April 29, 2009
Ivan the Terrier
by Peter Catalanotto
First, a confession. I am a cat person. A true, blue cat person. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up if my friend didn’t have a Jack Russell terrier named Sunny which is a pity because it is one of the funniest books I’ve read in quite a while.
What happens if you let a Jack Russell terrier loose in the land of fairy tales? Ivan the Terrier, that’s what. High energy Ivan springs across the pages, running from spread to spread with nothing but fun and mischief in mind.
Catalanotto’s paintings bring Ivan to life as he leaps across the page, constantly interrupting story time. My favorite is the third Gingerbread spread. My son loved the last Three Little Pigs spread.
Make sure you have time to page through the book a second time, because you’ll want to take the time to look for signs of Ivan on each and every spread.
This is definitely a book about a particular character. It is also a must have for anyone who loves a Jack Russell. Probably not a good bed time book but one that will definitely help cheer up a rainy day.
April 24, 2009
Badger’s Fancy Meal (AR 2. 6 )
by Keiko Kasza
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Faced with the usual meal choices, Badger just can’t work up an apetite. Sure, he has food to eat, but he just needs something new. Something fancy. So off he goes in search of a delectable meal.
First, he finds Mole, the perfect ingredient for a taco, in Badger’s opinon. Mole manages to escape to a nearby hole and is soon joined by rat and then rabbit. Inside the hole, the trio finds a pile of tasty food. The three are grateful for the fancy meal and leave a thank you note for their unwitting host.
Young readers will love Kasza’s illustrations as much as the story. “Hidden” illustrations revealed on the left hand side of various spreads let the reader see what is going on elsewhere while Badger is busy hunting for an exciting meal. Readers are thus challenged to figure out the facts that elude Badger until the very end.
This fun story would make a good piece for shared reading but probably would not make the best bed time book if readers laugh themselves into alertness and demand to look at the illustrations again so that they can search for the clues.
April 22, 2009
Ducks Don’t Wear Socks (AR 1. 7 )
by John Nedwidek
The silly title of this book sets the tone for equally silly text and illustrations.
Maybe most waterfowl don’t wear socks, but Duck does at least when his feet are cold. He also wears a tie, a cowboy hat, boots and underwear when the mood strikes.
This could be silly enough but give Duck a straightman, or girl, to play off of and it gets even funnier. Enter Emily.
Emily takes life and herself seriously. Very seriously. She isn’t sure what to make of Duck but there’s no chance she’s going to straighten him out. The only choice remaining? To join in the fun.
Nedwidek’s spare text is marvelously complimented by Lee White’s colorful illustrations. Is it just coincidence that all of the adults in the book look serious, some of them painfully so, even when Emily manages to lighten up?
The text is short enough for a newer reader to tackle but words like “wear” and “serious,” with their tricky vowel combinations, may require some assistance.
Why not share this book, and join in the fun?
April 17, 2009
Mr. Putter and Tabby Paint the Porch (AR 2 . 8 )
by Cynthia Rylant
This week we’ve been reading some old favorites — the Mr. Putter and Tabby books by Cynthia Rylant.
Mr. Putter lives with “his fine cat, Tabby,” next door to Mrs. Teaberry and “her good dog, Zeke.” One day, Mr. Putter notices that his porch is in rather shabby condition and decides paint it. Tabby is ok with this as long as Mr. Putter’s plans include her, and they do but not quite in the way expected. When a squirrel fluffs its way down the porch rail, Tabby knows it is her job to make it leave. Now.
Mr. Putter ends up painting the porch again with Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke’s help, but then a chipmunk intervenes. Finally, he paints it all by himself.
Arthur Howard’s colorful illustrations pack a lot of emotion and humor onto a page and they provide plenty of clues for new readers.
This is an excellent choice for a newly independent reader. The book has less than 700 words, divided into 3 sections which can be read independently. But it is also an excellent read aloud as long as you plan to take an occasional laughter break.
If you think kids will read only about characters much like themselves, please think again. If that was the case, only retirees would read these excellent books. They’ve been a long standing household favorite since my son was four years old. Half the fun for kids is being able to laugh at the silly adults.
