July 14, 2017

Fearless Flyer by Heather Lang, illustrated by Raul Colon

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

Fearless FlyerFearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine
by Heather Lang,
illustrated by Raul Colon
Calkins Creek

The second book for this week is also about pushing boundaries but this particular book is nonfiction. It is the story of Ruth Law and her 1916 flight, in a biplane, from Chicago to Hornell, New York.

Few of these early pilots flew very far.The biggest problem was that if an engine developed a problem, and cut out, they would have nowhere to land.  Find someplace to land and you’d still be too far from someone who could repair your plane.

Law had a solution.  She learned everything she could about her plane’s engine.  She could fix it but she still couldn’t fly very far.  In fact, she’d never flown over 25 miles because her plane only held 16 gallons of fuel.  She tried to get the maker of her plane, Glenn Curtiss, to sell her a larger plane but he didn’t think she could handle such a powerful plane on such a long flight.

And it would be long.  Victor Carlstrom had just flown Curtiss’s new plane from Chicago to Erie, Pennsylvania for a total of 452 miles.  Law was determined to break that record but she couldn’t do it in her current plane.  At least not as Curtiss had configured it.

She added gas tanks.  She added a metal guard to protect her from freezing wind. She charted her course on a special map that she attached over her trousers (trousers!) to her leg.

At 8:25 in the morning she took off.  Yeah, you know me by now.  I’m not going to tell you exactly what happened.  I want you to read the book!

Lang’s text is simple and straightforward.  She gives enough detail to interest readers who are into flight history and women’s history, but not so many that she’ll lose young readers who just want a good adventure.

Colon’s illustrations have an old-time feel.  He created them with pencil and crayon on lithograph paper.  This means that they have the paper’s swirling texture as well as the short ethereal colors of the pencils and crayons.

Together the have created a top-notch book for kids who dream big.  Read this book to your adventurer – the child who simply does not see why that line, that one right there, cannot be crossed.


June 1, 2017

Be a Friend by Salina Yoon

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:14 pm by suebe2

Be a Friend
by Salina Yoon

Dennis was a regular kid who expressed himself in unique ways.  He didn’t speak but he did act.  He could act out climbing stairs, riding a bike or tugging on a rope.  Since he dressed like a mime and acted like a mime, it isn’t surprising that the other kids called him Mime Boy.

That was when they paid attention to him at all.  Because Dennis was so quiet, he was easy to ignore.  He often felt invisible and because of this he was very lonely.

But then he met Joy.  Dennis had just kicked an imaginary ball when Joy mimed catching it.  Like Dennis Joy communicated through action, not speech.  But unlike Dennis she didn’t dress like a mime.  That was okay because two friends don’t have to be just alike to appreciate each other.

Yoon doesn’t preach about friendship or kindness.  She does mention that there was no wall between Dennis and Joy and that friends don’t need words but the message is much more complete and deeper than that.  Early in the story, there are three primary colors in Yoon’s art work.  Black, white and red for detail.  The spreads that depict other children have additional color but the spreads the focus on Dennis and Joy are more muted.  They colors are quieter just as they are quieter and the message is clear. That’s okay.

Still the reader wishes Dennis was happier.

As the friendship between Dennis and Joy grows, the pair become happier which attracts the other children.  The final spread is full color with the addition of larger amounts of blue and green and Dennis is clearly joy-filled.  Get it?

But that seems to be the way with Yoon’s books. Like her characters, she expresses a great deal with out words.  Looking for a book with diverse characters?  Here they are without a word being said.

I have to admit that I hesitated to pick this book up.  Mimes just don’t do much for me personally, but I love Yoon’s message and the way  that she uses illustration and design to further her message.  I will definitely be looking at my local library for more books by this author/illustrator.



April 28, 2017

Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:36 pm by suebe2

Leave Me Alone!
by Vera Brosgol
Roaring Brook Press

Once, long ago, there lived an old woman who lived in a small house in a small village.  In her small house lived her oh so large family.  With winter coming, she just couldn’t get her knitting done.  And this was important knitting!  But whenever she got out her yarn, her curious grandchildren would get involved and then she’d have to chase down all those colorful balls of wool.

