Monday, December 19, 2011

Just a Second

I had never heard of Steve Jenkins until about a month ago, but it seems now I keep seeing more and more of his books.  It is fun to find a new author - especially when they aren't actually new so there are lots of books to choose from.  Just a Second actually is new - it was just published in October of this year.  This is a book that catalogs time.  It tells the different things that can happen in just one second: a hummingbird beats its wings 50 times, a bee 200 times, a black mamba slithers 24 feet and a human can blink 7 times.

The book continues to go through minutes, hours and more extended periods of time.  Each double page spread is filled with facts - and each fact is accompanied by a simple illustration.  This book is fascinating.  Any child who has ever asked, "How long until . . . "  or "How long does it take to . . . " will love this book.  This book is interesting for all ages and especially fun for those who are just beginning to grasp time and how it passes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Books

I love The Polar Express.  It is one of those books I distinctly remember experiencing as a child.  I remember sitting on the orange carpet of the school library with my moon boots tucked neatly underneath.  I remember Mrs. McGlaughlin sitting at the front of the room with The Polar Express in one hand reading to us.   And I remember it was magical.  Still when I read it I want to run my hands over the beautiful illustrations and taste the chocolate-bar-thick hot chocolate – it is a book to be experienced. 

Now I love reading it to my own kids and cupping my hands over my mouth for the conductor to yell Merry Christmas.  And I love seeing how it is just as magical for them now as it was for me so many years ago.  While The Polar Express is one of my clear favorites we have been unwrapping a Christmas/winter related book every night to read and there are a lot of fun ones.  Here are just a few of our favorites: 

The story of a grandfather and his granddaughter and their first trip to the Nutcracker in the big city.

A Christmas Classic

The story of Rose and the children in the orphanage receiving oranges as a coveted, and only, Christmas present.

Perfect for those with a "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree.

We checked a lot of books out from the library and wrapped some of our own as well.  I am especially excited to unwrap Snowflake Bentley and The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - I have heard a lot about both but never read either.  

What are your favorites?

Monday, December 12, 2011


A friend of mine recently gave me a young adult novel to read - Matched by Ally Condie. I read it over the weekend and was quickly drawn into the plot and stayed up later than I should have reading it.

Matched tells the story of a dystopian society where everything is controlled for you under the guise that it makes life better.  You eat just enough to be healthy - no more,  your job is chosen based on attributes, you die peacefully when you are eighty-years-old and your spouse is perfectly matched for you.  The book starts with Cassia, recently turned 17, going to her match ceremony to find out who she will marry.  Typically your match will live in another city but Cassia is matched with Xander - her best friend and neighbor.  Xander and Cassia are very excited about this but when Cassia goes to put her match card in the computer it is not Xander's face that appears but rather another boy - Ky Markham - who also lives in her town and on her street.

This revelation causes Cassia to question her match - is Xander or Ky her perfect match?  And if her match is not perfect then is this society really perfect or simply controlling and taking away one's ability to choose?  As the book continues Cassia must decide who she loves and if she is willing to live in this society that restricts her ability to wonder.

Condie creates a very detailed and interesting dystopian society.  Her characters are compelling and bring the dilemma of choice or controlled happiness to the forefront.  Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I do take issue with part of the love triangle story but since this is the first book of a trilogy perhaps my issue will be resolved in a later book.

The second book - Crossed - was recently released in November and I am excited to read it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Family Storybook Treasury: Tales of Laughter Curiosity and Fun

I have mixed feelings about collections.  Part of me thinks, "Isn't that convenient - eight books in one?"  But there is another that wants to own each individual book.  I am usually a little torn.  But when I saw The Family Storybook Treasury, I was excited because of the fun variety of books that it includes:

Curious George and the Firefighters by Margret and H. A. Rey
Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh
Lyle Walks the Dogs by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Paulis Waber
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Margo Apple
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
The Great Doughnut Parade by Rebecca Bond
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

This is a varied and fun collection of stories and even includes a poem from one of my all-time favorite books of poetry: Guyku.  The stories are great and are reason enough to buy this book, but we have also loved the CD that comes with it. 

I love audio books.  We listen to them in the car when we are driving to lessons, the store, or around the block if we are really into a book.  My kids love to listen to them and don't complain when we drive - a real win for me. We often seem to have books that are a little more geared to my 6 year old daughter, so it has been fun to have a CD with stories that appeal both to my daughter and four year-old son.  And the fun thing about this collection is that we can bring the book into the car and they can look at the pictures while listening to the book.  

