Saturday, December 22, 2012

Figgie Hobbin/ by Charles Causley

FIGGIE HOBBIN  is a collection of 13 children's poems written by Charles Causley and complimented with delicate line drawings of Trina Schart Hyman.  I enjoyed the delightful random nonsense of many of the poems contrasted with the thought provoking introspect of others. Starting with I Saw a Jolly Hunter with its suprising ending each poem has a life all its own. The last poem in the book is the one from which the book gets its title.  It speaks of the old King of Cornwell, tempted with all sorts of exotic dishes, who petulantly tells his servants to take it all away and bring him what he really wants--a humble dish of Figgie Hobbin. - pudding sweetened with a handful of raisins (raisins being "figs" and figs "broad raisins").  A lot like me... when I find something on the menu I like, I'm not likely to try anything else. 

Bonnie R

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Cloudy with a chance of meatballs/ Judi Barrett

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett.  Who knew that flipping pancakes on a Saturday morning could inspire Grandpa to tell  his grandchildren such bedtime story!  The wild tale was about the town of Chewandswallow where there are no grocery stores because the weather comes three times a day, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is always food and beverages. The rain is juice and soup, the snow is mashed potatoes, and the wind brings hamburgers and such.  But this phenomenon is not all peaches and cream!  The weather takes a turn for the worse, and brings disgusting things, like pea soup fog, and one one occasion nothing but stinky Gorgonzola cheese all day long. Finally, it becomes catastrophic as the portion sizes grow to massive sizes, and the entire island is crushed with a severe storm of food. The people of Chewandswallow escape on rafts made of huge slices of stale bread to a world where the sky doesn't bring food, grocery stores are handy and no-one ever got hit by a hamburger again.
After a good night kiss and a good night's sleep and the grandchildren awoke to see snow falling outside.  But, somehow they had a different perspective on the weather.....
Myra and I enjoyed.
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Bonnie R

The paper bag princess/ by Robert Munsch

THE PAPER BAG PRINCESS written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko is a delightful story of Princess Elizabeth who plans on marrying Prince Ronald when a fire breathing dragon detroys her kingdom, kidnaps her beloved Ronald, and burns all her princess clothes.  She can find noting to wear but a paper bag. She does not look the same but in the aftermath she proves herself to be a brave, smart and resilient young woman.  Elizabeth follows the dragon and Ronald, and seeking to rescue her fiance.  She plays on the dragon's ego to defeat him and rescues her darling Ronald.  But Prince Ronald can't look through the paper bag to see the treasure he has in Elizabeth.  He ungratefully orders her to go away and not return until she looks more like a princess. Elizabeth realizes that this narcissistic and selfish prince is not worthy of the love she has shown him. She leaves this shallow, conceited jerk never to return and lived happily ever after, we are sure.

Myra and I agreed, being a princess is fine but to be strong, resilient and smart is great!  Having a man in your life can be wonderful but it is best to hold out for one who sees more than your outward beauty and recognizes and appreciates who you are.

Bonnie R

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The girl who loved wild horses/ Paul Goble

THE GIRL WHO LOVED WILD HORSES written and illustrated by Paul Goble combines vibrant artwork and a mature writing style to tell a "coming of age" story. This truly inspirational, Native American legend shows us that if we pursue what we truly love long enough and with all our heart we will achieve it.  With each turn of the page we are taken along the path of this girl's passage from the security of family and village through the stormy, frightening, sad and exhilarating times leading her to the Independence of adulthood.  Myra commented that the book took her through breath-holding emotions to a big, big smile as the girl who loved horses finally becomes what she loves.  
Don't we all want to become what we love?  

Bonnie R.

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The people could fly/ by V Hamilton

THE PEOPLE COULD FLY by Virginia Hamilton is a fantasy of American Black folklore telling the story of slaves who possessed the ancient magic words that enabled them to literally fly away to freedom.  With powerful illustrations of Leo and Diane Dillon on every page it depicts the heartbreaking human anguish and cruelty of slavery and the hope-filled striking beauty of freedom of those who found it in reality or only in their imaginations.

Isaiah and I shared this gripping and moving reading.


Bonnie R

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Strega Nona/ by Tomie de Paola

STREGA NONA (meaning "Grandma Witch") written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola is about an old lady who helps her fellow villagers out with their troubles, most notably by curing headaches, helping single women find husbands, and ridding people of warts.  She hired a dimwitted young man named Big Anthony to help her keep he little house and garden.  He was given various chores but "The one thing you must never do," said Strega Nona, "is touch the pasta pot."  She told him it was very expensive but he soon discovered that what it really was, was magic!  When Strega Nona was away, Big Anthony could not resist the temptation to use the magic pasta pot.  He became an instant hero as the pot made enough pasta to feed the entire town's population.  If the story ended there all might have been well but it did not.  Big Anthony had learned enough to of the magic song to get the pasta started but not enough to make it stop!  By the time Strega Nona came home, the village was nearly flooded with pasta.  She became the town's heroine as she stemmed the tide of pasta as she sang the magic song and blew three kisses.  But then they turned on poor Big Anthony.  "String him up," the men of the town shouted.  But, Strega Nona determined that "the punishment must fit the crime."  She handed poor Big Anthony a fork.  Happy ending.

