Imani’s Moon

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Imani’s Moon written by JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell (2014)

Imani was the smallest child in her village. The other children teased her, but her mama told her stories at night which lifted her spirits. One night Mama told her the story of Olapa, the goddess of the moon who won a mighty battle against the god of the sun. That night Imani dreamed that she fought with Olapa and protected the people of the earth. The next day, Imani was determined to touch the moon but she fell from a tree. The following day, Imani built a pair of wings but she crashed into a tree on her first flight. The day after that, Imani watched warriors jump and decided to jump to the moon herself. She jumped all day and into the night, and with one final jump she landed on the moon. Olapa praised her and gave her a moon rock to take home with her. That night, Imani told her mother a story, her story, about a girl who believed she could touch the moon.

JaNay Brown-Wood tells the story of a little girl with big dreams. Set in Africa, in Kenya, in a village of the Maasai people, Imani’s story is told. Rich in language and culture of the people, Imani learns that you must believe in yourself if you want to accomplish something as wonderful as touching the moon. And JaNay Brown-Wood, believed she could write a book for children, and she did! This is her first picture book.

Hazel Mitchell brings Imani’s world to life through her beautiful illustrations. The innocence of Imani’s spirit, the faith of her mother, and the doubt of the unbelievers feel as real as if they were standing in front of you. Hazel Mitchell gives even the animals, human qualities and gives the readers rich details in each scene.

I love this new picture book! It speaks so gently and eloquently to the young reader. It gives children a story in which faith and determination are equally important in reaching one’s goals.

Hug Machine

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Hug Machine written and illustrated by Scott Campbell (2014)

The Hug Machine is very good at hugging, the best! He goes around town cheering people up, calming them down, or just driving them nuts with his hugs. He doesn’t just hug people he hugs trees, park benches, bears, rocks, even snakes.   But, can he hug a porcupine? Or a whale? Yes, he can! He refuels with pizza and hugs until he’s exhausted. Just when he can’t hug one more thing, he receives a hug… “Hug Machine is always open for business.”

Scott Campbell shows us the openness and love of one little boy through text and pictures. The sweet little face of the boy no the cover is quiet and sincere with every single hug. And the faces of the people and animals he hugs are happy, surprised, touched, and even a little apprehensive about the unsolicited hugs.

One of my favorite lines is, “Hug Accomplished!” Scott Campbell accomplished more than just creating a picture book. He also created an atmosphere of honest acceptance of everyone and everything in the boy’s world. What a great message to give our little readers.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

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The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian Robinson (2014)

Sally McCabe was the smallest girl in the smallest grade. And no body noticed her, but she noticed everything. Sally McCabe was paying ‘super extra special attention’ to everything around her. She noticed the kite stuck in the tree, she noticed that the janitor had 27 keys on his keyring, and she noticed all the bullying going on in her school. She noticed when Tommy Torino was tripped in the hall and when Kevin McKuen got pushed off the slide. She noticed when Billy was dragged away by his much larger father. She noticed all the stares and whispers behind people’s backs. Then one day, Sally McCabe had enough. She raised her hand in the lunchroom and announced, “I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. Stop hurting each other! This is enough!” And surprisingly, one after another, other hands went up in the air. Students, teachers, and even the principal all raised their hands with their fingers in the air. Everyone felt that moment, and soon people began taking care of each other and being polite to one another.

Justin Roberts, of children’s music fame and the Not Ready 4 Naptime Players, has captured the essence of bullying that is many times considered too small to matter and often goes unnoticed. He gives voice to the smallest, who are often the ones who do notice but are afraid to stand up.

Christian Robinson, illustrator of Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell, Rain by Linda Ashman, and Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renee Watson, brings the simplicity of this message through simple drawings. The faces look like they have been drawn by the children themselves (in a good way) with circular heads, dot eyes, round noses and single lined smiles. The pictures look like crayon drawings, leaving the reader ample room to focus on the message. Every detail is clear and unmistakeable.

I love the last line of the book best, “And how the world could transform and a change could be made by the smallest girl in the smallest grade.” Hooray for Justin Roberts and Christian Robinson!

Louise Loves Art

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Louise Loves Art written and illustrated by Kelly Light (2014)

Louise loves art. She loves to draw pictures and hang them all over the house. Louise does not have time for her little brother, Art. He loves art too. He takes one of her masterpieces and cuts it up into a chain of paper dolls. Louise is angry until she sees how good it really is. She hangs it on the ‘Gallery du Fridge’ alongside her own artwork and gives it a blue ribbon. Louise really does love Art after all!

Kelly Light has shown a new light on siblings. The witty play on words is simple enough for the youngest readers to understand. And the relationship between Louise and Art is genuine and adorable.

