Archive for the ‘Starred Review’ Category

Review of Harold & Hog Pretend For Real! by Dan Santat

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Harold & Hog
Pretend for Real!

by Dan Santat

Hyperion Books for Children, May 7, 2019. 64 pages.
Starred Review
Review written January 27, 2019, from an advance reader copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

This is another book in the series Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!. Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie characters appear at the beginning and end to introduce a book written by someone else. This one is delightfully meta, because the book they’re introducing features an elephant and a pig – Harold & Hog – who want to pretend to be Gerald and Piggie.

Harold and Hog are drawn by Dan Santat, much more realistically than the cartoonish Gerald and Piggie. They have glasses to pretend to be Gerald and a cartoon nose to pretend to be Piggie.

But there’s a problem when they try to carry it out. Because Gerald is always very careful – but Harold has trouble with that. And Piggie is always very carefree – but Hog has trouble with that. Their efforts in that direction are tremendously fun.

I’m writing this in my Seattle hotel room while at ALA Midwinter Meeting. We chose our Newbery winners last night but don’t announce them to the world until tomorrow morning. I’m feeling a little giddy ever since I realized that I can write a review of this book – a 2019 publication – and post it this very day!

Of course, the book won’t be published until May, but this is one to watch for! Watch book characters pretend to be each other! Too much fun!

dantat.com
pigeonpresents.com
hyperionbooksforchildren.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I picked up at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

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.

Review of A Year of Borrowed Men, by Michelle Barker

Friday, January 18th, 2019

A Year of Borrowed Men

by Michelle Barker
illustrated by Renné Benoit

Pajamapress, 2016. First published in Canada in 2015. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a picture book for older readers that’s based on a true story from wartime Germany. The author used a story her mother told her.

Here’s how the book begins:

I was seven when the French prisoners of war arrived at our house.

It was 1944. Mummy told us the government had sent them because all our men were gone to war, and someone needed to keep the farms running. She said we were just borrowing the French men. When the war was over, we would give them back.

The French men do work on the farm. The family is supposed to treat them like prisoners. When they slip up one cold night and let the borrowed men eat with the family, the next day the mother is taken in for questioning and warned that if there is any repeat, she will go to prison.

So they have to keep their distance – but this story is how friendship builds between them, anyway.

And it’s lovely. I like the scenes where they speak to each other in their own languages. Gerda (the narrator) shows them her Christmas doll. They learn that eine Puppe in German is very close to une poupée in French.

Old photographs at the back of the book emphasize the truth of this story.

It’s always inspiring when those who are told to be enemies make friends.

pajamapress.ca

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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 Frank and Lucky Get Schooled, by Lynne Rae Perkins

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled

by Lynne Rae Perkins

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled is a story about a boy and his dog – and how everything a boy and his dog do together is educational.

That doesn’t sound as charming as it is. I’ll give some examples. Imagine detailed and bright pictures with word bubbles for Lucky’s thoughts.

Lucky could always help Frank with his homework, because Lucky did a lot of learning on his own.

For example, Lucky was very interested in Science. Who isn’t?

Science is when you wonder about something, so you observe it and ask questions about it and try to understand it.

Lucky wondered about ducks.

He wondered about squirrels and deer and bees and porcupines and little birds. He observed snow and rain, mud and grass, ponds and streams. He asked questions….

The time Lucky wondered about skunks, they learned about Chemistry, which is Science about what everything is made of, and how one kind of thing can change into another kind of thing.

It’s very fun the way the boy and dog look at different subjects. Math involves what fraction of the bed belongs to Frank and what fraction to Lucky. (It changes throughout the night.) History involves the question of what happened to the cake on the table when a chair was accidentally left pulled out.

They look at Art, Composition, Astronomy, Geography, even Foreign Languages when they find a friend.

This book is charming all the way along.

And the whole wide world with Lucky was the subject Frank liked best.

lynnerae.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Source: This review is based on a 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 No Fair! No Fair! poems by Calvin Trillin, pictures by Roz Chast

Monday, January 14th, 2019

No Fair! No Fair!

And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood

Poems by Calvin Trillin
Pictures by Roz Chast

Orchard Books (Scholastic), 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Oh this book made me laugh! It compelled me to read it aloud, first to people at work, then even when I was home alone.

This is a book of poetry in the tradition of Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein — rhyming poetry about the logic and illogic of children’s lives.

Here’s a stanza from one of my favorites, “The Grandpa Rule Is in Effect”:

Whenever Grandpa’s minding us,
There’s just one rule we must respect:
To do what we would like to do.
The Grandpa Rule is in effect.