Bonnie R   
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The Jolly Postman/ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

THE JOLLY POSTMAN: OR OTHER PEOPLE'S LETTERS by Janet and Allan Ahlberg - Is it a book or is it a toy? With every other page being an envelope containing a letter or card it is fun!  Once you are familiar with the famous fairy-tales, you will enjoy this "sequel".  What could be more fun than reading letters written to the Big Bad Wolf from Miss Riding-Hood's attorney, a copy of a soon to be published book about a fairy-tale princess sent to Her Royal Highness Cinderella for approval from Peter Piper Press, or a letter of apology sent to the Three Bears form Goldilocks.   In a day of writing letters being a lost art, it is quite refreshing and educational.
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Bonnie R

The Polar Express/ by Chris Van Allsburg

THE POLAR EXPRESS by Chris Van Allsburg is a magical tale anyone young or just young at heart will enjoy as long as they "believe".  Who wouldn't want to take a ride on a train to the North pole on Christmas Eve with other happy children to witness such a gathering of elves, reindeer and yes, Santa Claus and his sleigh and reindeer and be back before the excitement and magic that Christmas morning brings. Who could resist reading this charming little Christmas book? It’s short, easy to read and filled with enough familiarity to let you reminisce how Christmases are supposed to feel! 

Bonnie R
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My place/by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins

MY PLACE  by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins is a text rich, picture book 
written as a celebration of Australia’s bicentennial with two page spreads, including wonderful maps and stories narrated by children who lived in the exact same place in Australia but during a different decade. 

So, with every turn of a page, we were taken back ten years and in the end we read  20 children’s stories.  In each story there are important elements: the fig tree, the map, featuring the creek/canal, and the land/house, revealing how the land was inhabited and used by different communities and families while paying homage to the first Australians and their connection to the land on which the house is eventually built.  The illustrations support the narrative which is in the child’s voice: "My name’s…………and this is my place" followed by the their own description of their different circumstances, their similarities and how the place dramatically changes over time.  

At times the children’s stories are very poignant including many hardships and deaths, and at times the accounts are very amusing. I especially liked the account in Sofia's 1968 story as she lies on her bed admiring her posters with her parakeet, Maroula..." This is me and Paul McCartney.  Maroula reckons John Lennon's the best, but I like Paul."  And, Myra's favorite was in Victoria's 1888 story ... "We've even got running water.  Mother says its like a Dream Come True, but sometimes Father looks worried."   The detailed illustrations of the kids and their surrounding, including the many animals and especially all the maps were worth the hours we spent pouring over them.  It was all fascinating.

Bonnie R
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Animalia/ by Graeme Base

ANIMALIA by Graeme Base with each page completely covered with illustrations and verbiage representing a different letter of the alphabet, is an ABC book extraordinaire!
Within the pages of this book,
You may discover, if you look, beyond the spell of written words,
A hidden land of beasts and birds.
For many things are "of a kind",
And those with keenest eyes will find
A thousand things, or maybe more --
It's up to you to keep the score.

A final word before you go;
There's one more thing you ought to know:
In Animalia, you see,
It's possible you might find me,

                               --  Graeme

The fabulously detailed, brightly colored artwork which was 3 years in the making and the uncommon vocabulary of this book make it great for kids who are already somewhat familiar with the ABC's and fun for the adults who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to peruse it.  Each page is a hunt to see how many things you can find that start with that letter and for the self portrait the author has hidden there.  Loved it!!

Bonnie R
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Monday, July 16, 2012


I WILL NEVER NOT EVER EAT A TOMATO by Lauren Child is the story of Lola  a small and very fussy eater and her brother Charlie who was assigned by their parents to feed Lola.  With colorful collages of photographs and childlike drawings and fun filled text placed in various and sundry areas of the big pages its a real page turner!  After Lola, sitting at the table waiting for her dinner gave her dissertation on what she won't eat,  Charlie proves to be quite the problem solver turning what might have been a major confrontation into a wonderful game.  He gave all the foods new and intriguing names.  Now who could resist "orange twiglets fom Jupiter", "green drops from Greenland, "cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji" or the favorite food of mermaids, "ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea"?  Charlie created the space for Lola to assert herself and, then Lola renamed the tomato just so she could stick to her guns about never not ever eating a tomato.  All ends well.  All children would rather have fun, and can easily be distracted by making the potential confrontation into a game, instead. This book eloquently makes that point, and ensures many more peaceful hours in many households.
Bonnie R
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THE KEEPING QUILT/ by Patricia Polacco

THE KEEPING QUILT by Patricia Polacco is a beautiful story about the author's Jewish family history and precious heirloom.  It was a quilt made of various articles of clothing belonging to family members. "We will make a quilt to help us always remember home," Anna's mother said.  "It will be like having the family in backhome Russia dance around us at night."  And so it was from page to page, the quilt was there for every occasion (special or not) playing an integral part - It served as a tablecloth for Sabbath and and birthday celebrations, the huppa for weddings, a blanket that warmly welcomed newborns and kept children and elderly comfortable, and sometimes a superhero cape or tent.  I loved the art work, and the way the quilt was accented by being the only thing in color.   At every family gathering it was the grandmother's pleasure to tell the story of the Keeping Quilt. 