Another plus for collections . . . eight stories and only one book to bring in the car!  This book and CD combo would make a great Christmas gift!  Anyone have any other suggestions for great audio books?  

I was given a review copy of this book - however, all opinions are my own.


Sunday, December 4, 2011


Neville, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, is delightfully funny.  The story begins with a mother giving a young boy a pep talk after having just moved.  You can do it!  Go make friends!  But this boy is not buying it.  He sulks out the front door, walks down the street and yells at the top of his lungs, "Neville!" He keeps on yelling "Neville" until a little boy comes out of his house to help, then a little girl starts coaching him on how to yell better, and louder and more in unison.  Pretty soon all of the neighborhood kids are out yelling and searching for Neville - but he is no where to be found.  

This book is a clever take on being the new kid.  It is well written and very humorous.  The illustrations fit the tone of the story perfectly.  I really enjoyed this book and think kids will love it too.  This is the perfect gift for a friend who is moving - but regardless of whether a child is recently moved or permanently placed - all will love Norton Juster's latest book.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: How the Sphinx got to the Museum

Welcome to Non-Fiction Monday!  Throughout the day I will add links to posts about non-fiction books across the web.

I picked up Jessie Hartland's How the Sphinx got to the Museum at the library because the cover looked fun and intriguing.  The book details a sphinx's journey from being commissioned by Hatshepsut to ending up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It goes through the small details of the journey from the sculptor creating it, the jealous stepson destroying it, the archaeologist finding it and putting it back together, and the riggers moving it.  It is written in a cumulative style - with every page going through each step - back to being ordered by the Pharaoh.  This really helps to cement each steps.

I really like this book - I think it is informative in a very accessible way.  It shows, in great detail, how much work goes into getting a single piece of art into a museum.  Before you head to a museum - especially the Met - pick this book up and read it with your kids.  I think they will see the museum in a whole new light.

If you have a non-fiction post - add your link and a brief description and I will add your post below.

A Teaching Life- I review a book (one of a series) about princesses from long ago and far away who were way ahead of their times in terms of self empowerment and social justice.

Do celebrate big jazz band with us over at GatheringBooks as we feature Marilyn Nelson and Jerry Pinkney's "Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-girl Swing Band in the World" for Nonfiction Monday

Playing by the Book - I review one of the books shortlisted for this year's Royal Society Young People's Book Prize, The Story of Astronomy and Space. I also show how you can create a to-scale solar system in your back garden!

NC Teacher Stuff reviews  Hey Diddle Diddle: A Food Chain Tale - a story detailing the food chain. 

The Nonfiction Detectives have a review of Coral Reefs by Jason Chin today.

Ms. Yingling Reads reviews two WWII books today.  

Prose and Kahn - I finally got to the book How They Croaked. 

Wrapped in Foil - I reviewed a biography of Dan Eldon written for teens. 
Wild About Nature blog reviewed Over in the Meadow by Jan Thornhill this week.

Delightful Children's Books - I have a booklist of 10 great books about snow, each with a short review. As with all my booklists, I recommend a mixture of fiction and nonfiction books about a theme. The two nonfiction books on this list are Building an Igloo by Ulli Steltzer and Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Mary Azarian. 

The Swimmer Writer - My selection for this week's blog is Black Elk's Story: a Lakota Story by S. D. Nelson. This first person narrative tells the story of Black Elk, a medicine man, who was the cousin of Crazy Horse.

At The Fourth Musketeer I have a new picture book biography in free verse of ballerina Alicia Alonso.

Jean Little Library - I've got a review of Off to Class by Susan Hughes, about schools around the world.

At Geo Librarian, I am highlighting a book about archeology called Cities of the Dead: Finding Lost Civilizations.

Jeanne Walker Harvey -  True Tales & A Cherry On Top goes back in time with Joan of Arc exquisitely illustrated by Demi.
Biblio File - I'm in with the Cybils nominated Mysteries of Angkor Wat.

Apples with many Seeds - I've posted about Jacqueline Briggs Martin's book The Chiru of High Tibet. 

At SimplyScience, I have MyPlate and You about the new food guidelines for kids. Thank you for hosting.

At Bookends, Cindy and I have a review of Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson.