Here’s the beginning of “Who Plays What?”

I like all our games of pretending,
But why is it always routine
That I am the queen’s loyal servant
And Claudia’s always the queen?

Here’s the refrain from “The Backseat”:

She’s over the line,
She’s over the line.
She occupies space
That’s rightfully mine.

And here’s a nice one full of kid logic, from “Could Jenny Get This Shot for Me? I’ve Done So Much for Her!”:

I know this shot will guard me from the measles and the mumps —
Diseases that could leave me with two different kinds of lumps.
I’m glad the stuff that’s in the shot will keep me safe from harm,
But can’t they put the needle into someone else’s arm?
If so, my older sister is the person I’d prefer.
Could Jenny get this shot for me? I’ve done so much for her.

I like all the small poems in “Evening Complaints.” This one’s called “Going to Bed”:

Though Nate stays up, to me you’ve said,
“Okay, my friend, it’s time for bed.”
I’ll bet when I’m as old as Nate,
You still won’t let me stay up late.
I’ll say, “I’m eight,” but you won’t care.
No fair, no fair, no fair, no fair.

I have to admit, a few of the poems didn’t quite work as well read aloud — but the majority are so well done, they compel reading aloud.

And Roz Chast’s pictures are the perfect companion! She gets a child’s eye view of the world just right — with that touch of cynicism and humor in every one of her pictures.

scholastic.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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 Wet Cement, by Bob Raczka

Friday, January 11th, 2019

Wet Cement

A Mix of Concrete Poems

by Bob Raczka

Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2016. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Bob Raczka explains what’s going on in this book in a note at the front:

I like to think of poems as word paintings. A poet uses words like colors to paint pictures inside your head.

In concrete poems, or shape poems, the words also paint pictures on the page. The poet arranges words in the shape of the thing the poem is about or in a way that emphasizes the poem’s meaning.

But here’s what’s really cool: by cleverly arranging individual letters, you can also paint a picture on the page with a single word. In this case, the letters become your colors.

In this book, I’ve done both. In the title of each poem, I’ve created pictures with letters. In the poems themselves, I’ve created pictures with words.

Besides showing kids what concrete poems are, this book gets the reader looking at things in new ways. I love the title example of calling the book of concrete poems Wet Cement and having the words pictured coming out of a cement mixer.

An example I can easily explain is his poem “Hopscotch.” In the title, the nine letters of “Hopscotch” go up the page in place as if in a hopscotch grid. On the next page, the twelve words of the poem go up the page in the same format.

The title of the poem “Clock” places the letter L inside the letter O looking like a clock. The poem has these words in a circle like the numbers of a clock: “The clock on the wall says it’s five ‘til three but”

Then the hands of the clock, appropriately placed, use the words: “the kids in my class say it’s five ‘til free.”

There’s lots of cleverness here. The poems are short and sweet and don’t look difficult. They’re at least not difficult to understand, but get you looking at the objects in new ways.

This book will definitely spur kids to try to create their own concrete poems. They may discover it’s harder than it looks!

But I like the way the ending poem, “poeTRY,” invites experimentation (and these lines are centered):

poetry is about taking away the words you don’t need
poetry is taking away words you don’t need
poetry is words you need
poetry is words
try

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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Review of Samurai Rising, by Pamela S. Turner

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Samurai Rising

The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

by Pamela S. Turner
illustrated by Gareth Hinds

Charlesbridge, 2016. 236 pages.
Starred Review

This book of narrative nonfiction for children booktalks itself. Samurai warriors! Murder and betrayal and kidnapping! Epic battles and clever strategy! And it’s all true!

Pamela S. Turner has done in-depth research about an ancient Japanese Samurai warrior, around whom many legends have sprung up. She does a good job separating what is known from what is speculated about him, and the final 73 pages of the book are back matter, including notes about the history and about her research, a timeline, bibliography, and an index.

The story itself reads like a gory and dramatic novel. Now I personally am not a big fan of war stories, but for kids who don’t mind that (and there are many), this book is filled with excitement – all the more exciting because it really happened.

The Introduction is short and explains why Minamoto Yoshitsune’s story is important:

Few warriors are as famous as the Japanese samurai. We remember those beautiful swords and those fearsome helmets. We recall, with both horror and fascination, how some chose to end their own lives. But no one can understand the samurai without knowing Minamoto Yoshitsune.

Yoshitsune’s story unfolds in the late twelfth century, during the adolescence of the samurai. Yes, cultures have their youth, maturity, and old age, just as people do. During Yoshitsune’s lifetime the samurai awakened. Their culture was bold, rebellious, and eager to flex its muscle. The samurai would ultimately destroy Japan’s old way of life and forge a new one using fire and steel and pain.

