Archive for the ‘Readalouds’ Category

Review of The Lost Words, by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

The Lost Words

A Spell Book

by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

Anansi Press, 2018. First published in the United Kingdom in 2017. 132 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 6, 2019, from a library book

This gorgeous book focuses on twenty words from nature that had been removed from the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionaryacorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker, dandelion, fern, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, magpie, newt, otter, raven, starling, weasel, willow, and wren.

The book is large, oversized, and heavy, making it awe-inspiring. The only trouble I see with that is I can’t imagine children carrying it around to read it over and over. This is a coffee table book that’s physically heavy to pick up. Perhaps they could make a small version for everyday use? Though this one is stunning.

Each word first has a simple spread where the lost word is hidden among other letters, but highlighted in a different color. Then we have an acrostic poem featuring the word with a painting of the object on the facing page. Next there is a full-color glorious painting on the following spread.

I had gotten through almost the entire book before I realized that these poems absolutely must be read aloud. I went back and made up for my mistake of trying to read them silently. The poems are magnificent. I will highlight a few stanzas with wordplay I especially like.

From the Willow poem:

Willow, when the wind blows so your branches billow,
O will you whisper while we listen so we learn what
words your long leaves loosen?

From the Otter poem:

This swift swimmer’s a silver-miner – with
trout its ore it bores each black pool deep
and deeper, delves up-current steep and
steeper, turns the water inside-out, then
inside-outer.

From the Fern poem:

Reach, roll and unfold follows.
Fern flares.

Now fern is fully fanned.

From the heron poem, coming just after the marvelous line that the heron “magically . . . unstatues:

Out of the water creaks long-legs heron,
old-priest heron, from hereon in all sticks
and planks and rubber-bands, all clanks and
clicks and rusty squeaks.

Now heron hauls himself into flight – early
aviator, heavy freighter – and with steady
wingbeats boosts his way through evening
light to roost.

From the Ivy poem:

You call me ground-cover; I say sky-wire.

May this magnificent book open our eyes again to nature.

johnmuirtrust.org/initiatives/the-lost-words
houseofanansi.com

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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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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 Toad on the Road, by Stephen Shaskan

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Toad on the Road

A Cautionary Tale

by Stephen Shaskan

Harper, 2017. 32 pages.
Review written in 2017.

Here’s a book that cries out to be read aloud in a storytime. There’s a toad in the road! Four different critters in alliterative vehicles come down the road toward the toad, and we’re encouraged:

Everyone shout:
Look out! Look out!

Then we’ve got a spread-filling “SKID! SCREECH! BAM!”

No, the toad isn’t hurt, but the other creature has run off the road and crashed. And they now scold the oblivious toad:

Hey, little toad, get out of the way!
You could get hurt. That’s no place to play.
Vamoose! Skedaddle! Without delay!
What do you think your mama would say?

The final animal is the toad’s mama! And she’s driving a tow truck to take away the other crashed vehicles. They smile when they see each other, and she gets him off the road with a hug.

There are little blips where the rhyme isn’t perfect – but my main impression of the book is that I have to try it at my next Toddler Storytime. I can’t wait to have everybody shout, “Look out! Look out!” And the bonus is that it’s a fun way to talk about how the road is not a safe place to play.

stephenshaskan.com
harpercollinschildrens.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 The Poppy Seed Cakes, by Margery Clark

Friday, 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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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 Bumpety, Dunkety, Thumpety-Thump! by K. L. Going, illustrated by Simone Shin

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Bumpety, Dunkety, Thumpety-Thump!

by K. L. Going
illustrated by Simone Shin

Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), 2017. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Ah! Here’s a lovely new book just right for toddler story time. The words sing, and point out the sounds a child might hear as they go about their day.

Here’s how it begins:

Wagon on gravel goes bumpety-bump.

Pebbles in the pond fall dunkety-dunk.

Toes in the grass go thumpety-thump.

Bumpety, dunkety, thumpety-thump.

The above takes up a two-page spread for each line.

