Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Daisy Comes Home

Read: 12/30/2008
Daisy Comes Home by Jan Brett

This isn't a new book, but was the topic of discussion at work today. Daisy is a hen who is picked on by the other hens. She falls asleep in a basket on a rainy night and floats away down the river. She has several adventures and ends up in the clutches of a greedy fisherman who decides to sell her at market. Her owner, Mei Mei finds out and tries to save her and between the two of them, Daisy escapes and is now tougher and able to handle the other hens.

Jan Brett's illustrations are great as usual - she employs the use of the side panels to show more details and forshadow what's coming next.

Not A Stick

Read: 12/30/2008

Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis

A really simple story about a pig with a stick who uses the stick and his imagination to create a lot of fun games. Its not a stick, its a paintbrush, a fishing pole, a barbell and a sword.

The style reminds me of children's books from the 1950's and early 1960's - Harold and the Purple Crayon and It Looked Like Spilt Milk in particular.

This would be great to use with older preschoolers.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Read All About It

Read: 12/29/2008

Read All About It by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush, Illustrated by Denise Brunkus
Yes, this book is by the current First Lady and her daughter. And like most picture books by celebrities, it was not published on the strength of the story, but rather on the name recognition of the authors.
The story is about a boy who doesn't like books but one day pays attention when the teacher is reading. Then all of a sudden the characters actually come to life and visit the classroom. I just found this book to be very preachy and the teacher names were really obvious - Ms. Libro is the teacher who loves books, for example. There was also an illustration of the main character hanging upside down on the monkey bars with a small disclaimer saying don't try this. WHAT?!? Don't try to hang upside down from the monkey bars? You might as well not have monkey bars at all then!

The illustrations on the other hand, pull the book out of the reject pile. Denise Brunkus creates a great world of characters who are appealing, look like kids and represent a diverse group.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lots of Bots

Read: 12/26/2008

Lots of Bots by Kiki Thorpe, Illustrated by Ben Butcher

I saw this book on our display shelf and was instantly drawn to it. I love robots. I didn't realize til after I picked it up that it is a Wall-E book. Once I started reading it I caught myself reading aloud. This book is meant to be read aloud. The rhymes are catchy - I mean REALLY CATCHY! The story is brief and appealing. An excellent read-aloud book.

The illustrations are made of cut paper - really well done. Ben Butcher works for Pixar Animation Studios. The paper-cut robots are terribly cute and the images translate well for reading to groups.

Keisha Ann Can

Read: 12/26/2008

Keisha Ann Can by Daniel Kirk

A simple picture book describing a day in the life of a girl in Kindergarten. This would be good for kids who are getting ready to go to school for the first time. The illustrations are colorful and clear, the kids are all shades of the rainbow and the main character is African-American.

Too Many Toys

Read: 12/26/2008

Too Many Toys by David Shannon

Spencer has too many toys. SERIOUSLY - he has every toy he ever got from anyone including the burger place. His parents trip over them one time too many and his mom decides some of the toys have to go. Much haggling ensues and eventually he abandons a boxful of toys with a funny surprise at the end.

David Shannon's illustrations are great - much like the David books but with a lot more detail all around - each toy is an individual and sharp-eyed folks will catch a lot of jokes for parents...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two Holiday Books By Lemony Snicket

Read: 12/23/2008

The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket, Illustrated by Brett Helquist

Lemony Snicket wrote a hilarious story for Christmas this year - all about a lump of coal who wants to be either a famous artist or part of a Korean Bar-b-que. The lump of coal is very proper, wearing a somber black suit and walking around with a dark expression on his face. Eventually he meets a boy who wants to be a charcoal artist and makes his dreams come true.
Read: 12/23/2008

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: a Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket, Illustrated by Lisa Brown
Oh My Gosh! What a hilarious holiday story. There is this Latke who jumps out of the pan and runs around a town getting ready for Christmas. He is very misunderstood and he seriously cannot stop screaming. And I couldn't stop laughing. And you learn about Hannukah and how it feels to be surrounded by misunderstanding.
Both of these books are for older kids or grownups, not really for the preschool set - the jokes are too sophisticated.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Really Truly Bingo

Read: 12/22/2008

Really Truly Bingo by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

A little girl wants her mother to play with her but - surprise surprise - her mother is too busy. She asks what she can do and her mother tells her to use her imagination. And she does! She imagines up a dog named Bingo who encourages her to do things she shouldn't and she does manage to make a pretty big mess in the yard, which gets her in some trouble with her mom. But nothing she can't handle with the help of her imaginary pal, Bingo.

