Archive | July, 2014

Dog Days of School

30 Jul

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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

30 Jul

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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

28 Jul

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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.)

28 Jul

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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

26 Jul

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

25 Jul

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.

Nugget and Fang

23 Jul

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Nugget and Fang written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Michael Slack (2013)

Fang the shark and Nugget the minnow were best friends until Nugget went to school. That’s where he learned that sharks and minnows can’t be friends. Nugget showed Fang his science Food Chain test. Fang felt awful. He couldn’t help being toothy and he had to prove he wasn’t scary. He tried dressing up like a mermaid, that didn’t work. He tried inviting Nugget to dinner, that didn’t work either. He tried and tried until he was all out of ideas. Then one day the school of minnows got caught in a net, Fang used his scary sharp teeth to cut the net and free the minnows. The minnows finally accepted Fang, sharp scary teeth and all.

Tammi Sauer takes a funny look at an unlikely friendship. The friendship is contradictory to the laws of nature and the timing impeccable. Her use of language will delight readers young and old.

Michael Slack’s simple and bright illustrations bring life to the pages. The expressions on the faces of the shark and the minnows are priceless.

I love the conversational text between Fang and the minnows. These little asides amp up the humor. I especially love the ending, ‘And everyone was all smiles. Especially you-know-who.’

Ninja Red Riding Hood

23 Jul

18012467Ninja Red Riding Hood written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat (2014)

Hot off the presses! If you’ve read The Three Ninja Pigs (Rosen & Santat, 2012) you’ll remember what happened to that big bad wolf when the pigs took martial arts lessons. If you haven’t, shame on you! See my review here then run out and pick up a copy.

A brand new twist on an old favorite… Now that beat-up, licked, and ticked-off wolf from the pig story, decides to take classes himself. He becomes a confident fighting machine and sets off to get a good meal. Following the traditional storyline, the wolf meets Red in the woods and  sends her off to pick flowers, while he hurries to Granny’s house and disguises himself in her robe. When Red arrives, they have the familiar eyes, ears, and teeth conversation. But surprise… when he jumps out of bed to devour Red, the wolf finds out that she too has been to Ninja school! A mighty battle ensues and the two appear to be evenly matched. Then Gran returns home from her tai chi class distracting the wolf just enough for Red to get the upper hand. Wolf is beaten and promises to give up red meat. Wolf and Red bow to each other and Gran offers them a peach pie. The defeated wolf decides to take up yoga instead.

Corey Rosen Schwartz takes the ninja theme up a notch. She artfully weaves the ninja message and eastern culture into the popular children’s fairy tale.

Dan Santat does it again! He’s a ninja-artist of the highest degree. Every scene is packed with legendary ninja action and hair-raising details.

This book is perfect for little ninjas. And I love that Schwartz and Santat have teamed up again to bring us this masterpiece of ancient storytelling and modern style.

The Monstore

18 Jul

15945853The Monstore written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by James Burks (2013)

The Monstore is a secret place where you can buy a monster to do almost anything you want… Zack only wanted one monster to do one thing – to frighten his pesky little sister away. So Zack bought Manfred the monster. But Manfred didn’t do his job. In fact he taught Zack’s little sister, Gracie, where the best hiding places were and together Manfred and Gracie scared Zack. Now Zack had a bigger problem, a pesky little sister, a monster who isn’t doing his job, and a strict ‘no returns’ policy at The Monstore. So Zack bought Mookie, who didn’t do the job either. Neither did Mojo. As a matter of fact, none of the monsters Zack bought could frighten his little sister away.  The monsters all became Gracie’s friends and The Monstore refused returns or exchanges. Finally Zack gave up and went to the basement to sleep. But there was one thing Zach didn’t count on… Gracie needed him! Only Zach could help Gracie sleep at night when she (and all the monsters) were afraid of a dark shadow in the middle of the night. It was a sparkly glittery tiara, and Zack was the only one brave enough to remove it from the room.  In appreciation of Zack’s heroism, Gracie and the monsters cleaned up Zack’s bedroom and moved out. Then Gracie opened her own Monstore in the shed behind the house!

Tara Lazar has created a place like no other, a Monstore! She expertly takes the reader into a world of goofy, crazy, monsters and has you believing such a place actually exists. (And who’s to say it doesn’t?) In this kooky, wacky world, two siblings learn to love and appreciate each other.

James Burks has the ability to bring this place to life, one monster at a time. In the dark foreboding rooms, he gives the reader silly, quirky monsters to brighten up the night. Who could possibly be afraid of the dark with these colorful characters for friends?

This story is sure to turn any monster-loving fiend into a monsterly mass of giggles. I love the antics and individuality of each of the monsters, but what I really love is the bond that Zack and Gracie finally form when they see each other in a new light. Readers with siblings will surely love this story.  But whether or not you have a sibling – or two – or three – or more, you will be swept up in the fun-filled possibility of The Monstore.  Just remember, No Refunds, No Returns, No Exchanges!

