Monday, May 2, 2016

Wee Felt Worlds

Wee Felt Worlds
by Amanda Carestio
Lark Crafts, 2013. Nonfiction. 128 p.

This is a book that teaches how to create some fun with felting. Each project is made up of several felted items that all go together to create a darling little scene. For example: the adorable little mad scientist has everything she could want in her secret laboratory--down to the monster plant she's created and little felted beakers of chemicals to experiment with. I loved the step by step instructions on how to felt at the beginning of the book--along with full color photographs that illustrate just what to do. There are many beginner level projects that younger readers could do, along with some slightly more difficult projects for when they're  ready to move on to a more advanced stage of honing their  felting skills.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong

Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong
By Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrated by James Ransome
Holiday House, 2016. Biography.

“Little Louis Armstrong was born, black and poor and lucky” in New Orleans, and though he didn’t have things that we take for granted today, such as electricity and running water, he felt lucky because he was loved by family and surrounded by music that could be found everywhere he went in the city. When he was eleven years old, the scrapes he got himself into got him sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys; what he thought would be the end of the world ended up being a blessing because there he learned to play the cornet. When he was fourteen, he returned home and met up with King Oliver, a great cornet player, who mentored him and helped honed his talent, and from there his musical career took off.

The text, written in a jazz beat, compliments the biography as well has the water colored illustrations. As a fan of Armstrong’s music, it was interesting to learn that Armstrong started his music career with a cornet and not the trumpet he became so proficient at later in his career. Author notes in the back give more detail on Armstrong’s influence in the music industry. A great find for jazz fans.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Big Cat

Big Cat 
By Ethan Long
Holiday House, 2016.

In this edition of the “I Like to Read” series there is a big cat. This slightly plump cat tried unsuccessfully to sneak away for a little girl. The little girl wakes the cat from a nap in order to play. Some things that the girl does with the cat are sweet and acceptable to a lazy feline. Other things the girl wants to do cause some humorous expressions on the cat. However, it is obvious that this cat is loved by the girl. Told in simple and short sentences (one sentence per two pages with “dance” being the most complicated word in the sentences) youngsters who are just learning to read (and who really love cats) will completely adore this book.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Wrong Side of the Bed

The Wrong Side of the Bed 
Written by Lisa M. Bakos
Illustrated by Anna Raff
P. G. Putnam’s Sons, 2016. Picture Book.

Lucy woke up on the wrong side of the bed. She could only find one bunny slipper. That was the beginning of a series of negative occurrences on her “one bunny slipper” kind of day. All of her animal friends-- from a porcupine who wants to cuddle to penguins who want to make their own bubbles in the bath—just add to her problems. Luckily, when Lucy wakes up on the wrong side of the bed the next day, the day takes a different course.

Sentence adverbs such as unfortunately and obviously introduce each new entry into an ever-increasing list of mishaps that define Lucy’s bad day in this wacky cumulative tale that will delight young children—especially when they hear adults try to complete the full list of mishaps in one breath!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Door by the Staircase

The Door by the Staircase
by Katherine Marsh
Disney Hyperion, 2016. Fiction. 273 p.
Mary is an orphan who is adopted by a kindly old lady, Madam Z. For the first time since her family's death Mary has someone who seems to care about her. Her new guardian lives in a village full of fake practitioners of magic, but as time goes by Mary begins to wonder if some of the magic might be real. She also wonders if Madam Z is as harmless as she seems. Luckily Mary has a new friend in town, the son of a two-bit magician, and together they make plans to find out what is really going on.

This new fantasy is full of references to Slavic folktales, including Baba Yaga, Koschei, the Firebird, a Domovoi and others. Mary is a likable character, intelligent, brave and kind. Madam Z is also a complicated character and, as in the traditional stories, the reader doesn't know if she is good or evil. This is a great choice for middle grade readers who are looking for something that is exciting, interesting, and just a little scary. This book is available from the library in print and as an audio download.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rules for Stealing Stars

Rules for Stealing Stars
By Corey Ann Haydu
Katherine Tegen Books, 2015. Fiction. 336p.

