Monday, March 28, 2016

Picture Book Monday with a review of Waiting

For many of us waiting is a bore. Sometimes it is very frustrating and annoying. We feel that we are wasting time, time that would be better spent if we were not waiting. Sometimes we are wasting precious time, but there are many other times when waiting is actually a good thing, when the act of waiting offers up joys of its own. Today's picture book explores this idea in the most delightful way.

Waiting Waiting
Kevin Henkes
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
HarperCollins, 2015, 978-0-06-236843-0
There are five toys that sit on a windowsill and they are all waiting. The little pink pig with the umbrella is waiting for the rain. The owl is waiting for the moon. The little bear with the kite is waiting for the wind, and the puppy on the sled is waiting for some snow. The rabbit is not waiting for something special. He just likes to look out of the window. He just waits because he enjoys doing so.
   The owl is lucky because the moon turns up “a lot.” The pig and bear also got to enjoy the rain and the wind regularly. Snowfalls are not as common, but they do happen, and when they do the puppy is very happy.
   Life on the windowsill does not change a great deal. Sometimes one of the toys goes away for a while and sometimes they all sleep. Occasionally gifts appear, and once a little toy elephant came to stay. He, alas, fell off the windowsill and broke, which was very upsetting.
   Through their window the little toys see so many things that add to their experiences, and then one day a new toy arrives and she has a little secret of her own.
   Our lives are full of times when we have to wait, and all too often we do so with impatience, and perhaps even with frustration and annoyance. We want what we are waiting for to arrive now.
   In this gently paced, softly colored picture book, we explore the idea that sometimes the process of waiting is, in and of itself, a joy. If we take it all in as we wait, and enjoy the journey, there is a good chance that we will discover treasures that we might have otherwise missed. We don’t have to be doing a great deal, and rushing about, to discover so many of the experiences that life has to offer.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

Poetry Friday with a review of Now you see them now you don’t: Poems about creatures that hide

I first started getting interested in animals after I read a book called My Family and Other Animals, which was written by Gerald Durrell. I then went on to read many other books about animals, and learned all kinds of fascinating things about how animals have adapted to different environments and circumstances. Camouflage is one of these adaptations and it takes many remarkable forms, which is why I was delighted to review today's poetry title. In this book readers will meet just a few of the animals who use camouflage to hide their presence from predators or prey.

Now you see them now you don’t: Poems about creatures that hide 
Now You See Them, Now You Don't: Poems About Creatures that HideDavid L. Harrison
Illustrated by Giles Laroche
Poetry Nonfiction Picture book
For ages 6 to 8
Charlesbridge, 2016, 978-1-58089-610-8
For millennia animals have been using camouflage to help them hide from predators, prey, or both. Being able to camouflage their appearance has given mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and other animals the ability to survive, an ability that they have passed on to their decedents.  
   In this stunning book, cut-paper relief illustrations are paired with nineteen poems, each one of which explores how camouflage helps an animal species to be successful. We travel from beaches to polar climes, from forests to swamps, from meadows to jungles. Some of the species are large and impressive, while others are very small, but are still worthy of our respect and interest.
   We begin on a sandy beach where a ghost crab blends in perfectly with its environment. When danger threatens, the little crustacean freezes and waits until it is safe to “scurry, hide, / dig, hole, /dive, inside.” With its sand colored shell and appendages, the crab can hide in plain sight if it has to.
   The octopus is a master of disguise. It can change the color of its skin to blend in with its surroundings. This ability helps it to hide from a passing fish that is looking for a meal, or so that it can grab passing prey in its “sucker arms.”
   In a swamp or marshland, alligators float in the water with only their snouts and backs showing. The alligator waits, for all the world looking like a log or piece of debris. What potential prey animals don’t know is that “Hidden where / they never show,/ are teeth / and teeth / and teeth below.”
   When you see a tiger in a zoo you cannot imagine that its bold stripes are actually a wonderful form of camouflage, but in its native habitat where there are “Dappled shadows, / waving grasses,” a tiger’s stripes allow it to blend in beautifully. From where it waits the tiger can watch and when the time is right it will attack like “striped lightning.”

   At the back of the book readers will find further information about all the species featured in the book. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Picture Book Monday with a review of Gordon and Tapir

Friendship is a funny thing. Sometimes our best friends are just like us. We are like two halves of a whole, and we know and understand one another completely. Sometimes our friends are very different from us, and they have habits and interests that we do not, or cannot, understand at all. In today's picture book title you will meet two friends who are very different, and who hit a rough patch that shakes their relationship to its core.

