August 6, 2019

Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry!) by Gary Golio, illustrated by Ed Young

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 4:07 pm by suebe2

How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry!) 
by Gary Golio
illustrated by Ed Young

How do you bring a silent movie star to life for young readers today?  Check out Smile and you will see!

Charlie Chaplin’s mother and father were both actors although his father had left.  Charlie lived with his mother and older brother Sydney.  But times were good because his mother was a talented actress and singer.  Charlie wore a velvet suit and his mother called him The King.

But when her singing voice gave out, she earned less and soon her money was gone.  Charlie picked up a few coins wherever he could, singing and dancing outside of pubs.

I don’t want to give a blow by blow recital of the book because you want to read it yourself.  Golio traces the development of Chaplin’s career and style.  He shows young readers without being preachy how laughter and tears are emotionally linked and how Chaplin adapted his character, the tramp, from a sad derilict of a man he had known growing up.  The emotions in this book will resonate with young readers.

Young’s mixed media collage compliments the story well and presents another duality.  He uses subdued tans and black in various textures, echoing the limited colorscape of Chaplin’s earliest films and the dull dreary world of poverty.  But throughout are clippings of color and pattern – a rich woman’s gown, a curtain at the theater, and brightly colored tumbling characters.  These characters echo the bright sparks of laughter that Chaplin’s clowning and pratfalls brought audiences.

Young artists will love reading about how Chaplin’s early life shapes and colors his performances and career.  Older fans of Chaplin’s work will be pulled into a book that shows them a different side of his character.  Check it out and share it with someone today!


June 17, 2016

Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 4:09 pm by suebe2

Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs
by Linda Sue Park
illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Clarion Books

Do you have a young reader who likes to play with words?  Whose altogether punny?  Then pick up a copy of Yaks Yak. Each spread contains a homograph pair — two words that sound alike.  I say “two words” because one is the noun form while the other is the verb.  Although the verb may be a bit advanced that’s where Jennifer Black Reinhardt’s illustrations come into play.

In the spread that features bats, the text is super simple.  “Bats bat.”  Then the art shows five bats in flight swinging baseball bats.  Just in case the young reader doesn’t get all he needs from the illustration itself, cozied into the art work is the definition.  In this case, one of the baseballs is printed with the definition of “to bat.”

This is a great book to use when working with language.  It shows how the meaning of a word is context dependent when it has multiple meanings.  The book will also present a challenge for young word hounds — can you come up with something that is both an animal and a verb but isn’t in the book?  I have to admit that I only came up with one (fly).  I’ll have to do some more thinking on this.

The back matter includes the word origin for both the animal and the action.  My favorite?  To hog which was first seen in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Fin (1884).

Jennifer Black Reinhardt’s watercolor and ink illustrations do a great job bringing this super simple text to life.  Her animals are happy and silly and do a great job of making the book fun and education vs simply studious.  An excellent choice for bringing language to life.



April 25, 2016

Louis I: King of the Sheep by Olivier Tallec

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:02 am by suebe2

Louis I: King of the Sheep
by Olivier Tallec
Enchanged Lion Books

Louis is just an ordinary sheep until a paper crown blows onto this head.  Then he is Louis I, King of the Sheep.  As the King, he immediately starts making plans.

At first, his plans seem harmless enough.  A king needs to be easy to recognize, so he needs a scepter.  It should be easy for his people to see him when he speaks to them, so he should sit up high . . . and on and on it goes.

Soon he has plans for dignitaries and sheep marching.  Before long, he’s thinking about all those sheep who don’t look like him and maybe should find someplace else to live.

And, then, fortunately for those around him, his crown blows away.  And Louis is once again just a sheep.

I have to admit that in reading several of Tallec’s books, I like those best that he both writes and illustrates (this one and Who Done It?).  His messages are fairly subtle and leave the reader space to mull things over and work things out.  He doesn’t preach about power corrupting.  He doesn’t say a word about tolerance or humility.  He simply tells a story about Louis, a sheep.

Tallec’s art work isn’t particularly realistic but the cartoony nature of his paintings make them a little silly and fun – suitable for a book about the Sheep Who Would Be King.  I love that when Louis is just a sheep, browns dominate.  There are pastoral scenes full of green grass and blue skies but also palace scenes with rich, red draperies.  But it isn’t just the use of color that makes his paintings worthwhile, there are also details in the art work that aren’t in the text and these details tell part of the story.  Take note especially of the wordless final spread.

Add this book to your classroom shelf and use it as a jumping off point for discussions about privilege, authority and entitlement.  Your students will definitely have quite a bit to say.



