September 4, 2014

Doug Unplugs on the Farm by Dan Yaccarino

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:20 am by suebe2

Doug Unplugs on the Farm
by Dan Yaccarino
Alfred A. Knopf

Doug and his parents are plugged in and on their way.  Mom wants him to learn all that he can about farms before they reach the grandbots farm.  Before they can get there, a herd of sheep runs across the road in front of them, unplugging the entire family and sending the car into a ditch.

Doug happily jets off to apply all that he has learned about farm life and give the farm girl chasing the sheep a hand.  He ends up helping her with all of her chores and, not surprisingly, expanding his knowledge of farm life by taking part instead of just plugging in.  They milk a cow, restack hay, pick apples, feed the ducks and even slop the hogs.

All the while, his parents are trying to get the car out of the ditch.

When it turns out that the tractor is out of gas, Doug combines his real world knowledge with his plugged-in knowledge to save the day.  Yaccarino’s artwork combines blocks of color and simple black lines in a way that reminds me of some of the earliest picture books such as Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag.  Reminds me, but does not duplicate because he uses a broader array of colors that look more contemporary than do the illustrations in Cats.

This is the sequel to Doug Unplugged  and you may have noticed that I’ve been on a bit of a Dan Yaccarino kick (I also reviewed All the Way to America and The Fantastic Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau).  I am attending the Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference for writers and Illustrators.  Yacarino is one of the speakers.

I’m continually amazed at how he combines art work that looks a bit “retro” with stories that are timeless and applicable to the world of today in their themes.  If you haven’t picked up any of his books, take a trip to your library or book store.  Your young reader will thank you!



August 28, 2014

The Fantastic Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:12 am by suebe2

The Fantastic Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau
by Dan Yaccarino
Alfred A. Knopf

How did Jacques Cousteau end up devoting his life to the sea?  Doctors orders.

It all started when he was a small boy, small and sick.  The doctor told him to swim to build his strength.  Jacques found that he loved the water.  He also loved tinkering with gadgets and building things.

As a young man, he was in a serious car accident.  Doctors said he would have to wear arm braces throughout his life.  Jacques returned to the sea and swam every day, growing stronger and stronger.  Looking through a pair of swim goggles, he discovered the life teaming in the Mediterranean.

He could only see so much from the surface but underwater suits were clumsy.  Jacques invented the first tanks and was soon swimming under water seeing what he could see.

From the Meditarranean, Jacques explored the oceans of the world.  When he made his way make to the Mediterranean, he was horrified by the polution and the damage that he saw all around him.  No longer a simple explorer, Jacques was now an advocate for the sea, pushing people to conserve and preserve this amazing resource.

Bold bright illustrations make this book a marvelous read aloud for a group.  Students will learn about early ocean science and conservation as well as just how much one man can accomplish.  Notes in the back of the book give additional information about Cousteau and also provide resources for additional study.

As always Yaccarino’s paintings bring life and vigor to the subject.

This book would make a great gift for fans of Cousteau or anyone interested in the sea or conservation.  Consider giving it as a gift to any adults who grew up watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.



August 25, 2014

All the Way to America by Dan Yaccarino

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:19 am by suebe2

All the Way to America:
The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel
by Dan Yaccarino
Alfred A. Knopf

Michele Iaccrino grew up on a farm in Sorrento.  His father gave him a small shovel and he used to to tend zucchini, tomatoes and strawberries.  As he grew up, he learned to put in a good effort and to love his family. When he journeyed to America, he brought the little shovel with him.

The shovel passes from father to son.  It is used on the farm to dig in the soil, in a bakery to scoop flour, on a pushcart to measure fruits and nuts, at a barber shop to scoop salt in the winter, on and on.  The family, called the Yaccarinos since Michele entered this country, and the shovel make their way from New York City into the countryside and back into the city.

But wherever they are, they are a family working together.  Husband and wife.  Parents and children.  Together they make a life to share with each other.

You don’t have to be from a big Italian family to love this book.  It is a story of family and traditions and how both adapt through time and place.  They aren’t a unit because they pass a trade from person to person, but they do pass down a set of values which adapt and change to fit each person’s circumstances.

Yaccarino’s paintings are bright and slightly cartoony and help give the story a contemporary feel although it stretches back over 100 years.  Need a book on tradition that doesn’t center on the holidays?  Use this story as a jumping off point to discuss tradition, family, immigration, and history.


August 18, 2014

Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:50 am by suebe2

Doug Unplugged
by Dan Yaccarino
Alfred A. Knopf

Every day, a young bot named Doug is plugged in by his parents.  They plug him to fill him up with facts.  On the day he learns about the city, he learns about the number of people, trash cans, man holes, pigeons and more.  As these facts flow into his brain, something grabs Doug’s attention…

He instantly recognizes the bird on the windowsill as a pigeon but no where in the download did Doug hear the funny noise the pigeon makes.  What else is he missing?

With that question in mind, Doug unplugs.

On the surface, this is a fun story about a boy who ventures out into the city and makes a friend, learns more about the city than ever before and even learns a bit about a whole new topic — family.

On a deeper level, this is a story about the modern age, a time when we can learn more than ever before without ever interacting with another human being or feeling the sun on our faces.  We can learn a lot, but we fail to learn just as much.

Yaccarino’s illustrations are, appropriately enough, composed with a brush and ink as well as finishing touches on Photoshop.  Bold bright colors give a cartoon-feel to a topic that could easily become to weighty and serious.  The vintage 1960s look of the artwork compliments the “here-and-now” feel of the story.

At only 555 words, this is a quick read.  It has a cozy enough feel for a bed time story.  The topic lends itself to discussion, but it doesn’t have the lively chorus of many story time books.  That said, it would make a good lead into a talk about learning, technology or experience.

Plug into this one with the young reader in your life.



November 26, 2012

Boy + Bot written by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:28 am by suebe2

Boy + Bot
written by Ame Dyckman,
illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Alfred A Knopf
AR 1.2

A boy is gathering pine cones in the forest when he runs into a robot.  The two have a marvelous afternoon exploring and playing games until they bump Bot’s power switch.  Boy doesn’t understand what is wrong with Bot but he knows he needs to help.  He takes Bot home, feeds him applesauce, reads him a story and puts him to bed.

Fortunately, the boy’s parents check on their son and bump the robot’s power switch.

Bot wakes up and finds boy out like a light.  He doesn’t get what’s wrong but he knows he needs to help.  He takes Boy home with him, oils him, reads him an instruction manual and then looks for a spare battery.

The inventor explains to Bot that his new friends isn’t a robot but a boy.  Boy wakes up with a start, thrilled to see that everything is well with his new friend.  Bot is equally happy to see that somehow Boy too has been all fixed up.

At only 240 words, this tale is both short and simple while simultaneously being wonderfully complex.  Not only is this the story of Boy and Bot, it is also the story of anyone who has ever had a friend they didn’t completely understand but loved unconditionally.

Dan Yaccarino’s gauche and watercolor illustrations beautifully expand upon the story as we see Boy and Bot’s friendship continue to grow beyond the book’s final line of text.

In addition to a good  bed time read, Boy + Bot would also be an excellent book for launching discussions on blending families, the customs of other people, diversity and acceptance.


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