Saturday, April 30, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and twenty

I have a pair of cats who have a very unusual fondness for foods that are decidedly uncatlike. When they think I am not looking, they try to swipe raw mushrooms, peas, pieces of apple, and I have even caught Suma with a piece of linguine in her mouth.

Today's picture book is about a cat who is lucky enough to have someone who likes to cook meals for him, but who does not realize how lucky he is.

Pino and the Signora's PastaPino and the Signora’s Pasta
Janet Pedersen
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Candlewick Press, 2005, 076362396-2
  Every day the Signora comes and feeds Pino and the other homeless cats of Rome. All the cats are delighted to see Signora, who makes a delectable pasta sauce that is “spiced to perfection.” All the cats except for Pino that is. Pino is tired of eating pasta. He wants “a tasty chop” or a “delicious fish.”
   Determined to get something to eat that will appeal to his taste buds, Pino goes out to find a “better meal.” He soon comes to an outdoor cafĂ©, where he samples a delectable fish, until a waiter tells Pino to “Shooo, cat! Shooo!” Poor Pino slinks away. Next Pino finds a pizzeria, but he is not welcome there either. Where will Pino be able to find a meal that will please his stomach and his heart?
   In this clever picture book, we meet a cat who does not realize that what he seeks is under his nose the whole time. Sometimes we have to take a journey to better understand that what we really want is something that we already have.
   With a lyrical text and amusing illustrations, this is a story that both entertains and enlightens.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Poetry Friday - A review of Birds of a Feather

Happy Friday everyone! Just the other day I discovered that the swallows are back from the south. They are already busy building their nests inside our barn. For me the arrival of the swallows means that summer is on the way, even though there is frost on the mountains this morning!

In today's poetry book, Jane Yolen gives us a very intimate look into the lives of several bird species. Her poems made me feel that I now know these birds not just as beautiful animals to admire, but as creatures that have personalities.

Birds of a FeatherBirds of a Feather
Jane Yolen
Photographs by Jason Stemple
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 8 to 12
Boyds Mills Press, 2011, 978-1-59078-830-1
   People of all ages love watching birds. They peer at them through binoculars, take photos of them, and read bird guides and other books to learn all about them. Often bird enthusiasts have all kinds of facts and figures at their fingertips, and they can talk at length about the habits of the birds that they study.
   In this exceptional book of poetry, Jane Yolen invites bird lovers to look at birds in a new way. What makes the poems special is that they are full of surprises. Jane uses humor and an uncanny eye for detail to help us see the birds in an altogether more familiar and personal way. For each of the fourteen bird species described, she gives us a poem and some informative text. Her poetry is accompanied by wonderful photos that were taken by Jason Stemple.  
   Jane begins by telling us about the “Regal Eagle.” When you look at the photo, the bald eagle certainly looks very regal. What many people don’t know is that this “king” is no match for a “mob of crows” that can drive the eagle away “wing to wing.” It would appear that the bald eagle is not all powerful after all.
  Later on in the book, there is a haiku for a “Cool Kingfisher.” In the photo, we see a belted kingfisher sitting on a piece of dead wood. The bird does look “cool” because it has something that many people would love to have: the bird has a “blue Mohawk” of feathers that stick up from its head.
   The Hooded Merganser’s appearance is also commented on in a poem in which Jane asks, “Is that a marshmallow on your head?” The question is funny, and it is also the kind of thing anyone might wonder as they look at a hooded merganser. The bird does look like it has a marshmallow on its head. In addition is has a distinct “circus clown” look about it with its orange eyes and its odd looking plumage.
   The combination of the beautiful photos and Jane Yolen’s creative and intimate poems makes this book of poetry wonderfully accessible for readers of all kinds.
   

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and nineteen

Today is Arbor Day here in the U.S. It is a day when people come together to plant trees and to appreciate trees for their beauty and for the many things they give us. Today's picture book tells the story of how one town started a tradition of planting trees every spring.