Gordon and TapirGordon and Tapir
Sebastian Meschenmoser
Translated by David Henry Wilson
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
NorthSouth, 2016, 978-0-7358-4219-9
One day Gordon the penguin is in the toilet when he realizes that there is no toilet paper. Not in the best of moods he waddles out of the toilet and follows the toilet paper trial, which leads him to Tapir’s room. When he opens the door, he sees that his friend and housemate is sitting in a room that is bedecked with toilet paper. Tapir is eating fruit and is clearly very content with the chaotic state of his living quarters. Gordon is not.
   Gordon complains about Tapir’s slovenly habits and wonders how anyone can make such a mess. After all, Tapir isn’t “a wild animal.” Tapir responds by criticizing Gordon’s persnickety “love of tidiness.” Living with a neat freak is no picnic. Back and forth the friends squabble and then they go their separate ways to their bedrooms.
   When Tapir gets up in the morning Gordon has already left the apartment, and when Tapir goes to work the next day Gordon is not in his usual place in the penguin exhibit at the zoo. When he gets home Gordon’s room is empty and Gordon has left Tapir a note. Gordon has moved out and found another place to live. This is rather upsetting for Tapir. He does not want to lose his friend.
   Sometimes two friends are so unalike in their habits that living in the same house becomes a nightmare. Who is going to compromise? How can they prevent their friendship from falling apart? Living together can put a strain on even the closest of friendships.
   In this delightful picture book we meet two animals who, at least as far as their lifestyles are concerned, are polar opposites. It takes courage for Gordon to find a solution that works for both animals, a solution that he hopes will save a relationship that they both care about deeply.
   With expressive artwork and a very minimal text, Sebastian Meschenmoser gives readers a tale that is funny and sweet. Children will see that a friendship is a precious thing worth preserving, and sometimes one has to be creative to protect it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Poetry Friday with a review of Once I ate a pie

People who don't have pets often imagine that one dog is pretty much like another, that the only thing that sets them apart is their appearance. This is not even slightly true. Dogs, like people, have personalities that are distinct. Some are shy, some love attention, some like their own space, and some are happy to spend time anywhere. In today's poetry title you will meet some wonderful dogs, each one of which is different. Their personalities will touch readers, make them smile, and perhaps even make them wish that they too had a dog - if they don't have one already!

Once I ate a pie
Once I Ate a PiePatricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest
Illustrated by Katy Schneider
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
HarperCollins, 2006, 978-0-06-073531-9
The dogs that share our lives and our homes all have very different personalities. Even puppies in the same litter can have completely different natures, in the same way that human siblings do. In this delightful collection of free verse poems, the authors introduce readers to seventeen dogs, who tell their stories in their own delightful voices.
   There is Mr. Beefy, a pug who thinks that he is “beautiful” even if he isn’t exactly “thin.” He is very honest with us, telling us that he likes to steal tubs of butter off the table when none of his humans and looking. Once he even stole and ate a whole pie.
   Gus is the kind of dog who watches his people. He likes to know where they are at all times, and prefers it when they are in a group, “Like sheep.” When they wander off to do their own thing, Gus follows to find out if they are “all right,” and then herds them back to where they belong.
   Lucy was a shelter dog and so she has a rather proprietary air about her. After being homeless and possession-less for a while, she now takes her new status in life very seriously. Lucy makes sure that we know that everything in her new home is hers. Even the people.
   Pocket is a small dog who once was so tiny that she “used to sleep in a coat pocket.” Her coat, collar, dish, and water bowl are all tiny. She finds the whole situation rather confusing because she believes that she is “HUGE.”
   Tillie and Maude are sisters, and though they look alike they have very little in common. Tillie is shy and well behaved, whereas her sister tends to be naughty and she gets into trouble. The only thing the sisters really have in common is their looks and the fact that they love one another.
   Anyone who has shared their life with a canine will appreciate this wonderful collection of poems. There are touches of humor that will make readers smile, and sweet word images that will delight readers who have a soft spot for dogs.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Picture Book Monday with a review of The day the crayons came home

All to often we take the people we rely on the most for granted. It is a natural reaction to have, and yet this does not make it a good one. We need to be grateful for our loved ones. We also need to treasure the things that give us joy; things like our musical instruments, our sports equipment, and our beloved art supplies.

In this book a group of crayons decide that enough is enough and they tell the boy they belong to that his neglect of them is really upsetting and quite unacceptable.

