Thursday, December 20, 2012

Starry River of the Sky

The month of December is quickly passing and somehow Christmas is just around the corner.  If you are like me you are frantically finishing up the last loose ends of shopping and so I thought I would post about one of our latest reads in case the last thing on your list is a great book.  Starry River of the Sky is Grace Lin's latest book and is considered a companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

Starry River of the Sky features Rendi a young boy who has run away from home and is working as a helping hand at the inn in the Village of Clear Sky.  It is a village where nothing is quite right.  Master Chao, the innkeeper, and Widow Yang are always fighting, Peiyi and Rendi don't get along and her brother is gone to who knows where.  Mr. Shan is a permanent guest at the inn who appears clueless and forgetful but every so often makes a comment that makes Rendi question how crazy he really is.  And the moon.  It is missing. But only Rendi seems to notice its absence and the loud crying that comes every night.

But one day Madame Chang comes to stay as a guest at the inn and with her arrival begins the telling of enchanting tales.  The stories are craftily woven throughout the book, each bearing significance in the greater story and the unraveling of the conclusion.  And for the readers of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, some of the tales will ring familiar.

Grace Lin's lyrical writing creates a magical story that left my kids begging for "just one more" chapter each night.  And the complexity of plot combined with the beautiful writing made me more than happy to oblige.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

For the past month and a half our nights have been filled with Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  It was published in 2009 and was a Newbery Honor recipient. Our local librarian recommended it as a great book for my seven-year-old so we read it aloud one (or two, or three or more) chapter a night. My five-year-old came in and out of listening - but in the end both really loved this book.

Minli lives at the foot of Fruitless Mountain in a small shack with her Ma and Ba.  Her life is filled with hard work, sparse rice and nightly folktale stories by her Ba.  When Minli hears the story of the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answers to life's most important questions, she decides to leave in the middle of the night to seek him out and change her fortune.

The story follows her journey to meet the Old Man of the Moon and the many adventures she encounters.  Along the way she meets Dragon, who can not fly and has only ever been called Dragon.  He decides to join Minli and ask the Old Man of the Moon to help him fly.  Along the way they encounter a monkey filled jungle, a meeting with the King, and a ferocious green tiger, among other things.

This story is well-written and magical.  I love the folktales that are intertwined throughout the main story.  Each story adds to the mystique of the novel as well as being an important part of the final woven tale.  My daughter fell in love with this story and with Grace Lin as an author.  She is on a quest to read all things Grace Lin and whenever she hears a big, seemingly unanswerable, question she says, "That is a question for the Old Man of the Moon."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Who Could that be at this Hour?"

Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) has struck again with his latest book "Who Could That Be at This Hour?"  I enjoyed this book from start to finish and loved the quirky characters from the elusive Ellington to the car driving duo Pip  (who sits on the yellow pages and works the wheel) and Squeak (who sits on the floor and pushes the brakes.)

A young Lemony Snicket, 12-years-old to be exact, has taken his first case as an apprentice to one Miss  S. Theodora Markson.  There was a list of 52 chaperones and of said chaperones S. Theodora Markson was 52nd but as Lemony said, "She was not excellent at her job, and this was why I wanted to be her apprentice."

Lemony ends up at Stain'd-by-the-Sea - a deserted town, with a drained sea.  They take their first case in procuring and returning The Bombinating Beast to its rightful owner, presumably Mrs. Murphy Sallis.  As the story unravels it becomes clear why S. Theodora Markson is not great at her job and the case is further complicated.  The Bombinating Beast does not appear to be Mrs. Murphy Sallis' and Snicket and Markson are not the only ones after it. Meanwhile everyone seems to be asking all the wrong questions.

As is to be expected from author Lemony Snicket, this is a great read.  Snicket has a quick witted edge to his style of writing that is not to be duplicated.  The characters are interesting and varied and at the story's end, the reader will have more questions unanswered than when she began.  This is the first of what will be a four book series and while it does not have the biting darker edge that the Unfortunate Events series does it delivers the same quirky and fun tone that readers will love.

I highly recommend this for the middle graders on your list this holiday season.

I received this book from the publisher but all opinions are my own.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Iron Hearted Violet

I just finished Kelly Barnhill's latest novel Iron Hearted Violet.  It is a longer novel - over 400 pages - aimed at a middle grade audience.  The hook on the cover says, "The end of their world begins with a story.  This one."