February 17, 2014

Oh No, Little Dragon! by Jim Averbeck

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:13 am by suebe2

Oh No, Little Dragon!
written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

“Little Dragon had a spark in his heart” and it is because of this spark that he can flame.  Not surprisingly, Little Dragon loves exercising this skill, flying through the air, shooting flame through smoke rings, flame-written hearts and more.  Flying and flaming leave Little Dragon covered in soot so Mama sends him to take a bath with his toy boat.

Where many children would run their boats through the waves and maybe sink one or two, the fact that this boat is made out of wood should clue young readers in on how Little Dragon plays even in the tub.  It is while playing and laughing that Little Dragon takes a huge gulp of water, putting out his flame.

This is where the real trouble begins.  Flame comes from the spark inside to Little Dragon tries to warm up one way after another.

And, as sometimes, happens, I’m going to make you read to the book to find out how Little Dragon solves his problem.

It isn’t often that I review a preschool picture book, generally because they are just too sweet for me.  Don’t get me wrong, Little Dragon is sweet but he’s also a dragon who reminds me very much of several toddlers that I know.  He’s fiesty and he’s fiery and he’s got a way of doing things that is all his own.

The illustrations for this book remind me of those in David Shannon’s No, David!  That isn’t to say that Averbeck mimics Shannon in anway but the style that he uses in this book (like No, David!) reminds me a child’s art work without looking exactly like a child’s art work.

You may have to see the book to understand what I mean but get it and share it with the toddler or preschooler in your life.


October 9, 2013

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:58 am by suebe2

Building Our House
by Jonathan Bean
Farrar Straus Giroux

When the narrator, her parents and baby brother move to the field far outside the city, they have the tools and plans to build a house.  That said, they will be living for quite some time in a tiny little trailer with little more than two windows and a chimney.

They story follows them as they haul supplies (lumber, sand and stone) and collect rocks from a nearby field.  It shows them staking the corners of the foundation, building forms and chiseling beams.  When, at long last, the frame is ready to go up, family and friends converge to get the job done in one short day.

For many of us, this story will read like fantasy.  Hand me a hammer and look out — and, no, I don’t mean amazing progress is about to be made.

But this is based on Bean’s childhood — he is the little brother in the story.  His parents bought a field and spent five years building their dream home.  Bean has altered things somewhat since his house in done in a shorter time and the narrator is his older sister and not himself.

This book will appeal to young builders of both genders.  Dad may be the one that hammers in the stakes but Mom isn’t watching soaps all day long.

In a culture where everything is instant and projects you can complete in a weekend, I think this book shows something important — a family together can do something big and wonderful.  Yes, it might take some time, but the results will be well worth the efforts.  It will appeal to those who like to get their hands dirty, get involved and make something all their own

Beans colored black line drawings bring the story to life in a straightforward appealing way.


April 22, 2013

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:24 am by suebe2

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
by Mo Willems
AR 4.9

Have you read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus lately?  If not, then its time to pick up a copy to celebrate the book’s 10th anniversary.

This is one of those tongue-in-cheek books where the characters interact not with each other, but with the reader.  First on is, not the pigeon, but the bus driver.  He’s going on a break and will be right back and you, the reader, are to keep a certain feathered fowl from driving his beloved bus.

Good luck!

Why do you need luck?  Because Pigeon is no common fowl.  He will beg. He will plead.  He will demand.  And, if all else fails, he will throw one unholy tantrum.

Young readers are going to have no problem whatsoever identifying with Pigeon.  He wants so very badly to drive the bus and no one will let him.  These same readers will also be pulled in by Willems’ drawings.  Adults — do not be fooled.  They look crude and overly simple but Willems is a pro at getting emotion and action from broad black lines and some simple color.  Page through the book and you will see what I mean.  You don’t have to read one single word and you will still know exactly what emotion Pigeon is feeling and this bird is an emotional powder keg.

It’s hard to believe that this book is already ten years old.  Pick up a copy today and prepare to laugh with the young book lover  in your life.



January 20, 2013

Bambino and Mr. Twain by P.I. Maltbie, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

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

BambinoBambino and Mr. Twain
by P.I. Maltbie,
illustrated by Daniel Miyares

Because my father is a Mark Twain enthusiast, I picked this one up with high hopes.  It wasn’t an easy book to get into because, as we enter the story, Twain is in a very low point in his life.  His wife, Livy, who was also his editor, has died some months earlier.  One of her daughters, also deeply grieving, had been admitted to a clinic that did not allow pets.  She left Bambino, her cat, with her father.

The prickly feline did a pretty good job of mirroring Twain’s own moods.  Content to lounge on the bed and bask in sunlight, it hissed at anyone’s attempts to shift it.  Yet it accompanied Twain to his billiards table where it batted back his balls, somewhat lightening his mood.

One afternoon, the cat noticed a squirrel outside and leaped out an open window in pursuit.

Twain placed an ad concerning the missing cat in the local paper and fans proceeded to his home with cats of all kinds.  One girl even offered to loan him her family pet, so that he would not be lonely, until his own pet could be found.

