December 6, 2017

I Love My Purse by Belle DeMont, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:54 pm by suebe2

I love my purseI Love My Purse
by Belle DeMont
illustrated by Sonja Wimmer
Annick Press

Charlie is getting ready for school one morning when he’s looking through his closet for something to wear.  The problem is that there is only one thing in there that he really likes. It is the red purse that his grandma let him have.

Enough is enough.  Charlie decides to wear what makes him happy.  He packs his things up in the red purse and he is ready to go.  On the way downstairs, his father attempts to stop him. “Hold on, wait a second!” Charlie explains that the purse makes him happy but Dad’s a hard sell.  “I love Hawaiian shirts but that doesn’t mean I wear them to work.”

From Dad to Charlotte and Sam at school, person after person questions his decision.  Still, Charlie knows what makes him happy.

The next day, things are a little different.  Everyone notices that Charlie still has his purse but something about each of them is different too, starting with Dad. He’s decided not to wear a tie.

Day after day, Charlie’s impact grows.  Soon Dad is wearing Hawaiian shirts and Sam is cooking lunch for the other students.  DeMont’s message is clear without being preachy – be yourself and you will encourage others to do the same.  Self-confidence, and happiness, will spread.

Sonja Wimmer’s bright art helps bring this story to life.  It is fanciful enough to add to the fun mood of this story while still being realistic.

Share this book with young readers to spark discussions on individuality and personal expression. Invite them to discuss what they’d do “if they could” and what makes them think they cannot. Some answers will be obvious, such as having to follow school rules, but the conversation will also make them think about self-imposed limitations.

A fun fast-paced book that would be good for the classroom and the home bookcase.

For another book about individuality see The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania al Abdullah with Kelly DiPucchio illustrated by Tricia Tusa.



December 1, 2017

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 6:07 pm by suebe2

all the crooked saintsAll the Crooked Saints
by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press

The Soria family doesn’t exactly welcome visitors to Bicho Raro, Colorado.  But still the visitors come, drawn by the promise of a miracle.  And visitors aren’t all that’s drawn to Bicho Raro.  So are owls of all kinds who gather whenever a miracle is imminent.  Good or bad, it doesn’t much matter to the owls but it does matter to the Soria.

Whenever Daniel Soria, the handsome teen who is the family’s current saint, performs a miracle for a pilgrim, it always does more than expected.  The first miracle addresses the pilgrim’s problem but it also unleashes their inner darkness.  A predatory priest who loves the ladies just a little too much finds that he now has a coyote’s head. A pair of twins who can’t quit bickering are joined by a cantankerous snake. Until they resolve this darkness, they are stuck with it and cannot leave.

But a Soria who tries to help may unleash his or her own darkness and Soria darkness is something to be feared.  This means that the family refuses to speak or interact with the bizarre cast of characters with whom they share their ranch.

And, as is always the case in a Stiefvater novel, the characters are amazing.

Daniel seems sweet but he was a hell raiser as a teen.  His cousin Beatrice has a scientific mind but believes she has no emotions.  Joaquin spends his nights running a renegade radio station with the help of his cousins.  His parents don’t know about his radio personality – Diablo Diablo – and would be horrified given the power of Soria words.

Stiefvater’s latest novel is set in Colorado in the 1960s.  It is a world of ranches, rodeos, and radios.  I’ve only touched on the characters because I don’t want to retell the entire novel and, as is always the case, it is hard to talk about a Stiefvater novel without giving too much away.

All the Crooked Saints is magical realism at its finest.  Magical things happen and no one bats an eye.  Unless, of course, the particular event warrants a reaction.  Out in the larger world, there may not be any magic but in Bicho Raro, miracles rule, a spirit owl can hold onto a person’s eyes until they need them again, and a radio DJ from back East becomes a towering giant.  And the desert is a character as influential as any human in the book.

This is a story, and a land, where magic and love are equally strong and capable of doing both great and terrible things.

I plan to add this one to my Christmas shopping for a particular niece who loves fantasy.  Share it with the readers in your life who love adventure but aren’t afraid to step beyond the world of the ordinary.


November 27, 2017

Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:08 pm by suebe2

Creepy Pair of Underwear
by Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Peter Brown
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Jasper is not a little bunny so when he goes to the underwear store with his mother, he’s ready for big boy underwear.  And for Jasper, that means going with the creepy underwear.

The first thing he notices about his purchase is that they glow in the dark. The greenish glow keeps him up so he buries them in the bottom of his laundry hamper. But when he wakes up in the morning he is wearing none other than the creepy underwear.

