Friday, August 26, 2016

Poetry Friday with a review of What’s for dinner: Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World

For most of us humans, the process of getting our food is relatively simple. We go to a shop or a market and buy what we need. For animals, this process is more complicated. Food has to look for , which can take hours or days. If the animal eats meat, a prey animal needs to be caught and killed.

In this poetry title children will find unique poems that explore what animals eat. The sometimes 'ick' worthy poems combine humor and facts to give children an entertaining and educational experience.

What's for Dinner?: Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World What’s for dinner:Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World
Katherine B. Hauth
Illustrated by David Clark
Poetry
For ages 6 to 8
Charlesbridge, 2011, 978-1-57091-472-0
Animals spend a lot of their time looking for food. After all, if they don’t forage or hunt for their meals they will “croak,” and therefore “finding food / is no joke.” Some of the things animals eat might not seem at all palatable to us, but to them they are vital, and no doubt delicious as well.
   In this book young readers will see how animals of different species are connected through their need to eat. One of things that we humans forget sometimes is that all animals are part of a food chain. Perhaps we forget because we are at the top of our chain most of the time. In the poem Food Chain, we see how a butterfly gets eaten by a lizard, which gets eaten by a garter snake, which then gets eaten by a roadrunner. Every animal has a place in a chain, and every food item that they eat has its place as well.
   We may think that animals that eat dead things are disgusting, but in fact their dining choices serve a very useful purpose for the rest of us. The vulture for example, who is “No dainty vegetarian,” loves carrion, and this is a good thing too because if they didn’t disease-ridden dead bodies would be lying all over the place.
   Nighthawks and little brown bats both love to eat insects, and they have different strategies to catch their preferred dinners. Both animals hunt at night or in the early evening and they catch their meals on the wing, swooping, and in the case of the bat scooping, the insects out of the air.
   Some animals have come up with quite complicated strategies to get their food. When it is hungry the wood turtle goes around “Stompin’ its feet / and slammin’ its shell.” All the commotion causes worms to “pop up / to see who’s jamming,’” which is when the turtle eats the worms.
   Children who have a fondness for things that some would consider unsavory are going to love this book. The interesting thing is that a great deal of information is wrapped up in these poems. For readers who would like to know more about the animals mentioned in the book, the author provides notes at the back of the book that are packed with more facts. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Picture Book Monday with a review of the day everything went wrong

Not long ago I had a day when everything seemed to go wrong. The hose attacked my ankles and I fell over. The dishwasher dumped water all over my feet. A stack of books fell over onto my toes, which hurt a lot. On and on it went until I began to seriously consider climbing into bed and staying there for the rest of the day. At least in bed I would be safe!

Today's picture book is about a charming little badger character who has a bad day, a day full of little calamities.

The Day Everything Went WrongThe day everything went wrong
Moritz Petz
Illustrated by Amelie Jackowski
Translated by David Henry Wilson
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
North South, 2015, 978-0-7358-4209-0
One morning Badger wakes up and he decides that today he will only do “things I enjoy doing.” It is going to be his special day. As soon as he gets out of bed he knocks over his bedside lamp, but thankfully it does not break.
   In the best of moods Badger sits down to have his breakfast, which is when he knocks over his cup and it falls to the floor and shatters. Badger is very upset because the cup was his favorite one. Badger then decides that he wants to draw a picture, but he can’t find his colored pencils anywhere. He cannot help feeling rather upset that his day, which was going to be “such a treat” is going so wrong. Perhaps he will be better off in his yard where he always has fun.
   While Badger is playing outside he trips and knocks over the wheelbarrow, cutting his knee in the process. Dear me! Badger needs to do something to turn his rotten day into one that is not so full of accidents, and so he heads off to find his friends. Maybe if he leaves home his day will improve.
   It turns out that Badger is not the only one having a bad day. Raccoon’s clothesline has broken, Stag has lost his ball, Squirrel has a scratch, Rabbit’s fishing line is tangled, Fox’s front door is blocked, and Mouse cannot figure out how to bake a cake. The bad day seems to be touching everyone in the forest.
   Everyone has bad days sometimes, days when nothing seems to go right and when one wishes one could go back to bed. In this charming picture book we meet a badger who is having just such a day and who does his best to turn a bad day into a good one. Children who are having (or have had) a bad day of their own will really appreciate why the animals in the story are so upset.  




