Monday, June 4, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of The Koala who could

Stepping out of our comfort zone is something that many of us are very reluctant to do. We like to stick with things that are familiar and that feel safe. The problem with doing this is that a life without adventures can be rather dull. You also learn less about yourself and the world when you restrict yourself. In today's picture book you will meet a koala who is too scared to venture down from the tree that he calls home, and as a result his life is both lonely and predictable.

The Koala Who CouldThe Koala who could
Rachel Bright
Illustrated by Jim Field
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Scholastic, 2017, 978-1-338-13908-2
Kevin the koala has simple needs. He likes to have a tree to sit and nap in, and leaves to eat. He likes a quiet life, which is why he likes to stay in his tree and avoid change. From his vantage point the ground beneath him seems “a frightening place,” and so he stays well away from it. Trying new things just isn’t something he is interested in doing.
   One day Wombat invites Kevin to “come down here and play,” but Kevin stays put. Even after the roos tell him that there is nothing to be afraid of on the ground, Kevin declines to join them; he firmly clings to his tree.
   Day after day Kevin sits in his tree, living his life the way he has always done. Then one morning Kevin wakes up and something is very wrong. A bird is pecking on his tree. In fact the birds is pecking the tree so vigorously that the tree starts to list and lean. Closer and closer to the ground it gets, with Kevin holding on for dear life. The other animals gather below, offering to catch him if he will just jump, but Kevin is too scared to do something so dangerous.
   All too often we are prone to holding on to things that are familiar and safe. We avoid trying new things because they are unfamiliar and scary; we cannot be sure how things will work out if we try these new things. In this amusing picture book, we meet a koala who resists change at every turn, until something happens that turns his life upside down. Children will be fascinated to see how things work out for Kevin. and they will delighted to discover that his story has a surprising ending.
  


Friday, June 1, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of Emma's Poem

When I was ten years old I was lucky enough to cross the Atlantic in an ocean liner. Soon after dawn one summer morning we sailed past the Statue of Liberty and I have never forgotten that moment. Many years later I was able to see the Statue of Liberty up close, and I also visited Ellis Island. I have read the poem that is inscribed on the statue and that is now part of this country's history, and I feel great pride to live in a place that has provided sanctuary to so many refugees over the years. Today I bring you the story of the poem and I hope the narrative lifts you up and inspires you. 

Emma’s Poem: The voice of the Statue of Liberty
Linda Glaser
Illustrator:  Clair A. Nivola
Nonfiction Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 978-0544105089
When Emma was little she had a very comfortable life living in a lovely, large home with her mother, father, and siblings. She lacked for nothing, and was able to indulge in her love of books. She had the time to read, and spent many hours writing stories and poems. The people she spent time with came from similarly comfortable backgrounds, and the world of New York’s well-to- do people was the only one she knew.
   Then one day Emma visited Ward’s Island in New York Harbor and there she met immigrants who had traveled across the Atlantic as steerage passengers. They were poor and hungry, and many of them were sick. They had so little and had suffered so much. Like Emma, they were Jews, but unlike her they had been persecuted and driven from their homes. Friends and family members had died, and now here they were in a strange land with no one to assist them.
   Emma was so moved by the plight of the immigrants that she did her best to help them. She taught them English, helped them to get training so that they could get jobs, and she wrote about the problems that such immigrants faced. Women from her background did not spend time with the poor and they certainly did not write about them in newspapers, but Emma did.
   Then Emma was invited to write a poem that would be part of a poetry collection. The hope was that the sale of the collection would pay for the pedestal that would one day serve as the base for a new statue that France was giving to America as a gift. The statue was going to be placed in New York Harbor and Emma knew that immigrants, thousands of them, would see the statue of the lady when their ships sailed into the horbor. What would the statue say to the immigrants if she was a real woman? What would she feel if she could see them “arriving hungry and in rags?” In her poem, Emma gave the statue a voice, a voice that welcomed all immigrants to America’s shores.
   In this wonderfully written nonfiction picture book the author uses free verse to tell the story of Emma Lazarus and the poem that she wrote. The poem was inscribed on a bronze plaque that is on the wall in the entryway to the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. It has been memorized by thousands of people over the years, and has come to represent something that many Americans hold dear.
   At the back of the book readers will find further information about Emma Lazarus and her work. A copy of her famous poem can also be found there.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of Elmore

Soon after I started reviewing books I read the Poppy and Rye series written by Avi. In some of the books we meet Ereth, a foulmouthed, grumpy, and incredibly lovable porcupine. I adored Ereth and think of him every time I see a picture or a video of a porcupine. I was therefore naturally drawn to today's picture book. In the story we meet Elmore, a porcupine who has a very big and troubling problem.


