Friday, June 29, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Nasty Bugs

When I studied zoology at university, one of my favorite subjects was entomology, which is not surprising because I have always had a fondness for insects. When I was little, I used to lie on my stomach and watch ants going about their business. I would bring them crumbs and marvel at the way they could carry my gifts away, even though the crumbs were two or three times bigger than the ants who were carrying them.

There are some insects though that I do not like. Mosquitoes and wasps for example. In today's poetry title you will meet a few insect species that are just plain "nasty."

Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrated by Will Terry
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Penguin, 2012, 978-0-8037-3716-7
   It is true that there are many species of beneficial insects in the world. There are insects that garner our admiration because of their beauty or because they provide us with a vital service, such as pollinating our flowers and trees. Then there are the insects that we sincerely wish were not around. There are the mosquitoes that bite us, the ticks that suck our blood, the lice that itch, and the insects that quiet simply revolt us. This book is about these insects, the ones that we love to hate.
   The first poem is about the stink bug. In the big scheme of things, this insect isn’t too bad. After all, it does not “hiss / or sting / or bite.” This insect is an inoffensive looking creature, but it has a secret, a smelly secret that you will find about (and regret) if you are foolish enough to touch it.
   Further on in the book we meet a species of insect that is far more troublesome. Here are fleas who feast on animals and humans, making our lives miserable. Not only do they give us nasty bites, but these little pests “drink blood, spread disease.” It is quite easy to see why the author of this poem, Marilyn Singer, says “Can’t we please get rid of fleas?”
   Fleas, chiggers, mosquitoes, wasps and other insects bite and sting, but there are also the nasty little creatures who disgust us because of their looks and habits. One of the worst examples of these are maggots. Let’s face it, there is very little to like in these slimy larva who love to eat their way through spoiled and rotten food. Some people feel the same way about cockroaches, the tribe of insects that has managed to survive on Earth for “three hundred million years,” and whose presence in our homes makes us wish that our cave dwelling ancestors had “sprayed the whole / Family tree for pest control.”
   Readers who like a little nastiness in their reading material are going to love this collection of poems. The sixteen poems were written by poets such as Alice Schertle, Douglas Florian, and Rebecca Kai Dotlitch. Some of the poems were especially commissioned for this deliciously buggy title. 
   At the back of the book, Lee Bennett Hopkins provides his readers with further information about the insects mentioned in the book. If you thought the bugs in the poems were nasty before, wait until you read the supplemental information about them!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Artsy-Fartsy

I love books that are presented in a diary or journal format. Today's title is just such a book, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the book, the writer is a boy whose summer vacation is just starting. All he really wants to do is to lie around and be lazy all summer, but this is not what ends up happening at all.

Karla Oceanak
Illustrated by Kenda Spanjer
For ages 9 to 12
Bailiwick Press, 2009, 978-1-934649-04-6
   Aldo’s grandmother Goosy has given him a sketch book for his birthday and he has no idea what he is going to do with it. Goosy’s inscription says that the book is for “recording all you artsy-farsty ideas,” which has Aldo feeling a little concerned. He does not really want anyone to think of him as an artsy-fartsy kind of person, even though he really does like to draw.
   Not knowing what to put in the book, Aldo goes and asks his neighbor, Mr. Mot, for his opinion. Mr. Mot, being a word fanatic, thinks that Aldo should write as well as draw in his new book. Actually Aldo has already started doing this, so Mr. Mot’s suggestion isn’t that outrageous an idea.
   The summer vacation has started and Aldo is all set to laze about and do what a ten-year-old boy who hates sports is supposed to do during the summer vacation. Then his mother announces that she has signed Aldo up for summer baseball. Aldoo throws a fit, but this has no impact on his parents whatsoever. Aldo, the boy who hates to do anything physical, is going to have to do baseball.
   The pain of having to do baseball is tempered a little bit by a mystery. Aldo leaves his new sketchbook in his tree hideout while he is at baseball, and when he retrieves the book, he sees that someone has drawn in it. Who would do such a thing? Since the drawing is flowery in nature, Aldo and his friend Jack are convinced that the culprit is a girl, and they set about trying to find out which girl did the drawings. The problem is that Jack and Aldo generally ignore girls, so they have no idea which of the neighborhood girls would do a thing like this. Will they catch her in the act if they hide near the tree, or will they have to do something more sneaky?
   This funny and realistic summer vacation tale will delight readers who like stories that are presented in a journal style format. Aldo’s observations about himself, his friends, his family members, and the world in general are deliciously amusing. Readers who have their own (perhaps ambivalent) artistic aspirations will find Aldo’s artsy fartsy adventures quite revealing.
   This is the first title in what promises to be a splendid series of books.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of Seven Little Mice go to the beach

