lots of literary references in Dancing Through the Snow, from classic to modern. As in my first book of the day, there is a family read-aloud. The plot in Dancing Through the Snow relies on a few coincidences, but I was willing to set them aside to lose myself in Min's story. I can imagine re-reading Dancing Through the Snow around Christmastime, and appreciating it even more when I know for sure how it's going to end. Dancing Through the Snow is a beautiful novel for middle grade readers. I know that I had a phase in which I liked reading about orphans and foster children -- Dancing Through the Snow should be a nice companion to The Great Gilly Hopkins, Anne of Green Gables, The Pinballs, and the like. Highly recommended. Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool By Odo Hirsch The Horn Book Guide Four times a century, the Bell family offers gifts to the town as thanks for their generations of great wealth. That wealth has now run nearly dry, however, so when it's his turn, Darius's father has little to offer but a wheelbarrow of vegetables. This gentle Australian-import parable about family history, loyalty, and pride makes for a satisfying read. Politics and Prose, Holiday Favorites (December 2011) Darius Bell’s family lives on a sprawling estate that has been in his family for over a century. Once a generation, payment is due for the estate in the form of a gift presented to the town, but the Bells’ money has run out and a magnificent gift is out of reach. When an earthquake breaks open the ground in Darius’s beloved woods, Darius discovers the Glitter Pool. Will the underground treasure help the family save its home? In Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool (Kane/Miller, $15.99), Odo Hirsch tells a story whose sense of wonder makes it a perfect read-aloud to share with the whole family. Ages 9-12. DMC The Dog Who Loved Red By Anshumani Ruddra Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011) Raja, an Indian family’s dog, chews everything that’s red: shawl, shoes and socks, and he and his friend, Champ (a Dalmatian), love playing with a red ball. When the ball becomes lost, he goes in hot pursuit, asking the gray pigeons and the orange kitten. He spies his red ball in Mr. Mehta’s backyard, but Mr. Mehta hates dogs—he always turns his blue hose on them. But Raja bravely slips under the violet gate, leaps onto the green cooler, slides under the silver car and gets it! When Raja returns home, he is covered with brown mud, pink netting, blue cloth and a peach sock from the assortment of colored objects he encounters in making his escape. His reward as a hero? A bath! The bright illustrations highlight each color cited, but they appear cramped on the pages. Moreover, the scratchy typeface often becomes lost against the backgrounds when it is placed over illustrations. There are better picture books on color than this Indian import—the Caldecott Honor– winning Red Sings from Treetops, by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (2009), and the ebullient I Ain't Gonna Paint No More, by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by David Catrow (2005), being just two. The only thing going for it is the Indian setting and names, as well as the endearing way sausage-dog Raja wags his tail. (Picture book. 4-7) Biblio Reads (February 13, 2011) Silly dog! Your little one will love the mischief Raja gets into and identifying all the colors as they appear in the story. The ending is sure to make you chuckle. In the Pages... (February 15, 2011) Need another fun dog book?? This is it!! Anitha Balachandran's The Dog Who Loved Red is one that will fit in so well with your unit on dogs, colors or just another fun read!! Raja is a dog you can't help but love AND learn about colors at the same time. GUARANTEED laughs and you will hear "read it again!!" :) Pugent Sound Council for Reviewing Children’s Media (April 2011) This exuberant story celebrates the colors in our surroundings and would be useful for teaching younger elementary children about colors. Raja is a mischievous dog who loves red. When he gets in trouble for chewing Mr. and Mrs. Lal’s red clothing, Tanvi takes him to the park. In search of the red ball he and another dog like to play with, he wreaks havoc in Mr. Mehta’s yard. On the way, he discovers wonderful colors like fuchsia and maroon. Human and animal characters are expressively drawn, and color words are emphasized in the text with different fonts and colors. It is also refreshing to see Indian Americans represented. Margo Dill’s Read These Books and Use Them (March 14, 2011) *Picture book for preschoolers through first graders *Cute pup as main character *Rating: The Dog Who Loved Red is an excellent way to teach or review colors with small children! Cute story and even cuter illustrations. Short, short summary: Raja the dog loves red! He chews on red things in the house, and so Tanvi takes him to the park. Raja sees his friend Champ, a Dalmatian, and they like to play with an old, red ball together. But the ball gets lost. Of course, Raja has no problem tracking it down because it’s red! While he is retrieving it, he runs into all sorts of colors like a big, blue hose and a violet gate. When he comes home, he has a rainbow of colors on him, and he gets quite a reward! (I won’t reveal it, but dogs won’t want to listen to the last page. ) So, what do I do with this book? 1. While children are enjoying the cute story in The Dog Who Loved Red, allow them to pick out the different colored objects that are listed in the book. For really young children, you can ask them to pick out the object in the book and then pick out something with the same color in the classroom or at home. 2. Raja’s favorite color is red. Make a bar graph of your students’ favorite colors once you finish this book. Give each student a stickee note (square-shaped) and ask them to write their favorite color on it out of the colors mentioned in the book. Across the bottom of a chalkboard or dry-erase board, write the color words. Then ask students to bring up their stickee notes and create a bar for each color. To do this, students “stack” their stickee notes one on top of the other to create a bar. When the activity is over, everyone will be able to see what the most popular color is in class. 3. As a shared writing activity, write a new ending for the book. What is a different treat that Raja could get for finding the ball? Booklist Online (February 14, 2011) Nothing red is safe from Raja’s chompers. Thankfully, Tanvi, his owner, has a respite: taking him to the park to play with his doggie friend, Champ. The problem, however, is that their favorite red ball is missing. They ask the gray pigeons and the orange cat, but they’re no help. “Luckily,” Balachandran writes, “Raja had red radar.” He sniffs out the toy in mean Mr. Mehta’s backyard and sneaks through all sorts of colored objects before dashing away with the ball and emerging from the yard a multicolored mess. The plot moves in fits—what starts as a story about a family’s problem becomes an animals-talk- to-other-animals tale before finally settling into the main event of the rescue mission. Balachandran’s illustrations, however, are a jumbled, messy delight, using what looks like colored pencils to create the endearingly lopsided, off-center world in which Raja romps. All color words are printed in color so readers can identify similar tints in the illustrations. The casual use of an Indian setting is also appreciated. Kiss the Book (July 1, 2011) Raja loves red. He loves to chew red. One of his favorite toys is a red ball that he plays with when he’s with his friend, Champ. Champ, however, has lost his ball and needs Raja’s help. Can Raja and Champ find the red ball? A cute picture book with fun illustrations. The text is simple to understand, but does a great job of telling the story. A good read aloud for young children or early readers who like dogs and colors. PRE-K, EL(K-3). The Education Resource Center (August 16, 2011) The Dog Who Loved Red by Anitha Balachandran is a great book to review colors with children while reading a fun adventure story. The story follows a dog, named Raja, who has a sense for the color red. Raja shows the readers how he gets himself in some precarious situations because of his love of red. He chews a red shawl and red shoes. This all changes when his sense comes in handy when his friend, Champ, loses his red ball. Raja asks all the other animals if they have seen Champ’s ball. Each animal that Raja speaks with, and other details in the story, are described with a color. The text of the color is written in the corresponding actual color. For example, when Raja speaks with the orange kitten about the missing ball, the word “orange” is written in orange type. The pictures also incorporate the colors into the scenery and objects discussed in the text to represent the colors. On the page that describes the violet, the picture shows a pretty violet gate. Overall, I recommend the book for any elementary reader who is interested in animals and adventure. It would be especially interesting and helpful for students who are learning or reviewing colors. I would suggest this book for a teacher to read to his or her class as a way of reviewing colors, but also as a book for independent readers to read on their own. Anitha Balachandran incorporates colors into her illustrations as well as her text to make it easy for readers to match up color words to colors. Through the Looking Glass Reviews (September 2011) Raja is a dog who loves red things, and whenever he can, he finds something red and he chews it. One day Raja chews Mr. Lal’s grey and red socks and he is such a nuisance that Tanvi decides to take Raja to the park. Usually Raja and his dog friend Champ play with a red ball, but today the red ball is missing and Champ is very upset because he “can’t find it anywhere.” Raja asks the other animals if they know where the red ball is, but none of them are helpful. Then Raja sees the red ball lying in Mr. Mehta’s garden, which is a truly terrible thing because grumpy Mr. Mehta hates dogs. Somehow Raja has to get the red ball back without getting caught. Young children are sure to enjoy this color filled picture book with its loveable main character. Young readers will find it hard not to cheer for Raja as he does his best to rescue the treasured red ball from the dog hating Mr. Mehta. Paper Tigers (July 2011) When Raja’s chewing habit puts him out of favor with her parents, Tanvi decides to take her frisky, red-loving dog to the park. There the pair meets Raja’s Dalmatian buddy, Champ, but the canines’ favorite (red) ball is nowhere to be found. This second book by talented young illustrator and animator Anitha Balachandran (Mr. Jeejeebhoy and the Birds) tells of Raja the dog’s colorful adventure to rescue his favorite ball from the back yard of mean Mr. Mehta, the neighbor with yellow shorts, a violet gate, a silver car, brown flowerpots, a white sheet hanging on the line, and a blue garden hose he turns on dogs to chase them out of his yard. Balachandran’s bright illustrations live up to her previous work in this book about color in which each color-word is printed in ink of that color and made to stand out so that children soon recognize not only the colors but the words for those colors as well. Though it is a simple story that could take place anywhere, Raja and Tanvi’s world is distinctly Indian: Raja’s first chewing casualty is Mrs. Lal’s red sari shawl, for instance. The Dog Who Loved Red is an inviting book for young children who will relate to the plight of naughty, messy, playful dogs and the kids who love them. The characters and setting reflect diversity, though diversity itself is not a theme of the book, making it a fun story for learning about color and a wonderful addition to library shelves. Dorje’s Stripes Written by Anshumani Ruddra Illustrated by Gwangjo and Jung-A Park Publisher’s Weekly (January 24, 2011) Nestled in the Himalayas is a Buddhist monastery where monks live with a Royal Bengal tiger named Dorje, who has an unusual characteristic: in his two years at the monastery, he has lost all of his stripes. But when the youngest monk notices that Dorje has a new stripe, Master Wu tells the story of how hungry, weak, and afraid Dorje was when he first arrived. He also describes entering Dorje's dreams, where he learned that each of Dorje's vanished stripes represented another tiger killed by hunters. Working in brilliant, seeping watercolors, the Korean illustrating team plays up the mystical elements of the story (Dorje almost appears to be aflame in some scenes, and they show murdered tigers floating on small rocks against a celestial backdrop), while underscoring the dangers the tigers face (one is shot in mid-leap, blood exploding from its chest). But the new stripe on Dorje means he has found a female companion, bringing hope for Royal Bengal tiger populations. A closing note about the tigers' vulnerability adds urgency to this subtle story about preservation and survival. Ages 5–9. (Mar.) In the Pages... (February 15, 2011) Dorje's Stripes by Anshumani Ruddra and Illustrated by Gwangjo and Jung-a Park is the story of Dorje - a beautiful Royal Bengal tiger - but a tiger with no stripes. What a great multi-cultural story - Master Wu, a Buddhist monk in Tibet, tells this story about why the tiger has no stripes and how he may yet get his stripes. I liked this - it is totally different than other picture books and gives us a wonderful glimpse into the culture of Tibet. Young Adult Books Central (February 15, 2011) A Buddhist monastery in the Himayalas has a companion in its midst—a Royal Bengal tiger named Dorje. But Dorje is unusual; he has no stripes. As the elder monk, Master Wu, begins to tell the tale of the unmarked cat, the other monks learn why Dorje’s stripes have vanished. Gently and sensitively told, the fictional Dorje’s Stripes communicates the plight of the endangered Royal Bengal tiger through Dorje’s experiences in the wild. Readers should be aware that a bit of eastern mysticism trickles into the story as Master Wu travels into Dorje’s dreams to learn his background. An end note provides additional facts on the endangerment of this species. A quiet, simple book that animal lovers will enjoy. Biblio Reads (February 24, 2011) Wonderful! A tale that succinctly targets the plight of the Royal Bengal Tiger in an imaginative and magical story. Learn why Dorje has no stripes and what it means for his kind. I loved the watercolor illustrations and the way the moods of the tiger were captured. A touching story with real life implications that will teach young children the importance of caring for these animals. School Library Journal (April 2011) Dorje is a Royal Bengal tiger. During the two years that he has lived in a small Buddhist monastery, his stripes have disappeared, one by one. Then one day, the youngest monk notices a new stripe. One of the elder monk’s explains that Dorje’s original home was in a dense jungle full of beautiful tigers until men came hunting them for their skins and sport. Every time one was killed, Dorje lost a stripe. In order to survive, he found his way to the monastery. Now he has met a female Royal Bengal tiger in the forest and his stripes are beginning to grow back, offering hope that the animals will survive. This heartwarming story is enhanced by stunning watercolors that add to its peaceful tone and suggest a quiet beauty as well as depict the actions and emotions of each character. The last page provides facts about the survival of the Royal Bengal tigers, India’s national animal. Waking Brain Cells (June 21, 2011) In a small Buddhist temple in the Himalayas, the monks have an unusual visitor, a Royal Bengal tiger named Dorje. Dorje is very unusual himself, because his coat has no stripes. In the two years since he arrived at the monastery, they disappeared one by one. One evening, the youngest monk noticed that Dorje had one stripe again! One of the monks tells the story of when he entered Dorje’s dreams and saw that as Dorje lost each stripe, a tiger had died. Now there was a new tiger in the wilderness, a female tiger, who seemed to have taken a liking to Dorje. Soon perhaps, his coat will fill again with stripes. Inspired by the tragic loss of tigers in India, this story vividly tells of the loss in a way that children will easily relate to. The story is quietly told through Dorje himself and the voices of the monks. It is a story that speaks gently about horrors beyond children’s comprehension, making them tangible and understandable. Ruddra’s tone is one of respect and awe for this creature. He takes his time to tell the story to its fullest, offering inspiration along the way. The illustrations are glowing with bright colors that capture the coat of Dorje and the world of the monastery. The watercolors have been allowed to bleed a bit, creating auras around things. At other times, the painting is tight and controlled. The two play against each other, showing the wild next to the tame. This is a lovely and inspiring book about threatened species. It captures the plight, the loss and the recovery in one beautiful story. Appropriate for ages 5-7. Kiss the Book (July 1, 2011) In a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, there lives a tiger. Many years ago, a weak, near-death tiger named Dorje appeared needing help. At first, the tiger was shy and afraid of the people in the monastery, but, eventually, he warmed up to the monks. Over the years, as the tiger went into the jungle, he would reappear and have less stripes on his back. Less stripes meant that there was one less tiger in the jungle. One day, however, a stripe reappears on the tiger’s back. Is there hope in the wild? The text is simple and easy to understand. The illustrations are beautiful. This book would be a good read aloud for preschoolers who like tigers. Pre-K, EL (K-3). The Midwest Book Review (August 2011) "Dorje's Stripes" is a book written about the Royal Bengal Tiger, the largest Asian cat, which is vulnerable and endangered as a species. It tells the story ofDorje, a Royal Bengal tiger without stripes who is sheltered by a monastery in the Himalayas. When Dorje first came to the monastery, he had been very badly treated by humans, and he had lost his stripes. A monk witnesses Dorje's anguish and decides to try to understand, help, and comfort him by entering his dreams. He learns that Dorje is gradually witnessing the dying out of his species. Every time a tiger dies, Dorje loses a stripe. This is what has driven him all the way from Bengal to Tibet. But one day a monk notices a new stripe on Dorje. He has met a female tiger and mated, and there is hope that the Royal Bengal tiger clan may once again thrive. Beautiful watercolor, delicately tinted paintings help tell the story of Dorje's Stripes" in an unforgettable way. Surely "Dorje's Stripes" will help to sensitize the world to the plight of the threatened Royal Bengal Tiger and help motivate action towards its protection as a species. Paper Tigers (August 2011) A small Buddhist monastery nestled in the mighty Himalayas is surrounded by a vast forest. “Everything about the place