Elmore
Holly Hobbie
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2018, 978-1-5247-1863-3
Elmore is a porcupine and he lives in a big, old maple tree. He lives in the tree by himself, which is what porcupines do. One would think that he would be used to the solitary life by now, but the truth of the matter is that Elmore cannot help feeling a little lonely. 
   One day Elmore decides that he will try to get some friends. He puts up a sign that reads: “Friends Wanted.” He soon discovers that the other animals in the forest are reluctant to become his friends because he is just “too prickly.” If they come to close they are likely to get “needled, nettled, prickled,” which, not surprisingly, they are not too keen on.
   Elmore’s quills are proving to be a problem but they are there for a reason. They protect him, and his uncle reminds him that Elmore “wouldn’t be a porcupine without quills.” His quills are beautiful and he should value them.
   Elmore’s uncle’s kind words warm him, and they also give him an idea.
   So many people find it hard to fit in because they are different in some way. How do you get people to accept you when they won’t even give you a chance? What do you do when they write you off from the get go? This wonderful book explores how one determined porcupine finds a way to show the animals in his world what he is like on the inside. After all, that is the part of an animal, or a person, that really matters. Being prickly on the outside does not mean you are prickly all the way through.
   Readers who enjoyed the Puddle and Toot books are going to love this beautiful new title from Holly Hobbie.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of The Adventures of Piratess Tilly: Easter Island

When I first started reviewing poetry titles I was sent a book full of haiku poems. I fell in love with this poetry form and have made a point of seeking out haiku poetry books ever since. Today I bring you a review of a book that tells a delightful story using a series of haiku poems. The story describes an adventure that a girl and her friends take, and there are also natural history and environmental themes woven into the narrative.

The Adventures of Piratess Tilly: Easter Island
The Adventures of Piratess Tilly: Easter IslandElizabeth Lorayne
Illustrated by Karen Watson
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
White Wave Press, 2017, 978-0-997-90980-7
Piratess Tilly and her friends are setting sail on their beautiful ship, the Foster. This time they are going to Easter Island, and Tilly is hoping to continue to study nature so that she can become a “True Naturalist.”
   As they sail, Tilly and her koala friend Yuki make use of the books that line the walls of Tilly’s stateroom. They read, study, and sketch, following in the footsteps of Katherine Routledge, who also sailed to Easter Island in 1913.
   Eventually they arrive at their destination; Easter Island is in front of them with its majestic rocky shore and its stone statues. The travelers go ashore where they start to explore. Donning diving gear Tilly and Yuki enter an ocean wonderland where fish, sea turtles, and other creatures live.
   Next Tilly and her friends visit some ruins where horses “roam freely.” They have a picnic, enjoying being in such a beautiful place. Then they look out to sea from the highest place on the island and they discover that a pirate ship is headed their way. Tilly knows all too well that pirates cannot be trusted, and sure enough when the pirates come on land they steal the eggs that the sooty terns have laid on the ground. The birds can do nothing to rescue their precious eggs from the greedy poachers, but Tilly can.
   This delightful book takes young readers of a wonderful journey of exploration across the ocean to Easter Island. The tale is told using haiku poems, and it is accompanied by lovely artwork. At the back of the book readers will find further information about Tilly’s heroes: Charles Darwin, and Katherine Routledge.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day

Wishing all the mothers who love and care for their children and their  animal companions a wonderful Mother's Day.

Image result for Mother's Day vintage

Monday, May 7, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of The Word Collector

There are certain authors and illustrators whom I follow with great interest. I review all their books, and I keep my copies close at hand so that I can look at them again and again. One of these author illustrators is Peter R. Reynolds. He creates books that explore big issues and that celebrate things like creativity, compassion, diversity, and now the power of words. Not surprisingly, considering what I do for a living, this book delighted me. Is explores the idea that words are powerful, beautiful things when used in the right way.