Traditions are for keeping and whether in a quilt or a photo album or just memories it is a grandmother's pleasure to tell the story.

Bonnie R 
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Holes/ by Louis Sachar

The novel is telling a story of Stanley Yelnats, young man who through his bad luck (family curse) ended up in the correctional facility Camp Green Lake. There is not lake there, it is the place in the middle of the desert where prisoners have to dig 5 by 5 hole each day of their terms. Prisoners are told that digging helps to build character, but Stanley suspects they are looking for something. Holes can boast to have a very unusual plot, with a few twists and unusual plot turns. It is a quick read, and as I started I was never able to put this book down. The author skillfully mixes a modern day setting with 2 other stories from remote past, which are connected with Stanley’s present and his family’s mystery. Stanley’s character is memorable: he develops from a meek guy with low self-esteem to a loyal courageous friend, unlikely hero by all means. Zero, another main character of the book is mysterious and quiet, but the mystery has its purpose: he is connected to Stanley’s family story. Sachar’s novel is humorous, heart-breaking at times, thrilling and very engaging. The author’s writing style is appealing to readers, because it sounds very casual, laid-back. Grades 5-7
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Ksenia R

The new kid on the block/ by Jack Prelutsky

In this zany anthology of poems, Prelutsky covers a whole array of topics: bullies, brotherly love and hate, teachers, friends and strange creatures. The poems are very funny, sometimes with nonsense words and outrageous plots ( the author’s attention is on the situations and objects from life that are familiar to children). Each piece of poetry rhymes, and the author plays with the language quite skillfully, employing alliteration and onomatopoeia for many of the pieces. The layout is very minimalistic: 1 poem per page with blocks of text neatly organized. Illustrations are simple black and white sketches, which catch the “core” or the main theme of every piece of the poetry. I think this book could be perfect for preschooler boys who love disgusting staff, but language is quite challenging at times, so the book is suitable for older children. I would love to read more of Prelutsky’s poems: they are very appealing to both children and adults, and I think this anthology is great for development of vocabulary and phonological awareness. Children grades 1-8.
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Ksenia R

Why mosquitoes buzz in people’s years: A West African tale/ by Aardema V.

A folktale from West Africa about a mosquito who tells lies to iguana and how this lies brings a series of unfortunate events to the animal world. But as in most of folk tales, the good defeats the evil, and justice will shine. The reteller did a great job with the story through the use of rich onomatopoeic language. The text is arranged into poetry-like blocks when the repetitive pattern is introduced. This makes it easy for a child to participate in retelling the cumulative story. The artwork was done through using watercolors applied with airbrush in fine spray and spatter technique. Then, cut-out effects were achieved through cutting the shapes out of vellum and frisket masks at several stages. Indeed, very sophisticated techniques which pay off, as readers will be mesmerized with these captivating and soulful illustrations. The illustrator also played with black and white colors to achieve the effect of a day that never came. When the owl refuses to wake up the sun, the text background changes from white to black and remains so until the very last page. The book won Caldecott Medal in 1975 .Ages: preschoolers- 3d graders.
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Ksenia R

Jumanji/ by Chris von Allsburg

Jumanji is a name of a jungle adventure game that was found by Peter and Judy in the park. One has to read instructions to this game very carefully: once it is started it cannot be finished until players reach the Golden City. As soon the children rolled the dice, their house filled up with rhinos, monkeys, a lost tourist guide, a python and a scary lion. How will they manage to finish the game and clean up by the time mom returns home? This story is a real thriller for children: the plot is very exciting and well-developed with twists and enigma building up with every page.  Grey illustrations help to establish the mood, and the author-illustrator skillfully uses shades and shadows to build the suspense. Even though published in a picture book format, it is more suitable for children who are in the transition to chapter books, because the book has large amounts of text on each page. I noticed how the author skillfully arranges paragraphs: it is easy to follow the story when there are breaks on the page. Overall, Jumanji can be praised for its high-pace, unusual and very memorable plot and great way to introduce children to marvels of Africa. The book is recommended to children in 1-4 grades.

Ksenia R
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Miss Nelson is missing/ by Harry Allard

The children in room 207 are misbehaving: spitballs and paper planes are everywhere and they are rude even during story hours! Poor miss Nelson cannot cope with them and disappears one day. Now the children from the room 207 have a new substitute teacher: Ms. Viola Swamp! She is strict, she is mean, and she will give so much homework to children from the room 207! Now children from room 207 miss Nelson very much…… This humorous book is a perfect read for preschoolers and up. With the plot worthy of Hitchcock, and with funny quirky illustration filled with clues and sharks, this marvelous story will delight, puzzle and amuse every child who loves to read silly stories-thrillers. The storyline is very creative, and the illustrations made with crayon complement the text perfectly. I loved the description of dailies in school with all the flying airplanes, chewing gum and noise sounded so familiar! The author also uses “speaking” last names such as detective Mc Smogg( who smokes pipes on the pictures) and Viola Swamp( mean and nasty one). I also enjoyed the concept of probability gently introduce when children try to figure out what happened to their beloved teacher (“Maybe Miss Nelson went to Mars” – “but that did not seem likely either”)
Ksenia R
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Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?/ by Bill Martin Jr.