Schools are now closed in Southern Oregon, and children and their families are enjoying the warm summery weather. The ocean here is a little cold for swimming, but there are many lakes and rivers where one can enjoy swimming, picnicking, and playing. Today's picture book perfectly captures the excitement that children feel during those first days of their summer vacation.

Haruo Yamashita
Illustrated by Kazuo Iwamura
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
NorthSouth, 2012, 978-0-7358-4073-7
Tomorrow is the first day of the summer vacation, and the mice septuplets are delighted because they won’t have to go to school. Even better, the children’s father tells them that they are all going to go to the beach on their first day off. What could be more perfect. They will be able to play in the sand, and best of all they will swim in the sea. There is only one problem; none of the mice children know how to swim without some kind of flotation assistance. Father, who knows his children well, tells them that they “need to be safe in the water,” and he makes seven ring life preservers for his children.
   At the beach the next day all goes well. The seven mice children use their flotation rings, and Mother and Father keep an eye on them. Tired after all their exertions, everyone has a nap after lunch, which is when something very unexpected happens.
   In this charming picture book, the author not only tells a great story, but he also highlights the importance of being safe when you are playing in the water. Little children will love to see how the mice children in this story end up saving the day when their father gets into a spot of trouble. The illustrations are packed with clever little details, and children will laugh when they see the expressions on the character’s faces. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Zen Ties

I know that I am stretching things reviewing this book on Poetry Friday, but I felt that it fits because one of the characters speaks in haiku throughout the story. I thought it would be interesting for you to see how poetry and prose can be combined to create a one-of-a-kind tale, which is what this is. 

Jon J. Muth
Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Scholastic Press, 2005   ISBN: 978-0439634250
Stillwater is waiting at the train station. His nephew Koo is coming to spend the summer vacation with him. When Koo arrives, Stillwater gives his little nephew a bunch of colorful balloons as a welcome gift. Then the two panda bears begin to walk to Stillwater's house. There is a park on the way where they stop to have a little tea. Stillwater's friends Addy, Michael, and Carl arrive, and the bears and the children have a grand time playing together for a while.
   While they are playing, Michael tells Stillwater that he is going to be in a spelling bee. He is nervous about the whole thing and is worried that his nervousness will prevent him from doing his best. Stillwater suggests that the children come with him to visit Miss Whitaker that afternoon. Miss Whitaker is ill, and Stillwater is going to take her some food. Though the children are afraid of Miss Whitaker, they agree to go along.
Miss Whitaker does not seem happy to see the children, and she certainly looks unwell, but Stillwater does not worry about her ill temper. He encourages the children to clean up the house and to paint some pictures for the old lady. He also encourages them to return the next day.
   At Miss Whitaker's house the following morning, Stillwater tells Michael that the old lady used to be an English teacher. In no time Miss Whitaker is helping Michael to study for his spelling bee. After all, she knows a good deal about words and how to spell them.
   The next day Michael has great news to share with everyone and the children who were once so afraid of Miss Whitaker learn that they truly have a new friend.
   All too often in this day and age we forget that we do not all exist on separate islands. Instead, we are all connected, and when we do things for one another those connections often turn into something very special indeed. In his big soft panda way, Stillwater brings together an old lady and three children, and in no time at all warm friendships spring up between them.
Readers who like poetry will greatly enjoy the clever way in which the author has little Koo speaking in haiku, the Japanese poetry form. The poems capture the moments they describe to perfection, and sometimes with humor as well.
   Clever word plays, a tender story, sections of poetry, and Jon Muth's evocative watercolor paintings combine to create a picture book that readers will not forget in a hurry.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Regarding the bees