spoke of quiet beauty,” reads the first page of Dorje’s Stripes. Perhaps the most quietly beautiful aspect of the monastery is its most unusual resident: a Royal Bengal Tiger named Dorje. When Dorje arrived, Master Wu explains, he was weak and had not eaten for days. Upon regaining his strength under the monks’ care, Dorje began hunting for himself again, but every time he returned from the jungle, he had one less stripe. Eventually, he was left with nothing but two little dark spots above his eyes, but this evening Cheekoo, the youngest monk, notices that a new stripe has appeared on Dorje’s shoulders! What could it mean? Master Wu tells the monks that he entered Dorje’s dreams shortly after his arrival and learned that the tiger’s clan was disappearing as a result of greedy hunters attacking tigers for sport and also hunting their prey. The mighty cats who escaped slaughter were left to starve. Every time one of his clan died, Dorje lost a stripe. Dorje’s new stripe fills the monks with great hope as Master Wu reveals that he and Dorje discovered a female tiger that morning as they walked in the forest. A note that follows this story, beautifully illustrated in lush watercolors by the Korean team of Gwungjo and Jung-a Park, explains the plight of the Royal Bengal Tiger, India’s national animal. Less than 1,500 wild tigers live in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans in Bengal today, having been hunted from a population of more than 40,000 at the beginning of the twentieth century. This powerful and majestic animal is now one of the Earth’s most threatened species, but the story of Dorje is one of hope. “Dorje only knew cruel men before he met us,” explains Master Wu, but just as the tiger – and perhaps eventually his clan – recovers under the monks’ care, so can future generations work to change the fate of this beautiful animal. Puget Sound Council for Reviewing Children’s Media (October 2011) A royal Bengal tiger finds refuge in a remote Himalayan monastery in this fable illustrated with warm impressionistic watercolors. Akin to Douglas Wood’s “Old Turtle” and Jon Muth’s “Three Questions” this is a teaching story with meaning for wildlife conservation and the Buddhist values of kindness and compassion. As the story is told, a tiger “Dorje” (a name given to the “thunderbolt” of Enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism) arrives at the monastery emaciated and stripe-less, seeking refuge from hunting/poaching that have decimated other tigers in his clan in Bengal. Dorje recovers from near starvation and under the monastery’s protection regains a black stripe as a female tiger is seen in the forest near the monastery and hope for the clan is restored. Kane Miller publishers deserve note as they continue to provide titles of high aesthetic and lasting value such as in this story’s gorgeous blending of artwork and story which convey deep respect for wildlife and will engage students in consideration of a distant land and culture. Dying to Tell Me By Sherryl Clark Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2011) After moving to a rural Australian town, Sasha’s unwelcome premonitions lead her to solve a string of art thefts while tackling her own issues. Ever since her mum left, Sasha’s “life has turned into a huge, weird disaster area.” The sad, anxious Sasha knows her dad’s trying hard to hold the family together. When he accepts a police job in Manna Creek to “make a new life,” Sasha decides she’ll give “moving to the back of nowhere” a chance, just to make him happy. Unimpressed with the drab town, the bedraggled house behind the police station and the hostile locals who resent the new cop’s kids, Sasha and younger brother Nicky explore with their new pet police dog, King. Sasha’s freaked out when she finds that she and King can communicate telepathically and even more upset when she starts dreaming about local people, past and present, who are about to die. Is there something wrong with her? Should she tell her father or repress everything? In an authentic first-person voice, Sasha fumes at her missing mum, reacts negatively to Manna Creek, supports her father and brother and conveys her fears about her telepathic powers as she leads the tense, fast-moving plot to resolution. A stronger-than-she-realizes heroine uses her disconcerting telepathic gifts to help others and heal herself in this satisfying adventure. Voya (October 2011) Following a move to a small town in the Australian bush, and a concussion from an accidental fall, Sasha begins to develop strange mental powers that include premonitions of deaths and the ability to talk to her new dog. Soon Sasha is embroiled in solving two mysteries, separated by a hundred years, while trying to keep a grip on her new gift. If this sounds like more promising ideas than can be successfully developed in a brief novel—that is because it is. While the early scenes of Sasha struggling with eerie sensations and images of death hold a certain visceral power, the novel moves too quickly into using her gift to solve crimes, especially as the crimes themselves read like police procedurals. Meanwhile, her communication with her dog walks a strange line between humor and seriousness, as if Clark could not decide on a tone; in the end, this whole relationship squanders its early potential in favor of deux ex machina–like pronouncements from the dog that help solve the mysteries. None of this is to say that the novel is without merit. Clark’s prose is fluid—at times even mesmerizing—and the fast pace may help readers ignore the novel’s flaws. Characterizations are brief but usually pointed. And the novel’s strengths are similar enough to popular ESP-based novels such as Lisa McCann’s Wake (Simon Pulse, 2008) that it could easily attract a strong teen audience, especially if Clark writes a sequel.—Mark Flowers. Extreme Adventures, Book 1: Crocodile Attack By Justin D’Ath Reading Reviews (January 2010) Crocodile Attack is a rip-roaring adventure-type book that I absolutely love. Here you have a kid stuck in a situation that is full of deadly peril and he is able to keep his head together. One exciting thing after another seems to happen in this story and it kept me reading late into the night. I just couldn't put it down! I didn't want to put it down! I just had to finish it . . . and quickly. Sam Fox is an interesting character that Young Readers will instantly bond with. His main goal is to keep his two year old cousin safe from the robber, the flooded river, a deadly snake, and hungry crocodiles. To do that, he will have to survive all of these things himself. Oh, and don't forget all of the rain and wind that accompany and tropical storm. Nissa is a cute little character and I loved how she called Sam, "Tam." I really enjoy stories that move along quickly and are filled with tense drama and a lot of action. The first book in the Extreme Adventures series delivered just that. Justin D'Ath has put pen to paper and created a series that I know I am going to fully enjoy. I was already thinking about the second book while I was reading this one. All I know is that I cannot wait to start the next book. Boys will really enjoy this series. Girls who like a lot of action will enjoy it too. After all, the series is called "Extreme Adventures." I can tell you that the story is quite extreme and the book is stuffed full of adventure and dangerous situations. Anyone out there that is an adrenaline junkie will love this book. Overall, Crocodile Attack is an excellent book that will keep a reader flipping pages while the find themselves immersed into this wild and crazy story. Like I said earlier, I cannot wait to see what happen with Sam Fox in his next adventure. The book is entitled Bushfire Rescue. Extreme Adventures, Book 3: Shark Bait By Justin D’Ath Reading Review (April 3, 2011) Shark Bait is another very exciting book in the Extreme Adventures series starring Sam Fox, an Austrian boy. Sam never looks for trouble . . . trouble just seems to find him. This time, Sam must survive the night floating in the warm ocean waters with a young Japanese boy that doesn't speak or understand English. They survive sharks, sea snakes, nearly drowning, and then end up battling animal poachers. There is no way that I would want to spend the night suspended in the water with predators swimming all around me. That would scare the bejeezus out of me. Both of these boys are brave, very brave indeed. Once again, Justin D'Ath has put pen to paper and created another fun-filled, action-packed, wet adventure for us to read. As with all the books in the series, the quick paced of the story keeps the reader highly involved, biting their nails and they witness Sam escape from each harrowing situation. This is the kind of books that boys absolutely love, and possibly girls too. This is action to the maximum! I realize that these books are meant for Young Readers ages 9 and older, but I really love reading them also. They are a very quick read for me, but I find that the books always satisfy my need for action and suspense, just like the series Conspiracy 365. I have become an action junkie because of these two wonderful series and I find myself wanting more and more. All I can say is, "Bring it on, Kane Miller!" I'll be ready for more of these types of books anytime. Overall, Shark Bait is a great story that will keep Young Readers glued to the pages. The action is plenty and I found myself floating in the open water with the boys sharing the danger with them. I look forward to seeing what kind of sticky situations Sam Fox finds himself in during his next adventure in Scorpion Sting. That sure sounds dangerous. Extreme Adventures, Book 6: Man-Eater By Justin D’Ath Book Trends (March 4, 2011) I love Man-Eater. What I like about this book is as quickly as in the fourth paragraph action and problems start stirring up. This means the reader doesn't need to read a chapter all about the character or background before getting to the action. Also, Man-Eater includes multiple facts about the animals Sam goes against in the text. " It was a honey badger… they are the meanest animals in the world. Even though they're no bigger than corgis, honey badgers have been known to chase lions from their kills." I love this because not only am I reading a fiction adventure story, but I'm also learning some information from it. Next, I love the creative solutions the author thought of to get Sam out of trouble. I would never have thought of doing what Sam does for a solution to some of the situations. This is a fantastic book that anyone would enjoy reading. I rate Man-Eater with five stars. Extreme Adventures, Book 5: Spider Bite By Justin D’Ath Book Trends (March 7, 2011) Around the first few pages I was already hooked. My excitement filled my own body with anticipation. The hurry and tension got higher and higher with each page, and the better it got the faster I read so I was reading pretty fast and I was kind of disappointed when I was done. The ending made me want to read more and see if the brothers ever get reunited. The genre is realistic fiction because this could have happened to anybody in Australia. Sam demonstrated good inferring and thinking skills. Sam's main goal was to land until Jordan got bitten and changed course for the hospital. Next chance I get, I am getting the next book in the Extreme Adventure series. Reading Review (August 2011) Spider Bite is yet again another very exciting book in the Extreme Adventures series by Justin D'Ath. This book is packed with adrenaline-pumping events that will leave the reader breathless as the action unfolds before their eyes. Poor Sam . . . he always seems to find himself in very dangerous situations. The good news for us is that these circumstances are very thrilling and we get to go along for the ride safely from wherever we are reading these books. I really enjoy the Extreme Adventures books and always know that when I pick up one of these books, I am prepared for a roller coaster ride of a story. In this story, Sam must not only deal with being stuck in a hot air balloon and not knowing how to pilot it, but a sick brother who will die in less than 24 hours unless he is treated. Oh yeah, we cannot forget about the zoo and all the wild animals in there that he has to face, like bears, lions, snakes, and more. Now this is what I call a breathtaking adventure. Justin D'Ath is a master at writing stories that will keep the reader sitting on the edge of their chair. The action is non-stop and the tenseness in the book will leave the reader's heartbeat pumping hard as they gobble up the pages following Sam though all of the traumatizing events. Young Readers, especially boys, will love Sam Fox and wish that this could be happening to them. I highly recommend the Extreme Adventures series to all readers who love a fast-paced story chocked full of action and adventure. Overall, Spider Bite is another excellent story that made me bite off all my fingernails as Sam successfully navigated one exciting challenge after another. I cannot wait to see what happens in his next book entitled, Man-Eater. Uh oh, that sure doesn't sound very safe. From Pie Town to Yum Yum Written by Debbie Herman Illustrated by Linda Sarah Goldman Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2011) You don’t have to be a geographer (or a toponymist, to get really specific) to take pleasure in odd place names, and there are far too few gazetteers out there for a new one to come amiss. Herman’s contribution, then, is welcome, despite its weaknesses. First the strengths: Herman proceeds alphabetically by state, focusing on one curious place name and providing an explanation of its origin (or multiple possible explanations). Another dozen or so humorous place names are noted (with a few given very brief expository treatment), and a number of unusual state facts are delivered. Well and good, but this material, which can easily stand on its own, is bedeviled by a near-desperate striving for laughs. Not content to let the strange place names pull their comic weight, Herman douses them with corniness and puns and running jokes and enough exclamation marks to curl a Monkey’s Eyebrow (that’s in Kentucky). Another weakness is the artwork. Maps are a hotbed for artistic expression, but—except for the cover, which allows for color—Goldman’s maps feel anemic (the place names under discussion are not located on her state maps), scratchy and overly whimsical, with accompanying line drawings that are arbitrary or in anxiously eccentric pursuit of yet more mirth. Still, there is a bedrock of toponymic glory here, certainly enough to make some readers fall in love with geography. NC Teacher Stuff (August 15, 2011) From Pie Town to Yum Yum is a book that illustrates why I love nonfiction. It is indeed stranger than fiction. With this book, you have an entree of fascinating facts with two sides of weirdness and humor. Top it off with a dessert of comedic illustrations and this makes for a great read. Debbie Herman starts off with an explanation of toponymy, which is the study of place names. Knowing the history behind a town name can help you get a sense of the local culture. After the foreword, each of the fifty states (from Scratch Ankle, Alabama to Hole-In-The-Wall, Wyoming) is represented by a two page spread with a paragraph about the unique town featured on the left. The right side has a list of other intriguing town names in the featured state along with information about state geography, history, and destinations to visit on a road trip. My fair state is represented by the town of Bat Cave which is located in the mountains. The irony is that Bat Cave is not far from Transylvania County and when the fog gets thick, it can get quite spooky. Students in your home state will enjoy finding out which towns they have visited and trying to decide which town name is their favorite. I would also ask them to create a name for a town and explain why they made this selection. Books like From Pie Town to Yum Yum can serve as a gateway to getting students interested in history. The sense of humor in the text and illustrations will keep them engaged and perhaps they will be prompted to do research on their own. If there is a volume two of this book, I'm nominating Lizard Lick for the North Carolina section. Publishers Weekly (August 22, 2011) Ever heard of Witch Island, Maine, or Hot Coffee, Miss.? Readers are introduced to these surprising locations and many more in a quirky but educational guide. With a light touch and plenty of puns, Herman moves alphabetically through the states, exploring the origin of one town in each, while providing intriguing snippets of U.S. history. Though the explanations are often more pedestrian than the names --- Disco, Ill., derives from the “discus-shaped valley” in which the town resides, and Home, Kans., was named after the post office – trivia hunters ought to enjoys the book’s irreverent spirit, echoed by Goldman’s energetic pen-and-ink cartoons. Reading to Know (September 19, 2011) http://www.readingtoknow.com/2011/09/from-pie-town-to-yum-yum-weird-and.html Our travels for the fall are not over yet. We're not really the type to take a lot of summer vacations because we're not bound by school schedules (as of yet.) We really are enjoying the freedom and flexibility to explore when everyone else is in school so that we can avoid crowds and the-height-of-vacation-season-traveling-costs. It IS fun to travel (more so once the children are all sleeping through the night.) I think I like to travel more in my head than in actuality at the moment (Diapers? Check! white noise maker? Whoops! Forgot to pack that!) but it's fun to dream and plan for the future. One book that makes the idea of traveling (and getting to know the United States a bit better!) is From Pie Town to Yum Yum. (It's also just a fun fact book for geography buffs or people with a decent sense of humor.) From Pie Town to Yum Yum explores the wacky names that exist for towns and cities through the United States. Like, for instance: Boring, Oregon. Or what about Oddville, Kentucky? Wynot, Nebraska? Truth or Consequences, New Mexico? Where are these cities and how exactly did they come by their rather unusual names? Well, this book will help answer those questions! (I like trivia books about odd and strange things.) This book takes you alphabetically through the states, pointing out odd names for towns and cities, and giving you a brief history of how each one received its name. It is filled with cartoons to illustrate absurdities and, of course, maps to show you where everything is located. It's a curiously clever book, new from Kane Miller, and caught my attention in their new release line-up. It's just plain awesome, that's what! Definitely not Dull Center, Wyoming. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.) Just plain good fun in a crazy sort of way, leaving you wondering about the people who named these places! If you're curious - take a peek! And next time you find yourself on a road trip you might want to jot down the names of the towns you pass through. It's a crazy world out there! Booklist Online (October 5, 2011) From Scratch Ankle, Alabama, to Hole in the Wall, Wyoming, Herman takes readers on a state-by-state tour that highlights many of our country’s funnier toponymic towns and byways. Along with explaining or (since history is often silent on the details) speculating about the origins of a highlighted hamlet’s moniker, the author lists a dozen or so other oddball place-names for each state and adds a more sober-sided column of straight facts and prominent events or locales worth visiting. In multiple free-spirited, freehand pen- and-ink vignettes on each spread, Goldman takes several names and runs with them— creating fanciful landscapes, hilarious signs, small animal or human figures making bad jokes (“Do you think the Pumpkintown Pumpkin Festival has squash tournaments?” “Are you out of your gourd?”), and loose but recognizable maps. A Stopover (KY) with this Jolly (GA, TX) Outing (MN) will leave Only (TN) a few readers finding their own Sweet Home (AK, OR) Odd (WV) or Gross (NE). A Liberal (KS) resource list makes this even more Ideal (SD) for any Library (PA). The Garden of Empress Cassia By Gabrielle Wang Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2011) Using a box of enchanted pastels, 12-year-old Chinese-Australian Mimi Lu creates a fantasy garden with supernatural properties. Mimi’s relationship with her parents is frustratingly superficial, until her father leaves to attend his dying brother. Oblivious to the bullying she faces at school, he pressures her only to succeed. After her art teacher recognizes her talent and pain and gives her the ancient pastels of Chinese Empress Cassia, she immerses herself in drawing a beautiful garden on the sidewalk. Those in emotional pain can magically step into the garden and be healed. Working together, Mimi and her mother offer tea to the crowd that forms around the garden, shared work resolving their emotional distance. But Mimi’s worst bully steals the pastels, potentially deadly in the wrong hands, and she must try to get them back. Partly because of this Australian import’s sheer brevity, only Mimi springs to life. Other characters are nearly colorless, and often stereotypical. While the bicultural issues Mimi faces offer a rich canvas for potential exploration—never fully developed— resolution of her problems comes too readily and predictably. Tiny, attractive pencil sketches begin each chapter, but don’t add measurably to the presentation. Hinting of a spell of unearthly enchantment with its mystical healing garden and the good-hearted artist that creates it, this effort offers promise but ultimately is more charcoal sketch than pastel panorama. (Magical realism. 9-12) A Garden for Pig Written by Kathryn K Thurman Illustrated by Lindsay Ward KidsBookShelf.com (January 2011) Pig likes apples, but he's just tired of eating them all the time. He has apples for breakfast, lunch, and dinner day after day. Pig wants something different, like vegetables! So Pig jumps in the garden and tries to find something different to eat, but Mrs. Pippins ties Pig up so he can't dig around in her garden anymore. But Pigs wish for vegetables comes true in a way he didn't expect. (Ages 4-8) Kids Lit (January 27, 2011) Pig lives on an apple farm where they grow lots and lots of apples. And what does Pig get to eat? Apples, apples, and more apples. Mrs. Pippins owns the farm and she makes all sorts of apple dishes for pig to eat, but he is sick of apples all the time. What he really wants to eat are vegetables! So Pig breaks into the vegetable patch and begins gulping down squash, seeds and all. When Mrs. Pippin finds him in the garden, she is not happy. She ties Pig up. When she catches him trying to break the rope, she shuts him in his pen. Though Pig tries to escape, he can’t. But he is determined not to eat any more apples! Pig notices the next day that his pen looks a lot like a garden. And after digesting the squash, he has the seeds he needs to make one. Thurman’s words are simple and have a jaunty rhythm to them. There are wonderful sounds woven into the book that children will enjoy mimicking. Pig’s determination and tenacity as well as his creative solution to the problem add to the appeal. Ward’s collage and cut paper illustrations have a warmth to them. This is accentuated by the use of fabrics that offer a texture to the images. In the apple orchard, there are words on the paper that make up the leaves: apple recipes. The illustrations are large enough to read to a group. And goodness knows, the poop event at the end will be a hit! A friendly and warm introduction to gardening in an organic way, this book is a happy addition to gardening story times. Appropriate for ages 3-5. The Horn Book Guide Pig, bored with the apples that farmer Mrs. Pippin provides, gobbles up the vegetable garden, then wishes he had vegetable seeds to plant. Luckily, when nature calls, "Ploop! Out come the seeds!" Pig, with his patch of brown over one eye, and farmer Mrs. Pippin, with her sticklike legs in wellies, make an endearing pair. Lots of organic gardening advice is appended. The Gobble Gobble Mooooooo Tractor Book By Jez Alborough The Children’s Bookwatch, Reviewer’s Bookshelf (January 2011) When the humans sleep, the animals get their fun in. "The Gobble Gobble Moooooo Tractor Book" is an entertaining and short story surrounding Farmer Dougal's tractor and his barnyard animals who decide that the tractor can be a good source of fun and entertainment for them. With full color art and story by Jez Alborough, "The Gobble Gobble Moooooo Tractor Book" is going to give more than enough enjoyment for young elementary readers, highly recommended. The Children’s Bookwatch, The Preschool Shelf (January 2011) "The Gobble Gobble Moooooo Tractor Book" is a lusty, noisy, merry farm animals' sounds story that will charm children ages 2-6. Farmer Dougal is sleeping late, so all the animals pretend to mimic the sound the tractor makes when he turns the engine on. For some reason, the tractor sounds come out a little different from each animal. For the sheep, it baaaas, for the cat, it purrrs, and for the turkey, it gobble gobbles! Will Farmer Dougal ever wake up? What if the animals manage to make the tractor go? Children will love the colorful foldout illustrations and the wildly funny sounds from all the different animals. "The Gobble Gobble Mooooooo Tractor Book" is a delightful experience for preschool children to read and love. The Horn Book Guide Some farm animals re-create a tractor's sounds (e.g., rumbles, honks) with their own baas, moos, etc.--until Farmer Dougal awakens, convinced that someone is stealing his wheels. The littlest listeners and readers will be in hog heaven with the abundant imitable animal sounds and the mischief-spiked barnyard-set illustrations. Hannah Duck By Anji Yamamura Through the Looking Glass (June 2, 2011) For six days a week Hannah Duck is “peaceful and content,” staying at home with Gigi the parakeet and KameKame the turtle. On Sundays Hannah goes for a walk and this makes her very anxious and worried. Every Sunday she looks through the park gate, and every Sunday she turns around and goes back home. She just can’t make herself walk through the gate into the unknown. Every Sunday Gigi and KameKame ask Hannah how her walk went and Hannah pretends that everything went well and that she had a good time. Then one Sunday Hannah decides to come clean. She tells her friends that she doesn’t like her Sunday walks because they scare her. When he hears this, Gigi offers to go with Hannah. Perhaps if she has a friend with her, she will not be so frightened to try something new. Going someplace that is unfamiliar makes many people feel anxious and unsure. Often they avoid going someplace simply because they are afraid of it. In this book, Anji Yamamura addresses this issue with sensitivity and warmth, showing young readers how rewarding it is to overcome your fear of the unknown. After all, you may discover something that will make your life happier and richer. She also celebrates the power of friendship, showing to great effect how friends can help one do things that are seemingly impossible. A Hockey Story By Richard Torrey Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2011) Young Joey has a case of the belly butterflies on his first morning with his new hockey team. What if everybody else is better than him or the coach is mean or no one talks to him or he has to go to the bathroom? “My stomach hurts.” But he starts to gather himself by getting suited up (the soothing presence of his parents helps, too). Sure, he puts his gloves on first, which doesn’t work, and he gets his skates on the wrong feet, which doesn’t work either, but the other kids are all nervous and fumbling, so he’s just part of the gang. Then he hits the ice, and things click: a nice pass, a goal, a high five. Though Torrey’s artwork is all delicate lines and generally light washes of color, it conveys the angst and the action with notable success. What he catches so well are the flutters and apprehensions, which are instantly recognizable for anyone who has ever experienced the joining a new team. And satisfying indeed is the message sent by the new coach: “He says if we always try our hardest, we’ll get better every time we play. But mostly he tells us to have fun.” No nutty hockey dads need apply. A welcome, salutary message all around. (Picture book. 4-8) Hush, Little Beachcomber Written by Dianne Moritz Illustrated by Holly McGee Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011) “Hush, Little Baby” receives a bright makeover, with seagulls and sand pies replacing mockingbirds and diamond rings. Repetitive phrases may mirror the soothing lullaby's format, but this blissful beach day opens with a more enthusiastic call for action. “Hey, little beachcomber, what do you say? / Let's take a trip to the beach today!” The possibilities appear endless, as various families and friends bask in the sun and ride the waves. The cheerful voice remains optimistic throughout. Whether the picnic overflows with food or birds scrounge for tasty treats, there’s always another way to enjoy the warm weather. The lilting text naturally progresses through each experience. An upbeat resolution concludes the outdoor outing. Pastel spreads flash with smudges of golden color, with their hazy hues dominating each page, the brief rhyming text highlighting each featured activity. Thick strokes convey the water’s intensity, while squiggled lines shade in each face. Clean white edges maintain the focus on the energetic pictures within. The absence of concrete borders allows the soft shades to ebb and flow, resembling the ocean’s calming crash. Overall, a fresh take on the joys of the salty sea. (Picture book. 2- 6) In the Pages... (February 15, 2011) Hush, Little Beachcomber by Dianne Moritz and illustrated by Holly McGee is a fun picture book set at the beach and read to the tune of "Hush, Little Baby" - yep, this one is clever and fun! My girls loved it - and they joined right in to sing along because they are already familiar with "Hush, Little Baby". This one would be so great with a beach unit or story hour. Biblio Reads (February 27, 2011) Have fun singing this book to your little one to the tune of Hush, Little Baby. Each illustration shows what fun can be had at the beach and all the many people and children that can be found there, too. I think the fact that you can sing this one will appeal to ages 2-5 and make this a go to book for fun. Booklist (May 1, 2011) The song “Hush, Little Baby” goes on vacation as it moves to the beach. Here, a multicultural cast of characters makes its way to the seaside. Some kids “don’t say a word” and then “sit and watch that small shore bird.” And if that shore bird runs away? “Let’s wade out in the cool sea spray.” The pencil-and-wash artwork takes on the look and feel of children’s own pictures, yet there is no doubt this is done by a practiced hand. Portraying adults and children of many ethnicities having an outing, this should have wide appeal. The song is not referenced anywhere except in the title, so even those familiar with it may not realize at first that this is an homage. Once they do, it will be easy to put the nicely scanning lines within the framework of the familiar melody. Those not wishing to actually sing will certainly have a lilt to their reading. Meridian Magazine (June 16, 2011) Hush Little Beachcomber, by Dianne Moritz, and illustrated by Holly McGee, is a delightful take on the children’s rhyming song titled “Hush Little Baby, Don’t Say a Word.” This little tyke is going to the beach where the sandcastles, waves, picnics and much more are waiting. So what are you waiting for? The wonderful blended chalk and paint seem to ebb and flow with the surrounding water. This book captures all that waits at the beach! I Can Say Please I Can Say Thank You By Tamsin Ainslie Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2011) An Australian import tackles manners for the very young. A little girl takes her stuffed cat and rabbit, along with her pet hedgehog, on an idyllic picnic. Each double-page spread sets up a statement or question (“Would you like to hold my hand?") that advances the day's events with an accompanied, expected answer ("Yes, please!"). Brief phrases in direct, appropriate language serve each natural page turn. Though the "Yes, please!" response never changes, the toys and youngster take turns directing and accepting requests. A soft sweetness—there's no hint of saccharine— nurtures the child's maturing independence as she organizes the festivities with absolutely no adult involvement (or any conflict to be seen). Respectful conversations between the preschooler and her friends appear fresh and unforced. The playthings' full-force involvement sets the creative stage; her dressed pals rifle through the basket, nibble on sandwiches and dip their toes in the water. Minimal backgrounds and pastel borders keep the focus on the action at hand. Slight alterations to facial expressions highlight a quiet reflection. A companion piece, I Can Say Thank You, follows a similar route as the friends explore their surroundings. A wholesome, pleasant demonstration of politeness for toddlers just discovering the joys of imaginative play. (Picture book. 1-3) Kiss the Book (October 2011) Back cover: “Learning to say thank you has never been such a delight!” This is another incredible book by Ainslie. There are few words, but the pictures tell all. We spent a lot of time studying and enjoying every page- just as we have her other books. The illustrations are incredible. This book could be used in a unit on manners. Kiss the Book (October 2011) Back cover: “Learning to say please has never been so much fun!” This is another incredible book by Ainslie. There are few words, but the pictures tell all. We spent a lot of time studying and enjoying every page. The illustrations are incredible. This book could be used in a unit on manners. I Lost My Mobile at the Mall By Wendy Harmer Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children (January 22, 2010) Elly Pickering’s parents demonstrated the expected level of anger and frustration when Elly lost her cell phone for the third time, this time at the mall. With the economy going through adjustments due to the global financial crisis, her mom and dad both agreed they would not pay for another replacement. Mom worked as an events planner for clients who had begun to scale back, and Dad worked as a driver for a courier truck company that was close to laying off workers. With the household budget getting tighter, her parents suggested that Elly try to find a part-time job and save up for a new phone; in the meantime, going without her cell phone might do Elly some good. Elly, however, thought differently. She was completely hooked on her cell phone and computer for having constant access to her friends and her gorgeous boyfriend Will. Yet when a series of on-line picture and comment postings started to spiral out of control, Elly had to wonder about the degree to which technological devices could have prevented or actually caused these problems. With the global financial crisis serving as the background setting, this young adult novel encourages readers to think about changes in spending priorities for families experiencing more stringent budget constraints and the threat of job loss. The book has another prominent theme, cyberbullying, which has gained increasing media attention. Because the story is rooted in humor and teenage angst, it will attract readers who might otherwise avoid a novel about these serious topics. Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2011) The title says it all: Losing her cell phone triggers a cascade of ever-widening techno- disasters for Elly Pickering, the book’s high-functioning Aussie protagonist. Next, her BFF Bianca’s boyfriend, Jai—not an Elly fan—posts unattractive photos of Elly on FacePlace, and Elly’s loyal sister, Tilly, hatches a scheme to pay Jai back. This goes horribly wrong, leading to a rift between Elly and Will, her strong, silent, surfer boyfriend. Elly’s parents berate her for losing her mobile, but they also are techno- dependent, as becomes all too clear when the family home is burglarized. Photos, correspondence and study notes vanish, revealing the truth that text messages and email are ephemeral and hardware-reliant, unlike the cherished letters from Elly’s grandfather to her grandmother, carefully preserved for 50 years. As Elly adjusts to her technical deprivation, she discovers the pleasures of paying attention to one thing at a time; could multitasking be overrated? The story clearly wants readers to consider whether we really want to make our distracted, fleeting lives move even faster. Readers don't linger in philosophical territory, though. Technology’s role in complicating our lives is the story’s engine, but the power of love and friendship to get us through the ensuing mayhem is its heart. The net result is an entertaining, thought-provoking read. (Fiction. 