Kathryn O. Gilbraith
Illustrated by Cyd Moore
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Peachtree Publishers, 2010, 978-56145-517-2
   Katie and Papa live in a new town on the prairie. New buildings pop up every week, and the town now has stores, a church, and a schoolhouse. In what is going to be the town square Papa paces out the land, planning where paths will go. When it is ready, the town square will be where the townsfolk gather for concerts, socials, speeches, and celebrations. There is one thing that is missing though. There are no trees.
   At a town meeting the townsfolk decide that their town needs trees, and they all chip in some money to buy fifteen young trees. Eagerly the townsfolk wait for their trees, and then at last the baby trees arrive on a train. The saplings “spindly and green” don’t look like much, and it is hard to believe that they will ever provide shade and beauty in the town square, but Papa tells Katie “Don’t worry. They’ll grow.”
   Together the townspeople, young and old, work to plant the trees in what will be the new town square. They plant trees near the school and church, and Katie and Papa plant a flouring dogwood in memory of Mama, who is no longer with them.
   That evening the townsfolk dance and picnic under the stars, and they decide to have a tree planting celebration the following year.
   In this wonderful picture book, the author and illustrator tell the story of how a small prairie town starts a tree planting tradition. The author and Illustrator beautifully capture the pride that the townsfolk have in their trees, and the pleasure those trees give to people for generations to come. The tradition of planting trees every spring connects the people to their past, and to their future.
   The story is loosely based on the true story about the first Arbor Day, which was celebrated in Nebraska in April, 1872. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and eighteen

There are certain authors and illustrators who are favorites of mine. When I see one of their books in a shop or in a publisher's catalogue, I do my best to get a copy. One of these people is Quentin Blake. Blake is well known for illustrating the books written by Roald Dahl, but he has also written many books of his own including Mr. Magnolia and today's picture book.

Quentin Blake
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Random House UK, 2010, 978-1-849-41046-5
   Long ago a boy called Angelo lived in Italy with his mother, father, and three brothers. The family travelled around the country, all their worldly possessions in a covered cart. When they got to a village, Angelo’s father and his big brothers would build a stage, and when everything was ready, the family members would put on a show. Angelo’s big brothers would do “marvelous balancing tricks,” his father would play the guitar and sing, and then Angelo would do very popular his tight rope act.
   One day Angelo saw that one of the people watching him perform was not smiling “like everyone else.” Instead, the girl looking out of a second floor window was crying. The girl, Angelina, explained that she wished so much that she could travel around the country like Angelo did. She had a miserable life living with her cruel uncle. She was sure that she would be trapped in her uncle’s home “for ever.” Luckily for Angelina, Angelo has an idea.
   In this charming picture book, Britain’s first Children’s Laureate gives readers a tale that is entertaining and heart warming. With its feel-good happy ending and its wonderful illustrations, this is a picture book Quentin Blake fans will want to add to their collection.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and seventeen

In the early nineties I worked part time in an after school program in a public school in Washington DC. One of the things my kids loved was story time because I would go to the library or the book store to get books that I thought would amuse them. The little ones would always rush to sit on the floor (or in my lap) for story time, and over time I noticed that the 'big' kids would also drift over trying not to look as if they were listening.

One of the books that the kids loved was Imogene's Antlers by David Small. Once the story was read, the children liked to guess what was going to happen next, and they would often draw pictures of Imogene with her odd animal appendages.