Chapter Book of the Day reviews Taylor Swift by Anita Yasuda *and* Picture Book of the Day reviews Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza (Author) and Don Tate (Illustrator).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Today the movie Hugo is out in theaters.  It is a Martin Scorsese adaptation of Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret - and it looks awesome. In September I heard Brian Selznick speak at the National Book Festival and he said he was very pleased with the movie and that when he met Scorsese on the set Scorsese had his book in hand.  I am reposting my previous review of the book along with the movie clip.  I am hoping that I can sneak away sometime this weekend to see it . . . 

I love picture books.  I always feel a little sad when I hear parents say "My child has outgrown picture books - they read chapter books now."  I strongly believe that one should never outgrow picture books.  Although as we grow older we will add chapter books, young adult novels and Dickens' classics to our reading repertoire - picture book reading does not need to end.  There is a lot to be gained from reading not only the text on the page but the pictures as well.


One picture book that I love, and is clearly written for an older audience, is the 2008 Caldecott winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brain Selznick.  This is a 500 page picture book.  It tells the story of a young orphan boy named Hugo who keeps the time in an old train station.  No one knows that it is Hugo who keeps the time - it is his uncle's job - and he must remain hidden to keep the job - and thus shelter and food.   But when Hugo crosses paths with a young girl and a grumpy old man from the toy shop in the train station the mystery of a drawing from his deceased father begins to unravel.

The story goes between text and extended pages of black and white pencil drawings with incredible detail. In order to read this story both the text and pictures must be read for the complete story to come together.  Selznick's illustrations are amazing as is the way he combines the text and illustrations to create the whole.

I think this book would be great for children 8 or older and adults.  It is a fantastic picture book. But whether you pick up The Invention of Hugo Cabret or A Sick Day for Amos Magee - I hope you feel as I do.  That one is never too old for a good picture book.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Do you Do with a Tail Like This?

A bookseller recently introduced me to one of her favorite authors - Steve Jenkins.  I had never seen anything by him but his book What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?  won me over in a hurry.  In fact, I bought it for my four-year-old son for Christmas - he loves animals and will be thrilled.  

This is a picture book that looks at various animals based on different body parts and how they use them.    For example, it will ask "What do you do with a nose like this?"  On that page are illustrations of different animal noses - then on the next page it shows the entire bodies of all the animals and explains how they use their noses.  Hyenas find their next meal, elephants give themselves baths and alligators breath through their noses while hiding under the water.  

The illustrations in this book are very fun and the set-up of only showing part of the animals first creates a fun guessing element to the text.  The ratio of text to illustration is the perfect amount to captivate the child audience and at the end of the book there is even more information on each animal.  

This is a fun and informative book that kids will love - a perfect gift for animal lovers.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holiday Gifts

Over at kirtsy I have a slide show of a few (a very few) of my favorite books to give as holiday gifts - check them out!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mouse and Lion

While perusing my favorite independent bookstore, I found a beautiful rendition of Aesop's fable of the lion and the mouse entitled Mouse and Lion written by Rand Burkert and illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert.  Jerry Pinkney won the Caldecott in 2009 for his rendition - The Lion and the Mouse - a nearly wordless picture book depicting the traditional story.  The illustrations are breathtaking.  Even coming on the heels of this Caldecott winner, Mouse and Lion is fantastic.

Mouse and Lion tells the story largely from the viewpoint of the mouse - hence the switch in the order of the names.  The text tells of a brave Mouse - who climbs mountains and fights blades of grass.  The Lion is prideful but amused by the small - and clearly not brave - Mouse so he lets him free.  When the Mouse ultimately saves the Lion his bravery is celebrated and the Lion's viewpoint of the world is changed.

The illustrations match the text in detail and description.  The muted colors and detailed illustrations bring to life the Mouse and his bravery - both in standing up to and saving the Lion.  Nancy Ekholm Burkert's illustrations could tell the story on their own - but the addition of the text makes the story even stronger.

At the end of the book Rand Burkert writes, "In most productions of this fable, Lion's name appears first on the marquee.  It is not clear why this should be, when Mouse clearly performs the lion's share of the work."  This book certainly celebrates Mouse in Aesop's well known tale.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


When I looked at the clock last night after I turned off my lamp it read 12:50.  I got in bed with the intention of just reading a little more of Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck but could not put it down.  Needless to say the little voices chatting at 6 a.m. came awfully early this morning (curse daylight savings!).  But it was worth it.

