Monday, November 6, 2017

Picture Book Monday with a review of The Book Of Gold

On Friday I brought you a poetry book that celebrates books and the written word. Today we have a picture book that also focuses on how marvelous and special books are. Bob Staake tells the story of a boy who, when we first meet him, hates books. In fact, this boy does not like much of anything. He has no interest in the world, and no curiosity. Then someone tells him about a very special book, and something rather magical starts to happen.

The Book of GoldThe Book of Gold
Bob Staake
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Random House, 2017, 978-0-553-51077-5
Isaac’s parents love books. They love the way books smell and how books feel when they are in their hands, and they love all the fascinating information that books contained. Books are so full of possibilities.
   Unfortunately, Isaac does not care for books at all. In fact, he is not much interested in anything and it would not be unfair to say that he is a rather dull child.
   One day Isaac’s parents take him to visit the New York Public Library. The idea of going into a building full of books thrills them, but Isaac does not feel the same way at all. He has no interest in books and so it isn’t long before the family heads for home. On the way they stop to look in a shop that contains all kinds of curios. Isaac’s parents are hoping that they will find something that will make a suitable birthday gift for Aunt Sadie. Isaac sits on the cold floor to wait. Nothing in the fascinating store attracts his almost non-existent curiosity. 
   The shopkeeper tries to find something that will interest Isaac and when she fails she tells Isaac about a book called the Book of Gold. She explains that the book contains “all the answers to every question ever asked, and when it is opened, it turns to solid gold.”
   The idea of having a book made of gold really appeals to Isaac and he decides to look for it. He goes to a bookstore. He picks up a book left in a diner. He picks up a book that a woman drops, and finds another that is left on a trolley seat. None of the books he finds turn to gold when it opens them.
   For months Isaac searches and searches. Then, one day, as he is looking at a book that is called The Seven Wonders of the World, a question pops into his head. It is the first of many questions that come to him as he opens books looking for the Book of Gold. Without even meaning to Isaac begins to discover that books bring forth questions, and they also answer them.
   This marvelous book shows readers that books are more than paper and board covers. They excite our curiosity in the world, open up our horizons, and they can even lead us on a voyage of discovery that can last a lifetime. This is a book that will delight adults and children alike. It is a magical tale that is timeless and ageless.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Poetry Friday with a review of Read! Read! Read!

Here in southern Oregon it is a grey, wet day and I love it. We had a long Indian summer in October and I was feeling thoroughly sick and tired of warm, sunshiny days. Though sunny days can get wearisome, I never, ever get tired of reading books; it is always always a wonderful thing to do. Today I bring you a poetry book that celebrates the written word. It is a delightful title that will appeal to anyone who has a love for reading.

Read, Read, Read!Read! Read! Read!
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Wordsong, 2017, 978-1-59078-975-9
Reading is something we do all the time and yet we often forget what a gift words are. When words are strung together to give us a story, they “sing / into your soul / like soothing / summer rain.”
   Many children are eager to learn how to read for themselves and they “pretend” to read at first. They don’t realize that by tracing the letters with their fingers in their pretend reading, they are actually starting the process of learning. Then comes that wonderful day when reading is no longer something that other children do. Finally they too can claim the words that not so long ago were “confusing.”
   Though books are quite the best vehicle for words, they are also wonderful when they appear on cereal boxes, on the sports page, on maps, on road signs, cards, magazines, and other places. In a birthday card one child finds a poem penned by his grandfather; it is a poem that captures, in just a few words, how loved the child is. The child treasures the card and puts it, as always, in a box where “fall leaves / letters / and love” are kept.
   Books of course are the crème de la crème of written materials. They can turn us into explorers, and take us to marvelous places where we witness extraordinary things. They can teach us things, and perhaps best of all they help us to have “an open heart / an open mind;” after all, an “open book / will make you kind” if you are willing to allow its words to work their magic.
   This wonderful poetry title beautifully captures the joys that reading can bring us in our everyday lives. Through the eyes of the child characters that we see on the pages, we are reminded of the fact that books and other written materials really do enrich our lives.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Picture Book Monday with a review of Duck and Goose Honk! Quack! Boo!

