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’.

The Invisible Boy

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The Invisible Boy written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton (2013)

 Brian is the invisible boy. Even his teacher, Mrs. Carlotti doesn’t notice him because Nathan is too loud and Sophie is a whiner. When it’s time to pick teams, Brian is left out. And at lunchtime, Madison invited everyone to her birthday party except Brian. Brian loves to draw, it’s what he does best. He sits quietly at a table and draws fire-breathing dragons, space aliens, pirates, and superheros. Then one day, Mrs. Carlotti introduces a new boy to the class. His name is Justin, and looks a little different than the rest of the kids. At lunch, Madison makes fun of his chopsticks, and J.T. makes fun of his bulgogi, calling it Booger-gi. All the kids laugh, except Brian, he just sits there feeling invisible. The next day Justin finds a note in his cubby. It was from Brian and it said, ‘I thought the bulgogi looked good.’ And he drew a picture of himself eating with chopsticks. That afternoon, Justin played with Brian on the playground. But when it was time to team up for a special project, Emilio pairs with Justin, leaving Brian out again. Luckily for Brian, Justin adds him to their team. When Mrs. Carlotti gives the directions, the boys are work together to put on a three-man play. From then on, Brian didn’t feel invisible anymore. Justin and Emilio make room for him at their lunch table and they share a bag of cookies together.

Trudy Ludwig tells a very important story about friendship and inclusion. She gets right to the meat of the problem that both Brian and Justin face in school, and helps the children solve their own problem. Her examples of inclusion serve as real-life solutions for countless children in schools everywhere.

Patrice Barton’s illustrations are soft and tender. She allows the reader to see Brian in outline form only when he is feeling invisible, and adds color a little at a time as he becomes accepted by his peers. In contrast, all of the other characters are painted in soft watercolors further emphasizing Brian’s feelings throughout the story, and I think also showing that the other characters are not necessarily mean-spirited just unaware of Brian’s feelings.

Inclusion doesn’t have to be a major event, it can be as simple as inviting someone to sit at your lunch table or letting them join your group at work or play.  I adore the paintings in this story. My heart goes out to the invisible Brian on every page. This is a beautifully written and illustrated book. I highly recommend it to my teacher friends, parents, and children.

Too Much Glue

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Too Much Glue written by Jason Lefebvre and illustrated by Zac Retz (2013)

Matty is a creative genius when it comes to glue. He and his dad love to make glue creations at home, with mom’s approval of course. But at school, his teacher warns about using too much glue. In class Matty decides to make the biggest glue puddle ever and lay in it. He gets yarn, plastic bricks, goggly eyes, and colorful paper stuck to himself. The problem is that he can’t get up, he’s stuck to the worktable! The more his friends try to release him, the more decorations he gets stuck to himself. Neither the teacher nor the principal can unstick him. Finally, his dad comes in and saves the day. Dad pries him off the table and congratulates him on making a masterpiece. Dad takes him home and unpeels the glue from his body and re-glues it together in the kitchen. They take a magnet and stick it on the back of the Matty-shaped masterpiece and hang it on the refrigerator. Taking the principal’s suggestion seriously, Matty and his parents experiment with tape after dinner… oh no!

Jason Lefebvre has written his first picture book and glue masterpiece. Although I wonder if he has ever been an art teacher, I bet he was once a kid like Matty! His creativity and over-the-top antics make a hilarious picture book. It’s certainly a story that will ‘stick with you’… ba da dum!

Zac Retz captures the spirit of Matty and glue-lovers everywhere. The illustrations are so real, you might be afraid to touch the pages for fear of sticking everything together into one globby glue mess.

I love this story, but I would hide the glue bottles from anyone who has read it! What a crazy, hysterical, post-reading disaster this could be! Share at your own risk!(Did I emphasize this enough with unnecessary exclamation marks?)

Clark the Shark

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Clark the Shark written by Bruce Hale and illustrated by Guy Francis (2013)

It’s back to school time for Clark the Shark, and he’s super excited. Clark LOVES school. In his own words, ‘SCHOOL IS AWESOME!’ ‘LUNCHTIME IS SWEEEET!’ and ‘RECESS ROCKS!’ The problem is that Clark loves everything way too much. He’s too loud, too wild, and just too much for the other fish to handle. Luckily for him, Clark’s teacher, Mrs. Inkydink is there to help him remember the rules. Clark gets a big idea… ‘Maybe if I make a rhyme, I’ll remember every time!’  So Clark reminds himself with his own rhymes, ‘When teacher’s talking, don’t go walking.’  ‘Only munch your own lunch’ and ‘Easy does it, that’s the way. Then my friends will let me play.’ Clark has learned how to get along with everyone and still have fun. Now it’s time to teach the new kid, Sid the Squid, how to get along.

