December 12, 2018

Harpy Eagle by Ellen Lawrence

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 6:58 pm by suebe2

Harpy Eagle
by Ellen Lawrence
BearPort Publishing

At over 3 feet tall and a wingspan of 6 feet, a harpy eagle is one of the apex predators in the Amazon rain forest. Monkey and sloth, coati and porcupine all fall prey to this winged hunter.  Yes, porcupine.  That one really surprised me.

Their nests are large enough to hold to adult people.  It can take up to 300 branches to build a nest that large.  In it, the female lays one or two eggs although only one chick will live to adulthood.  Raising a chick is a two eagle job with the mom staying with the chick and dad hunting for the family.  And chicks require a lot of food because they are growing fast.  They are the same size as their parents by 6 months old.

If you have an elementary school reader who loves books about animals, check out the books published by BearPort.  This is one of the books in the Apex Predators of the Amazon Rain Forest series which includes titles on the Arapaima, Black Caiman, Bull Shark, Electric Eel, Giant Otter, Green Anaconda, and Jaguar.

Each book discusses what the animal eats, its strengths, reproduction and family life.  Photos illustrate the book.  My favorite?  The one of the feathered out harpy chick – bright white with a fierce-looking black beak. Sidebars include questions, asking readers to observe and apply what they are learning as they read the book.  The back of the book includes activities that once again encourage thought and observation.

I read the entire series and I am one of those people who reads a lot of books about animals. Although I knew a little something about Caiman and Jaguar, I learned something in every book I read.

Share this series with your young reader to encourage reading as well as the development of STEM skills.



November 23, 2018

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle written by Leslie Connor

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:26 pm by suebe2

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle
written by Leslie Connor

There’s a notebook that Mason is supposed to be writing in and it is way worse than school work.  School is bad enough.

Mason is the biggest kid at school and he sweats a lot.  It is so bad he brings an extra shirt to school.  And school work is a struggle.  Letters seem to swim around the page.  He can tell a story well enough but reading and writing are tough.  And that’s what the detective wants him to do – write.

Fifteen months earlier, Mason’s best friend Benny is found dead in the Buttle family orchard.  He’s laying beneath the tree fort where he and Mason spent so much of their time.  Mason knows that its important but he doesn’t know what the detective wants him to say.  He tried to tell about seeing pink when he is especially happy, like he was when he left Benny in the fort, but the detective thinks Mason is making things up.

Now the detective stops by every now and again and asks to see the notebook. He’s always disappointed and tells Mason that people are counting on him.  Don’t Benny’s dads deserve to know what happened to their boy?  Benny agrees, yes, they deserve to know but he doesn’t know how he can help.  The two  men act so sad and disappointed when they see Mason.

Then Mason’s other friend disappears.  They split up to run through the orchard and Mason thought Calvin went home.  But he isn’t there and now the police are looking for him.  And they are once again looking at Mason Buttle.

I’m not going to tell you how the book ends except to say that Mason figures it out.  He figures out what happened to Calvin and what happened to Benny.  And it isn’t the story the police expected to hear but they hear it anyway.

As a mom, this book was really hard to read.  It bothered me that the adults in his life didn’t seem to be tending to Mason’s needs.  Yes, they were hurting too but they didn’t seem to see how bad things were for him.  Fortunately, by the end of the book, they had come around but until then it was so hard for me to read.

Still Connor has created a vibrant world with a character you can’t help but love.  Mason had a good heart and is painfully honest even if not everyone sees his vision of the world.

Add this book to your library, at home and at school, and share it with the young readers in your life.  Be prepared to discuss bullying as well as creativity and belonging.  A top-notch book that begs to be read, appreciated and discussed with fellow readers.


November 16, 2018

Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? and Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package by Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Chris Van Dusen

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 5:09 pm by suebe2

Where Are You Going Baby LincolnEugenia LincolnWhere Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?
Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package
by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick Press

If you have a young Mercy Watson fan on your hands, check out the chapter books about the fabulous characters on Deckawoo Drive.  I picked these two up at my local library because I’ve always appreciated the sisters, bossy Eugenia and spacy Baby Lincoln.

In Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?, Baby ends up going on a train trip without her big sister.  On your average day, Eugenia tells Baby what to do.  “Yes, sister” is Baby’s typical response.

But one morning Eugenia decided that they will make a list of goals for the day.  Eugenia loves making lists of goals.  And she’s perfectly willing to help Baby set her goals as well.  Goal number one – buy mouse traps.  But Baby hates the thought of trapping mice and refuses to write it down.