So she cleaned up the house, packed up her yarn, and went into the woods.  Where she found a family of curious bears.  On the mountainside, she was discovered by curious mountain goats.  On the moon?  You guessed it!   Moon creatures! Finally she crawls into a hole and closes it after herself.  Alone in the dark, she finally manages to do her knitting.  But then she noticed that she is all alone.

So she cleans up the hole, and she goes home.

It seems like a very simple story but there is so much detail and it really is a lot of fun.

Brosgol is the author and the illustrator so she works a lot of the fun into the illustrations.  There’s the granddaughter trying to feed her brother a ball of yarn (thankfully it doesn’t fit!), the bear looking confused when the old woman shakes her finger in his face, the mountain goat trying to eat the yarn and more.

Then there are the ethnic details including the tea-filled samovar.

Then there are the unexpected contrasts.  We are used to knitting for fun.  Even if we make sweaters, they are luxuries.  But the old woman was doing IMPORTANT knitting. You don’t find out what until late in the book and I’m going to make you read it yourself.  Although we start with traditional fairy or folk tale motifs, old woman/tiny house/a lot of children, bears, and goats, we then move on to moon men with high-tech hand-held scanners!

Anyone who has ever had a moment where they were trying to get something done, if only they could get a minute to themselves, will find something to love in this book.  Share it with the knitter, the new brother, or the story lover in your own life, but be ready for some discussions about how you would have solved the old woman’s problem.


December 9, 2016

Fish by Liam Francis Walsh

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:05 am by suebe2

by Liam Francis Walsh
Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press

A boy, who in early drafts was named “Alex,” goes on an unusual fishing trip.  He and his dog take a row-boat out and soon they’ve dropped their lines in the water.  Before too long, Alex (because it is easier to call him by a name) is reeling in his catch.  The letter F.  Next he catches an I and then an S.

All the while, the dog has his own story taking place on the other side of the boat.  A menacing letter C emerges from the water and looms over the boat as if it is going to bite down on the small craft and its crew.

When Alex hooks the letter H, it puts up a fight.  Alex is hauled out of the boat and towed beneath the water.  Eventually he makes his way back to the boat, catch in hand.  They have caught FISH.  No, it isn’t going to be that easy.  After all, this is a really good book so something has to go wrong to increase the tension.  But you’re going to have to “read” the book yourself to see what it is.

I say “read” the book because this book is nearly wordless.  Alex and his dog catch the F-I-S-H and the letters are later incorporated into the F-I-n-i-S-H sign at the end of a race.

If you’ve never shared a wordless book, or a nearly wordless book, with a young reader pick Fish up.  It is a very different, completely rewarding, experience to share the pictures while each of you work to spin the story that you see.

Another reason that I love this book is that Walsh plays with the letters themselves.  I love typography and the emotion and character that letters as art can portray.  Walsh creates a menacing C, a swarm of Bs and As that look like fins cutting through the water.  This was the perfect debut children’s book for Walsh who is a cartoonist for the New Yorker. His artwork is deceptively simple but his characters depict an array of expressions and effectively pull the “reader” into a story well worth sharing with a young book lover.

Note:  No where in the book does it reveal that the boy is “Alex.”  I read that in an interview with Walsh.


June 26, 2014

Army Camels: Texas Ships of the Desert by Doris Fisher, illustrated by Julie Dupre Buckner

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:54 am by suebe2

Army Camels: Texas Ships of the Desert
by Doris Fisher
illustrated by Julie Dupre Buckner

In 1856, a ship carrying thirty-three camels sailed from North Africa to Matagorda Bay, Texas.  The journey took 3 months and the camels withstood the stormy seas much better than did the two handlers who accompanied them. When they disembarked, there were even 34 camels since one of them had given birth on the journey.

The camels were brought to this country to act as desert transport for the military since the railroads were not yet completed.  They could easily go for 3 days without water and feed on the scrub along the way.

That said, they also frightened horses, ate the cacti that had been planted to fence them, and no Army man could stay in the saddle once a camel reached a full gallop.  Only their North African handlers could accomplish this feat.

To prove to the local people just how handy these animals could be, the Major in charge took a camel into town.  He had his men strap two bales of hay onto the animal.  People grumbled.  Then he had his men add two more bales for a total of over 1200 pounds, the weight of 6 men.  The weight didn’t kill the poor camel as many town’s people worried.  It slowly stood and carried the load down the road.