Friday, August 12, 2016

Poetry Friday with a review of Garvey's Choice

I used to consider the idea of a novel written in verse rather intimidating. How could such a thing work? Wouldn't it be hard to read? Then, some years ago I read a wonderful mid-grade novel in verse and I became a staunch fan of this storytelling form. In fact, much gleeful rubbing of hands takes place when a new novel in verse arrives at my house.

Today's poetry title is a novel in verse that moved me so much that I felt compelled to read it twice in one day. There is so much to be found in the words, and so much to consider as one comes to understand what Garvey's life has been like.

Garvey's ChoiceGarvey’s Choice
Nikki Grimes
Poetry
For ages 9 and up
Boyds Mills Press, 2016, 978-1-62979-740-3
One of Garvey’s favorite things in life is books, in particular ones that are full of science fiction stories that transport him to distant galaxies. Unfortunately, Garvey’s dad does not appreciate Garvey’s love of books. In fact he is scornful of his son’s interest in books and constantly comments that Garvey should play sports, and that he should roughhouse the way he did with his dad. Being active in this way is the “normal” thing for a boy to do. He constantly tries to turn Garvey into “someone I’m not.”
   Garvey’s father’s disdain and lack of understanding makes Garvey seek refuge in food and sweet drinks, and so he has gained weight. His father’s words cut into Harvey, and were it not for his mother, his big sister, and his best friend, Jo, Garvey would be completely alone.
   Garvey’s already difficult life gets a lot worse when he goes back to school in the fall. He is teased and bullied about his size and he takes refuge in hummed songs so that he can drown out the cutting words of his persecutors. For Garvey, his own music, or the music he hears around him, soothes and makes his inner pain less acute.
   One day Garvey asks his father about his grandfather and learns that his grandfather was a strong silent type too. It is no surprise then that Garvey’s father is not exactly chatty. He also learns that his father and grandfather connected by talking about football, and Garvey realizes that maybe this is why his father so much wants Garvey to be interested in football too.
   One day at school Jo encourages Garvey to join the chorus club. Garvey goes around humming all the time anyway so why not. In Jo’s opinion Garvey’s voice is “choice,” and he should “let others hear it.” Garvey is afraid to try chorus for a while, but finally he gets up the courage to go to a club meeting. Afraid to the bone he still manages to show the people in the club what he can do and he is accepted promptly. Suddenly Garvey’s life opens up and there is joy in it. The singing is wonderful, and he even makes a new friend, a boy called Manny who, like Garvey, has a father who disapproves of him.
   Though Garvey’s new hobby makes him happy, he refuses to tell his parents about it. What if his father disapproves? Surely it is safer not to give his father more ammunition to use against him.
   Written using a series of tankas, a Japanese poetry form, this incredible novel in verse takes us into the life of a unhappy boy who, as we ‘watch,’ finds a new interest that has a profound effect on his life. Nikki Grimes captures to perfection the way in which music can transform a person, and how it can open doors that have always been firmly closed before.
   At the back of the book the author tells us a little about tankas and how they are written.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Picture Book Monday with a review of This is not a picture Book

Many children are put off when they see a book that is full of words. They want pictures to look at, not words! After all, how can words possibly take the place of pictures. In today's picture book we meet a young duck who has this reaction when he finds a book that has no artwork in it. As the story unfolds, the duck discovers something rather remarkable about words, something that opens up a whole new world to him.

This Is Not a Picture Book!This is not a picture Book
Sergio Ruzzier
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Chronicle, 2016, 978-1-4521-2907-5
One day a duckling finds a book and, full of expectation, he picks it up. When he opens the book he discovers that the book has no pictures in it, only words. What is the point of a book that has no pictures in it! The duckling then gives the book a hefty kick, but he does not stay angry for long. After all, it’s not the book’s fault that it is picture-less. Feeling a little bad about his behavior, the duckling picks the book up and apologizes for his outburst.
   Then a little caterpillar comes along and asks the duckling what the book is. The duckling explains that it is a book “with no pictures,” and the insect then asks if the bird can read what the words say. The duckling is not sure if he can, but he starts trying to figure the words out even though it is not easy for him to do so. He finds words that are funny, and words that are sad. There are even words that “carry you away...”
   In this marvelous picture book a little duckling discovers that a book that does not have pictures is actually quite a miraculous thing. Words take more work to figure out than pictures, but in the end the work is worth it. Children are going to love the way this narrative ends, and they may even begin to think about what it is going to be like for them when they can read books, word-filled books, for themselves. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Poetry Friday with a review of G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet

