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The Bee's Knees

UnBEElievablesThe Honeybee ManBackyard beekeeping continues to rise in popularity and two recent children’s titles spotlight these buzzy critters and their importance to our world.  In UnBEElievables by Douglas Florian, this award-winning poet of the natural world offers 14 lively poems.  The subjects of his verses range from bee anatomy, to the different types of bees, to the collapse of bee colonies in recent years.  He uses his trademark wordplay and puns, but also manages to sneak some information into the poems as well.  A paragraph offering further explanation follows each verse and the illustrations bring the words to life. Working in gouache, colored pencils, and collage on paper bags, Florian captures the essence of the world of bees. This is a fun and visually appealing book that comes complete with a BEEbliography.

     

In her children’s debut, Lela Nargi shares the story of Fred from Brooklyn in The Honeybee Man. Every morning, Fred climbs to his rooftop and greets his beloved bees, “Good morning, my bees, my darlings!" His honeybees travel across Brooklyn searching for flowers all day and return with nectar to store in their wax rooms.  At the right time, Fred makes honey which the entire neighborhood enjoys. This beautifully written story accompanied by Kyrsten Brooker's collage-style illustrations offers an inside look at the life of a sweet beekeeper and the honey-making process.  An afterword of "amazing facts" explains more about apiarists, bees' life cycles, and more.  Even the endpapers provide a learning opportunity with labeled diagrams of bees and beekeeping materials. This is an unusual glimpse of beekeeping in an urban setting inspired by two neighbors in Nargi’s New York community.  

Maureen

 
 

Jean Craighead George, 1919-2012

Julie of the WolvesMy Side of the MountainPopular children's book author Jean Craighead George has died at the age of 92. A long-time resident of the Washington DC area, she was best known for her naturalistic writing for children. George won the Newbery Medal in 1972 for the Julie of the Wolves, and was also well-known for My Side of the Mountain, among countless other works.

Todd

 
 

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

 
 

Skullbania is Not a City in New Jersey

Fangbone! Third-grade BarbarianFangbone! Third-grade Barbarian: The Egg of MiseryEastwood Elementary has a new third grade student, a young warrior who hails from the faraway land of Skullbania. Clad in raggedy homemade boots, a cape, horned helmet and what the other students interpret as “fur underwear,” Fangbone tumbles though a portal into a garbage dump on the hillside overlooking the school. He’s been entrusted with protecting the big toe of Drool, which will keep evil from his land. But strange new challenges (like the concept of toilets) lie ahead for Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian, the engaging hero of Michael Rex’s silly new graphic novel series for elementary school readers.

 

The first book introduces Fangbone as he attempts to assimilate into class 3G. Soon he’s made a new best friend, Bill, while gathering the whole class as his army of minions. His clueless principal thinks it’s all an exercise in appreciating other cultures. Soon Fangbone leads the losing 3G Extreme Attack Unicorns through a victory in the beanball games, and his classmates come through for him when evil strikes from his homeland. Rendered in simple comic book style line drawings, Fangbone! holds special appeal for young boys who appreciate an abundance of goofy, mildly gross humor and plenty of battle action.  

 

The adventures continue in Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian: The Egg of Misery, as a strange oversized egg appears, sent from Skullbania by the warrior’s clan. The class works hard to hatch this bizarre, spotted egg, believing it contains a baby dragon. Meanwhile, they must all work together to present their assigned animal, the dodo, for the third grade’s Extinction Pageant. Craziness and danger ensue, as Fangbone wields his sword against Skullbanian evil and the trials of a group project.

 

Known for his popular parodies of classic children’s picture books such as Goodnight Goon and Furious George Goes Bananas, Michael Rex has found a new niche in graphic novels. Young fans of Dav Pilkey’s Ricky Ricotta and Captain Underpants series will quickly devour these adventures. Look for a third Fangbone! title, The Birthday Party of Dread, to debut in August.

Paula G.

 
 

The Pigeon is BACK!

The Pigeon is BACK!

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

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?Mo Willems delivers his first Pigeon book in four years with The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?, and it’s worth the wait.  When the Duckling asks politely for a cookie and gets one, the Pigeon is SHOCKED! True to form, Pigeon falls into a major tantrum and lists all of the things that have been unfairly denied him: driving the bus, hot-dog parties, a walrus, one more story, and even his own iceberg. The Pigeon's rant is quickly terminated when the Duckling generously offers him the treat.  (In a funny twist, by book’s end, the Duckling’s motives will be revealed to be less than pure.)  As Pigeon moves from apoplectic to apologetic, he is almost speechless.   