As I write this post my seventeen year old daughter is making a witch's broom to go with her Halloween costume. She is going to be Kiki, the character from the film, Kiki's Delivery Service. Halloween was not  celebrated in the country that I grew up in, so I did not get to dress up when I was a child. After I moved to the U.S. when I was twenty-one I started participating in Halloween festivities and it has been so much fun.

Since Halloween is tomorrow, today I am offering you a festive picture book title to read. In the story  two little birds have an adventure that is funny, with just a little touch of Halloween spookiness to keep young readers guessing and wondering. 

Duck and Goose Honk! Quack! Boo!Duck and Goose Honk! Quack! Boo!
Tad Hills
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Random House, 2017, 978-1-5247-0175-8
Tomorrow is Halloween and Duck is curious to know what Goose is going “to be” on the festive day. Goose explains that he is going to be himself as usual, which is when Duck explains that Halloween is the one day when you should not be yourself.
   Thistle then appears on the scene and she tells her friends that her Halloween costume is a secret. They will have to wait until the next day to see what she is going to dress up as. As she leaves, Thistle tells Duck and Goose to “beware the swamp monster,” a comment which puzzles them greatly. It also makes both Duck and Goose feel decidedly worried. Neither of them likes monsters.
   The next day Duck, dressed up as a ghost, and Goose, dressed up as a super hero, go trick-or-treating together in the forest. They both hope that they are not going to see a swamp monster on this special night and are very relieved when all they see are other young animals trick-or-treating.
   All goes well until the moment when an owl dressed up as a daisy says that a swamp monster is looking for Duck and Goose. The friends are horrified. What are they going to do?
   Children are going to love this charming little Halloween tale, which features Tad Hills’ wonderful little bird characters.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Poetry Friday with a review of A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet

Soon after I started reviewing children's books, I encountered an alphabet book that was created by a small publishing house in Michigan. The book was unique in that in it poetry, artwork, and sections of nonfiction text were brought together and presented in an alphabet book format. When the publishing house, Sleeping Bear Press, brought out more alphabet books using the same format I was delighted. What a wonderful way to engage young readers. Today I bring you one of these alphabet book titles. Readers can read the poems first, and then they can go back to the beginning of the book and read the nonfiction text.

A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet
Richard Michelson
Illustrator:  Ron Mazellan
Nonfiction and Poetry Picture Book  Series
For ages 6 to 12
Sleeping Bear Press, 2013, 978-1585363223
Trying to understand the rules, traditions, and history of a faith is never easy, even if you are of that faith. For people outside the faith, the stories and customs can be confusing, and the nuances of meaning can be lost. In this splendid picture book, Richard Michelson explores the Jewish faith in a new way. Using the format of an alphabet book the author tells his readers about some of the things that make the Jewish faith unique and interesting.
   For every letter of the alphabet Richard Michelson focuses on some aspect of Jewish life. For the letter B he tells us about Bar and Bat Mitvahs, the coming of age ceremonies that signify that a young person is no longer a child. For the letter C he tells us about challah, a special bread that Jews eat on the Jewish Sabbath. This braided bread is a just one of the many special foods that Jews make.
   This book can be enjoyed on several levels because each topic includes a poem, an illustration, and then a longer section of text. Young children can look at the pictures, and they can either have the poems read to them, or they can read them themselves. Older children will enjoy reading the more involved sidebar text. It is here that they will find out further details about Jewish religious practices, history, and customs.
   This is just one in a splendid collection of alphabet book published by Sleeping Bear Press. Other topics covered include cats, poetry, and music.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Books of Hope - Ruby's Imagine

When I first started reading today's book, I was sure that it was going to be depressing. A story about a young person who is cared for by an unkind family member, and who has to live through a hurricane does not promise to be cheerful. I did not take me long to realize that the main character of the story, Ruby, is not the kind of person who allows life's hardships to put her down. As I read, Ruby's attitude, her voice, and her magic made me feel empowered and hopeful. This was an amazing, amazing book and everyone, teens and adults alike, should read it. 

