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Santat-apalooza

Santat-apalooza

posted by:
July 5, 2012 - 7:47am

Dog in ChargeBawk & RollFire! Fuego! Brave BomberosThe most prolific and talented illustrator in children’s books this year has to be Dan Santat. Known for his comically expressive animals and humans, Santat uses Photoshop to produce illustrations with a graphic designer’s sensibility.

 

Dog in Charge by K. L. Going features an English bulldog charged with keeping the cats out of trouble while the family is at the store. Five mischievous felines prove too much for our poor hero, who immediately exhausts himself trying to keep up. Retro wallpaper, furnishings, and a muted color palette lend a gentle tone to this madcap tale, full of onomatopoeia like splash, swish and fwomp. How can this canine ever retain his status as Good, Smart, and Very Best Dog? Santat’s illustrations elevate a good story to an excellent picture book.

 

Rockin’ heartthrob rooster Elvis Poultry is back in Tammi Sauer’s inspired Bawk & Roll. Marge and Lola, the tailfeather-shakin’ hens from Chicken Dance, have been recruited as Elvis’ backup dancers. But the poor hens haven’t performed anywhere but their home barnyard. Overcome by nerves, they faint! How will they ever overcome their stage fright? Bawk & Roll shows off Santat’s talent when it comes to perspective. On one page it’s as if the reader is part of the packed audience, on another you’re onstage behind Elvis and the girls. And if there were ever an award for best use of light and shadow in a picture book, Bawk & Roll would be a shoo-in.

 

Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos gives the illustrator a chance to play with fire, literally. To illustrate Susan Middleton Elya's rhyming, bilingual story of dedicated firefighters, Santat turned to some traditional ink and watercolor to enhance his usual Photoshop illustrations. He actually set some pages on fire, scanning the images in order to incorporate them into his work. You can visit Santat's blog for photos and a description of the process. Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos is a must-read for young fans of firehouse tales.

Paula G.

 
 

Not As Easy As It Looks

Not As Easy As It Looks

posted by:
June 27, 2012 - 7:34am

The One and Only IvanMeet Ivan…just Ivan, please.

 

Ivan is an adult male gorilla - a silverback - born to defend his domain and protect his family. Or at least, in Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan, that’s the way it usually works. Instead, Ivan has spent the last 27 years as the main attraction at the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.

 

Here, he can survey his entire domain without even standing. Here, there is no one to protect.

 

With enough time you can get used to almost anything, though. If nothing else, Ivan has had a lot of time. He’s not alone either. Ivan’s social circle includes Bob, a dog of dubious origins, and Stella, Ivan’s co-star at the Big Top Mall, an elderly and sweet-natured elephant who forgets nothing. Then there’s Julia, the janitor’s daughter who sits across from Ivan’s domain most evenings, completing homework and turning out dazzling drawings of Ivan, Bob and Stella. That’s something she and Ivan have in common – a passion for creating art. That and an endless supply of crayons.

 

Ivan’s life, with something to draw (mostly bananas), and friends to keep him company, is bearable if monotonous. Yet the life to which Ivan and the others have become resigned is about to change in ways they could never have imagined. And it all begins with the arrival of a baby elephant named Ruby.

 

It has been a long time since Ivan has known either the luxury or the agony of hope for another kind of life. With Ruby’s arrival though, he begins to awake to the reality of his situation and to the precarious state of Ruby’s own destiny. A singular and selfless object begins to develop in Ivan: he must shield hopeful Ruby from the state of apathy that has been his lot, whatever the means. At long last, Ivan has someone to protect.

 

Young readers who feel an affinity with animals and those who have enjoyed such animal rescue tales as E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web or Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath will flock to The One and Only Ivan. Inspired by a true story, this title is also recommended for readers who may find that the brevity of the chapters and the first-person narrative combine to create an unusually engrossing encounter with the main character.