Yoshitsune was at the very heart of this samurai rising. Exile, runaway, fugitive, rebel, and hero, he became the most famous warrior in Japanese history. The reason is simple: Yoshitsune was the kind of man other samurai longed to be.

The book begins with the uprising and death of Yoshitsune’s father in 1160. It ends with Yoshitsune’s suicide before his enemies came for him in 1189. In between we hear the story of the warrior’s glory that went unappreciated except in legend.

The author does an amazing job of making this all accessible and understandable to the reader, while inserting little reminders that this is history, and we don’t know everything. She mentions eyewitness accounts, where the information is sketchy, and uses language like “probably” and “Imagine…” where she’s drawing inferences.

No child who reads this book will think that history is boring!

pamelasturner.com
garethhinds.com
charlesbridge.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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 Bear & Hare: Where’s Bear? by Emily Gravett

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Bear & Hare

Where’s Bear?

by Emily Gravett

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. Originally published in Great Britain in 2014. 28 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a sweet toddler-friendly story that provides counting practice along the way.

The text is simple. The first line is the most complicated one of the whole book:

Bear and Hare are playing hide-and-seek.

From there, the words are the numbers 1 through 10 written large, stretching across the page, showing Hare with his eyes covered. On the other side of the spread, next to the number 10, are the words “Where’s Bear?”

We turn the page and see Bear trying very inadequately to hide behind a lamp. Hare is pointing and saying, “There!”

The idea repeats.

After three tries where Bear is very easy to find, we see:

Maybe Hare should try hiding instead?

We’ve got the big numbers across the page again, this time with “Where’s Hare?”

Hare’s a lot harder to find. Sharp readers will spot his ears poking out. But when Bear looks under the blanket, the bed calls to him. Now Hare comes out and can’t find him!

It all ends with Hare shouting “I WANT BEAR!”

On the final page, we’ve got a cozy hug, and the words “There.”

You couldn’t ask for a cozier story to make toddlers feel clever – and get counting practice in, too.

emilygravett.com
simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 Emu, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Emu

by Claire Saxby
illustrated by Graham Byrne

Candlewick Press, 2015. 30 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2016

Wow! This is a science picture book — telling about emus and how they raise their young — and the artwork is simply stunning.

There are two threads to the text. The story part begins like this:

In the open forest, where eucalyptus trees fringe tufty grasslands, honey-pale sunshine seeps to where Emu sits on a nest. Beneath him are eight granite-green eggs. Yes, him. For in Emu’s world, it is the male’s job to raise the fledgling.

On each spread, we get about that much more of the father emu’s story, as well as a paragraph of straight facts about emus.

The emu we’re following sits on his nest for eight weeks, without eating. He defends the eggs and then the fledglings from various predators. We watch the chicks grow until they are almost as tall and striking as their father.

The facts are good and the Australian setting makes them all the more interesting. Having the story of one family of emus alongside the facts is helpful. But what makes this book truly exceptional are the strikingly beautiful paintings. This book is a joy to leaf through.

This is another book I plan to booktalk in some elementary schools for this summer. It’s always a treat to find nonfiction that will draw kids in. That emu staring out from the front cover beckons kids to find out more.

candlewick.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 Home at Last, by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

Home at Last

by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka

Greenwillow Books, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2016

I read about the creation of this book in Horn Book Magazine, so I was predisposed to like it. Vera Williams wrote the text many years ago, but set it aside until last year, when she felt the time was right. But she knew she was at the end of her life, so she’d need some help to finish the book, and she asked Chris Raschka. The result was that they collaborated on the book, and Chris completed it after she died on October 16, 2015.

The story might have been trite – an orphan child living in a home is being adopted – but this particular story is told with depth and warmth and love that makes it anything but typical. It’s also a long text for a picture book, so it’s not exactly a storytime selection, unless it’s for an elementary school classroom, but it would make lovely cozy family reading.

The book opens as Lester is waiting eagerly for the arrival of Daddy Albert, Daddy Rich, and their dog Wincka, who are going to finally adopt him.

When Lester moves in with them, they give him his own room. Lester needs his suitcase filled with action figures to protect him.

But every night, Lester wakes up in the night and stands by his daddies’ big bed, with Wincka sleeping at the foot. Every night, they wake to see him standing over them.

What Lester wanted was to climb into his parents’ bed, too. More than anything, he longed to wriggle right into the middle of that bed, with Daddy Rich on one side and Daddy Albert on the other side and fat old Wincka at his feet, and to have his action figures in their blue suitcase right on the floor beside them. That way he knew he would be safe from everything bad in the whole world.