Several years ago, I came across a series of books that intrigued me a great deal. The Regarding the... books written by Kate Klise and illustrated by her sister M. Sarah Klise both entertain and enlighten readers. The stories are presented in the form of letters, notes, newspaper articles, and other similar documents, and they are full of clever wordplay, amusing situations, and colorful characters.

Today I have my review of one of these titles, and I hope you get a chance to read the book. 

Kate Klise
Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
For ages 9 to 12
Harcourt, 2007, 978-0-15-205711-4
   The principal of Geyser Creek Middle School, Mr. Russ, is going to be taking off the fall semester, and he has appointed Mr. Sam N. to be the Acting Principal while he is gone. Mr. Sam N. has asked his friend Florence to take care of his seventh grade class so that he can be the Acting Principal.
   Florence lives in California, so she will be teaching her 7th grade class using letters, giving the students assignments regularly. Mr. Sam N. writes to Florence to tell her that this year the seventh graders face a particularly tough BEE (Basic Education Evaluation) in December. Apparently, the powers that be have decided that any seventh grader who does not do well in the BEEs will have to repeat middle school. The only problem is that he does not tell Florence what BEE stands for, so she is under the impression that he is talking about real honest-to-goodness bees, as in the insects.
   Not surprisingly, the fact that Florence does not know that the BEE is an exam and not an insect causes rather a lot of confusion. Instead of helping her class prepare for the exam, she sets about educating them about bees. She even sends them a pet bee and some hives to take care of.
   This misunderstanding is only the tip of the iceberg though. In addition to the BEE problem, Mr. Sam N. and his wife Goldie are having communication issues, as are Chef Angelo and his wife Angel. Then there is also the fact that Polly Nader, a teacher at Springfield Middle School, is determined that her students must win the Show-Me Spelling Bee and do well on the BEEs so that she can win the HIVE (Highly Innovative and Victorious Educator) Prize. She is willing to do anything to make this happen, including trying to get Florence removed from her job as teacher.
   Packed with bee-related information and clever word play, this deliciously clever story will keep readers on their toes, as they try to guess what crazy thing is going to happen next. Instead of using a straight narrative, the author tells the story using letters, newspaper articles, and school assignments. Readers will be amused to see how a simple lack of communication causes all kinds of misunderstandings and problems.
   This is one of the titles in a series of books by created by sisters Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of All the way to America

I have always been fascinated by immigrant stories, both fiction and nonfiction, and I have reviewed a lot of books that explore what it was like to emigrate to North America, as you can see on this feature page. Today's picture book is a true immigration story told by Dan Yaccarino, a much-loved and highly successful children's book author and illustrator.

Dan Yaccarino
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Random House, 2011, 978-0-375-86642-5
   Many years ago, Dan Yaccarino’s great-grandfather Michele was a little boy living with his family on a farm in Sorrento, Italy. Michele had a little shovel, and he used this to do his share of the work on his family’s farm. Though they all worked very hard, Michele’s family was “always very poor.”
   When he grew up into a young man, Michele decided to leave Italy. He hoped that he would find “new opportunities” in America. When he left his homeland, Michele took some family photos, his little shovel, and his mother’s recipe for tomato sauce with him.
   The journey to America was a long one, and when he got to New York City, Michele had to pass through Ellis Island. Like so many other immigrants, Michele’s name was changed by the officials at Ellis Island, and his new name was Michael Yaccarino.
   Michael got a job in a bakery, and he used his little shovel to measure out the flour and sugar. Later, when he became a pushcart peddler, Michael used the shovel to measure out fruits and nuts. Michael’s son Dan worked alongside him, and when Dan grew up, he and his wife Helen opened up a market. Dan used his father’s little shovel to measure out beans, macaroni, and olives for customers. With each new generation, the family grew bigger, and the treasured little shovel was passed down from father to son.
   In this wonderful picture book, children’s book author and illustrator, Dan Yaccarino, tells the story of his family. Children will be charmed to see how traditions were passed down through the family, and how every generation did its best to make life better for the generation to come. With a strong work ethic, close family ties, and a connection with
the past, Dan’s family created a legacy that they can be proud of.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Poetry for Young People: Edna St. Vincent Millay