 G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet
The opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Games takes place today in Rio, and so I thought it would be fitting to bring you a book that celebrates the games. In this title, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork are combined to show readers why the Olympic Games came into being and what it is like to participate in them.

G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet
Brad Herzog
Illustrated by Doug Bowles
Nonfiction and Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 11
Sleeping Bear Press, 2011, 978-1585364626
Long ago in ancient Greece, wars between the city-states were a common occurrence. The only time peace could be guaranteed was every four years, when the citizens of the city-states would lay down their arms for a month and come together to compete as athletes. The games were hosted in the town of Olympia, and the men who won the races and other events were given an olive wreath to wear.
   The modern Olympic Games came into being because Baron Pierre de Coubertin felt that the “a modern version of the Olympic Games would foster peace between nations.” Because of his efforts, there has been a summer Olympic Games every four years since 1896 except in 1916, 1940, and 1944, which were, ironically, all years when the world was being torn apart by war.
   In this fascinating fact-packed alphabet book, Brag Herzog tells us about the Olympic Games from A to Z. Beginning with Ancient Greece on the A page, he goes on to tells us about Baron Pierre de Coubertin on the B page. On the “C is for all the countries page,” we learn that in 2008 two hundred countries sent athletes to the Summer Olympics. Next is D for decathlete. On this page, we learn that for two days decathletes who up to the daunting task compete in ten events. These events include shot put, long jump, high jump, and running.
   For each of the topics explored in this book, the author gives us a poem that introduces the subject. He supplements this with a more in-depth section of text. Young children will enjoy the hearing the poems and looking at the art, while older readers will be interested in reading the longer text sections. This format makes this book suitable for readers of all ages, from age 6 and up.
   This is one of the titles in a series of alphabet books published by Sleeping Bear Press.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Picture Book Monday with a review of Sadako's Cranes

On August 6th, 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Thousands of people died that day, and many thousands died in the months and years that followed from their injuries, radiation sickness, and cancer. One of these people was a little girl called Sadako. Her story is now famous, and it has touched the hearts of people all over the world. Today I have her story in picture book form, and it is presented in a way that makes this true story accessible to children.

Sadako's CranesSadako’s Cranes
Judith Loske
Translated by Kate Westerlund
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Minedition, 2015, 978-988-8341-00-9
One sunny August day in 1945 a little girl called Sadako and her pet cat were playing by the bank of the river. They lay on the grass, eat rice balls, and tried to catch crickets. Then a big black cloud drifted over everything and with the cloud came “fire and heat.” The cloud destroyed everything around them, and when it passed “Nothing was left but gray ash.”
   The years went by and people began to think less about that terrible day and the black cloud. Life went on. Then Sadoko became sick and she had to go to hospital. They learned that the black cloud was responsible for her illness. Sadoko’s brother told her about a legend that said “If you fold 1,000 paper cranes, you’ll get to make a wish.”
   Sadoko wanted to get well so she started folding paper cranes. Making the cranes made her happy but doing so also tired her out. Sadoko’s cat kept her company, and tried to keep her spirits up by telling her “stories about things I knew she loved.”
   This tale is based on the true story of a real little girl. Sadako Sasaki was living in Hiroshima, Japan, when an atomic bomb was dropped on that city on August 6, 1945. As a result of the radiation, Sadako, like so many other people who lived in Hiroshima, developed leukemia. She heard about the legend of the paper cranes and began to make as many of the origami creations as she could.
   By telling the story from the point of view of a cat, the author and illustrator of this beautiful, moving tale adds a layer of intimacy to what is already a powerful story. At the back of the book she tells us a little about the real Sadako and her legacy. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Poetry Friday with a review of The people of the town: Nursery-Rhyme Friends for You and Me

One of the things that makes nursery rhymes so appealing are the colorful characters that feature in them. Often the characters do wonderfully strange and amusing things that make us laugh when the rhymes are read to us. In today's poetry title we encounter some of the most charming characters that live in the world of nursery rhymes.