Wonderstruck tells two separate stories- one exclusively through illustrations (Rose) and the other through text (Ben).  Rose and Ben are both in New York City for much of their story so some of the images seen by Ben are shown in Rose's story - only 50 years earlier.  Rose lives in 1927 and has scrapbooks full of pictures of a famous actress - Lillian Mayhew, while Ben lives in 1977 and is in search of his father.

Brian Selznick's illustrations are simply amazing.  Since Rose's story is told only through illustrations - the reader must read the illustrations carefully to follow her story.   The black and white pencil drawings are incredibly detailed and emotionally vivid.  I was really drawn into her story.  Ben's story is also intriguing. The text is well written and Ben's story is also emotionally charged.  Selznick weaves the details of the two stories together into a wonderful conclusion.

This is a fantastic book and would make a great Christmas gift.  It is for a little older audience - perhaps 8 or 9 and older.  Age range is always hard to pin down because it really varies from child to child.  The story as a whole is impressive but the illustrations, for me, are what bring the emotion of this story to the forefront.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Seasons by Blexbolex is a very retro look at the seasons.  It is all illustrations with one word descriptions in large, thick, pink block letters at the top.  The book begins with four illustrations - all the same - but altered for each season: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  The book continues on to have images that are reminiscent of each season - they are randomly ordered, not going through each season in turn.  

Blexbolex is from France and studied screen printing in school.  The book contains grainy, colorful print images that vary from simple to wonderfully detailed.  The artwork is really fantastic.  I think this book would be very fun to look at with a young child pointing out simple items and naming them.  I think it would also be interesting for an older child who loves art to see a different medium done very well.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gator or Croc?

The last time we went to the library my four-year-old son came home with two non-fiction books that he picked.  With pictures of a crocodile and koala on the front of them I can see why he was so excited. 

 The first book was Gator or Croc? by Allan Fowler and it is a part of the Rookie Read-About Science series.  This book is great because it is filled with pictures of crocodiles and alligators with simple text.  The book uses the pictures and text together to demonstrate the difference between alligators and crocodiles - you can see the bottom teeth of a crocodile when its jaws are closed - you can't on alligators.  My son has asked for this book to be read numerous times - it has been fun to learn more about alligators and crocodiles.  I definitely will look for more books in this series at the library.  

The second book he chose was Koala by Edana Eckart - a part of the Scholastic Welcome Books: Animals of the World.  We also really enjoyed this book.  My son was very excited to learn that koalas have some similarities to kangaroos.  This is also filled with great pictures and simple text - more simple and less words than the other series.   

These short books are a great way to learn about a variety of subjects in a quick, informative and interesting way.  I think my son was especially excited about them because he picked them off of the shelf himself.  I think the limited text is key for the preschool age group - a lot of text would have lost my son's attention - but these were perfect.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ruby the Red Fairy

I confess.  I can be somewhat of children's literature snob.  All books are not created equal - some are definitely better than others.  And in general I try to fill my blog with books that I think are great.  There are also ones that my children generally like as well.  However, there are many books that my children love - that are - well - not my favorite.

I was not always a children's literature snob.  As a child I read very few of the books I now deem as great books.  My favorite series was The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin.   I loved these books.  I remember many nights staying up late into the night, reading by the light of my lamp, to finish "just one more chapter" and then "just one more . . ."  While this series certainly is not going to go down in history as "great literature" to pass on from generation to generation - they did something very important for me - and I am sure many other young girl readers:  they cultivated in me a love for reading.

What The Babysitters Club was for me The Rainbow Fairies is for my daughter.  She picked out one at the library and read it in a weekend.  After finishing it she started looking at the pictures of all of the other fairies and deciding which ones she liked best, wanting to know which ones I liked best, and trying to decide which ones she needed to read next.  Hallie the Halloween fairy usually does not come for a few days after Halloween allowing our kids to have a few days to enjoy some of their candy.  My daughter put her candy out on the night of Halloween with a note for Hallie asking for Ruby the Red Fairy - she did not want to miss Hallie and her chance to get her new fairy book.

Hallie came through in the clutch and brought Ruby the Red Fairy.  The fairy books follow two friends - Rachel and Kirsty as they help fairies in fairyland solve - fill in the blank: lost fairies, lost pets of fairies, etc.  The stories are written by Daisy Meadows - which is really just a pen name for five different writers who write the books.

