Audiobook Review of My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, performed by Katherine Kellgren

June 16th, 2018

My Lady Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
performed by Katherine Kellgren

HarperAudio, 2016. 13.75 hours on 11 discs.
Starred Review

I’ve already reviewed this book in print form, but oh, Katherine Kellgren’s performance makes it so much fun!

We’ve got alternate history England, featuring Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for nine days. In this version, many people have the magic power to turn into an animal. In the course of things, Jane finds out she is one, which is how she escapes losing her head.

The story is funny and clever and twists history just enough to be terribly fun. And Katherine Kellgren’s brilliant vocal abilities are perfect to bring out all the humor in the situations.

By now, I’ve become Katherine Kellgren’s fan. In a story set in England that was already outstanding in an over-the-top humorous sort of way, her performance puts it even more over the top. Now when I recommend this book, I’m going to suggest listening.

harperaudio.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends

June 13th, 2018

What’s Your Favorite Color?

by Eric Carle and Friends

Godwin Books (Henry Holt and Company), 2017. 36 pages.

This is another book in support of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, like What’s Your Favorite Animal?. Here again, a set of distinguished illustrators are asked a simple question – and they all answer in their own unique way.

This time the question is “What’s your favorite color?”

Some artists give long and thoughtful answers, like Rafael López:

The color I choose will surprise you because it dares to be different. No matter what others may say, artists know that gray is magic. It gets along with all the other colors and knows how to make them sparkle. Gray is smart and UNIQUE!

Like the clever octopus, my good friend gray knows how to change colors to communicate. It comes in many different shades – from warm to really cool! In some parts of the world, this flexible color even changes its spelling to grey.

When things get noisy and mixed up, gray is like a calm, deep breath.

Other artists, like Mike Curato, are short and sweet:

My favorite color is Mint because I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Or Lauren Castillo:

I love the way the snow magically paints the world white.

Or Frann Preston-Gannon:

I love flaming orange. It is the color of the tiger burning bright as it creeps through the grasses of the jungle.

This isn’t a book for preschool storytime, but it is a book for thoughtful reading over and over again. It’s for looking at things differently. It’s for thinking about your own favorite color. And it’s for enjoying the glorious paintings.

I’m not sure why they chose the order they did of the illustrators, except the obvious choice of putting Eric Carle first. The colors aren’t in the order of the rainbow, and a few colors are almost the same. (For example, Melissa Sweet chooses Maine Morning Gray.) At the back, there’s a bit about each illustrator, and the names are in a colored font. I find myself wishing they had used each illustrator’s favorite color for their name, but they didn’t.

All the same, this is a lovely book. It would be perfect for sharing with a budding artist to get them thinking about and seeing colors with fresh eyes.

What do I mean by seeing colors with fresh eyes? Well, Philip C. Stead’s page is a fine example (though the illustration is what makes it perfect):

A green frog is green
and sometimes socks are green –
just like yarn.
An alligator is green
unless it hides underwater
and then it’s
two white eyes.
Green grass is green
and apples can be green.
A tree is green
except when it’s yellow
red
or nothing at all.
You know what?
A green elephant is green
when it wants to be
and that’s why today
my favorite color
is green.

carlemuseum.org
mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Newbery Notes – Midyear Edition

June 12th, 2018

This is me, reading on my balcony.

It’s the middle of the year, and the number of books I’d *like* to have read is exploding. But I am making lots of time to read out on my balcony.

In fact, just tonight I realized I’d spent an hour reading the start of a book by a British author – and therefore not eligible! Ouch!

But of eligible books, so far I have read:
127 Middle Grade books, 15 of those not finished, for a total of 27,331 pages.
40 books for Young Adults, 4 of those not finished, for a total of 11,882 pages.
267 picture books, for a total of 10,038 pages.

Grand totals are 434 books (19 not finished), for a total of 49,251 pages. Should hit 50,000 in a day or two!

From publishers, I have already received 273 books. 8 arrived tonight.

Where the Newbery committee is in the process is that we’re all reading madly and Suggesting books to the committee each month. The first two months, I’d read most of the suggested books, but the May suggestion list had 7 I hadn’t read. All committee members will read all suggested books.

We’re meeting for our first mandatory meeting ten days from now in New Orleans at ALA Annual Conference! Each committee member (except the chair) is going to present one book for practice discussion – so right there are 14 books I’d like to reread in the next week. (It probably won’t happen.)