Ten Things I Love about You

14 Jul

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Ten Things I Love About You written and illustrated by Daniel Kirk (2013)

Rabbit interrupts Pig’s work to tell him that he is making a list called Ten Things I Love About Pig. However, Rabbit only has one thing on the list… I love pig because he is very pink. He suggests that Pig make a list too. It’s obvious that Rabbit is bothering Pig. As Pig becomes more and more upset, Rabbit adds more and more things to his list. He turns all of Pig’s brush-offs into positives. So he ends up with a list that reads, I love Pig because he knows how to keep busy, he believes in me, he gives good compliments, etc. When he has almost finished his list, he finds out that Pig has been working on a list of his own. Pig’s list turns all of Rabbit’s interruptions into something positive as well. His list reads, I love Rabbit because he always drops by, he smiles so much, he gets so excited about things, etc. They each finish their lists with the same sentence, I love Pig/Rabbit because he’s my friend.

Daniel Kirk ‘s simple text and pictures, show readers what friendship is really all about. He turns minor, bothersome quirks into positive characteristics. His child-like characters are basically kind.

I love that the characters Pig and Rabbit, find the best in each other and aren’t afraid to express their feelings for each other. This is a valuable message for children and adults alike. Daniel Kirk’s book has moved into my top ten books about friendship!

Hooray For Hat!

9 Jul

18222766Hooray For Hat! written and illustrated by Brian Won (2014)

Elephant woke up grumpy. He stomped down the stairs yelling “Go Away! I’m Grumpy!” To his surprise there was a huge box on the doorstep. Inside the box, Elephant found a wide assortment of hats. There’s no way he could be grumpy with all these hats. Elephant cheered, “Hooray for Hat!” and stacked all the hats on his head and went to see his friend Zebra. But Zebra woke up grumpy too, and yelled “Go Away! I’m Grumpy!” So Elephant shared one of his hats with Zebra. Now Zebra wasn’t grumpy any more and they both shouted “Hooray for Hat!” And they went off to show their friend Turtle, and guess what… he was grumpy too, until he got a hat. And so was Owl, until he got a hat as well. By the time the friends reached Lion’s house they were all out of hats, which was really too bad because Lion was grumpy too. He was grumpy because his friend Giraffe was not feeling well. Everyone got together and decided that they should put all the hats back in the box and surprise Giraffe. Now Giraffe had all the hats, he did feel better, and everyone was happy!  “Hooray for Friends!”

This is Brian Won’s first picture book. He wrote a happy tale about being grumpy, and what preschooler has never been grumpy before? The illustrations are clean and simple. And the text is sincere and easy to understand.

I read this book to my toddler granddaughter who squealed with delight at each turn of the page. After reading it twice, we had a parade through the house wearing hats and giving them to our stuffed animal friends. This is a great feel-good story. I love any book which can bring so much joy seemingly effortlessly. HOORAY FOR HAT!

Ninja!

8 Jul

18490605Ninja! written and illustrated by Arree Chung (2014)

Maxwell is a ninja! He ties one of his father’s neckties around his head and gets silent ninja footwear, a ninja stick (pool stick), sticky ninja gloves (rubber dishpan gloves), a ninja rope (jumprope) and a ninja paddle (toy paddleball). Properly dressed, Maxwell sneaks out find his target (napping father) and executes a perfect ninja surprise! His next mission is to capture cookies and milk from his little sister. But he is dishonored when his little sister tries leaping from the chair to the countertop and falls on her bottom releasing a blood curdling scream that only little sister can manage. His only recourse is to teach his baby sister the way of the ninja!

Arree Chung delivers a ninja perfect picture book. There is action, comedy, and suspense in the antics of Maxwell the ninja. His illustrations draw the reader directly into the story with detailed sub-blocks of ninja activity.

I can totally see any ninja-wannabe falling head over heels for this book. Its fast-paced imaginative play makes the reader feel like they are right there with Maxwell, sharing in his triumphs, defeat, and ultimate resurgence.

Here is a little book trailer for your enjoyment… tell me you can watch this and not want to rush right out and get the book!

Shark Kiss, Octopus Hug

6 Jul

15924010Shark Kiss, Octopus Hug written by Lynn Rowe Reed and illustrated by Kevin Cornell (2014)

Charlie and Olivia were best friends. And the one thing they both loved was watching families on the beach. More than anything Charlie the Shark wanted a hug, and Olivia the Octopus wanted a kiss. They tried all the obvious ways to get hugs and kisses, including signs, shows, and rides. But there were no takers. Everyone ran away from Charlie and Olivia no matter what they offered in exchange for hugs and kisses. In a final attempt, they decide to offer free food, but no one wanted their algae soufflé. Charlie was heartbroken, so Olivia wrapped her eight arms around him and gave him a huge hug, and Charlie puckered up and gave her a huge kiss.

Lynn Rowe Reed’s simple text is easy to read and fun for the kids. There are no real surprises, but lots of imaginative word play.

Kevin Cornell’s illustrations really draw the reader into the story. His facial expressions are priceless. You’ve just got to love Charlie and Olivia and their need for hugs and kisses.

I like this odd take on a beach story for preschoolers. The idea of kissing a shark or hugging an octopus is countered by the lovable characters. It’s nice to see them finally realize that they can give each other hugs and kisses. And it’s even nicer to see in the last illustration, that one little girl and her dog are willing to take the chance on two such odd friends.

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