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Between the Covers / Shhhh... we're reading.   Photo of reading after bedtime
Diane Bobo

When not escaping into a good children's book, Diane Bobo spends her time enjoying her family and friends. You'll usually find her at the park or in her backyard puttering around. She's just as likely to be relaxing on her deck as she is to be hiking in the woods. You'll find her working at the Parkville Branch.

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Librarians

It's Not Personal, It's Business

Mr Big: a Tale of Pond LifeMr. Big: a Tale of Pond Life, the cover reads. But when one delves into it, the reader finds this graphic novel by Carol Dembicki and Matt Dembicki is so much more. It begins innocently in springtime as the pond comes to life. The authors show the inhabitants of the pond in a natural light, reminding the reader that life and death are regular parts of the pond ecology. Nighttime in the pond is illustrated using stunning artwork to describe the nocturnal inhabitants’ hierarchy. This simple lesson about life in a pond suddenly twists into a dark tale of revenge when Mr. Big, the resident snapping turtle, quite naturally eats two curious young fish that swim too close. Just another example of the cycle of life in the pond? Not this time. The mother of the young fish refuses to take this one lying down. She pulls together some other pond dwellers – the frogs, other turtles, even the ladybugs – and puts a hit out on Mr. Big. A murder of crows is up for the job, but do they have an ulterior motive? Soon there are ominous sightings of a monstrous fish that can walk on land and fly through the air!

 

Throughout the story, the authors weave together layers of drama and intrigue. The hypocrisy of the frogs as they blithely swallow insect after insect while condemning Mr. Big for eating other creatures; the danger a little mosquito can pose; and the damage done by the introduction of non-native animals to an ecosystem are all subtly imparted to the reader. The rebelling animals remain nameless, yet their thoughts and fears are imparted to the reader via thought bubbles and dialogue. Mr. Big, the only named character, is silent, yet the reader is left with the impression that for Mr. Big "It’s not personal, it’s business." Adults and older children alike will find something to enjoy in this nuanced graphic novel about the perils of messing with Mother Nature.

Diane

 
 

Friendship Matters

Friendship Matters

posted by:
August 22, 2012 - 8:05am

Flabbersmashed About YouBad AppleHorsefly and HoneybeeIn Flabbersmashed About You, by Rachel Vail, Katie Honors describes her hurt feelings when her “best friend in the whole entire world” plays with someone else at recess. Illustrator Yumi Heo’s bright childlike pictures capture Katie’s loneliness and bruised feelings perfectly. She’s “Flabbersmashed” about her best friend, but learns that playing with other children can be fun, too.

 

Bullying and loyalty are the two issues tackled in Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship. Mac was a good apple. One day, he fell asleep in the rain and Will the Worm got into his head (literally!) Will and Mac become fast friends. They have fun together flying kites, swimming and reading; but when Mac and Will return to the orchard, the other apples tease them and call Mac “rotten.” Even the crab apples won’t play with them. Will leaves the orchard in hopes that it will stop the teasing, but Mac is sad without his new friend. As an added conversation starter, the author tucks a bystander into the story in the form of a Yellow Apple. Yellow Apple doesn’t bully the friends, but doesn’t stick up for them either. The illustrations were done in oils on canvas.  It is written and illustrated by Edward Hemingway (Ernest’s grandson), whose beautiful artwork enhances Bad Apple’s message of ignoring bullies and staying true to your friends.

 

Horsefly and Honeybee by Randy Cecil tells a tale of enemies who must work together to defeat a common foe. Honeybee tries to take a nap in the same flower as Horsefly and a terrible fight ensues, leaving each with just one wing. Left vulnerable, they are both caught by a hungry bullfrog and must work together to escape. The new friends soon realize that there is room enough for both of them in the flower. Cecil also illustrates the book. Using oil on paper, he cleverly manages to show a myriad of expressions on the simply illustrated, bug-eyed characters, which is sure to delight the reader.

Diane

 
 

Just Yuck!

Just Yuck!

posted by:
July 25, 2012 - 8:03am

Yuck's Amazing Underpants and Yuck's Scary SpiderYuck's Slime Monster and Yuck's Gross PartyIn Yuck’s Amazing Underpants and Yuck’s Scary Spider, by Matt and Dave, Yuck is a boy determined to harass his sister, Polly Princess. In the first story of the two-title collection, he has cleverly cultivated the mold and germs that are growing in his underpants by wearing them every day for 6 weeks without washing them. When his amazing underpants come to life, he trains them to mess up the house after Polly Princess cleans. The entire story is filled with gross details of his madcap adventure to aggravate his sister.