And while these books are most certainly not my favorite - I am thrilled about them.  Because they are cultivating a love for reading in my daughter.  And isn't that the most important thing we can do for young children - help them cultivate a lifelong love of reading?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Halloween Fairy

We are big into fairies around here.  My son even likes fairies although I think he envisions them a little different than my daughter.  Some of the trees around here drop small, sharp sticks that are perfectly shaped like fairy swords and my son finds them and leaves them for the fairies.  His fairies are slightly more violent than fancy like my daughters.

A few days after Halloween a fairy visits our house - Hallie.  Our kids eat candy for a few days and then leave their bags out for Hallie and she takes their candy and leaves them books in return.  And she usually leaves a couple of their pieces of candy as well - she's nice like that.

This year Hallie brought my son an Elephant and Piggie Book - Happy Pig Day by Mo Willems.

Both of my kids love the Elephant and Piggie series - but my son especially thinks they are hilarious.  Pig and Elephant have such a funny friendship and the illustrations really play off of that.  These are great early readers for kids and just as fun for read-alouds.  After I put my kids down at night I often hear them chatting and my daughter reading a story to her younger brother - and I think this is going to be a new go-to for her to read to him.

It is nice to be nearly candy free today and excited about new books!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  Today I will be out enjoying the fall leaves and trick-or-treating with a flapper girl, Dragon Man and a sweet Bumblebee.  Here are two fall and/or Halloween books that we have been enjoying the past few weeks:

At our children's library, they always have a seasonal display of books, and the last time we visited, one of my children grabbed Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington. This is an older book - published in 1986 - but we have loved it.  The text is very simple and aimed at a young audience.  The illustrations are beautiful and open the age range of this picture book to an older audience than the text would alone. The story and illustrations take you on a journey from a pumpkin seed to a jack-o-lantern in a very straightforward and unassuming way.

On of our favorite Halloween books is Sheep Trick or Treat by Nancy Shaw.  This book was given to my daughter by her grandmother as a Halloween gift a few years ago and has been well loved.  My four-year-old son especially thinks this book is hilarious.  It is a simple rhyming scheme with fun illustrations that tell the story of the barn yard animals dressing up and trick-or-treating for Halloween.  It is fun to see the costumes and what the different animals give out as "treats."  This is a great Halloween book for a younger audience.

Happy Halloween!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Guyku A Year of Haiku for Boys

On our latest library trip I picked up a copy of Guyku A Year of Haiku for Boys written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.  We have a lot of "fancy" books at our house and this looked like a fun celebration of being a boy.  It did not disappoint.

The book is a series of haiku poems for each season of the year.  Bob Raczka writes at the end of the book why he wrote this book about haiku for guys: "Because a haiku is an observation of nature, and nature is a place where guys love to be."  One of my favorite haikus comes in the spring section -

If this puddle could
talk, I think it would tell me
to splash my sister.  

I love that haiku - my brothers would have loved to do that and I can see my son hopping on that puddle as well.  This is a very fun way to enjoy poetry with your boys.  I think haikus are very unassuming.  I read this book to my 4-year-old son and after I finished it he asked me to immediately read it again. And we did.  He really enjoyed it.  However, my husband saw the book on the table and picked it up and he LOVED it.  The haikus are very reminiscent of a type of boy childhood that my husband definitely experienced.  So while it is fun for the younger audience I think it might be even more enjoyable for older boys (or men) to laugh at the ways they enjoy(ed) nature. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Winner of Razzle Dazzle Ruby Giveaway

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway!  Using an online random number generator - the winners are :
5 - The Weed Family 
 6 - Rosalyn Irene  

Email me at with your addresses to get your books!  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Award Friday - Animals of the Bible

My posting has been sparse this week because my mother is in town and we have been busy "projecting" - painting bookcases and dressers, rearranging the front room and making halloween costumes.  I get so much done when my mom is in town!

Remember to enter the giveaway for Razzle Dazzle Ruby - it ends at midnight tonight.

I have decided to start a weekly post on Fridays focusing on an award winning book.  It may be any type of award winning book - but I am going to begin by focusing on the Caldecott Medal.