The People of the Town: Nursery-Rhyme Friends for You and MeThe people of the town: Nursery-Rhyme Friends for You and Me
Selected and illustrated by Alan Marks
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Charlesbridge, 2016, 978-1-58089-726-6
Nursery rhymes are packed with colorful characters; men, women, and children who do all kinds of things that delight us and often make us laugh. In this marvelous collection, Alan Marks pairs his wonderful artwork with some carefully selected nursery rhymes so that we can get to know a few of these nursery rhyme individuals. Some of them will be familiar to us, but some will be newcomers whom we have never even heard of.
   Our visit with the people living in the nursery rhyme town begins with Gregory Griggs. This fellow has a staggering twenty-seven wigs, and he wears them to impress the people in his town. The problem is that he has no idea which of his wigs he likes best.
   Then there is Mary whose pet lamb follows her to school one day. This is, of course, against the rules and so the teacher makes the lamb leave. The lamb, being a determined little creature, stays nearby and waits for its little mistress to appear. The children cannot understand why the lamb loves Mary so much, so the teacher explains that it is because “Mary loves the lamb, you know.”
  As the pages turn we encounter the grand old Duke of York who marched his men up and then down the hill. There is Dr. Foster who stepped into a puddle “Right up to his middle,” and Little Bop Peep who lost her sheep. There are little stories that make us laugh, and some that are delightfully peculiar. There are descriptions of things that people do, and finally there are rhymes that sooth and make us want to fall asleep.





   

Monday, July 25, 2016

Picture Book Monday with a review of Little Robot

Graphic novels have been around for a long time, but English language titles in this genre that are suitable for younger readers are a more recent phenomenon. Thankfully First Second books and other publishers are now creating many wonderful graphic novels for children and young adults. There are books that are suited to readers who are just starting their reading journey, and there are also books for readers who are comfortable with complex and rich stories.

Today's picture book title is a mostly wordless graphic novel that young children will find captivating. In the story there are robots, a strong-willed, tool-wielding little girl, and plenty of action-filled adventure. What more can one ask for.


Little RobotLittle Robot
Ben Hatke
Graphic Novel
For ages 6 to 8
First Second, 2015, 978-1-62672-080-0
One day a little girl sneaks out of her trailer home and she sets off to explore. She sees the other kids going to school, she plays on the swing set in an old man’s yard, and then she goes to a place where lots of old cars are piled up. She finds an old set of tools in a belt, which she takes and slings across her shoulder. Then she sees a box floating in a stream. She pulls the box out of the water, opens it, and finds out that it contains a strange metal canister. When she presses a button on the top of the canister it starts to open up.
   The little girl runs away to hide in an old car and watches as the canister opens up some more and then turns into a robot; a not very coordinated robot that tips over on its back when it tries to walk. It lies there with its legs flailing until the little girl takes pity on it and helps it get back on its feet. When the robot tries to walk again it falls flat on its face. Clearly the little machine needs help figuring out how to walk, and the little girl is the one who gives it that help. She also teaches the robot that a cat is not something to be afraid of, and that flowers are alive.
   What the robot and the little girl don’t know is that a machine in the factory knows that one of the robots is missing and a large and rather terrifying retrieval robot has been sent to find it.
   The next day the little girl and her new friend explore together again. The robot turns out to be very good at skipping stones and the two of them have a wonderful time.
   On the third day the little girl and the little robot have a falling out when the little robot seems to prefer hanging out with a broken down car than with her. The girl walks away in a huff. Luckily for the little robot the little girl sees something that makes her think that perhaps something is amiss. She runs back to her mechanical friend just in time to rescue him from being captured by the enormous retrieval robot. They manage to get away from the terrible machine, but their troubles are far from over. The machine is not going to give up without a fight.
   This delightful mostly wordless graphic novel tells the story of a special friendship We meet a courageous little girl whose skills with a wrench and screwdriver helps her to do something special. She is the quintessential heroine, and when they get to the end of the story readers will most certainly be left with a warm, fuzzy feeling in their hearts.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Poetry Friday with a review of Early Moon

When I was growing up, not many writers were creating poetry for young readers. We are very lucky that there are so many marvelous poets today who are busy scribbling away so that our children have many volumes of poetry to choose from when them go to a library or a bookshop. I love seeing the new books appear on the shelves, but every so often I like to turn back the clock and go back to collections of poems that were written long ago. Today's poetry book is just such a title.