I’ve decided for this round of rereading, I’m going to read only a few chapters at a time (maybe a half-hour) and do this at home and take copious notes. I’ll still keep first-time reading as my pleasure reading and write a review as my first impression (to post after the Newbery).

The stress of not reading as many books as I’d like to have read is good stress! I’m trying to make peace with it – When I was a Cybils judge we kept track of our page and book counts and I was usually in the middle of the pack. Some will read more than me and some will read fewer. I’m going to try to remember to enjoy the process.

I have to say that tonight when I began my rereading (No, I won’t get nearly all 14 re-read. But I will re-read the nominated books before January’s meeting – this is just practice.) – I was delighted with how many things I noticed just in the first chapter – things about the craft of the book. It’s true what former committee members say – you do examine the book more closely when you’re on the committee. I’m only beginning to get a taste of that. (And the book I was rereading tonight is one I’d already read twice. But taking notes while I read is helping.)

Anyway, I’m still scheming how I’m going to manage to take some time off to read during our busy summer. But I’m hoping for the best! And I’m trying to be more disciplined about spending 7 to 9 reading every day.

Tomorrow we finish Booktalking for this year in the local elementary schools. And it was all the better this year because I’d read so very many children’s books. I didn’t get at all bored with repeating the same books over and over – because I have a lot of great books to choose from.

The year is only half over, but let no one say that this is not a good year for Newbery eligible books. I am already sure: We’re going to pick a good one!

Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon, by John Himmelman

June 9th, 2018

Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon

by John Himmelman

Henry Holt and Company, 2016. 120 pages.

Bunjitsu Bunny’s back! Isabel the Bunjitsu master is back in this third book of short stories about fighting well and knowing when not to fight.

As before, most of the short well-illustrated chapters have some kind of kicker to the story. My favorite is “The Floating Rabbit” where their teacher challenges them to get from one circle drawn on the floor to another on the other side of the room without touching the floor. Isabel figures out to ask her friends to carry her.

“Sometimes,” said Isabel, “friends can help us do things we cannot do on our own.”

There are 13 short chapters in this book. The print is large and there are pictures on each spread, so this is a perfect choice for kids ready to start chapter books.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

June 8th, 2018

Option B

Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. 226 pages.
Starred Review

Option B is a book about grief.

Sheryl Sandberg’s husband Dave died suddenly after they had been married only eleven years. This book is framed as the story of her loss and the hard road of recovery, but she’s extended the application to a look at how to build resilience in the face of adversity.

Yet try as we might to prevent adversity, inequality, and trauma, they still exist and we are still left to cope with them. To fight for change tomorrow we need to build resilience today. Psychologists have studied how to recover and rebound from a wide range of adversity — from loss, rejection, and divorce to injury and illness, from professional failure to personal disappointment. Along with reviewing the research, Adam and I sought out individuals and groups who have overcome ordinary and extraordinary difficulties. Their stories changed the way we think about resilience.

This book is about the capacity of the human spirit to persevere. We look at the steps people can take, both to help themselves and to help others. We explore the psychology of recovery and the challenges of regaining confidence and rediscovering joy. We cover ways to speak about tragedy and comfort friends who are suffering. And we discuss what it takes to create resilient communities and companies, raise strong children, and love again.

Right in the first chapter, she talks about important obstacles you need to overcome:

We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events. After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that three P’s can stunt recovery: (1) personalization — the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness — the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence — the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. The three P’s play like the flip side of the pop song “Everything Is Awesome” — “everything is awful.” The loop in your head repeats, “It’s my fault this is awful. My whole life is awful. And it’s always going to be awful.”

Hundreds of studies have shown that children and adults recover more quickly when they realize that hardships aren’t entirely their fault, don’t affect every aspect of their lives, and won’t follow them everywhere forever. Recognizing that negative events aren’t personal, pervasive, or permanent makes people less likely to get depressed and better able to cope.

This book is best and most powerful in all the personal moments she shares about her own struggles after her husband’s death. Bringing in psychological research and other stories of loss does reinforce those lessons, but they almost feel canned in comparison.

And although the authors work to make the book applicable to building resilience in any adversity, I would most recommend it to people who are also dealing with the death of someone close to them.