I must confess that I did not learn much about American poets and their work when I was growing up. We studied a few poems by Robert Frost but that was about it. It was only after I moved to the U.S that I began to explore the works of Whitman, Dickinson, and others. Not long ago, I was sent a book about Edna St. Vincent Millay, and I had a wonderful hour learning about her life and reading a sample of her poems. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys poetry.

Edited by Frances Schoonmaker
Illustrated by Mike Bryce
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 9 and up
Sterling, 1999, 0-8069-5928-2
  Edna St. Vincent Millay had what many people would consider to be a very difficult childhood, and yet she did not see it that way. Her father was a gambler who squandered the family money until his wife asked him to leave, and her mother had to work long hours to provide for her children. At times Vincent (that is what her friends and family called her) and her siblings were left alone for long periods of time to manage on their own, which they did very well. The children worked together to take care of the household, and Vincent often found ways to make doing the chores enjoyable. Though money was scarce, fun and frolics were abundant.
   Vincent began writing poetry when she was only five-years-old. Of course her first poems were very simple, but they were very precious to both Vincent and her mother Cora, who was always Vincent’s staunch supporter. During lean times, and there were many of those, Vincent often chose to buy books instead of paying for heat or food. She would work long into the night, writing plays and poetry because for her, writing was an essential part of who she was.
   In this wonderful collection of poems the editor begins by telling us about Edna St. Vincent Millay’s life, and then she goes on to share some of Millay’s poems with us. Knowing Millay’s story helps us to better appreciate her poetry, to see how she delighted in the simple everyday and ordinary things in life. Often she wrote about what she saw and experienced.
   Though some people feel Millay’s poetry is “too simple” to be considered “great poetry,” other people see that there is truth and beauty in her words. The first poem in this book, Afternoon on a hill, perfectly demonstrates how you can use few words to capture a special moment in time. In the poem, we meet a person who is content to sit on a hill surrounded by “a hundred flowers” and yet “not pick one.” The person is happy to absorb the peace of the place, to savor the moment without needing to do anything, or take anything.
   Other poems explore travel, where a horseshoe went when it was being worn on a horse’s foot, what it is like to live far from the sea, and more. Throughout the book, the images Millay creates in her writings are beautifully complimented by Mike Bryce’s soft atmospheric watercolor paintings.
   This is one in a series of books about poets published by Sterling.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Summer in the city

In a week it will be the first day of summer, and I'd like to kick off the season with a deliciously funny book about a boy and how he spends his summer vacation. The book perfectly captures the flavor of summer, and it shows readers that you don't have to venture far to have adventures.

You can find more summery books on the TTLG Summer Days feature page.