The US Camel Experiment is one of those curiosities of American history.  I’d heard about them growing up.  After the Civil War, they were auctioned off but stories circulated then, and are told in the light of campfires today, about escaped camels roaming the desert.

Pick this one up for the history buff in your life or the young animal lover.  This little known bit of American history is sure to stir the imagination.



February 21, 2014

The Market Bowl by Jim Averbeck

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:56 am by suebe2

The Market Bowl
by Jim Averbeck

In the nation of Cameroon, Yoyo and Mama Cécile make their living selling bitterleaf stew in the marketplace.  Each step in making the stew is important and Mama Cécile sings a song to keep everything on track.

“Slice the bitterleaf thin as a whisper.
Wash it in water, cleaning it well.
Grind the egusi (pumpkin seeds). Add a knuckle of njanga (dried shrimp).
Simmer some time for a fine stew to sell.”

The problem for Yoyo is that it takes so long to make bitterleaf stew Mama Cécile’s way.  Wouldn’t it be better to hurry things along and get to the market earlier?  Not surprisingly, Yoyo’s stew is lumpy and unappetizing, a face Averbeck emphasizes with circling flies.

When their last customer offers Yoyo much less for her stew than Mama Cécile always makes, Yoyo refuses his coins, thus cursing their market bowl.  Because the market operates on a barter system, any fair price is accepted.  Refuse a fair price and the people believe that Brother Coin will no longer bless their market bowl, the bowl in which buyers drop their coins.

Yoyo takes responsibility for what she has done and sets out to restore the blessing to Mama Cécile’s bowl.  When she finds Brother Coin, he is a in a fowl mood and announces that he will grant no wishes that day.  How can Yoyo trick him into restorying the luck to her Mama’s bowl?

Averbeck worked as a Peace Corp volunteer in Cameroon and his experiences obviously color this tale, bringing life in the market into clear focus for young readers.  In the back of the book, he even gives a recipe for the stew, subtituting spinach or kale for the bitterleaf, also known as ironweed.  Because the stew is tricky to make well, an accomplished cook would be able to make a fair amount in the market place.

This story is complex enough to engage slightly older readers but would also make a fun story time book.  Just be ready for plenty of discussion on how your listeners would try to fool Brother Coin.


December 19, 2013

Mitchell Goes Bowling by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Tony Fucile

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:46 pm by suebe2

Mitchell Goes Bowling
by Hallie Durand,
illustrated by Tony Fucile
Candlewick Press

“Mitchell ALWAYS knocked things down.  That’s just how he rolled. He even tried to knock down his dad. . . .”

Mitchell has more energy than he knows what to do with, fortunately Dad gets Mitchell and he’s going at helping the channel his son’s energy.  One Saturday when Mitchell is “doing his thing,” Dad takes him on a little adventure to the bowling alley.

Brightly colored bowling balls.  Delicious pizza smells.  And the crash of pins going down.  It doesn’t take long for Mitchell to realize that the bowling alley may actually be the greatest place ever.  He even gets to see his dad to a funny steaming hot potato dance.

But Mitchell gets frustrated because there’s no steaming hot potatoes in his game.  Unlike Dad, he can’t get a strike.  Unlike Dad, there are lots of frames where his ball goes in the gutter and sometimes he even falls down.  Using the blower to dry his hands, and his hair, doesn’t help.  Kicking up one foot like Dad does doesn’t help.  Even prayer doesn’t effect his score.

That’s when Dad invites him to be on his team.  Mitchell says yes and, working together, they manage to get a strike with Mitchell’s ball and together they do the steaming hot potato dance . . . with salsa.

I love that Mitchell’s dad gets his son.  He gets his energy levels.  He gets his need to succeed.  And the knows how to roll with it all.  Dad and boy work together.

Not to mention, this book is just plain funny.  The cover art hints at it, but the steaming hot potato dance with salsa is a riot.

Tony Fucile’s digital illustrations are a perfect compliment for this story.  The expressions that he captures for both Mitchell and Dad add so much to their respective characters, making them both fun and quirky.

Share this one with the young book lover in your life and prepare yourself to discuss the best ways to use up that excess energy.


December 2, 2013

No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 7:56 pm by suebe2

No Fits, Nilson!
written and illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Dial Books

I wasn’t sure what to expect from No Fits, Nilson! but as someone who has lived with a strong-willed child (understatement of the century), the book intrigued me because it was inspired by the author’s son and his volcanic tantrums.