This minimalistic book that is perfectly suitable for toddlers presents a variety of colorful animals every page:”Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” “I see a red bird looking at me”. Then a yellow duck, a blue horse and red fish appear on following pages. The rhyming is catchy and memorable, building on repetition and predictability. Large illustrations are centered, and there are no other details distracting the attention of a child. It is a wonderful introduction of colors and names of animals to a young child. The illustrations are presented in the form of colorful collage, in almost na├»ve style, a trademark of Eric Carle. This beautiful book has been around for a long time, with generations of parents and children also enjoying marvelous sequels Polar Bear, Polar Bear, what do you see? (1991) and Panda Bear Panda Bear, what do you see? (2003).
Ksenia R

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Joyful noise: poems for two voices/ by Paul Fleischman

JOYFUL NOISE : Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman was a fun and quite informative sharing time for me and my grandson, Isaiah.   As we read these fourteen poems together, sometimes in chorus, sometimes speaking alone, and other times echoing each other each became alive.  They were all poems about, of all things, bugs!   In their own words the bugs tell their own stories - stories we found most interesting and entertaining!  We especially liked the Water Spiders and Honeybees and gained a greater understanding and appreciation of all the bugs!
Bonnie R 
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Up in the tree/ Margaret Atwood

UP IN THE TREE  by Margaret Atwood is the story told in the words and simple illustrations of two children who live very happily up in a tree as long as they do not feel "stuck" there.  With a kind slightly Dr. Seuss over all feel and tone, it speaks to how our happiness and contentment is directly related to our sense of freedom.

Bonnie R 
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ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz is a story told in the words of the youngest son who woke up with gum in his hair, tripped on the skateboard on his bedroom floor, dropped his sweater in the sink while the water was running and found nothing but breakfast cereal in his breakfast cereal box.  At that point he was thinking he would like to move to Australia.  Things got even worse as the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day went on.  This is a  book that anyone at any age can relate to because...... who has never had one of those days?  And what mother has never said, "Some days are like that."  I, like the author, raised three sons (who slept in bunk beds).  The names are different but the scenarios are so the same!
On the way downstairs the elevator door closed o mu foot and while we were waiting for my mom to to get the car, Anthony made me fall where it was muddy and then when I started crying because of the mud Nick said I was a crybaby and while I was punching Nick for saying crybaby my mom came back and scolded me for being muddy and fighting. 
My youngest never mentioned moving to Australia but he did want to move to Mexico so that he wouldn't be forced to go to school!  But he has learned, there will always be days like that (even in Mexico and Australia) so just eat your lima beans and be thankful.
Bonnie R
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Tuesday, July 3, 2012


THE GREAT ESCAPE FROM CITY ZOO by Tohby Riddle is the hilarious story of what happens when an anteater, an elephant, a turtle, and a flamingo go over the wall of the City Zoo and are able to hide, amazingly blending in quite well, for years of freedom.  Like most of the old TV cartoons, kids will enjoy the simple story, but its probably funnier for adults because of references that appeal to adults but are unknown to most children. (Twenties-era settings, King Kong, Edward Hopper and Abbey Road are some examples) Its my thought though, that kids will be reminded of this story every time they see a flamingo standing in someones front yard.

Bonnie R
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LILLY'S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSE by Kevin Henkes is a darling book about a very free-spirited little human-like girl mouse who dresses in red cowboy boots for school.  She loved everything about school and most of all, she loved and admired her teacher, Mr Slinger.  "I want to be a teacher when I grow up," said Lilly.  "Excellent choice," said Mr. Slinger.  Then one Monday, after a very successful shopping trip with her Grammy over the weekend little Lilly took her treasures to school.  She wanted to show everyone and in her excitement she misbehaved in school.  Mr. Slinger was not amused and confiscated her glittery glasses, shiny quarters and musical, purple, plastic purse.   Whoa!!    The teacher Lilly once loved became a despicable character in her eyes!  She expressed her anger in an ugly picture of him with very unflattering words and sneaked it into his book bag before she marched out of the classroom in a huff.   Mr. Slinger wrote a note for Lilly, too, and had slipped it inside her purple, plastic purse.   Lilly found his note on her way home and found out that Mr. Slinger was still her hero.  The story has a very happy ending and  lends itself to lots of teaching possibilities on.... uniqueness, admiration, emulation, respect, disobedience creative expression, guilt, repentance, support, apology, restitution, forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation .... just to mention a few.  A must read to every school-age child.

