Archive | August, 2014

The Only Alex Addleston in All These Mountains

29 Aug

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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

29 Aug

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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

20 Aug

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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

18 Aug

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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

13 Aug

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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

12 Aug

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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!

12 Aug

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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

10 Aug

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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

10 Aug

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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.

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