 

It should be noted that unlike most stories of a related rescue theme, Ivan’s is of an altogether rarer sort. Despite his narrative - the tale is related largely through the gorilla’s own inner dialogue – Ivan is no human character in animal garb. Instead the author smoothly manages to convey a sense of Ivan as the silverback gorilla he is. Sentient and courageous, a true survivor, yet neither particularly imaginative nor overtly rebellious, Ivan’s character is rendered the more poignant for the simplicity of his ambition and the motive that drives him.

Meghan

 
 

Never Trust a Marmot

Never Trust a Marmot

posted by:
June 20, 2012 - 8:19am

Mr and Mrs Bunny - Detectives ExtraordinaireMadeline is used to being the responsible one in her small family. She cooks, cleans, sews, repairs the plumbing and even holds down a part time job as a waitress. So when her hippie parents are kidnapped during Hornby Island’s celebration of lights, it’s only natural that she head up the effort to locate them. Enter Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, lagomorph sleuths Madeline employs to solve the case. Polly Horvath’s quirky, wryly funny novel Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire! follows the trio as they attempt to decipher an instruction note left by The Enemy.

 

Now that their brood of twelve has moved away, The Bunnys have moved to a new hutch, and are settling in. Mrs. Bunny knits, while Mr. Bunny reads aloud from The Scientific Bunny magazine. Why not become detectives? All they need are proper fedoras with earholes, of course.

 

Fans of Roald Dahl’s Matilda will welcome Madeline, another take-charge heroine superior in intelligence (and common sense) to her clueless parents.  Through Madeline’s interactions with the Bunny couple, she discovers that conversing in animal languages is one of her hidden talents.

 

Eccentric Uncle Runyon, Canada’s only decoder scientist, could be of some help when it comes to the mysterious note, but he’s easily sidetracked. Throw in a meddling, overbearing neighbor bunny, the insidious Grand Poobah of foxes, and a marmot villain with an overbearing craving for garlic bread and you have the recipe for an over-the-top adventure. Sophie Blackall’s black-and-white paintings throughout add an old fashioned, whimsical charm to this middle-grade chapter novel.

Paula G.

 
 

What Little Boys Are Made Of

What Little Boys Are Made Of

posted by:
June 20, 2012 - 7:45am

Captain Awesome to the RescueCaptain Awesome Vs. Nacho Cheese ManI Don't Believe It, ArchieIn the case of two new books for young readers, it’s not slugs and snails, but superpowers and adventure! Captain Awesome bursts onto the early chapter book scene with two new titles in a promising series. Captain Awesome to the Rescue and Captain Awesome vs. Nacho Cheese Man by Stan Kirby introduce eight year old Eugene McGillicudy as the title character. Eugene is a huge fan of comic book hero Super Dude and embraces his mission of ridding the world of Supervillains. And there are plenty of Supervillains at Eugene’s new school. Meredith Mooney and Ms. Beasley are in cahoots to force Eugene to reveal his secret identity, while Principal Brick Foot wants to throw him in the Dungeon of Detention. Thankfully, Captain Awesome finds an ally in Nacho Cheese Man (fellow Super Dude fan, Charlie Thomas Jones). Kirby has created a loveable hero and O’Connor’s hilarious illustrations add to the appeal of these titles. Readers will fall for Eugene and will be anxiously awaiting further adventures of Captain Awesome.

 

In I Don’t Believe it, Archie by Andrew Norriss, strange things are always happening to Archie. Once he becomes friends with Cyd, these odd occurrences become more enjoyable. This funny title is perfect for readers who are ready for something a little harder than early chapter books, as the cartoon sketches by Shaw clearly depict the action and characters’ reactions. Each chapter is a day in Archie’s madcap week. On Monday he is the only witness as an occupied car gets buried beneath a load of gravel. On Tuesday he is accused of killing a dog that he was actually rescuing. And that’s just the first two days! Like Cyd, readers will be entertained by these excellent adventures. This is the American debut from British author and winner of England's Whitbread Award, but hopefully not the last we’ve heard of either Archie or Norriss.   