Then the action continues: The children pick berries. When plopped into the bucket, they go plunkety-plunk. They take them home and make a pie with their parents, with more onomatopoeia happening.

Then there’s washing up – both dishes and children.

The final set of the day goes like this:

Nose taps nose with a bumpety-bump.

Snuggle in the blankie in a lumpety-lump.

Hearts beat close with a thumpety-thump.

Bumpety, lumpety, thumpety-thump.

Like all good bedtime books, this one ends with children asleep in bed – but there is enough action and rollicking rhyme going on, that it can be read any time of the day.

This sweet book begs to be read aloud.

klgoing.com
simoneshin.com
simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return, by Ian Doescher

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

William Shakespeare’s

The Jedi Doth Return

by Ian Doescher

Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2014. 168 pages.
Review written in 2016.

This third volume in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars was published quite some time ago – but I finally finished reading it because my son graduated from college and is living with me again for awhile.

These books simply must be read out loud! I loved the way my son did the various voices – It’s awfully amusing hearing Darth Vader and the Emperor speak in Shakespearean English. I think my own Chewbacca voice isn’t too bad.

Ian Doescher knows his Shakespeare. There are many references to Shakespeare plays in the text – most of which, I’m sure I didn’t pick up on.

We read one Act at a time – which ends up being approximately a half-hour of reading, just enough that our voices didn’t get too tired. I grant you there aren’t a lot of female parts, but we mostly alternated characters. There are Five Acts, so once we got restarted (We read Act One months ago.), it took us about a week to finish.

I still say these would be magnificent plays for a middle school to put on, or for a middle school or high school English class to read aloud in conjunction with studying a Shakespeare play. There’d be plenty of food for discussion about Ian Doescher’s adaptation, and I’m guessing students wouldn’t complain about the archaic language when they already know the story.

This is another brilliant installment. I admit I was losing steam and wasn’t sure I was going to get it read – but the opportunity to read it aloud reminded me what fun this series is.

IanDoescher.com
Quirkbooks.com
Starwars.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 Welcome, by Mo Willems

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Welcome

A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals

by Mo Willems

Disney Book Group, 2017. 28 pages.
Starred Review

Yay! I have been invited to a baby shower, so I have a reason to purchase this book! I actually read it last year when visiting my newborn niece, but I didn’t have a chance to write a review. Now I’ve been enjoying the book before I wrap it up….

What I need to do is simply urge you to read this book. It’s brilliant. You will enjoy it.

I’ll say a little bit about it. It’s written as a sort of travel guide for a new baby, telling them what to expect. The illustrations are essentially icons, as found in manuals. It’s funny and charming.

A wonderful touch is that most pages end with the words “while we read this book together.”

Here’s a nice page at the start:

PLEASE ENJOY YOUR STAY

Many activities are available for you to enjoy,
including, but not limited to:

SLEEPING and WAKING,
EATING and BURPING,
POOPING and MORE POOPING.
[All the capitalized words have icons on the facing page.]

Other options are available upon request
and will be updated on a regular basis.

Of our current offerings, I can personally recommend
your being right here with me . . .

while we read this book together.

And here’s a nice page at the end:

CONDITIONS MAY VARY

We will strive to make your stay
as comfortable as possible. However . . .

There will be TURBULENCE.
There will be UNEXPECTED EVENTS.
There will be HUMAN ERROR.

Fortunately, we are happy to provide you LOVE

At no extra cost.

A warm and delightful book that tells newcomer what they can expect out of life, and that they have people standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide Love.

May this book get many chances to be read child and parent together.

pigeonpresents.com
hyperionbooksforchildren.com

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Source: This review is based on a book I purchased via Amazon.com to give away.