The word collector
Peter R. Reynolds
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Scholastic, 2018, 978-0-545-86502-9
All over the world there are people who collect things. They collect stamps, art, rocks, coins, baseball cards, and all kinds of objects. Jerome like to collects things too; he collects words. Every time he hears or reads a word that intrigues or delights him he writes it down on a piece of yellow paper. He collects words that are “Short and sweet,” and he also collects words that are longer. Some have so many syllables that they sound “like little songs.”
   Happily Jerome glues all the words he has collected into scrapbooks, and over time his collection grows so large that he starts to categorize the words.
   One day Jerome is carrying a huge pile of his scrapbooks when he slips and the books tumble to the floor. Pieces of paper covered with words go flying. Jerome begins to pick up the words, which are now all “jumbled” up. Big words are next to little words, and words that one would normally never put next to each other are side by side. Jerome begins to explore his words in a new way, stringing them together to create poems and songs, and to create sentences that are strong and “powerful.” One might think that doing this would be enough for any collector, but Jerome has a word idea that he wants to share with the world.
   Peter H. Reynolds has a gift for creating books that make you think. The ideas he shares with his readers are so meaningful that they persist in our minds and hearts long after the book has been closed.
   Like his stories Ish and Dot, The Word Collector, makes us pause in our busy day to consider the world around us. We are reminded of the fact that words have power; that they can make our world a richer and better place when they are used thoughtfully. Both children and adults alike will love this title, and they will appreciate the message that the author is sharing with us: love words and use them to make your life and the lives of others richer.
  

Friday, May 4, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife

I cannot remember a time when I wasn't interested in animals. I can recall lying on my stomach and watching ants for hours while a garden party was going on around me. I had pet snails and beetles, tadpoles, and worms. I was over the moon when my aunt gave me a pet turtle, and devastated when the poor little thing had an unfortunate accident. The wonderful thing about animals is that they can be found just about anywhere, no matter where you live. Today's wonderful poetry title introduces us to some of the creatures found in cities and towns.

Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife

Sarah Grace Tuttle
Illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Eerdmans, 2018, 978-0-8028-5459-9
If you live in a city or town you may think that your environment is devoid of nature but you would be wrong. There are animals and plants of all kinds living around you, and all you have to do to see them is a stop and look; listen, watch, and wait.
  In our homes there are busy little mice. If you are up late at night when all is quiet you might see a mother mouse running to and fro as she rips paper and scurries to her home only to return to get some more. She is building a nest for the babies that will probably soon be born.
   Outside, on a rainy day, you might spy sparrows huddled together. There they “chitter-cheep softly” while they wait for the rain to slow down and eventually cease altogether. The rain brings forth wonderful surprises too. Under a tree you might see a fairy ring of mushrooms grow. They appear seemingly overnight, a circle of delicate little pale cream umbrellas among the grass.
   By a fountain you might see some pigeons dipping, strutting, and cooing. The males flaunt their courtship dance, hoping that their performance will impress the watching female. In the park pond, ducks tip up, their tails in their air, their bills eagerly seeking food under the water. Busily they search until up they pop happily eating.
   On a warm summer night, beneath the glow of a street lamp, moths congregate. They flitter this way and that and then, out of nowhere, a bat swoops in and snatches one of the insects out of the air.
   In this wonderful book, multimedia illustrations are paired with delightful poems to show young readers that urban environments are full of wild plants and animals. The author and illustrator take us through the seasons so that we get a full and rich picture of nature’s annual cycle, and we get to meet all kinds of wonderful living things on the pages.
  



Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of Love

When you are young love is this invisible thing that no one can really explain or define. It is this power that makes you miss your family when you are away from them, and that makes you delight in being with them again. It is the feeling that you have when you cuddle your pet and when it cuddles you back. Trying to understand what love is is hard, and yet in today's picture book Matt de la Pena and Loren Long have found the perfect way to explore the nature of love. Their book is timeless and powerful, beautiful and thought-provoking.

Love
Matt de la Pena
Illustrated by Loren Long
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Penguin, 2018, 978-1-5247-4091-7
You may think that love comes in only one form, but this is not the case. Love surrounds us and it comes in many forms, more than we can count or imagine.
   Love can be seen in the eyes of our parents when they look down at us as we lie in a crib or a cradle. It is in the movements of a father and daughter as they dance together on the roof of a trailer. They may not have a fancy home or car, but these two share a tie that is boundless and strong.
   On a hot summer day, when children play in sprinklers on the street, the echo of their laughter is the sound of love. Love can be found in the wrinkles on a grandfather’s face as he sits on a bucket so that he can fish with his grandchild. It is in the notes of music that the ragged busker makes as he sings outside the subway station.
   Love is also that thing that sustains you when hard times come. When fires flare, and relationships fail it is there. When tragedies happen love is that thing that your people wrap around you so that you can feel safe. Is the thing that fills the arms that hold you, and it can be heard in the voices that comforts you.
   Sometimes love can be found in places that you have to look hard to see, but when you do see it there you are lifted up.
   This beautiful book celebrates love in a stunning and powerful way.