April 16, 2009
The Beckoning Cat
by Koko Nishizuka
illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger
Based on a Japanese folktale, this book tells the story about a boy who is a fishmonger. He finds a cat on a rainy day and feeds is half of his own dinner. One day his father becomes ill and the cat summons customers since the boy can’t go out to sell the fish.
I like the book because it has a cat in it and it is just a good book. My favorite part was when the cat first came in from the rain.
These cats don’t look like cats from the U.S. They have bob tails and rounded ears. Maybe it is a Japanese bob tail.
This book would be good for kids of all ages, both boys and girls.
Look for beckoning cat statues at your favorite Asian restaurant. I saw one this weekend at China Buffet. It was gold, different from the illustrations but one thing that was the same (besides it being a cat) was the fact that it was holding up one paw, beckoning.
–Guest Reviewer (10 years old), son of SueBE
April 10, 2009
Cinder Rabbit (AR 2. 4)
by Lynn E. Hazen, illustrated by Elyse Pastel
Henry Holt and Company
When Zoe’s gets the prize part in the class production of Cinder Rabbit, she should be happy. And she would be, if only she could do the bunny hop, but an embarrasing incident has knocked the hop right out of Zoe. Everyone else is well-suited to their part from kindly Freida to Wicked Winnifred. Who can help Zoe rediscover her hop? And will they be on time?
Zoe is a character many little girls will be able to identify with and new readers familiar with the story of Cinderella will love this humorous take on the old fairy tale.
This probaby would not be the best boy book although Prince Charming-Whiskers and the Distant Director, boys both, manage to save the day. I’ve left the book around to see if the cover would tempt my young male reader — who at ten still wilingly reads both beginning readers and picture books as will as Harry Potter — but the princess look dress worn by Zoe on the cover probably warded him off.
Still, if you have a little girl in your life who loves Cinderella, rabbits or is simply a new reader, give this book a whirl. She’ll be glad you did.
April 9, 2009
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw (AR 5. 4)
by Jeff Kinney
This book is really funny. It is probably a good explanation of what life is like in middle school, i.e. don’t expect lollipops and candycanes around each corner.
It is the sequel to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and is the story of a boy named Greg.
This book is really funny. I like the part about the half-birthday parties for all the neighbors’ kids. It showed that Greg made a fool of himself but it paid off later on.
It would probably best suit 3rd grade and up. Both boys and girls would like this book.
–Guest Reviewer (10 years-old), Son of SueBE
April 7, 2009
All in a Day (AR 2 .2)
by Cynthia Rylant
Abrams Books for Young Readers
The first thing that caught my attention in this poetically simply picture book was the art. Nikki McClure created a series of striking illustrations based on black paper cut outs that give a somewhat old-time feel to the art.
But these cut outs aren’t anything like the profiles we did in grade school once you get beyond the black paper. These cut outs are complicated, far beyond the shadows we took home to our parents.
The art expands on the idea of the many things that can happen in a given day, the many different directions a day can take, while at the same time giving you a completely new start.
This simply looking book carries a surprisingly deep meaning and would make the perfect gift for anyone going through a life changing event or a particularly difficult stretch.
April 2, 2009
April is Poetry Month: Pick up a book of poetry today!
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Award winner this may be, but I picked it up on impulse. I love Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry and have been studying personal essays as well as prose poems. When I saw this book face out at my library, I pounced on the opportunity to enjoy prose and poetry from one of my favorites.
As with any really good poetry collection, there are poems and prose to play on your every emotion. “Museum” had me laughing aloud and looking for someone to read it to. I smiled in appreciation at “Lion Park.” After reading “Letters My Prez is Not Sending,” I had to go find my son and give him a huge hug. I grimaced at the justice in “Cat Plate.”
But the piece that spoke most deeply to me? You simply must read “Before I Read The Kite Runner.” It sums up what I love most about books and why I write as well.
That said, “Gate 4-A” left me with hope in the goodness of my fellows, people of compassion.
Don’t let the cartoony, child-like design fool you, this is a book for teens and adults. There are poems about love and war and hate and loss and sexuality in our society. They have a mature sensibility with which younger readers would not connect.
This one is going on my “must buy” list.