Bruce Hale has written a series of Clark the Shark books in addition to his other works. He gets into the heart of a young child with loud and sometimes rude antics of a fun-loving fish who just happens to be over-the-top, but who really just wants to be accepted.

Guy Francis takes is deep into the waters of Clark’s world with details of the ocean incorporated into the human-like settings of Clark’s home and school. Reader can immediately identify with the underwater playground, the submarine school bus, the kale salad, and the sea slug ice cream.

My favorite character has to be Mrs. Inkydink. Bruce and Guy must have known that teachers must have eight arms to educate, protect, and handle all their students. I love how Mrs. Inkydink can grade papers, write on the board, and hug her students all at the same time!

In the second book in the series, Clark the Shark Dares to Share,  Bruce Hale and Guy Francis take their readers on another learning adventure for Clark. It’s Show and Share day at school, but Clark doesn’t get the concept of sharing. Sharing is complicated, but Clark finally understands and shares a ‘home-baked krill cake and a great big shark apology’ with his friends.

18090126The next installment in the series is due at the end of this year. Look for Clark the Shark Takes Heart in December, 2014.

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Found

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Found written and illustrated by Salina Yoon (2014)

One day Bear found a stuffed bunny in the woods. It was the most special thing he had ever seen. But Bear realized that Bunny might be sad so he made flyers and posted them on every tree in the woods. He saw a lot of Lost posters, but none for a bunny. Bear wished he could keep Bunny. He slept with Bunny and took him on a picnic. When Bunny’s owner, Moose, found him, Bear was sad. He handed Bunny over to Moose who hugged him and handed him back to Bear, asking him to take good care of him. ‘Special toys are meant to be passed on to someone special.’ Now Bunny wasn’t lost anymore, he was FOUND!

Salina Yoon is the author and illustrator of nearly 200 board books for preschoolers. She understands children and keeps her stories simple and beautiful, addressing the issues of young readers.

I’m always happy to find a new book by Salina Yoon. And I especially love this book about sharing and finding a new home for well-loved toys.

Cat Napped!

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Cat Napped! written and illustrated by Leeza Hernandez (2014)

Kitty Cat, Pretty Cat snuggled up in the wrong chair… the one in the back of a pick-up truck. Now she’s headed out of town! There must be some mistake. Kitty jumps from the moving truck and collides with a trash can. Poor Kitty is found by a kind woman who takes her to the pound. All the while, her owner is putting up signs all over town. When her owner calls the pound, she and Kitty are reunited. Aww, love!

Leeza Hernandez is a talented author and illustrator. Cat Napped! is the companion book to the equally clever Dog Gone! (2012). Both books are written in verse and use language young children will enjoy hearing again and again. The simple lines and bright colors are the perfect combination for the preschool crowd.

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I have a special bias toward Leeza Hernandez and hope I can meet her someday as well. Until then, I will continue to sing her praises (metaphorically speaking of course, no one wants to hear me sing). Do yourself a favor, and pick up her books. You’ll thank me for it later.

Sand Cake

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Sand Cake written and illustrated by Frank Asch (1978)

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Sand Cake by Frank Asch (2015)

This classic story was first published over 35 years ago and will be reintroduced in an expected 2015 publication.

Baby Bear wants to make Papa a cake at the beach. Papa promises to eat it if Baby Bear uses eggs, milk, and flour to make it. Baby When he can’t do it, Baby Bear asks Papa Bear if he can make one. He promises to eat it because he doesn’t think it can be done. But Papa Bear makes a sand cake by drawing eggs, flour, and milk in the sand and then scooping the ingredients into Baby Bear’s bucket. While Baby Bear and Papa Bear float in the water, the cake is baking in the oven Papa Bear has drawn in the sand. When it’s ready to eat, Baby Bear draws a picture of himself in the sand around the sand cake. Now, it’s Papa Bear who is surprised and gives Baby Bear a huge hug. Then they both sit down to eat some of Mama Bear’s cake made from real eggs, milk, and wheat.

Frank Asch is the author of over 60 of children’s books. Sand Cake is one of many Baby Bear stories. It is a simple, yet treasured children’s picture book. The text is easy to read and the illustrations are endearing.

I have read and loved Baby Bear books since my own children were babies, and my classroom always had a collection of Baby Bear books for independent reading. I know from first hand experience how much children love Baby Bear. And I am so excited to see a new publication of Sand Cake coming out next year. It is sure to capture the hearts of the next generation of readers!