Summer in the city
David Hormel and Marie-Louise Gay
Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Summer in the CityFor ages 7 and up
Groundwood Books, 2012, 978-1-55498-177-9
   School will soon closing for the summer, and something very “fishy” is going on. Usually, by now, the sitting room in Charlie’s house is littered with travel books, guides, and maps. Every summer, Charlie, his little brother Max, and their parents have gone on trips to out-of-the-way places where they have had the most extraordinary adventures. Charlie’s parents aren’t interested in going to the Bahamas, Disneyland, or London. No, they like to go to places that are hard to get to, places where one never knows what is going to happen next.
   Then one evening Charlie’s parents finally explain why there is a singular lack of vacation planning. Apparently, money is a little tight, so they have decided that the family is going to stay in Montreal for the summer and have a “stay-cation” instead of a vacation. Charlie cannot imagine how staying at home is going to be any fun. Nothing ever happens in his neighborhood.
   Since he has control over his life this summer - for a change – Charlie decides that he is going to get a summer job, or “go camping in the wilderness and see wild animals.” Perhaps he will get the opportunity to “save someone’s life.” The problem is that he does not know how to make any of these grand ideas come about. Then, when he is at the laundromat, he gets a job idea. Charlie notices that there are a lot of lost cat posters pinned to the walls, and he decides that he will try to find the missing cats and claim the rewards that many of the worried pet owners are offering.
   In theory, this job sounds like a fantastic idea, but Charlie and Max soon find out that matching lost cats up with their owners is a tricky business. Charlie does however manage to get Romeo, Madame Valentino’s cat, out of a tree. He saves a life. Kind of.
   After this exhausting job, Charlie is cajoled into camping with Max in the back yard. After tussling with the tent for some time, it is finally erected (sort of), and Max and Charlie are ready for their camping adventure. They tell scary stories for a while, and then they play flashlight tag. After Max falls asleep, Charlie hears some animal making noises outside. He peeks through the tent flap and sees a skunk. Then he sees the family cat, Miro, pouncing on the skunk. Then, of course, he sees (and smells) Miro getting sprayed by the skunk. After a washing Miro thoroughly, Charlie and his family once again settle down for the night, but Charlie’s nocturne adventures are not over yet.
   In this delightfully funny and at the same time thoughtful book, Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel continue the adventures of Charlie, Max, and their parents. At first it seems as if the family stay-cation is going to be rather humdrum, but it is not long before Charlie finds out that one does not have to venture away from home to make discoveries, find new friends, and to have new (and often exciting) experiences. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of Artist Ted

When you go to an art gallery in a big city, it is fascinating to see how people from all over the world, who are speaking a wide variety of languages, are all able to enjoy looking at the same art. Art is truly universal, and it can bring people together, allowing them to connect despite their differences.

Today's picture book tells the story of one young bear's art adventure, and we see how his art helps him to make a new friend. 
Artist Ted
Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2012, 978-1-4169-5374-6
   One morning Ted the bear wakes up, he looks around his room, and he realizes that his room needs “an artist to spiff things up.” Ted looks all over his house for an artist, and when he can’t find one hanging out in the fridge or in the fish aquarium, he decides to become an artist himself.
   Ted knows that he needs an imagination to be an artist, and thankfully he has “one of those,” but what he doesn’t have is a paintbrush. Nor does he have paint, but Ted is a clever young bear and he improvises. He makes himself a paintbrush, and he finds that jam, mustard, chocolate sauce, and ketchup can be used as paint.
   Soon Ted has painted big murals on the white walls of his house. For some reason, his mother isn’t very enthusiastic about his works of art, so when Ted gets to school he paints the walls there. Principal Bigham does not seem to appreciate Ted’s art either, but Ted does not let the principal’s negative attitude bother him.
   In class, Ted notices that there is a new student in the room. Ted tries to make friends with Pierre, but the little monkey refuses to smile or speak. Somehow, Ted needs to show Pierre that he is welcome and among friends.
   Art is one of the few things in this life that has universal appeal. Even if two people come from very different backgrounds, they can still appreciate the same work of art. They can also communicate through art when they don’t have a common language. In this charming picture book, the author explores this idea. Her irrepressible Ted is not easily discouraged, and his passion for art not only makes him creative, but it also makes him keen to use art to reach out to his new classmate. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Collected Poems for Children

Ted Hughes was a prolific writer who wrote several hundred poems for young readers, and who was Britain's Poet Laureate from 1984 until his dead in 1998. For today's poetry title I have reviewed an excellent collection of Ted Hughes' poems.