Don’t shoot me, but I’ve long thought that in many ways divorce is worse than the death of a spouse. Reading this book reminded me that in many ways the death of a spouse is worse than divorce. Both are terrible, and in dealing with both you need resilience. But I’m not sure I would have liked reading this book when my divorce was fresh. Because she got to keep her good memories of her spouse, and they weren’t tainted by wondering when he stopped loving her. As she grew and healed to where she was ready to try to love again, she didn’t have to figure out how to stop loving her spouse, who was not the loving husband she thought he was. Her world was shaken — but in just similar enough ways, I think I would have envied her if I’d read this ten years ago. And been mad at her for not realizing how lucky she was but also been ashamed of myself for not realizing how horribly unlucky she was — in short, I think it might have added to my mess of emotions for being so close but so far from what I was going through.

However, ten years down the road, after reading this book, I’m almost ashamed to even compare my journey with hers. I think perhaps because I did work at falling out of love with my ex-husband and I truly don’t want him back any more, the grief doesn’t last as long. But the lessons of resilience that she points out will help you through whatever Option B you have to settle for.

I like the way she winds things up in the final chapter.

But just as grief crashes into us like a wave, it also rolls back like the tide. We are left not just standing, but in some ways stronger. Option B still gives us options. We can still love . . . and we can still find joy.

I now know that it’s possible not just to bounce back but to grow. Would I trade this growth to have Dave back? Of course. No one would ever choose to grow this way. But it happens — and we do. As Allen Rucker wrote about his paralysis, “I won’t make your skin crawl by saying it’s a ‘blessing in disguise.’ It’s not a blessing and there’s no disguise. But there are things to be gained and things to be lost, and on certain days, I’m not sure that the gains are not as great as, or even greater than, the inevitable losses.”

Tragedy does not have to be personal, pervasive, or permanent, but resilience can be. We can build it and carry it with us throughout our lives.

optionb.org
aaknopf.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Teacher’s Pet, by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

June 7th, 2018

The Teacher’s Pet

by Anica Mrose Rissi
illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

Disney Hyperion, 2017. 36 pages.

Okay this book is extremely silly. So silly, I’m not even tempted to complain it’s not even slightly realistic.

It’s told as a straight story. Here’s the beginning:

On the day the science project hatched,
our whole class was amazed.
We’d never seen Mr. Stricter so excited.
“I always wanted a pet,” he said.

Our tadpoles grew and grew.
Soon it was time to release them into the wild.
But Mr. Stricter said we could keep just one.
We chose Bruno.

However, it quickly becomes apparent in the illustrations that Bruno is not a frog. The book doesn’t say so, but we can see that Bruno is a hippopotamus. Mr. Stricter happily comments on how fast he’s growing.

In this book, it’s the kids who see the down side of the pet. As he gets bigger and bigger and bigger:

Everyone could see that
Bruno was trouble.
Everyone except Mr. Stricter.

As Bruno destroys things because of his sheer size, Mr. Stricter happily comments that he loves to play and is so adorable.

The kids hold a meeting to figure out how to convince Mr. Stricter to let Bruno go. But despite all their objections, Mr. Stricter won’t listen – until Bruno swallows him whole!

At this point, I was telling myself, Okay, somehow they’ll get him out of there. And they do. After some stubbornness, the kids cleverly figure out how to make Bruno sneeze.

Mr. Stricter flew out like a snot rocket.

He shook Bruno’s slime from his ears.
“Good news,” he said.
“I found the missing homework.”

No, this story isn’t even slightly realistic. How did a tiny tadpole-like hippo hatch from a frog’s egg, anyway? But yes, it is very silly and very, very fun. As always Zachariah Ohora’s illustrations are perfect.

anicarissi.com
zohora.com
DisneyBooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalyn Eves

June 6th, 2018

Blood Rose Rebellion

by Rosalyn Eves

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House), 2017. 407 pages.

I’m getting used to alternate histories with magic, but this was an alternate history of something I didn’t know much about in the real world – the Hungarian revolution in 1848.

Anna Arden doesn’t mean to break other people’s spells. But sometimes, especially when her emotions get stirred up, this happens spectacularly, and people get hurt. After she ruins her sister’s debut, she’s sent off with her grandmother to stay in Hungary for awhile at her grandmother’s childhood home.

But various people find out about Anna’s unusual abilities. Would she be able to break the Binding spell – the one that confines magic to the nobility, the Luminate class? And what are the motives of the people who want to use her in this way? But at the same time, what would be the cost? Would this break the power of the Circle, so that common people can have access to magic? But what will the Circle do to stop her?

