Friday, January 23, 2015

Quest - Aaron Becker
Aaron Becker
Candlewick Press, 2014. Picture book.

From the author-illustrator that brought us the Caldecott Honor Journey comes another breathtaking wordless masterpiece. The quest begins when two friends at a city park encounter a king, who comes unexpectedly out of a door underneath a bridge. The king quickly hands the friends a map before he is dragged back into the door by medieval looking guards. The friends use their chalk to draw keys to enter the door. Using the map as their guide, they collect more chalk by drawing solutions to the challenges they encounter and eventually save the king. This book beautifully portrays the power of combining problem solving and creativity. I expect this to be a Caldecott contender. 

The Book of Secrets

 Cover image for The book of secrets
The Book of Secrets (Mister Max Book 2)
by Cynthia Voigt
Alfred Knopf, 2014. Fiction. 355 p.

Max Starling is a turn-of-the-century, twelve-year-old who has been forced to support himself as a "solutioneer" (think detective) because of his parents' sudden disappearance in book 1 of the "Mister Max" series, The Book of Lost Things. In this second adventure, Max must assume a variety of disguises and roles to figure out who has been vandalizing local small businesses.  He must also use all his finesse to discover the identity of a mystery girl, who dresses like a servant, but carries herself like a fine lady.  All the time, he and his grandmother puzzle over odd clues that suggest Max's missing parents might be in real trouble. Voigt has a keen insight into human nature and the characters of Max, his grandmother, and their closest friends, Ari and Pia are all richly drawn. More contemplative than action packed, this is a mystery series for children who enjoy the world of the mind.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Friends for Freedom: The Story of Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass - Suzanne Slade and Nicole Tadgell
Friends for Freedom: The Story of Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass
Suzanne Slade
Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
Charlesbridge Publishing, 2014. 40 pages.

Did you know that Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass were longtime friends? Slade tells how they met and remained strong friends despite many hardships and social disapproval. Tadgell's watercolor illustrations do well in portraying their rough and meaningful experiences. This is a great introduction to these two outstanding people and the changes they helped make. Great for second graders and older.

Ling and Ting: Twice as Silly

 Cover image for Ling & Ting : twice as silly
Ling and Ting: Twice as Silly
by Grace Lin
Little, Brown and Co. 2014, Early Reader

Ting and Ling are twins, but they are not exactly the same. In this, their third adventure, they are feeling a little silly.  Ting tries to plant a cupcake tree, Ling decides to paint all her toys red, Ling swings higher than a tree, and both twins try to read each others' minds.  Whatever they do they do it together, and they always have fun.  The Ting and Ling books are written at a beginner level, with short words and simple sentence structure.  Even though the language is simple, Lin manages to make each mini-story in the book end with a clever punch line.  The humor is well suited to the audience, and new readers will be delighted to be able to figure out the jokes themselves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Bear's Sea Escape

 Cover image for The bear's sea escape
The Bear's Sea Escape
by Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books, 2014 (U.S. Edition), Picture Book

Here is a new look-and-find book originally printed in France.  It is winter and Papa Bear and his cub are looking for a warm place to sleep for the winter.  After searching the city, they snuggle up in a Christmas display of stuffed animals.  Soon, however, a child chooses the cub, thinking he is a toy.  Papa bear wakes up just at the cub is taken away by his new owner.  Papa bear follows his cub to the train station, the coast, and onto a cruise ship.  The boat takes them to a tropical island where Papa finally finds his cub, and they both find a warm place to sleep.  In a "Where's Waldo" style, each two page spread shows a scene full of little figures going about their lives.  It is not at all simple to find the little bear and Papa bear in the crowd. As readers search, they discover that each page is full of interesting human drama and activity. The illustrations are ink and watercolor, and have a very stylized, European, flavor.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Brother Hugo and the Bear

 Cover image for Brother Hugo and the bear
Brother Hugo and the Bear
By Katy Beebe
Illustrated by S. D. Schindler
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014. Picture Book

A monk, Brother Hugo, is sad to report to the Abbot that a bear has eaten the monastery's copy of the letters of St Augustine. The abbot insists that, for his penance, Brother Hugo must borrow a copy of the book from another monastery, and make a new copy of it for his monastery's library.  It is a big project to make a new manuscript copy of a book but Brother Hugo has help from his brother monks.  At last the copy is finished, but Brother Hugo is worried. The bear has now acquired a taste for books, so how will Brother Hugo safely return the copy he borrowed?  This is a charming historical fiction picture book inspired by an actual incident.  It is written by a professor of medieval history and contains interesting and accurate facts about how medieval manuscripts were made. The factual information, however,  does not overpower the engaging and funny story.  The some pages of the book are illustrated in the style of an illuminated manuscript, and the language suggests writing styles of the period. What a fun addition to a unit on the medieval period for early and middle grade students.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Display: Wild About Reading at Every Level

I Spy Fly Guy
By Tedd Arnold
While playing hide-and-seek with Buzz, Fly Guy is taken away by a garbage man.

Diego’s Baby Polar Bear Rescue
By Lara Bergen
Diego helps two hungry baby polar bears to get back to their mother.

Diego Saves a Butterfly
By Lara Bergen Diego rescues a butterfly from the cave she hid in when Baby Jaguar scared her.

Butterflies and Moths
By Nic Bishop
A close-up look at moths and butterflies transforming from wriggly caterpillars into beautiful winged insects.