Soon she is up in her room where she finds a long unused suitcase.  Without a real plan, Baby packs the book that Eugenia has her reading, her toothbrush, her nightgown, reading glasses, and a sweater. Then she is off to the train station in search of adventure.

In Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package, a box arrives at the sisters’ home.  It is addressed to Eugenia. Eugenia doesn’t want to accept delivery. After all, she didn’t order anything.  But it has been bought and paid for and it is up to Eugenia to get to the bottom of things.

With the help of Baby and her neighbors, young Frank, Mrs. Watson and Mercy, she opens it to discover . . . an accordion.  Eugenia has never seen anything as frivolous or ridiculous in her life.  Who could possibly have sent her something like this?

In her quest to find the truth, Eugenia accidentally discovers that she has a real talent for making music.  Of course that means that people are going to dance and clap (ugh!), but when you have a song in your heart, sometimes you just have to play.

As always, DiCammillo has populated her stories with characters who are too silly to be believed but still manage to be wise and compassionate.  I love that there is much more to both sisters than is initially obvious and getting a look at their early lives and the love that motivates them both.

The short chapters and funny situations would make these books excellent read alouds for Mercy Watson fans.  Add them to your shelf this holiday season.


November 8, 2018

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 9:27 pm by suebe2

Children of Blood and Bone
by Tomi Adeyemi
Henry Holt

Zélie Adebola remembers when life was full of magic.  But then the king sent out his army to kill the maji.  They lead Mama away in chains.

With her mother dead and her father a broken man, Zélie and her brother do their best move forward.  But the king’s men return again and again, demanding taxes because their was magic in their family.  And they can’t like about it.  Zélie’s hair shines white – revealing her heritage to one and all.

Zélie is in the market when someone runs into her.  The young woman is clearly terrified.  She needs help and she’s clearly trying to avoid the king’s guards.  Zélie doesn’t ask why and she doesn’t really care.  The fact that this girl is terrified and running for her life is all Zélie needs to know.

Only later does she realize what she has done.  She didn’t rescue just anyone but a princess.  And now the crown prince is after them because the princess has stolen an artifact that can bring magic back to their land.

I’m not going to write any more about the plot.  That’s the danger when reviewing fantasy.  The plot and the world are often so deliciously complex that it is tempting to describe it piece by piece.

The world of Orïsha was inspired by Adeyemi’s own West African heritage.  I suspect that if I knew more about the cultures and the countryside, I’d recognize even more than I did.  I love textiles and wild animals so most of what I recognized fell into these two categories.

As with many young adult fantasies, this is a story with romance, friendship, and self-discovery.  The characters have to decide what is truly important, what they are willing to sacrifice to achieve it, and who can really be trusted.  There is newfound magic, powers that have to be controlled and horror when that control slips.

In this world, magic takes many forms.  Reapers have power over souls.  Burners ignite flame.  There are also those with power over cancer, people’s minds, healers and much more.

This is definitely a book that needed to be written.  It brings some diversity to the world of fantasy and introduces a heroine young readers will love.  Me?  The second book in the series has yet to be released but knowing that doesn’t stop me from checking my library.  Is it in yet?



November 1, 2018

The Red Fort by Brenda Maier, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:51 am by suebe2

The Little Red Fort
by Brenda Maier
illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
Scholastic Press

When Ruby finds some boards, she knows she wants to build something.  Her three brothers refuse to help.  After all, Ruby doesn’t know how to build.  So she learns.  When she asks them to help her draw up her plans, they refuse.  After all, Ruby doesn’t know how.  So she learns.

Again and again, Ruby asks her brothers to take part.  Again and again, they refuse but this doesn’t slow Ruby down.  This girl has a real can-do attitude.

It isn’t until the very end that they want a part of Ruby’s brand new fort.  She sends them on their way.

I have to admit, I’m really happy the story doesn’t end there but this next bit is a plot spoiler.  Don’t read on if that is going to annoy you.

Ruby’s brothers decide to make her fort even better.  They set to work with each of them finding a way to improve this already amazing fort.

Yes, this is a new spin on the Little Red Hen.  And I love it!  But then it is an easy book to love.

  1.  I love Ruby’s attitude.  Those boys and their “ho-hum don’t bug me” aren’t going to get her down.
  2. I love the chorus.  In a picture book, a repeated line of text is the chorus.  When Ruby asks for help, again and again we get this line – “‘No way,” said Jose. I’m too busy.”
  3. I love the way the illustrations add to the story.  When Ruby is learning to draw, her father is in the background with his own drafting project.  When she saws, her mother is helping out.  Grandma lends a hand when the building begins.  This little girl is part of a great big family.

