March 27, 2018

Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin, illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:06 pm by suebe2

by Ursula K. Le Guin
illustrated by S. D. Schindler
Orchard Books

“Mrs. Jane Tabby cannot explain why all four of her kittens were born with wings.”  So begins Catwings.  

The tabby cat has her theories but the why of the wings is not what’s important.  What’s important is that the city neighborhood is not safe for her kittens as they grow.  Dogs chase them, and, even worse, they attract the attention of people with their grabbing hands.  Wanting her young to be safe, and because it is the way of cats, she sends them on their way.

Fortunately Roger, James, Harriet and Thelma have been practicing with their wings.  Granted, kittens, especially well-fed kittens, are not built for flying and it quickly tires them out.  But they are able to use their wings to fly to the countryside where pavement and buildings give way to streams, grass and trees.

Unfortunately the young cats don’t realize that all birds are not small and easily startled.  It isn’t until James is attacked by an owl that they grow more cautious.

If you’ve never read the Catwings books by Ursula K. Le Guin, check them out. The publisher lists the reading level as preschool – 3rd grade which seems like an odd age spread until you read the books.  Pre-reading preschoolers will love the playful fantasy element.  Older independent readers will love the books’ small size, much like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. The chapters are short but the language is poetic and complex enough to challenge a new readers.

As with so much Le Guin wrote, Catwings explores good and evil and “human” nature.  Given Le Guin’s beautiful language, the books would be a good gift for even an adult who loves fantasy and/or cats.  That said, young readers with similar interests are the books intended audience and will love that Le Guin does not write down to them, instead challenging her readers to stretch toward new heights.

A must have for the bookshelves of fantasy lovers and cat lovers alike.


March 23, 2018

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat

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

After the Fall:
How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again
by Dan Santat
Roaring Brook Press

Before he fell off the wall, Humpty Dumpty loved sitting up there among the birds.  But after the fall?  He just didn’t have the nerve.  He had to satisfy himself with bird watching.  Then one day he sees a paper airplane sail past.  Maybe that’s how he can reunite with the birds.

So he spends countless hours and numerous failed attempts to create a paper airplane that flies like a bird.  Unfortunately, on its maiden outdoor flight, it ends up on top of that wall.  Humpty Dumpty is tempted to leave it up there but he spent so long working on it.  He just has to try to get it back.  And as he climbs up the ladder, something happens.  [This is a huge plot spoiler so the last sentence of this paragraph will be below my signature.]

This is one of those amazing picture books that turns into much more than you expected.  I loved fractured fairy tales and fairy tale retellings and Dan Santat?  He creates such a rich variety of books for young readers.  I love that he is both author and illustrator because it allowed the final revelation to come about through the illustrations alone.

This is a more than a Humpty Dumpty story.  It is a story about healing and growing and reaching new heights.  It is a story about fear and dreams and achieving amazing things.

I don’t know what media Santat used to create his  illustrations but I love how expressive Humpty Dumpty is.  PIck up a copy of this to share with your young reader for Easter or for quiet reading time.  This one is a must but expect to spend some time studying just the illustrations for the subtle details they add to the story.


scroll down (follow the arrows that look suspiciously like v’s)










He turns in to a bird.


March 11, 2018

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Sarah Horne

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:31 am by suebe2

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday
by Laura Gehl
illustrated by Sarah Horne
Carolrhoda Books

Kids will probably bound with this particular picture book before the adult reader does.  Why?  Every kid gets gifts they don’t want.  And the adult reader may well be the one who buys these gifts?

Ana has just had heard birthday.  She carefully told her abuela that the gift she wanted was a trip to the amusement park.  She told abuela three times!

But does she get a trip to the amusement park?  Of course not or there wouldn’t be a story.

Instead Abuela Lola gives her a chicken.

Ana is, sort of, trying to make the best of it.  After all, it could be worse.  Abuela could have given her socks or underwear.  A chicken is better than that.

But as Ana discovers chickens are a lot of work. They have to be fed.  And they are very demanding.

Throughout the text of this particular story, the reader has to pay attention to the illustrations.  Early on, Ana’s father revealed that he too got a chicken.

The chicken is clearly up to something. She has commandeered all of the other animals and a bull dozer.  She makes Ana invite Abuela for a visit.  In the end, the narrator gets what she wanted and much, much more.  The fun part?  She’s got even bigger plans for her next birthday.  This girl is thinking big.

Sarah Horne drew the illustrations in ink, coloring them in Photoshop.  They are a colorful, playful compliment to this silly story. And pay attention to the art.  There are a lot of fun details, such as the roller coaster cars, throughout.

You don’t have to keep chickens to enjoy this book.  This is an excellent choice for dreamers.

It would also be a fun book for story time because the group would get very involved in trying to guess what that chicken is doing.


March 5, 2018

Peep and Egg: I’m Not Using the Potty by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Joyce Wan

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 5:31 pm by suebe2

Peep and Egg:
I’m Not Using the Potty
by Laura Gehl
illustrated by Joyce Wan
Farrar Straus Giroux

The next couple of weeks I’ll be reviewing books that are chicken/egg themed and would make great Easter gifts.  They are not Easter books per se but would still be a good fit.

As is always the case with Peep and Egg, Peep is ready for something to happen.  Egg, who doesn’t appreciate change one little bit, is not.

Peep has decided that it is time for Egg to start using the potty.  Egg?  No thanks!

As this point, I was more than a little worried that this was going to turn into a didactic potty training book.  Adult character knows what is best and ultimately coerces/tricks child character into using the potty.  But keep reading because that is not the case.

Peep does try to get her way.  Flushing, throwing toilet paper at the potty, nothing tempts Egg.  So Peep drags Egg around the barnyard where they drink the cow’s lemonade, sit near a flowing stream with the ducks, and so on.

Finally Peep does get Egg on the potty but in the end Peep wants Egg off NOW.

I have to say that I still find Joyce Wan’s illustrations super appealing.  The bold lines and bright colors give the work a cartoony feel.  And truly, a book about a chicken using the toilet demands a cartoony approach.  Wan’s illustrations keep things sweet and funny instead of over the top or slap stick.

Youngsters who are on the verge of being potty trained and will identify with Egg. Like Egg, they probably can’t articulate what about using the potty they don’t like, but the identification will be there. They will especially love that Egg manages to get the better of Peep in the end.

A silly, light-hearted look at what can be a very stressful time for both parent and child.  The illustrations paired with the text help create an appealing, pre-school appropriate book about overcoming fears.




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