Violet is an intelligent, determined, adventurous, but not very pretty, Princess who is beloved by her kingdom.  Her best friend is a stable boy, Demetrius, who is constant and kind and loves to explore with Violet.  When Violet's father, King Randall, sets out with a party on a quest to capture the last living dragon everything begins to unravel.  Violet's mother falls sick and Violet begins exploring the hidden corners and takes a book, a forbidden book, through which she begins communicating with the Nybbas - the evil 13th God.   With the Nybbas trying to escape his imprisonment and gain power - the world as they know it hangs in the balance.  Violet, Demetrius and the Dragon must work together to try and keep the Nybbas from overtaking their world.

This is a beautifully written book.  Barnhill weaves together internal stories to create a complete tale and an interesting and appealing world.  The story has many facets to it and touches on some more serious themes on its way to a emotionally conflicting ending.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Violet and Demetrius.  The realness of their friendship was one of the keys for me that carried the book.  In the middle of the book Violet becomes very unlikeable, perhaps too flawed, but it is this relationship and the hope associated with it that carried me through waiting for Violet to grow and develop.

The story is told by the master storyteller of the kingdom - Cassian.  The telling, and sometimes lack of telling, of stories is essential to the plot at large so I can see why Barnhill choose this point of view.  At the same time I sometimes felt this to be a little too intrusive and would have preferred a younger narrator with less overall knowledge.  It would have helped, specifically in the middle of the story, to have known Violet on a more personal level and seen the world through her eyes.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable read set in a complex world.  I think the character development could have been stronger, but that the development of the world and its stories was very strong and created an interesting setting for a story that twists and turns to a hopeful, although not happy, ending.

I received this book from the publisher but all opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Quiet Book

My baby just turned two.  Hard to believe.  She had a fun balloon filled birthday and she thought it was fantastic.  Her grandmother sent out a birthday package and inside was Deborah Underwood's The Quiet Book.  This book was new to us and we loved reading through it.

The entire book is understated.  On a two page spread, one page is simple with a white background while the other has a more detailed illustrations and background.  Each page has a huggable furry animal with a one line sentence telling about some kind of quiet: "Hide and seek quiet," "Last one to get picked up from school quiet,""First snowfall quiet."

With few words, this book is able to bring forward the varying emotions that can come along with quiet: excited, sad, scared, awe, naughty and peaceful.  This is a great book to read through slowly and I am sure will be enjoyed in our house amidst all of the varying degrees of quiet.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Three Tales of My Father's Dragon

We recently drove out to a pumpkin patch to gather some pumpkins for Halloween carving.  With a pumpkin patch, corn maze, and stalks of popcorn, it was a huge hit.  My kids have been enthralled with placing a stalk of popcorn in a paper bag and sticking the bag in the microwave, only to remove an empty stalk and bag full of popcorn.  And truthfully, I have been equally enthralled.

The farm we went to was very fun but was also a fair drive from our home so we brought the audio version of Three Tales of My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett with us to aid in the passing of time.  And pass the time it did.  We listened there and back and my kids insisted on bringing the cd in the house to finish it when we got home.

Originally published in 1948, My Father's Dragon was a Newbery Honor book.  Gannett published two subsequent novels about Elmer Elevator - Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland - and these three stories are compiled into the commemorative edition Three Tales of My Father's Dragon.

The son of Elmer Elevator is the narrator who tells of his father's adventures traveling to the Island of Tangerina, on to Wild Island and back home again.  In the first story Elmer sets off to find and free a Dragon, the second to return Elmer home and in the third Boris, the dragon, sets off to Blueland to be reunited with his family.

All three of the stories are a great introduction to fantasy tales for a younger audience.  And while I enjoyed listening to all three -  I must say the first was my favorite.  Elmer sets off on his adventure with a knapsack filled with: "chewing gum, two dozen pink lollipops, a package of rubber bands, black rubber boots, a compass, a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste, six magnifying glasses, a very sharp jackknife, a comb and a hairbrush, seven hair ribbons of different colors, an empty grain bag with a label saying "Cranberry," some clean clothes, and enough food to last my father while he was on the ship."

With a list that specific I expected something to come of it - and it did not disappoint.  Each item was cleverly used.  I loved the audio version of this and would highly recommend it.  I have not doubt it would also be fun to read aloud.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bear Has a Story to Tell

The Steads have collaborated again and the result, Bear Has a Story to Tell, is a book well worth owning.  I gave it to my son for his 5th birthday, and it has been loved by everyone in our family.