Eleven-year-old Priscilla, known as “Silly,” is the youngest of four sisters and resents always being treated like the baby. After moving to a new town, their mother’s alcohol problem only gets worse, and their father continues to hide himself in his work. But Silly’s sisters have found a wonderful secret to help them cope, and eventually Silly convinces them that she is old enough to share it: the girls’ bedroom closets are magic portals that allow them to create any world they can imagine. They catch stars with their hands, play on beaches made of glitter, and climb giant flowers. The closets seem to give them exactly the escape they need. But as the summer wears on, the closets become more and more sinister, and Silly worries that she is losing her sisters.

This middle-grade book has some mature themes and dark images. The writing is poetic and the descriptions of the magic closets are beautiful and vivid. The portrait of a dysfunctional family is very realistically and poignantly portrayed, as is the sibling relationship between the sisters, with all its subtle loyalties, betrayals, competition, and love. Good for tweens, teens, and adults who like haunting tear-jerkers with glimmers of hope and magic.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hooray for Kids!

Hooray for Kids!
by Suzanne Lang
Random House, 2016. Picture Book.

Everyone is special--that is the message of this book. Each brightly colored page shows different kinds of kids and tells you what makes them unique. (Been there done that, right?) Only this book has a clever little twist to it. The kids in the pictures are all animals and the qualities that they have are those that a particular animal would actually have in real life--with hilarious results. On the page that shows kids that need a lot of sleep--a panda and a sloth are pictured front and center. The kids that can run real fast are a cheetah and gazelle racing one another. The subject matter addressed in this book is one that has been covered by past picture books a million times. What sets this delightful little book apart from all the rest of the crowd is the fantastic illustrations and the really fun unspoken stories that are being told on each page that. Young readers will want to examine each illustration with great care and interest.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Display: David Wiesner

Art & Max
Max wants to be an artist like Arthur, but his first attempt at using a paintbrush sends the two friends on a whirlwind trip through various media, with unexpected consequences.

The story of what happens when a camera becomes a piece of flotsam.

June 29, 1999
While her third-grade classmates are sprouting seeds in paper cups, Holly has a more ambitious, innovative science project in mind.

Mr. Wuffles!
Mr. Wuffles ignores all his cat toys but one, which turns out to be a spaceship piloted by small green aliens. When Mr. Wuffles plays rough with the little ship, the aliens must venture into the cat's territory to make emergency repairs.

Sector 7
While on a school trip to the Empire State Building, a boy is taken by a friendly cloud to visit Sector 7, where he discovers how clouds are shaped and channeled throughout the country.

The Three Pigs
The three pigs escape the wolf by going into another world where they meet the cat and the fiddle, the cow that jumped over the moon, and a dragon.

Frogs rise on their lily pads, float through the air, and explore the nearby houses while their inhabitants sleep.

Dorothea's Eyes

Dorothea's Eyes
By Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Gerard DuBois
Calkins Creek an Imprint of Highlights, 2016. Biography.

This picture book biography shares a brief background of how Dorothea Lange became one of the most influential American photographers in history. It tells about her childhood battle with polio, which left her with a limp for the rest of her life, and how she tried to blend in the background because she felt like she was different but also became observant of the world around her. When she was eighteen years old, she ignored the conventions of what was proper for women and became a photographer, putting to use her talent for seeing the world with both her eyes and her heart. Hired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to document the Great Depression, her photograph “Migrant Mother” has become one of the most reproduce photographs of all time, and she developed the style “documentary photography,” using realistic scenes, rather than staged ones, to depict social and political importance.

Though I was not a fan of the illustrations, the style seems to fit this unconventional woman. I did like how the text font and color changed to reflect important statements. Author notes at the back include timeline and further readings for the reader to investigate more into the life of Dorothea Lange.

Friday, April 22, 2016

When Spring Comes

Written by Kevin Henkes
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek
Greenwillow Books, 2016.  Picture book.

Kevin Henkes writes a beautifully simple narrative about waiting for Spring.  Sprinkled with bits of rhyme and alliteration ("there will be buds and bees and boots and bubbles"), this is a fantastic read-aloud for the youngest listeners.  Droznek's gorgeous acrylic illustrations are a captivating view of the world's transformation to Spring.  It's no surprise that this delightful, best-selling picture book has received numerous starred reviews from the likes of School Library JournalHorn Book, and Booklist.  Little ones will love When Spring Comes!