The illustrations are really great! Again with the thick black outlines that I love so well, these are simple but full of detail at the same time. You could easily talk about each page for a long while with a child you are reading to. They are also readable enough from a distance to use as a storytime book.

The House in the Night

Read: 12/19/2008

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, Illustrated by Beth Krommes

Caldecott Award Winner for 2009

A simple story about a girl in a house at night. The rhythm of the story is a lot like The House that Jack Built and the author does refer to that as an inspiration in the afterword. The story is simple and short, the illustrations (scratchboards in black and white and yellow) are detailed and calm.

This is definitely a bedtime story to read over and over again. Because of the detail level of the illustration, I wouldn't recommend it for storytime unless you used the story only and turned it into some sort of interactive story or maybe a flannelboard...I'm still thinking about that one.

Crazy Like a Fox

Read: 12/22/2008

This is definitely a one subject book. A fox chases a sheep around which is described with similes until she arrives at her surprise party. There is the larger story and then the commentary (also in simile) that goes on around it by the characters that are observing the chase scene. This would be a good book to use with elementary school students who are studying simile or for English Language Learner Adults - who often have a lot of problems with similes and metaphors. Loreen Leedy's website has the entire list of similes used available to use in a classroom setting.

The illustrations are quirky and colorful - according to Loreen Leedy's website they were drawn and colored on the computer. I didn't like them much, they have that sort of "hip" look that seems to be trying too hard to be cool. But that's me and I am a grumpy adult and not a kid, who probably would like the illustrations just fine.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Retired Kid

Read: 12/14/2008

The Retired Kid - Jon Agee

What a fun book. A boy decides that being a kid is hard work and he is tired. In fact, he's ready to retire. His parents throw him a retirement party and then he actually flies to Florida to live in a Retirement Community. At first the retired life is great, but soon he grows tired of some of the down sides, like looking at hundreds of snapshots of someone's grandchildren and prune juice smoothies. So he comes out of retirement and goes back to being a kid.

The illustrations are fun and clear - a mix of crayon drawings with watercolor coloring. The look is simple, I wouldn't say it looks like a kid could do it - but there is a child-like sensibility to Agee's illustrations.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jake's Best Thumb

Read: 12/9/2008

Jake's Best Thumb by Ilene Cooper, Illustrated by Claudio Munoz

Jake is a little boy who loves to suck his thumb. He doesn't really think sucking his thumb is a problem until he goes to Kindergarten. Cliff catches him doing it and loudly tells the class that Jake is a thumb-sucker. Jake feels embarrassed and harassed by the bullying Cliff, but also befriends Nell, a girl who has a special stuffed kitty that she has to bring to class. Cliff harasses Jake one time too many and we discover his own security blanket which falls out of his pocket. In the end, there is a truce and all the kids try to stop using their security items during the day.

The pen and watercolor illustrations are clear, big and colorful. The kids represented are a mix of ethnicities, which is good. I'd say this would be a perfect book to read at a storytime for Kindergarteners or with a child who hasn't given up her "lovey" just yet.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Before You Were Mine

Read: 12/8/2008

Before You Were Mine by Maribeth Boelts, Illustrated by David Walker

A picture book with a message. Gee, they all seem to have a message. I blame it on Aesop with his "And the moral of the story is..." Okay back to this title. A boy is talking to his dog and asking him about what his life was like before the dog was adopted by his family. Did he have a boy? Did he get lost? Did he run away? Was he mistreated? There is a scene in an animal shelter which, for the format, is fairly accurate.

The watercolor illustrations are simplistic and clear. The dog is adorable. Who wouldn't want to adopt him?!

This is a good book for a family who has lost a pet and is thinking of adopting a new one. The reading level is about 2nd grade and the interest level is 4 years and up.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Visitor for Bear

Read: 12/7/2008

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

A charming story about a grumpy loner Bear who is drawn out of his solitude by a very cute and tenacious Mouse. Its a short, heart-warming story about friendship and visiting for a spot of tea.

The watercolor illustrations are full of detail and Mouse has a lot of facial expression for being so very SMALL in relation to Bear.

This one would be good to read to a child in your lap. The details might be lost on a story time crowd.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Scrambled States of America Talent Show

Read: 12/5/2008

The Scrambled States of America Talent Show by Laurie Keller

The sequel to The Scrambled States of America. Anthropomorphised States put on a Talent Show. I imagine this is supposed to be a fun way to learn the 50 States and their Capitols.

The illustrations are cartoon-y and colorful.