Picture Book Monday with a review of The Mole Sisters and the Moonlit Night

I have always had a soft spot for moles. Yes I know they mess up my garden and lawn with their earth mounds, but I really don't mind. I love the idea that the cunning little creatures are borrowing away under my feet, seeking out food and working on their subterranean passages. I therefore love books that feature moles, and two of my favorite mole characters are the Mole Sisters. Today I bring you a wonderful little story in which the sisters have a little nighttime adventure.

The Mole Sisters and Moonlit NightThe Mole Sisters and Moonlit Night 
Roslyn Schwartz
Picture Book  Series
For ages 4 to 6
Annick Press, 2001, 978-1550377026
It is a perfectly beautiful moonlit night, and the Mole Sisters go boating on a pond in a little leaf boat. As they lie in the bottom of the boat looking up at the full moon, they see a brilliant shooting star flash across the sky. Quickly the two little moles make a wish, and before you know it their wish has come true; they are on the moon!
   It isn't long before the two moles start feeling homesick. After all, they say as they look at a distant Earth, "the world really is a wonderful place." How are they going to get back to the planet that they call home?
   In this delightful little picture book, young readers will find themselves being transported to a beautiful, soft moonlit night in the company of two charming little creatures. What is special about the Mole Sisters is that they appreciate the beauty of their world, and they are also clearly devoted to one another.
   In this book a minimal text and lovely colored pencil drawings breathe life into the simple world of two little moles. Their enchanting adventures have charmed young children and their families for years.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of Swing Around the Sun

Many people covet the idea of going to live in the tropics. They dream of the warm temperatures, tropical flowers, and blues seas. One of my favorite places on the planet is Hawaii, but I know that I would not like to live there year round because I love experiencing summer, fall, winter, and spring. I look forward to the gifts of the coming seasons. Right now summer peaches are on my mind, and I am eager to spend time sitting by the lake, watching the eagles soaring on the thermals.

In this delightful poetry book we take a journey through the year, experiencing the wonderful things that the seasons bring us as the Earth travels around the sun.

Swing Around the SunSwing Around the Sun
Barbara Juster Esbensen
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell  , Janice Lee Porter , Cheng-Khee Chee , and Mary GrandPre
Poetry
For ages 4 to 8
Carolrhoda Books, 2002, 978-0876141434
We are going to take a journey through a year, exploring the natural wonders of the seasons and the ways in which these ancient rhythms affect the human world. We are going to look at a beach in the spring when "a gull hangs like an icy flake" between the sea and the sky. We are going to listen to a summer storm as "thunder snaps/With a splitting crack!" In the fall we can imagine "Goblins prowl the streets" on Halloween. And, in the winter we can feel the cold as we skate across the pond leaving a "frosty trail" behind us.
   Using both rhyming and non-rhyming poetry, the author of this poetry collection paints a stunning portrait of a year in words, a portrait that is rich in imagery. Readers will find that all their senses are engaged as they go from season to season and from poem to poem.
   The visual impact of this book is especially noticeable because a different illustrator has created the art for each of the seasons. Thus each season has a distinct feel and appearance. Each piece of artwork provides the perfect backdrop for the poem that accompanies it.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of Make the Earth your companion

On April 22 we Americans celebrate Earth Day Back when I was working in the environmental movement in Washington, D.C. it was a day full of festivals, conferences, speeches, and other events. These days I don't get involved in a lot of hoopla, but instead I tend to go out into nature to remind myself what the hoopla is all in aid of. All year round I do as much as I can to tend to our precious planet, and on Earth Day, I celebrate the marvelous place that it is.

Today I bring you a picture book that ties into this sense of celebration. The words in this book will remind readers that our planet is beautiful place, and it is also a great teacher.

J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Creative Editions, 2017, 978-1-56846-269-1
For the most part we humans do not have a healthy relationship with the Earth. We like to dominate it. We use and abuse it. We do not listen and learn from it, even though we should. The Earth has much to teach us and if we make it our “companion,” and if we “we walk lightly on it, as other creatures do,” it has so much wisdom to share with us.
   One of the things we will learn, if we try, is that the sky will always be there above watching over us, and the sea will teach us how to face adversity with courage. A river will show us that nothing stays the same, and that hard times will drift away in time. A lake will teach us how to be still and quiet, and a mountain will show us what true “grandeur” is. A woodland will offer us peace, and a rainforest will be our “canopy of hope.”
   In this book J. Patrick Lewis’ words, and the art created by Balbusso sisters, show us to great effect what a remarkable teacher the Earth is. The message this book’s creators share with us is a rich and powerful one, and it will resonate with readers of all ages. This is a book to treasure, savor, and share.



