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From Bad to Glad

posted by: August 1, 2012 - 8:22am

My No, No, No Day!Everyone has a bad day now and again, but Bella is having a very bad day. My No, No, No Day! to be exact. Beleaguered parents everywhere can relate to bad days and tantrums in this charming, too-true picture book by Rebecca Patterson.


It starts when Bella wakes up to find her baby brother in her room – licking her jewelry! And if that’s not enough there’s a terrible egg incident at breakfast, followed by shoes! Everything is too itchy, too wet, too hot, too much!  And bedtime is the worst.


Simple, yet expressive line drawings aptly convey Bella’s funny frustrations and upsets, as well others’ frayed nerves throughout the day. Who likes itchy tights anyway? After a long day of endless NO’s comes the yawn and the dawning, reluctant realization that Bella is really sleepy and really sorry for her very bad day. Mommy understands and suggests that there’s always the possibility of a cheerful day tomorrow. And there is!


Stories to Flip For

posted by: July 25, 2012 - 8:11am

Balancing ActWinning TeamGold Medal SummerAs the summer games in London heat up, gymnastics is on center stage. For fans yearning to learn more, this popular sport is brought to life in three new children’s books perfect for gold medal dreamers.


One girl who achieved her gold medal dream was Dominique Moceanu, the youngest member of USA’s 1996 winning team. She trades the balance beam for a pen with a delightful new series of books for young readers. The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts, co-written by Alicia Thompson, follows teammates on the competitive Texas Twisters. In Balancing Act, Noelle must learn to juggle family, friends, and boys with the time and training required to make it as a star gymnast. Brittany is the focus of Winning Team, following her move to Texas to train with the best. But her teammates aren’t so fond of her, and her coaches are less than impressed. Brittany must learn quickly the true meaning of teamwork. To date, there are four books in the series (the others are Unexpected Twist and Reaching High) and each has storylines familiar to all twelve year olds, combined with the behind-the-scenes rigors of elite gymnastics.


Fourteen-year-old Joey is also an aspiring gold medalist and desperately wants to win at this summer’s regional championship. Her hopes and dreams are at the heart of Gold Medal Summer by Donna Freitas. Joey loves gymnastics, but loses some of her focus when events in her life spiral out of control. She gets her first kiss from a very cute boy, her best friend threatens to quit gymnastics, and her parents aren’t supportive. Drawing on her experience as a competitive gymnast, Freitas delivers both a terrific gymnastics story and a classic novel about bending the rules and vaulting to success.


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.


Hit the Sand with Traction Man

posted by: July 18, 2012 - 7:25am

Traction Man and the Beach OdysseyBritish author/illustrator Mini Grey’s beloved superhero action figure and his pet, Scrubbing Brush, are back in the all new summer adventure Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey. A trip to the shore brings new exploration possibilities, new friends, and a new nemesis, Grandma’s overly friendly dog, Truffles.


Traction Man’s landscape is populated by an assortment of googly-eyed sea creatures like anemones and whelks, as well as similarly anthropomorphized picnic foods like sandwich halves and a slice of quiche. Reminiscent of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear, Traction Man’s heroic feats take place in the world of his owner, an unnamed young boy. Grey’s humorous illustrations are full of witty details, making this a book that demands multiple reads. The accompanying words tell only part of the larger story.


When Traction Man and Scrubbing Brush are swept down the beach by an errant wave, they find themselves at the sandcastle of Beach Time Brenda and her fashion doll friends. How will Traction Man ever escape the embarrassment of being subjected to a seaweed beard, shell hat, and worst of all, a floral sarong? Help arrives in an unlikely manner, and new alliances are formed. Like the previous titles, Traction Man is Here! and Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog, this new picture book is a paean to the power of old-fashioned imaginative play.