It sounds like a maudlin tale, and certainly it starts out that way, but the ending is sweet as is Twain’s uncompromising love for his moody companion.

This isn’t nonfiction but a piece of fiction based on true events.

Miyares mixed media and digital illustrations capture the varied moods of the piece. They also help make this story of a historic figure more contemporary and approachable for young readers.

Will young readers identify with this book?  Maltbie has done an excellent job of creating a story about the love for a pet and how this animal helps him reconnect with other people and draws him to reenter the world.  While specifically about Twain it is also generally and gently about loss and how each of us must find a way to cope.

Additionally, this book would be an excellent gift for a Twain fan.  While it is fiction, it is strongly based on his life and as such has a lot to offer.

Why not pick it up and share it with someone who needs a little hope?




April 2, 2012

Balloons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:08 am by suebe2

Balloons over Broadway:
The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade
written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin
AR 5.4

If you’re like me, you’ve watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and wondered at the balloons.  I always assumed that the inspiration for these works of wonder came from hot air balloons.  After all, many of the ones you see today are shaped like something such as the Energizer Bunny.

But before he created the Macy’s balloons, Tony Sarg (rhymes with aargh) was a puppeteer.  He was a marionette man at only six years-old.  As an adult, he moved to London and then to New York.  When Macy’s heard about Tony’s puppets, they asked him to design a puppet parade for their holiday window display.  Tony’s mechanical marionettes were the talk of the town.

In 1924, Macy’s hosted their first Thanksgiving Day parade.  It was such a success, that they decided to do it annually.  Could tony help them make it spectacular?

I’m not going to tell you any more of the plot, because I want you to read the story of how and why this puppet master created the amazing balloons we have today.

Sweet uses a combination of collage and water color paintings to illustrate the book.  Before she began painting, she took the time to make a variety of toys and puppets.  She wanted to get a feel for Sarg’s world. And feel it, Sweet did.  That fact is obvious from the detailed, fun-filled illustrations throughout the book.

Share this story with the creative genius in your life.  Inspire a young reader and it can lead to something great.


October 29, 2010

Crossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 11:34 pm by suebe2

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom

by Tim Tingle

illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges

AR 4.4

When Martha Tom’s mother sends her off to find blackberries to have at the wedding feast later that day, the Choctaw girl looks and looks but can’t find a single berry.  So she decides to do the forbidden.  She crosses the Bok Chitto River to the side where the big plantations lay, worked by slaves.

Martha Tom finds a wealth of berries and she picks and picks.  But when she tries to return home she looses her way and wanders farther from the river.  She accidentally spies on the forbidden Slave Church where she is caught by a kindly man who sends his son, Little Mo, to guide her home.

Martha Tom repays his kindness by showing him the way across the river.  Before long, friendship develops between the two children with Martha Tom visiting the plantation side of the river every Sunday to attend the slave church.

Then one day Little Mo’s mother is sold.  As the tearful adults say their goodbyes, Little Mo reveals to his parents that there is a secret way to cross the river, if he can find it on his own.  But Little Mo needn’t have worried.  As soon as Mrs. Tom learns of his families danger, she rounds up the Choctaw women, led by Martha Tom and all come to their rescue.

As I’ve summarized it, this story sounds strictly historical but there is a deep spiritual element with the women posing as angels and the slaves passing almost invisible in front of armed men with dogs.  Tingle first heard the story as part of a wedding song and adapted it into the form of this moving multicultural picture book.

This is a great book for sharing and discussion.  The women don’t rescue the family with muscle or guns.  They don’t skulk about.  They dress in their finest and parade forward out of the fog.

This is an extremely moving story about friendship and family, love and trust and the power of belief.  It also tells about the help given to many runaway slaves by Native people’s of the South.

Pick up this story for every quiet girl who needs to believe in her own strength.


April 9, 2010

Circles of Hope by Karen Lynn Williams

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 7:34 pm by suebe2

Circles of Hope (AR 3. 9)

by Karen Lynn Williams


This isn’t specifically an Earth Day book, but it is a story of caring and sharing and growth with a clear environmental/conservation message.  It was also the first book I thought of when I contemplated a post in honor of Earth Day.

More than anything, Facile wants to grow a tree for his baby sister. Unfortunately, they live in poverty stricken Haiti (pre-earthquake Haiti).  One calamity after another befalls the seedlings but Facile is determined.  After all, Haitian tradition says the tree will keep his sick sister safe as well as give his family shade and fruit.  At last Facile discovers a solution and the tree thrives and is later joined by other trees.

Illustrator Linda Saport created charcoal and pastel illustrations that reflect the strength and determination of Facile and the Haitian people.   This is definitely an uplifting story of determination and hope for the future.

Share it with a young reader in your life!


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