The story begins with a tired bear: It was almost winter and Bear was getting sleepy. But first, Bear had a story to tell...  Bear goes from mouse to duck to toad to mole seeking an ear to hear the story he has to tell.  But alas, it is late fall and everyone is busy preparing for winter, so Bear's story has to wait.  The story is quite charming, and I love its circular nature and homage to the story telling process.  

And the illustrations.  Oh, the illustrations.  If you have read any of my posts on Erin Stead's work, you know that I love her style of art.  The detailed simplicity and carefully chosen and used colors create scenes that tell the story and move the seasons from fall to winter to spring.  The Steads have collaborated again to create a picture book where the art and story equal each other.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone

Fall has been flying by for me.  Mostly it has been the same old but we have had family visiting and some traveling.  One trip was a train ride to New York for a girls trip and so I could attend the KidLitCon.  It was a fast trip filled with hot chocolate, rain boots and Mary Poppins the musical - I highly recommend it.  I also went to the KidLitCon pre-conference which consisted of visiting two publishing houses for a fall preview.  I loved it.  It was so fun to watch as a panel of editors talked about books, about to come into the hands of readers, that they clearly loved and had spent a lot of time reading and editing.  Their enthusiasm was contagious.  I now have a huge pile of books that I can't wait to read and a few with bookmarks placed in the beginning just waiting for me to be decisive.

But one book I have finished this fall is Shannon Hale's latest book, a sequel to Newbery Honor Princess Academy - Palace of Stone. As I type this and look at the cover above I can't help but wish it had an illustrated cover as Princess Academy did - I love illustrated covers.  But alas, it does not and I suppose I too must follow the old adage that I quote to my daughter often as I hand her an older book to read -  "don't judge a book by its cover."

I really enjoyed this book.  It was a fast paced read with many of the same characters I came to love in the first book.  And yet it was a book in its own right with new characters, plot and growth that is not dependent upon the first story.  Miri and the academy girls (Peder comes along to work as an apprentice for a stone carver) come down Mount Eskel to the capital for the wedding of Britta and Prince Steffan.  When they arrive things are not as they imagined and the capital is on the verge of a revolution.  Miri is attending the local academy and is learning not only academics but of the revolution from her new friend Timon.

Miri is torn between opposites in all direction: Peder and Timon, the wealthy and the "shoeless" and loyalty and new found friends.  The French Revolution echoes through and influences Hale's creation of Miri's Revolution.  And the result is an enjoyable story with thought-provoking conflict and relationships. The first half of the story reads a little slower than the second half as it is filled with set-up.  However, that being said, it is the detail and description throughout that make Miri's tale captivating.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Monsters' Monster

I enjoy a good holiday book.  Polar Express, Room on the Broom. When children's enthusiasm is brimming over it is so fun to pull out a book centered on their excitement.  This is not that book.  It's even better because it is not a holiday book - it is a book that can be enjoyed year round.  But it is about monsters.  And who doesn't love to read about Monsters at Halloween?

Patrick McDonnell's The Monsters' Monster is a charming tale of three monsters  - Tiny Grouch, Grump and Gloom 'n' Doom.  The three monsters argue over who is the best and scariest monster but when they can't come to a conclusion they combine forces to create "the biggest, baddest  monster EVER!"  The monster they create is reminiscent of Frankenstein - he is enormous with a square green head complete with pins sticking out. He is a big monster but not the scary monster they hoped for.  He is polite, and nice, and his catch phrase is "Dank you!"

In McDonnell's signature cartoon style it is fun to see the relationship between the three small, but big, bad loving monsters and the imposing, yet kind, Frankenstein-esque monster.  This is a read you don't want to miss, especially with Halloween knocking on our door.


I just got my hands on the e-book version of The Monsters' Monster.  I would definitely say that I am still a paper and ink kind of girl.  But I have to admit there are some perks to the portability of the e-book.  And my kids love to get their hands on an ipad.  The e-version of The Monsters' Monster is the same great tale and illustrations with the addition of simple enhancements and movements that correlate with the text.  They are not over the top and do not take away from the book.  But probably my (and my kids) favorite part of the e-book was the read aloud option - it was animated and brought the story off the screen and to life.

I received a review copy of this book, but all opinions are my own.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

I picked up Mo Willems' latest book, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, in a bookstore the other day and was laughing out loud while I read it.  It is so clever. The pictures are done in typical Willems' style and the humor does not disappoint.