 

The second story has Yuck adopting a friendly, hairy arachnid who is promptly caught by the school principal. Yuck hatches a plan that involves training spiders to crawl into his sister’s mouth while she is sleeping. He does this in order to sneak them into school to help rescue his new pet, while incriminating his sister in the process. With characters named Tom Butts and Fartin’ Martin, this is not a read-aloud but rather one to give to young readers who enjoy lowbrow humor. Resist the temptation to ask why they are giggling uncontrollably.

 

Yuck has been popular in the UK for a few years, and is just now being published in the United States. Perfect for fans of the Captain Underpants series, it will leave your young reader in stitches. Be sure to also check out Yuck’s Slime Monster and Yuck’s Gross Party.

Diane

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Cool and Comfortable

Cool and Comfortable

posted by:
July 18, 2012 - 7:05am

Zeke Meeks vs the Horrifying TV-Turnoff WeekGet inside the head of the coolest third grade boy you’ll ever meet as he learns life lessons at school and home. Zeke Meeks, self-described cool kid, likes TV and video games, but could do without girls. When he’s not playing video games, he’s emulating the Enemy Warriors from his favorite television show. In Zeke Meeks vs. the Horrifying TV-Turnoff Week by D. L. Green, his teacher announces that everyone in school will keep the TV off for one full week. Zeke is horrified. What will he do all day? 

 

Zeke narrates his own story with humor and honesty, describing how he, his sisters and classmates survive the week. Zeke accidentally studies out of boredom and aces his quiz. Crossword puzzles lead to him reading books he forgot he had. A trip to the museum is unexpectedly fun.  Green does a wonderful job of keeping Zeke real while teaching an entertaining lesson about the perils of too much television. The book is amusingly illustrated by Josh Alves with commentary added to enhance the story.  One of a series of books dealing with issues elementary school children face, Zeke Meeks will surely please fans of the My Weird School series by Dan Gutman and younger fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

Diane

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Lost and Found

Lost and Found

posted by:
June 13, 2012 - 8:59am

Litttle Dog, LostA lost dog howls in the night and Mark is sure he hears it calling his name. In Little Dog, Lost, by Marion Dane Bauer, Mark desperately wants a dog, but his mother refuses. Buddy is a dog who runs away from her new owner after her boy’s family had to give her away.  Mr. Larue is a quiet, misunderstood old man in a big house with a large locked gate willed to him by his former employer. The townspeople are wary of lonely Mr. Larue.

 

Little Dog, Lost is a heart-tugging story of loneliness and need.  Told from all three viewpoints, the reader will empathize with Mark, Buddy and Mr. Larue. When Mark decides the town needs a dog park, he approaches the mayor with his idea. Unfortunately, the mayor is his mother and she has other priorities. Mark gathers his friends and their pets to lead a protest march to the town meeting.   If he can’t have a dog, at least he could play with his friends’ dogs. 

 

Buddy decides to take matters into her own paws and escapes from her lady’s yard to look for her boy, but she can’t find him. It’s a scary new world for the little dog. Should she go back to the lady? Mr. Larue takes care of his big old house with the same love and devotion he showed his previous employer, “his lady”. He doesn’t understand why the town avoids him. He just wants someone to say “hi” to him. When his house catches fire, will anyone help? 

 

This charming book, written in free verse, engulfs the reader in the characters’ longing for companionship and cleverly teaches the lesson of how appearances can be deceiving. While the text is enough to melt a stone heart, the illustrations by Jennifer Bell will make the reader want to reach into the book to hug all of the characters. The three stories converge in a climactic conclusion that will completely satisfy the reader.

Diane

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Eight-Year-Old Seeks Adventure, Finds Friendship

Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the WorldIn Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World, eight-year-old Iva Honeycutt has a thirst for adventure. Her summer plan is to make her first big discovery and earn membership into the National Geographic Society. First she has to ditch her girly-girl double cousin, Heaven. Iva’s mother and Heaven’s mother are sisters. They married brothers and planned their families so their children would grow up as best friends. This is great for Iva’s older and younger sisters, who were paired with cousins they liked. Iva is stuck with bossy Heaven, who lives next door and tattles on her constantly. 

 

Iva sets out to find the lost treasure of General Braddock. She finds a treasure map from her great-grandfather Ludwell, changes her name to Iva Honeysuckle and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. Unfortunately, Heaven gets her cousin signed up for Vacation Church School, where Iva earns the distinction of being the first child ever expelled. Will her summer improve? Will Iva join the National Geographic Society? Enjoy finding out the answers in this quirky, fun read by Candice Ransom. The author peppers her story with eccentric characters like Mr. and Mrs. Prindy, who had a falling out thirty-five years ago and have only spoke through third parties ever since. Euple Free is patiently covering his truck in used tinfoil, and Swannanoah Prindy spends her time picking through the trash to offer up as treasures to others.