The Caldecott Medal began in 1938.  In 1937, Frederic Melcher suggested they create a new award to honor the artist of the most distinguished picture book of the previous year.  It was named after Randolph Caldecott who was one of the three most influential illustrators in England in the 19th century.  If you are interested in the history of the medal you can read more here.

The first winner of this award was given to Animals of the Bible - illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop with text selected by Helen Dean Fish from the King James Bible.  The illustrations are black and white pencil drawings and are incredibly detailed.  There is a lot of shading that really makes the images stand out.  These are beautiful drawings, and the work set a great precedent for this award.  The text are selections from the Old and New testament that focus on animals.  Despite being more than 70 years old, this is still a great book today for those who want to read stories from the Old and New testament with their children and enjoy beautiful, award winning illustrations.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If You See a Fairy Ring

One of my favorite fairy books is If You See A Fairy Ring illustrated by Susanna Lockheart.  This is a fun collection of fairy poems by authors from Shakepeare to Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The illustrations are wonderfully detailed, beautiful watercolor paintings.  Some of the pages open up and the little paper slats move to show a new image.  

I think this is a great introduction to poetry for younger children.  The poems are fun, light hearted and short and accompanied by engaging illustrations.  My favorite poem in the collection is one by Shakespeare:

If you see a fairy ring
Near a field of grass,
Very lightly step around,
Tiptoe as you pass;
Last night fairies frolicked there,
And they're sleeping somewhere near.
If you see a tiny fae
Lying fast asleep,
Shut your eyes and run away,
Do not stay or peep;
And be sure you never tell,
Or you'll break a fairy spell. 

In Wilmington, Delaware they have a beautiful estate and gardens called Winterthur. In the gardens there is a small portion that is an enchanted woods created by fairies.  They have created a fairy ring there - a circle of large mushrooms - and have this poem printed nearby.  It is a fairy lovers dream.  It is a must see in Delaware, just as this book is a must-have for all fairy lovers.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen

I have become friends with my local children's librarian and she has suggested some great titles - one of which is Aunt Lucy's Kitchen written by Cynthia Rylant.   The writing style is geared towards early confident readers who are moving on to chapter books but it is much shorter than your typical chapter book.  I think that 5 or 6 to 9 year-old girls would love this book and series.

It is definitely geared towards girls - it is a story of three girls - two sisters and a cousin who are living with their Aunt Lucy while their parents are away dancing.  They live in an attic room upstairs and each girl has their own dedicated space in the wide open room.  They decide to start a cookie club business where they make and deliver cookies to people in the neighborhood.  Through this new found business they create some unexpected friendships.

This is a very simple and short story.  The characters and plot are not fully developed but I think it is  a very fun simple read.  My 6 year-old daughter is reading it and loves it. It is fun at her stage of a reading to have a chapter book that she can confidently and quickly read on her own.  I am excited to check out the rest of the series for her . . . and me!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette


The Penderwicks -this is definitely my favorite series I have read in a while.  At the start of the summer, I read the first Penderwick story and loved it.  A couple of weeks back, I read The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and I enjoyed it - but not as much as the first one. And I just barely finished the third book - The Penderwicks at Point Mouette - and, I think it is my favorite of the three.
I read Gardam Street a little bit ago so I am mostly going to focus on the third novel - but this is a fun one.  Mr. Penderwick begins dating, and the girls try to find horrible dates for him so he will want to stop.  Rosalind can not figure out her friendship with her best friend Tommy.  Skye and Jane swap homework assignments and must deal with the mess that results, and Batty befriends the new next door neighbors - Iantha and her son Ben.  

Point Mouette takes place in Maine at a beach house in the summer time.  Rosalind is off in New Jersey with her friend Anna and Mr. Penderwick and his new wife have gone to England for a conference/honeymoon.  So Skye, Batty, Jane, Aunt Claire and Jeffrey go for two weeks to Maine.  With Rosalind gone, Skye is left in charge as the OAP (oldest available Penderwick) - which leaves everyone nervous - most especially Skye.  The book weaves together stories of late night summer bonfires, broken hearts, new dreams and collecting lost golf balls while searching for moose.  

I feel like this novel really brought the three younger sisters - and Jeffrey - to life for me.  With Rosalind around (whom I love) the other sisters' stories were a little overshadowed and in this book all three of them "grew up" a little and their stories were front and center.  I guessed the major plot point from the start, but that did not leave me feeling that it was too predictable; rather I was excited to read more to see how it would unfold.  I thought that Birdsall wrote it in a way that was much more real and true to the emotions than I anticipated.  