It is a take on the traditional tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but instead of bears we have dinosaurs.  And instead of porridge, chocolate pudding.  The dinosaurs are not simply innocent victims of a home invader, they are very aware of Goldilocks and try to lure her in.  And Goldilocks is much more aware in this version.  But more than anything Willems infuses the tale with irony and humor - the reader is "in the know" and can't help but smile as the story unfolds.

This is clearly another winner for Mo Willems.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bear in Love

My son is turning five on Saturday.  So last night I drove to my favorite local bookstore, pulled books off the shelf and found a corner to sit in.  One of the books that I really enjoyed was Daniel Pinkwater's Bear in Love - illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. The story was charming.

Bear finds a carrot sitting on a rock, picks it up and eats it.  The next day, he finds two and the next three.  Each day he is so excited about the carrots that he sings a song and wonders about who has left him these carrots.  One day, while enjoying honey, Bear decides that he will leave something on the rock for his carrot-leaving friend.  Bear tries hard to stay awake at night to see who his friend is but never makes it.  He and his friend then proceed to search out the "best" treats possible for each other.

The friendship between Bear and his mystery friend is so charming.  Young readers will turn each page in excited anticipation - waiting right alongside Bear to discover the identity of Bear's friend. The illustrations match the tone of the story and are key to making the story so enjoyable.  The backgrounds are minimal with light pastel colors drawing the reader to the brighter and larger illustration at the forefront - typically Bear with something for, or from, his friend.  This style of illustration focuses in on the core of the story - Bear and his friendship.

This book had me smiling from beginning to end.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub

A classic, right?  King Bidgood's in the Bathtub is one of those books that I don't remember reading over and over again as a child but when I saw it on the shelf, I smiled, finding an old forgotten friend.  I bought it for my 4-year-old son for some occasion and it has quickly become his go-to book.  Every afternoon for quiet time when putting together his pile of books to look through he always asks, "Where is King Bidgood's in the Bathtub?"

By the great Audrey and Don Wood, the story tells of King Bidgood who will not get out of the bathtub.  The kingdom is in need of his presence and rulings but no matter how he is begged and pleaded with he won't get out. In fact, he keeps on inviting people in, to the room that is.  How the King is lured from the bathtub in the end is a delightful ending to a enjoyable book.

The illustrations are lavishly detailed with rich colors from the food to the dresses to the people.  Words aside, one could spend hours reading the illustrations.  And that is just what my son does, every day, just after noon.

Monday, August 20, 2012

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me is a book that has called out to me many times from the library shelves.  I find myself filling my bags to the brim every time I go to the library, only to find that I can't really read that many books before they are due.  So this one made it back to the shelves before I could read it, only to call out to me again.  It won the Newbery for 2009 so it is by no means a new find, but I listened to it and loved it.

The story revolves around Miranda, a sixth grade girl living in New York City in the late 1970s.  Her mother is a quirky single-mother secretary who is studying up for her appearance on the television show, The $20,000 Pyramid show.  Miranda is best friends with Sal but when a kid walks up the street and punches Sal in the stomach, for no good reason, Sal stops talking to Miranda.  Miranda makes new friends and spends her time working in a sandwich shop with them or having sleepovers and reading her favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time.  Mystery enters the story when Miranda receives a note, foretelling the future, and requesting her assistance.

The story seems to be a mix of a multitude of stories and genres all put together into one.  I love the characters.  Miranda and her friends ring true to me of the dilemmas and life of a sixth grader.  Miranda's mother is one of my favorite characters - quirky yet determined and not one to be pushed around.  Every character reads real and seems to be someone you would find as your neighbor, at the corner drug store or in your sixth grade classroom.

This story is so well written and plotted out that the reader will turn page after page in anticipation of finding out how the mystery unravels only to wish they could start over at page one again once the book is finished.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I just returned from an extended vacation out West.  It was fabulous.  But this past week as my children, and I, have struggled to adapt back to "regular" life and the East Coast time zone - my mind keeps going to a picture book that came out this spring - GEM by Holly Hobbie. This past week I have felt a little like the toad darting away from the treads of the moving tire - but I think we have successfully found the side of the road and are back to regular life again.

GEM tells the story of a small toad's spring journey to a child's backyard.  It is a journey full of beauty and adventure but not without obstacles.  Like the giant tire on a car.  Or the huge hawk inches away from snatching him up.  As the child meets the Toad she is faced with the age-old dilemma of how she will define her relationship with this new found friend. Bookending toad's journey lies the story of the author, Gram, and her granddaughter Hope.  The toad's story is silent but the two letters between Grand mother and child add an extra layer of depth and intimacy.