I didn't really like this book at all. Sorry Laurie Keller.

Mail Harry to the Moon

Read: 12/5/2008

Mail Harry to the Moon by Robie H. Harris, Illustrated by Michael Emberley

Another new baby anxiety/jealousy book. The story is short and sweet. The older brother doesn't like the new baby, Harry, getting all the attention, chewing on his toys, etc. He comes up with some very creative solutions - flush the baby down the toilet and the title of the book. When the baby is missing the next morning, the boy believes his brother really did get mailed to the moon and starts his imaginary journey to the moon to rescue him.

The illustrations are clear, cartoon-y and amusing. Drawn text takes up most of the page during the shouting scenes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Blue Goose

Read: 12/3/2008

Blue Goose by Nancy Tafuri

A nice addition to the concept collection. Blue Goose, Red Hen, White Duck and Yellow Chick are on a mission to paint the barnyard while Farmer Gray is away. They mix their colors to create the secondary colors and finish just in time for Farmer Gray to bring home a new animal.

Like most of Tafuri's books, the illustrations are large and clear, making it easy to read with a child, asking questions about the animals and the colors.

Look Out, Suzy Goose!

Read: 12/3/2008

Look Out, Suzy Goose by Petr Horacek

This picture book is a great one for storytime. There is a lot of repetition and sounds to make along with each character. The story gets just a little bit scary, with everything ending happily in the end.

The illustrations are very nice, a sketchy pencil and paint style which grows darker and darker as night comes on.


Read: 12-3-2008

Penguin by Polly Dunbar

A boy gets a stuffed penguin as a gift. It is a pretty boring penguin who doesn't respond to anything the boy does. Then the boy is eaten by a Lion?!? (reminds me of Pierre by Maurice Sendak) and Penguin saves the boy.

The story is short, the illustrations are simple and clear. I recommend this for the preschool set.

Peach Heaven

Read: 12-3-2008

Peach Heaven by Yangsook Choi

An autobiographical story of a time in Korea when it rained peaches. The family eats all the peaches the can stuff into their stomachs then think about the impact this strange rain had on the peach farmers.

The illustrations are really great and the story is somewhat dense - I'd recommend for 2nd and 3rd graders though you could read it to younger children - about 4 and up.

A Kitten Tale

Read: 12/3/2008

A Kitten Tale by Eric Rohmann

What a fun little book. Okay, the format is a normal picture book format, but the story is simple and so are the pictures. This would be great to read to 3 year olds.

Four kittens go through the seasons thinking about the snow that will fall in the future. Three of them are afraid of the idea of snow, the fourth welcomes it. When the snow eventually falls, the fourth kitten shows the others that playing in the snow is great fun.

I really like the illustrations, they are simple and clear, the kittens are appealing and not overly anthropomorphised.

One Hen

Read: 12/3/2008

One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

A boy in Ghana struggles with his mother to earn enough money to survive. Then they get a micro-loan and he buys a brown hen. With the money he saves from selling eggs, he buys another hen and another and after a year has enough money to pay the fees to go to school. Yes, it is a picture book about micro-finance - for children. The story is quite long for a picture book - probably twice as long as needed for the intended audience.

The illustrations by Eugenie Fernandes are colorful and dense with additional meaning - a sun contains an image of an african mask, a tree is covered in Kojo's dreams for the future, a moon has an image of Kojo applying for a loan. And I like the way the chickens look...

The level for reading would be third grade and since the concept is rather sophisticated, I'd say the interest level is also about that high as well. A teacher could make very good use of this book, but I wouldn't recommend it for a casual read.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Very Hairy Bear

Read: 12/2/2008

Very Hairy Bear by Alice Schertle, Illustrated by Matt Phelan

What a great book for little ones! The descriptive language is great - full of rhymes and playful sound-alikes. The pictures are whimsical and very large- great for toddlers. This bear is not scary at all.

My favorite part? When he is eating blueberries and has a blueberry sticking on each of his claws. Awesome!

Buffalo Storm

Read: 12/1/2008

Buffalo Storm by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Jan Ormerod

The story of a girl whose family goes west in a covered wagon. She is very close to her grandmother- they are both afraid of storms- who gives her a quilt to remember her by. During the trip, she sees a bison calf who is caught in between some rocks, she frees the calf and then sees a stampede of bison that reminds her of a storm.

The story would be a good one to use with ages 6 and up - there is a lot of text, so for independant readers I'd say 2nd grade, early 3rd grade level. I love Jan Ormerod's artwork and this one is softer in its style than her other works.