Review of The Cookie Fiasco, by Dan Santat

December 4th, 2018

The Cookie Fiasco

by Dan Santat

Hyperion Books for Children, 2016. 60 pages.
Starred Review

First, let me talk about the new series this book introduces: Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie Like Reading. There are four pages at the front and four pages at the back where our beloved Gerald and Piggie talk about reading the book. The title page has a picture of Gerald holding the very book, ready to open it up and read it.

Now I’m not crazy about this frame – Just a little bit of Elephant and Piggie is not enough! Fortunately, they did choose excellent authors for the books-within-a-book, so this wasn’t a way to pass off any old thing and sell it with the Mo Willems brand. The Pigeon is even hiding on the back end papers, just as he does in the regular Elephant and Piggie books.

But what I love about The Cookie Fiasco are the mathematical implications! This book reminds me of the classic The Doorbell Rang, by Pat Hutchens. Like that book, it’s a simple story that small children can enjoy – but you can pull it out later when they’re learning about fractions and make multiple applications and elucidations.

The story is simple: Hippo, Croc, and two Squirrels have three cookies. Four animals, three cookies.

They discuss how to share the cookies, but nothing seems fair. While they are discussing the options, Hippo nervously starts breaking the cookies in half.

Then they have six cookie pieces, but still four friends. It’s still not fair. While they continue to discuss, Hippo continues to break the pieces. After a while they have twelve pieces, and realize that each one can have three pieces. Problem solved! Equal cookies for all!

There is a grand page of munching cookies – and then a cow shows up with three glasses of milk. Uh-oh!

The only thing wrong with this book is the one Gerald points out in the frame at the end – It may make you hungry for cookies.

It’s a simple, silly story. You don’t need to talk about the math behind it at all. But someday, when a child is learning to divide three by four, you can use this as a lovely illustration. And similar fractions. There’s even room for talking about common denominators. I’d love for this book to get a mention in the next set of Mathical Awards, I liked it so much.

dantat.com
pigeonpresents.com
www.hyperionbooksforchildren.com

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Review of Keep Moving, by Dick Van Dyke

December 3rd, 2018

Keep Moving

and Other Tips and Truths About Aging

by Dick Van Dyke
read by the author

Blackstone Audio, 2015. 5.5 hours on 5 compact discs.

Listening to this audiobook will make you smile. Written shortly before he reached his 90th birthday, the main advice Dick Van Dyke gives his listeners is: Keep moving!

The style is a little bit rambling, but he has a right to ramble! He gives us anecdotes from his long life and observations about the journey. He’ll make you laugh and he’ll help you look at your own elder years with anticipation.

I enjoyed the audiobook in particular, because it was as if Dick Van Dyke was talking to me. You can hear the smile in his voice, and when I listened coming home from work, it never failed to make the evening cheerier. Dick Van Dyke dances when he hears music in the grocery store!

He asks the listener: Are you singing and dancing? If not, why not?

www.downpour.com

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Review of They All Saw a Cat, by Brendan Wenzel

December 2nd, 2018

They All Saw a Cat

by Brendan Wenzel

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Caldecott Honor Book

This picture book is a clever way to introduce children to the idea that other people – and creatures – have different perspectives.

We’ve got an ongoing refrain:

The cat walked through the world,
with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . .

Then we’re told that different creatures saw A CAT – beginning with a child, and then a dog, a fox, a fish, a mouse, a bee, a bird, a flea, and other things.

But the pictures give us a fanciful image of how each creature sees the cat. The mouse, for example, sees a frightening and fierce monster. The fish sees something large staring through the walls of the fishbowl. The bee sees something multifaceted with its multifaceted eyes. And the flea sees a forest of fur.

The language is simple and lilting, and the images are striking. But what’s absolutely brilliant is how much space it makes for conversation.

This is a lovely book presenting an important idea: Not everyone sees the world the same way. Yet it expresses this idea in a way even a child can understand, while also provoking further thought. Brilliant!

brendanwenzel.info
chroniclebooks.com

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Review of Fancy Party Gowns, by Deborah Blumenthal

December 1st, 2018

Fancy Party Gowns

The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

by Deborah Blumenthal
illustrated by Laura Freeman

Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing), New York, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

I’m not terribly interested in fashion design, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this picture book biography of fashion designer Ann Lowe, the first African American woman to become a designer of couture clothing.

The illustrations are colorful and striking. The pictures of Ann Lowe’s famous gowns, such as Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress, are beautiful.

But I love the spin the author puts on her life. The story isn’t bogged down with details, though important ones are given. But we get key phrases that give us Ann Lowe’s spirit:

Ann also knew that doing what you love could set your spirit soaring.

Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.

When Ann saw obstacles, she thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.