David Small
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2010, 978-0-375-81048-0
   One morning Imogene wakes up to discover that she has grown a pair of very large antlers during the night. Getting dressed and getting through doorways takes careful thought, and when Imogene’s mother sees the antlers she faints.
   The family doctor is called, and he says that there is nothing medically wrong with Imogene. The school principal comes over and he glares at Imogene, but he has no advice to offer either. When Imogene’s little brother announces that Imogene has turned into a “rare form of miniature elk” Imogene’s mother faints. Again.
   Though her parents are very upset, the cook and kitchen maid quite like the antlers, finding a number of uses for them. Perhaps it won’t be so bad having antlers.
   First published in 1985, this book has become a much loved classic. Children and their families love reading about the hilarious situation that Imogene finds herself in, and they certainly have a good laugh when they come to the surprising ending. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and sixteen

Technically speaking today's book is a novelty book because it has reusable stickers that you can stick on the pages. However, I think that the stickers are just a bonus feature. The picture book on its own is more than enough for any reader, because every double page spread is packed with wonderful (and often deliciously odd) scenes. I thoroughly enjoyed looking through the book, and I have added it to my books-to-pull-out-and-browse collection. Not only is the book entertaining, but readers will also learn a thing or to about the places mentioned in the narrative.

Marc Boutavant
Novelty Book
For ages 4 to 8
Chronicle Books, 2008, 978-0-8118-6926-3
   Mouk has decided that he is going to go on a trip around the world. He practices talking in other languages, he does a little research, sends an email, and calls his friends Popo and Chavapa to tell them about his plans. After packing his backpack, he meets his friends at Chez Titi so that he can explain that he is “off to see the world.”
   Mouk’s first stop is Lapland, which is a province in Finland. He writes to his friends back at home telling them what Lapland is like. He makes friends with a rabbit called Sami, and he offers to help Sami’s grandfather wrap Christmas presents for children from around the world.
   Next Sami goes to visit his friend Elena who lives on a Greek Island that is called Hydra. Sami and Elena go snorkeling and then they sit on the beach relaxing and eating watermelon. Sami learns how to say “hello” in Greek, and he eats some rather strange food.
   Mouk goes on to visit Libya, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, India, China, Australia, Japan, Peru, and the United States. In every country he makes new friends, he sees wonderful things, he learns about the cultures and customs that he encounters, he picks up some of the language, and he gets to sample some of the local cuisine.
   Children are going to love traveling around the world with Mouk the bear. Every double page spread presents readers with a colorful scene that is packed with kooky characters, delightful picture vignettes and mini stories, and information. Then there are Mouk’s letters to his friends back in Paris. These are amusing, and they tell the reader about Mouk’s adventures in the different countries.
   Young readers can also interact with the book by placing the forty-six reusable stickers on the glossy pages, and by looking for the search-and-find items in the pictures. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and fifteen

Last summer my family and I went to Amsterdam. My daughter was very surprised to see that Miffy, a children's book character that she is very fond of, was very popular there, until she realized that the little white rabbit was created by a Dutch author. In Dutch, Miffy is called Nijintje, which I must confess is a word I have a hard time pronouncing. I enjoyed looking at all the Miffy books (which I couldn't read of course) and the Miffy merchandise. In fact I have a Dutch Miffy sitting on a shelf in my office.

For today's picture book I have a Miffy title in which Miffy discovers that anyone can create art. You don't have to a famous or an adult to create a piece of art. In addition, the little rabbit learns how rewarding the creative process is.

Dick Bruna
Picture Book
For ages 2 to 4
Abrams, 2007, 978-1-85437-823-1
   One day Miffy, the little white rabbit, goes to the art gallery to look at the paintings and the other works of art. On her way home, Miffy thinks about the things she has seen, and when she gets to her house, Miffy gets out some crayons and she starts to draw.
   Happily, Miffy creates pictures, exploring ideas with her colors. Her pictures remind her of things and places, and they give her a great feeling of satisfaction.
   In this charming Miffy title, the author uses simple concepts and memorable art to help children see that anyone can create art. He shows children that drawing or painting or sculpting helps us to explore our world in new ways, and connects us with memories and emotions.
   This is one in a series of books about Miffy. 

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and fourteen

I have a special fondness for picture books that have detailed artwork. Today's picture book is just such a title. It has artwork that you will want to explore for a while, and interesting page features that children will like. The story is charming, and perfectly touched with magic.

