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