He tries hiding them in a drawer and even cutting them into tiny squares but the underwear just keeps coming back.  I’m not going to tell you how Jasper finally succeed in ridding himself of the underwear menace but when he does he actually misses them.  His room is just too dark.

In the end, Jasper proves what a grown up bunny he is and surrounds himself with creepy underwear.

Like Reynolds’ Creepy Carrots, this is picture book horror at its finest.  The story is creepy but also funny because – underwear!   Preschoolers as a whole find the word and everything about it just plain funny.

As an adult, I had to wonder if this story was born of a pair of underwear that had a tendency to creep up.  Not polite, but it is something irritating that the wrong pair will do. As a parent, I realize how funny young readers will find these ridiculous underwear as well as the thought that underwear can be scary.

The creepy factor is emphasized by the black and white, picture book noir, effect with only the underwear being in color.   As always, Brown’s illustrations add tons of fun to the story.  That said, I was a tad disappointed when the cover did not glow in the dark.  Yes, I tested it.

Still a fun story to help introduce young readers to a discussion of what is scary and how what is scary to one bunny, or person, doesn’t phase another.  Share this one with a young reader in your life!  This pair also wrote and illustrated Creepy Carrots.


November 25, 2017

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoët

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 6:16 pm by suebe2

Malala’s Magic Pencil
by Malala Yousafzai
illustrated by Kerascoët
Little Brown and Company

Do you know a girl who needs inspiration?  This is the perfect picture book!

“Do you believe in magic?” That’s the question Malala asks readers.  She and her brothers used to watch a children’s program about a boy with a magic pencil. He drew food to feed himself when he was hungry.  He used the pencil to get people out of trouble.  Malala dreamed of having a magic pencil of her own.

Even as a young girl, Malala loved school.  She studied hard but couldn’t help noticing as the other girls dropped out. Powerful, dangerous men had said that girls should not be educated so they no longer felt safe in the classroom.

Malala didn’t have a magic pencil but she was a good writer and thought that she could help. She wrote about what it was like to be scared to walk to school. She wrote about her friends who had moved away to safer places. Her writing appeared online and in the paper.  She even did a tv interview.  She was scared but she believed she had to speak out for those who didn’t have the ability.

She drew attention and the powerful men wanted to silence her. Fortunately they failed.

Because many other people have joined Malala in speaking out, their voices have come together.  They make her voice is much stronger and she believes that this magic can change the world.

This is truly an amazing, inspirational book.  It is also perfect for a picture book audience.  Malala doesn’t go into what happened to her, only saying that the men wanted to stop her.  The backmatter includes photos of her and her family, all of whom now live in England.

The illustrations for this book were created by Kerascoët.  This is the pen name of the French illustrators and animation artists Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset. Their style compliments this story and helps bring Malala to life for young readers.

Share this story with the young readers on your list this holiday season.  Bring it into the classroom and use it to launch a discussion of the problems your students see in their communities and what they might do to change the world.


November 16, 2017

I am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 8:33 pm by suebe2

I am Peace:
A Book of Mindfulness
by Susan Verde
illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Abrams Books for Young Readers

How do you explain to a young reader just how to chill the heck out?  With a great picture book like I am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness. Told in the first person, the reader follows the narrator through a journey of self-awareness.  And really, this kid could be any of us.

“There are times
when I worry about
what might happen next
and what happened before.”

We’ve all been there.  Fortunately, the young narrator knows how to go from feeling unanchored to noting the ground beneath his feet.

This book deals with a lot of abstracts — mindfulness, focus, and clarity.  But it does so in a way that young readers, and even older readers hung all over with their preconceptions, can understand. He notices the here and now. He inventories how he is feeling and names those feelings. He shares kindness, feeding birds, and then takes it easy beneath a tree that sprouts from a fallen birdseed.

In this book, small acts take root and have big consequences as they bless many.

The art may look familiar as it is provided by Peter H. Reynolds who wrote and illustrated The Dot. Reynolds’ fluid style is colored by watercolors and . . . you’ll never guess this one . . . tea.  His inked character is expressive, clearly showing as he lets go of tension and negativity.

Verde’s final note includes information on guided meditation for those who have never used this technique and want to give it a try. Reynolds and Verde worked together on another picture book, I am Yoga.  

Celebrate Picture Book Month by sharing this title with your young reader.  It would make a great bed time book but don’t limit it to quiet times.  It would also be a good launching off point for a discussion on dealing with negativity and how what we bring into this world, whether it is anger or peace, spreads to and impacts others.



November 12, 2017

A Single Pearl by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Jim LaMarche

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:00 am by suebe2

A Single PearlA Single Pearl
by Donna Jo Napoli
illustrated by Jim LaMarche

How often do you get to read a story told from the point of view of a grain of sand?