Friday, March 30, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of Songs and Verse by Roald Dahl.

There is no doubt that Roald Dahl is one of the master craftsmen in the children's book world. He wrote wonderful stories like Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The BFG, and he also wrote dozens and dozens of wonderful poems. Today I bring you a poetry title that contains poems from his story books and also poems from his poetry collections. Beautifully illustrated throughout, this is a wonderful book to share with children.

Songs and VerseSongs and Verse 
Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Quentin Blake and other illustrators
Poetry
For ages 6 to 8
Puffin UK, 2016, 978-0141369235
Roald Dahl has been delighting children with his unique stories since his first books came out in the early sixties. Many of his tales include hilarious songs and sections of poetry that appeal to young readers enormously because of their outrageous content and clever use of language. Dahl also wrote three poetry collections in the 1980’s: Revolting Rhymes, Dirty Beasts, and Rhyme Stew.
   In this superb collection many of the wonderful songs and snatches of verse from the story books, as well as excerpts from the poetry books, have been brought together. Better still, renowned illustrators from all over the world have illustrated the poems and songs. Readers will get to see the art of Chris Wormell, Chris Riddell, Joel Stewart, Babette Cole, Axel Scheffler, Lauren Child, Alexis Deacon, and others. Quentin Blake, who illustrated so many of Roald Dahl’s books, has created some charming drawings for this book as well.
   Divided into sections by subject matter - “Unlikely Creatures,” “Poisonous Possibilities,” and so on – this is a collection that Roald Dahl fans will love to dip into. Within its pages they will find the songs of the Oompa-Loompas, and the Centipede’s song from James and the Giant Peach. At the other end of the spectrum they will find the terrifying words from “Down With Children” from the book The Witches.
   All in all this is a marvelous book, which truly celebrates Roald Dahl’s gift for creating poetry that children enjoy and want to read.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of Spring Blossoms

We are experiencing the contrary kind of weather that is the norm around here in spring. Snow showers on the mountains, cool temperatures in the valley, then warm temperatures, then heavy rain, then cool temperatures again. Throughout all this meteorological chaos the trees flower. The blossoms of showy cherries, demur pears, and delicate almonds all delight the eye. Today I bring you a book that celebrates these trees and more.

Spring Blossoms
Carole Gerber
Illustrator:  Leslie Evans
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2013, 978-1580894128
Spring is here and the trees are “dressed up for their yearly show.” Blossoms cover branches that not long ago were bare. Here is the dogwood wearing its “frosty crown” of white blossoms. The crab apple has white blossoms that are white too, but they are smaller and smell sweet. Magnolia trees produce flowers that are large and tulip shaped, which are quite different from those that you find on cherry trees that  are small and “grow in bundles” so that they look like “small bouquets.”
   Some trees are less showy and yet they too are beautiful in their own understated way. These include the white oak with its green male flowers and its small red female flowers. White pines have small yellow male flowers. Later in the year the female flowers, “tinged with red, like slender lips” appear.
   Throughout this special book, beautiful illustrations are paired with rhyming verse to take young readers into a spring day that is full of beautiful blossoming trees. They will ‘meet’ ten different tree species, and at the back of the book there is further information about spring and the changes that come about in this lovely season.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Happy Spring

Happy Spring!


There are lots of book reviews of books about spring on the TTLG Spring Feature Page.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of It's Springtime, Mr. Squirrel

Here in southern Oregon signs of spring are everywhere, even though there is still a chilly nip in the air in the mornings and evenings. The official first day of spring is tomorrow, and so I bring you this review of a book that is sweet and deliciously funny!

It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel
Sebastian Meschenmoser
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
North South, 2018, 978-0-7358-4310-3
One morning Mr. Squirrel wakes up to see that the world outside his home has been transformed. He has no idea what has happened. Where did all the bright green grass and colorful flowers come from? Bear explains that spring has arrived that it is time to “lie in the sun, stroll through the meadows, and fill our tummies with fine food!”
   Happily Mr. Squirrel scampers this way and that. He finds delicious things to eat, gorges himself, and then naps in the sun. However, Hedgehog has no appetite for food or frolics. He has been to the pond where he espied a lovely lady hedgehog. Unfortunately, he was so terrified of the gorgeous creature that he fled.
   Luckily Mr. Squirrel is there to help Hedgehog. He tells Hedgehog that he needs to “gain fame and glory” to earn the lady hedgehog’s esteem, and the best way to do that is to show off how brave and strong he is and to win lots of fights. The thing is that to win fights you have to look suitably dangerous and intimidating.
   Mr. Squirrel quickly gets to work. He measures Hedgehog and then runs off to gather supplies. He is going to make his friend look tough and masterful. It takes a while to come up with the right costume but in the end he succeeds. Not only that, but he too dons a similar costume so that he can help Hedghog win a “dangerous fight.” Now all they have to do is find an opponent who will make them look good.
   Children are going to laugh out loud as the follow the adventures of Mr. Squirrel and his friends. Who knew that winning the heart of a lady hedgehog could be so hard? Who knew that spring could be so full of surprises?
   With its delightful animal characters and its surprising ending, this is a wonderful book to share with children. Adults will find it hard not to fall for Mr. Squirrel, who is such a good friend.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The March and April issue of Through the Looking Glass.


