Archive | November, 2014

Nothing Ever Happens at the South Pole

30 Nov


Nothing Ever Happens at the South Pole written and illustrated by Stan and Jan Berenstain (2012)

Penguin receives a journal in the mail. He is told to write in it everyday. He grabs the journal and goes for a walk, but all he does is boring, ordinary, things. None of these things is worthy of being written in his journal. He imagines that if his life were more exciting, there would be interesting things to write in his journal. Little does he know that each of those ordinary things became extraordinary as he passed them by. They actually were more similar to his imagination than he thought, but he dismisses them as unworthy writing ideas. So he goes to bed thinking that nothing every happens at the South Pole, but hoping that tomorrow might be a better day for writing.

This book was originally written in 1962 by Stan and Jan Berenstain as a follow-up to The Big Honey Hunt. However, the popularity of the Berenstain Bears in their first book led to a series, and the South Pole book was stored away in favor of the bears. The Berenstains wrote over 250 books in the series with Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother Bear, and Sister Bear. It wasn’t until after the death of Stan Berenstain, that Nothing Ever Happens at the South Pole was discovered in their basement archives. So with the help of her son Mike, Jan Berenstain finished the book. It was published 50 years after its original conception.

I love the story of the little penguin who is blind to what is really happening around him and who doesn’t trust his own story writing ability in the first place. And I’m so happy that Jan and her son, Mike Berenstain found it before it was too late and offered it to a new generation of Berenstain fans.


Penguin Cha-Cha

30 Nov


Penguin Cha-Cha written and illustrated by Kristi Valiant (2013)

Julia loved sit high in a tree and watch the Saturday shows at the zoo. One day, when a dancer lost her boa, Julia noticed a sneaky flipper snatch it away. She followed the penguins back to their cove, but she found no sign of the hats, fans, or bows. So she decided to disguise herself as a penguin and see if she couldn’t get to the bottom of this mystery. But she was disappointed when the penguins all stared at her  like frozen penguin popsicles. She even tried to elist the help of a dancing hippo, but the penguins didn’t budge. Giving it one last shot, Julia dressed up and taught the penguins how to dance the cha-cha. Suddenly she heard the sound of penguins dancing… ‘Tap, flap, cha-cha-cha. Tap, flap, cha-cha-cha.’ They danced all day long.

Kristi Valiant has brought to life the behind-the-scenes antics of dancing penguins. Her words and pictures tell us the story of those sneaky birds and their dancing secret. And if you watch carefully, you might see the tricky monkeys swipe the magician’s hat for their own.

I adore the whole idea of graceful dancing penguins. They seem so clumsy on land when we see them normally. I wonder what they are hiding and why. Share this book with your little budding dancers, and I bet you’ll find that penguins aren’t the only ones hiding their talent behind a frozen facade.

The Last Christmas Tree

30 Nov


The Last Christmas Tree written by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Pascal Campion (2014)

Wedged between two large trees on the Christmas tree lot, as one small tree that was a bit bent and missing a few branches. But no tree in the lot had more Christmas spirit than this one. The littlest tree shook with excitement at being chosen to go home and covered with lights and ornaments. But no one stopped to look at it. Still the little tree kept hoping for just the right person to come by and take him home. The lot got emptier and emptier, and still no one noticed the little tree. Finally, after all the other trees were sold, a sign hung on this little lonely tree. It said, ‘FREE’ and still it sat alone in the cold. Then just before dawn it was scooped up and flown overhead to a place far away. And when it arrived, it was decorated and placed in front of a fireplace.

Stephen Krensky and Pascal Campion worked magic on this book. It’s sure to become a classic. The story is told so simply and poetically. The art work is endearing. But the big surprise comes at the end when the reader sees through the artist’s work, who takes the last Christmas tree home. Hint: The stockings over the fireplace have the initials D-D-P-V-C-C-D-B on them. Ho-Ho-Ho!

I absolutely fell in love with this book the very first time I read it, about 2 minutes ago. And I plan on getting a copy for each of my grandchildren this year.

Maple and Willow Together

24 Nov


Maple and Willow Together written and illustrated by Lori Nichols (2014)

This is the follow up to the delightful story Maple published earlier this year. Maple was Lori Nichols debut picture book. You can read my review of Maple HERE.

