Review of Millie Waits for the Mail, by Alexander Steffensmeier

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Millie Waits for the Mail

by Alexander Steffensmeier

Walker & Company, New York, 2007. 

First published in Germany in 2006.

Starred Review.

This book was originally written in German, under the title, Liselotte Lauert.  I want a copy!  This udderly (sorry) silly book was my absolute favorite of the Picture Books chosen for the Summer Reading Program.

Millie the cow waits every morning for her favorite time of day.

Because there was something Millie loved more than anything else —

Scaring the mail carrier. . .  and chasing him off the farm.

Millie spends each morning looking for a new hiding place.  The poor mail carrier has nightmares every night.  The poor farmer has all her packages arrive broken.

Millie must be stopped.

The wonderful silliness of this book (How on earth did Alexander Steffensmeier think of writing a book about a cow scaring the mail carrier?) is especially evident in the illustrations.  The look in Millie’s eye as she scours the farmyard for hiding places is priceless.  The page where Millie first jumps out and scares the mail carrier got a big reaction from the kids every time I showed it to them.  A big reaction from the adults in the room, too.

What can I say?  This book makes me laugh every time I look at it.  It doesn’t promote good, noble purposes.  But it is absolutely, delightfully, wonderfully Silly.

http://www.walkeryoungreaders.com/

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/millie_waits_for_the_mail.html

Review of Why War Is Never a Good Idea, by Alice Walker

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Why War Is Never a Good Idea

by Alice Walker, illustrations by Stefano Vitale

HarperCollins, 2007.  32 pages.

Starred Review

Though War has eyes

Of its own

& can see oil

&

Gas

& mahogany trees

& every shining thing

Under

The earth

When it comes

To nursing

Mothers

It is blind;

Milk, especially

Human,

It cannot

See.

Though War is Old

It has not

Become wise

It will not hesitate

To destroy

Things that

Do not

Belong to it

Things very

Much older

Than itself.

Here is a haunting and poetic, artistic and beautiful book. 

The language is simple.  The author talks of things that War cannot understand, but that it can destroy.

The artwork is haunting, memorable and symbolic.  On one page, the words are: Picture frogs beside a pond holding their annual pre-rainy-season convention.  They do not see War. Huge tires of a camouflaged vehicle about to squash them flat.  The illustrations show a close-up painting of frogs on the left, with a photo of a rusty wheel on the right side, wadding up pages of peaceful villagers falling underneath it.

The portrayal is not graphic, but symbolic, making it all the more striking.

Don’t read this book to your child if you want to make apologies for War, if you want to explain about necessary evils. 

However, if you think you can use some convincing, or want to express an unambiguous idea to a child, this book makes a powerful and persuasive case for why War is never a good idea.  The language is simple enough for a child, yet something that will linger in the mind of an adult.

http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/why_war_is_never_a_good_idea.html

Review of A Visitor for Bear

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A Visitor for Bear, by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Candlewick Press, 2008.  56 pages.

Starred Review.

“No one ever came to Bear’s house.  It had always been that way, and Bear was quite sure he didn’t like visitors.  He even had a sign.”  NO VISITORS ALLOWED

However, along comes an extremely persistent mouse, small and gray and bright-eyed.

This mouse thwarts all of Bear’s plans to keep him out.  The result?  Bear learns that maybe visitors aren’t so bad after all.

The story is simple, but the execution is exquisite!  The expressions on the faces of Bear and the mouse are delightful, beautifully conveying Bear’s anger, surprise, resignation, and eventual delight.

This is a fabulous Story Time selection, as the repetition gets the kids wondering where the mouse will pop up next.  I’ve already tried the book out on three classes of third graders, with great success, and I think it will do equally well with preschoolers.  This book is simply delightful.

This review is posted on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/visitor_for_bear.html

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Review of The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, by Mo Willems

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Pigeon Wants a Puppy, by Mo Willems

Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2008. 

http://www.pigeonpresents.com/

http://www.hyperionbooksforchildren.com/

That wonderfully persuasive, pleading (well, demanding) Pigeon is back!  This time — could it be? — it looks like he will get what he wants!  But it doesn’t turn out quite like he planned.

As always, it’s truly amazing how much emotion Mo Willems can convey with a few simple cartoon lines.   The Pigeon bends his knee winsomely when he thinks of what he wants.  He narrows his eyes when he says, “You don’t want me to be happy, do you?”

I’ve gotten to test this out on a few kids, and the inevitable reaction is, “Read it again!”

You’ve gotta love the Pigeon!