Ted Hughes
Illustrated by Raymond Briggs
For ages 6 and up
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005, 978-0-374-31429-3
During his lifetime, Ted Hughes wrote hundreds of poems for young people. He was particularly fond of writing poems about animals, both real creatures like seals and skunks, and fantastical ones like the Loch Ness monster and the Mountain Dugong. He is probably most well known for his humorous verse, but he also wrote many poems that have a more serious and contemplative feel.
   In this collection, more than two hundred and fifty of Ted Hughes’ poems have been brought together to give readers a memorable reading adventure. The poems are arranged by volume, beginning with The Mermaid’s Purse, and ending with Season Songs. The poems at the beginning of the book are for younger children, while those in the later collection are better suited to more mature readers (including adults).
   Young children are going to love reading about the sea creatures that appear in the The Mermaid’s Purse collection. Here they will meet a ragworm, a poor creature that was once “all the rage,” but who was cruelly supplanted by fish, those animals who favor the “Fashion of Flounce.” On these pages they will also meet a mermaid and a sea monster. The latter’s appearance makes a child feel so terrified that he “cannot cry” and is “Completely numb.”
   In The Cat and the Cuckoo collection we meet familiar animals like the cow, mole, and donkey. Of course Ted Hughes manages to describe his subjects in wonderfully creative and often amusing ways. We find out that the humble shrew, despite its small size and very “tender, waggling nose,” is a temperamental creature that will, when it meets another of its kind, “fight to the death.” Another small furry beast, the mole, insists that it should always “travel by hole.” Though its sensitive nose is like “a beam of light” cutting through the darkness underground, its eyes are tiny and not very useful.
   Next we move on to Meet my Folks, which is where we get to know Grandpa, Brother Bert, and many others. Among other things, we learn that “ma” is a superlative cook who rustles up massive cakes for maharajas, “Whipped-Cream Goose,” and rattlesnake curry with “Crème de la Cactus.” Sister Jane is an honest to goodness bird, a “great big crow” who has to go about disguised so that no one knows what she really is.
   These three sections are followed by five others, ending with poems from What is truth? and Season Songs.
   Readers will be able to grow up with this book, reading the amusing poems at the beginning of the book when they are young, and exploring the more thoughtful and perhaps and demanding poems when they are older. This is a book to keep at hand, to dip into, and to enjoy at quiet moments.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - Moxy Maxwell does not love Stuart Little

I live with two people who procrastinate in a big way. Both my husband and my daughter like to put things off until the last possible moment. The more I remind them of the things that they have to do, the more they try to get out of doing them. My daughter still thinks that I might forget that she needs to brush the dogs or tidy her room, but I never do. 

In today's book you will meet a girl who takes procrastination to a whole new level. Her adventures are deliciously funny, and grownups will be hard pressed not to laugh at the various tricks that she comes up with to get her out of trouble. 
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little
Peggy Gifford
Photographs by Valorie Fisher
For ages 7 to 10
Random House, 2008, 978-0-440-42230-3
It is August 23rd, and tomorrow is the first day of school. Moxy Mawell is in dire trouble because she has not read Stuart Little, the book that her teacher assigned his students to read over the summer vacation. Moxy’s teacher, Mr. Flamingo, will be quizzing the students about the book tomorrow, so Moxy cannot just pretend to read the book, she actually has to do it.
   The reason why Moxy has not read the book is quite simple; she does not like reading books that some one tells her to read. She only likes to read book that she chooses to read. All summer long she has carried Stuart Little around with her, and though it has had lemonade spilled on it, and it has fallen in the pool, and it has been used to prop up a table, it has not been read at all.
   Now Moxy’s mother has announced that there will be “consequences” if Moxy does not read the book. In fact, Moxy’s mother even goes so far as to say that Moxy will not be able to perform in the water-ballet show that afternoon if the book is not read by five o’clock. The very idea of having such a consequence imposed on her makes Moxy feel positively unwell.
   One would think that this threat would be enough to finally get Moxy to read those one hundred and forty-four pages. Unfortunately, it does not inspire Moxy to read the book. Instead, it inspires her to find new ways to avoid reading the book, which brings about a disaster of monumental proportions.
   Readers who struggle with their own procrastination tendencies will find it not to smile (or even laugh) as they read about Moxy’s end-of-the-summer battle. Her deliciously funny personality comes through beautifully, and one cannot help liking the nine-year-old who has a list of potential careers, a list of things she hates to do, and who has the tendency to “go to extremes.”