In the fictional story, the narrator is a little girl named Amanda.  Everywhere she goes, she brings her friend, an enormous, blue gorilla named Nilson.  Well, except for the bathtub.  Nilson apparently does not like water and watches from a perch nearby.

Together they play, eat breakfast and help with the grocery shopping.  As sometimes happens, a scooter will bump a block tower and knock things over.  When Nilson throws a fit, both he and Amanda end up in time out.

I wondered about that list part a little.  Why was Amanda also in time out?  Stick with the story and it all becomes clear on the last page.  Nilson is Amanda’s stuffed animal friend.  He has been getting credit for someone else’s fits of temper.

This really is a cute book about temper tantrums.  Young readers will learn about self-control, coping mechanisms and consequences.  The best part is that this all comes through the story itself so it doesn’t sound like a lecture.  Instead, it is simply part of Amanda and Nilson’s day.  Yet, the book isn’t unrealistic.  There’s a melt down in the morning.  Thing go pretty well for a while.  Then they totter on the very edge of a meltdown toward the end of the story.  Things haven’t just cleared up.  Like any habit, dealing with this is a work-in-progress.

The acrylic paintings that illustrate the book are cartoony and fun, taking away some of the fear in having to endure someone else’s tantrum.

In spite of the more-or-less make believe friend, this is a very realistic story in that self control is praised but no one says it will be easy to achieve.


October 24, 2013

How Big Were Dinosaurs written and illustrated by Lita Judge

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:34 am by suebe2

How Big Were Dinosaurs
written and illustrated by Lita Judge
Roaring Brook Press

Although we think of dinosaurs as immense, even on the cover author/illustrator Lita Judge makes it clear that some may have been immense but others were no bigger than a chicken.  The little one is microraptor, a deadly hunter no bigger than a chicken.  The big one is Argentinosaurus, as long as four school buses and weighing more than 17 elephants.

Many books give information on size but do so in terms that raise even more questions — how long is a meter, 6 feet or 40 feet?  Judge does a superb job of making the sizes of various dinosaurs meaningful to her young readers discussing them in terms of familiar things such as the height of an adult man, no bigger than a dog, or a small SUV.

Her paintings are cartoony enough to be fun but give enough realistic detail that you can easily tell her Microraptor from her Leaellynasaura.  She also made sure to include a wide variety of animals based on size (small to large and heavy) but also familiar (Velociraptorand unfamiliar (Tsintausaurus).  

An afterword at the end of the books explains how scientists know how big various dinosaurs were and also gives information on where to find out more about your favorites.

I can see this book having a great deal of appeal for dinosaur lovers but also being a great jumping off point for discussions on size (bigger, smaller, etc.).  That said, if you are going to read it aloud, you might want to practice some of the dinosaur names ahead of time.  I stumbled through Tsintausaurus but am still unsure of how to say Leaellynasaura.


October 17, 2013

Journey by Aaron Becker

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:14 am by suebe2

by Aaron Becker
Candlewick Press

In this wordless picture book, illustrator Aaron Becker introduces us to a young girl.  Father has his computer.  Mother has her phone.  Big sister has a handheld game.  No one has time for this girl who just wants someone to join her in flying a kite, riding her scooter or playing ball.

Finally, she wonders off to her room where she finds a bright red crayon.  First, she draws a magical door on her bedroom wall.  When she passes through it, she finds herself in a wooded land where the trees are hung with lanterns.

At a dock, she draws a boat and makes her way downstream.

Becker’s illustration are pen and ink enhanced with watercolor and are certainly not subdued.  Still the red things created by our young traveler stand out, vibrant and alive.

I don’t want to tell the entire story which would be easy to do — it is such an amazing and fun tale.  To keep it brief, in an act of bravery and generosity, she finds another young adventurer and together they create a bicycle that will allow them to explore the world together.

Wordless books can be tough to pull off but Becker’s images are rich without being overdone, giving the eye plenty to see while telling a very clear story.  With illustrations as rich as these, the book would definitely stand up to repeat “readings.”

This would be an excellent choice for the prereader or the reluctant reader in your life.  Either would benefit from enjoying a story that pulls them in and allows them to create the story for themselves.




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