Thursday, May 10, 2018

drawn together by Minh Le #PPBF Review

2018 Recommendations-- Perfect Picture Book Friday


drawn together by Minh Le

The pace of technological inventions creates a generational divide for everyone, even if there isn't a language barrier. If children are lucky enough to have living grandparents, and to live close enough to see them, it's heart-breaking to think that anything else could stand in the way of a relationship between them. Today's rec is a sparse text with gorgeous illustrations that spoke to me on several levels. This book releases next month but is available for pre-order now.


Title
: drawn together                          
Author: Minh Le
IllustratorDan Santat
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion, June 5, 2018
Intended Ages: 4-6 (note: theme/art for all ages)
Themes: Grandparents, Art, Communication

Opening Line: "So . . .what's new, Grandpa?"  Note: this line of text comes after multiple wordless spreads that set the mood and scene.
Synopsis: Spare text married with a mix of graphic novel style panels and traditional picture book spreads explores the emotional distance a young boy feels when his mom drops him off to visit his Grandpa. Although family, the young boy and Grandpa don't speak the same language--or do they . . .?

What I like about this book: While the story uses multicultural multi-generational characters, the message about building bridges of communication applies to all people of all ages. Silence may be golden for some, but often it's a painful reminder that we don't know what to say. I'm a huge fan of double entendre titles, and this one doesn't disappoint.
     The illustrations carry much of the story in sly glances, frowns and smiles, making clear that neither character is comfortable in the situation. Cultural and language barriers divide them. Yet by finding a common passion, two people gain a new understanding and appreciation for each other. The use of color and chaotic complex illustrations bring the flood of emotions to life. Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat does not disappoint! I think I like this one better than Beekle (and that's saying a lot!) I was reminded of the scenes from the movies The Matrix and Lucy where everything whirls and falls into place. 
     Note: the cover actually gives away the story ending, but I didn't notice it on my first reading, so don't look too hard at it! And if you're wondering what Grandpa is saying, there is a "translation" on the title page. I didn't see that in my first reading either, and it didn't matter. This book is one that can seriously be described as breath-taking and one that invites readers to revisit it again.

Resources/Activities

  • Brainstorm ways to communicate without using words.  If you have never played charades before, give it a try!
  • Pick one subject and then draw pictures together as a family. Do the pictures all look the same? Why or why not?
  • Do something nice for someone you don't usually talk to. Does your kind action start a conversation?
  • Get out crayons, markers, pencils, collage materials or whatever different types of art supplies are available and color in the same picture (or if you don't have the same picture printed off to color in, make a similar picture with each medium). Which do you like best?
  • Try eating food from a different culture than what you're accustomed to.
  • Call/visit your grandparents and give them a hug. Talk about what you have in common. If you don't have grandparents available, ask anyone you want to know better to participate.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoy my selection this week.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments!

This review is part of PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books. Organized and curated by author Susanna Leonard Hill, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Note: My review is based on a review copy received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Part-time Mermaid by Deborah Underwood #PPBF Review

2018 Recommendations-- Perfect Picture Book Friday

Part-time Mermaid by Deborah Underwood

Like many writers, I'm a daydreamer. It's almost part of my job description! And the book rec today is a great "what if" for  kids.

Part-time MermaidTitle: Part-Time Mermaid                            
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Cambria Evans
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion, March, 2018
Intended Ages: 3-5 
Themes: Bedtime, Imagination, Siblings

Opening Line: "During the day, I am a regular girl."
Synopsis: At bedtime, a girl imagines she is a daring mermaid, and her younger brother a merboy--and they awaken with wet hair!

What I like about this book: Okay--this isn't very "deep" as reasons go (but there's a sea pun already!) --I love the sparkly cover! If I was going to be a mermaid, I'd pick the shimmery pink tail, too.
     The story has a Clark Kent/Superman feel to it as a mild-mannered girl by day transforms into a brave mermaid at night. With cleaner shrimp for my bedroom and the gumption to stand up to the sea witch I can picture myself in this deep sea world.
      I also love the second layer to the plot, the sibling element of the story, as the MC's pesky younger brother during the daytime becomes her partner after visiting this imaginary world where humans (in her dream world) are nonplussed by mermaids and octopuses and turtles eat strawberry ice cream!