Bonnier R
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ONE WOOLLY WOMBAT / by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent

ONE WOOLLY WOMBAT written by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent and illustrated Kerry Argent is a witty, humorous counting book with lots of zany, colorful pictures featuring native animals of Australia, most dressed up and all acting like silly human, Australian counterparts (except for the eight echidnas eating ants).  Starting with one woolly wombat (sitting in a blue-and-white-striped deck chair and wearing palm tree decorated trunks and yellow sunglasses) sunning by the sea, two cuddly koalas sipping gumnut tea it continues in rhyme and a good time all the way to thirteen hopping mice picking desert pea and fourteen slick seals sailing out to sea.  My favorite page depicts eleven dingoes playing with yo-yos.  I also like the nine hungry goannas (look like alligators) in aprons and chefs hats.  Funny!

Bonnie R

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Anastasia Krupnik/ By Lois Lowry

 Touching novel about Anastasia, just ten, who deals with her first crush, death of her grandmother, and the birth of her new baby brother (“the rats. So they were going to have a baby”.) She is also thinking for a while of becoming a Catholic, but learning about confession, quickly changes her mind about this. Anastasia is very funny, smart and original, and how her father puts it “mercurial” as well. She loves making lists of things “I hate” and things “I love” and in the beginning of the novel, ‘I hate” list is almost full. As the book proceeds, and Anastasia copes with grandma’s death and disappointment of first love, things “I hate” are crossed and now almost everything is in “I love” list. Lowry created very memorable characters: Anastasia’s funny and intelligent father, understanding mother and grandma living in her memories. The author touched on many topics in this small novel: love and hate, accepting changes, ageing and death.  Young girls will enjoy this work because it is written from a 10 year old perspective, and even with adults present in the story, the focus is almost entirely on Anastasia. The pace is fast, and even though written in 1979, the story does not feel dated at all. I absolutely loved Anastasia’s character in this book, and I think she could certainly be one of the best characters created in children literature. I could not help laughing reading this novel: it is full of sweet humor and witty remarks. Suitable for children in 5-7 grades.
Ksenia R
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Owl Moon/ by Jane Yolen

Father and daughter are quietly walking through the forest: they are “owling”. From time to time father calls for a big horned owl, but there is no answer, and they continue their adventure through the dark snowy forest hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious owl. The style of narration is poetic, and the words on each page are neatly arranged as if one reads a rhyme. The illustrator uses lines, curves and shadows to convey mystery of the forest and wonders of nature. Watercolor illustrations in blue and white create a great setting for a cold snowy night. In many illustrations, the characters are seen to be very small figures against the wintery landscape, with their faces not drawn with great details. This technique brings a great feeling of something big and wonderful happening to our characters, something that calls for silence and great deal of attention and patience. The vastness of nature and silence of winter is felt with every page turned. The presence of the owl is felt as the reader moves to the end of the book, building excitement and anticipation. This book is great for preschoolers and up to second grade students.
Ksenia R
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Frog and Toad are friends/ by Arnold Lobel

This is the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it blew my mind away!
An anthology of stories about 2 friends, Frog and Toad who are looking for buttons in one story, go for a swim in another, and wait together for mail to arrive in the last one. They are best friends in all situations, helping and taking care of each other. Easy language and large font make this book perfect one for children who are starting to read chapter books, ages 4-8. The illustrations are simple in green and brown ink, with minimum details: nothing distracts a young reader from the text. The language is simple as well: short sentences with patterns of repetition will help children with mastering new words. Each story can be read independently. Lobel introduces the concept of sorting in the story about a lost button and the concept of hibernation in the story about spring.
Through simple language the author succeeded in producing such verbal masterpieces as “Frog and Toad sat on the porch, feeling sad together”,
“The next day Toad gave his jacket to Frog. Frog thought it was beautiful. He put it on and jumped for joy”
and “The whole world is covered with buttons, and not one of them is mine!”

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Ksenia R

Gorilla/ by Anthony Browne

GORILLA by Anthony Browne is the poignant story and beautiful pictures of Hanna who, though she has never seen a real one, loves, loves, loves gorillas.  Her dad, too engaged with his work to be engaged with his daughter, gives her a toy gorilla the night before her birthday but what she really wants is a trip to the zoo.  During the night the toy gorilla becomes a real gorilla, substitutes for Dad and takes her out too the zoo, to the movies, to dinner,  and even dancing on the lawn! ...... Hannah had never been so happy. "You better go in now, Hannah," said the gorilla.  "See you tomorrow."   "Really?"  asked Hanna.  The gorilla nodded and smiled. ..... 
This is a must read for dads who know there really is no substitute for a dad.  ......  The next morning -  "Happy birthday, love,"  Dad said.  "Do you want to go to the zoo?" .....