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/pigeon_wants_puppy.html

Review of Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal

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Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal:  A Worldwide Cinderella, by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2007.  32 pages.

We all realize that there are versions of the story of Cinderella from all over the world.  In this delightful book, Paul Fleischman takes bits from many different versions and weaves them into one tale.  Illustrator Julie Paschkis uses folk art motifs from the different countries to decorate the story perfectly.

For example, here’s a two-page spread with bits of the tale from Russia, Iran, India, and Ireland:

But when the girl was out tending the cattle, the beasts heard her crying for hunger.  “Don’t weep,” said one of the cows.  And the animal poured honey for her from its horn . . .

. . . and a fairy gave her figs and apricots . . .

. . . and Godfather Snake gave her rice.

Once she was eating well and proper, the girl bloomed into a right rare beauty.  The stepmother couldn’t fathom it.  And meanwhile her own sour-faced daughters would curdle the milk if they looked at it twice.

This book is perfect for introducing children to the concept of different versions of familiar tales.  But it’s also simply fun to read and enjoy.  And enlightening to see how the different versions reflect the different cultures.

A beautiful book.

This review is posted on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/glass_slipper_gold_sandal.html

Review of Scaredy Squirrel, by Melanie Watt

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Scaredy Squirrel, by Melanie Watt

Kids Can Press, Tonawanda, NY, 2006.  36 pages.

“WARNING:  Scaredy Squirrel insists that everyone wash their hands with antibacterial soap before reading this book.”

Scaredy Squirrel is afraid of many things out in the unknown, things like green Martians, killer bees, tarantulas, poison ivy, germs, and sharks.  Fortunately, Scaredy Squirrel knows how to cope with his fears.  He never leaves his nut tree.

What’s more, Scaredy Squirrel is fully equipped with an emergency kit and an escape plan.

Still, sometimes things don’t go exactly according to plan….

I was completely charmed by Scaredy Squirrel.  This delightful picture book is a fun way to discuss dealing with fears — but mostly it’s a lot of silly fun.

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/scaredy_squirrel.html

Review of Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us Anything! by Toni Buzzeo

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Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us Anything!

by Toni Buzzeo
illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa


Reviewed February 7, 2008.
Upstart Books, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, 2006.

Here’s a book any librarian will love.

On Robert’s first day at Liberty Elementary, he goes to the library to find animal books. He decides to ask the librarian, but his classmate tells him, “Don’t even bother. Our librarian won’t tell us ANYTHING!”

Carmen is right – sort of. Mrs. Skorupski doesn’t tell him where the animal books are. However, she does show him how to look up the books he wants on the computer and use the shelf labels to find them.

Later, Mrs. Skorupski doesn’t find him a good online article for his report. But she does show him how to find one.

You get the idea! This is a fun story, and along the way it shows some of the many wonderful ways a librarian can empower you—even without telling you anything!

I was not surprised to learn that the author is a School Library Media Specialist herself. As a brand-new children’s librarian, this book has a special place in my heart.

This review is on the main website at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/our_librarian.html

Review of Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!

by Mo Willems
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Reviewed July 14, 2007.
Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2006. 36 pages.
Starred Review.

My husband used to say that a good book for a toddler is one that ends with someone asleep. In fact if we read such a book to our older son, we could watch him develop dark circles under his eyes and become much sleepier and easier to tuck into bed.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! is another delightful and fun book along the lines of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! This one deals with an activity that toddlers would really like to do—stay up late.

I never have met a toddler who seriously wanted permission to drive a bus, but once my son threw a temper tantrum for an hour in the middle of the night because he wanted to “stay up all night and all day”!

This book gives kids a chance to tell the Pigeon that he can’t stay up late, instead of being on the other end of it. They can easily see that the Pigeon is getting sleepy, and this time he’s the one who screams, “I’M NOT TIRED!”

It’s almost formulaic, with some pages having exactly the same look as those in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! However, with toddlers, being formulaic makes a book all the more delightful as they know what to expect.

I was staying with a friend for a couple of months after I moved, and she has a 4-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. I loved trying out the Pigeon books on them. I was surprised when the 4-year-old was the one who most enjoyed telling the Pigeon, “No!” but the books were a big hit with both kids. Their favorite pages in both books were definitely the full-out temper tantrum pages. Michelle would often open the book to that page and ask me to say it. (Of course, if I kicked and screamed that made it a lot more fun!)

Every child should get a chance to tell this Pigeon what to do. I don’t think they will necessarily understand that the Pigeon is doing the same things they do, but they will enjoy the chance to be the one with the authority.