This book makes a great read aloud as a family or in a classroom or library.  Young readers are going to connect with Ruby whether they spend their time building pillow forts or blanket forts or crafting things that start with the dining room table.

Share this book with the young reader in your life and get ready to build.


October 24, 2018

Danza! Amalia Hernandez and El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico by Duncan Tonatiuh

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:40 am by suebe2

Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams Books for Young Readers

When Amalia was born in Mexico City in 1917, everyone assumed she would be a teacher.  After all, her mother was a teacher and her grandmother had been a teacher.  Amalia too thought that she would teach.

But one day when her family was on vacation, Ami saw a pair of dancers performing a folk dance.  Ami was entranced.

At home, Ami whirled and twirled.  Her father wasn’t thrilled but her mother encouraged the girl’s enthusiasm.  Before long, she won her father over.  Not only did he have a studio built into their home, he brought in the very best dance teachers he could find.  Soon Ami was a talented ballerina.

In 1939, Ami saw two American dancers.  They didn’t perform ballet.  Their modern dance was powerful.

It didn’t take long before Ami was combining ballet with modern dance.  Then she began working in elements of various Mexican folk dances.  She also choreographed dances based on Mexican history.

It is really hard to review this book without simply retelling all of Ami’s accomplishments.  In addition to being a talented dancer, she founded El Ballet Folklórico de México.  The company performs even today in Mexico and all over the world. They are credited with fueling the public enthusiasm for Mexican folk dance and also the pride many Mexicans have in their culture.  Not only did Ami elevate these dances in Mexico, she took them all over the world.

If you aren’t familiar with Tonatiuh’s work, pick this book up.  Even when illustrating modern dance, it is clear that Tonatiuh’s illustrations draw on the style of ancient Mexican artists.  Tonatiuh hand draws his illustrations and then scans and colors them digitally.

If you have a young reader who is intrigued by dance or by Mexican culture, pick up this book.  It would also be a wonderful addition to any library striving for inclusion and diversity.



October 19, 2018

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 6:14 pm by suebe2

Julian is a Mermaid
by Jessica Love
Candlewick Press

On Saturday mornings, Julian and Abuela go swimming.  One day on the way home, they spot a trio of women on the subway.  Julian can’t stop staring at their beautiful dresses complete with mermaid tails or their fancy hair.  Soon Julian is lost in imagining that pool time is mermaid time.

As they get home, Julian points out to this grandmother that he too is a mermaid.  She reminds him to be good and goes to take a bath.

Soon Julian is getting creative – making flowing hair from fern fronds, adding touches of his grandmother’s make up and borrowing a sheer curtain to make a tail.  That is, of course, when Abuela wrapped up in a towel comes out of the bathroom. The look on her face makes it clear that she is not thrilled.

Julian isn’t sure what to do but Abuela gets dressed and comes back out carrying a beautiful necklace.  “For you, Julian.”

Love could have ended the book right here.  And it would have been sweet and amazing.  But she didn’t.  She created something more.



Abuela adds the necklace to Julian’s ensemble and the two head on down to the beach.  Soon they have reached the destination of the original trio of mermaids – a brilliant, flamboyant, parade on the beach.  There are mermaids, people wearing fish costumes, and even two little dogs dressed like lobster.  Julian has found his people.

I had heard wonderful things about this book when I requested it from the library.  Still, I approached it with caution.  Too often I’ve been disappointed by crowd favorites.  Julian did not disappoint.

It helps that Love is not only the author but the illustrator because so much is communicated through the illustrations.  From facial expressions to the things going on in the background, all add to the story.

This is a touching piece about love and acceptance and about finding wear you fit into the teaming, swirling mass of people around you. Definitely something that should be in school libraries, class room libraries and more.


October 4, 2018

Judy Moody: Mood Martian by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:12 pm by suebe2

Judy Moody: Mood Martian
by Megan McDonald
illustrated by Peter Reynolds

When was the last time I picked up a book with Judy Moody or her kid brother Stink?  Way too long.  So when I saw them on a list of Peter Reynolds books, I had to pop over to the library and check one out.

Sasquatch.  That’s what Judy Moody looks like in her school pictures.  Hairy.  Messy.  And really mad. And losing your temper has consequences in Mr. Todd’s class.  Judy has been sent to Antarctica to chill out three times in one week.  Three times!

Judy decides it is time to turn things around and she gets her start on opposites day.  Instead of wearing a ponytail on the front of her head or her shirt on backwards, Judy dresses up.  She wears a skirt.  Her clothes all match.  And her hair is pinned neatly in place.