Lester never told Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert about this. But every night, as though he had an alarm clock ringing in his belly, he grabbed his suitcase and made his expedition down the hall and through the door to the side of the bed.

Lester’s daddies have trouble with this. I appreciated the paragraph that expressed their thinking.

Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert had decided, long before they finished adopting Lester, that it was important for their new little boy to have his own room and his own bed. They had spent many weekends painting the room and finding the right bed for the boy who was coming to live with them. And they surely knew, from living with Wincka, how impossible it was to get a creature out of your bed once you have let that creature in, if only in an emergency . . . if only for a few nights.

The problem goes on though. The daddies try to help. They do lovely things together with Lester. They look forward to him settling in to school and feeling at home in the neighborhood. They do have some setbacks as well, but it’s clear they love Lester and want to do what’s best for him.

Finally, the solution – and a lovely one – comes from Wincka.

And I like the way the book doesn’t end with that solution – that’s only a part of Lester feeling at home. First, it talks about Sunday mornings when things are relaxed and everyone cuddles in the big bed and sleeps late and has pancakes together. The final spread goes further:

But he also loved when his new cousins – all four of them – stayed over on Saturday nights. They laughed and jumped around and played and played so much that they hardly slept a wink.

And at first light, they piled right on top of Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert.

“Help! We’re being attacked!” the daddies shouted, dashing through the house chased by cousins and Lester and Wincka and even Silver. And then it was pancakes for everyone. And then an entire day of more games and walks and snacks and fun together.

Lester was truly home at last.

Here’s a lovely warm book about a little lonely boy who needs a family – and finds one. I like the way it tackles head-on that he needs extra reassurance, and it isn’t easy – but he does find a home. And that reassurance.

This book is a lovely legacy for an outstanding picture book creator. I also love the way the pictures are a wonderful blend of her style with Chris Raschka’s, creating something new.

harpercollinschildrens.com

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Source: This review is based on a 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 Experimenting with Babies, by Shaun Gallagher

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

Experimenting with Babies

50 Amazing Science Projects You Can Perform on Your Kid

by Shaun Gallagher

A Tarcherperigee Book (Penguin Random House), 2013. 205 pages.
Starred Review

I discovered this book when it was new to our library, and I’ve been reading it very slowly – just one experiment per day, if that – but lately I’m enjoying it so much, I’ve been telling every parent and grandparent I know about it. I would have had so much fun with this book back when I was a big sister with many younger siblings in the house to experiment on! (I was 3rd of 13. Though they weren’t all in the house at the same time, I’ve been around babies a lot. They are super fun to experiment on!)

Here’s the idea: The author has taken serious science experiments that psychologists have tried on babies and tells parents how to adapt them and try them on their own kid. The experiments start with newborn reflexes and progress to experiments with language and following instructions for toddlers.

One thing I love about the book is that the experiments are not designed to tell you if your child is ahead or behind their agemates. The experiments are simply a fascinating look at human development in general and your baby in particular.

There’s really a wide variety of experiments. Let me describe a few of them – but consider this simply a random selection, and it will tend toward the older end of the experiments. (The beginning ones have to do with those fascinating infant reflexes.)

For example, one experiment has you ask two friends to greet each other in front of the baby. But then you do it again, later, but the second time, they greet each other with their backs turned to each other. The fascinating research is that 9-month-olds don’t react any differently to one or the other – but when researchers tried this (with a video) on 10-month-olds, they looked longer at the one with their backs turned. Somewhere in that time frame, babies figure out that people usually look at each other during social interaction.

I thought this one was really funny. For a child around 13-15 months, you put a toy on the table in front of you that you can activate with your head (causing some sort of light or sound). Then you put it in front of the baby, and see if they will activate it with their head or with their hands. The fascinating thing is that if you do it showing that your hands are full, the baby is less apt to use their own head to turn the toy on than if you do it with your hands empty and available. The baby seems to reason that the only reason you used your head was because your hands were full. But if your hands were free and you used your head anyway – then turning it on with your head must be what you’re supposed to do!

So those are the sort of silly experiments you’ll find here – silly but enlightening. Reading them really made me want to try them out on babies. (These are completely perfect Big Sister activities, but maybe I can convert them into Auntie activities.)

Human development is fascinating, and these experiments give you a little window into how your child is growing and changing and learning.

[And look at that! He’s got a new book coming out in April: Experiments for Newlyweds.]

ExperimentingWithBabies.com
tarcherperigee.com
penguin.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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.

What did you think of this book?