This is a fantastic series and I highly recommend it!  This is definitely middle grade fiction - probably for around 8 to 12 year olds.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Room on the Broom

I love the fall - crisp weather, long pants, pumpkins and leaves.  Growing up holidays were always a big deal in my family.  Every year my mom would collect dead branches and make a Halloween tree, cook chili and have a witches cauldron filled with apple juice and bubbling with dry ice.  So I especially love Halloween.

Great holiday books can sometimes be hard to come by but we love Room on the Broom written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.  It tells the story of a friendly witch who always finds more room on her broom for her friends - until it finally snaps.  When the witch lands she is faced with a dragon and her friends are no where to be seen.

The story and illustrations are simple but fun.  The story has a light rhyming rhythm to it and is a fun Halloween book to read with kids.  So if you are in search of a Halloween read - this is our favorite one we have found.  Do you have any favorites?

Thursday, September 29, 2011


The Cybils is a literary award given to children's and young Adult books by bloggers.  I am excited to be a judge for the fiction picture book award this year!  Here are the different categories in which awards are given:

Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Non-Fiction Picture Books
Non-Fiction: Middle Grade & Young Adult
Young Adult Fiction

You can go to the Cybils website from October 1st through the 15th and nominate one book in each category.  There are then two rounds of judging.  The first round takes all of the nominations - reads them - and narrows them down to a short list.  A lot of work!  The second round (that is me) takes the short list - reads and discusses them - and picks the winner.  I am so excited to be a part of this process.  I love picture books.  

On the Cybils website they are listing this week the judges and their blogs - a great resource for new blogs!  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Adele and Simon

A friend recently gave me a copy of Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock.  This book is set in Paris and the illustrations are charming.  It tells the story of Adele and her little brother Simon meandering through the city on their way home.  At the start of the story Simon has: his hat, gloves, scarf and sweater, his coat, knapsack, books and crayons, and a drawing of a cat.  Adele tells him, "Simon, please try not to lose anything today."  But over the course of the story Simon loses everything - one page at a time.

The text is very simple and the illustrations are very detailed.  They are done in a vintage style with the end pages containing maps from a 1907 Baedeker map.  The illustrations are each of a specific place in Paris and at the end of the book it describes the location and tells more about it.  Also on the map are numbers that correlate with the locations that Adele and Simon visit so you can see where their route takes them on the map.

I think this book is a great exercise in learning to "read" the illustrations.  It is not like a typical seek-and-find with millions of items on a page with the reader's assignment being to track down the few items amidst the chaos.  Those books are fun in their own right - but this is a book with beautiful and detailed illustrations - that stand alone.  However on each page, when Simon loses an item the reader can find it hidden in the illustration.

This book is wonderfully detailed and my kids and I loved looking through the pictures and searching for Simon's (which we pronounce See - moan - it sounds so much more French than Sigh -mon) lost items.  Also if you have a free moment you should check out Barbara McClintock's website - it is very vintage and fun.  I especially loved reading about how she became an illustrator - she looked up Maurice Sendak's phone number in the phone book and called him for advice!  

Monday, September 26, 2011

National Book Festival - Recap

On Saturday, we went to the National Book Festival, and it was fantastic.  Fall on the mall is great in and of itself - and was even more fun this time because it was filled with people, tents, books and authors.  There is something wonderful about a festival dedicated entirely to books.  Here are some of the highlights:

My 6-year-old daughter and I listened to Tomie DePaula.  We found one open seat on the back row with people crowded around us standing.  My daughter had to stand on the chair to see but she was thrilled.  Tomie's presentation summed up was fun and familiar.  He has a great sense of humor, and it felt like we were listening to a long lost friend.  He spent a good amount of time teaching the audience how to blow three kisses (like Strega Nona did to her pasta pot) like a real italian: hold your first three fingers together, press them up to your heavily puckered lips, say mmmmmm really loud and long - then blow.  At the end he took questions, and my daughter bee-lined to the microphone and asked him the following question:  "I want to be an artist when I grow up - how did you learn to make good art?"  His answer was great.  Kind of.  He said that he went to art school and drew a lot.  He got paper and crayons for Christmas and he drew everywhere - on his sheets, on the walls, under the wallpaper.  Practice, practice, practice, he said.  And never copy anyone.  Great advice - let's just hope I am not bleaching sheets and scrubbing walls . . .