Lieve Baeten
Picture book
For ages 4 to 7
North South, 2011, 978-0-7358-4004-1
   Lizzy the Little Witch has a friend called Trixie staying with her for the night, and Lizzy is reading Trixie (who is a very small witch indeed) a story. In the story, this is a Witch Princess who rides around on a magic carpet. Inspired by the story, Lizzy casts a spell on her carpet, and to her delight the spell works. Under the light of a full moon, the carpet carries Lizzy and Trixie “off into the night.”
   After flying for quite a while, they see a caravan moving across the countryside below. The witches swoop down to investigate, hoping that they will find something to eat. Caravan Witch is delighted to see the two young witches, and she not only feeds them, but she also gives them a little show as well.
   After bidding Caravan Witch goodbye, the witches fly on, soaring over mountains and the river. Below them, the witches see a light shining out into the darkness. Trixie really needs to go to the bathroom, so they fly down towards the river and soon they see Boat Witch sitting on her strange witch craft. Hopefully she will be able to help them.
   With wonderfully detailed illustrations and interesting novelty features on the pages, this Little Witch title is sure to charm young readers who like adventures that have a magical element. 

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and thirteen

Finding creative ways to help little children understand how to get along is not easy. They don't like it when someone new comes into their territory, and often they respond to such an 'invasion' by getting upset. Today's picture book shows children how one little cat copes when a dog moves into her home.

Cleo and Caspar (Cleo Series)Caroline Mockford
Picture book
For ages 2 to 4
Barefoot Books, 2001, 1-84148-440-7
   One day Cleo wakes up and she runs downstairs. Something or someone is making a noise, and like all cats, she is curious and wants to know what is going on. When Cleo looks around a door, she sees a most extraordinary thing. There is a small brown and white dog in the house. In her house!
   Cleo’s person introduces Cleo to Caspar, and Cleo gives the little dog a sniff. Unfortunately, this prompts the dog to bark, which makes Cleo hiss with anger. Then Cleo runs away and she hides in a tree. What is she going to do?
   Getting used to change is never easy, particularly if you are not very big. This picture book, with its sweet acrylic illustrations and its simple rhyming text, explores how one little cat deals with a big change.
   This is one in a series of books about Cleo the cat.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Poetry Friday - A review of Around the World on Eighty Legs

Happy Friday everyone! I have a really wonderful book of poetry for you today; a book that combines delightful and often funny poetry with zoological information about animals. As they look through the book, children will get to meet a variety of animals that live in countries around the world.

Amy Gibson
Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Scholastic, 2011, 978-0-439-58755-6
Imagine what it would be like to travel around the world, visiting all kinds of curious and interesting animals. Which animals would you want to meet? In this delightful picture book, Amy Gibson takes us to six of the seven of the world’s continents. She also throws in the Arctic for good measure.
   The journey begins in South America where we meet a Howler monkey, an animal that has a voice “so piercing few can stand / their eerie calls at break of day.” Even more curious is the Basilisk, a lizard - with the name of a mythological creature - that is able to literally walk on water. If you think this is odd, then you should meet the Hoatzin, a bird that smells so terrible that “you’ll smell him / ‘fore you see him.”
   Next we go to the “Far, far north and far, far, south.” Here we meet caribou, Arctic foxes, auks, penguins, and other creatures. We see large and ferocious predators like the polar bear with its sharp teeth, and tiny krill that serve as a “smorgasbord” for hungry whales and seals. The tiny shrimp are such an excellent source of food that “everybody wants to eat them,” but “nobody wants to be them.”
   Amy Gibson goes on to tell us about some African animals (lions, rhinos, warthogs and others), and animals from Asia, and Australia. Though the poems are wonderfully silly, they also give the reader a fair bit of information as well. To add to this information, the author provides her readers with a ‘Menagerie of Facts’ at the back of the book.
   Children who like animals are sure to enjoy this poetry picture book. They will appreciate the way in which the variety of poetry forms are beautifully paired with Daniel Salmieri’s funny and expressive illustrations.