The author dramatized a major setback with just a few key details, telling about making Jacqueline Kennedy’s dress:

Ann bought fifty yards of the finest ivory silk taffeta and the trimmings to go with it. For months, she cut and sewed. The gown had a wide bouffant skirt with pleated bands and tiny wax flowers.

Ann also made all the dresses for the wedding party.

Then just ten days before the wedding, Ann opened the door to her workroom.

“NO!” she cried.

A pipe had burst. Water gushed everywhere, flooding everything!

Ten of the sixteen gowns were destroyed.

Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.

She bought more fabric and trim, and hired others to help. She lost money instead of earning it.

In just eight days and eight nights, Ann and her team remade all the dresses.

That wedding was also where Ann was told to use the back entrance to deliver the dresses – but she stood her ground and said those dresses wouldn’t be in the wedding unless she was allowed to enter through the front door.

This is a lovely book about overcoming obstacles and doing what makes your heart soar. If you are interested in fashion design, all the better!

deborahblumenthal.com
www.LFreemanArt.com

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Review of Sophie’s Squash Go to School, by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf

November 30th, 2018

Sophie’s Squash Go to School

by Pat Zietlow Miller
illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review

I so love Sophie of Sophie’s Squash! Sophie is a girl who adopted a squash as her best friend, Bernice. At the end of the first book, Sophie was delighted by the “birth” of Bernice’s children, Bonnie and Baxter.

The start of this book doesn’t explain all that. It shows Sophie walking into a classroom, hugging her two squash, with happy faces drawn on them. It’s not clear if the classroom is preschool or Kindergarten, though I suspect preschool. Sophie’s parents tell her she’s going to have lots of fun and make lots of friends.

But Sophie didn’t.
The chairs were uncomfortable.
The milk tasted funny.
And no one appreciated her two best friends, Bonnie and Baxter.

“Are those toys?” asked Liam.
“Do they bounce?” asked Roshmi.
“Can we EAT them?” asked Noreen.

“No!” said Sophie.
“No, no, no! I grew them in my garden. They’re my FRIENDS.”

As the book goes on, Sophie resists making human friends. They just don’t get it. But one boy named Steven is persistently interested and kind.

I like the way in the illustrations, Bonnie and Baxter slowly begin becoming spotty.

Still, Sophie knew Bonnie and Baxter wouldn’t last forever.

She starts thinking about doing things with actual people.

At the end of the book, after Bonnie and Baxter have been bedded down in the earth for the winter, an idea from Steven prompts Sophie to help show the whole class how to grow plant-friends.

I like the scene at the end:

But before too long, tiny shoots appeared.

Sophie and Steven did a new-plant dance and invited everyone to join in.

“See?” Sophie told Steven. “Sometimes growing a friend just takes time.”

This book doesn’t have the “instant classic” feel of the first. But Sophie still has the same firm (not to say stubborn) personality, deciding for herself who her friends will be. And it feels true to the character that she would grow up to be this way. In fact, she still reminds me of my young niece – who doesn’t necessarily make friends easily and believes she knows how things should be, but is ever so lovable because of (not in spite of) her quirks.

patzietlowmiller.com
randomhousekids.com

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Review of The New York Times Book of Physics and Astronomy, edited by Cornelia Dean

November 30th, 2018

The New York Times Book of Physics and Astronomy

More Than 100 Years of Covering the Expanding Universe

edited by Cornelia Dean
foreword by Neil Degrasse Tyson

Sterling, 2013. 557 pages.

This book takes an excessively long time to read, but it’s so interesting. I began by alternating reading from it and reading from The New York Times Book of Mathematics. That took way too long — so I read the math book first, then worked on this one.

This book is made up of actual articles about advances in Physics and Astronomy, taken from the pages of The New York Times. I read an article per day most days — for a very long time.

My one strong recommendation is that for each article, you look at the end of the article to find out the date it was written, so you know if you’re reading about current developments in physics or old news. I was surprised how early some things were discovered.

Because this is from the pages of the newspaper, all the articles are written with a general audience in mind, and so are basically understandable. It gives a nice overview of the progress of physics in the last century or so.

Chapter titles give you an idea of the scope of this book (each chapter is a collection of many articles): “The Nature of Matter,” “The Practical Atom,” and “The Fate of the Universe.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson says of the journalists who wrote these articles, “And I also came to see their telling of this timeless and epic adventure of cosmic discovery as a kind of time-capsule-in-the-making — a chronicle of our species’ search for how the universe works and what our place within it might be.”

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Review of I Will Not Eat You, by Adam Lehrhaupt and Scott Magoon

November 28th, 2018

I Will Not Eat You

by Adam Lehrhaupt & Scott Magoon

A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Despite the title and look, this is not, actually, a Jon Klassen book. It is a whole lot of fun!

As the book opens we see a big dark cave with two red eyes peering out.

