November 26, 2010

The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough by Katie Smith Milway

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:40 pm by suebe2

The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough

by Katie Smith Milway

illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault

AR 5 .1

Maria Luz and her family farm the Honduran hills.  They grow what they need to eat, and if they don’t grow enough they eat what they need to plant.  Maria loves her life in the village but things are hard and this year the rain has been too little.  Will they have enough to tide them over? Will they be able to save enough seed do plant come spring?  Sadly, Maria waves as her Papa leaves to find work.

While Papa is gone, it is Maria’s job to tend the garden even as she goes to school.  But it is in school that she meets the amazing Don Pedro.  In addition to working on their reading and their math, Don Pedro and his students work the school garden where he teaches them about composting and terracing and planting small cash crops such as radishes and herbs.  When Maria harvests her radishes, it is Don Pedro who offers to help her sell them at the local market instead of counting on the coyotes to do it for her.

Any young reader who wants to do more, to be more, to make a difference will relish this story about a young girl who saves her family from poverty.  The Good Garden shows how even small changes can make a big difference and these changes can add up to feed a family and help a community to flourish.

Sylvie Daigneualt’s pencil and colored paper illustrations reminded me of old posters — maybe it was the strength and vitality of the people in them.  They are also reminiscent of folk art with their right colors and the coyotes (agricultural merchants who sell seed and take crops to market) who are actually depicted as coyotes.

For anyone looking for a book that encourages global awareness, giving, and thoughtful farming, this book is for you.  Share it with a young reader today but be ready if they insist on making some changes tomorrow.


November 25, 2010

Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:41 pm by suebe2

Elsie’s Bird

by Jane Yolen

Illustrated by David Small

AR 4. 3

Elsie loves everything about life in Boston — the calls of the fish merchants, the screams of the gulls, skipping rope with her friends, horses hooves on cobble stones and the songs of the many birds.  Even after Mama dies, Elsie loves Boston but Boston holds too much sadness for Papa.  When Papa decides he has to find some place he can be happy, Elsie doesn’t hesitate.  She’s already lost one parent.  No way is Papa heading to Nebraska without her.

But Nebraska isn’t Boston and Elsie can’t bring herself to leave the confines of their little dugout house.  The prairie is just too big and too quiet, so quiet you can hear the wind blowing in the grass.  Inside is filled with the songs of her beloved canary Timmy Tune —

until the day Timmy flies out of his cage and into the wide open prairie.

Facing a loss she might be able to prevent, Elsie finds the courage to go after her beloved pet and finds a whole word outside the dugout door.

Yolen has created an amazing story of love and loss, of fear and courage, of home and the larger world.  Small’s art work captures an amazing range of emotion on the faces of Elsie, her father, and her grandparents.  He uses color to mirror Elsie’s growing love of the prairie — grey when she is scared to a variety of greens and yellows as her heart is opened.

As much as I love many of Yolen’s books, I have to admit that I was first drawn in by Small’s art work.  His simple lines and use of color in some ways resemble comic book art — expressing so much in such a simple form.

Whether your young reader loves the prairie, a particular bird or is having trouble facing a new challenge or change, this gentle story is sure to find a place next to your reading chair and in your heart.


November 18, 2010

Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble by Judy Schachner

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 7:49 pm by suebe2

Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble

by Judy Schachner

AR 3.8

Skippyjon Jones is at it again.  When he gets sent to his room this time, he ends up in Ancient Egypt trying to answer a riddle put to him by the Great Finx.

As always, Los Chimichangos play a part in the adventure as the chihuahuas accompany El Skippito on his quest for something even better than frijoles — peas.  Why peas?  Isn’t this an ancient Egypt adventure?  Hint: Mummy’s sleep in peas.  Say it out loud if you don’t get it.

From the art work full of cattitude to the embarrassing problem that plague’s Skippyjon whenever he has an attack of the nerves, it is clear that Schachner lives with a cat with serious attitude.  Just look at the cover art!

This story is laugh out loud funny — my son and I liked it even more than the original.  Definitely a top notch read aloud, this book will appeal to kids who love cats and chihuahua’s, Ancient Egypt and mummies.



Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 5:45 pm by suebe2

Skippyjon Jones

by Judy Schachner

AR 3.3

Skippyjon Jones is many things:

  • A kitten with major cattitude.
  • Mama’s Fuzzy Pants or Kitten Britches, depending on her mood.
  • An incurable bed bouncer.
  • A chihuahua wannabe.

Sent to his room, obviously not for the first time, Skippyjon Jones soon finds himself on a adventure to defeat Alfredo Buzzito the gigantic bumblebee bandit.  By his side are Los Chimichangos, a rollicking, riotous band of chihuahuas.

Bring this book out when you have a group of kids who need a fun distraction or when you just need a good laugh.  Anyone who has ever lived with a bed bouncing, imaginative boy will see him in this fuzzy hero.

With the word play and the songs sprinkled throughout, this book is also a top notch read aloud.  But be ready to put on your “best” Mexican accent so that you can keep up with Skippito!

I don’t know how I’ve managed to miss these books for so long but now that my son and I have found them we are hooked.  Cat lovers and rowdy boys alike will find something to love.


November 12, 2010

Lila and Ecco’s Do-it-yourself Comics Club by Willow Dawson

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 6:06 pm by suebe2

Lila and Ecco’s Do-it-yourself Comics Club

by Willow Dawson


Lila and Ecco just want to go to a comic book convention but Lila also has to watch her younger sister.  So the three dress up as their favorite characters and then head off to the show.  Fortunately, they have to follow the younger girl into a session on comic writing and two budding author/illustrators are born.

In a blend of fiction (the story with Lila’s younger sister and their quest to write their own comics) and nonfiction (scads of details on comic writing), young readers will learn all they need to know to get started writing and illustrating their own work whether they choose to do comic strips, comic books or graphic novels.

I’ll be honest, with graphic novels as the new “hot thing” in publishing I’ve tried to read several how-to books on the topic.  Each and every time, I’ve quickly gotten lost and given up.  I just don’t have the vocabulary or basics to organize it all in my head.

But I read this book start to finish, learning about panels, the steps in creating a comic, research, mapping (laying out your world), webbing (meeting your character), outlining, panel size, guiding the reader from one panel to another, showing movement, vocal tone and more.

If you have a young reader who loves to tell stories or spends lots of time drawing, consider this as a Christmas gift.  I know I’ve been inspired to start noodling over comic ideas!




When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 5:55 pm by suebe2

When the Shadbush Blooms

by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz

illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden

AR 4.8


The narrator takes the reader through a year, sharing what her family does each month from “Mechoammowi Gischuch,” or “When the Shadfish Return Moon” to “Mechoammowi Gischuch,” or the cycle of one full year.

Each spread shows the narrator with her family fishing, planting their garden or picking strawberries.

But the spreads also show her grandparent’s grandparents in traditional attire doing the same tasks as they would have done it back when they were alive.

As such, this is a gentle story of tradition and change, family and continuity.  The narrator is Lenni Lenape who were called by the settlers the Delaware Indians.  Messinger is Turtle Clan Lenape while the illustrator, Kanietakeron Fadden, is from the neighboring Wolf Clan Mohawk.

This is very much a gentle mood story, perfect for bed time, quiet story sharing or leading into discussions about family and tradition.  Why not make it part of your family’s Thanksgiving tradition?



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