In this book, Maple and her little sister Willow do everything together. They play together, sleep together, and even have their own special language together. But one day, Maple gets angry and Willow gets angry and they are sent to their rooms alone. The girls don’t like being alone, and make-up across the hallway. Pretty soon they are playing outside together and sleeping together in the same bed.

Lori Nichols has done it again! This second book is just as warm and loving as her first book. The relationship between the sisters is so real. And the artwork is beautiful. It shows how sisters can be each other’s best friends even when they don’t always get along.

I love this story and I think you will too. I can’t wait to share it with my granddaughter who just became a big sister last month!

The Book With No Pictures

20 Nov

Here’s another book I’ve been dying to read! The concept of a picture book without pictures was intriguing to say the least. Then I saw the excerpt of B.J. Novak reading from his book to a room full of children had me sold on the idea. Watch here for yourself.


The Book With No Pictures written by B.J. Novak (2014)

B.J. Novak has written a picture book with no pictures brilliantly! This is a perfect read-aloud book. He begins by letting the reader know there are no pictures, but the upside is that the reader must read every single word in the book exactly as written. Now, the listening child gets to hear the adult reader saying things like ‘I am a monkey who taught myself to read’ and ‘My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt’. The reader must sing, use silly voices, and read nonsense words all because they are written in the book. In addition to using words like ‘ridiculous’ and ‘preposterous’, the reader must play into the fun of reading with their child.

I think my favorite page is the middle spread. “…and also, the kid I’m reading this book to is THE BEST KID EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE ENTIRE WORLD…” Now who wouldn’t want to hear this every time the book gets read to them? No one I know!

Get yourself a copy of this book and share it with ‘the best kid ever in the history of the entire world’!

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

20 Nov

How many of you have been looking forward to reading this book as much as I have?


Sam and Dave Dig a Hole written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen (2014)

 Sam and Dave decide to dig a hole one day. They take their shovels, a canteen of chocolate milk, and a kerchief of animal crackers. They plan on digging until they find something spectacular. They leave their house and proceed to dig next to a small apple tree. Their trusty dog goes with them. They never do find anything spectacular, but they do end up digging completely through the earth and falling back home through the sky.

Mac Barnett has given substance to the childhood belief that you can dig a hole to the other side of the world.

Jon Klassen shows us just how close they actually come to finding spectacular things in the ground before they change directions and eventually give up. It’s their dog who senses what lies buried in the dirt and digs them through to the end. Look carefully at the first and last pictures to see just how different their home is from the beginning to the end of the story.

I love the creativity of the story. It works so well in both text and illustrations. The irony of how close the boys are to discovering something spectacular under the ground is not lost on young readers. And the dog’s persistence is the catalyst which propels them to a new place. Have they actually reached the opposite side of the world where things look familiar, but have very different details?

Wimbley the Wonder Boy

2 Nov

One of the best things about having a blog is making friends and connections from around the blogsphere. One friend I have made this year is having her first book published in less than two days! She sent me an advance reader copy to preview before its release date. And, I am honored to share it with you today…

Wimbley the Wonder Boy


written by Angela Hawkins and illustrated by Holly Blackman (2014)

Wimbley has an active imagination. He wonders about so many things. He wonders about everything from where do crayons go after you flush them down the potty to what really happens when you call 911. But his biggest wonder is how long his mother will love him. ‘Now and Forever’ she assures him!

Angela has captured the questioning mind of a child. She also set this story in one week’s time so that while children wonder about things like Wimbley does, they also follow the progression from Monday to Tuesday and so on to Sunday. She voices the same worries many children have, but through this format also leaves room for children to discuss things they wonder about as they read this story with their parents or caregivers.

Holly Blackman uses simple drawings that look like crayon drawings of a child to portray the childlike innocence of these questions. Wimbley’s world is easily identifiable to a young child, making the transition from his world to their own seamless.

 I like the connections between real-life questions young children have and the pages of this book. It is fun to read and share with a child, especially as a springboard for discussing their own worldly questions.

Wimbley the Wonder Boy will be available on Amazon starting Monday, November 3, 2014.

If you would like to follow Angela on wordpress. You can find thislittlebirdie HERE.

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