August 15, 2017

Hoot and Honk Just Can’t Sleep by Leslie Helakoski

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:09 pm by suebe2

Hoot and Honk Just Can’t Sleep
by Leslie Helakoski
Sterling Children’s Books

High winds blow and two eggs are blown out of two very different nests.  Mama Goose and Mama Owl each retrieve an egg and return to their nests.

When Hoot hatches among the goslings, it is clear something is different.  Hoot doesn’t like the bugs and seeds the others relish.  When they go to sleep at night, he’s ready for adventure.

Mama owl finds Hoot playing with the other owlets and they all return to the owl’s nest.  And that’s where Honk hatches.

Poor Honk is just as out-of-place as Hoot was.  Little mice for dinner? Yuck!  When they others go to sleep, he wonders off to see what is what. Not too worry.  He too finds his family.

The book ends with a neat little summary:

Night and day.
Wake or doze?
Some eyes open.
Some eyes close.

Neither way is right or wrong.  They are simply different.

I first came across this book in a discussion of STEM reading.  For those of you who may not know the term, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  It is a tag used to label books and curriculum that can help young learners understand science.  How can a fictional book do that?

A lot of people mistakenly think that STEM books are always nonfiction.  But fiction like Hoot and Honk can be an excellent jumping off point for discussing STEM topics.  In this cast, the book sets up a world of comparisons and contrasts.  What do the two types of birds eat?  When do they sleep?  Where are their nests?

It is also a beautiful book.  Helakoski’s art work, done in pastels, is richly colored.  The pastels create a look of slightly furred edges that make the chicks look fluffy and fuzzy  – like chicks.

This book is super short and rhymes which will make it a great read aloud for either an individual child or a group.  Use it to spark discussions of comparison and contrast, fitting in, and more.


August 11, 2017

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:37 am by suebe2

Beyond the Bright SeaBeyond the Bright Sea
by Lauren Wolk
Dutton Children’s Books

Twelve-year-old Crow has grown up one island over from Cuttyhunk, one of  Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Islands.  She landed on this tiny island in a battered boat when she was just a baby.

Osh rescued the tiny baby and it was only when she came into his life that he opened up to other islanders.  He too is a refugee although Crow never learns what it is he escaped.  That is in his past and the past, for some people, is best left alone.  Instead, Osh focuses on the now – fishing to feed them both, tending their garden and painting beautiful landscapes.

Miss Maggie, their friend and neighbor on Cuttyshank,  came to the islands for her own reason.  Sharp of tongue and wit, she is Crow’s  teacher because the school master won’t let Crow attend classes.

It isn’t because her skin is darker than his.  It is because everyone fears she came from a nearby island — home of a leper hospital.

Then one night Crow sees a mysterious fire on that island.  A bird sanctuary has taken the place of the leper colony.  Could the keeper be in need of help?  Crow’s curiosity may lead her to answers about who she is and where she came from but she will also be risking everything and everyone she knows and loves.

Wolk is also the author of Wolf Hollow and, like that book, Beyond the Bright Sea is an exploration of belonging and family.  It explores how our expectations can shape how we interpret the world and other people’s actions.  It is a story of love, trust and sacrifice and it is told in such a way that makes it fully accessible to middle grade audiences.

As always Wolk has done an exceptional job in pulling readers into the setting with details of island life in 1925.  The details are a part of the story without overwhelming it.

An excellent choice for the classroom or home library this is a book with depth and moral complexity.  Perfectly suitable for young readers, it trusts them to know and understand.


August 10, 2017

Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jan Korase

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:36 pm by suebe2

Little OinkLittle Oink
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Jan Korase
Chronicle Books

I love picture books that contain surprises and this one did not disappoint.  Little Oink is, no surprise if you’ve looked at the cover, a pig.  He loves truffle hunting with his pig pals, going to school, and spending time with Mama and Papa.

What he doesn’t love is Mess Up Time.

You see Little Oink is anything but piggy.  He loves to keep his room neat and tidy – his clothes and his toys put away.  He makes his bed.  And his clothes are always spotless.

But he loves his Mama and Papa so after a bit of resistance he puts on a stained shirt and messes up his room.  Once he does this he’s free to climb up to his tree house and play.  So what does he play?  House!