Happy Friday everyone. The new issue of Through the Looking Glass is now online. In this issue the special feature focuses on books that are about saving the environment. Some of the titles that I have reviewed are informative, some are how-to books, and others celebrate the people who have worked tirelessly to save wild spaces and wildlife. Then there are the stories that show us how important it is to save the environment. There is also an Arbor Day feature that looks at stories about trees. Who doesn't love trees!

March is Women's History Month here in the U.S. so I have added new books to the Women's History Month feature that I hope you will enjoy.

Do visit the new issue to see what is new.

Happy weekend,




Poetry Friday with a review of Won Ton: A Cat tale told in Haiku

I am lucky enough to share my home with three wonderful felines. Legolas is a big, fluffy, ginger tabby who is easy-going and easy to please. Sumalee and Sarafee are two very opinionated Siamese cats who are fussy, difficult, and demanding. They remind me a lot of the cat whose story is told in today's Poetry title. Won Ton is also a demanding fellow and he is determined to keep the humans in his life on their toes.

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in HaikuWon Ton: A Cat tale told in Haiku
Lee Wardlaw
Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Henry Holt, 2011, 978-0-8050-8995-0
In a shelter there is a cat. He is an elegant beast with beautiful blue eyes. In his cage the cat has a bed, a bowl, and a blanket, and he tells himself that what he has is “just like home.” Or least that is what he has been told.
   During visitor hours the cat feigns a complete lack of interest in what is going on, though he cannot resist a little peek. One person pinches him, and another pulls his tail, but then a boy comes along and he knows how to rub the cat’s chin just right. The cat tries to seem unconcerned. He grooms himself assiduously and does his best to appear as if there is “No rush.” In actual fact the cat is thinking, and hoping “Please, Boy, pick me.”
   Sure enough Boy does choose him and the cat is taken out of his cage. He is thrilled to be free, but at the same time afraid of what awaits him out there in the world. Briefly he “clings to what is known.”
   After a trip in a car, the cat arrives in his new home, and the process of naming him begins. He believes that he deserves a name fitting for an “Oriental Prince.” He ends up being called Won Ton, and he is not impressed.
   This wonderful tale, which is told using a series of haiku poems, is funny, sweet, and sometimes touched with just a little uncertainty and anxiety. It is a story about new beginnings that readers of all ages will be able to connect with.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Valentine's Day Card!

Wishing you all a wonderful Valentine's Day. 

Image result for happy valentines day vintage card

Monday, February 12, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of This is NOT a Valentine

I happen to really like Valentine's Day, but I know a lot of people don't. There are some people who find the whole idea of giving someone a Valentine just too mushy for words. What will people think if they find out that they succumbed to the lovey-doveyness of Valentine's Day?

In this deliciously funny picture book we meet a boy who refuses to have anything to do with Valentine's Day nonsense; and yet this does not mean that he does not have feelings for a certain little girl who has curly black hair and a sweet smile.

This Is Not a ValentineThis is NOT a Valentine 
Carter Higgins
Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Chronicle, 2017, 978-1-4521-5374-2
It is Valentine’s Day and while they are waiting for their school bus to arrive, a girl gives a boy a Valentine’s Day card. The boy is shocked. He is not in favor of Valentine’s cards, gifts, and all the mushy stuff that goes with these things.
   However, he does give the girl a little bouquet of dandelions, though he tells her that it is not a Valentine because the bouquet is not fancy. Furthermore most of the wishes have been blown off the fluffy, white dandelion heads.
   Then he gives her a toy ring that he got out of a machine at a grocery store. It isn’t a Valentine either because “jewels and gems belong in treasure chests or museums or on ladies who sing at the opera.”
   Then the boy gives the girl his cape, which is not a Valentine because it is red and red is not the girl’s favorite color. Mind you, red is a good color for a superhero and the girl is the boy’s favorite superhero.
   Could it be that maybe, just maybe, the boy is finding unique ways to make the girl’s Valentine’s Day special?
   Children are going to thoroughly enjoy this not-a-Valentine story that is actually a pretty good Valentine. We see, as the story unfolds, that the boy understands what the girl likes and dislikes. It would appear that he knows her quite well and likes her quite a lot. Though of course he is still NOT giving her a Valentine.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of Snow Sisters! Two SIsters, One Snowy Day