Anna’s confused as to what she should do. Meanwhile, there’s a handsome Romani young man whom Anna would like to teach her Romani magic. Maybe if she can’t do Luminate magic, maybe she could do Romani magic, which is so different.

Romance and adventure, magic and danger – all put into the context of the actual history of the Hungarian rebellion from the Hapsburgs.

randomhouseteens.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle

June 5th, 2018

Tattoos on the Heart

The Power of Boundless Compassion

by Gregory Boyle
read by the author

HighBridge Audio, 2010. 7 ½ hours on 6 CDs.
Starred Review

I put this audiobook on hold after my sister Becky told me that her daughter’s college graduation had the best graduation speaker she’d ever heard – he even got a standing ovation. That was enough of a recommendation for me. I was not at all disappointed when I started listening.

I got the audiobook because while I’m on the Newbery committee, that’s the best way for me to get books read that are written for adults. And with all the Spanish words used in this book, it was nice to hear the author read it. He doesn’t use a lot of variety in voices, but that’s okay – it works with this book. But I ended up checking out the print version in order to pull out quotes for Sonderquotes – I kept getting blown away by his words and I wanted to remember them.

Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest, is the founder of Homeboy Industries, an organization that gives jobs to gang members and helps them get out of gangs and removes their tattoos. He lives in downtown Los Angeles, and has since the 1980s (when I lived in downtown Los Angeles for a few years) – and knows and loves gang members. He learns their names and knows them as people – and that makes a powerful difference.

The book is mostly stories, and they touch your heart. Something about seeing, through Father Boyle, that God sees and cares about gang members – helps me understand with my heart that God sees and cares about me. And not only does God care about me, He delights in me. Gregory Boyle shows that it’s possible to not only tolerate kids who are gang members – but even to see that they are delightful. Wow.

Here’s what Gregory Boyle says at the end of the Introduction:

In finding a home for these stories in this modest effort, I hope, likewise, to tattoo those mentioned here on our collective heart. Though this book does not concern itself with solving the gang problem, it does aspire to broaden the parameters of our kinship. It hopes not only to put a human face on the gang member, but to recognize our own wounds in the broken lives and daunting struggles of the men and women in these parables.

Our common human hospitality longs to find room for those who are left out. It’s just who we are if allowed to foster something different, something more greatly resembling what God had in mind. Perhaps, together, we can teach each other how to bear the beams of love, persons becoming persons, right before our eyes. Returned to ourselves.

He achieves these goals in this book. He does such a good job of putting a human face on the gang member for me – that it was unfortunate timing that I was listening to this audiobook at the same time the president called members of MS-13 “animals.” The contrast was huge. (Gregory Boyle, by the way, doesn’t name any of the gangs he works with, so as to not give the gangs that dignity. The people, however, he lavishes with dignity.)

The beauty of this book is watching Father Boyle treat gang members as delightful human beings. It’s obviously not easy, and comes with a lot of pain. At the time of writing the book, he had buried more than 170 people he cared about because of gang violence. Many of the stories he tells end with the tragic too-soon death of the subject of the story.

And the things he pulls out touch your heart. He talks about the “no matter whatness” of God’s love and God knowing us by name. You’ll see lives changed because someone showed compassion on an outcast – and maybe that will change your life, too.

Look for more quotes on Sonderquotes. I highly recommend this book.

highbridgeaudio.com
homeboyindustries.org

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Man Who Loved Libraries, by Andrew Larsen, pictures by Katty Maurey

June 2nd, 2018

The Man Who Loved Libraries

The Story of Andrew Carnegie

by Andrew Larsen
pictures by Katty Maurey

Owlkids Books, 2017. 32 pages.

This is a picture book biography of Andrew Carnegie. It tells the basics of his life, that he was born into poverty in Scotland, but his family emigrated to America. He worked as a child in a cotton mill, then as a messenger boy.

A wealthy businessman opened the doors of his private library to young workers on Sunday afternoons, and that was how Andrew Carnegie got his education. He then was able to become a telegraph operator and worked his way up in the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Here’s how the book explains Andrew’s wealth:

Andrew believed railroads were the key to the future. His first investment was with the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company. He went on to buy shares in companies producing oil and iron and steel, as well as those building the rails and bridges that were weaving their way across America. When they made money, he made money.