No one can believe that this is Judy Moody. In fact, her friends decide she is really an alien.

Judy doesn’t let them get to her.  She’s going to stay in a good mood for an entire week.  Fortunately she has just the thing to calm her down.  Her grandmother taught her to finger knit.  By the end of the week, Judy’s finger knitting is taking over the house.  In fact it is so “everywhere” that when the two siblings are singing in her freshly painted room, Stink gets his foot tangled and trips.  The result is a butt print in the middle of Judy’s wall.

She doesn’t let it get to her.  But what will she do to keep her cool when her parents threaten to make her quit knitting if she can’t corral her craft?

How could I possibly have forgotten how much fun these books are?  McDonald works  positive behavior, neatness, finger knitting, math activities and colors all into one book that is both fun and funny.  As a mom, the best part is that although Judy isn’t perfect, her parents, teacher, and principal all adore her and her wacky ideas.

If your young reader has only recently started to read independently, check these books out.  This is #14.  The books are smallish.  Pair this with a large font and there isn’t an awful lot of text to conquer on each page.  They are also great books for reading aloud.  Reynolds pen and ink drawings add to the fun.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a Stink book this time around.


September 26, 2018

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 10:55 pm by suebe2

Raymie Nightingale
by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press

At first, the Rancheros seem like an unlikely trio of friends.  Raymie is learning to twirl a baton to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition because more than anything she needs to get her father’s attention.  Two days ago he ran off with a dental hygienist.

Louisiana Elephante, complete with her fainting spells and swampy lungs, needs to learn to twirl so that she can win.  She and her grandmother desperately need the prize money.

Then there’s Beverly Tapinski who already twirls like a pro.  Of course, she can also pick locks and doesn’t intend to win.  Her plan is sabotage.

From visiting the retirement home to perform good deeds to breaking into the animal shelter to rescue a cat that probably isn’t there anymore, the three are soon traipsing around town getting each other into and out of a wide variety of trouble.

Admittedly, I had some troubles getting into this.  I’ve never had much interest in twirling and the whole thing was far to reminiscent of my own dance classes.  How well did they go?  I am probably among the ten clumsiest people on Earth if that tells you anything.  I’m sure my former teachers would agree – it was torture.

So the book had that against it but its Kate DiCamillo so I kept reading.  Thank goodness.

As so often happens in her books, soon I was won over by her quirky cast of characters.  My absolute favorite was Louisiana although I think her grandmother was a close second.

I’ve seen other readers comment that the characters deal with things that simply are not age appropriate for the audience.  Although everything isn’t sunshine and lollipops, none of it is extreme either which some of the comments might lead you to believe.  These are girls dealing with life including a full cast of flawed adults.

This book would  make an excellent read aloud.  Don’t be surprised when the humor draws in some of the kids who consider themselves non-readers.


September 19, 2018

Rice from Heaven by Tina Cho, illustrated by Keum Jin Song

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:04 am by suebe2

Rice from Heaven
by Tina Cho
illustrated by Keum Jin Song
Little Bee Books

A little girl and her father travel to the South Korean countryside.  All around them are rice fields but they are here because across the border, in North Korea, children are going hungry. Because the North Korean government does nothing to help its own people, people in South Korea work to send rice across the border.

They do it by sending the rice up into the night sky on special hot air balloons.

As they are working, villagers come to watch.  Many are not happy that these people are helping the enemy.  One boy gets in the little girl’s face and yells at her.  She answers him that the has to help.  The children in the north are eating tree bark and grass.

This stops the boy.  How can he hate children who are starving? He wants to help.

Two hundred balloons are sent up into the night sky.  How many reach the North?  No one knows but they know that they have to try.

I have to admit – I wanted to know that they helped people.  I wanted a concrete ending.

But Tina Cho respected her readers and gave them the unvarnished facts.  She helped with this mission but cannot name anyone who helped.  She doesn’t want to risk retaliation from the North Korean government.  The author has also included back matter about the historical and political situation as well as the effort to float rice across the border.

Keum Jin Song’s art work is colorful and detailed, bringing the story to life.  That said, the scenes of the North are handled in such way to keep them from overpowering young readers.  Flat colorless landscapes take the place of specific details of deprivation.  It is clear by the art work that the North is empty and void, the South vibrant and full of life.

This isn’t an easy story but it is a story that needs to be told.  Written as a picture book, it is probably better suited to slightly older readers such as 2nd and 3rd graders who will still need to hear about efforts to help those who have little.



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