Resources/Activities

  • Deborah and Cambria combined on a partner title--Part-time Princess. Read both books and talk about which character you would like to be, and why
  • Come up with other "part-time" jobs you would like to have
  • If you were a superhero, who would be your sidekick?
  • Draw a picture of your favorite sea creature
  • I love the jellyfish lunch by Deirdre at http://jdaniel4smom.com/2013/05/lunch-for-kids-jellyfish-for-lunch.html ! Getting hungry . . .
  • Go swimming and practice your mermaid/merboy moves

Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoy my selection this week.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments!

This review is part of PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books. Organized and curated by author Susanna Leonard Hill, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Note: My review is based on a review copy received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

DREAM by Matthew Cordell #PPBF

Do y'all remember when I reviewed the book BOB, NOT BOB? I'll wait while you think. I know it takes me a few minutes to get the grey matter churning. Well, the book I review today is authored (and illustrated) by the illustrator of BOB. He also author/illustrated the book WISH, a companion title to DREAM which I somehow missed and am now headed out to find.
 
Title: DREAM
Author/Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion, May, 2017
Intended Ages: 2-5 (I'm saying adults!)
Themes: Babies, Families, Love

Opening Line: "On the night you were born, our world shined bright as the sun."
Synopsis: Talking to their child, two gorillas reminisce about his birth, all the emotions they experienced and their dreams for his future.

What I like about this book:This concept book takes a sentimental journey through the parent-child relationship. Like LOVE YOU FOREVER, I believe the text will appeal more to parents than to children, but the illustrations are adorable for all ages. The babies in my life never asked about the day they were born, but this would be fantastic for those who do. As a parent, I re-experienced all of the emotions on this journey. The spare text packs a powerful punch. Just look at that first line! Yes, when a baby is born, night can become day. Everything feels possible in a way it has never felt before.
Perhaps to make it more relatable, the gorillas sleep on a "people" bed in a thatched cottage with tables, book shelves and a crib for baby. Gorilla lovers will note that the illustrations show a silverback (male), a female, and a baby, but using the gorillas instead of people lends a feeling of universality to the journey. The huge emotional moments are paired with soft, spattery dreamlike illustrations that expertly capture the raw feelings of these moments.
I recommend this book as a gift for expectant and new parents! I appreciate that it lacks LOVE YOU FOREVER's Lion King-esque circle of life and somewhat sad ending. There are moments of sadness in the book, but the resolution is a celebratory one.

Resources/Activities: Because I think this book is primarily a wonderful gift book for adults, the recommended activities are a bit different today!
  • Write a letter to a child in your life to read when they're older, or maybe when they become a parent, telling them about the day they were born, or your hopes and dreams for them (or both, if appropriate)
  • If you're lucky enough to have a parent figure still in your life, call or write a thank you.
  • List your own current hopes and dreams
  •  Ask a child about their own dreams for what they want to do or be. Ask how you can help them. NO judgment!
Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoy my selection this week.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments!

This review is part of PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books. Organized and curated by author Susanna Leonard Hill, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Note: My review is based on a review copy received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, March 31, 2017

New Books for Readers Ages 6-14 #kidlit #newreleases

In a break from Perfect Picture Book Friday tradition, I'm calling attention to three new releases that I would classify as late chapter books/early middle grade readers. I don't read as many of these, so rather than my usual formal "reviews" with associated activities, I'm just sharing a heads-up and my thoughts. The thread between these? HUMOR! Starting with a book for the youngest and working my way up through three--
 
 
Title: CatStronauts Mission Moon and Catstronauts Race to Mars
Author/Illustrator: Drew Brockington
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, April 2017
Intended Ages: 6-10
Themes: Humor, Cooperation, Cats


Synopses (why plural? The book contains two stories bound back to back)
First, on a planet populated only by cats, the President needs to find an alternative energy source to avoid Powermageddon. The CatStronauts answer the call, rocketing to the Moon to set up a solar array that will beam energy back.
Second, With support for space travel resurging, different teams of cats try to be the first to land on Mars.

My thoughts: These stories are presented in graphic novel format. With sparse text, they are fun, fast reads filled with puns and acronym groaners. The illustrations provide a lot of the characterization for this good-hearted flawed crew. Look for the cat food pyramid and the launch codes. I received a black-and-white advance copy, but the final copy will be in full color. I look forward to seeing the final because I'm thinking it will be easier to keep track of all the cat characters when they are different colors. I like the message of cooperation and patience threading its way through both stories. I did wonder if kids would enjoy the second story as much if they didn't have prior knowledge of space race history and an appreciation for government inefficiency. The Russian cosmonauts are initially painted in a negative light, but misunderstandings are revealed in the end. This is the author's debut book.