Monday, June 4, 2012

Picture book Monday - A review of When a dragon moves in

What could be better than a picture book about a dragon? A picture book about a dragon who lives on a beach of course! At least I think so, because I am a fan of dragons, and I love spending time at the beach building sandcastles, exploring tide pools, and dozing under an umbrella. I am therefore delighted to bring you this dragony beachy book. I have a feeling that today' picture book will inspire dragon lovers to get busy building sandcastles as fast as they can. Read on to find out why.

When a Dragon Moves In
Jodi Moore
Illustrated by Howard McWilliam
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Flashlight Press, 2011, 978-0-979974-67-0
   You may not know this, but if you build a sandcastle (a perfect one) at the beach, there is a good chance that a dragon will move in. Having a dragon in residence is a fantastic thing, because dragons are great companions and playmates. If you have a dragon living in your sandcastle, you will have someone to swim with, someone who will scare off the bullies, and a “built-in marshmallow toaster.”
   Of course, having a dragon around can present a few problems that you will need to take care of. You will have to make sure that you erase the dragon footprints, hide the dragon smoke, and you will have to find a way to feed the dragon without attracting any attention. There is a good chance that you will get blamed for some of the things that the dragon does. After all, parents and big sisters are hopeless when it comes to seeing dragons, and they will blame you when all the sandwiches are eaten, when there are strange marks on the brownies, and when people get sprayed with sand. Are you the kind of person who can cope when a dragon moves in?
   Dragon fans are going to love this clever picture book, especially when they see what happens in the end. In fact, they will love the dragon in the story so much that they might be tempted to find a sandcastle dragon of their own.
   With amusing illustrations and a great story, this is a wonderful picture book to share with someone who is has a soft spot for dragons.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Wild Wings

When Jane Yolen gets together with her photographer son Jason to create a book, the result is always fantastic. Today's poetry title is one of these collaborative books, and I was delighted to spend a quiet half hour reading it. 

Jane Yolen
Photographs by Jason Stemple
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Boyds Mills Press, 2002, 1-59078-173-2
   Jane Yolen belongs to a family of bird watchers. Encouraged by their father, all three of Jane’s children grew up watching birds and trying to identify them. Her youngest son Jason “was always the keenest birder of the family,” and when he sent his mother some photos of birds that he took in South Caroline and Florida, she asked him to send her some more. The pictures were so beautiful and powerful that she wanted to write poems to accompany them, and this is what she has done in this book.
   In her poems, Jane Yolen explores the lives of fourteen different species of birds. Some of the poems capture a moment, a snippet of time. For example, in the first poem we see a beautiful egret, “A cloud of feathers / above the feathered pond.” There it stands still until a man in a boat arrives, and then the shy bird flies up with a “rush of broad wings.”
   Other poems give us a portrait of the bird being described. In Brother Hawk, the hawk tells us what it is waiting for as it sits on its “solitary perch.”
   Then there are those word paintings that beautifully describe the bird shown in the accompanying photograph. When she saw her son’s photo of Wilson’s Warbler sitting on a twig, Jane Yolen felt that the little bird looked as if “sunshine / fell down on a branch.”
   Using a variety of poetry forms including a gem-like haiku, Jane Yolen takes us into a world of feathers, bright eyes, shiny beaks, and open sky. The overall effect of the book is to give us a sense of the poet’s obvious love of birds.