The watercolor paintings, detailed with pen and ink, illuminate spring on a pastel palette. Each page is bordered in white and brings Toad's spring adventure into focus through varying wide and telephoto lenses.  The colors and detailed paintings are simply beautiful.  No matter what season you read this in, it will leave you longing for the unfolding green of spring.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?

Susan Shea's Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? was one of the Cybils finalists in the picture book category.  I read it back in January but saw it on the shelves the other day and pulled it out again.  This is one of the more clever lift and pull flap books I have seen.

The premise of the book is determining what things can grow: a duckling to a duck, a car to a truck?, a kitten to a cat, a cap to a hat?  It continues on in the same format something that can grow and then something silly that can not until it ends with the a question: "can a baby grow and become . . . YOU?"

The illustrations are done in bright, bold colors and it is amusing to see a washcloth turn into a towel, a sweater into a coat and a watch into a clock.  The comparisons are very clever and humorous which lend to a fun read aloud for kids.  My kids loved this book - especially my four-year-old.  I highly recommend it.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Non-Fiction Monday

Welcome to Non-Fiction Monday.  Please, leave your non-fiction posts in the comments below and I will update with everyone's contributions throughout the day. 

I came upon the greatest non-fiction graphic novel: Around the World.  I love to travel.  Currently my daughter and I are scheming to move our family to Paris - we decided that we need to first, learn French and second, save a lot of money.  So it may be awhile.  But needless to say this book quenched my thirst for adventure and world travel, at least momentarily.

Matt Phelan's book Three Remarkable Journeys: Around the World, tells the story of three world travelers in the 1800's.  The first story is that of Thomas Stevens who began his journey in San Francisco in 1884 on a $110 Columbia bicycle with 50 inch wheels.  He first set off to cross the country but when he made it to Massachusetts he decided he wanted to bike around the world.  

The second story belongs to Nellie Bly.  She is a female reporter living in New York City in 1888 who proposes to her editor that she can beat Phileas Fogg's 80 days and travel around the world in 74 days. She was told she could not do it.  But one year later her editor called her back in and said she set sail in the morning. Her trip takes her on train, boat and carriage and it is a close race against time. 

Joshua Slocum is the third intrepid traveler who sailed around the world starting in 1895.  Steamships were coming in and sailing was going out but he set out on the first solo journey on the seas in his sailboat.  He faces times of loneliness and a lot of the pictures depict memories of a previous journey with his wife.  While each story depicts the emotions of the journey - this one particularly focuses in on  the emotional side of the journey.  

The three stories each focus in on a different mode of transportation and very different adventurers.  I loved this book.  The illustrations tell a large portion of the story and do very well at depicting the humor and the hardships of the journeys.  I think the more muted color choices also lend to transporting the reader to the time period. This is a fantastic look into the changing modes of transportation in the 1800's and especially into the fascination of world travel at that time.  

I read the entire story to myself and the first story of Thomas Stevens to my 7-year-old.  She really enjoyed that story and is excited for the other two stories, but I would say that the targeted audience is probably a little older - perhaps 3rd or 4th grade and up.  


Over at Simply Science the World's Scariest Dinosaurs is being highlighted - a book that focuses on the "most extreme" of the bad guys.  

Shelf-employed reviews a new series of books for young readers - All about Nature - perfect for igniting backyard discovery this summer. 

NC Teacher Stuff highlights Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do - a book geared toward pre-k and K that has visual clues for the reader to guess the occupation on each page.  

100 Scope Notes reviews Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy - a graphic novel about America's first spy.  

Jean Little Library reviews The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea - a book about the Sea that also contains interactions for at home science experiments.  

At Booktalking, The Adventures of Medical Man: Kids' Illnesses and Injuries Explained is reviewed - using 5 different movie genres and one comic book to explain common illnesses and injuries.

MotherReader reviews Bird Talk: What Birds are Saying and Why - A picture book grouping birds together based on how they communicate. 

True Tales & A Cherry On Top reviews Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert - it tells the story of Martin de Porres - born into poverty and canonized into Sainthood.  

A Teaching Life reviews two books - The Boy Who Bit Picasso and The Mysteries of Angkor Wat.  

At Biblio File Running to Extremes: Ray Zahab's Amazing Ultramarathon Journey is reviewed - a story about Ray Zahab's journey from a directionless life to Ultramarathon winner.  

The Nonfiction Detectives reviews Little Rock Girl 1957 - tells about the Civil Rights movement and how one photo helped create change. 
Books 4 Learning reviews Henry Aaron's Dream - Henry had a dream to be a baseball player, only he didn't own a bat or a ball.  