Ruby's ImagineKim Antieau
Fiction
For ages 13 and up
Createspace, 2012, 978-1478238379
When Ruby is only five years old her parents are killed in a car crash and she goes to live with Mamaloose, her maternal grandmother. Mamaloose is a cold and angry woman, and when Ruby does or says things that she does not like, Mamaloose beats the child with a leather belt. At first Ruby does not know what will set Mamaloose off. She talks about remembering her parents. She speaks of a house in the swamp where she lived with Daddy and Momma and her two sisters, Opal and Pearl. Mamaloose says that these are just “Ruby’s imagine,” and that they are not true memories.
   After a while Ruby learns to keep silent about these images that she is sure are from her past. It is better that way. She also learns to kept silent about the connections that she has with the creatures and plants around her. On some deep level Ruby can communicate with butterflies and trees, hummingbirds and other life forms. The only person who really knows about her gift is her friend JayEl.
   The amazing thing about Ruby is that she has managed to resist Mamaloose’ efforts to turn her, Ruby, into another angry and cruel person. Ruby isn’t even angry with Mamaloose. Instead, she feels sorry for her, and steadfastly refuses to take on the old man’s unhappiness. Instead, she is a warm and loving person who is close to her neighbors and the people she works with at the bakery. Soon Ruby will be going to college and then she will be free of Mamaloose for good.
   One day a butterfly conveys a message to Ruby, one that the Big Oaks shared with the insect. Apparently a Big Spin is on its way and it will soon be time to hunker down if you are foolish, or to get out of its way if you are sensible. Ruby shares this message – in an oblique way not mentioning where it came from – with Mamaloose. The old woman isn’t worried. She has survived countless storms and hurricanes. Ruby also tells JayEl about the butterfly’s message. JayEl asks Ruby if she thinks that this is going to be “the one,” the storm that will “bury us in water.” Ruby says that she gets the sense that this hurricane is going to rip off “the veil” that lies over the city.
      It isn’t long before it becomes clear that the coming hurricane is indeed going to be a big one. People start boarding up their homes and businesses, and on the radio the mayor says that “we strongly advise people to leave at this time.” Some people do pack up and leave, but others decide to stay. Many of the folks in Ruby’s neighborhood, including Mamaloose, have no place to go and very little money to spare. They certainly cannot pay for motel rooms. Ruby tries very hard to convince Mamaloose that they need to get to higher ground because where they live is below sea level, but the old lady pays her no heed.
   In the end Ruby and Mamaloose stay put. When they go to bed it is raining and windy. When Ruby wakes up she goes to check on her grandmother downstairs only to find out that water has come into the house and it is rising. Ruby and Mamaloose take refuge upstairs and then they go up into the attic. Part of the roof is ripped away, and as they huddle together in a corner, not knowing if the next gust of wind is going to cause the house to collapse, Mamaloose finally tells Ruby the true story of her family. To say that Ruby is shocked is an understatement. She has always known that Mamaloose was a hard person, but it turns out that she did things that were, in Ruby’s eyes, downright cruel. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Picture Book Monday with a review of Out of the Blue

Many of us, when we see someone in trouble, tell ourselves that is not our problem, not our business. We don't want to be inconvenienced; we don't want to have to deal with drama or difficulties that are not our own. This is a very unfortunate state of affairs, to say the least. If we were the one struggling, would we want everyone to turn their heads as they walk by us so that we are left to cope alone? No, probably not.

In this wonderful wordless book we see how the actions of a few good people saves an animal that is in dire need of assistance. We also discover how rich and powerful stories can be when the narrative is presented to the reader through art alone.

Out of the Blue
Out of the BlueAlison Jay
Wordless picture book
For ages 4 to 7
Barefoot books, 2014, 978-1-78285-042-7
On the coast right next to a sandy shore there is an island, and on that island there is a lighthouse. A little boy lives in the lighthouse with his father, a dog, and a cat.
   One beautiful sunny morning the little boy heads out carrying his bucket and spade and soon he is on the beach. He finds a pretty shell and a little girl comes to look at his find. Then the two children go off together. They find a fish in a tide pool, and using the little girl’s net they catch the fish, carry over to the sea, and let it go. By this time the wind has picked up and so the children, along with everyone else on the beach and in the sea, head for home. A storm is on the way.
   That night the rain pours down, lightening forks across the sky, waves crash against the island, and the little boy and his father are safe and warm in their cozy lighthouse.
   In the morning they find a very large surprise waiting for them outside. The storm has beached an enormous squid on the sand. The poor creature is all trussed up with a fishing net and it is still very much alive. The boy and his friends have to do something to help the poor creature.
   This delightful wordless picture book has a main story that is engaging, and it explores the idea that we all need to do our part to help others. In addition, there are several little stories in the artwork to follow, many of which are amusing.