Lazy Little Loafers

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Lazy Little Loafers written by Susan Orlean and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (2008)

Babies are Lazy Little Loafers. They don’t work. They spend all day playing and lying about. They get away with this because they are so cute. While the narrator ponders the question of what babies do while she (and the rest of the kids her age) take tests, give book reports, and figure out tough math questions, she notices that all the babies in Central Park are waving at dogs, snacking, and hanging out with their friends. Just as she arrives at school, she realizes why babies don’t work…they’re too smart!

Susan Orlean tells the story like a true New Yorker. She doesn’t talk down to the reader and she includes the reader by identifying with their plight and dropping little bits of sarcastic humor in the monologue.

G. Brian Karas depicts the city streets and parks of New York with details like Broadway-like signs, black clothing, crowds, doormen, and sidewalk cafes.

 

I like the narrator’s voice, a little mature for her age, leaving me wondering if all New York school kids are so sophisticated. And I loved the humor in the artwork. I especially liked the last illustration… the narrator enters the school building and realizes that babies are too smart for school when a baby passing by in a stroller sticks out his tongue at her, showing the reader that babies really do know what they’re doing!

With the setting in early September and the narrator bemoaning her school work while she obviously would rather be hanging out in the park, this would make an excellent back-to-school choice for parents, teachers, and students.

Dog Days of School

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Dog Days of School written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Braian Biggs (2014)

Charlie is tired of going to school. One night he sees a star and wishes he was a dog…  And in the morning, he realized his wish came true! His dog, Norman goes to school in his place while he stays home and naps and watching the leaves fall and generally has a great day. As the week progresses, Norman gets to make clay sculptures, have birthday cupcakes, paint, go on field trips, learn to play the maracas, and build a house out of blocks. Charlie has dry biscuits, drinks out of the toilet, gets chased by a skunk, has to go to the groomer’s, and gets locked up in the laundry room when he digs in the garden. Charlie realizes this is not such a great idea after all, but when he tries to tell his parents, they only hear ”WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!’ and they send him outside in the cold. That night he sees another star and makes another wish… and in the morning he’s back in his own bed and Norman is sleeping on the floor.

Kelly DiPucchio tells a funny story about switching places, something I bet many kids wish they could do from time to time. She really captures the joys and downfalls of a dog’s life and a boy’s life.

Brian Biggs has the fun job of bringing Charlie and Norman to life on the pages of the picture book. His expressions are both charming and silly, exactly perfect for a children’s book.

I love the story as it’s written, but I also love the story as it’s drawn with details not given in the text. This is the type of book any kid would want to read… especially a kid like me!

Interrupting Chicken

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Interrupting Chicken written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein (2010)

Papa only agrees to read Little Chicken a story if he doesn’t interrupt. But that seems impossible, with every story Papa reads, Little Chicken interrupts at a critical point. Just as Hansel and Gretel are about to go into the house, Little Chicken interrupts ‘Don’t go in! She’s a witch!’ Just as Little Red Riding Hood was about to answer the wolf, Little Chicken interrupts, ‘Don’t talk to strangers!’ And just as Chicken Little was about to warn everyone that the sky is falling, Little Chicken interrupts, ‘Don’t panic! It was just an acorn.’ Papa gives up trying to read a story to Little Chicken and he lays down in bed instead. So Little Chicken tells his own bedtime story to Papa, but just as Little Chicken begins his story Papa interrupts with snores! Good-night, Papa. And they both go to sleep.

David Ezra Stein tells an all too familiar scenario about a parent who is more tired than the child at bedtime. The text is playful and familiar, perfect for preschoolers. And the print changes as the story unfolds and Little Chicken interrupts the classic fairy tales. The illustrations won the Caldecott Honor Award for 2011. Besides featuring Papa and Little Chicken, the illustrations show the books Papa is reading in a traditional book format and the interruptions given by Little Chicken in childlike printing inserted on each storybook.

I love the humor and surprising twist in this story. Parents everywhere can relate to the frustrations Papa has in trying to get Little Chicken to bed, and children will be delighted with the interrupting chicken and his need to put Papa to bed.

The Not-So-Perfect Penguin

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The Not-So-Perfect Penguin written and illustrated by Steve Smallman (2014)

Percy is part of a perfect penguin waddle. All the penguins eat sensibly, waddle seriously, and swim smoothly… all except Percy.  Percy is loud, rambunctious, and silly. One day in the middle of a huddle to keep warm, Percy lets out a loud and smelly FAAAAAART! All the other penguins send him away. Percy is cold and alone. And the other penguins realize how dull life is without him. So they go out in search of him. They find him frozen next to his snow-penguin, and they huddle around to melt him. When the snow is melted, Percy’s flippers were free to TICKLE…TICKLE…TICKLE!

Steve Smallman has brought to life a delightful little friend. At the end of the book, Steve Smallman encourages young readers to think about themselves and how they treat others with topics like: talk about things that may annoy others, what does it feel like to be ignored by your friends, and how it’s okay to be a little different and still fit in with a group.