Drift Away and Dream of These

posted by: July 18, 2012 - 7:15am

Far Away Across the SeaFrom the imagination of Dutch author and poet Toon Tellegen, comes Far Away Across the Sea, a collection of short stories tailor made for companionable adult/child reading. A comfortable collection of undemanding tales on its surface, the lulling prose is well suited for bedtime reading. Yet the themes related in Tellegen’s episodic vignettes are deceptively simple. Notably lacking in any overt plot or ongoing storyline, Tellegen’s almost Zen-like stories quietly highlight the subtleties of social exchange among friends, acquaintances and the inner self.


Through the tales of anthropomorphic characters Squirrel, Ant, Mosquito, Glowworm, Thrush and others, the author suggests gentle lessons. These cover many concepts, including friendship, persistence, the dangers of absolutes, the absurdities of fighting, personal reflection, and the everyday melancholy and pleasure encountered from moment to moment in daily life. The gracefulness of the stories themselves is matched by the delicacy of illustration present on nearly every page of the book. Illustrator Jessica Ahlberg’s interpretation of the characters and environment sketched in Tellegen’s fables is as deft and skillful as if she had imagined them herself. Her juxtaposition of illustration to text resoundingly echoes the traditions of A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter.


Tellegen’s stories are ideal for young readers and listeners receptive to commonplace curiosities, like a tree picking up its roots and walking away for a time, or a squirrel who writes letters to himself and gets courteous and thoughtful responses. Widely open to interpretation, the fables recalled in Far Away Across the Sea invite children and parents to make up their own stories and background for Squirrel, Mosquito and other occupants of the Woods. These tales are recommended for bedtime readers and young philosophers; for fans of Winnie-the-Pooh and Peter Rabbit. The collection may also serve as a helpful stepping stone for parents introducing their children to poetry.


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.


Third Grade's the Charm

posted by: July 11, 2012 - 10:23am

Lone BeanMarty McGuire Digs Worms!Stella Batts: Pardon MeFans of Judy Moody will be thrilled to know that there are some new third grade girls sharing their stories of family troubles and school woes.


Chrysanthemum, better known as Bean, is excited to start third grade and see her best friend, Carla. But, in Lone Bean by Chudney Ross, Bean discovers that school is not what she had pictured and Carla no longer wants to be friends. Additionally, Bean, the youngest of three sisters, feels misunderstood and wishes her mother spent less time at work. On top of all that, she must cope with the bully at school. Ross, the youngest daughter of singer Diana Ross and owner of the California children's bookstore "Books and Cookies", creates a spunky, relatable heroine who will hopefully return soon for more adventures.


Marty McGuire returns in Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner, and this time she and her classmates are competing to win a Save the Earth contest. Marty believes that her idea to use school cafeteria garbage to make fertilizer will win the prize. The project has its problems, but in the end Marty learns about the importance of teamwork and composting. Marty is an amusing narrator and Brian Floca's cheery black-and-white illustrations complement this feel-good story.   


Third-grader Stella Batts is back for a third outing in Pardon Me by Courtney Sheinmel and she desperately needs a new best friend. She meets the new girl in town, Evie, and the two agree to be BFFs. But school starts and Evie seems to have forgotten this pledge. Stella faces familiar problems and her humorous narration and positive attitude are perfectly age appropriate. Young readers won’t have long to wait to read more of Stella’s exploits - A Case of the Meanies is due in September!


A Natural State of Happy

posted by: July 11, 2012 - 8:11am

You Are a LionWant to help your child relax, sleep better, and achieve calm and focus? You are a Lion!: and Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo, is a fun, playful picture book introduction to yoga for the younger set. Yoga for babies and kids has really taken off as more and more folks are discovering the benefits of yoga for the whole family.


Bright, cheerful artwork created with linoleum block prints, pencil drawing, and Photoshop, illustrate easy, fun poses children can relate to. These are accompanied by simple, rhyming instructions. Kids become lions, snakes, butterflies, frogs, dogs and cats as they imitate the gentle poses and movements of familiar creatures. And, unlike eating vegetables, kids will love pretending to leap like a frog and stretch like a dog. Namaste.



posted by: July 5, 2012 - 8:47am

Dog in ChargeBawk & RollFire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos

The 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.


Not As Easy As It Looks

posted by: June 27, 2012 - 8:34am

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.



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