The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and twelve

For today's picture book I have another Easter title. I used to love Easter egg hunts when I was a child, so I was happy to get this book in the mail. The story is both amusing and sweet, and the illustrations are quite lovely. 

Pirkko Vainio
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
North South, 2011, 978-0-7358-2304-4
   Every year the grandmother who lives in the house hides Easter eggs in her garden for her grandchildren. One spring day Harry the squirrel sees the grandmother coming out of her house carrying a basket of eggs and he knows that it is Easter again. Harry enjoys following her around, watching to see where she places the beautifully decorated eggs.
   After the grandmother goes back indoors, Harry sees that he is not the only one who admires the pretty eggs. Jack the jackdaw also likes the eggs, and to Harry’s horror, the bird steals the eggs. Harry follows Jack to his nest and he sees that Jack has put every single Easter egg into his nest. Jack explains that he wants to have eggs in his nest like all the other birds. Though Harry is sympathetic, he tells Jack that he has to return the eggs to their hiding places. Will they have enough time to get the eggs hidden in the right places before the children arrive?
   With beautiful illustrations throughout, colorful characters, and a charming story, this picture book is sure to be a firm favorite with children who like Easter egg hunts of their own.

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A wonderful book for Earth day

Me . . . Jane
Earth Day is coming up on this Friday, April 22, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate the natural world with Me…Jane! This inspiring portrait of the young girl who grew up to become groundbreaking primatologist and environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall is beautifully rendered by New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Patrick McDonnell.  As Booklist raves in their starred review: “This remarkable picture book is one of the few that speaks, in a meaningful way, to all ages.”

Take a look at the book's website where you can listen to an interview with Patrick about creating Me…Jane, send E-cards, download fun activity sheets, and find out how kids can enter the Go Ahead and Dream! Drawing Contest.

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and eleven

Easter is only a few days away, and for today's picture book I have an Easter tale that is very special. The story will resonate with people who celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, and it will also appeal to those who celebrate the coming of spring with its fresh green grass, its fruit tree blossoms, and its baby animals.

Dori Chaconas
Illustrated by Margie Moore
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Albert Whitman, 2008, 978-0-8075-4750-2
   One day Bunny notices that there is something new in the air outside his burrow. The air smells “like sunshine, and warm breezes and clear flowing water.” He asks Beaver what the smell is, and Beaver explains that Bunny is smelling Easter. Bunny has no idea what Easter is, so Beaver tells the little rabbit that Easter is “a basket.”  Beaver offers to make Bunny a basket if the rabbit will help him gather branches so that he can make his lodge bigger. Bunny is happy to help Beaver, and once the job is done, Beaver makes Bunny a basket of reeds.
   Bunny shows his basket to Woodchuck, explaining that the basket is Easter. Woodchuck then tells Bunny that the basket isn’t Easter as it is. Once the basket is lined with grass, the basket will be Easter. If Bunny will help him dig a tunnel, Woodchuck will cut some grass for the basket. Bunny helps Woodchuck, and soon the basket has fresh new grass inside it. Bunny is sure that he now has Easter, but unfortunately he soon finds out that he doesn’t. Will he ever find out what Easter is?
   In this charming picture book, Dori Chaconas shows children that Easter is not a thing that you can hold. Instead, it is an experience; it is spring, and new life. With a gentle tale of discovery and delightful watercolor illustrations throughout, this is a seasonal picture book that readers of all ages will enjoy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book One hundred and ten

A few weeks ago I reviewed a picture book about a little boy called Alfie, and I have another Alfie book for you today. Just like the stories in all the Alfie books, this story describes an everyday event that becomes an adventure for Alfie and his family. When my daughter was three years old or so, she did what Alfie does in this story, and I have a very anxious half hour or so trying to rescue her.