Picture books about animal characters who want to be something other than their animal type are common enough.  Of course, I can’t think of any off the top of my head but I’m thinking about the tortoise who wants to be speedy fast or the hare that is slow and methodical.

That said, this is a must have because it is just so much fun.  Yes, you have the piggy who doesn’t want to be piggy.  But the irony of the Mama and Papa making the kiddo mess up his room will be appreciated by young readers and parents alike.   So will the fact that he wants to be just like his friends – his friends who clean their rooms!

Parents will also enjoy reading this one out loud.  “He dug playing with his pig pals” when they are rooting for truffles.  His room has to be a “total pigsty.”

Whether the young reader is a neat freak or neatness challenged, they will love the humor in this story.  Short and fast-paced it will make a fun read aloud as well as a jumping off point for discussions on individuality, respect, and more.


August 4, 2017

Simon’s New Bed by Christian Trimmer, illustrated by Melissa van der Paardt

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:21 am by suebe2

simons-new-bed-9781481430197_hrSimon’s New Bed
by Christian Trimmer
illustrated by Melissa van der Paardt
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Simon was having a great day.  The boy had just given him a new bed and Simon was ready for a great nap, the best nap ever.  First he just has to go for a quick walk.

Unfortunately, while he’s gone, the cat makes herself at home.  Not surprisingly, Miss Adora Belle refuses to budge.  In fact, she ignores Simon completely.

She ignores him as he barks his displeasure.

She ignores him as he drags the new bed outside and back in.

She refuses to be lured away.

She doesn’t even wiggle an ear when he begs.

Simon has just about given up when he hits on an idea.  “… How about we share?”  It isn’t that Simon really wanted to share but he understood the importance of picking his battles.

Okay, I’ll admit that when I read that line about picking battles, I cringed.  It is Simon’s bed.  This was a character not meeting his goal.

But wait a minute.  His goal was getting to nap on his new bed.  No, he didn’t get to do it as planned, but he did get to do it.

And isn’t this an issue that as a society we really need to grasp?  Not everything deserves to be a huge battle.  In fact, some things aren’t important enough to bother with at all.  And yet, people fuss.  They post on Facebook. They pick fights.  What they don’t do is look for a less confrontational solution.

I have to admit that the more I think about it, the more I like this book.  The cat is pure cat.  The dog is adorable and reminds me of Mudge.  Van der Paardt’s illustrated characters are so expressive and fun.

This is definitely a book to consider for your classroom or home.  Young readers are still learning the ins and outs of making space for themselves and others in this world and this book is sure to lead to some interesting conversations.  Readers with siblings will identify with Simon and, if they are being 100% honest with themselves, may identify with Miss Adora Belle as well.


August 3, 2017

The Dot by Peter Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:33 pm by suebe2

The Dot
written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds
Candlewick Press

Vashti has no doubt in her mind.  She cannot draw.  She cannot paint.  There’s no point in even picking up a marker.  That’s why at the end of class her page is once again blank.

When her teacher encourages her to just make a mark, Vashti jabs at the paper with a marker, leaving a dot.  Her teacher, such a smart lady, asks her to sign her work.

The next time Vashti comes to class, the signed dot is in a gorgeous frame hanging over the teacher’s desk.  What?  Vashti is certain that it is not the best dot she can make and sets out to do even better.  Soon she has filled page after page with a wide variety of dots.  My favorite is the dot she painted by not painting a dot.  The dot is negative (white) space and she has painted the background all around it.

At the end of the year is a school art show.  The display includes a huge number of Vashti’s dots.  A young fan comes up to her.  “I wish I could draw.”  Fortunately, Vashti has learned a thing or two about encouraging another frustrated artist.

This book is almost ten years old and I’m not really sure how I managed to miss it.  This would have been perfect for my son when he was in grade school.  He wasn’t a good artist and he knew it.  Fortunately a new art teacher arrived in 5th grade and he helped each child find their strength, much like the teacher in this book.

At less than 400 words, this would be an excellent book for story time and reading aloud.  It would also be an excellent launch for a discussion on belief and encouragement.  Just be sure to have plenty of art supplies and encouraging words ready to go, because everyone at some point in their lives needs a teacher like this.