Maureen

 
 

Quack Open a Good Book

Quack Open a Good Book

posted by:
June 13, 2012 - 8:30am

Duck Sock HopKaty Duck Makes a FriendJust Ducks!Ducks have always entertained us, and in these three new books featuring our avian friends, the reader encounters more feathers, more webbed feet, and even more quacking! Duck Sock Hop, by Jane Kohuth, illustrated by Jane Porter, is a musical, rhyming cacophony. The ducks of various colors and varieties (fancifully patterned in ways never seen in the wild) come together in their love of fancy socks and energetic dancing. When their socks begin to unravel from overuse, it’s not a problem, as the Duck Sock Shop is just down the road to obtain new footwear. This will soon become a story time favorite.

 

For children just starting to read, the Katy Duck series is a good place to begin. Her latest adventure, Katy Duck Makes a Friend, features Katy needing a new partner to dance with when it’s time for her little brother to nap. Fortunately Katy’s new dog neighbor Ralph soon appears, but his interests don’t initially match Katy’s. Henry Cole’s sweet illustrations of duck and dog in motion make this entry in the series likely to be as popular as the previous installments.

 

A newly popular concept is the hybrid fiction/nonfiction picture book. Not all are successful, but Nicola Davies’ Just Ducks! works beautifully. Mallards, often the first wild ducks children recognize, are featured. The story of a young girl viewing and noting the habits of a duck pair is counterpointed (in a different font) with notable facts about mallards and ducks in general. Salvatore Rubbino’s soft watercolors portray the ducks accessibly and accurately. Particularly well-illustrated and amusing are the renderings of the mallards in a favorite position: heads underwater, tails up!

Todd

 
 

Lost and Found

Lost and Found

posted by:
June 13, 2012 - 7:59am

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

categories:

 
 

Man's Best Read-Aloud Friend

Oh no, George!Zorro Gets an OutfitSilly Doggy!In addition to being man’s best friend, dogs make natural picture book protagonists. A number of newly published works explore the comic side of canine life.

 

Irish designer and illustrator Chris Haughton’s Oh No, George! follows a long-schnozzed pup as he comes face to face with temptations (like an uncovered cake and the dirt in the flower pot) when his owner goes out for the day. George hopes he’ll be good, but can he overcome his instincts? Rendered in charmingly simple, boldly colored digital and pencil illustrations with the repeating question “What will George do?” and the refrain “Oh No, George!”, this humorous tale has the makings of a favorite read aloud.

 

Zorro Gets an Outfit marks the return of a favorite picture book pug. Here Zorro’s owner comes home with a hooded cape for him to wear. Wearing the outfit makes him resemble his heroic masked namesake, Zorro. The poor pug is embarrassed by this get-up, and sadly all the dogs in the neighborhood taunt him on his afternoon walk. However, a new outfit-wearing dog soon arrives at the park, causing Zorro to have a change of heart. Author-illustrator Carter Goodrich’s talent with watercolor brings personality and humor galore to all characters involved, especially Zorro and his housemate Mr. Bud. Fans of their introductory adventure, Say Hello to Zorro! will be thrilled to welcome them back.

 

Little Lily has always wanted a dog. Imagine her joy when she spies a four-legged, wet-nosed furry creature digging through the garbage can in her back yard. She christens him Doggy, throwing her scarf around his neck to act as a leash. Expect youngest readers to squeal with delight as the pages turn in Silly Doggy!, and Lily continues to treat the big brown bear as if he were a dog. Adam Stower does a superb job matching humorous illustrations with simple text as the story winds down to a poignant conclusion. A surprise twist at the very end may find you laughing out loud.

Paula G.

 
 

Going Green

Going Green

posted by:
June 6, 2012 - 4:11am

Molly's Organic FarmGrandpa's GardenShare the love of gardening with the little ones in your life. These two books have wonderful stories and really great seasonal gardening tips!

 

Plant a seed with Molly’s Organic Farm, by Carol L. Malnor and Trina L. Hunne.  Based on the true story of a little homeless cat named Molly, who uses her five senses to explore the farm and lead the reader through each page as she assists the farmers in her own special way.  After a season, Molly becomes the farm favorite and a permanent fixture, finally finding her forever home. This charming book follows a planting, growing, and harvest season and makes interesting the many details of running an organic farm. Lively watercolor illustrations show the many facets of farming, including close up details of gardens, vegetables, insects, and Molly.