Here is southern Oregon it has not been a very wintery winter. In fact, our ski mountain has not been able to open, and just yesterday I did not have to wear any kind of jacket when I went running. Meanwhile our friends in many other parts of the country and in Europe have been hammered by heavy snow falls, ice storms, and freezing temperatures.

Needing a winter fix I chose to read today's wonderful picture book. On the pages you will meet two sisters who are very different in many ways, but who are also very alike. It is fascinating to see what each little girl chooses to do on a snowy day.

Snow Sisters! Two Sisters, One Snowy DaySnow Sisters! Two Sisters, One Snowy Day
Kerri Kokias
Illustrated by Teagan White
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Random House, 2017, 978-1-101-93883-6
One morning two sisters wake up and they discover that it has snowed overnight. One sister, a pretty little redhead who is still clad in her nightgown, opens the front door to look at the snow covered garden with delight. The brown haired sister takes in the view from indoors. She is not as pleased by what she is seeing through the window. 
   Happily the little redhead gets decked out in her outdoor clothes, while her sister gets cozy on a big chair with a blanket, a pile of books, and a mug of hot cocoa. While her sister is building a fort and throwing snowballs outside, the brown haired sibling bakes cookies and makes paper snowflakes. Then she plays with her toys and looks at the wild animals from her snug place on the window seat. All the while her boisterous sister is having a wonderful time outdoors “Tracking” and “Hiding.”
   Finally the little redhead has had enough. She is cold and wet and she is ready to come inside to warm up. Her brown haired sister is now ready to take her turn outside. With smiles on their faces, the siblings greet each other as one comes inside and the other goes outside.
   Now it is the redhead’s turn to bake and make, to enjoy books, blankets and a cup of cocoa; and it is the brown haired sister’s turn to build a snow fort and throw snowballs.
   Children are going to love this beautiful seasonal book. It is interesting to see how different the two sisters in this story are. They technically do the same things (though they do them at different times), and yet the way in which they do these things is so different.
   With minimal text – just a few words on every page – the author of this little narrative gives readers a charming picture of a snowy day. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of The Dam Keeper

I have a big soft spot in my bookish heart for graphic novels. I grew up reading the Tintin stories and The Adventures of Asterix the Gaul over and over again, so perhaps this is not surprising. These days quite a few publishing houses are creating beautiful graphic novels, and one of my favorite houses is First Second. Today I bring you a review of one of their titles, which delighted me when I read it. It is the first book in a series and I can't wait to see what happens next.

The Dam KeeperThe Dam Keeper
Robert Kondo
Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi
Graphic Novel
For ages 8 and up
First Second, 2017, 978-1-62672-426-6
Sunrise Valley is a pretty place, and the residents lead peaceful, normal lives. Most of them don’t think about the fact that the only reason that they are able live as they do is because of the dam. Long ago Pig’s father invented the dam to keep out the fog. The fog is a deadly phenomenon that killed Pig’s mother and countless others. Beyond the dam the fog has laid waste to the world.
   For some reason that no one can understand, after teaching Pig how to maintain the dam, his father walked out into the fog and is presumed dead.
   Now Pig manages the dam alone, making sure that it does what it is supposed to do to blow back the fog every time the black cloud rolls in and bares down on the village. Being the dam keeper means that Pig is not quite like everyone else. He knows the danger that lurks beyond the wall of the dam, and lives with the responsibility that his father left him to shoulder on his own.
   Fox is the only young animal in the village who seems to like Pig, and her friendship makes all the difference in his life. Unfortunately, Fox is friends with Hippo, and Hippo loves to bully Pig. Fox insists that Pig just needs to spend time with Hippo to see that the big guy isn’t all that bad; which is why she brings Hippo to the dam on day to see Pig.
   Pig is not best pleased to see Hippo, but he tries to be accommodating for Fox’s sake. Which is when the fog rolls in, and this time the wave is enormous. So enormous is it that the dam does not hold. Pig, Fox, and Hippo are dragged out into the wasteland beyond the dam when the fog pulls back. For the first time ever, Pig’s father’s invention does not hold back the darkness.
   This remarkable graphic novel takes readers into a world where danger is never that far, though most of the animals in Sunrise Valley don’t realize it. We see how Pig has been shaped by the loss in his life, and how he tries to come to terms with the fact that all is not what it seems. It turns out that there is something beyond the dam after all.
   This is the first title in what promises to be a wonderful series. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of Out of wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