 

Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World is a light, funny read for the elementary school crowd. Young readers will enjoy the adventure and the freedom Iva has as she sets out to make her mark on the world.  Ransom’s original storytelling is engaging and fun. Illustrations by Heather Ross add to the charm of the story. This one is perfect for summer reading.

Diane

 
 

Hats off to Magritte

Hats off to Magritte

posted by:
May 9, 2012 - 1:11am

Magritte's Marvelous HatYou don’t have to be familiar with artist René Magritte’s work to appreciate Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson. His homage to Magritte is a wonderful introduction to surreal artwork for the preschool to elementary school set.  In this book, with all canine characters, Magritte is a painter who buys a magical hat that floats just above his head.  The hat stays with Magritte as he heads home and is inspired to paint his best work ever.  He has fun with his hat, playing hide and seek and walking through the park. When he starts painting day and night, the hat feels neglected and runs away. 

 

The story is charming, but it is the illustrations that will wow the reader.  Inspired by Magritte’s surreal paintings, the book is filled with references to his greatest works.  Readers will be tickled to look into the fish market and see an ocean with fish clouds above.  Did you notice that it is raining under the umbrella? Does the reflection in the mirror seem “off”?  Johnson includes four transparent overlay pages that further delight. With its bright, bold illustrations, Magritte’s Marvelous Hat is a visual treat for any age. Take your time, and let your young reader really absorb the artwork.  They’ll have fun picking out what’s wrong(?) and maybe they’ll ask for a book about Magritte's art!

Diane

 
 

Speechless

Speechless

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 11:39am

ChalkYou Can't Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum Bow-Wow Bugs a BugA fun way to “read” with your emergent reader is to check out a wordless picture book. Take turns telling the story in your own words. Encourage your young reader to add sound effects and dialogue. Try Chalk by Bill Thomson. Three kids go to the park on a rainy day and find a bag of magic chalk. Everything they draw comes to life! How will they cope when a mischievous boy draws a dinosaur?  Wonderfully expressive artwork drawn in big, bold color will make it easy for you and your young reader to “write” the story.

 

You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman is full of action. The story is drawn in pen and ink style with touches of color. A security guard is entrusted to watch a balloon for a young patron. See what happens when the balloon gets loose and he has to chase it around New York. The story takes many twists and turns as the action outside the museum seems to match the artwork inside. Try this one out with your kindergartener (or older child).

 

In Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug, Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash illustrate a story of a dog that follows a bug around the neighborhood. Using bright, simple illustrations, the authors draw a surprising weird, charming and funny story. The bizarre adventure lends itself to some surreal storytelling which is probably more suited to 1st grade or older. Give it a try with any of your kids and see what develops.

 

If you have a good time with these, be sure to ask your librarian for more titles or search the catalog for keyword “wordless”.

Diane

 
 

What Goes in, Must Come Out

Zig and Wikki in The Cow

What young reader can resist a book that answers the question: can cow poop help two friends patch up their friendship?

 

In Zig and Wikki in The Cow, by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler, Zig (an alien) and Wikki (his computer friend) are going about their day when Zig notices his pet fly looks sick. An already jealous Wikki is happy to take the fly back to Earth where they promptly lose their spaceship. Hilarious adventures through a farm’s ecosystem ensue. Will Zig and Wikki find their spaceship? Will their friendship be saved? Will the fly be okay? Interspersed with scientific facts about an ecosystem, the story is a fun read (and just a little bit gross). Zig and Wikki in The Cow is a great book to read with your beginning reader. The pictures are charming, the story is funny and (after a few “ewwws”) your reader will be proud of the science lessons learned. If you enjoy this one, be sure to check out their first adventure Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diane

 
 

Moose Meltdown

Moose Meltdown

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 10:29am

Z is for MooseMost kids love alphabet books and this one will not disappoint. In Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, Zebra is organizing the alphabet into an A-B-C show and Moose cannot wait! His eagerness gets him into trouble with Zebra and the others.  See what happens when one excited Moose doesn’t get his way. Perfect for the youngster who knows the alphabet and who has felt disappointment! Beautiful bold pictures accompany the story and will make the reader laugh out loud. Poor Moose will tug at the reader’s heart. Fans of Mo Willems’ Pigeon books will surely enjoy this twist on the traditional ABC book. Check it out to see why Z is for Moose!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diane