July 28, 2017

Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner, illustrated by Greg Ruth

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:10 am by suebe2

Rolling Thunder
by Kate Messner
illustrated by Greg Ruth
Scholastic Press

A young narrator starts his journey on a passenger train but it isn’t long before he meets up with his grandfather.  The pair is part of Rolling Thunder, a motorcycle rally that heads into Washington DC on Memorial Day weekend.  Grandpa is riding for friends he lost in Vietnam. The narrator has an uncle in the armed forces.

The night before the big ride, they camp out, the Washington Monument visible in the distance.  At dawn, they are on their way, part of a line of bikers that stretches for miles.  The group rides past cheering crowds.  Some wave the American flag.  Others wave the black and white flag for the soldiers who never made it home.

Together they visit the Wall.  They leave a flower and make a rubbing.  This is a time to heal. As the sun sets they ride off into the countryside.  Camping out once more under the stars they take the time to remember.

Messner has created a fast-paced rhyming picture book that expresses pride, sorrow and a heart-felt need to remember.  It is complimented perfectly by Ruth’s art work full of deep color and heart-felt emotions.  But it also has a slightly out-of-focus dreamy feel that makes the book timeless.

Because that’s what this book is — heart-felt.  It is a story of family and community, memory, pride and unity.  It is a story of patriotism in support of those who have served and sacrificed.

This would make an excellent gift book for those whose parents are in the service as well as those who have vets in the family.  In truth, I would be just as likely to give it as a Father’s Day gift to a grandfather veteran as I would to a young child.  This is a book to be read and reread and most of all shared.

To quote:

“Rising Smoke and glowing ember.
“Ride for freedom. Ride.


July 25, 2017

Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Greagin

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 6:10 pm by suebe2

Little Fox in the Forest
by Stephanie Greagin
Schwartz & Wade Books

A young girl brings her favorite toy, a stuffed fox, to the playground. While she is swinging, a real fox grabs her toy and takes off.  The girl and her friend chase him into the woods but soon lose sight of the pair of foxes.  They discover a fairy tale world of doors in trees, animal homes and animals wearing all manner of clothing.

They question a squirrel and a bear asking if anyone has seen the toy fox.  In fact they question an entire animal village.  It is only then that the bear realizes, wait!  He just might have seen the toy fox.  He leads them to fox’s home and where the children discover a mother fox reading a story to her kit who is cuddling the toy.

The girl sees how much the young fox loves her toy and sad he is at having to give it up.  The two work out a solution. No, I’m not going to tell you what that is.  You’re going to have to . . . well, I can’t exactly tell you to “read” the book.  Why?  Because it is wordless.  Wordless?  Yes, wordless.  Graegin tells the entire story through her digitally compiled pencil, watercolor and ink illustrations.  Prereaders will love this book because they are just as qualified to read it as any adult.

The pictures are also detailed and creative.  The story starts out monochromatic with Graegin using various greys.  It is only with the addition of the little fox that color and a sense of tension come into the story.

Use this book as a jumping off point for discussions on emotion (depicted in the illustrations), scene order (beginning, middle and end), and how they can tell what is going on.  You can even expand on this by asking them to make a wordless picture book of a well-known story.  They might work with a fairy tale or the story of a family vacation.

An excellent addition to your family bookcase.



July 20, 2017

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:38 am by suebe2

TThe quickest kid in clarksvillehe Quickest Kid in Clarksville
by Pat Zietlow Miller
illustrated by Frank Morrison
Chronicle Books

In Clarksville, Tennessee in the 1960, a group of girls are determined to be the next Wilma Rudolph.  Alta is dreaming about what it would feel like to wear Gold medals and have a parade just like the one set to welcome Wilma home the next day.

Then she meets the new girl.  Charmaine’s shoes have a fast pink stripe.  And they’re new.  So new that Alta knows that no one but Charmaine has ever worn them. But Alta’s having none of it and soon she and Charmaine are racing down the sidewalk. Alta wins the first race but in the second race her feet tangle and she takes a spill.

Alta and her sisters are ready to run their banner to the parade but Alta soon realizes she has a problem.  The banner is bulky and she can’t do it on her own. But her sisters are awfully small.

Then Charmaine grabs the other end.  She points out that Wilma won the relay with three other runners.   The four take off running and pass the banner back and forth.  Soon they are perched on the curb waiting for that special convertible to pass by.  When Wilma waves at them, they know that together they are the quickest kids in Clarksville.