I always enjoy reading books that writers have written about other writers. Often the stories we encounter in such books are incredibly perceptive, and it is interesting to see how the authors get into the minds of their subjects. Today we will encounter a book written by poets in which they explore the writing styles and the lives of twenty-five wonderful poets. It is a beautiful book and the respect that the authors have for the people that they write about is tangible and warming.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating PoetsOut of wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Candlewick Press, 2017, 978-0-7636-8094-7
Kwame Alexander had the privilege of growing up in a house where books were treasures and “words came alive.” He grew up loving poems in particular because a poem is “a small but powerful thing.” Poems allow us to connect with the people who wrote them on a very deep level; they inspire us, and in our minds they evolve as we grow and change.
   For this collection Kwame and his co-authors, Chris Colderley and Marjorie Wentworth, have chosen to focus on the lives and works of twenty-five poets who are “ interesting people” and who were, or still are, “passionately in love with their poetry.” They have written poems of celebration that reflect the styles of these poets, and they hope that we will use their creations “as stepping-stones to wonder.”
   The book is divided into three parts. The first section looks at poets who developed singular styles in their writing that poetry lovers have grown to recognize. For example, in the poem In Every Season, Marjory Wentworth beautifully captures the free verse style favored by Robert Frost. She takes us to a farm where we walk with the narrator “through fields and woods.”  We crunch on ice “through starless winter nights” and shake snow from the branches of trees.
   The second section celebrates poets who beautifully capture everyday moments. Here there is a tribute to Walter Dean Myers, a poem about a boy who dreams of becoming a basketball player who will “grab the world in my hands and /twirl a big ball of hope / from corner to corner.”
   The final section serves as a tribute to the poets who have written poems that delight Kwame, Chris, and Marjorie in a special and very personal way. The poets that they feature in this section make the authors feel that “the poet is speaking directly to us, as if we are in the middle of a private conversation.” On these pages we find poems like No Idle Days, which celebrates William Carlos Williams. We read of the man who had “two lives / crammed / into one.” William Carlos Williams worked as a doctor, and in his spare moments, the few that he had, he scribbled away on his prescription pads. He was a man who crafted “a new American voice,” for ordinary people.
   Throughout this title the extraordinary poems are paired with beautiful multimedia artwork to give readers a special book experience.
   At the back of this remarkable collection readers will find biographies of the twenty-five poets who lives and works are celebrated in the book. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of What do you do with a chance?

I used to be very fearful of trying to do something new. I did not like taking on anything when I couldn't be sure of what the outcome would be. Thankfully I learned that going through life without taking chances was not a good option; my life is richer because I have dared to embrace the unknown.

Today I bring you a book that explores what it feels like to be afraid of taking chances, and what it feels like to turn away from chances with they present themselves. It is a beautiful book that will resonate with readers of all ages.


What Do You Do With a Chance?What do you do with a Chance?
Kobi Yamada
Illustrated by Mae Besom
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Compendium Inc, 2017, 978-1-943200-73-3
One day a chance came flying up to a little boy, fluttering like a golden butterfly by his side. He had no idea why it was there, nor did he know what he was supposed to do with it. The chance seemed to want the boy to touch it, but he was “unsure and pulled back,” and in response the chance flew away.
   Later the boy thought about the chance that had got away, and he began to wish that he had taken it. Then another chance flew up and the boy, though he was still unsure and perhaps a little afraid, decided to try. He reached for the chance…and fell flat on his face. The boy felt so embarrassed and ashamed that he decided that he would have nothing more to do with chances. Whenever a new chance came his way he ignored it.
   Over time fewer and fewer chances flew near the boy until a day came when the boy realized that he hadn’t seen a chance “in quite a while.” Had he missed an opportunity that would never present itself again? Perhaps he should have overcome his fear the first time he encountered a chance. Well, now he had to decide if he was going to be brave just long enough to grab a chance, if one ever appeared again, or if he was going to give into his fear.
   This is the third inspirational book that Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom have created together. Just like the first two titles, What do you do with an idea and What do you do with a problem, this story will encourage readers of all ages to find that inner strength that will help them bring about positive changes in their lives. The story does not diminish the wariness and fear that we feel when chances come our way. Instead it acknowledges how strong these emotions can be and it encourages us to face our fears head on.