 

Simple text within balloons and animated illustrations highlight the story and mark Willems’ popular brand of storytelling. This is a fun read-aloud and an excellent way to introduce topics of manners and politeness. While the Pigeon may not get the point, young readers and listeners will. This is a fabulous and funny addition to the Pigeon stories. The legion of Pigeon fans will be delighted and new fans will be looking to catch up on all of the Pigeon’s previous antics. Be sure to have plenty of cookies on hand for this treat!

 

Willems maintains an active online presence, and www.pigeonpresents.com is a treasure trove for kids and grown-ups with games, teacher’s guides, and event planning ideas.  Also available for ipad and iphone is Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App. It allows children and adults to participate even more in the Pigeon’s stories, and includes an interactive Mad Lib and a Draw with Mo feature. And the Pigeon tweets!  Become a follower on Twitter @The_Pigeon.

Maureen

 
 

The Wild Rumpus Falls Silent

Where the Wild Things AreLittle Bear AudioBumble-ArdyMaurice Sendak, beloved children’s book author and illustrator, died Tuesday as the result of complications from a recent stroke. A prolific creator of picture books that have become part of the American psyche, Sendak is perhaps most widely remembered for his groundbreaking classic, Where the Wild Things Are, which delved into the imagination of young Max, escaping from punishment in his room to a land populated by monsters who welcome chaos. Sendak was awarded the Caldecott medal in 1964 for this groundbreaking book.

 

His career began as an illustrator of others' work, most notably the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik. Sendak’s carefully detailed, expressive animal characters are an integral part of the success of those titles, beginning with the original Little Bear in 1957. Still popular with children today, Sendak’s illustrations were brought to life as an animated series.

 

Sendak’s most recent picture book, Bumble-Ardy, was the first both written and illustrated by him since 1981. Bumble-Ardy began life as an original "Sesame Street" animated segment, also by Sendak, centering around a nine year-old pig who had never been given a birthday party. According to the storyteller of the book, “Bumble-Ardy had no party when he turned one (his immediate family frowned on fun).” He decides to make up for this grievous neglect by throwing his own raucous event (which quickly gets out of hand) at his aunt’s house while she’s away. Like most of Sendak’s work, this acknowledges a dark side to childhood.

 

Visit a Baltimore County Public Library branch to explore more of this beloved author’s body of work.

Paula G.

 
 

The Darkest Dark

A Black Hole is Not a HoleMost people consider the science of the sun, moon, planets, stars and the surrounding universe interesting, but often overwhelming. A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole, written especially for middle graders, turns out to be an excellent introduction to deep space concepts for people of all ages.

 

Big scientific concepts such as matter, mind-boggling distance (light-years!), and perhaps the biggest of them all, gravity, are given ample, clear explanations. The existence of black holes has been difficult to prove since their discovery, and what could become too much astrophysics is distilled as simply as possible. That Einstein never fully accepted the concept of black holes in his lifetime shows how far science has come in recent decades. Artist depictions and telescopic images fill the book with pictures that do their best to make the unimaginable come to life. Facts are engaging and well-explained. For example, the outer limit of a black hole is called the Event Horizon; from this point, no matter can escape the pull within. And our own galaxy has black holes, the largest of which makes up the center of the Milky Way, found in the constellation Sagittarius!

 

An extremely useful glossary and websites to further explore round out this brilliant informational book that will open the eyes of readers who will learn how a black hole is not quite a hole, or at least not a hole in the way that we on Earth know them. And as the author often states, science is a moving target, and each day researchers are learning more about the darkest dark of our universe.

Todd

 
 

Into the Woods...

Into the Woods...

posted by:
May 2, 2012 - 1:02am

Baby Bear Sees BlueMy Bear GrizA House in the Woods

Take a break from technology with three charming stories full of simple, yet wonderful elements, where kids are encouraged to experience nature and explore their imaginations.

 

In Baby Bear Sees Blue, a curious bear cub and his mother spend the day from morning to night, exploring nature and its many colors. The rustic, brightly colored images have a vintage feel and beautiful details. Similar to woodcuts, the illustrations are made from images carved on linoleum blocks, then black ink applied to print outlines of scenes. The outlines are then hand-colored with watercolor. The simple, yet lyrical, language leads the reader through Baby Bear’s world as he experiences the warmth of the yellow sun, the tickle of an orange butterfly, the delicious smell of red strawberries, and the boom of gray thunder, ending in a beautiful, colorful surprise. This book is a nice way to learn about colors and nature together.