Gathering Books reviews Music for Alice - the life story of Alice Sumada, a dancer in her late 80s.

Bookends reviews Mrs. Harkness and the Panda - the story of bringing pandas to the U.S. in 1934.

All About the Books with Janet Squires reviews The Beetle Book - a book about all things Beetle.  


Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Great Cake Mystery

Yesterday we went to watch the fireworks at the Lincoln Memorial.  They really are quite amazing and we had a fabulous time.  If you ever have the chance to celebrate the 4th of July in Washington, D.C.,  I highly recommend it.

As I ran out the door I grabbed a copy of Alexander McCall Smith's The Great Cake Mystery and threw it in my bag.  On the metro ride down, my 7 year-old daughter fished it out and she and two of her friends crowded around my seat as I began reading.  

The Great Cake Mystery tells the story of Precious Ramotswe, a young girl living in Africa who is destined to become a detective. In fact when Precious grows up she is the heroine of McCall Smith's bestselling series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, although that really makes no difference to the child reader.  The story tells of the first mystery that Precious experiences that turns her towards the life of a detective.  Food keeps disappearing from the school, a piece of cake, a slice of bread with strawberry jam and then iced buns.  A rotund boy is accused but denies snatching the food and Precious sets out to solve the mystery looking for evidence and proof.  

This story is a very quick read - we finished it on the metro ride home with plenty of time to spare.  The soon to be second grade girls really enjoyed the story and the ending.  Precious is a very likable character, the descriptions of life in Africa are interesting and the mystery is fun.  The illustrations, by Iain McIntosh, are simply done in just red, black and gray, but they might just steal the show.  

While overall I thought this was a fun, easy read that the targeted age did enjoy, I must say the writing wore a little on me.  I don't like writing that talks down to children and over explains so that children will understand - and I felt that this novel did that when it was not necessary.  The space taken in the novel for multiple explanations could have been used for more detail and descriptions.  That being said, overall it was a fun read that we all enjoyed on the way to our fourth of July festivities.   

Monday, July 2, 2012

Red Knit Cap Girl - Winner!

We had a crazy weather weekend around here - sorry for the delay in posting!  The winner is number 1

 - Cara.  Please email me at with your mailing address.  

More fun book reviews to come . . .

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Red Knit Cap Girl

Naoko Stoop is a self-taught artist whose love of art began at the age of 5 but who set it aside until after her schooling.  She now creates art specifically geared towards young children - the time when she herself fell in love with art.  Red Knit Cap Girl is her first picture book, and it tells the charming story of a nature loving girl who wants to talk with the moon.  

I love the illustrations.  The artwork is done on a plywood canvas in acrylic, ink and pencil.  The grains of the wood breathe life, texture and movement into every page.  The color palette is perfect for a book that takes place in the forest and helps the reader to escape into nature with the Red Knit Cap Girl.  

At the start of the story the Red Knit Cap Girl is alone with a bunny but in her search for the moon she finds her forest friends.  They decide to throw a party for the Moon, so she will know they are there.  They make paper lanterns and light up the sky, "But there is just silence."  The story has a sweet ending and accompanies the beautiful illustrations nicely.

The characters, images and story are presented with simplicity but the textures of the wood grain and the color schemes create a magical feeling.  My kids love this book.  So much that every time I have sat down to write a post about it, I have not been able to find the book - it has been tucked away in their bedroom or in the corner of a pop-up reading tent or whichever corner they have last been reading it in.

I am excited because you too can have this book for your children (or you!) to haul around your house to read, imagine and play with.  I have one copy to giveaway!

The giveaway is open until this Friday, June 29th.
Here is how you can enter to win:
- leave a comment on this post,
- link to the post on Facebook,
- tweet about the post, or
- pin the post on pinterest
You will receive one entry for each thing you do from the list above (up to four entries).  Make sure and leave a comment for each of your entries.

Good luck!!

I received a review copy of this book, but all opinions are my own. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summer Reading List

Summer starts at our house on Tuesday afternoon when school is officially out.  We have been busy making plans for the summer: chasing fireflies, homemade ice cream, s'mores and campouts, lemonade stands and lots of swimming.   But one of my favorite parts of summer are the mornings spent at our local library piling our bags full of books to read, whether by the pool or curled up next to the air conditioned vent.  So I was very excited when I saw this post pop up in my reader: 37 Super Summer Reading Lists for Kids Ages 0 - 10 over at Delightful Children's Books.  Amy has linked to every book list imaginable - click through the links and create your summer library list - I know I am!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Time to Eat

I saw a new trio of non-fiction books come into my library recently.  All three books are small, geared towards a younger audience and look at some of the daily habits of animals: eating, sleeping and bathing. Actually, as you read through the books you learn that for some animals, these habits are not so daily.  I love the style of husband and wife duo - Steve Jenkins and Robin Page - the images are simple, the text is short, but the reader leaves with a lot of information and intrigue.