11 & up) Coffee for the Brain (February 21, 2011) This is the perfect book for teenage girls. That is all I kept thinking about while reading this novel. I told my daughter if you were a teenager this would be the book for you. Elly, the main character cracks me up. She is real, she is authentic. What I liked about her was the fact that you gained the sense of drama that comes with growing up, but it was not whiny drama. She is in love, she has friends, she wants to fit in, but when her phones turns up lost everything falls apart. I found this to be quite a humorous story. I laughed quite a few times throughout the story. I also liked the message of the story. It opened up my eyes when I started to think about how kids today probably don't have letters that they write back and forth anymore like we used to. They don't write letters and send in the mail. There is something so personal and powerful in receiving a letter that these kids are missing out on. It has caused me to think about writing more letters from now on. I hope to read more from this author as I think she has done a good job with her novel. Being that it was written in Australia I learned a few things. One, they don't call 911 for an emergency, but they dial 000. That is crazy! I also learned a whole new language of text messages. Some of the phrases I had to look up to see what they stood for. Another sign I am getting old. This book contains a great message, how to cope without technology. It addresses the realistic thoughts of a teenagers as their brains are filled with ADHD as they bounce around from being mad at mom, to sarcastic remarks, feeling hunger, and then wondering about the weather all at the same time. I Lost My Mobile at the Mall The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (April 2011) Fifteen-year-old Elly has lost her third cell phone, and she’s sure this time she faces certain death at the hands of just about everyone: her parents; her best frenemy, Bianca; and her boyfriend, Will, because along with her phone, she lost a ring that he gave her. Since she has no landline, either, she’s cut off from everyone and can’t even report her phone missing. Her technology crisis is about to get a whole lot worse, though. She learns that Bianca’s boyfriend has posted a page of embarrassing pictures of her on FacePlace, she sees online pictures of her beloved boyfriend in a compromising photo with another girl, she herself posts pictures of Will in a fit of break-up revenge, and then all of her family’s computers are stolen while they are out. Now she’s completely cut off from everyone and can’t undo the damage until she finally finds Will face-to-face and learns, in classic rom-com fashion, that it’s all been a terrible misunderstanding. The plot is contrived and predictable, and characterization can be stock: Will, for instance, is an Aussie dream, an achingly cute surfer dude with a heart of gold who worships the ground she walks on almost as much as he worships the waves. Elly’s voice, though, effectively evinces the constant edge of hysteria one would expect in a comedy of errors such as this, with a distinctive Aussie twist. She presents as an utterly typical fifteen-year-old fully dependent on her devices, full of exasperated impatience at her parental lectures on financial responsibility and what it was like before computers and cell phones even as she is forced to assent to some of their points when technology threatens to wreck her life. The combination of storybook romance and exaggerated comedy sweetens what is ultimately a light-hearted cautionary tale that makes its point without asking anyone to take it too seriously. KC Book Trends (March 2, 2011) All in all, Wendy Harmer did a great job in I Lost My Mobile at the Mall. Not only does she sound exactly like a teenager herself but throughout the entire book I found myself laughing, crying, and agreeing to everything that Elly goes through. The misunderstandings of parents with teenagers' technology, the mishaps with best friends, and going for two weeks without your mobile! This book is so amazing that I found myself dreading the end of it. On the author's information on the back of the book, it says that this book is the first book that Wendy Harmer has written for teenagers. I hope it won't be her last! One thing that attracted me to the book was the word "mobile". I knew it was the practical way of saying "cell", but I didn't know who used that word! When I learned that the book took place in Australia, then I knew, and as a result I really wanted to read it because everything about Australia is something that just catches my attention. I hope that Wendy Harmer wins an award for her book, because I certainly think she deserves it. This book is so interesting…so different. I have never really read a book before that connects with a teenage girls' mind and life so well. I felt as if some of the experiences that I have faced were in the book as well. I finished this book in a matter of three days…that is how much I loved it. I don't think any other rating of stars or reviews could cover my feelings for this book. As a young readers request, I ask Wendy Harmer to please…WRITE ANOTHER BOOK FOR TEENAGERS! Review written by Amber (6th grade student). Books YA Love (November 11, 2011) When she loses her cellphone at the mall (again), Elly can’t even report it missing until her Mum gets home from some fancy event she’s organizing - no landline at home, of course. When her parents refuse to buy Elly another cellphone, she finds herself completely out of the loop, unable to text her friends or send photos or talk to her cute surfer boyfriend. Time slows down to a crawl with every minute that she’s out of contact… Not that life in Oldcastle is at all exciting. Everything in their Australian coastal town has a British name – the shops, the pubs, even Elly and her sister and her parents and her pets! With the Pickering family coat of arms hanging on the bathroom wall, who can take all this seriously? Now, not having a cellphone in ninth grade – that’s serious! She can’t even talk to her best friend about it – no mobile phone means no calls to far-off Queensland where Carmelita moved last year. When the family’s home computers are stolen, Elly feels fully cut off from everyone as planning for the ninth grade dance goes into overdrive. Why do her big sister’s new silver sandals fit Elly better than they fit Tilly? What is boyfriend Will doing in that photo on Bianca’s phone? Does her grandmother really want to learn how to use a computer? When will Carmelita’s advice letter arrive? And where’s the Post Office anyway? Australian comedienne Wendy Harmer’s first book for young adults brings the effervescent Elly to life as a “teen on the edge of technological breakdown.” (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) I Love Words By Françoize Boucher, School Library Journal (October 2011) Designed as an individual activity book, this oversize paperback doubles as a source for classroom wordplay with riddles and secret codes. Simple two-color line drawings and hand-written text have the feel of a child’s personal effort, but the charts are easily adapted for board work. Helpful for quick fill-in lessons. It’s Almost Time Written by Debbie Bernstein LaCroix Illustrated by Sarah Chalek Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2011) The chiming, booming, cuckooing and ticking noises of various clocks are celebrated in this enthusiastic, though flawed and poorly titled outing. A gently anthropomorphized horse and blue jay eagerly await the stroke of 12, killing time by listening to the various sounds of the clocks that surround them: “Thump, thump, thump, thump, / a giant clock ticks. / Tickety-tockety, / Tickety-tockety, / a smaller clock clicks.” Once the clocks read noon, LaCroix drops the rhyming verses to describe in detail the sound of each clock’s chiming, using excellent verb and adverb choices to “play” the sound for readers: “Bum, bum, bum, bummmm, serenades the anniversary clock sweetly.” Chalek’s paintings provide vital clues to readers, who may not be familiar with the wide variety of clocks presented in the text. Unfortunately, she makes one large misstep, as she matches the text “one minute to cuckoo” with an image of a clock whose hands point to 11:48. Otherwise, the horse and blue jay display quite a bit of enthusiasm for their collection of clocks, reacting appropriately to each of their sounds— annoyed at the alarm clocks, soothed by the baby’s clock, which plays a tune. Clock lovers may appreciate this, but others may simply want back the time they spent reading it. (Picture book. 3-7) Picture Book Reviews (September 24, 2011) Pocket watches, cuckoo clocks, wrist watches, pendulum clocks, anniversary clocks, alarm clocks, digital clocks and grandfather clocks all keep time together for a superior build-up of the passing of the minutes in anticipation of a simultaneous chime to ring in the new hour. I remember the grandmother clock (daintier than a grandfather clock) in our childhood home with a small chime to mark every quarter of the hour and a glorious, church-like chime to celebrate the beginning of a new hour. My sisters and I often ran to the clock so we didn’t miss the soothing sounds. It remains a beautiful memory. How wonderful that Debbie Bernstein LaCroix has chosen to elaborate on this exciting, often overlooked experience. Sarah Chalek’s vibrant artwork nearly lifts off the pages and you practically hear the ticking, alarms and chimes. ♥♥♥♥♥ Boro Magazine (October 17, 2011) The best children’s books aren’t just for kids. It’s Almost Time – written by Debbie Bernstein LaCroix and illustrated by Astoria’s own Sarah Chalek – is a prime example of this sentiment, with its worldly knowledge translated into unassuming, rhythmic language and dynamic illustrations. Boasting a fresh take on age-old wisdom and brilliantly colorful artwork, It’s Almost Time is a story sure to engage audiences both young and old. The story features two main characters, a horse and a blue jay, who meander as friends through the sights and sounds of clocks and the passage of time. Each page is vibrantly colored, with Chalek’s illustrations bringing both characters to life through loveable expressions and meaningful subtleties. The text is loaded with onomatopoeia that drive the story forward effortlessly while capturing the reader in a world full of sound. It’s Almost Time is published by Kane Miller, A Division of EDC Publishing, and is available online or at most major bookstores. Sarah Chalek received her BFA in illustration from Syracuse University. Her work has been featured in the American Watercolorist Magazine and in the Society of Illustrators Student Show. Market Day! By Victoria Roberts Illustrated by Tomislav Zlatic KidsBookShelf.com (January 2011) This fun four board book kit with pop-up market and press-out characters will keep little ones busy learning and having fun. The four board books cover shapes, colors, opposites, and numbers. And young readers will love the animal characters in the story and to play with in the market. A fun way to learn! (Infant-Preschool) Gifts and Decorative Accessories (December 2010) Read and Play Learning is Fun When it is More Like Play. Market Day! is a set of four early learning board books in a carrying case that is also a pop-up scene with punch-out characters. $19.99. For ages up to 3. My Japan By Etsuko Watanabe READING MATTERS, the official journal of the South Carolina State Council of the International Reading Association (SCIRA) “My name is Yumi and I’m seven years old. My family and I live in a house in the suburbs of Tokyo. I’m in my room. Can you see me?” (unpaged). The pictures reveal all of the rooms in her house including Yumi’s bedroom where she is seated at a desk. The first few pages of the book feature double-paged spreads of the other rooms in her house while the remaining double-page spreads focus on typical aspects of her life in Japan such as transportation, the first day of school (which begins in April), the school day, Japanese writing styles, and public baths. There is also attention devoted to traditions and celebrations like New Year’s Eve, Sports Day, and Children’s Day. Many objects in the pictures have captions and one or two sentences about them. For instance, on the page that focuses on Yumi’s bedroom, the following sentences accompany the picture of a futon. “In Japan we sleep on futons. They are light and very easy to fold and carry. When you air them out in the sun, they feel warm and fluffy. Mmmmm, very nice to sleep on!” (unpaged). I think children will enjoy reading this book and comparing the similarities and differences between their lives and Yumi’s life in Japan. Noodle Pie By Ruth Starke Kiss the Book (February 11, 2011) Andy's going to Vietnam for a visit, but soon learns this is going to be a trip like none other. He meets his extended family, all of which live in the same house, and they seem to be some of the greediest people he's met. Apart from that, the nice, big, family restaurant Andy's been hearing about, turns out to be a dump. So, Andy and his cousins decide to reform the restaurant (Phuong Nguyen) into a new, and improved restaurant called, Noodle Pie. I really enjoyed reading this book. It was so well written, and very interesting to learn about culture in Vietnam. It's probably in my top twenty books list. EL,MS- ADVISABLE. Student Reviewer: HW The No 1 Car-Spotter By Atinuke Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2011) Oluwalase Babatunde Benson, otherwise known as No. 1, is not only the best car-spotter in his African village, his electric ideas improve village life. Nigerian-born Atinuke (Anna Hibiscus, 2010, etc.) introduces an energetic new character and an unusual setting in her latest title. While Anna’s suburban life resembles that of American children in many ways, No. 1 lives in a tiny village with “few compounds and many goats and several cows.” The men, and even many of the women, have gone off to the city to make money, leaving single-parent families and elderly grandparents. No. 1 helps his family in the fields, runs errands and goes to market, but his favorite activity is car-spotting—identifying the cars that pass on the road by sound and sight, as his grandfather did before him. As in Anna and her sequels, these four interconnected short stories revel in the language and rhythms of oral storytelling. In one story, No. 1 convinces a cousin to chop up a dead Toyota, turning it into a Cow-rolla. In another, his father makes an unintended use of wheelbarrows given to the village by the NGO man. The gentle humor is reflected in Cadwell’s gray-scale cartoon drawings on every page. First published in England in 2010, this promises another engaging chapter-book series, a treat for lively middle-grade boys. (Fiction. 7-11) Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children (August 2011) Oluwalase Babatunde Benson lives in a small African village in between the forest and the river and a No. 1 road into the city. Everyone calls him No. 1 because he can spot and identify cars coming toward the village before anyone else can. The women of the village believe that spotting cars does not have much value, so they put No. 1 to work in a variety of other tasks such as collecting firewood, hoeing the fields, sweeping the compound, and herding the cows and goats. Like most other men in the village, No. 1's father works in the city and sends money home, so much work remains to be done in the village. No. 1 is reliable, but he is also spontaneous and a quick thinker. These traits come in handy when the village routine is interrupted by some unexpected events, including the collapse of the wood cart that No. 1’s family uses to take their food items to sell at the market. Not only does No. 1 come up with an innovative solution for transporting their wares to the market, he also manages to provide his Auntie Fine-Fine with a small beauty makeover and help his ailing grandmother get the medicine she needs. Penned by gifted story-teller Atinuke, this collection of short stories offers readers an engaging glimpse of a small rural African community at work and at play. The stories are built around themes related to family relations, social networks, markets, and the division of labor within the home. While the text touches upon the hardships of living in a poor village, the stories emphasize the small victories, humor, and touching moments that add new meaning to the characters’ daily way of life. ForeWord Magazine (Sept/Oct 2011) Oluwalase Babatunde Benson scales palm trees to collect nuts for oil in his small African village, alerting neighbors to approaching traffic so they can ready to sell their wares. His grandfather taught him the gift of identifying a distant car solely from its engine noise; a proud No.1 Car Spotter and his cohort, Coca-Cola, share the hardships and humor of daily life in this wonderfully quirky, contemporary, and down-to-earth first in a series. The language is musical and the story will tickle your funny bone. Ages nine to twelve. A Fuse 8 Production (August 20, 2011) When I discovered the amazing, remarkable, one-of-a-kind, never before seen Anna Hibiscus books by Atinuke last year I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It just didn’t seem possible. A contemporary early chapter book set on the continent of Africa? To understand how rare this was visit your local library sometime. Ask for fiction about Africa that takes place today for early readers. Specify that you’d rather not take out a work of older fiction that’s deadly serious, but rather something light and fun. And while you’re at it, why don’t you ask for the moon as well since you’re just as likely to get that as what I’ve just described unless it’s Anna Hibiscus (in America anyway). Now Anna is joined by yet another Atinuke character. No. 1 lives in a rural village with his family and friends and his stories, like those of Anna Hibiscus, linger in your brain long after you’ve read them. Meet No. 1. He’s what you might call a car spotter. If there’s a car driving past his village, you can be sure he’ll not only spot it but identify it and long before anyone else. Life in No. 1’s village isn’t easy, of course. If a cart breaks down then everyone’s got to figure out how to get the produce to the market (it’s No. 1 who comes up with a brilliant solution). If a woman wants to get lipstick at the market she sometimes will have to send a boy (No. 1 ends up doing the right thing entirely by accident then too). If people need chores done they have to rely on the kids (a problem when No. 1 wants to only help the auntie who makes the best food). And if someone gets seriously sick… well, sometimes it’s not always No. 1 who comes up with the solutions to problems. But he’s always around to help out. I adore Atinuke’s ear for language. This book just begs to be read aloud as you go through it. Pitch perfect bedtime reading fare, that’s what you have here. You get such magnificent lines out of it too. For example, there’s the section where No. 1 aids a single particular mama in the hopes of getting some of her delicious akara. At one point the author just writes, “As I was an able-bodied boy in the vicinity of a shouting mama I started to run around as well.” Something about the construction of that sentence just pleases me to no end. Later No. 1 explains to Coca-Cola that he can’t risk helping him out anymore because he might end up with a name like 7Up. Coca-Cola, visibly upset, points out that his own nickname is from a soft drink. I love No. 1’s method of comforting his friend. “That… is because Coca-Cola is the number one soft drink. Some people prefer Fanta. It is true. And some people prefer Sprite. Some people don’t touch Coca-Cola. But Coca-Cola is still number one.” As pep talks go, I’ve never heard one entirely based on pop. I love that. Anna Hibiscus was great, taking place as it did in a middle class compound in the middle of a big city. One of the joys of the books, in fact, is that the author is not afraid to show that Anna is a relatively privileged girl who has to come to terms with the fact that just outside the walls of her home live children with significantly less. No. 1, in contrast, lives a very poor life in a village. It is exceedingly difficult to write about poor characters without being either horribly depressing or