This is a fast-moving text as befits a book about a fast moving woman.  The girls are oh-so realistic, competing to be the fastest and save the day.  But their joy at working together is just as realistic.  Frank Morrison’s water color illustrations are full of life and personality, just like the kids he depicts.  I may not have been in gradeschool in the 1960s but Alta reminded me of the quickest girl in my fifth grade class.  Charmaine could sail around the track like everone else was at anchor.

Read this to launch a discussion about team work, sportsmanship, or Wilma Rudolph.  It has all of the qualities of a sure-fire read aloud and young character who is hard not to love.


July 17, 2017

Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Christy Hale

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:20 pm by suebe2

antsy anselAntsy Ansel:
Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature
by Cindy Jenson-Elliott
illustrated by Christy Hale
Christy Ottaviano Books

Both of this week’s books feature historic figures.  The first is a picture book biography of Ansel Adams.  Ansel was a lively boy.  He didn’t walk.  He ran. He could never sit still and his thoughts went everywhere at once.  Indoors, Ansel attracted a lot of negative attention so his father would suggest that he go outside.

Smart man, dad.

The Golden Gate Beach near his house allowed Ansel to explore nature.  He loved the booming surf and the gusting winds. Sometimes the strong forces of nature got out of hand. During the 1906 earthquake, Ansel was thrown into a wall and broke his nose.

But often nature was quiet.  Ansel spent hours in Lobos Creek, listening and looking.

School caged Ansel in and it wasn’t a good match.  Finally, when he was 13, his father withdrew him from school. “Give him open air,” explained Dad.

Ansel didn’t spend all of this time outside.  He studied piano and was tutored in French, Greek and algebra. When Ansel was 14, his aunt gave him a book about Yosemite Valley.  Ansel longed to see the mountains and the water for himself.  “It was love at first sight.”

His parents gave him a camera and his passion grew.  He often journeyed back to Yosemite which is where he met his wife. The pair worked and lived in Yosemite, raising a family there and helping give voice to the natural world.

Share this book with the nature photographer in your life.  Share it with the child who would rather be outdoors than in.  Share it with the young reader who is having troubles fitting in.

Yes, it is all about Ansel Adams but this book is truly about so much more.  Give it a place on your shelf and use it to introduce nature and photography into a young reader’s life.


July 14, 2017

Fearless Flyer by Heather Lang, illustrated by Raul Colon

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 6:55 am by suebe2

Fearless FlyerFearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine
by Heather Lang,
illustrated by Raul Colon
Calkins Creek

The second book for this week is also about pushing boundaries but this particular book is nonfiction. It is the story of Ruth Law and her 1916 flight, in a biplane, from Chicago to Hornell, New York.

Few of these early pilots flew very far.The biggest problem was that if an engine developed a problem, and cut out, they would have nowhere to land.  Find someplace to land and you’d still be too far from someone who could repair your plane.

Law had a solution.  She learned everything she could about her plane’s engine.  She could fix it but she still couldn’t fly very far.  In fact, she’d never flown over 25 miles because her plane only held 16 gallons of fuel.  She tried to get the maker of her plane, Glenn Curtiss, to sell her a larger plane but he didn’t think she could handle such a powerful plane on such a long flight.

And it would be long.  Victor Carlstrom had just flown Curtiss’s new plane from Chicago to Erie, Pennsylvania for a total of 452 miles.  Law was determined to break that record but she couldn’t do it in her current plane.  At least not as Curtiss had configured it.

She added gas tanks.  She added a metal guard to protect her from freezing wind. She charted her course on a special map that she attached over her trousers (trousers!) to her leg.

At 8:25 in the morning she took off.  Yeah, you know me by now.  I’m not going to tell you exactly what happened.  I want you to read the book!

Lang’s text is simple and straightforward.  She gives enough detail to interest readers who are into flight history and women’s history, but not so many that she’ll lose young readers who just want a good adventure.

Colon’s illustrations have an old-time feel.  He created them with pencil and crayon on lithograph paper.  This means that they have the paper’s swirling texture as well as the short ethereal colors of the pencils and crayons.

Together the have created a top-notch book for kids who dream big.  Read this book to your adventurer – the child who simply does not see why that line, that one right there, cannot be crossed.


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