I read Time to Eat out loud to three boys - a 5, 4 and 3 year old.  The book starts with the question, "What is your favorite food?"  To which I heard gleeful screams, "Pizza!  Macaroni and cheese!"  They were quick to find out that these animals ate very differently from them.  Whether it was a Panda Bear eating bamboo shoots for 12 hours a day or an anaconda eating only four or five meals a year, swallowed whole, and sometimes as large as a jaguar, they were fascinated.  Their favorite was, of course, the dung beetle.

I love the fascinating, yet brief information that keeps even young children engaged.  But at the end of the book there is a section with more information on each animal.  After reading that a young blue whale can gain 200 pounds in 24 hours, the five year old wanted to know how big blue whales can get - thanks to the end page bios on each animal, I could tell him up to 390,000 pounds.

This is a fantastic non-fiction book - definitely one to add to your own collection or your library bag.  I can't wait to check out the other two in this series - Time to Sleep and Time for a Bath.

For more great Non-Fiction reads - check out this weeks round-up of Non-Fiction Monday at True Tales & A Cherry On Top.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


May has somehow slipped by me.  It has been filled with recovering from a tonsillectomy (my daughter's), travel, gardening, and not nearly enough reading.  But I did get my hands on a copy of Laura Vaccaro Seeger's latest book Green.  And while I have spent a vast amount of time transplanting green hostas and planting green vegetable plants, that is not what drew me to this book: the artwork is amazing.

The book is simple in concept - it explores all shades of green - lime green, forest green, glow green and wacky green, to name a few.  But it is the beautiful acrylic artwork that tells the story of green: of catching fireflies and reading under the shade of a green tree, of sea green turtles swimming in the sea and the tiger hiding in the green leaves.  The texture of the painting nearly pops off of the page.  An added dimension of interest in the book are the die cuts - a leaf on one page turns to a fish on the next, a lime on another becomes a spoon.  Children will love studying the art work and following the changing die cuts.  

This is one of my favorite books so far in 2012 and I think it is Caldecott discussion worthy.  Pick it up and read it under your favorite apple tree or at dusk just at the first firefly emerges.  It is fabulous.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are

Here's to Maurice Sendak and always taking our imaginations to where the wild things are . . .

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Home for Bird

A little over a month ago Philip and Erin Stead visited our quaint local children's library.  At the end of the visit, while signing copies of current books, we asked about what books they had forthcoming.  Philip told of his upcoming book - A Home for Bird.  Someone there had an ARC so Phillip flipped through the book while telling us the highlights of the story.  His excitement for this book was evident and in listening to him tell about it, I wanted to rush right out and grab a copy off of the shelves before they were all gone.

I have only seen the ARC flipped through quickly, but I can tell you this is a charming story of a toad, Vernon, and his friend, a suspiciously silent blue bird, and their search for a home for Bird.  It is not released until June but I am posting today because you really must head over to the fabulous blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for her latest post - an interview (of sorts) with Philip about A Home for Bird.

Really, it is the electronic version of sitting with Philip in a quaint library while he flips through an ARC  - only with more pictures and even greater backstory.  You don't want to miss this post and you will not want to miss A Home for Bird coming June 5th to a store near you . . .

Friday, April 27, 2012

April Carnival of Children's Literature

The word carnival conjures up images of ferris wheels, flying swings, clowns and cotton candy.  A smattering of everything possible all in one place.  I love definitions.  So I couldn't help myself from looking up "carnival" - my favorite definition being "an instance of merrymaking or feasting." 

As I have read through the posts for this month's Carnival of Children's Literature that definition is certainly fitting.  There are books galore to be feasted upon and enjoyed - from picture books to author interviews to non-fiction and beyond.  There are many great books and authors to be found.  And since April is National Poetry Month don't forget to peruse the poetry section to celebrate the poem.  

Enjoy this month's Carnival . . . without the regret of too much cotton candy.   