Art steals Louise’s heart with his paper dolls. Look carefully at the pattern… Louise, Art, Louise, Art, Louise, Art. What a beautiful tribute to siblings! Louise loves Art. Art loves Louise. And I love Kelly Light’s new book!

This Orq. (He Cave Boy)

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This Orq. (He Cave Boy) written by  David Elliott and illustrated by Lori Nichols (2014)

Orq is a cave boy. And he loves Woma, a wooly mammoth. But Woma sheds, is smelly, and is not house-trained. Orq’s mother wants Woma out of the cave. Orq decides to teach Woma tricks so his mother would love her too, but Woma just doesn’t get the hang of it. Then one day while Orq is playing that he is a mighty hunter, a sabertooth tiger stalks him. Woma appears just in time to save Orq from the sabertooth. Now Orq’s mother loves Woma!

David Elliott has created two wonderful new characters in this book. Orq is an imaginative young cave boy like most little boys today and Woma is just the kind of pet any young cave boy would love. The cave-talk language is perfectly blended with standard English and gives it the total feel of authenticity.

Lori Nichols has done a superb job of bring cave boys and wooly mammoths back from extinction. Her details in artwork mix modern and prehistoric elements seamlessly. She has convinced the reader that cave boys not only had pet wooly mammoths, but also played with stone wheeled tricycles and used colored pencils to draw pictures on cave walls.

I love this story! Orq and Woma are so convincingly real, I want to take them home with me. This is a book I would love to see made into a series.

Me love Orq… you will too!

One Big Pair of Underwear

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One Big Pair of Underwear written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (2014)

Two bears hate to share, but find only one pair of underwear…one gets the underwear and one cries, ‘That isn’t fair!’ Three young yaks find two salty snacks…two get snacks and one cries, ‘Where’s my snack?’ Four silver seals find three sets of wheels… three get the wheels and one gets a really bad deal.  The pattern continues with more animals who hate to share, until finally twenty pigs find ten tall twisty slides. They all want to ride, so they share the slides by riding piggyback. Now all the other animals see how much fun sharing can be. Pretty soon everyone is sharing and laughing and playing together.

Laura Gehl and Tom Lichtenheld shared the making of this story beautifully! The rhyming text is paired with funny pictures to make a silly rhyming, counting, sharing picture book.

Counting and sharing, sharing and counting… This is a winner for everyone! No one gets left out and everyone has fun, who could ask for more?

P is for Pirate, A Pirate Alphabet

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P is for Pirate, A Pirate Alphabet written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by John Manders (2014)

Twenty-six spreads depict fun illustrations with real facts about pirates. The simple text for young readers is written in rhyme for each letter of the alphabet. More detailed information is written for the more advanced readers to learn more about each topic covered. An introduction tells more about the history of pirates since as early as 400 AD to the Middle Ages and the 17th Century “Golden Age of Piracy’. And a Question and Answer section at the back of the book tests the reader’s knowledge about pirates given in the book.

Eve Bunting gives so much information in this one simple book, that a reader may wish to read only a page or two at a time or browse the alphabet for an interesting treasure.

John Manders not only illustrates each topic beautifully, he entices the reader to find out more about pirates. The details in the artwork are both educational and fun to view.

I really found this book to be one of the best in the line of alphabet books and non-fiction texts about pirates. It was extremely well researched, documented, and illustrated. And I love that it can be enjoyed on many different levels.

Goodnight, Ark

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Goodnight, Ark written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman (2014)

Opening rhyme: “Beds are ready, Food is stored. Noah hollers, ‘All Aboard!'” Two by two the creatures of the land and air board the ark. Then Noah announces ‘time for bed’ and the animals all buddy up in their spots. The rain starts quietly at first and then grows into a storm with thunder and lightening, waking all the animal pairs. And two by two they all clamber into bed with Noah! They wiggle, slither, jump, and pounce to join Noah until at last the bed breaks. When the skunks let out their stinky fumes, everyone scrambles back to their own bunks. Noah tucks them all in safe and snug singing a bedtime lullaby. Last rhyme: “Noah smiles in the dark. ‘Goodnight,friends. Goodnight, Ark.'”

Laura Sassi gives a delightful twist to the popular bible story of Noah and the Ark. Without losing the essence of the original story, she weaves humor and rhyme into the first bedtime routine on the ark.

Jane Chapman’s illustrations are childlike, bright and playful all while expertly lulling little eyes to sleep… zzzzz. Whisper now, what more could a parent want?

What a beautiful story! So much fun to read and share with little ones. Feel the calm before the storm, frolic with the frightened animals, rest assured that you are never alone. Goodnight sweet ones….