By the time he was thirty-five, Andrew Carnegie’s investments had made him a rich man. He had more money than he could ever need. So what did he do?

He gave it away.

Andrew Carnegie never forgot the kindness of Colonel Anderson. He never forgot the light and warmth of the colonel’s library or how he loved to borrow the books that filled its shelves. He never forgot the joy he felt in learning.

Andrew Carnegie used his own money to build public libraries so others could have the same opportunity.

He built his first public library in the small Scottish village where he was born. But he didn’t stop there.

It goes on to tell about the many public libraries he built – more than 2,500, all over the world.

A note at the back gives more details. It also mentions that his relationship with his own workers – and their unions – was “complicated.” But the focus is on his amazing philanthropic efforts and the work still being done today by the Carnegie Corporation that he set up.

owlkidsbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Poppy Seed Cakes, by Margery Clark

June 1st, 2018

The Poppy Seed Cakes

by Margery Clark

with illustrations by Maud and Miska Petersham

Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics, 2013. First published 1924. 157 pages.
Starred Review

Last year I wrote Project 52 – each week reflecting on one year of my life. Which brought back memories. And one of the memories was about which chapter books I read when I was still small, before we moved away from Seattle.

One of those first chapter books was The Poppy Seed Cakes.

I hadn’t read The Poppy Seed Cakes in years. But remembering it made me want to get a copy and hold it in my hands and read it over again. So I looked on Amazon and was delighted to find an Everyman’s Classics edition.

Once the book arrived, I read it immediately. All the pictures and page decorations are there! And I remember every single one and greet them all as old friends. There are many full-page illustrations, alternating between color and black and white. But there are also decorative patterns on each page, with each chapter having its own theme, and the pattern enclosing the text. For example, the chapter “The White Goat,” has a stylized picture of a goat parading across the top of the page. “Erminka and the Crate of Chickens” has chickens across the top, and “The Picnic Basket” has a goose reaching for a picnic basket.

The only thing wrong with this book is its bright yellow cover. I’m pretty sure my grandma’s copy was red. And that’s another thing. I’m not so sure any more that I did read this book from the library in Seattle. But I specifically remember reading it at my grandma’s house in Salem, Oregon – and I think maybe my great-grandmother had a copy as well. (However, that means my mother had read it as a child, so there’s a very good chance she did check it out for me from the library. Which would explain my memory of it as one of the first chapter books I got from the library.)

I am very sad I didn’t think of ordering this book when my own children were small, because I find it’s a book that begs to be read aloud. In fact, I’ll admit that I read some of it aloud even when sitting in my own home all alone. The phrase “Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka,” which appears over and over just doesn’t want to remain silent in your head.

The stories are old-fashioned and quaint – but do stand the test of time. And the language! First we have stories about Andrewshek and Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka. Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka asks him to do something while she is gone – and Andrewshek consistently chooses to do something else – with varying results. Though they usually manage to deal with said results.

Then we have stories about Erminka and her red topped boots. They are her brother’s, and they are too big, so wearing them gets Erminka in trouble more than once.

At the end of the book, the stories come together when Erminka comes for a tea-party at Andrewshek’s house. With poppy seed cakes.

All the animals can talk in this book. Each story is child-sized and matter of fact, and the animals are child-like in their responses. Here’s how the last story ends:

Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka spread a clean white table cloth on the table under the apple tree in the garden. She brought out two plates of poppy seed cakes and five cups and saucers and five spoons and five napkins. Then she went back into the house to get some strawberry jam.

The white goat and the kitten and the dog and the two chickens came and sat down on the bench beside the table under the apple tree in the garden. They sat very quiet with their hands folded.

“If we behave nicely,” said the white goat, “perhaps Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka will let us join the tea-party.”

Andrewshek’s Auntie Katushka came out on the porch with a bowl of strawberry jam in her hand. She saw the white goat and the kitten and the dog and the two chickens sitting quiet on the bench, with their hands folded.

“Well! Well!” said Auntie Katushka. “Some more friends have come to our tea-party. I hope they will like poppy seed cakes and strawberry jam, too.”

And they did.

Simple stories and simple concerns, with a happy ending. Though a modern child probably won’t hang out with geese and goats and chickens like Andrewshek and Erminka, they will understand how easy it is to be distracted, the lure of new boots, and the delight of eating poppy seed cakes.

randomhouse.com/everymans

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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