 

Remember your imaginary friend?  Billy loves bears, especially his enormous friend, My Bear Griz. Griz is, of course, short for grizzly bear, and the two explore the simple joys of childhood – playing hide and seek, looking at stars, sharing secrets, and more. The story develops slowly through homey, unaffected line drawings using biro (the commonly used British term for pen) and watercolor. Short, simple, wording and white space allows imagination to blossom and fill in the pages with new adventures and ideas.

 

Soft, muted earth colors and gentle illustrations of pencil, pastel, and wash, draw the reader into A House in the Woods, a whimsical story of two little pigs who each build a special home in the forest.  While the pigs are out for a walk, Moose and Bear move in. Unfortunately, they are a bit too large and the houses are a bit too small, so the little pigs’ creations are accidentally destroyed. Back to square one, these four unique friends decide to build a new, much bigger home together. They hire a ready team of Beaver Builders, who cheerfully request to be paid in peanut butter sandwiches. Readers can share the process of building the animals’ new forest home and learn about teamwork and the fun of having different kinds of friends.

 

 

Andrea

 
 

After the Ship Went Down

After the Ship Went Down

posted by:
April 24, 2012 - 11:20am

Ghosts of the TitanicThis year, April 15th meant more than the usual tax deadline; this year the date marked the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. In commemoration, scores of authors have already risen to the challenge of supplying children with new stories surrounding that fateful journey. Among so many new titles from which to choose, the selection process can present a challenge, particularly for parents or teachers whose intent may be not only to entertain but to educate young readers. To this end, Canadian author Julie Lawson’s Ghosts of the Titanic is a well-suited choice. Told through a dual perspective narrative, the book follows the converging chronicles of two seemingly disparate characters, separated by a century and connected by a mysterious inheritance.

 

Kevin Messenger: Class clown, history buff…about to embark on the mystery of a lifetime

Kevin is a precocious boy; talented and likable, but easily distracted and outspoken at home and at school. A frequent source of frustration for his parents and teachers alike, he is also a Titanic fanatic and can’t resist a good mystery. So when his father suddenly announces that the family has inherited an oceanfront property on the other side of the country – from a man they’ve never met – Kevin is only too eager to unravel the mystery of their enigmatic benefactor, Angus Seaton.

 

Angus Seaton: Ordinary sailor, witness to Titanic's aftermath…haunted madman?

Angus at 17 is barely more than a boy himself when he is assigned to Titanic victim recovery. Sailing out of Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1912, the crew of the MacKay-Bennett is tasked with the recovery and identification of the hundreds whose lives were lost. What he encounters there in those long days of retrieval will haunt him for the rest of his life, in more ways than one.

 

An engaging mystery, peppered with elements of the supernatural, Ghosts of the Titanic is an absorbing read. Yet despite the fictional nature of the narrative, Lawson manages to integrate an impressive amount of historical detail about recovery methodology and the lives touched in the days and weeks following the calamity.

Meghan

 
 

Rosemary Wells and the further adventures of Yoko

Yoko Learns to ReadMax, Ruby, Timothy, and of course Yoko, are just some of the best loved characters from acclaimed author/illustrator Rosemary Wells, who has created more than 50 books for children. You can also enjoy her animated characters on PBS Kids.    

       

Her newest title, Yoko Learns to Read, is another adventure for little Yoko, an adorable striped gray kitten. Yoko and her Japanese-born mama are acclimating to a new culture, learning new ways, foods, and language.     

 

Yoko’s mama prepares school lunches of sushi and reads wonderful books with Yoko in Japanese. But Yoko wants to keep up with her classmates and learn to read more books in English to earn more “book leaves” to add to the classroom tree.  Mama wants to help Yoko, but Japanese letters and words are very different from English.

At the suggestion of her teacher, Yoko and her mama put on their best kimonos and make a trip to the library. With a new library card in hand, Yoko checks out more books, learning new words and the key to reading, and in the process helps teach her mama to read a new language too.

 

Relatable, universal situations, multicultural experiences, adorable animal characters, bright colors, and beautiful origami paper prints are the hallmarks of these oil pastel and collage design illustrations, which include examples of Japanese calligraphy and the difference between the Eastern style of reading from right to left and the Western style of reading from left to right.

 

Visit www.rosemarywells.com to learn more about Yoko and her friends.

Andrea