By Nic Bishop
Nic Bishop's photographs show all different kinds of frogs, big ones, very tiny ones, frogs with beautiful colors of skin, and one frog you can see inside of.

The Butterfly House
By Eve Bunting
With the help of her grandfather, a little girl makes a house for a larva and watches it develop before setting it free, and every summer after that butterflies come to visit her.

Outdoor Surprises
By Eve Buntings
A beginning reader book containing three stories featuring Frog and his friends where Frog joins a singing group, helps rescue a baby bird, and is scared by a nighttime story.

Diary of a Fly
By Doreen Cronin
A young fly discovers, day by day, that there is a lot to learn about being an insect, including the dangers of flyswatters and that heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

The Things with Wings
By Gregory J. Holch
Twelve-year-old Newton and his classmate Vanessa, who is obsessed with butterflies and flying, undergo significant changes as they try to discover why the emerald rainbow butterflies return to Angel Falls every spring.

The Quest Begins
By Erin Hunter Three young bears of different species--one black, one polar, and one grizzly--travel on a perilous quest to the Northern Lights, escorting a shape-shifting grizzly cub whose destiny will affect them all.

Flora the Frog
By Shirley Isherwood
When picked to be a frog in the class play, Flora does not like her role until she spies real frogs jumping and sparkling in the pond.

The Polar Bear Scientists
By Peter Lourie
The Polar Bear Project conducts ongoing research on polar bear populations and habitats in the Southern Beaufort Sea in Barrow, Alaska. Now under the leadership of George Durner, the Project has collected four decades of detailed, valuable data about how polar bears are responding to sea ice changes in the Arctic.

Zippy’s Tall Tale
By Olivia Moss
Zippy, a migrating butterfly, has lots of exciting stories to tell! But when Dazzle joins him on a trip to the mountains, she learns that Zippy's stories aren't what they seem. Could his tall tales land them in a ton of trouble?

The Prince of the Pond
By Donna Jo Napoli Having been turned into a frog by a hag, a frog-prince makes the best of his new life as he mates, raises a family, and instills a new kind of thinking into his frog family.

Polar Bears Past Bedtime
By Mary Pope Osborne
Their magic tree house takes Jack and Annie to the Arctic, where a polar bear leads them onto very thin ice.

By Kristin Petrie
Discusses the physiology and life cycle of flies coupled with unusual facts and specific behavior examples of these incredible insects.

Joey Fly, Private Eye in Creepy Crawly Crime
By Aaron Reynolds
Have you ever had one of those moments? You know--you're trying to find a stolen diamond pencil box for your beautiful butterfly customer, your mosquito witness won't give you any information, and your clumsy scorpion assistant has just tampered with your only bit of evidence? Joey Fly has those moments a lot.

Insect Ninja
By Aaron Reynolds
Young Tiger Moth and his friend, Kung Pow, go into action to find a valuable painting that disappeared from a closet at school.

Pete Bogg: King of the Frogs
By Scott Sonneborn
Pete Bogg is a twelve-year-old half-human, half-frog who has lived in the swamp with his frog father his whole life, but because of his human half he does not really fit in with the other frogs in school--so he sets out to experience the human world and find out if he can manage to live in both.

Fly Frenzy
By Ali Sparkes Mad scientist Petty Potts asks her neighbors, twins Josh and Danny, to help with her experiments and when her SWITCH spray turns them into flies, they are able to investigate the sabotage of their mother's garden.

Cub’s Big World
By Sarah L. Thomson In this picture book about exploring the big snowy world, a tiny polar bear learns that she can be brave--especially with Mom close by.


by Elizabeth Rose Stanton
Simon and Schuster, 2014. Picture Book

Henny the chicken was born with arms instead of wings.  Her arms make her feel different and she struggles to fit in.  Then one day she learns that arms and hands can be useful.  All of a sudden a world of possibilities opens up to her.  The pencil and watercolor illustrations are simple and endearing.  Ms Stanton is able to make Henny's simple face very expressive.  The text is brief, but Stanton communicates a lot with very few words. This is a great story about embracing those things that make us unique and is a promising debut for a new picture book author.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bad Bye, Good Bye - Deborah Underwood & Jonathan Bean
Bad Bye, Good Bye
Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Jonathan Bean
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2014. Picture book.

Moving is tough. What should be a "good bye" feels like a "bad bye" to the family in this book. Their move starts off gloomy and despairing, saying farewell to friends and experiencing the uncomfortable car ride. As they go, their move progresses into positive experiences such as fireflies at their new home and making new friends. At the end, they feel like it has become a "good bye". The trials and details of moving away are brilliantly shown through Underwood's minimal verse and Bean's expressive ink and Prismacolor tone. This is a great book to read together during a move or any major change. I wouldn't be surprised if this is in the running for the 2015 Caldecott Award because the illustrations portray the nuances and emotions of moving meaningfully.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

This Orq. (He Cave Boy.)

Cover image for This orq : (he cave boy)
This Orq. (He Cave Boy.)
by David Elliott
Boyds Mills Press, 2014
Picture book

Orq the cave boy loves his woolly mammoth pet, Woma. But Mother is not a fan. “Woma shed. Woma smell. Woma not house-trained.” Orq devises a plan to teach Woma amazing tricks so Mother will be impressed and let him stay in the cave, but the plan backfires with comedic results. However, when a saber-tooth tiger decides he wants Orq for dinner, Woma gets his chance to play the hero. A sweet prehistoric friendship tale with humorous illustrations and fun “caveman speech.”