Thursday, October 12, 2017

Books of Hope - The Friend Ship

Everyone has days when they feel blue and despondent. Things are not going well for some reason or another, and the future looks far from rosy. At times like these our friends are often the ones who support us. They remind us that bad times don't last forever. and encourage us to hold onto hope and to keep on going. Today's Book of Hope perfectly captures the way in which hope can be kept alive when one has friends by ones side.


The Friend ShipThe Friend Ship
Kay Yeh
Illustrator:  Chuck Groenink
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Disney-Hyperion, 2016, 978-1484707265
One day Hedgehog is lying curled up in a ball in “the lonely little nook of a lonely little tree” when she hears two animals taking about her. One animal tells the other that Hedgehog seems lonely, and then the other animal says that things will be better when Hedgehog finds friendship. All she has to do is to go and look for it.
   Hedgehog is inspired by this overheard conversation. The “Friend Ship” is out there waiting for her and now she has to find it. Hedgehog quickly gets to work and builds a boat. A beaver comes a long and asks her what she is doing. Hedgehog explains that she will soon be setting off to find The Friend Ship. The beaver, who wants a friend, asks if he can join Hedgehog in her quest, and she happily agrees.
   The two travelers don’t travel far in their boat when they come across four deer. Hedgehog asks the deer if they have seen The Friend Ship. The deer like the idea of being on such a vessel; they would like to have friends too, and so they ask if they can join Hedgehog and the beaver, who are happy to welcome the deer on board.
   Hedgehog and her companions sail north and south. The head east as well, and every time they ask someone if they have seen The Friend Ship the answer is no. Every time Hedgehog is asked if an animal can join her quest she (and everyone else) always says yes.
   After a few days of searching and asking, Hedgehog begins to lose hope, but the animals on the ship with her don’t let her give up. They support and comfort her, telling her that they will “stick with you till the end.”
   This wonderful picture book shows readers, in a sweet and gentle way, how sometimes the one thing that we want the most in life can sometimes be found right under our noses. In company with Hedgehog and her fellow travelers, we go on a wonderful voyage of discovery and hope.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Picture Book Monday with a review of The Fog

What feels like a long time ago I worked for environmental organizations, and environmental causes were dear to my heart. They still are, though these days I find different ways to make a difference where I can. One of the things I do is to seek out books for young people that help them understand that they can do something about the environmental problems that we face. Today's book is just such a title. The message is subtle, but powerful at the same time. It is a book readers of all ages will enjoy.

The FogThe Fog
Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Kenard Pak
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Tundra Books, 2017, 978-1-77049-492-3
Far to the north there is an island covered in ice, and its beauty is so remarkable that people from all over the world come to visit it. There is a bird, a little yellow warbler, who lives on the island. Unlike the other birds Warble is very interested in the humans who come and go. In fact, he is a “devoted human watcher” and keeps careful records of all the human types he sees.
   Then one day a warm fog rolls in and by evening the fog is so thick that no one can really see anything. Warble waits and waits for the fog to lift. He talks to the other birds about the problem, but none of them, except the ducks, seem to care. In fact, many of the birds forget that there was a time when the island wasn’t wrapped in fog all day long.
   Warble does not forget about the pre-fog days, and he also notices that the ice on the island is melting. Something is really wrong. Feeling alarmed, Warble does his best to talk to the other birds about his concerns. However, none of them want to listen to him and the fog spreads further.
   Then one day Warble sees a small human, a “red-hooded spectacled female (juvenile)” to be exact. Warble and the human meet and then they discover something remarkable; they can understand one another. Perhaps together they can figure out what to do about the fog.
   All too often, when something is wrong, people try to ignore it, or pretend that it isn’t there. Solving a problem takes work and effort and they can’t be bothered. This book is a tribute to all those wonderful people (and birds) who are bothered, and who understand that it is important to see, and confront, the problems that face us all.
   With its subtle environmental message and its charming characters, this picture book will charm adults and children alike.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Picture Book Monday with a review of A Good Story

There are some people in this world who think that books have no value; that they are even irrelevant in today's world. Stories, both true ones and fictional ones, have no place in their lives it would seem. The very idea of not having books in my life makes me feel sick to my stomach and cold all over. I have always loved books, and I have always wanted to have books around me.