I love the ending… “Surrounded by happy penguins, Percy felt that maybe he didn’t need to be perfect after all. His friends loved him just as he was.”

My Teacher is a Monster (No, I Am Not.)

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My Teacher is a Monster (No, I Am Not) written and illustrated by Peter Brown (2014)

Bobby has a problem at school… his teacher. Bobby goes to the park on Saturdays to forget about his teacher problems. But one Saturday, Bobby meets his teacher at the park! Neither one of them seem to happy to see the other at their favorite spot, but gradually Bobby sees that his teacher isn’t really a monster after all and his teacher sees that Robert is really a pretty awesome little kid.

Peter Brown has done an awesome job himself showing us both sides of Robert/Bobby and the Monster/Teacher. With very little text and superb drawings, the reader follows the changing relationship between a student and his teacher. And of course, there is the signature Peter Brown style to make this story a read-again book not just a read it-done it story.

I love that both characters change and that we can see both points of view. And even at the end, when Bobby throws another paper airplane and his teacher’s face turns green, there is love and humor to hold the relationship together.

The Loch Mess Monster

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18118587The Loch Mess Monster written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (2014)

The tales of a Loch Ness Monster in Scotland are not true… there is not one monster, but three! Nessie, Fergus, and the youngest Angus. Nessie and Fergus were very responsible parents teaching little Angus the five basic monster rules, the most important was to Nevereverever go up to the surface of the loch. Angus learned all the rules, and followed them well. Well, except for the rule about cleaning up after yourself. Angus was a bit of a slob. So Nessie and Fergus banned Angus to his room until he learned to pick up his things and be tidy. Angus didn’t seem to mind though, he threw his toys everywhere and eventually made a mountain of toys and trash on top of his bed so that he had to climb up to the top to sleep. The problem didn’t come until Angus found himself on top of his mountain raising above the surface of the loch. Meanwhile, three friends – a duck, a goat, and a Heeland coo (Highland cow) focused their camera, binoculars, and telescope on Angus. ‘What a mess!’ they exclaimed. ‘It’s nae the Loch Ness Monster. ‘Tis the Loch MESS Monster.’  And on seeing the three land monsters, Angus hurried down his mountain of toys and trash and cleaned up his room.

Helen Lester has written another winner in The Loch Mess Monster. Readers will enjoy the authentic Scottish words scattered throughout the story. And if you ever get stuck, there is a glossary at the front of the book. Imagining that the loch ness monster might be a naughty child is very intriguing indeed.

Lynn Munsinger has teamed up with Helen Lester again and has produced another character readers can identify with. Her style is innocent and whimsical. And the details in the illustrations give the reader more to search for while reading the story.

I can identify with the monster who has a mountain of unorganized (but very necessary) items. It gives me hope that I will someday have my mountain under control as well. But what I really like is that even though Angus learns to pick up after himself, he still leaves a very wee mess now and then so that his parents don’t think he’s perfect. Smart, very smart… no one needs those high expectations!

Two Speckled Eggs

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18209401Two Speckled Eggs written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann (2014)

Ginger is having a birthday party. Her mother tells her that she either has to invite all the girls in her class or none. That means Ginger has to invite weird, smelly, spider-loving Lyla Browning. On the day of the party all the girls arrive wearing pretty dresses and bringing beautifully wrapped gifts, all except Lyla Browning… she wore a plain brown shirt and pants and her gift was in an old taped-up brown cardboard box. When the party started, Lyla Browning didn’t participate… she was watching a ladybug with her magnifying glass. However the other girls weren’t playing very nicely either and Ginger was starting to feel sorry she had invited them at all. No one seemed to like Ginger’s favorite silver-and-gold birthday cake, except Lyla Browning. And they all fought over Ginger’s new birthday presents, except Lyla Browning. Then Ginger opened the old brown cardboard box. Inside was a nest made of paper, tinsel, ribbon, and string. And in the nest were two speckled malted milk chocolate eggs. After all the other girls left the house, Ginger gave Lyla one of the eggs and they pretended to be birds eating the rest of the silver-and-gold cake until Lyla had to go home.

This is the first book that Jennifer K. Mann has both written and illustrated. And when you see it you’ll agree, it should not be her last! The story is heartfelt and sweet. And the illustrations are pure and simple. It’s a completely honest look at the dynamics of childhood friendships and relationships.

I loved sharing in Ginger’s transformation as a character. As a reader, you can feel Ginger’s emotional journey from embarrassed & annoyed, to angry & sad, and finally pleased & appreciative. But I think the magic in this story is in also feeling Lyla’s sense of being different, akward, and alone until she finally has a friend who likes her just the way she is.

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