Theodore lived in a cave.
It was a quiet cave,
and that’s the way he liked it.

One morning, a bird flew up to the cave.
It tweeted and squawked at Theodore.

Theodore thought,
Does it want me to eat it?

But Theodore wasn’t hungry.

“Go away, silly bird,”
he whispered.
“I will not eat you.”

The bird flew away.

The same pattern repeats with slight variations as the day progresses with a wolf and a tiger.

That evening, a boy wearing a suit of armor gallops up to the cave and roars.

Seriously? thought Theodore.
I should eat it.

Theodore was getting hungry.

The boy doesn’t back down, and Theodore emerges from the cave. We finally see that he’s an enormous red dragon. He chases the boy!

Things could get pretty grim, but in a surprise for everyone, the two end up sharing a laugh and becoming friends.

I’m not sure it’s a healthy situation for the boy, but by the end of the book, they play together regularly.

I can always eat him later,
thought Theodore.

This book would be a hit with preschoolers. There aren’t a lot of words on each page. I think the hint of danger could be thrilling. There are certainly plenty of things to talk about after the story is done. Would you play with Theodore?

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

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Review of Goodnight, Numbers, by Danica McKellar

November 28th, 2018

Goodnight, Numbers

by Danica McKellar
illustrated by Alicia Padrón

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017. 28 pages.
Starred Review

Yes! This is the very best sort of counting book – with multiple things to count on each page.

For example, on the page for Four, the text says,

4
FOUR
Goodnight, four paws.
Goodnight, kitty cat.
Goodnight, four froggies
on the bathroom mat.

In the picture we do see four paws on the kitty cat, but also four stripes on its tail. We see four froggies on the bathroom mat, and we also see four rubber duckies in the room.

There are four shampoo bottles on the side of the tub, four toy turtles, four rolled-up towels, four stripes on the towel the dad is holding, four dots on the stool, and four bubbles in a framed picture (with framed spaces for ten things – this is consistent on each page).

Mind you, the rhyming text is simply nice, not stellar. But it’s not glaringly bad, either, which is an accomplishment with rhyming text!

The pictures are soft and sweet – and so many things to count! Another example on the Five page is the Mom has a necklace with five daisies, and each daisy has five petals.

The back of the book has a note to the parent/grandparent/caregiver reading the book. It points out the educational value, in case they missed it, and gives more ideas for bringing numbers into children’s lives.

This book would pair well with the bedtimemath.org website and app. They recommend doing math problems with your child at bedtime, as well as bedtime stories. This book is both!

This is a great way to talk about numbers and counting in a cozy and friendly way. It’s never too early to show your children that math is all around them.

McKellarMath.com
randomhousekids.com

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Review of The Not So Quiet Library, by Zachariah Ohora

November 26th, 2018

The Not So Quiet Library

by Zachariah Ohora

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

This book definitely leans toward the silly side, but it features a library, so what’s not to like?

Every Saturday, Oskar and Theodore got up bright and early.

Not to watch cartoons, or play outside with their friends. It was the day they went . . .

. . . to the library with Dad!

Once they get to the library, they go to the children’s department while Dad goes upstairs to “the nap department.”

[No, no, no! Don’t leave young children unattended at the library unless you’d leave them unattended in a mall. Of course, this book bears out that something bad may happen to them. . . .]

In the children’s department, a five-headed monster attacks! When it finds out that books aren’t for eating, it decides it will eat Oskar and Theodore.

Fortunately, the librarian saves the day with a story time. “Luckily, monsters like story time as much as they like donuts.”

[Please note that this is a lovely sentiment and I applaud that kind-hearted librarian, but I feel compelled to warn you that at our library, if you leave your children unattended, the chances are good that we will let a monster eat them. Sorry, but that’s how it is….]

There are lots of delightful details in this book. My favorite is the picture of Dad tying a pile of books to the top of their car to go to the library. The inside of the car is full of books, too. They leave the library the same way.

It’s all just so silly – but such a nice celebration of libraries.

zohora.com
penguin.com/youngreaders

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Review of The Name of God Is Mercy, by Pope Francis

November 25th, 2018

The Name of God Is Mercy

A Conversation with Andrea Tornielli

by Pope Francis

translated from the Italian by Oonagh Stransky

Random House, 2016. 151 pages.
Starred Review

This short book is a meditation on the mercy of God. As such, it will uplift you and inspire you and bless you.

Perhaps it will make you more merciful, as you meditate on God’s mercy.

Perhaps it will enable you to realize that God is not angry with you. As I learned here that St. Augustine once said, “It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy.”

God forgives everyone, he offers new possibilities to everyone, he showers his mercy on everyone who asks for it. We are the ones who do not know how to forgive.

If you would find it helpful to think about God’s mercy and forgiveness, I recommend this book.

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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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