In today's picture book you will meet a pig who lives in a world where words are not valued at all. Numbers rule, and everyone is expected to follow the rules and behave in a predictable and logical way. The pig does his best to live by the rules, but it turns out that he just isn't cut out for a humdrum life.


A Good Story
Zack Rock
Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Creative Editions, 2017, 978-1-56846-280-6
Assistant Bean Counter No. 1138 is a numbers pig. He wrangles numbers all day, and in the world he belongs to “something only matters if it can be counted.” Though his co-workers seem to thrive on this life, Assistant Bean Counter No. 1138 does not feel as if he fits in. In fact, he has never felt like he belongs. In his world everyone is expected to toe the line “without question,” to follow the “old story” that controls everything. However, try as he might to be happy with what is “orderly and ordinary,” this pig cannot help giving in to his impulses to do things that are out of the ordinary.
   One rainy day the assistant takes refuge in a strange shop that is full of books. There are no numbers in the place. Only words. He is astonished when he discovers that the books contain the most remarkable stories, and through the stories he is transported to incredible worlds where anything can happen.
   While he is perusing one of the volumes the pig encounters something that captures his interest. He reads about an acrobat. The description of what an acrobat is tugs at him, but the old story that dictates that he must avoid anything out of the ordinary pulls him in the opposite direction.
   It is not easy to follow your own path in life, and to find the courage to turn away from what is expected of you so that you can follow your heart. This powerful book explores how one little pig discovers that he does not have to follow the crowd if he does not want to. Other options are out there, if he is willing to step off the beaten path.
   Readers of all ages will connect with this tale as it explores a timeless, ageless, and universal theme.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Picture Book Monday with a review of Stay: A girl, a dog, a bucket list

A little over fourteen years ago I brought home a sick, miserable little bundle of fur. Pippin was a puppy mill rescue and he became one of my best friends. He went where I went, and loved me unconditionally, even when I was not at my best. He put up with sharing his home with a young child, a pig, and numerous cats and dogs. He even had to contend with grumpy docks patrolling his garden. He was love personified and his friendship mean a great deal to me. Knowing how precious such a friendship is, I decided to share this review with you. It perfectly captures how powerful the bond between a human and a dog can be.

Stay: A girl, a dog, a bucket list
Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket ListKate Klise
Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Feiwel and Friends, 2017, 978-1-250-10714-5
From the moment Astrid was born Eli was a part of her life. He was her first friend and he went on to become her bodyguard, her favorite pillow, and her roommate. It did not matter in the least that Astrid was a little girl and that Eli was a boy dog. They were besties.
   Then Astrid began to notice that she was getting bigger than her large furry friend. As she was getting taller Eli was getting older, and by the time Astrid was six Eli was an old dog who walked more slowly than he used to.
   One day, when they were in the park, Astrid shared her popcorn with Eli and then she took him on the slide with her so that he could try it. When they got home she put together a bucket list of all the things Eli should do before he was too old to do them. She and Eli would go through the list.
   Together the two friends rode on a bike, they went to the library where they borrowed lots of books that were about dogs, they went to a movie theatre, they slept outside, and Astrid let Eli sleep under the covers in bed with her. Astrid even gave Eli a bubble bath and brushed him for a whole hour afterwards. Astrid then added one more thing to the list because she knew that her dear friend was slowing down.
   Best friends are precious things, and in this special book Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise give us a story that is a celebration of friendship. Their tale also serves as a reminder that we should enjoy our time with loved ones to the fullest. As the story unfolds, we get to see how the relationship between the child and the dog changes over time. The child who was cared for is now the caregiver.