A grain of sand falls into the ocean. There was so much sand that the single grain felt incredibly unimportant and wondered how it would ever have an impact.

As a hungry oyster drew water through its gills, it pulled in the grain of sand. The sand lodged between the oyster’s mantle and shell.  It could not get free.  Slowly the oyster covered the sand with a beautiful shiny layer.

One day, I diver dug the oyster up and found the pearl inside. The diver sold it to a prince.  The prince gave it to his wife and she gave it to their daughter.

The princess loved this gift and it the sand knew it had served a great purpose.

The story is loosely based on a medieval Persian poem and is complimented by the subtle tones of the acrylics and colored pencils.  The color shifts are subtle and warm like the beauty of a pearl and the rhythms and deeper meanings found in poetry.

I have to admit that I was less than enthusiastic when I realized I had picked up a book about . . . a grain of sand?  Seriously?  But November is Picture Book Month and I had scooped up a huge arm load of books at the library.

I’m truly glad that I didn’t put it down because the warmth and beauty of this story is something worth experiencing.  It is a gentle loving story, perfect for sharing with a special young reader at bed time or just during cuddling-and-reading time.

It would make a strong introduction to discussions about things that matter and have lasting value.  Add it to your shelf or bring it home from the library.  Celebrate Picture Book Month!


November 4, 2017

City and Country by Jody Jensen Shaffer

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:45 pm by suebe2

City and Country
by Jody Jensen Shaffer
National Geographic Kids

Kids in the country get green space and nature.  Right?

Kids in the city get to do exciting things with their friends.  Right?

We all have preconceived ideas about what it is like to live in the city and what it is like to live in the country.  This co-reader from National Geographic kids sets the record straight. It talks about everything from where people live to what they do for fun, green spaces and learning.

You may not be familiar with the term co-reader.  I wasn’t when the author told me about her book so I asked her to explain it to me. A co-reader is meant for the child who has just reached the point of reading independently.  The left hand page of each spread is for the adult to read.  It tells something about city or country life.  The right hand page is for the young reader.  Obviously, it is a bit easier to read but it also shared information.  The grown up doesn’t get all the fun facts!

Early readers are tricky.  You want them to be engaging but it is hard to introduce information when a reader is still developing their skills.  Fortunately there are lots of photos to help decipher the text.

And the photos added a lot to the book.  What I liked most about them was that they weren’t all from the US or Europe. But it was done in a way that felt natural not in a way that felt like diversity was added because “we have to do it.”  Honestly, I spent a lot of time flipping between the images and the photo credits just because I’m a fact hound.

Each section ends with a thought exercise.  One asks young readers to look at each photo and tell if it is city or country and how they know this.  Another asks the young reader to consider the sights and smells in the world around them.

Look for these books in your library.  Add them to your classroom shelf.  They provide not only help in developing food for thought but also encouragement to exercise those brains.


October 28, 2017

The Spiderwick Chronicles: Book 1: The Field Guide by Tony DeTerlizzi and Holly Black

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 9:12 pm by suebe2

The Spiderwick Chronicles:
Book 1: The Field Guide
by Tony DeTerlizzi and Holly Black
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

“Go away.
Close the book.
But it down.
Do not look.”

This is the warning on the back of the Field Guide. Yes, yes, you can disregard it.  After all, it is printed on a leaf and left lying on the book, but really?  If someone has gone through that much trouble, do you want to ignore it?

Jared and his twin brother Simon and older sister Mallory are forced to move into their great aunt’s house after their father leaves the family. Mom is especially worried about Jared.  After all, Simon has his books and his animals.  Mallory has her fencing.  Jared?  He got into a fight at school but that doesn’t seem to count for anything good.

Unfortunately this isn’t a cool old house.  Unless of course you think it is cool to live in a house with rotten floor boards, rooms that aren’t safe to enter and something scuttling around in the walls.  They are trying to find the source of the scuttling when Jared finds a hidden library.  Inside he finds a riddle written on a piece of paper.

Plot Spoiler.  No, really, this is going to mess up the plot.  But you were warned.

When Jared solves the riddle, he finds the Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You.  Reading it, he start to develop a theory about what is in the walls, who pinched Mallory and Simon at night and got Jared in trouble, and how Simon’s poor tadpoles ended up in the freezer.

Mom doesn’t buy into the theory.  She’s sure that Jared is behind it all.  But he manages to convince his siblings that one of the creatures from the field guide is supposed to be watching the house.  Unfortunately, something has gone wrong.

This series isn’t new but my library just bought a new set of the books.  What is more inviting than a row of new books!?