The day the crayons came home
The Day the Crayons Came HomeDrew Daywalt
Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2015, 978-0-399-17275-5
One day Duncan and his crayons are enjoying a nice coloring session when Duncan gets a very odd packet of postcards in the mail. It turns out that the cards all come from crayons which, for one reason or another, are no longer in residence in Duncan’s room.
   Maroon Crayon is downstairs, neglected and broken and wants to come home. Pea Green Crayon has changed his name and is running away. Neon Red Crayon was left behind during a family vacation and announces that, since Duncan has not seen fit to retrieve him, he will be walking home. Yellow and Orange are in the garden, melted together by the sun. One of the brown crayons was eaten by the dog and then “puked up on the rug.” He is downstairs on the rug and wants to be rescued. Glow in the Dark Crayon is in the basement.
   The rest of the stories of crayon woe are just too painful to go into further. Suffice it to say that Duncan has a very large collection of postcards from his very unhappy crayons and he feels very bad about his poor neglected friends who really did not deserve being ill-used in such a dreadful way.
   In this book children will have a wonderful time reading the postcards that the crayons in the story send to their owner. They may even wonder what kinds of postcards their crayons, markers and colors would send them if they could. Would their art supplies give them a hard time too?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Picture Book Monday with a review of Last Stop on Market Street

Last Stop on Market Street
Today's picture book is very special indeed. It won the 2016 Newbery Award, which is very unusual because typically Newbery winners are novels. The story is so universal and powerful that I had to pause after reading it the first time to take in everything. Then I read it again.

Last Stop on Market Street
Matt De La Pena
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Penguin, 2015, 978-0-399-25774-2
Every Sunday, after church, CJ and his nana get on a bus and travel across town to Market Street. One Sunday CJ comes out of the church building and it is raining. He does not feel like going across town in the bus today. He resents the rain, he resents the fact that he and Nana cannot travel in a car, he resents the fact that they have to go to the same place after church every Sunday. In short, CJ is not happy with much of anything at the moment.
   One would think that Nana would get annoyed by all of CJ’s complaining questions, but she doesn’t because that is not what Nana is like. Instead, she finds something good to appreciate in everything that CJ finds annoying. What would happen to the trees if they did not have rain to water them? If they had a car they would not get to meet Mr. Dennis the bus driver every Sunday, nor would they see the interesting characters on the bus. If they did not go to the same place every Sunday they would get to spend time with “Bobo or the Sunglass Man.”
   Then a musician starts to play on the bus and CJ begins to experience the joy that Nana understands so well. He begins to understand that sometimes you need to look at what you do have instead of what you don’t.
   This remarkable, award-winning title explores a simple idea through the eyes of a young child. Alongside CJ, on that battered bus, and in the dirty streets, we come to understand that there is beauty everywhere if you know how to look for it.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Poetry Friday with a review of Water Music: Poems for Children

Water Music: Poems for Children

I love water in all its forms. For me, watching waves slap up on a beach is one of the most relaxing things in the world to do, even if it too cold to swim or sunbathe. Just the sound and sight of the moving water is a joy to experience. I think that today's poetry book captures the magic that is water beautifully, and it is a book that children and adults alike will enjoy reading, sharing, and exploring.

Water Music: Poems for Children
Jane Yolen
Photographs by Jason Stemple
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Wordsong, 2003, 978-1590782514
We often take water for granted, but it is a precious resource. Water covers more of our planet than land does, and like our planet, it makes up most of our bodies as well. Without it, life on earth would not be possible. The amazing thing about water is that it is essential, precious, and also very beautiful. Whether moving in a stream, resting peacefully in a lake, crashing as waves on a seashore, or hanging from the eves of houses as long icicles, it is a joy to look at.
  In this beautifully presented book, Jane Yolen’s poems are paired with her son’s photographs to celebrate water in all its remarkable forms. We begin near a lake where the water “is a magic mirror,” which serves to capture an image of the “earth and sky.” Frozen water appears in the next poem where we see an icicle, which hangs “like frozen time.” Its colors and shape are so unique that “It is itself a poem.”
   When we turn the page we leave behind water in its quiet forms, and come to a place where “the incoming tide / Flings its angry waves upon the shore.” Here the author knows that there is “no hiding place” from the waves, and so retreats to a place where the water will no longer be a threat.
   In the next poem Water Jewels, we encounter water as little droplets sitting on the leaves of weeds. Here water is not in the form of huge waves of enormous power. Instead, water is a delight, beautiful thing, “raindrop diadems” that make our world more lovely.
   A waterfall comes next, with words that tip down the page just like the water does in the accompanying photo. Pulled along by the fast moving water, “Leaves and sticks and twigs” get carried over the waterfall. The waterfall is a “rumbling, tumbling, cataracting fool,” which eventually lands in “its own quiet / pool.”
   This is a wonderful book to share with children as it shows them the many forms that water takes. Sometimes water is peaceful and delicate, while at other times it is strong, powerful and awe-inspiring. Jane Yolen’s poems take many forms, and children and their grownups will wonder at the many remarkable ways that she finds to convey moments, places, and feelings so perfectly.