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Bonnie R

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Millions of Cats / by Wanda Gag

Once upon a time there lived an old man and an old woman who were lonely because they did not have any cats. So the old man decides to get a kitten for his wife and sets out on a journey to look for one. Unfortunately he encounters too many cats to choose from: “thousands and millions and billions and trillions of cats”, so now the couple has a hard time deciding which one they should keep. In the end, when the multitude of cats fights itself to death, the old couple is left with the most modest, humble and scrawny kitten. Millions of Cats is the classic cumulative story of humbleness and modesty that did not lose its appeal to young children as the times passed. The plot is very original and the author succeeds in building the excitement as the story progresses. The gruesome fate of cats is a difficult concept to grasp for very young children, therefore the book might be more suitable for preschoolers and even older children who are learning about food chain. Predictable repetition of collective numbers invites a child to participation. The illustrations of the book are black and white, and lines and curves are used by the illustrator to convey the feel of a great multitude and teach children about quantity concept. Not an appealing observation but on some pages cats look like rodents and the facial expression of an old man on some pages is frightening.
Ksenia R
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Friday, June 8, 2012

Arrival/ by Shaun Tan

A wordless graphic novel narrates a story of an immigrant who left his family behind and sailed off to make a new life in a strange and unfamiliar land. Through abundant monochromatic illustrations the author succeeds in capturing the state of loneliness and confusion that the nameless man feels and experiences while drifting through the unknown land where everything is strikingly different and foreign: alphabet, pets and transportation. At first, the immigrant notices only oddness of landscape, but eventually he starts making friends among the people who are like him and listens to their life stories. Overall, the depicting style of this novel is very dark, with quite a few fantastical elements that only deepen the sense of “being out of place”. Most of the illustrations are a sequence of squares, but the author also uses whole page techniques to depict major scenes of battles or to present the city’s landscape. Readers will be delighted to view the photographs of real immigrants on the endpapers

Ksenia R

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Stellaluna/ by Janell Cannon

I must admit STELLALUNA by Janell Cannon is not a book I would have chosen to read.  The bat exhibit is one  thing I always skip when I visit the zoo.  They creep me out!  But having been given the assignment, I passed the "cute" illustration on the cover and proceeded to read the story of a young fruit bat who is separated from her mother after an owl attacks them in flight. She falls into a tree, then head first into a bird's nest of three baby birds named Pip, Flitter and Flap.  The baby birds adopt some of Stellaluna's ways much to the dismay of their mother.  She takes Stellaluna under her wing but insists she eat bugs like her babies. So, as much s she possibly can she adopts the ways of birds. She sleeps at night and when they learn to fly Stellaluna flies gracefully but trying to land upright on a limb with feet equipped for hanging, not perching she is about as clumsy as can be.  Eventually, her bat mother finds her and Stellaluna's world is restored. She was enriched by experiencing life with the birds (it's good to walk in another's shoes) but she was delighted to eat mangoes instead of bugs!

I enjoyed reading the author's "Bat Notes" on the last two pages.  Maybe I'll stop in to see the bats the next time I go to the zoo.
Bonnie R

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FREIGHT TRAIN by Donald Crews

FREIGHT TRAIN by Donald Crews goes by about as fast a a freight train!  We get a good look at the track and each part of the train, each with its own color and name described in font of the same color.  Then it starts moving across the pages so quickly the colors smear and blur through various landscapes.  Going, going, gone..... Out of sight but not out of mind.  The rainbow of vivid colors will be seen and repeated again and again.  A young child may never have seen a real freight train before reading this book but will certainly recognize a freight train when he sees one after reading this book!

Bonnie R
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MARIGOLD GARDEN/ by Kate Greenaway

MARIGOLD GARDEN by Kate Greenaway and published 1885 is fairly standard turn of the century children's poetry the various activities of childhood with enchanting, idealized, romantic Victorian illustrations. I especially enjoyed the stuffy, strict, boring Grandmamma featured in a number of the poems.  She was definitely not the cool G-ma of today!  Very funny.
Modern kids will not understand the old terms and phrases like "new frocks", tea in the garden", "parasol", "cowslip" and "gay" (as in happy), so read it to your babies or to a cool G-ma like I did, and enjoy.
Bonnie R
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Love you forever/ by Robert Munsch

EVER written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Sheila McGraw tells the story of a mother sings to her sleeping baby:
I'll love you forever,
I'll love you for always,
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be.
With unconditional and enduring love and a good sense of humor, she continues to sing the same song through the terrible two's.  And, through his childhood, even when he was 9 and what she wanted to do was sell him to the zoo she picked up that sleeping boy and sang the same song.  Though the radical teen years when she felt like she was in a zoo she still found a way to hold him and sing those familiar words.  Even when she had to drive across town with a ladder so she could reach to her son's window she continued to hold him and sing of her love for him while he slept.  (This is an allegory of the memory of a mother's abiding love, I believe.)  Then, inevitably, the day came when she was too old and sick to hold him and sing to him, and the roles were at last reversed and the story becomes a tender ode to the life cycle of a family.  The son becomes the loving parent to his dear old mother and to his newborn baby daughter.  Love begets love.  Tears came to my eyes and I found it difficult to read the last few pages as I sat there at the nursing home surrounded by dear old mothers, many of who, don't have the completion of that cycle for one reason or another.....  Maybe that's why I'm there....
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Bonnie R

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Anno's Journey/ by Mitsumasa Anno

A lone rider's journey through a European town is feast for eyes and mind. The author of the book, Japanese by birth, has always been fascinated by Europe. As an adult he started traveling through Europe painting, observing and enjoying unfamiliar land. This experience resulted in Anno's Journey, written in 1978. The reader will enjoy following the lone rider through the town with its gorgeous architecture, daily life of a simple folk and rich noblesse, children playing their games, old timers sipping their beer on the corner of the tabern. On some pages the attentive reader will find familiar characters from Grimm's tales, Big Turnip story scene, Beethoven and Don Quixote. Very detailed monumental wordeless book that is worth your attention.