too happy-go-lucky for your own good. Atinuke strikes precisely the right balance here. First off, you have a child character who doesn’t go to school, so that’s amazing right then and there. Additionally, three of the four stories acknowledge the difficulty of No. 1’s life but these problems appear as challenges to overcome. Then the author has the guts to write a story where the hero’s can-do spirit faces the simple facts of his situation. His grandmother is sick and there’s apparently nothing anyone can do since they haven’t the money to pay a doctor. It’s a gutsy move on Atinuke’s part to include a tale this serious, happy ending or no. When people read early chapter fiction they expect giggles and good times entirely in the Horrid Henry vein. Meaning and reality are unexpected and, as it happens, entirely welcome. One of the criticisms lobbed at Anna Hibiscus was the fact that Atinuke mentions Africa but not the country in which the story takes place. Here in America we have a bit of a time convincing kids (and some adults) that Africa is a continent, not a country. It was pointed out to me that Atinuke is a storyteller and her mentions of Africa (glorious Africa) were made very much in the storytelling tradition. Be that as it may be, The No. 1 Car Spotter begins in a slightly different fashion. “On the continent of Africa, you will find my country.” Still no mention of what that country is, but it appeases those adult readers worried that Atinuke’s books reinforce unfortunate assumptions. Besides, the fact that the characters eat akara (a Nigerian fried bean cake) is sort of a give away right there. One objection that was lobbed at “No. 1″ worth mentioning was the fact that no one in the boy’s village seems to have their own name. No. 1 says right off the bat that his real name is Oluwalase Babatunde Benson but that’s about the only real name we see. Everyone is Coca-Cola, Nike, Uncle Go-Easy, Auntie Fine-Fine, etc. Traditional names are few and far between. While this is true to a certain extent (though the small children Beke, Bisi, and Bola are mentioned) I wasn’t particularly perturbed by it. Nicknames are clearly a part of this village’s culture and while it would be nice to see a couple real names thrown in there once in a while, I didn’t feel that the book lacked any for the loss. Warwick Johnson Cadwell is the illustrator for this book, and his contributions prove to be just as important as those of Atinuke herself. A Brit, his style is hard to pin down. All I can say is that his pen and inks in this book have a life of their own. There’s energy and movement to this man’s style. More than that, the art is better than the usual fare we see. Cadwell seems to have a fondness for a kind of Picasso-esque style where you see the two eyes of a person’s face at once, even though their cheek might be facing you. You also sometimes get the feeling that he’s reluctant to lift his pen from the page. It’s enough to make me suspect that the Etch-a-Sketch inadvertently influenced many a budding artist back in the day since the people in this book often look as though they’ve been instructed from a single sinuous line. A village where most of the men go off to work in the city and the women are left home to tend to the crops is a village I can believe in. Kids will believe in it too, but just as importantly they’ll want to know more about it. That’s the thing about Atinuke. It isn’t just that she writes about places and people that no one else does. It’s that she makes them interesting and fun. No. 1 is the kind of guy kids are going to want to know more about. Good thing he has more adventures in the pipeline. A great, almost necessary book and one that you’ll be delighted to discover. NC Teacher Stuff (September 6, 2011) On the continent of Africa, you will find my country. In my country there are many cities, all with skyscrapers, hotels, offices. There are also many smaller towns, all with tap water and electricity and television. Then there is my village, where we only talk about such things. Thus we are introduced to the engaging character Oluwalase Babatunde Benson, who goes by the name "No. 1". His nickname comes from being the best car spotter in the village and perhaps the world. A car spotter is one who can hear an engine and know what kind of car is approaching. It is a hobby learned from his grandfather. A road runs right by the village, so there is plenty of opportunity for car spotting while working to clear brush, collecting palm nuts for their oil, or sitting under an iroko tree. All of the men enjoy this sport while the women think it is a waste of time. And time cannot be wasted as it is the day before going to market. The people of the village sell the products they have grown and collected in order to buy needed things (salt, kerosene, pencils for school) that cannot be grown or hunted. Disaster strikes the village when the cart for all the goods breaks in half. The only vehicle in the village is a broken down Toyota Corolla that was abandoned long ago. All of the villagers are in despair over the cart, but a spark of an idea comes to No. 1. He runs most of the day to the neighboring town where his older cousin Wale lives. Using ingenuity and laboring all night, Wale and his friends bring to life No. 1's idea. A Toyota "Cowrolla" that runs on cow power. As with her earlier Anna Hibiscus series, author Atinuke takes us to Africa and connects the reader's heart to wonderful families who love one another, argue, and work together. All four stories in this book are filled with humor and warmth, but also grounded in reality. Life is tough for these villagers, but they manage to survive and thrive despite not having many material possessions. No. 1 and the Wheelbarrow, the last story in the book, is particularly affirming. I love the language in the conversations and the stories behind the names of the characters. I look forward to reading more stories about No. 1 and his family and friends. Booklist (October 1, 2011) Oluwalase knows about African cities with skyscrapers and about smaller towns with electricity, running water, and TV, but in his poor village in the bush, they “only talk about such things.” Living near the main road, he has learned from Grandfather how to spot fancy cars speeding toward the cities, and he is thrilled when a Toyota Corolla breaks down and is abandoned nearby. Then, when the village wagon falls apart, he figures out how to use the Toyota to get the villagers’ goods to market, where they trade their palm oil, yams, and rice for necessities such as salt, sugar, kerosene, pens, and shoes. With a wry blend of realism, farce, and heartbreak, Nigerian-born Atinuke’s small chapter book, illustrated with spare line drawings, tells a contemporary story of a kid who saves the day. Readers will be hooked to the end as tension rises and there is no way to get Grandmother medical care––until, once again, Oluwalase shows that he is number one. * The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (November 2011) Nigerian-born author Atinuke, author of a series of books about Anna Hibiscus, returns to the topic of life in a small African village in this irresistible outing with a new protagonist. Our hero, Oluwalase Babatunde Benson, is known to one and all as No. 1 because he is "the No. 1 car spotter in the village, maybe in the world!'' Four chapters, each with a self-contained plot, chronicle No. 1 's adventures as he uses his automotive knowledge to solve the problem of the village's broken cart, goes to market with his family, helps out his friend at his mother's food stand, and contributes to the effort to get his ailing grandmother to a doctor in the city. Atinuke has a Beverly Cleary-esque gift for depicting daily-life details with both humor and authenticity. No.1's narration is absolutely awash in likability, with a boy's-eye view of lively village life (when his best friend, Coca-Cola, obediently leaps into action at his mother’s commands, No. 1 reports, "As I was an able-bodied boy in the vicinity of a shouting mama I started to run around as well") that’s as relatable as it is funny. Plotting is solid in its own right, whether in the comedy of No. 1 's panic at having to buy mysterious grown-lady stuff from a market stall or the gentle emotional dilemma of his wanting to help his friend but not be identified merely as his sidekick; particularly touching is the guilt he feels when he thinks his family has misused the gift of a village visitor. Beyond all that, however, is the author's exuberant style, which makes No.1's joyous voice into one that could turn a walk to the corner into a high-spirited adventure, and which gives the dialogue of family and village the pacing and rhythm of a musical as everybody in the crowd weighs in on everything. Even readers half a world away will feel instantly at home in No. 1's village, and they’ll relate to universal dynamics such as the authority of grandparents and loyalty to friends. Yet the picture is also rich with details of the area: the goods the village brings to market ("our palm oil and our yams, our onions, our tomatoes and our chili peppers, our baskets and our dried fish ..."), the enticement of car-spotting in a place where cars are pretty rare, and the difference between the towns where they have "tap water, electricity, and television," and the village, "where we only talk about such things." Nor is this simply a bland travel-brochure portrait: there's matter-of-fact acknowledgment that the men have all gone to the city to make money, which they send back to their families, and that the money needed for a doctor is more than the village can generally manage. Mostly, though, it's the story of one effervescent kid and his friends and family, a group whose exploits are ripe for reading aloud or alone. Black-and-white illustrations fill the pages, occupying roughly half of most spreads, making the book even more accessible, and accentuating the inviting energy. The narrow slashes of linework and stylized faces have a distant kinship to Gregory Christie, while the art’s comic flair recalls the work of Ramona illustrator Alan Tiegreen. Ramona herself would certainly find a kindred spirit in No.1, and her fans -- and any kid looking for a flavorful series of adventures worth the effort even for novice readers -- will take No. 1 to their hearts. The Horn Book (November/December 2011) Oluwalase Babatunde Benson, called No. 1, is the best car spotter in his African village. His unnamed country has cities and towns with skyscrapers, hotels, offices, tap water, electricity, and televisions, but in his village they “only talk about such things.” In their limited spare time, No. 1 and his grandfather sit by the side of the road, calling out the makes and models of cars. “It is what we men do…What Grandfather does not know about spotting cars is not to know.” In the first story of four, when the village’s only market cart breaks, it’s No. 1’s ingenuity, the seeds of which have been planted by his grandfather, that saves the village (aptly, the solution involves a disabled car). One of Atinuke’s gifts is her ability to tell her stories with humor while introducing serious topics to younger readers. Here, we meet a boy who learns to face the challenges of life in a village where the men have left to seek work in the city. Whether it’s helping to man the market stall, shopping for lipstick for Auntie Fine-Fine, working for food, or worrying about his sick grandmother’s lack of money for a doctor, we see a boy who is willing to pitch in and to think about solutions. Stylized black-and-white illustrations have the energy to match No. 1. Frequent perspective changes, exaggerated facial features, and light pen line add movement, giving readers the idea that No. 1 and his friends are 978-1-61067-114-9 small selection of books—particularly early chapter books—about modern Africa. Mitali’s Fire Escape (November 21, 2011) Highly Recommended: THE NO. 1 CAR SPOTTER by Atinuke Used to be that you'd look far and wide in vain to find a funny, heartfelt chapter book set in another continent, especially one featuring a boy. That's why I'm so excited to recommend THE NO. 1 CAR SPOTTER series by Atinuke, the story of a delightful lad growing up in a small African village. First published by Walker Books in the UK, these early readers and fantastic read-alouds are published in the U.S. by Kane Miller. Oluwalase Babatunde Benson is known as "No.1 car spotter" by friends and family because he can identify every make of car that goes by on the busy road that passes the village. Divided into four self-contained chapters, this first in a series by Atinuke (author of the Horn Book honoree ANNA HIBISCUS series) chronicles No. 1's everyday adventures, from serving customers at Mama Coca-Cola's roadside stand to (unwittingly) helping his father find a new job. "Atinuke has a Beverly Cleary–esque gift for depicting daily-life details with both humor and authenticity," says the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. "A great, almost necessary book and one that you’ll be delighted to discover," says librarian Betsy Bird, blogger for School Library Journal. I wholeheartedly agree. Betsy also adequately defends Atinuke's decision to set the books in a village somewhere in "Amazing Africa," instead of specifically in Nigeria. I had the pleasure of hearing Atinuke read from the book at the Wisconsin International Outreach Children's and Young Adult Literature Celebration this past weekend and it was candy for the ears. Here's a clip of the author, in case you're not yet convinced that you need to buy this book and read it pronto with the nearest and dearest children in your life. Politics and Prose, Holiday Favorites (December 2011) Far away from Africa’s big cities is a town so small that traffic almost never passes through. Nigerian-born author Atinuke takes readers to this village through the stories of The No. 1 Car Spotter (Kane/ Miller, $5.99). Oluwalase, known as No. 1 because he can identify the model of an approaching car before he even sees it, spends his days trying to help his extended family and friends. Always moving as fast as he can, No. 1’s plans sometimes go awry, but Atinuke masterfully ends each of these four interconnected tales with an unexpected conclusion. Old Abe, Eagle Hero Written by Patrick Young Illustrated by Anne Lee Civil War Notebook (February 6, 2011) There were a few well known regimental mascots during the American Civil War, and probably the most well known of them all was the 8th Wisconsin Infantry’s eagle Old Abe. Patrick Young, great great grandson of Captain Victor Wolf, commander of Company C, 8th Wisconsin Infantry, has written a children’s book about the famous bird. Mr. Young’s text follows Old Abe throughout his life, as a young eaglet raised by Native Americans, his war time experiences, and his life after the war are all detailed in the book. The Civil War can be a tough subject to introduce young readers. The concepts of war and death are scary to many adults, not to mention children, but Mr. Young’s book, with illustrations by Anne Lee, treads very carefully around these issues. Written for readers between five to nine years old, the text does not go into the complicated issues of the war, but rather treats it as a mundane event, and is not at all scary for the readers of the younger set. Anne Lee’s water color and ink illustrations are simplistically rendered with a gentle nod to the sensitivities of her young readers. Battle scenes are shown, but from a distance, and therefore do not offer any graphic depictions of war, In one close up, Old Abe can be seen dragging an unconscious soldier to safety with bullets flying through the air and explosions all around, but even this illustration does not offer graphic or gruesome images of the realities of war. “Old Abe, Eagle Hero” never once talks down to, at, or over the heads of its young audience, though the facts of war, its causes and consequences are largely glossed over. Through Old Abe, children can be gently introduced to the Civil War, and if they have questions about the war, I’m sure their parents and teachers can and will appropriately address those issues with the children. San Francisco Book Review (April 11, 2011) Old Abe, Eagle Hero is a slice of the Civil War that will capture the hearts of the youngest readers. Patrick Young, great-grandson of Captain Victor Wolf, commander of Company C of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, writes the story of that company’s mascot, a bald eagle. Old Abe was sent to war in place of a man with a bad leg. Raised from an eaglet, “… the soldiers loved Old Abe. They taught him to shake hands and to drink water from a canteen.” The courageous eagle fought in twenty-five major battles. He dragged a fellow soldier to safety and was instrumental in capturing a group of confederate soldiers. Old Abe flew above battles and inspired his company to fight harder. Confederates tried to capture him, but failed. After the war, Old Abe retired a national hero and lived out his days in a two-room apartment. Artist Anne Lee beautifully captures Old Abe’s playful antics in watercolor and ink illustrations. Written simply, yet “gloriously,” each page shares a fascinating nugget of the eagle’s story and gently introduces children to the Civil War. Children’s Literature (June 2011) Old Abe, the eagle hero of the Civil War, began life as an eaglet rescued by an American Indian in Wisconsin and traded to farmer Dan McCann. When the war begins, McCann cannot fight because he has a bad leg, so he sends his eagle instead. Wisconsin soldiers name him Old Abe and make him their mascot. Almost grown, Old Abe weighs eight pounds, but his wings spread seven feet. The Southern soldiers hate Old Abe because he inspires his Northern friends, but they cannot capture him. A bullet does graze him and he is cut from his perch, but he flies away to safety. He soon becomes famous. Despite being a trickster, he is loved by his fellow soldiers. He participates in many famous battles; he even helps capture a Southern camp. He has a fine retirement, never forgetting his soldier friends. Lee's scenes are painted in muted, light-hearted watercolors while an inked line creates character and action. Old Abe is the most important character, but we also see the battlefields, the camps, and even the "big fair in Chicago." The factual story is told directly; additional facts about eagles are included. 2010 (text orig. 1993), Kane Miller/ EDC Publishing, $15.99. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature). One Night in the Zoo By Judith Kerr The Horn Book Guide "One magical, moonlit night in the zoo," a sequence of astonishing events occurs, beginning with an elephant who "flew." Each end rhyme plays off the word zoo; Kerr manages to make it all seem unforced and as light as that airborne elephant. The animals gather on the final spread, emphasizing the book's counting-book element. Humor-filled, uncluttered illustrations are best for one-on-one sharing. Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon By Lindsay Ward Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011) The going-to-bed routine morphs into a fantastic adventure when Pelly notices an unusual fixture attached to her family’s bathtub. Accompanied by her canine sidekick, Mr. Harrison, the inquisitive child soars into outer space when her bath rockets out the window. The lively pair meets aliens who demonstrate striking similarities to their human counterparts. At times, the storyline’s action merely hums along—“Pelly and Mr. Harrison got into the bathtub and floated back down to earth”—but curious details add depth. The sun heats the alien version of s’mores (s’moons), while moon pies prove to be a delectable delicacy. There are no unexpected bumps along the journey home, as Pelly returns to reality just in time to hear her mother’s call. Both perspective and Pelly’s stature vary whimsically against the vast space skies. Solid bursts of colors add drama, and the repeated use of compact typed captions (“moon... moon... moon....”) make for playful use of environmental print. A graph-paper background peeks through thinly applied paint, adding a sense of scientific discovery to the adventure. The concluding page hints at the possibility of a remarkable reunion. All in all, a light, imaginative romp. (Picture book. 4-7) In the Pages... (February 15, 2011) Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon by Lindsay Ward is a picture book that I am so excited to add to our "outer space" unit. It is the story of Pelly, a little girl and her dog, Mr. Harrison and what happens when their bathtub has a rocket engine attached! This is great fun and a story kids will love!! YA Books Central (March 2011) One evening, as Pelly is preparing for bed, she notices something odd about the bathtub. Rockets have grown from one end. Pelly and her dog, Mr. Harrison, climb aboard the tub and jet up and away for an adventure on the moon! Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon by Lindsay Ward explores the delights to be found on the moon: star catching, s’moons, and best of all, making a new friend. Though sparse in text and abundant in simple language, this story works. It is the simple kind of imaginative tale children will appreciate, one they might dream up themselves. A fun twist at the end leads the reader to believe the whole story can happen all over again elsewhere. Margo Dill’s Read These Books and Use Them! (March 24, 2011) Picture book, science fiction for preschoolers through second graders *Young girl as main character *Rating: Every child will be looking at her/his bathtub differently after reading this book! It’ll spark imaginations for sure. Short, short summary: Pelly is brushing her teeth, and she notices a rocket engine on her bathtub. So, her dog, Mr. Harrison, jumps into the tub, and they take off for the moon. When they land on the moon, they meet an alien who is very friendly. She takes them to her house, where another alien is making none other than–moon pies! They learn about gravity and about making s’moons. When they get back home, it’s like no time has passed at all–Mom wonders if Pelly is almost done brushing her teeth. So what do I do with this book? 1. Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon can really spark children’s imagination. Ask them, “What could you travel in to the moon from your house?” or “What could you attach a rocket engine to and take off?” Younger students can illustrate their response. Older students can write about it. This is a great home activity for parents and children, too. 2. Use this book to discuss the 6 + 1 traits of writing trait, word choice. Ask students what special words they notice while you read the book and make a class list. Encourage kids to use this list when they are writing. 3. Use this book to open up a science discussion about the moon. What do children know about the moon? Could this story really happen? For fun, bring in some moon pies! Biblio Reads (February 27, 2011) Pelly's bathtub turns into a rocket ship and she visits the moon. She and her dog, Mr. Harrison, make friends with a little alien and they have quite a lot of fun. Imaginative, Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon entertains the universal childhood fantasy of just what it would be like to visit the moon and play there. Parents Express (April 27, 2011) Not your average story of a girl and her dog, this inventive picture book introduces readers to Pelly and her companion, Mr. Harrison, who are getting ready for bed when they discover a rocket engine attached to the bathtub! With no hesitation, off they fly, all the way to the moon. They meet a young alien, share some moon pies and do some spaceship racing and star catching before heading back for bedtime. Readers will delight in the originality of the story but also in the illustrations, which have their own magic. They seem quite sophisticated but also like something a child could have created. Kiss the Book (July 1, 2011) Pelly and her dog Mr. Harrison hop into her bathtub, which becomes a rocket and they fly to the moon. Pelly meets an alien girl who looks a lot like her, just greener. Together they play on the moon, defying gravity and roasting marshmallows with the sun to make moon s’mores. Writer/illustrator Lindsay Ward captures with her illustrations the wild, wonder of a child’s imagination. The illustrations on the moon in particular have a childlike feel with cut out words and yellow lined paper. A great book to read aloud. Pre-K, EL Curled-Up Kids (July 19, 2011) This is the story of a little girl named Pelly and her dog, Mr. Harrison. One evening when Pelly is brushing her teeth before bed, she notices something peculiar: a rocket attached to her bathtub. She and Mr. Harrison get into the tub, and suddenly two helmets appear and a steering wheel grows out of the drain. Before she knows it, she is traveling over the city, through the sky and towards the moon. After landing on the moon, Pelly and Mr. Harrison are befriended by a little alien (who just happens to look like Pelly herself) who takes the two visitors to a house and into the kitchen, where a grown-up alien (who just happens to look like a mother) is making delicious-smelling moon pies. The little alien then shows Pelly and Mr. Harrison some of the best things about living on the moon: spaceship racing, star catching, moon rock digging, and how to make ‘smoons’ – treats made of graham crackers and marshmallows. Pelly realizes that it is getting late and that she and Mr. Harrison must head home. They bid farewell to the alien and return back to their planet and their home. Pelly finishes brushing her teeth before going to bed to dream of ‘smoons. Meantime, back on the moon, the little alien is sitting in her tub when she looks down and suddenly notices something peculiar about her tub... This charming story for children younger than six is about adventure, friendship and the fundamental similarities between cultures that seem worlds apart. The illustrations have a simplicity and understated quality about them with their muted colors that makes this a sweet and soothing bedtime story. Recommended. Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon The Midwest Book Review (August 2011) "Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon" is a whimsical illustrated fantasy about space travel by bathtub, with adventures. Pelly and her spotted dog, Mr. Harrison notice there is a rocket engine attached to their bathtub. They excitedly decide to go to the moon! They meet a friendly green alien who invites them home for dinner - moon pies, of course! Then they go gravity leaping, which MR. Harrison excels at. After many more moon adventures (including making s'moons, Pelly's personal favorite), Pelly and Mr. Harrison say goodbye to their moon friend and sail back to earth in their rocket powered bathtub. A familiar voice asks Pelly if she's done brushing her teeth, and the pair retire to dream of moon pies. But wait! Up on the moon, a little green alien child notices something strange about his bathtub-------! All kids of any age (but especially 4-8) will adore "Pelly and Mr. Harrison visit the Moon" for its vitality, imaginative whimsy, and sense of fun. The unusual labeled illustrations and choice of purple/green color combos bring delightful detail to a wonderful fantasy. Roll Up the Streets By John Bladek KidsBookShelf.com (January 2011) Jake Machet is new to a crummy little town filled with mean creeps and a horrible stench that won't go away. With his new friend Sammie's help, Jake is determined to find the cause of the stink, and his investigation leads him straight to the factory of J.P. Rumblegut, corndog and doll maker. Jake and Sammie uncover a stinky conspiracy that involves brainwashing corndogs, scary dolls, and sewage. Can the two sleuths destroy the stink before it makes zombies of the whole town? A funny adventure mystery for young readers. (Ages 9-12) Kiss the Book (January 2011) Jake Matchet moves to a new town, and stumbles across a mystery. Along with his new friend, Sammie, Jake seeks to find the source behind the puzzling smell permeating throughout the town, the citizens’ obsession with corndogs, and what the “Golden Idol” really is. This is a fun book that, although a bit unbelievable, it is witty enough to keep readers entertained. I especially like the use of funny footnotes and Jake’s many sarcastic comments (although they may cause confusion for younger reader who may not pick up on it). MS – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Margaret Winn, Middle School Teacher The Horn Book Guide Upon moving to a new town, Jake detects a persistent bad smell that everyone overlooks. Determined to solve the mysteries of the brainwashing corndogs, spying dolls, and toxic waste, he discovers the man behind it all. Though the nonstop humor sometimes strains, Jake's plan to stop J.P. Rumblegut, the evil town "benefactor," is amusing. Rope ‘em Written by Stacy Nyikos Illustrated by Bret Conover Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011) Under the sea, two marine "lawmen" tangle with a desperado shark. Scout is a golden seahorse, and Virgil a purple octopus. Both wear cowboy hats and use their unique skills (herding and roping, respectively) to keep the peace in the ocean's O.K. Corral. One day, trouble arrives in the menacing form of Barrier Reef Bullface, a big scary shark with a bandage under his snout and two rows of jagged teeth. "Dabnubbit, can't an outlaw eat in peace?" he declares as he gobbles up some of the local residents. Scout and Virgil each try to capture him, without success. In fact, they're lucky to escape unscathed. It's only when they work together—Scout running all around the addled Bullface while Virgil wraps him in ropes—that they are able to corral the bandit. By sundown, the news of Scout and Virgil's triumph over Bullface has grown "three times the size of even the biggest fish tale." Conover's pictures are bright if uninspired, and the message of the book is a solid one, but the text only serviceable. Moreover, the book's design is awkward, with the words often crammed together at the edges of the pages. Are young readers more likely to be inspired to work together, or to roughhouse? (Picture book. 4-7) Biblio Reads (February 13, 2011) It just goes to show you that a little teamwork can go a long way. I loved this western, plunged-under-the-sea tale of friendship. When competition gets the best of them and they can't catch Bullface--the meanest, hungriest shark in the sea--Scout and Virgil 'pardner up' and get the job done. Narration and illustration pardner up as well and add a mighty western flair to this underwater tale. Rope 'Em! by Stacy Nyikos and illustrated by Bret Conover is a book that has "lots of laughs" written all over it! The story of a lassoing-octopus and a round-up'ing seahorse - the best cowhands ever!! You will love this story set in the O.K. Coral!! Reading to Know (March 10, 2011) This book is just awesome and amuses me to no end. Rope 'Em!, written by Stacy Nyikos and published by Kane Miller, combines two of our greatest interests. ANY long term reader around here knows that Bookworm1 has been obsessed with sea creatures for some time. We have been inundated and drowned out with octopuses, sharks and whales around these parts. Then, recently, we've been learning about life in the Wild West as part of a thematic unit. When I saw Rope 'Em! (available through Usborne Books and More) I just knew we had to take a look at it! It opens as follows: "Scout and Virgil were the O.K. Coral's best cowhands ever. Scout could herd any fish - feisty, frisky, even ferocious. And Virgil could rope and tie one in six seconds flat." Scout is a sea horse and Virgil is an octopus and the two work together to herd fish. However, one day, Bullface, the "biggest, meanest, hungriest bull shark for miles around," comes a'callin' and Scout and Virgil's partnership and skills are put to the test. This is an under the sea western story and the value of teamwork, cooperate and friendship. I think it's hilarious and, of course, Bookworm1 connected to it entirely right from the get-go! This is definitely a unique combination of themes for us but I think the story works well. We have enjoyed it thoroughly and now must share it with you all. If you get a chance to hunt it down and check it out - do! Samsara Dog Written by Helen Manos Illustrated by Julie Vivas Shambala Sun (January 2012) Some books influence how we think, while others like Samsara Dog have the ability to transform it. This story by Helen Manos (Kane/Miller Book Publishers) is about a dog that is reborn again and again until at last it attains enlightenment. It begins with the dog living on the streets. In this life, “Dog loved nobody. Dog trusted nobody.” Each successive life, the dog finds greater companionship and kindness, and each of his deaths is mourned more than the last. Finally the dog meets a boy living by the ocean and they become inseparable friends. At the end of the dog’s life, the boy thanks him for his great love, and the dog’s heart is filled with joy. He passes away peacefully, never to be reborn again into samsara, the realm of cyclical existence. It’s a moving story that’s beautifully told. If you’re not comfortable with the notion of rebirth, this book might not be for you. But if you’re open to it, and wish to help your child understand it, Samsara Dog is an invaluable tool. Seasons By Anne Crausaz Publishers Weekly (January 17, 2011) With an emphasis on taste, smell and outdoor activity, Crausaz guides readers through the seasons of the year in this understated and evocative French import. Crisp, delicate digital artwork set against mostly plain backgrounds keeps the focus on the freckled, rosy-cheeked girl who peeks through a cherry tree’s branches in spring (“It’s cherry time. Are they as sweet as last year’s?”), plays in the sand of a beach come summer and enjoys “one last taste of snowflakes” before winter turns back to spring. Exuding an overall serenity, the book should have children seeking out the sights, smells, and sounds of the passing seasons. NC Teacher Stuff (February 2, 2011) Seasons is a vibrant French import that features a rosy-cheeked little girl guiding the reader through different attributes of the four seasons. For example, in summer, "new smells are growing in the vegetable garden: tomato and basil, verbena and mint." Author and illustrator Anne Crausaz uses digital pictures to help set the mood for each season. The artwork and text easily take you back to earlier years and places where you have experienced particular sensations connected to a season. When I see the young girl in a blackberry patch, I think back to picking blackberries as a child and the joy of eating blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. The springtime illustrations make me think of beautiful flowering trees like the dogwood. In class today I read to my students about Leo Lionni's Frederick who gathers the colors and the words of the seasons to help his mouse family make it through the harsh winter. Seasons is my Frederick at the moment, giving me wonderful memories of each of the four seasons. If you teach a unit on change, this book would be a superb addition to your collection. We're currently talking to our students about using "sparkle" words to create better visuals in our writing. Seasons would be a helpful resource in your teaching if you are trying to do this. Instruction to young children about similes could also be boosted by an examination of this text and illustrations. Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011) This French import features a black-haired girl who experiences a simple, sensory progress through the seasons. The few sentences per spread are directed to readers. “Can you hear that? You’re not scared, are you? It’s just a summer storm... / the air is warm, but the water is cold.” Each sense is engaged, in summer, in addition to hearing storms and feeling water, readers see fireflies, smell tomato and basil in the garden and taste “sand in your mouth!” The graphically designed, flat-dimension illustrations are both attractive and subtly effective in pairing the senses with the seasons as the girl enjoys the special moments of nature year-round. The simple shapes and graceful lines play with perspective and contrast to enhance the sense of movement while retaining a unity of aesthetic. A sturdier binding than the paper-covered boards would be better for library use, but those families that discover it will find it a refreshing change from glossier, louder American picture books. A sort of visual haiku. (Picture book. 4-7) In the Pages... (February 15, 2011) Seasons by Anne Crausaz is a picture book that goes through the seasons with a new and refreshing look at how things change. The illustrations are a style unlike I have seen before - they are simple and yet the striking contrasts in color are beautiful. What a wonderful and unique look at the seasons! Biblio Reads (February 24, 2011) You can almost smell, taste and feel the seasons, they are so expertly piqued in the imagination! The simple, understated illustrations along with the descriptive prose give a rich, evocative earthy sense: smell the blossoms of spring and lay back in the tender young grass listening to the birds singing; in summer breathe in deeply and enjoy the aroma of fresh tomatoes on the vine and basil, pad barefoot in the rich garden soil...and so on through the seasons. The reading level suggested is Baby-Preschool, but I can see 4-8 enjoying this book as well. Cool Mom Picks (March 21, 2011) Ah spring. The birds are chirping, the buds are poking through the soil, and if you ask the sigOth, miniskirts are making appearances on the leggy 20-somethings in our neighborhood. What's not to love? Right in time, I've found a delicious little book to help the kids understand and celebrate the changing of the seasons. It's called, aptly, Seasons, and Swiss author/illustrator Anne Crausaz does a beautiful job describing the small joys and big changes that each season brings, starting with spring. This isn't the same old "oh look--the flowers have buds" kind of book. It reads almost like a poem, highlighting tastes and smells and sensations like how a ladybug landing on you might tickle. Crausaz's work feels more Asian or European in its sensibility; don't expect any sort of big character arc or rousing plotline here. It's just sweet and poetic and pretty, as the author suggests you listen to the silence of the snow or taste the sweet-sour of summer's blackberries. Kirkus described it as a "visual haiku" and I think that's apt. Seasons is a great early reader book, or a nice storybook for a younger child. Surely it's one we'll be pulling out every time the seasons change to see what comes next. Although I admit I'm hoping spring lasts a good long time this year. Bookmarkable (March 31, 2011) From spring to fall, winter, and spring again, this beautiful book captures the essence of each season with simple, sensory-filled illustrations. Follow a brown haired, freckle faced girl as she delights in each season’s gift. If a ladybug lands on you, it might tickle. It’s cherry time. Are they as sweet as last year? ... Taste the first blackberries sweet and sour at the same time. Book Play: Look for signs of spring outside. Notice new buds, green leaves and growing things. Cheryl Rainfield (March 31, 2011) Seasons will encourage children to see the joy in the natural world, to truly take in all the sensory experiences nature has to offer, and will remind adults of that joy. Crausaz’s lean text reads almost like poetry. It is evocative; in just short sentences, she reminds us of our many senses and the way that we can enjoy nature–by seeing the green of springtime, smelling the blossoms, hearing the birds sing, feeling the tickle of a ladybug, tasting a sweet cherry. Crausaz’s text is very tactile. She reminds us of the simple beauty and magic of the world (fireflies, leaves to jump in), and encourages us to enjoy it. Crauzaz takes us from spring through all the seasons, and then back into spring again. Crausaz, through beautifully spare, stylized art, shows us the beauty of nature, and the ways that we can interact with it. The leaves and flowers look almost like cut-outs, and are often repeated in patterns on the page. Only a few colors are used in each spread– red, green, some yellows and browns appearing most often–yet nothing feels like it’s missing. A young girl appears in many–but not all–of the spreads; nature is big and bright in the pages, and draws the reader’s attention. Seasons can help introduce the outside world in a way that is soothing and cheering; it will encourage young and old to get out in nature and enjoy its beauty. Highly recommended. Jean Little Library (March 31, 2011) I am breaking out of my schedule because I could not wait one moment longer to tell you about this book. In this French picture book, a little girl walks through the beauties of the seasons, accompanied by simple text and smooth, modernistic art. When I took this book out of the review box and dived in, it made me desperately hungry for summer. I could smell and taste it that very moment. I simply had to share it, so I decided to read it at Tiny Tots, our evening storytime. I don't normally do this storytime, but Miss Pattie had to be at a school board meeting (our town may be getting a 4k program next year) and I stepped in. Tiny Tots is all ages, whoever shows up. This evening, one baby, 2 18month olds, and 5 3-ish kids showed up (that was the Most Attentive Baby Ever, btw). We talked a little about what season it was - we agreed it wasn't summer yet, and winter was over because the snow was mostly gone, so it must be spring. Then I opened Seasons and read the first sentences: "Everything is green. It must be springtime. And springtime smells beautiful." A hush fell over the room. We read every sentence. We talked about the tomatoes and cherries (the kids were sure they were apples). We found the ladybug. We talked about fog. Everyone heaved a very satisfied sigh when we had finished. The simple text and illustrations are deeply evocative of the joys of the changing seasons. The book circles from spring to summer to autumn to winter and back to spring, making it a perfect story for any season. This book is gorgeous and perfect. Verdict: A must buy for your picture book section. I cannot recommend this lovely, lovely book highly enough. I am deeply in love with it and I anticipate a long and fulfilling relationship. I think I need a second copy. *happy sigh* Booklist Online (February 24, 2011) With simple, poetic words and accessible, energetic images, this small, square, joyful picture book celebrates the five senses through the four seasons. On the beach in summer, a small girl takes in the big picture: “The air is warm, but the water is cold.” She also notices the tiniest particulars: “If a ladybug lands on you, it might tickle.” The pictures, set against lots of white space, show the girl jumping in crackling leaves in the fall and tasting blackberries, “sweet and sour at the same time.” The spare words show how a child’s physical experiences help her take off into imaginative play. In winter, “the smoke from the fire looks like it’s whispering to the clouds . . . Shhhh. Listen to the silence of the snow.” The shelves of picture books about the seasons are crowded, but this one stands out for its direct invitation to children to notice and wonder about the changing natural world around them. The New York Times Book Review (April 10, 2011) This beautifully illustrated French import stands out from many guides to the seasons by framing the weather in terms of a child’s sensory experience. Crausaz knows the preschool audience well. Spring brings ladybugs; summer is about fireflies. “The wind is blowing the ants with the seeds. Let’s follow them.” With its mushrooms, chestnuts and fog, “Seasons” comes across as très Francais, but will appeal to all children. The Horn Book Magazine (May/June 2011) Plenty of picture books celebrate the various sensory pleasures that come with each season, but this French import keeps a deliberately simple focus on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feel of elements of the natural world only—no summertime fireworks or wintertime cocoa here. From spring to winter, the text lists items related to each of the five senses, one per double-page spread. Spring is when everything looks green, blooming trees smell fragrant, “blackbirds are singing about their favorite season,” a ladybug on your hand “might tickle,” and cherries are sweet. Crausaz, a graphic designer, provides delicately detailed flat illustrations that make gorgeous use of subtle gradations in tone, all in a subdued palette that suits the quietly enthusiastic text. Half the spreads show a freckle-faced young girl enjoying the outdoors; interspersed throughout, the other half show scenes of nature—perhaps what the girl herself sees when she looks at the world around her. After hearing about summer, when “the air is warm, but the water is cold,” autumn’s “forest smells of moss, mushrooms and wet ground,” and winter’s wood- fire smoke that “looks like it’s whispering to the clouds,” young listeners are bound to jump right in with their own favorite season-specific sensations. Parents Express (April 27, 2011) Children’s books about the seasons are plentiful, but there’s always room for a fresh take, especially a delightfully child-centric one. Beginning with spring and proceeding through the seasons, the text offers simple observations by a young, dark-haired, rosy-cheeked girl. Each is grounded in the senses. For example, “If a ladybug lands on you, it might tickle,” and “the forest smells of moss, mushrooms and wet ground.” Crisp, graphic images, digitally produced, stand out on plain backgrounds in nature’s glorious hues. A French import, c’est manifique! Book Notes (May 2011) Anne Crausaz’s book about Seasons is deceptively simple (Kane Miller). A girl observes her natural surroundings as the year cycles from spring through summer, fall, and winter to return to a new beginning. However, she does more than look at her surroundings. She listens to the silence of snow, smells the basil and mint in the garden, tastes the sweet and sour flavors of blackberries, and feels a ladybug tickling her finger. Each season engages all her senses and will prompt young listeners to come up with their own examples to share. Although the book’s format isn’t large, the clear illustrations can be used with a small group because of their fine layout and impressive graphics. They extend the text without overwhelming it. A book worth reading at any time of year. The Summer 2011 Kids’ Indie Next List Preview (May 2011) "This lovely book from France is a welcome addition to the American children's book market. Anyone who loves the clean lines and block colors of Charley Harper's books will enjoy the simple, fresh illustrations in the book about what each season of the year brings." -- Laura Hansen, Bookin' It, Little Falls, MN Waking Brain Cells (June 6, 2011) Explore and celebrate the seasons in this lovely picture book. A little girl moves through the seasons, seeing each one through the changes in nature that occur. She experiences them with all of her senses: seeing the green of spring, smelling the tomatoes, basil, verbena and mint in the garden in summer, tasting the blackberries in fall, and feeling the cold of snow in winter. This is a book that reminds all of us to treasure the time we currently in, to slow down and notice the seasons, to savor the tastes and smells around us. Crausaz’s text is spare and poetic, allowing readers to experience the moments in the book without any excess words. A few sentences per page at most, the book takes readers through a sensory journey where they too can remember the colors, smells, tastes, sounds and feels of each season. Her art is equally simple. Using only a few lines to denote facial features, the illustrations are done in bright colors that play well against each other. The horizon is done in colored bands, the sky and clouds in other colors, trees and leaves play against that background. It is a stylized and very successful look for a picture book. While the seasonal picture book shelf can get crowded, this fresh, poetic book should find a place there. Appropriate for ages 3-5. Jen Robinson’s Book Page (June 16, 2011) http://jkrbooks.typepad.com/blog/2011/06/seasons-anne-crausaz.html Seasons is a lovely little picture book by Anne Crausaz, originally published in France, recently released in a US edition by Kane Miller. Seasons is, as one would expect from the title, an introduction to the seasons for kids. Each season gets several page spreads filled with sights, sounds, tastes, scents, and textures. Seasons reads like an illustrated poem, with very spare text, and highly stylized pictures. For examples, one spread is: "Fireflies, like flying stars. Summer has arrived!" The background is a deep, dusky blue, dotted with pin-prick stars, while mysterious plants and over-sized fireflies make up the foreground. Or there's this on another page: "Sometimes summer is the taste of sand in your mouth!" We see a freckle-faced girl against a blue-gray background, with minimal texture. It's not a typical ocean scene (there's no texture to the water at all), but we can see sand falling from the fruit in the girl's hands. Crausaz does an excellent job of showing the ways that the seasons feel, using warmer palettes for the warmer seasons. She highlights many of things that make each season wonderful, from the crackling sound that leaves make in the fall to the smell of woodsmoke in the winter. Seasons is a relatively small picture book (8.7" by 7.2"), with no dust jacket. I think this will make it appealing to small hands. It's a quiet book, but one that I found myself wanting to re-read immediately. Recommended for preschoolers, or anyone who has an appreciation for the outdoors. Truly a beautiful little book. Kudos to Kane Miller for bringing it over from France. Kiss the Book (July 1, 2011) With the change of seasons comes beautiful things to look at, smell, taste, touch, and hear. With the seasons comes new experiences. Simple text, fun illustrations, and great descriptions. This picture book would make a great read aloud for introducing young children to the seasons. PRE-K, EL (K-3). Through the Looking Glass Reviews (September 2011) Everything is green outside, and the little girl knows that it must be springtime. She can smell blossoms and the green grass, and she can hear the blackbirds “singing about their favorite season.” When she sees fireflies sitting on the plants and sending their little messages of light into the night, the little girl knows that summer has arrived. There are tomatoes to gather and she can smell the basil, verbena, and mint plants. At the beach she plays in the sand and she thinks that “Sometimes summer is the taste of sand in your mouth!” Autumn has come, and little ants are getting lifts on dandelion seed parachutes that are carried on the breeze. The forest “smells of moss, mushrooms and wet ground,” and the little girl plays in the fallen leaves. In winter the little girl loves to smell the wood fire smoke. She listens to the “silence of the snow” and tastes snowflakes on her tongue. In this book, Anna Crausaz pairs her truly lovely illustrations with a simple lyrical text that captures the sounds, smells, sights, and tastes of spring, summer, fall, and winter. The simplicity of the art and text combine to give the reader a reading experience that is beautiful and sensory. This is the Tree Written by Miriam Moss Illustrated by Adrienne Kennaway Choice Literacy (August 2011) In a few words: This book is filled with poetic language and lush illustrations. Each page rhythmically details a different species of animal that relies on the tree. The final message addresses the ways that all the animals are connected. Start school with rhythm. While This Is the Tree provides interesting facts about the African Baobab tree and engenders further curiosity about the African Savannah, its poetic structures lend themselves to frames for student writing. Use this informational text as a blueprint for students to create a factual book about the class, with each student writing an autobiographical page. Invite students to generate prose poems following the book's format, and arrange their pieces into a class book. For example: This is the classroom where Constance sits with long brown hair and black-rimmed glasses framing hazel eyes. The Tooth Written by Avi Slodovnick Illustrated by Manon Gauthier NOLA Baby (Winter 2011) It’s another “dental” title, but its message goes far beyond brushing. As young Marissa— suffering a tooth ache—and her mother traverse the city streets on their way to the dentist’s office, they encounter a homeless man seeking assistance. Though her mother shoos her daughter quickly past him, Marissa can’t stop thinking about the man in need. Her gift at the end is simple, selfless and innocent…and immensely inspiring. The soft, muted illustrations beautifully reflect the book’s pensive mood. Pugent Sound Council Reviews (February 2011) Marissa ate too much candy and visits the dentist instead of going to school. Marissa is intrigued by a homeless man on the way to the dentist. The dentist pulls her tooth out and gives it to her in an envelope, warning her to brush twice a day. As Marissa and her mother walk back through the city, Marissa drops off the tooth envelope into the homeless man's shoe box. She says, "Put it under your pillow tonight and there will be money there tomorrow." The man smiles and the text says, "Now all he needed...was a pillow." This is a soft, reflective story about kindness. The unique illustrations are mostly grayscale with spots of color like Marissa's yellow shirt and the orange envelope. They appear to be made with colored pencils adding to the story's soft feel. This would make a good read aloud and lead to a discussion about compassion. Sacramento Book Reviews (March 2011) The loss of a first tooth can be a monumental experience. For children and parents alike, it signifies an important milestone in growing up. Avi Slodovnick, in her new book The Tooth, captures the emotions and celebration that comes with that first wiggle. When Marissa awakes with a toothache, her mother takes her downtown to visit the dentist. Marissa is amazed at how different the city is– people rushing here and there, tall skyscrapers blocking out the sun, and a homeless man sitting on a grate, a box with change placed in front of him. Thinking about the man takes Marissa’s mind of her tooth pain. From the office window, Marissa sees how people passing by treat him like a nobody. When Marissa’s tooth is removed, her mother tells her to put it under her pillow for the tooth fairy. But what if there is another fate for her tooth? On the way home, Marissa has one more interaction with the homeless man, and it is this exchange that will move some readers to tears because of its profound beauty. Illustrator Manon Gauthier’s pictures are a powerful addition to this touching story. During an experience that Marissa could make completely about herself, she focuses instead on the needs of others. It’s an important lesson for us all. The Bloomsbury Review (Winter 2010/2011) Young Marissa wakes one morning with a toothache. On the way to the dentist’s office, she notices a seated man: “In front him was an open shoe box with money inside.” Marissa loses her rotten tooth in the dentist’s chair and gets it back in an orange envelope with a reminder to put it under her pillow that night for the tooth fairy. Back on the street, Marissa pulls away from her mother and drops her tooth into the homeless man’s shoe box. “Put it under your pillow tonight … and there will be money there tomorrow,” she explains to him. And the book’s final line: “Now all he needed … was a pillow.” For parents hoping to shield young kids from “reality” as long as possible, this title is a sobering, beautifully presented reminder of our children’s wisdom, their trusting humanity, and how they navigate the incomprehensible parts of their daily lives. The Horn Book Guide In town after having a tooth pulled, Marissa notices a homeless man. She gives him her tooth to put under his pillow "and there will be money there tomorrow." The text gently reminds us: "Now all he needed...was a pillow." The illustrations for this poignant, understated story show drab, frowning cityfolk; soft colors highlight the main characters and emphasize Marissa's generous gesture. What Does the President Look Like? Written by Jane Hampton Cook Illustrated by Adam Ziskie Publishers Weekly (January 31, 2011) "Before YouTube, television, and cameras, how did people know what the president looked like?" From portraiture and political cartoons to the advent of photography and film, Cook explores how public perception of the presidents was shaped by the technologies available. Time lines and sidebars highlight intersections of the political and the technological ("1924--Calvin Coolidge becomes the first president featured in a campaign newsreel at the movies"). For a book so focused on visual representation, debut talent Ziskie's pale, long-limbed, and slightly trippy artwork is an unusual but intriguing choice, and he captures the eras of Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, Kennedy, and Obama with equal ease. Ages 5–9. (Feb.) Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011) Highlighting different presidents and moving chronologically from Washington to Obama, Cook explains how old techniques and new technologies have allowed people to view the president. Washington had his portrait painted, and Lincoln was the first to be photographed, but political cartoons, stereographs, newsreels and now YouTube have all brought the highest United States political official visually to the people. Conversational text describes each innovation and how it affected different presidents and even history. Information is broken up into three boxes, one spotlighting the president and technique used to display his image, one to further explain the technique and one for “Surprising Facts.” The format, however, is clumsy and sometimes confusing. Content assumes some knowledge of the presidents and history. Muted illustrations show three children moving along in time, wearing period clothing and engaging in historical events. The line drawings are fluid and curvy, giving people long-legged strides and a retro ’70s look. Presidents’ images are not always shown or depicted clearly, and some examples of the innovations described, such as cartoons and campaign posters, are noticeably missing. Thumbnail illustrations of all of the presidential portraits do not depict a clear likeness. Backmatter includes list of online resources and websites for select presidential libraries and museums. An interesting concept that misses the mark in execution. (Informational picture book. 7-10) NC Teacher Stuff (February 6, 2011) What Does the President Look Like? is a fascinating look at the history of visual media in the United States. Each segment of the book focuses on a president and a prominent piece of visual media of that time period. For example, George Washington and paintings are paired together in the beginning of the book. There is time line information about Gilbert Stuart's portrait of President Washington and brief narratives as well. Other visual media featured include political cartoons, campaign posters, photographs, stereographs, silent and talking movies, television, web pages, and digital cameras. Each piece of media is presented through the lens of how it was used by the presidents. Author Jane Hampton Cook, who served in the White House, also explains how several of these formats work. You could have rich discussions after reading aloud this book. With the beginning of the 2012 presidential campaign not that far away, this would be an excellent resource to help explain specifically to children why visual media is an important factor in how our leaders are elected and generally how this medium affects our lives. This could lead to discussions and research on the role of advertising in society. I would also like to use this book to prompt students to tackle the question of whether looks really do matter in our culture. History can be an interesting subject when you have terrific books such as What Does the President Look Like? 5 Minutes for Books (April 11, 2011) Imagine a time when you, as an average American citizen, had absolutely no idea what your national leader looked like. As wild as this idea might sound to us in today’s digital age of immediate knowledge, this was pretty commonplace during the earliest years of our country’s history. In What Does the President Look Like?, a new nonfiction picture book, Jane Hampton Cook addresses the progression of the transmission of this information. With the unveiling of a painting of George Washington in Philadelphia’s City Hall in 1796, the general public had the first opportunity to see a depiction of the president’s image. Apparently, up until that time, it was usual practice to hang portraits only in private homes, so this act also became one of the country’s first public art exhibits. Fast forward over 150 years, and image is suspected of playing a significant role in public perception during the presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon- with television viewers and radio listeners coming to different conclusions of which candidate “won.” These are just two facts that I gleaned from this interesting picture book for older readers. Going from paintings to political cartoons all the way to today’s inundation of photographic images, the history of public perceptions of presidents is explored here with plenty of “surprising facts” and tidbits from our nation’s past. Each two-page spread includes whimsical illustrations in muted colors depicting the various time periods of the United States’ history, as well as boxes of information about the images of the presidents over the years. My own ten year old son has enjoyed reading through this book, not put off by the picture book format and drawn to the interesting presentation of the information. For a unique approach to a specific aspect of our nation’s history that informs as well as entertains older children, pick up a copy of What Does the President Look Like? Meridian Magazine (July 1, 2011) What Does the President Look Like?, by Jane Hampton Cook, and illustrated by Adam Ziskie, is a fascinating picture book that looks back in history and how Americans “knew” what their president looked like. Before there was the invention of photography they depended on portraitures and political cartoons from newspapers There are interesting facts, found on each president, highlighted as well. Puget Sound Council for Reviewing Children’s Media (June 2011) This non-fiction book convers many interesting topics, all through the lens of the President of the United States. Included are brief historical perspectives of photography, printing, early political cartoons, early 3D glasses, movies, newsreels, and presidential debates. Each one helps students understand what it would be like to learn about the president (or not) based on the communication media available at the time. Middle grades will glean more from this than early grades, but it’s suitable for a wide range of learners. It’d be best paired with additional books on presidential history or the history of public communication, because it touches on so many topics and isn’t meant to be in-depth about any one of them. The pastel drawn illustrations are subtle, and don’t detract from the words, but occasionally they don’t add much either. The book would have been better if it included a few of the historical images it mentions, especially the early years. There are helpful resource lists at the end. Not meant as a stand-alone book; fantastic addition to an existing collection. Curled up Kids (November 30, 2011) This book is not about what our presidents looked like physically as much as it is about how people have been able to look at the president. What Does the President Look Like? gives children facts about some American presidents as well as the developments of technological advances in media. Each double- page spread introduces a US president and describes how the people would have seen the president – on a painted portrait, a stereograph or a photograph, or perhaps black-and- white television. Each section also includes a list of surprising facts about the president featured as well as trivia about other presidents. In the back of the book, you will find a beautifully illustrated chart of all the American presidents plus resource materials and a list of presidential libraries and museums. Adam Ziskie’s double-page illustrations are equally informative, showing the dress and environment of the time period for each of the presidents featured. For example, in the illustration for James Polk, there is a horse and buggy in the background of a scene; in the section for President Obama, the people are looking at a computer. The muted colors of the illustrations add a sepia-tone effect that enhances the nostalgic atmosphere of the illustrations. Though the book is somewhat slim, Author Jane Hampton Cook fills it with trivia, vital statistics and more about some of our American presidents and history that will appeal to children ages 6 years and up. An enticing read that will have you learning something new each time you open the book. When I Love You at Christmas Written by David Bedford Illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2011) A little preschool-age girl prepares for Christmas as her adoring lamb toy watches in this sweet story first published in Australia. The text follows a pattern of two activities that lead to a reassuring, repeated refrain: “When you wrap your gifts / When you tie the bows / That’s when I love you.” The lamb toy watches in smiling silence as the little girl makes cookies, decorates the tree, sings and dances to Christmas music and makes cards. She tosses and turns trying to get to sleep on Christmas Eve (with the lamb next to her in bed). On Christmas morning, readers see that the cookies, the card and the wrapped presents are all for the lamb. On one of the last pages (“when you lift me high”), the girl holds up the lamb, who is wearing a new scarf and hat. Adult readers will see that the loving relationship between the child and her lamb is symbolic of that between parent and child. Charming, simple illustrations with minimal backgrounds suit the nature of the story. A pleasing story for preschoolers to enjoy with a favorite stuffed animal and a Christmas cookie. (Picture book. 2-5) Kiss the Book (October 2011) Back Cover: “Christmas time is giving time, baking time and singing time. But best of all, it is loving time.” This incredible Christmas book celebrates all the wonders of Christmas. From nativity scenes, to making cards, each facet of this special holiday is explored. The illustrations are fabulous! The colors are bright, bold and inviting. This is a great book to help celebrate the season of Christmas. We didn't love the title. After reading the book, it makes more sense-but at first glance, it seems a little odd? Publishers Weekly (September 26, 2011) In a square-format, paper-over-board book, a girl prepares for Christmas with her stuffed sheep in tow, while unrhymed verse (which turns out to be from the sheep’s perspective) offers simple assurances of love: “When you twist the strings/ When you hang the star/ That’s when I love you.” Ainslie’s sweet illustrations suggest a world in miniature as the girl tries to sleep on Christmas Eve and discovers her presents under the tree, giving one to her sheep. The girl’s affection for her stuffed animal mirrors the evergreen love between a child and guardian. Ages 3–up. (Sept.) Picture Book Reviews (September 23, 2011) A stuffed lamb watches as her friend bakes, decorates, dances and sings and celebrates Christmas. Warm sentiments touch us all at this wonderful time of the year. Wonderful to enjoy with the very young huddled on the couch with a blanket and hot chocolate. With merry shades of red and green set against clean, white backgrounds, this book pours out the many nostalgic traditions of the holiday. Lovely endpapers of green flowers and leaves. Overall size is 8″x8″. ♥♥♥♥ School Library Journal (October 2011) An unnamed narrator waxes enthusiastic over every holiday-related activity a young girl participates in (“When you wrap your gifts/When you tie the bows/That’s when I love you”). Who is this narrator? A parent? A grandparent? The final spread reveals that it is the toy lamb pictured throughout. The pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations are simple and rather charming, showing an apple-cheeked child cheerfully wrapping, decorating, writing cards, and so on. A sentimental, additional offering. The Horn Book (November/December 2011) A little girl and her toy lamb prepare for Christmas—making cookies, decorating the tree, wrapping presents, singing in a pageant—while an unknown narrator showers her with love: “When you wrap your gifts / When you tie the bows / That’s when I love you.” The book’s small, square trim size; generous white space on well-composed double-page spreads; and cheerful illustrations full of eye-pleasing colors and patterns combine to make an attractive package for the youngest reader—and the final reveal of the narrator’s identity adds a fresh and funny spin, setting this one apart from the all-too-typical unconditional-love picture book. When Molly Was a Harvey Girl By Frances M. Wood KidsBookShelf.com (January 2011) When Molly's father dies her nineteen-year-old sister tells her they must take a train to Chicago and get work as Harvey girls in one of the Harvey Eating Houses along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. But there's just one problem with Colleen's plan, Molly's only thirteen, and Harvey girls need to be at least eighteen. When they arrive Molly does her best to look and act older, and she soon finds herself longing less for home and enjoying life in the Wild West of Raton, New Mexico. But out here there's always the fear of train robbers, and the most infamous is Genius Jim, and Molly, Colleen and the other girls find themselves face to face with danger. A fast-paced historical novel young readers will enjoy. (Ages 9-12) Teaching Tolerance (Spring 2011) When Molly Was a Harvey Girl ($15.99) traces the adventures of a 13-yearold who, passing for 18, joins the staff at one of the famous Harvey Houses—the restaurants at stops on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railway in the late 1800s. Molly, the hero of this historical novel by Frances M. Wood, is full of pluck and ingenuity, and middle school readers will enjoy reading about her. The novel explains the opportunities and limitations that young women could expect back in the late 1800s. And it shows the prejudices that Mexicans and Native Americans faced during U.S. expansion. The Fourth Musketeer (March 16, 2011) I found this book to be thoroughly charming; the protagonist, Molly, is a character girls will identify with, as she struggles to act like an "adult" even though she is only thirteen. It's a great story to explore a little-known aspect of women's history; the Harvey restaurants provided a career opportunity for respectable girls in an era when there were very few options. In addition, as a secondary story, we see the racism and prejudice that existed in the West between different ethnic groups, who were not supposed to mix socially, through Molly's friendship with Josiah and Susana. The Horn Book Guide After their father dies, thirteen-year-old Molly (pretending to be eighteen) and her sister travel to Raton, New Mexico, to be Harvey Girls. Serving food all day to Wild West cowboys, miners, and railroad men changes Molly's outlook on life. An original setting, filled with interesting details about young women's lives in the Harvey Eating Houses, characterizes this captivating, well-researched historical narrative. Reading list. Who Came Down that Road? Written by George Ella Lyon Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto Biblio Reads (February 13, 2011) Imagine going back in time traveling down just one road. You will with Who Came Down That Road?. Stand with a mother and her son on a road that leads back through history--past her newlywed great-grandparents, past civil war soldiers, Native Americans hunting, woolly mammoths who started the trail and finally back to the great mystery of how life began. The paintings perfectly capture the mother and son on their private afternoon walk; they are as sweeping as the imaginative tale, intriguing readers and inspiring us to look at our own history and down our own roads with same awe and respect. SWON Libraries CLEAR (August 2011) The watercolor illustrations are glorious, with light shimmering through the trees and images superimposed as well. Who Came Down That Road is a marvelous introduction to the concept of historical time and evolution. Who Cares? Who Dares? By Krista Blakeney Bell Voya (October 2011) In this Australian award-winning novel, Toby and Rhys are two teen boys spending a week together at a beach house, even though they barely know each other. Toby’s mom is working in Hong Kong for the week and his father is too busy to stay with him so when Rhys’s mom offers to take Toby to her beach house, it seems like the perfect solution to everybody—except Toby and Rhys. They each have secrets and tiptoe around each other the first day, but quickly come to depend and rely on each other. Toby’s secret is really not that big of a deal, but Rhys is dealing with a horrible situation at home that quickly affects both boys. Who Cares? reads like a bibliotherapy book for teens dealing with alcoholic parents. Although the cover shows two boys sitting on a beach with a surfboard, this book is not a lighthearted beach read. Surfing does play a role in the boys’ friendship, but the crux of the story is Rhys’s volatile situation with his mom. A very quick read, Who Cares? will be useful for teens who need a push to talk about their own issues with alcoholic parents. Kiss the Book (November, 2011) When Rhys and Toby are thrown together on a weeklong beach vacation, they are both dreading it. When Rhys turns out to be a good surf teacher, a friendship starts. Both boys have a big secret and trying to hide those secrets turns out to be harder than they thought. Surfing is a common thread and adds to the fun. I really enjoyed this book! The author creates a naturally built friendship just in time for these boys who both really need a real friend. Students will enjoy the surfing and the banter. Kiss the Book (November, 2011) Now great friends, Rhys and Toby are set to compete in a surfing competition.There are a few mysteries in the resort town where the competition is taking place, and the boys may need to help. They are also asked to befriend a sulky skateboarder, will they be able to break down some barriers and make a new friend? Not to mention the excitement of the surfing competition. As a second book in this series, I also really liked this book! The well built friendship between the two boys lends itself well to the added mysteries of this book. Students will love these mysteries, as well as the surfing competition, and the skate boarding. Who’s Hiding By Satoru Onishi Grandparents.com (July 2011) This is a favorite for my two-year-old and my five-year-old alike. The book features 18 funny-looking animals (dog, sheep, lion, etc.) who stare out at the reader with innocuous simplicity. The scenes vary ever so slightly from page to page, which begs the questions: Who's hiding? Who's angry? Who's backwards? Who's sleeping? Onishi has created a real gem that will keep kids busy and laughing. There's even an answer key on the last page. What could be better? Wild Stories By Colin Thompson Pugent Sound Council Reviews (February 2011) The author wrote several books filled with animal stories and decided to combine them all in to one 335 page book. Some stories/poems are extremely short (less than one page), while others are several pages in length. Each story is told from the perspective of an animal (chicken, slug, snail, tadpole, rats, mice, rabbits, dog, owl, crows, mole...). Readers who love nature will enjoy these gentle stories, some of which have morals while others are just stories.
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