I have to admit that one thing really bothered me.  I didn’t like that Mom was so ready to blame Jared.  Now, if I was 10 and had recently been blamed for something I didn’t do, as happened often when I was 10, I might feel differently.  But, as a mom, that bothered me.

My favorite part was the old house.  Like the characters in the book, I would want to explore and discover what is what.

With three young characters – one who is sporty, one who is bookish, and one who is having troubles finding himself – young readers will almost certainly identify with one of them.  If you have an older elementary student who is reading well on their own but isn’t ready for full length teen novels, try these books out.  They are fantasy and only about 100 pages long.  Each book has pen and ink illustrations that help bring the story to life.


October 21, 2017

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 9:49 pm by suebe2

Her Right Foot
by Dave Eggers
illustrated by Shawn Harris
Chronicle Books

Take a look at a few photos of the Statue of Liberty.  Not paintings.  Photographs.  Seriously.  Do it now.  Pay special attention to the base of the statue.  Have you ever noticed that she is walking?  This woman is on the move.

Eggers has covered so much in this one book.  When I requested it from the library, I thought it was your standard picture book.  Then it came in and I panicked.  “This isn’t 32 pages.  It is so long!”  And it is long for a picture book at 104 pages.  I wouldn’t try to read it to a preschooler but an attentive 6 or 8 year old?  You bet. This book tells a story that we all need to be thinking about.

Eggers brings the reader into the story early.  He takes us right to the moment where two men in France, Eduard de Laboulaye and Frederic August Bartholdi came up with an idea to celebrate the 100th birthday of the US.  They would give the US a statue.

Eggers writes about the models.  He writes about the construction.  He writes about taking it all apart again and shipping it, on a ship yet, to the US.  He writes about putting it back together again.

If you think you know all there is to know about this statue, think again.  He wrote about it’s changing color.  He wrote about Edison’s plans for the statue and, most importantly of all at least where this book is concerned, he wrote about her feet.  Around her feet lay broken chains.  This is something that a lot of people have noted.  But he back foot, her right foot, is captured in the act of coming off the ground to stride forward.  What could this possibly mean?

Eggers has some ideas.  The Statue of Liberty is a celebration of freedom.  It is a celebration of welcoming the immigrant and the refugee.  How can Lady Liberty stand still when there are people who need her?  “She is not content to wait. She must meet them…”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Eggers’ style, it’s a bit cheeky.  I have to admit that I found it a little off-putting at first. This is such a serious topic!  But as I got into the book, I realized that that is precisely why he style was perfect.  We need a bit of cheek to keep it from becoming preachy and dark.  Eggers’ tone emphasizes some very important points, especially in light of recent debates regarding immigration, but he does it without making the book grim.

I love the collage illustrations that Harris created to accompany the text.  My favorites?  Lady Liberty going for a stroll.

Share this with your class studying history, government or immigration.  Read it as a family.  And then be prepared to sit down and discuss how things are vs how they should be.

I don’t know about you, but now I’ll be looking for quirky details in every monument I see.



October 14, 2017

Madam President by Lane Smith

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:20 pm by suebe2

Madam President
by Lane Smith
Hyperion Books for Children

A confident girl takes the reader through a “typical” day for Madam President.  It starts at home as she makes an executive order for waffles.  It continues through the school day as she vetoes tuna casserole.  Honestly, I would vote for this kid.


She leads by example as she picks up her room but also knows when to delegate, letting someone else take over a task when she is just too tired to do it well.  And her cabinet?  Oh, just too funny. Her piggy bank is Secretary of the Treasury and Mr. Potato Head is Secretary of Agriculture.  Smith’s trademark humor comes into play because there is also a Secretary of Fantasy and a Secretary of Pizza.  Makes sense!


As is so often the case with Lane’s books, the text is spare and the punch is in the illustrations.  The look on the Boy Scouts faces when she pops in for a photo-op is priceless!

Unlike many picture books, this one is story light.  But that’s okay because Lane makes it work.  Young readers will come away from this with a much better understanding of everything that a president does.

Somehow I managed to assume that this was a very recent book, but it is 2008.  In spite of this, the book is both timely and timeless.  Madam President must attend to disasters and make sure that things get cleaned up – a task that she takes on herself instead of passing it on to an underling.  Of course, her desire to negotiate a treaty when no one asked her to butt in is a bit too American as well but that’s the beauty of Smith’s work.  He is willing to point out all manner of things, some that you appreciate and some that you might rather forget.

Definitely a good book to spark discussions as to what a president does, how they should behave and more.  Share this one with the young reader in your life today and sit down for a long chat!


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