Alfie Gets in FirstShirley Hughes
Picture book
For ages 3 to 6
Random House UK, 2009, 978-1-862-30783-4
   One day Alfie, his mum, and his little sister Annie Rose walk to the shops. On their way back home, Alfie runs ahead because he wants to be home first. Annie Rose does not care who is first because she is tired, and she is content to sit in her push-chair and suck her thumb.
   After Mum opens the door, Alfie runs into the house and he does the most extraordinary thing. Alfie slams the door shut. Alfie, the shopping, and Mum’s key are in the house, and Mum and Annie Rose are outside. Mum tells Alfie to open the door, but Alfie cannot reach the catch, nor can he put the key through the letterbox because he cannot reach the letterbox.
   Soon Annie Rose, who is now hungry as well as tired, starts to cry. Mrs. McNally from across the road comes over to try to help, but nothing she says can change the fact that Alfie still cannot reach the catch or the letterbox. Alfie starts to cry and cry and cry. Maureen offers to climb the drain pipe to get in a window, the milkman promises that they will “soon have you out of there.” Even the window-cleaner gets in on the act.
   In this wonderfully sweet and funny picture book, Shirley Hughes tells a story about a misadventure that could happen to any little boy or girl. Once Alfie closes the door, Shirley Hughe’s artwork shows what is happening inside the house and what is happening outside, on the front step. Children will immediately be able to identify with scared little Alfie who is all alone in the house. They will be delighted to see how Alfie finally manages to solve the problem that he has created. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don't forget that Earth Day is on Friday

Friday is Earth Day here in the U.S, and here in Southern Oregon there will be all kinds of celebrations taking place over the weekend. In front of our local children's museum, people will set up tents, and businesses will demonstrate products that can help families to adopt a greener lifestyle. There will be live music to listen to, and food to try.

Over the years I have reviewed many books about saving the environment that you might like to take a look at. There is also the Earth Day feature where you will find books that explain how Earth Day came out, and how to celebrate it..

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: One hundred and nine

The Paddington statue in
Paddington Station
When I was a child, a friend of mine was given a stuffed Paddington Bear, which I secretly coveted. I had read all the books and I so wanted to have that wonderful soft bear with its blue duffel coat, red hat, red wellington boots, and the cunning little brown suitcase that came with it. Alas, it was not to be, but when my daughter started to show an interest in the Paddington stories, I was able to get her the toy bear as we were passing through London.

For today's Picture Book Celebration title I have a picture book version of the first Paddington Bear story.


Michael Bond
Illustrated by R.W. Alley
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 7
HarperCollins, 2007, 978-0-06-117074-4
   One morning Mr. and Mrs. Brown are waiting for their daughter’s train in Paddington station when they see something very strange. There appears to be a bear standing near the Left Luggage office. The Browns are surprised to see a that there is small furry bear wearing a duffle coat and a red hat in the train station, and they go up to the bear to ask if there is anything they can do to help him.
   The bear explains that he is a “stowaway” from Darkest Peru, and the Browns are amazed that such a small bear could manage such a long journey all on his own. Mrs. Brown immediately suggests that the bear should come to stay with them. After all, something might happen to the bear if he is left alone. The Browns decide to call the bear Paddington, which the bear likes very much indeed, and then Paddington and Mr. Brown go to the snack bar.
   Paddington is very hungry and thirsty, so he is very pleased to see all the delicious treats that the waitress brings. In fact he is so happy that he climbs onto the table “to get a better look” at everything. Which is when the trouble starts.
   Children and their families have been enjoying the Paddington Bear books since the first book featuring the famous bear came out in 1958. His gentle, sweet, and funny personality has made Paddington a household name around the world.
   This wonderful picture book version of the first Paddington bear story makes the story accessible to even younger readers, which is a truly wonderful thing. 

If you are a Paddington Bear fan you might like to visit Paddington's website.