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 Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, by Mark Twain and Philip Stead, with illustrations by Erin Stead

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine

by Mark Twain
and Philip Stead
with illustrations by Erin Stead

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2017. 152 pages.
Starred Review

Oh, this is such a lovely book! The story is based on 16 pages of notes discovered in Mark Twain’s papers. It was discovered by a researcher hoping to write a Twain cookbook – found because of the word “Oleomargarine.” Mark Twain House & Museum authorized Philip and Erin Stead to make a book from those notes, which were based on a story Mark Twain spun for his daughters at bedtime while in a Paris hotel.

The result is delightful. Philip Stead retained Mark Twain’s folksy style. He presents it as a conversation with Mark Twain – but where Mark Twain disappears right before the story ends. He includes some discussion between the two authors. Here’s a small example:

“How did she know she was a fairy?” I asked.

“Because,” answered Twain, “the woman in question was only four and a half inches tall. It was the scientific conclusion to make. Now, let’s try not to interrupt, shall we?”

The story turns out to be a gentle one – about a boy named Johnny who, through his kindness, receives the gift of understanding the speech of animals and gains a family of animal friends. The animal friends are observant and know what happened when Prince Oleomargarine disappeared, so they tell Johnny.

The story is presented in picture book format, with Erin Stead’s delicate woodcut illustrations on each spread, and many spreads with few words or no words at all. It’s a book to savor slowly and would make magnificent classroom reading or for reading aloud at bedtime for a sequence of nights (imitating the original creation of the story).

Okay, I was browsing through the book for the delightful language, and found a part I simply have to quote. This is supposedly what Mark Twain said to Philip Stead as he was relating the story, and is off on quite a tangent from the tale of Johnny. It started with a skunk who was the first to befriend Johnny.

“Of course,” he added, “I could have saved myself – and Johnny – from the silly prejudices of the unenlightened. I could have lied and said porcupine or kangaroo instead of skunk.

“But if I lie to you once, you will never trust me again. And if history is our guide, our entire undertaking will be lost –

“Napoleon,” he explained, “lied to his men at Waterloo. He said: We are going to have a great time! They did not.

“King Henry VIII lied to Anne Boleyn, and the whole thing caused nothing but headaches.

“There are other examples, too! –

“Consider George Washington. He made an awful stink about the nobleness of truth telling after the fact, but the sad reality is this – he looked that cherry tree in the face and told it: This won’t hurt a bit.

“History tells us these things. And we can trust history on the matter of lies because history is mostly lies, along with some exaggerations.”

Spend some time savoring this uplifting and ultimately very silly story.

Here are Twain’s notes: (Much better in this book form!)
http://admin.rhcbooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Twain-fragment.pdf

randomhousekids.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 The Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed, by Helen Cooper

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

boy_who_wouldnt_go_to_bed_largeThe Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed

by Helen Cooper

Dial Books for Young Readers, New York, 1997. First published in Great Britain in 1996.
Starred Review

I’m posting a review of this Old Favorite in response to Travis Jonker’s critique on his 100 Scope Notes blog of the current best-selling children’s book, The Rabbit who wants to fall asleep.

You see, I believe that if you want mesmerizing and hypnotic in a children’s bedtime book, you actually don’t have to sacrifice lovely pictures and beautiful, lilting language.

When my son was a toddler, my then-husband brought this book home after one of his trips to England. It was the British version, so the title was The Baby Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed, but all else was the same.

My son couldn’t keep his eyes open when we read this book to him. Before long, he wouldn’t let us read it at bedtime, because he knew full well it would make him fall asleep.

The book starts with the boys mother telling him it’s bedtime. But it’s still light, because it’s summer, and the boy doesn’t want to go to bed.

But the boy revved up his car…
vrrrooom-chugga-chug…
then drove away
as fast as he could,
and the mother couldn’t catch him.

The boy drives into a lavish dreamscape in his little red car, with a determined look on his face.

The boy meets many creatures and things on his journey and asks them to play, but everyone is much, much too tired.

The language is rhythmic and mesmerizing — but definitely not in a boring or didactic way.

He hadn’t driven very far at all
before he met a tiger.
“Let’s play at roaring,”
said the boy.