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Ksenia R

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Avocado baby/ by John Burningham

What was that? Boring, boring and strange in not a ha-ha style. This book is about a weak baby that starts consuming avocadoes and then beating up robbers and hooligans. HA? I think this book meant to replace Popey and his spinach diet, but hey- im glad it did not. I am still a fan of Popey but not of this far-fetched vegan.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012


HAIRY MACLARY FROM DONALDSON'S DAIRY by Lynley Dodd tells the story of dogs going for a walk in their neighborhood.  out of the gate at house number 60, Donaldson's Dairy, a small black terrier -Hairy Maclary.  At 54 he is joined by a Mastiff -Hercules Morse as big as a horse.  At 52 they meet a Dalmation -Bottomley Potts and at 48 an Old English Sheepdog
-Muffin McLay like a bundle of hay.  At 36 is a Whippet -Bitzer Maloney, all skinny and bony, and finally at 22 the pack is completed with a Dachsund -Schnitzel Von Krumm, with a very low tum.  The text follows patterned rhymes and the list of dogs is repeated each time a new one joins up.  All is well until they encounter Scarface Claw!   He is a large, black cat with big yellow eyes and chunks missing from his ears and has a reputation as the "toughest Tom in town".  
The colorful and lifelike full-page illustrations, clever verses, repetition and simple plot make it a really fun read!

Bonnie R
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OLD BEAR/ by Jane Hissey

OLD BEAR by Jane Hissey is an exciting search and rescue story involving the animals on the window sill in the play room. Bramwell Brown a younger bear, Duck who wished he could fly, the impulsive Rabbit, and Little Bear the youngest of all the toys remembered that, one of their own, Old Bear, had been put into protective storage long ago. Now that the children were older it would be safe for him to return but he had been forgotten, up in the attic.  After several failed attempts, they came up with a plan that worked to rescue him and bring him back down to the play room. Beautifully illustrated, this is a warm story of friendship and reunion.
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Bonnie R

ALFIE GETS IN FIRST by Shirley Hughes

ALFIE GETS IN FIRST by Shirley Hughes is the story of a competitive little boy who rushes inside to be first (thus the winner) arriving home after shopping with his mom and sister.  As mom makes her way outside to retrieve little Annie Rose from the stroller, Alfie slams the door. Bang! So now Alfie is stuck inside and his mom and Annie Rose are stuck outside without a key. Alfie is too small to reach the open the door or even reach the mail slot to pass the key to his mom.  Soon, kind neighbors become involved in trying to rescue Alfie.  It was a delightful, real-life page turner for Myra and me. We absolutely loved the illustrations that so clearly expressed Alfie's emotions ranging from glee, through fear to confidence.   In the end, Alfie proves to be bigger than his would-be rescuers thought and a real winner and everyone celebrate his success!
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Bonnie R

POSSUM MAGIC written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas introduces us to Grandma Poss who did all kinds of " bush magic" and her granddaughter, Hush who had been made invisible by this magic to protect her from the dangers of the Australian bush.  In her heart of hearts Hush is ready to be visible.  She just wants to see what she looks like.  The story details the duo's adventures as they tour Australia searching for the secret to Hush's visibility. As they go we are introduced to Australia's varied landscapes, animals, cities and cultural foods (minties, pavlova and lamington, oh my!).  Hush magically eats her way to back to visibility. 
..... "It's worked! It's worked!" she cried.  And she was right.  Hush could be seen from head to tail. 
Don't miss the map of Australia and the Glossary of Australian Terms on the last page!
Bonnie R
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ANGELINA BALLERINA by Kathrine Holabird is the engaging story of a pretty little white mouse who wants so much to be a ballerina, she dances all the time.  She can't be bothered with everyday things like cleaning her room or eating or getting to school on time.  When her parents have come to their wit's end on how to deal with her behavior they make a decision to bring their little ballerina-wanna-be  down to earth.  They take her hopes and dreams seriously and support and guide her toward fulfilling them.  Shortly thereafter, Angelina begins ballet lessons.  The attention her parents paid to her love of ballet paid off in the form of her willingness to do all the things she didn't want to do before, because she could dance in ballet class and in recitals.  She followed her dreams but at the same time learned there is a time and place for fun, and a time to do your work.  Her perseverance paid off and she became a famous ballerina.

Myra and I loved this story and Helen Craig's detailed, charming drawings. Mice aren't our favorite animals but Angelina, Mr. and Mrs. Mouseling and all the other mouse characters, though clearly little animals, with anatomically correct limbs and long whiskers, are successfully humanized and utterly winsome and dear.
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Bonnie R 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What do people do all day?/ Richard Scarry

What do people/animals do all day? Work, sell and buy, clean and bake, treat  others at hospitals, teach the little ones at schools. The daily life of any city or a town is shown details every kid would dream of... This book should be purchased by every parent who is faced with millions of children's questions: why? who? what?. But this timeless classic book and lose your child for hours

Note that the pig in a butcher shop on the cover page chops and sells pork(or beef from a bovine brother?)!