Book Projects
 - Zoe from Playing by the book is starting a new monthly round up of children's book reviews by topic: "I'm looking for a book about..." and would like to invite all bloggers to consider contributing. It will work like a carnival, but be topic based. Old posts welcome.           
- Susan from The Book Chook shares various activities to share with children in order to celebrate Children's Book Week.  
Early Literacy
- Jeff from NC Teacher Stuff reviews How to Be Friends with a Dragon -  an adorable picture book perfect for bedtime or a classroom read aloud.            
- Lisa from Adventures in Writing & Publishing posts a series on school author visits: planning, scheduling, offering value, etc.            
- Anastasia from Booktalking highlights 5 great books for new readers for Mother's Day.            
- Lynn from Make Writing Visible has a video "Reading & Writing WORD PICTURES" for you to show to students and then have them practice the skill with the handout.            
- Mindy from the Proper Noun Blog features her latest post in her Picture Book Preschool series that features books and activities exploring early literacy.  This month it's all about symmetry!                      
- Erik from Kid Book Ratings writes a post for any Curious George fans out there who are interested in his origin. 
- Maeve from Yellow Brick Reads posts a detailed analysis of the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy.           
- Jennifer from Jean Little Library reviews Island Horse by Susan Hughes.            
- Jen from Jen Robinson's Book Page blogs about How Many Jelly Beans - a bright, bold number book, with a delightful surprise at the end.
- Kate posts her second annual Pistachio Awards over at the Book Aunt.           
- Jen from Perogies & Gyoza reviews Laundry Day – a historical fiction picture book she wants everyone to know about! Fiction           
-Margo from The Fourth Musketeer reviews Never Fall Down - a riveting young-adult novel based on the Cambodian Killing Fields Genocide.  For those teens obsessed with The Hunger Games, why not give them a true story of a totalitarian regime to think about.              
-At Read, Write, Repeat Pat’s guest host Vince offers a cat-tastic review of Joanne Rocklin's THE FIVE LIVES OF OUR CAT, ZOOK.           
- Julie from Write Up My Life reviews Too Many Frogs – a darling picture book.
-Lisa from Shelf-employed features her most current Picture Book Roundup, a regular feature highlighting recently released picture books.
- Ali of Literary Lunchbox highlights Small as an Elephant - a wonderfully written MG novel about a boy coping with responsibilities beyond his years.

- Polly from The Little Wooden Horse reviews a delicious new picture book- Martha and her bunny brothers by Clara Vulliamy an account of adventures in learning to draw Martha on iPads.

- Tarie of Into the Wardrobe interviews author Sue Fliess about her latest picture book.             
- At Gathering Books, Myra interviews award-winning-novelist-in-verse Margarita Engle as she talks about her latest novel "The Wild Book" – a perfect fit for Poetry Month.            
- Augusta from AScattergood interviews Caroline Starr Rose, the author of a fabulous new novel-in-verse. She describes her writing process, just in time for Poetry Month.
- Jone from Deo Writer posts an interview featuring poet, Renee LaTulippe. 

- Shirley over at SimplyScience reviews Animal Homes a book that explores the variety of homes found around the world and why animals live there.           
-Louise features an incredible book entitled Flood at A Strong Belief in Wicker. She says it is a moving account to help children deal with the trauma of floods.

- Carmela at Teaching Authors has April Halprin Wayland help celebrate their 3rd blogiversary with a poem and announces a special giveaway.
- Susan over at Susan Taylor Brown features Kick the Poetry Can'ts  -  a month long adventure, making poetry less scary and getting more people to try writing a poem of their own.
- In honor of National Poetry Month, Jeanette of  SpeakWell, ReadWell introduces her students to Jane Yolen's book, Birds of a Feather. I also share student poetry.
- This month Mary Ann from Great Kid Books is sharing funny books and poetry. Gail Levine's newest book is a treat - such fun! It's perfect for kids who like a twist, something brief but perhaps unexpected.
- Renee LaTulippe of No Water River highlights just one of the 10 great poets who have created poetry videos to celebrate Poetry Month. Each post also includes an interview with the poet, so be sure to see who else stopped by this month!
- Camille from A Curious Thing features Forget-Me-Nots a fun new compilation of poetry for young children to enjoy and memorize.
- Greg from GottaBook features Bob Raczka's summation of poetry – one featured poet in his 30 Poets/30 Days which features a different poet/poem every day in April.            
-Melinda from Thinking in Rhyme is excited about all of the exciting happenings during National Poetry Month, but Poetry in Pocket is her most favorite!

Join us in May for another Carnival at Hope is the Word.