August 29, 2017

Let Me Finish! by Minh Le, illustrated by Isabel Roxas

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 4:15 pm by suebe2

Let Me Finish!
by Minh Le
illustrated by Isabel Roxas

When our young hero sits down to read a long-awaited book, he is just getting started when someone comes along and tells him the ending. Time and time again, his reading is spoiled by someone who just can’t resist telling him all about it.  So he sets off in search of a quiet place to read.

If you’ve been reading my reviews for any length of time, you know how much I hate commenting on something that is going to spoil a book for the reader.  More than once, probably more than a dozen times, I’ve told you that you are going to have to go read the book for yourself to find out how it ends.

Guess what?  That’s the case with this one too because the author has created a fun twist for the ending.

The text is short and would make a great read aloud.  But be prepared for a lengthy discussion of the many ways that reading time can be ruined as well as what the boy should do to assure that both his time and his reading experience are respected.

Roxas illustrations are brightly colored and fanciful, adding a layer of silliness and fun to the story.  From the young reader clutching his new book to the birds and other animals swooping in to tell him all about it, the characters are both silly and expressive.

Anyone who has ever had their reading ruined by a plot spoiler is going to identify with this young character.  So will the reader who sits down to enjoy a book only to be interrupted, and interrupted, and again interrupted.  This book will make a great gift item for book lovers of all ages who consider their reading time special even if they have a hard time squeezing it in.



August 15, 2017

Hoot and Honk Just Can’t Sleep by Leslie Helakoski

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

Hoot and Honk Just Can’t Sleep
by Leslie Helakoski
Sterling Children’s Books

High winds blow and two eggs are blown out of two very different nests.  Mama Goose and Mama Owl each retrieve an egg and return to their nests.

When Hoot hatches among the goslings, it is clear something is different.  Hoot doesn’t like the bugs and seeds the others relish.  When they go to sleep at night, he’s ready for adventure.

Mama owl finds Hoot playing with the other owlets and they all return to the owl’s nest.  And that’s where Honk hatches.

Poor Honk is just as out-of-place as Hoot was.  Little mice for dinner? Yuck!  When they others go to sleep, he wonders off to see what is what. Not too worry.  He too finds his family.

The book ends with a neat little summary:

Night and day.
Wake or doze?
Some eyes open.
Some eyes close.

Neither way is right or wrong.  They are simply different.

I first came across this book in a discussion of STEM reading.  For those of you who may not know the term, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  It is a tag used to label books and curriculum that can help young learners understand science.  How can a fictional book do that?

A lot of people mistakenly think that STEM books are always nonfiction.  But fiction like Hoot and Honk can be an excellent jumping off point for discussing STEM topics.  In this cast, the book sets up a world of comparisons and contrasts.  What do the two types of birds eat?  When do they sleep?  Where are their nests?

It is also a beautiful book.  Helakoski’s art work, done in pastels, is richly colored.  The pastels create a look of slightly furred edges that make the chicks look fluffy and fuzzy  – like chicks.

This book is super short and rhymes which will make it a great read aloud for either an individual child or a group.  Use it to spark discussions of comparison and contrast, fitting in, and more.


August 10, 2017

Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jan Korase

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:36 pm by suebe2

Little OinkLittle Oink
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Jan Korase
Chronicle Books

I love picture books that contain surprises and this one did not disappoint.  Little Oink is, no surprise if you’ve looked at the cover, a pig.  He loves truffle hunting with his pig pals, going to school, and spending time with Mama and Papa.

What he doesn’t love is Mess Up Time.

You see Little Oink is anything but piggy.  He loves to keep his room neat and tidy – his clothes and his toys put away.  He makes his bed.  And his clothes are always spotless.

But he loves his Mama and Papa so after a bit of resistance he puts on a stained shirt and messes up his room.  Once he does this he’s free to climb up to his tree house and play.  So what does he play?  House!

Picture books about animal characters who want to be something other than their animal type are common enough.  Of course, I can’t think of any off the top of my head but I’m thinking about the tortoise who wants to be speedy fast or the hare that is slow and methodical.