Just found this lovely YouTube picture book trailer for Goodnight, Ark. Take a look, I’m sure you’ll love it! 

Duck, Duck, Moose

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Duck, Duck, Moose! written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (2014)

Duck and Duck are so neat, organized, polite, mannerly…  Moose, not so much!  Duck and Duck spend all morning cleaning the house, Moose crashes through the wall wrecking the table they have just set. Duck and Duck work at creating pieces of art, Moose falls splattering paint and destroying the statue. Duck and Duck hang balloons and bake a cake, Moose is ordered to leave the house. Duck and Duck hang the banners, wrap the gifts, make the punch… but where is Moose?

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen writes a two-word simply perfect picture book. Children will love the rhythm of the familiar playground game transposed in this funny and touching story of a clumsy misguided Moose and the Ducks who love him!

Noah Z. Jones adds the details of this almost-wordless picture book. Even without knowing how to read, preschoolers can follow along and retell the story to themselves without missing a thing!

I so admire writers and illustrators who work together to tell a whole story! I couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Moose. His tears broke my heart… and the Ducks’ love for him melted it. This is definitely one for my bookshelf!

Tea Party Rules

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Tea Party Rules written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by K.G. Campbell (2013)

Cub follows his nose to a tea party in progress. Very politely, he asks the other bear if he could have a cookie. But the other bear doesn’t answer, and Cub realizes that the other bear can’t talk… or eat cookies! So Cub takes his place at the table. Just as he’s about to taste his first bite, a little girl comes along. She looks at Cub and decides that he needs a bath before they can eat… tea party rule number one ‘you must be clean’. Cub isn’t a big fan of baths, but he does like cookies so he goes along with the girl. But that’s not the end of it, there are lots of rules to follow. He must have his hair done, he must be dressed up, and he must eat daintily. Finally Cub has had enough of tea party rules and he helps himself WITHOUT FOLLOWING THE RULES! Luckily for Cub, the little girl decides that they should play BEAR instead. He liked that game better, after all, he already knew the rules.

Ame Dyckman tells an endearing story of friendship and rules. Imaginative play and appreciating differences are two underlying themes in this sweet Girl-meets-Bear story.

K.G. Campbell gives the reader the illusion of really being on the scene. He lets you feel the nip in the air and the bubbles on your nose, smell the fall leaves and the just baked cookies, and understand the sense of anticipation, dread, and playfulness.

I love this story for so many reasons! Maybe most of all, because I love the conflict Cub feels about not wanting to follow the rules but really wanting the cookies. And then there’s the duality of the little girl. On one hand, she loves fancy tea parties with friends and is determined to make sure everyone follows the rules exactly. And on the other hand, she embraces the natural tendency of Cub and is willing to play a game that he likes as well.

Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears

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Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton and illustrated by Nate Wragg (2014)

‘Once upon a rock-and-roll time’… the Bear family played in band. However, they didn’t have very many fans yet. Papa Bear decided that what they needed was a soprano who could sing all the high notes. And it just so happened that as soon as they left their house in search of a soprano, a little girl came to their house. Inside, the little girl hurried over to their practice stage and began preforming a do-whop dum-diddy-do until she fell and broke the microphone. Then she tried Papa Bear’s drum set, Mama Bear’s guitar, and Baby Bear’s keyboard. She played and played until she fell asleep on the stage. When the bears came home from an unsuccessful day of listening to tryouts, they found the mess and the little girl drooling on the keyboard. Papa Bear disrupted her sleep and she awoke with a scream, which just so happened to be a perfect high C. Instead of running away, the girl stayed with the bears and together they wrote a new hit single – ‘Too Hot, Too Cold, or Just Right?’ They topped all the rock charts and their new fans were crazy about… Goldi Rocks and the Great Three Bear Band!

Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton have come up with a modern twist to a favorite old fairy tale. Written in rhyme and set with a rock and roll background, this story delivers a punch!

Nate Wragg brings the timeless characters to life. The illustrations are both nostalgic and edgy.

I love this new take on an old favorite! The traditional theme of breaking-in and destroying the bear’s belongings is freshened up with the final working together of Goldilocks and the Bears. The story is music to my ears!

The Grudge Keeper

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17653933The Grudge Keeper written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (2014)

The story opens with Cornelius, the grudge keeper of Bonnyripple, carefully tucking small rolled pieces of paper into every nook and cranny of his ramshackle cottage. Whenever anyone in the town had a complaint, insult, squabble, tiff, or snit they gave it to the grudge keeper. The grudges kept coming and coming until one day the wind rose and blew all the grudges into a whopping pile with Cornelius buried deep at the bottom of the pile. The people of Bonnyripple had no idea what to do  until they found their old grudges in the mess burying Cornelius. Reading their old complaints they saw their foolishness in saving the grudges. They quickly gave shameful apologies and real forgiveness to each other. The story ends in a big wedding party for Big Otto and Lily Belle, who are mad about each other. And no one in the town of Bonnyripple ever kept a grudge again… not even Cornelius.