But the tiger was too tired.
Nighttime is for snoring,
not roaring,”
yawned the tiger.
“Come back in the morning.
I’ll play with you then.”

The pictures have the soft golden light of a long summer sunset.

He sees soldiers too tired to parade any longer. I like the train (with the dreamscape quickly getting darker), and all the toys in the train cars have their eyes closed:

He stopped for a moment
as a train rolled by.
“Race you to the station,” called the boy.

But the train was too tired.
“Nighttime is for resting, not racing,” said the train.
“I’m going home to my depot, and so should you.”

Of course, parents do not need instructions to read all this in a sleepy, tired, drowsy, weary voice.

When he meets musicians, they’re too drowsy to play music for dancing. They suggest that the boy give them a ride home, and they’ll play a lullaby instead.

The musicians played
such a sweet tune
that the sun was lulled
to sleep and the
moon came out.

The boy’s car went slower …
and slower …
and slower …

and soon the musicians were sound asleep.

Then the boy’s car stopped….
It had fallen asleep too.

The boy tries to get help from the moon hanging in the sky, but even the moon is too tired!

“It’s bedtime,”
sighed the moon drowsily.
And even the moon closed her eyes and dozed off.

Soon, the boy is the only one awake, and all the world around him is sleeping.

But there was someone else who was not asleep.
Someone who was looking for the boy …

Someone who was ever so sleepy,
but couldn’t go to bed until the boy did.

It was the mother.
And the boy hugged her.

The picture of the mother holding the boy here is suitable for framing.

The mother trundles and bundles the boy back to bed. With a big yawn, he gives in to sleep. And the last words of the book are:

“Good night.”

One fun thing about the book is that the dreamscape of the boy’s adventures matches the toys and furniture you’ll find in his room.

The language is so lovely, the paintings are magnificently soft and warm and beautiful, and the tired, tired creatures and things will get any little one yawning.

So my suggestion? If you want to hypnotize your child at bedtime, do it with delight. Try The Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed. Put some sleepiness in your voice, and I challenge you to stay awake, let alone your little one.

Because, after all, nighttime is for snoring, not roaring; dreaming, not parading; and resting, not racing. Good night!

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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 Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

hoot_owl_largeHoot Owl

Master of Disguise

by Sean Taylor
illustrated by Jean Jullien

Candlewick Press, 2014. 48 pages.
Starred Review

This book makes me laugh out loud — and then I can’t resist reading the whole thing aloud in a dramatic voice. I think I will be booktalking this book with the younger elementary school grades this year. It uses simple sentences and is easy to read, and is brilliantly funny.

The stage is set on the page before the title page:

Watch out!
I am Hoot Owl!
I am hungry.

And here I come!

One by one, Hoot Owl spots a tasty animal. His narration includes dramatizations like this:

The darkness of midnight is all around me.
But I fly through it as quick as a shooting star.

And look there . . .
a tasty rabbit for me to eat.
Soon my sharp beak will be gobbling that rabbit up!

The next page contains a refrain that is repeated with all the objects of Hoot Owl’s desire:

Everyone knows that owls are wise.
But as well as being wise,
I am a master of disguise.

I devise a costume.

Look —

I disguise myself as . . .

With the rabbit, he disguises himself as a carrot. With the sheep, he disguises himself as a mother sheep, with the pigeon, he disguises himself as an ornamental birdbath, and with the pizza, he disguises himself as a waiter. Which one of those disguises do you think works? With which one of those disguises do you think the prey does not go away?

So the final joke is, forgive me, a hoot. But along the way, I love Hoot Owl’s dramatic attitude. The atmospheric lines in between finding prey are wonderful:

The night has a thousand eyes,
and two of them are mine.
I swoop through the bleak blackness
like a wolf in the air.

How can I resist reading this aloud?

And look there . . .

a pigeon stands,
trembling,
afraid that
a dangerous
creature-of-the-dark,
such as an owl,
might be passing by!

When Hoot Owl finally does satisfy his hunger, the world can sleep again…

Until Hoot Owl returns.

candlewick.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?