That said, this is a must have because it is just so much fun.  Yes, you have the piggy who doesn’t want to be piggy.  But the irony of the Mama and Papa making the kiddo mess up his room will be appreciated by young readers and parents alike.   So will the fact that he wants to be just like his friends – his friends who clean their rooms!

Parents will also enjoy reading this one out loud.  “He dug playing with his pig pals” when they are rooting for truffles.  His room has to be a “total pigsty.”

Whether the young reader is a neat freak or neatness challenged, they will love the humor in this story.  Short and fast-paced it will make a fun read aloud as well as a jumping off point for discussions on individuality, respect, and more.


August 4, 2017

Simon’s New Bed by Christian Trimmer, illustrated by Melissa van der Paardt

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:21 am by suebe2

simons-new-bed-9781481430197_hrSimon’s New Bed
by Christian Trimmer
illustrated by Melissa van der Paardt
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Simon was having a great day.  The boy had just given him a new bed and Simon was ready for a great nap, the best nap ever.  First he just has to go for a quick walk.

Unfortunately, while he’s gone, the cat makes herself at home.  Not surprisingly, Miss Adora Belle refuses to budge.  In fact, she ignores Simon completely.

She ignores him as he barks his displeasure.

She ignores him as he drags the new bed outside and back in.

She refuses to be lured away.

She doesn’t even wiggle an ear when he begs.

Simon has just about given up when he hits on an idea.  “… How about we share?”  It isn’t that Simon really wanted to share but he understood the importance of picking his battles.

Okay, I’ll admit that when I read that line about picking battles, I cringed.  It is Simon’s bed.  This was a character not meeting his goal.

But wait a minute.  His goal was getting to nap on his new bed.  No, he didn’t get to do it as planned, but he did get to do it.

And isn’t this an issue that as a society we really need to grasp?  Not everything deserves to be a huge battle.  In fact, some things aren’t important enough to bother with at all.  And yet, people fuss.  They post on Facebook. They pick fights.  What they don’t do is look for a less confrontational solution.

I have to admit that the more I think about it, the more I like this book.  The cat is pure cat.  The dog is adorable and reminds me of Mudge.  Van der Paardt’s illustrated characters are so expressive and fun.

This is definitely a book to consider for your classroom or home.  Young readers are still learning the ins and outs of making space for themselves and others in this world and this book is sure to lead to some interesting conversations.  Readers with siblings will identify with Simon and, if they are being 100% honest with themselves, may identify with Miss Adora Belle as well.


August 3, 2017

The Dot by Peter Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:33 pm by suebe2

The Dot
written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds
Candlewick Press

Vashti has no doubt in her mind.  She cannot draw.  She cannot paint.  There’s no point in even picking up a marker.  That’s why at the end of class her page is once again blank.

When her teacher encourages her to just make a mark, Vashti jabs at the paper with a marker, leaving a dot.  Her teacher, such a smart lady, asks her to sign her work.

The next time Vashti comes to class, the signed dot is in a gorgeous frame hanging over the teacher’s desk.  What?  Vashti is certain that it is not the best dot she can make and sets out to do even better.  Soon she has filled page after page with a wide variety of dots.  My favorite is the dot she painted by not painting a dot.  The dot is negative (white) space and she has painted the background all around it.

At the end of the year is a school art show.  The display includes a huge number of Vashti’s dots.  A young fan comes up to her.  “I wish I could draw.”  Fortunately, Vashti has learned a thing or two about encouraging another frustrated artist.

This book is almost ten years old and I’m not really sure how I managed to miss it.  This would have been perfect for my son when he was in grade school.  He wasn’t a good artist and he knew it.  Fortunately a new art teacher arrived in 5th grade and he helped each child find their strength, much like the teacher in this book.

At less than 400 words, this would be an excellent book for story time and reading aloud.  It would also be an excellent launch for a discussion on belief and encouragement.  Just be sure to have plenty of art supplies and encouraging words ready to go, because everyone at some point in their lives needs a teacher like this.


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.



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