Brian Selznick was engaging and fascinating.  I can not wait to read his new book Wonderstruck.  The amount of research he put into it is simply amazing.  He explained the process of creating two completely separate stories - one with words only, the other with pictures only, and then making the two intersect at the end.  He said that Wonderstruck begins with illustrations, which tell the story of a character named Rose.  Then there is text, which tells the story of a second character named Ben.  And at some point the two stories come together.  As he spoke about the process, I could not help but be completely taken in.  I also found particularly impressive his acknowledgment of the sign language interpreters.  At the start of his presentation he took the time to thank her and introduce her by name.   If you have the chance to listen to Brian Selznick, I highly recommend it.

Our final author was Jane O'Connor.  She was at the family story telling stage so she did not have a presentation about her work but rather read her latest story to the crowd.  She did tell about her inspiration for her books - herself as a child.  And she was fancy.  She came adorned with lots of bracelets, a pink boa and a tiara.  She was very fun and my son and daughter both enjoyed listening to her read - although my daughter may have appreciated her "fanciness" a little more . . .

All in all it was a huge success, and my kids and I are already looking forward to next year.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Press Here

Originally published in France,  Herve Tullet’s Press Here is a very fun and interactive picture book.  The illustrations are simply dots – red, yellow and blue - and the text is basically instructions.  The story begins with one yellow dot – but push that dot and you have two yellow dots, press it again and you have three.  Then the fun really begins.  The reader is instructed to push and rub dots, shake and tilt the book and clap – all of which have an effect on the dots.  Whether the dynamic dots multiple, increase in size, or shake almost all the way off the page – kids will be thrilled. 

I brought Press Here in for a two-year-old friend to look at while we waited during a gymnastics class, and she was giddy about this book.  My four-year-old son also loved it.  I haven’t tried it out yet on my six-year-old yet but I think she will enjoy it as well.  And at the very least, I think she will love to play up the “magic” of the book when reading it to her brother and sister. 

This is a great book for a variety of ages but is especially magical for a younger audience.  I think it's going to be one of my new go-to gifts for two-year-olds.   

Monday, September 19, 2011


Argus is a new picture book written by Michelle Knudsen (The Library Lion) and illustrated by Andrea Wesson.  Sally begins a science project in Mrs. Henshaw's class, and when she is handed her egg, it is different from the others.  Not surprisingly, when the eggs crack, Sally's "chick" is - well - different. Everyone in the class has small, yellow,  fluffy chicks and Sally's is large, green and scaly.  When Sally points out that her "chick" - Argus - is different, Mrs. Henshaw tells her, "don't be difficult."  

The text tells the story of Sally dealing with being different from everyone in a very simple, straightforward and quietly humorous way.  The text leaves room for the illustrations to tell their own story.  And while the text largely tells the story of Sally, the illustrations speak mostly of Argus.  The watercolor drawings fill the classroom with details of daily school life and bring Argus's personality to the forefront.  

This is a sweet and funny story of being different.  Children will love Argus - the green, scaly "chick."

Friday, September 16, 2011

National Book Festival

I am very excited.  Next weekend on the 24th and 25th of September is the National Book Festival on the mall in downtown DC.  We took our kids last year and had so much fun.  The Let's Read Pavilion Tent is dedicated entirely to children and reading related activities - my kids loved this tent.  And while my husband and children enjoyed an activity in there I got to stand on the outside of a very crowded tent and listen to Suzanne Collins - author of The Hunger Games.  Everyone was happy.  

I am starting to do my research on which authors are coming and what times they are presenting.  With kids, we definitely can only hit a few highlights.  Brian Selznick and Kadir Nelson will both be there and have both just recently published a new book.  I would LOVE to take my kids to see Tomie dePaolo - Strega Nona and Bill and Pete are definite favorites at our house.  And Jane O'Connor will be at the Family Storytelling Stage - my daughter, who is a lover of all things fancy, would love to listen to her. And those are just a few of the many great children's authors.  Not to mention all of the other genres represented.  Ahh, book festivals.  I love them.  

How about you?  Have you ever been to your local book festival?  If not, I highly recommend looking one up and attending.  I love it as an adult but I also think it is a great way to encourage reading with children.  What is more fun than meeting an author of a story you love?