 

Good things take time in Grandpa’s Garden, written by Stella Fry and illustrated by Sheila Moxley. “Is it spring, Grandpa? Can we begin?” asked Billy. The days are still short and the light is sharp like lemon juice. But here and there green spears have pierced the soil… So begins the growing season for Billy and his grandpa. All year long the pair work on preparing the soil, planting seeds, and tending their crops. Then they wait. Waiting is hard, but the pair are rewarded with a happy harvest and enjoying the fruits of their labor. Soft, colorful illustrations full of detail combine with a beautifully descriptive story. Included are instructions for planning your own vegetable patch, and seasonal preparations for each step of the planting process, from beginning to end.

Andrea

 
 

Road Trip Reads

Road Trip Reads

posted by:
May 30, 2012 - 4:11am

At the BoardwalkDini DinosaurBaby Come AwayTake these three new titles with you on your next family trip! Enjoy your vacation and keep everyone occupied with these colorful picture books all in rhyme.

 

Salt water, sand, games, rides, and summer treats--what could be better than a day at the beach? Kids and families will look through At the Boardwalk by Kelly Ramsdell again and again. A snapshot of a summer’s day on the boards, these lively, colorful, and very detailed cartoon-style pencil drawings, by illustrator Monica Armino, depict a myriad of memories and familiar, happy scenes, with different people of all ages. Simply worded in a rhyming style, you can almost hear the carousel and taste the cotton candy!

 

Dini Dinosaur, by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by Daniel Roode, is the perfect companion for downtime or a rainy day, and makes bath time and bedtime for toddlers much more fun! After a long day of play, Dini needs a little help with his bath and washing behind his horns. Playful, rhyming repetition will delight kids as little Dini starts his bath will all his dirty clothes on and finally ends up in the dinosaur buff, all squeaky clean. Bright, graphic illustrations show Dini after a whole day of messy play, and after coming clean, give him a sweet, sleepy send-off to little dinosaur dreams.

 

A bird, a cat, a fish, and a dog each imagine their perfect day with baby in Baby, Come Away, by Victoria Adler. Baby and his friends share a cup of tea in a tip-top tree, a sneak to the creek with pitter-patter feet, a romp and a roll in a puddle-filled hole, and more, until bed time comes with a kiss good night and baby can dream, dream, dream to his heart’s delight. Gentle, pastel illustrations by David Walker show adorable images of a fanciful day of play, and the sweet rhymes are a happy way to lull baby off to sleep.

Andrea

 
 

Happy 20th Anniversary, Junie B. Jones!

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly BusJunie B. First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and EatenTwenty years ago, Random House approached 3 of their established authors to begin a new line of books for new readers who were just starting to read chapter books.  Those authors were Barbara Park, Mary Pope Osborne, and Louis Sachar. The series that the authors created were Junie B. Jones, The Magic Tree House, and Marvin Redpost, all of which are now standards for young readers and have sold millions of copies. 

 

In the beginning, Park had reservations about writing for 6-9 year olds, but she decided to give it a shot and began work on the Junie B. Jones series. Park says, “Within the first four sentences, I discovered I had a character who hated her middle name. By the second page, I knew she was a wild child, who – big surprise – had not yet mastered the Queen’s English. And when I finally finished the book, I thought maybe I could write one or two more. I was a little low with my expectations, apparently.” Her expectations were definitely too low. There are now 29 books in the Junie B. Jones series, and more than 52 million copies in print! 

 

To celebrate 20 years of Junie B. Jones, Random House has published a special edition of the first novel in the series, Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. This commemorative edition has some great extras including full-color illustrations and an interview of the author conducted by none other than Junie B. Also, look for Junie B.’s next big adventure Junie B., First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff), a Thanksgiving-themed book due out this August!

Beth