Early MoonEarly Moon
Carl Sandburg
Illustrated by James Daugherty
Poetry
For ages 11 and up
Mariner Books, 1978, 978-0156273268
Over the centuries, many people have tried to explain what poetry is, and more often than not they end up posing new questions instead of answering the original one. Carl Sandburg, who was a marvelous poet, felt that “If poems could be explained, then poets would have to leave out roses, sunsets, faces from their poems,” which would be a terrible shame. These things and many others “have mystery, significance, and a heavy or light beauty, an appeal, a lesson and a symbolism that stays with us long as we live.” Perhaps it is better that poetry cannot be explained. Perhaps we should just enjoy it and leave it at that.
   The poems in this collection will certainly give the reader joy. They are divided into categories, which are: Pictures of today, Children, Wind and Sea, Portraits, Birds and Bugs, Night, and End Thoughts.
   On these pages we will meet a worker who “painted on the roof of a skyscraper,” and for him the people below “were the same as bugs.” We meet Dan, an Irish setter puppy who finds a sheltered corner where there is “all / sun and no wind.” Here Dan lies “dozing in a half sleep.” We hear about the people “who go forth before daylight,” the policeman, the teamster, and the milkman, who work while others are still asleep in their beds.
   Then there are the poems that capture special moments in time, each of which is significant in a unique way. In the poem Soup the narrator tells us about how he saw a man who was eating soup. The man was famous and was mentioned in the papers that day. Thousands of people talked about him, but to the narrator he was just a man “Putting soup in his mouth with a spoon.” In Splinter we capture that moment when “The voice of the last cricket” is heard when the first frost touches the land. The insect’s song is like a goodbye, a “splinter of singing” in the cold air.
   This is a wonderful collection that will appeal to both children and adults. There is something here for everyone. On the pages readers will find little touches of childhood, descriptions, stories, odes to things lost, and so much more.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Picture Book Monday with a review of Buddy and Earl go exploring

Sometimes the people we love the most, our friends and family members, like to do odd things. Sometimes they have strange hobbies or habits that don't really make sense to us, but we go along for the ride because we care about them and want to be with them. In this picture book a dog goes on a very strange journey with his hedgehog friend. He does not quite understand what the hedgehog is doing or why he is doing it, but he goes on the trip all the same.

Buddy and Earl Go ExploringBuddy and Earl go exploring
Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Groundwood, 2016, 978-1-55498-714-6
Buddy has had a long day and he is looking forward to snuggling down on his bed for a good night’s sleep. Buddy’s people put Earl the hedgehog in his nice new cage, and then they turn off the light and go to bed. Buddy closes his eyes and is just nodding off when Earl tells him that he is going on a trip.
   Buddy is very fond of Earl and does not really like the idea of his friend going off for an indefinite period of time, but Buddy does his best to be brave and he says goodbye to Earl and wishes him “Good luck!” Earl then climbs into his exercise wheel and starts running. He runs and runs and when he stops he sees that the place he has come to “looks eerily similar to the place I just left.” Which is not surprising.
   Earl is thrilled when he sees that Buddy is with him in the ‘new’ place. After all, “Exploring is always more fun if you do it with a friend.” Together they set off to explore, with Earl’s very fertile imagination leading the way. Somehow, in the kitchen, they encounter a silvery lake, they eat a feast, Buddy saves a “lovely lady hedgehog trapped in the jaws of a monster,” and in turn Earl saves Buddy from another monster.
   In this second Buddy and Earl book, Earl once again let’s his imagination run wild, and though Buddy is a rather literal dog, he goes along for the ride. Children will find it not to laugh out loud when they see how Earl takes the most ordinary of things and turns them into something wonderful. Best of all they will love seeing how the two very different friends stay true to each other no matter what.