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Ksenia R

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tar Beach/ by Faith Ringgold

"it's very easy, anyone can fly. All you need is somewhere to go that you can't get to any other way."

In Faith Ringgold's fanciful TAR BEACH, while her family and friends gather in the warm summer night air Cassie Louise Lightfoot an eight-year-old African American girl feels "rich" lying on the tarred flat roof of their Harlem apartment, with stars and skyscraper buildings all around her.   Her boundless imagination transcends debilitating socioeconomic boundaries and allows her to feel capable of flying and fulfilling her limitless dreams. She is a perfect example of one who lives above her circumstances with an attitude that brings overcoming power over any of life's obstacles.  Cassie is able to rise above her problems and feel triumphant and empowered.  Very uplifting!

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Bonnie R

A bad case of stripes/ by David Shannon

The main character, Camilla Cream, in A BAD CASE OF STRIPES by David Shannon, loved lima beans but she never ate them because all her friends hated them.  Conformity was all important!  I think I was a little older than Camilla when that was the case with me.  I remembered my first day of junior high as I read and totally related to how worried she was about what to wear and what other people would think of her.  After trying on forty-two outfits she looked in the mirror and screamed.  She had broken out with a bad case of stripes!  For someone who wanted more than anything to "fit in",  having multicolored stripes was a disaster!  It got much worse before it got better but in the end Camilla learned that the cure for the stripes was to stop following the crowd and be herself.  So, go ahead and eat those lima beans you love, even if others think you're weird!

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Bonnie  R

That pesky rat/ by Lauren Child

Mr Fortesque says.  "Well, Tiddles, who's a pretty kittycat?"  And I squeak, "I am!"

THAT PESKY RAT, the clever creation of Lauren Child, is the engaging story is narrated by the pointy nosed, beady eyed, cutesy rat who lives in trash can number 3, Grubby Alley.  You may have seen him there!  It's very upsetting when he comes home every now and then and finds that someone has emptied all his belongings into a big truck and driven off with them. Therefore, he wishes he could live a life and have a name of a proper pet like his friends, Pierre the chinchilla, Oscar the cat, Nibbles the lop-eared rabbit or Andrew the Scottie dog. He sees the drawbacks of being a pet but still would do almost anything to be somebody's pet.  He's told that no one would want a rat for a pet, but this enterprising fellow doesn't give up. He makes his own advertisement and waits until a special somebody comes along.  In the end, he becomes the pet of Mr. Fortesque, an old man with very poor vision, who thinks the rat is a cat.

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Bonnie R 

Ox-cart man/ by Donald Hall

"In October he backed his ox into his cart and he and his family filled it up with everything they made or grew all year long
that was left over."

OX-CART MAN  written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney is the wonderfully gentle account of an18th century farming family that uses an ox-cart to take their goods to market, where they make the money to buy the things they need and how work conveys meaning, happiness and contentment to life.  I wanted to turn the book over and start reading it over again. It's a real lesson in economics.  Year after year, we are all producers and consumers.

Bonnie R

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Dogger/ by Shirley Hughes

DOGGER written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes deals with the attachment, loss and eventual recovery of Dave's beloved stuffed dog, Dogger. The charm of this story is the selfless love and generosity of Dave's big sister, Bella.  It is beautifully illustrated and wonderfully conveys a timeless lesson on sacrifice, empathy and love for one another. 
Myra and I would highly recommend this one to anyone.

Bonnie R
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THE CHURCH MOUSE / by Graham Oakley

"In a busy little town, not very far away, there is a church...and in the church there once lived a mouse whose name was Arthur..."
(and a few other characters with a capital "C")

THE CHURCH MOUSE by Graham Oakley is the story or Arthur who enjoys all the amenities and safety of the church and his sidekick Sampson the church cat who "had listened to so many sermons about the meek being blessed and everybody really being brothers that he had grown frighteningly meek and treated Arthur just like a brother."  But Arthur was lonely for the companionship of other mice, so, with the blessing of the parson, he implemented a plan to make the church the home of the many mice who were living in frightful conditions all around town. Poor, meek Sampson became the baby-sitter of all the young ones while all the adult mice did various tasks in the church to earn their cheese.  After a bad Saturday night of babysitting, Sampson drifted off during the sermon and dreamt he was back in the days before he was reformed.  But, it wasn't a dream!  He was chasing mice all over the church and caused such a ruckus the whole congregation left in a huff vowing to not return til the vermin were gone.  Sampson repented but it was too late.  "It was all working out so nicely," the parson went on sadly, "but you'll have to go in the morning.  A church is no good without a congregation, is it?"  Well that's not the end of the story but I'll just say there was an interesting turn of events that and Sampson and Arthur rallied the mice to save the day and establish themselves as permanent residents of the church.  The text and illustrations are fitly joined together to create a hilarious and wonderful little story with an excellent ending.

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Bonnie R