Mara Rockliff, writes a modern folktale for today’s readers. Her use of language is extraordinary and her message is timeless.

Eliza Wheeler’s detailed pictures bring this story to life. Drawn to look like an older tale, her illustrations help to capture the magic of the story.

I love this story. It is on the high end for picture book readers, as it employs storytelling techniques and vocabulary usage to challenge older, more sophisticated readers. Sure to be a folktale classic!

Sleepyheads

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Sleepyheads written by Sandra J. Howatt and illustrated by Joyce Wan (2014)

 All the sleepyheads have snuggled in for the night, each in their own little bed. One is in a nest, one is in a hole, one is in a cave. In the trees, lake, and barn all the sleepyheads are sound asleep. (Except the owl who slept all day!) Then with one more place to look for sleepyheads, the reader goes inside the house and finds one beside the fireplace and another in a dark space, but when we get to the bedroom someone is missing from his bed. Where is he? In his Mama’s arms!  Goodnight sleepyheads.

Sandra J. Howatt’s first picture book is soft and sweet and sleepy. The quiet movement from the woods, to the lake, to the barn, and then to the house is perfectly paced. Like a lullaby, this book is written in sleep-enducing rhyme and rhythm.

Joyce Wan adds the beautiful illustrations to the text. The pictures are also soft and sweet and sleepy. Starting with the crescent moon and stars in the dark sky, the reader is immediately transported into that pre-sleep state of consciousness which ends in Mama’s arms while fireflies light the dandelions.  

What a perfect bedtime story! I love everything about it. The text and illustrations dance together in the evening music, lulling tired little eyes to close and sweet little heads to nod. 

 

The Only Alex Addleston in All These Mountains

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The Only Alex Addleston in All These Mountains written by James Solheim and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebberler (2014)

Alex Addleston arrives in her kindergarten room just to find that there is another Alex Addleston in her class, and he’s sitting in her seat. The two Alex Addleston become best friends. They collect blueberries and catch fireflies together. And they trade Captain Moonbeam message rings. They trade secret messages. ‘Harp slyamor, me zip pal fwip’ means ‘Best friends, no matter what’. But then Alex goes away for the summer and when he returns Alex has moved to Africa with her family. Alex lay on top of the mountain and counted the stars – alone. While Alex lay on the savanna and counted the stars – alone.  And even though they were a zillion miles apart, they never give up on each other. Then one night, six years later, Alex is catching fireflies at the top of the mountain and Alex goes after the exact same firefly. ‘Harp slyamor?’ they both ask at the same time. ‘Me Zippal fwip’ they answer each other.

James Solheim tells a story about a unique friendship that lasts over many years and many more miles.

Jeffrey Ebberler adds the dimension of time in the future with his photos of Alex and Alex as adults, getting married and having children.

Readers will be enchanted with Alex and Alex. It’s more than just a story of friendship, it’s a story of a bond stronger than time and place.

 

The Purple Kangaroo

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The Purple Kangaroo written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Peter Brown (2009)

Before I go on, let me just state right up front, that I first heard about this book through the video book trailer below. Take a minute and watch it before you read the rest of this post, you won’t be sorry.

See! I was right wasn’t I? Now you just have to read the book too… I did! The monkey is a clairvoyant primate who not only can read your mind, he can do it again. And he doesn’t stop with just the ‘purple kangaroo’, he also gives you exact details as to what the purple kangaroo is doing. In the video, Michael Ian Black gives the reader some of the details the monkey provides, but not all. To find out all of the details of the purple kangaroo, his best friend – the wild-eyed chinchilla Señor Ernesto de Pantalones, and the pilot Admiral Margarita Flowerpuffer, you’ll have to pick up a copy of the book and be amazed as the mind-reading monkey reads your mind too!

Michael Ian Black has ‘super secret, highly unusual, incredible, amazing, and slightly alarming magical powers’ himself. He can entertain and astonish readers of all ages with the simple turn of a page.

Peter Brown has ‘super secret, highly unusual, incredible, amazing, and slightly alarming magical powers’ as well. He has the ability to picture exactly what you are thinking and furthermore can illustrate your mind’s picture on the pages of the book.

I love the combination of text and artwork in this picture book. The ‘joke’ is clever and complete. And I’m pretty sure even the youngest readers will ‘get it’.

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