Title: Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies
Author/Illustrator: Bruce Hale
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, March 2017
Intended Ages: 8-12 (reluctant readers)
Themes: Humor, Fantasy, Monsters



Synopsis: Carlos and Benny, two best friends, investigate strange goings-on in the school cafeteria. Different meals for girls and boys? Gigantic bug sightings? This book is part of the Monstertown Mystery series.

My thoughts: I didn't need to have read the first Monstertown book to enjoy this one (#2). It is stand alone. The press release states that the story is an "ode to Goosebumps" and "perfect for reluctant readers . . ." and I agree. Like Goosebumps, you have a lot of action with familiar characters. The language is funny, fresh and accessible with just a few illustrations sprinkled in. The lenticular cover (okay, I had to look up the word lenticular, too) switches back and forth between a praying mantis and an angry lunch lady's head. The adults who help Carlos and Benny are friendly folks I'd like to have around, even if the lengths they go to to help the kids push the limits of credibility. I did wonder why there is a prologue (the material is repeated in the book), and as someone with a science background, I wondered if the scientist had to be an evil villain. (I did love his name--Mr. Sincere) The author has published more than 40 books targeting reluctant readers. Note: The lunch ladies meet their demise.
In addition to Goosebumps, the school setting/characters-who-may-or-may-not-be-monsters  set-up took me back to the Bailey School Kids series. If your reader likes Monstertown, they might want to check those out.


Title: Benjamin Franklin You've Got Mail

Authors: Adam Mansbach and Alan Zweibel
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, May 2017
Intended Ages: 10-14
 (In my uneducated opinion, this will appeal to reluctant readers)
Themes: Humor, Fantasy, Time-travel


Synopsis: A snarky thirteen-year old boy mails himself back in history to try to restore order and preserve history. In a prior book, he mailed an updated map to Benjamin Franklin during the American Revolution. The map showing the vast country that the United States is now was accidentally released to the public, causing an uproar. This is a sequel to Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in my . . . There were a few places where I wished I had read the first book for character dynamics and facts (for instance, how does Ike have enough antique stamps for he and his girlfriend to write back and forth as well as for him to mail himself? I'd think he'd need quite a few. Is there a deeper reason for him calling his stepfather "Dirk the Jerk").

My thoughts: Expect comedy, not history in reading this. Although Ike says he doesn't know much about Colonial America, the book is basic for the stated 10-14 year old audience. Readers will definitely get a feel for the time period in a humorous narrative that explores "a comically different path" for our country. The authors have backgrounds in comedy, including writing for SNL and Go the **** to Sleep and despite the historical setting, the text has a contemporary edgy feel. I laughed at Ike's moniker for Ben--B-Freezy--but this sequel doesn't share the origin. Some of the humor, such as dumping on New Jersey (full disclosure, my birthplace!) and a wink to In-N-Out Burger (Inn-n-Out) may be dampened for an east coast audience. Note: The language and plot feel organic to the age group, but do include name calling, theft and fraud.

Thanks for stopping by! I love to hear what you think about my posts in the comments.

Friday, March 10, 2017

THE POTATO KING - #PPBF

 Last week I was thinking of Spring. Today, SNOW is falling again. What a difference a week makes. Today is a good day to curl up with a cup of cocoa and a plate of cookies. (Okay, every day is a good day for that!) But--
Have you ever wondered why we eat what we eat?
Owlkids Books, Inc. from Canada published a translation of a book from Germany that shares one story. Whether it's legend or truth, the people of Germany believe! 

 
Title: THE POTATO KING
Author/Illustrator: Christoph Niemann
Publisher: OwlKids Books, 2015
Intended Ages: 3-7
Themes: Food, Myth

Opening Line: "There was once a king called Fritz. One day he heard about a new wonder plant from South America: the potato."
Synopsis: A retelling of a legend in which King Frederick the Great of Prussia (King Fritz) uses cunning trickery to convince his unwilling subjects to eat an ugly new food.

What I like about this book: Did you make potato "stamps" in art class? I did. And this book is illustrated with a combination of potato photography and potato stamped prints. Everything potato! With spare text, this book got me thinking about that opening question. Some plants used for foodstuffs have spread around the world. Who championed these invaders? And the reverse logic used by the king may tip off kids to a few of their parents' tricks. Wink. Wink. We know who we are.

Resources/Activities:
  • If you don't know what a potato print is--watch this New York Times video post about the legend behind the book (it uses Niemann's imagery)
  • If kids are old enough to carve with a knife, let them make a potato stamp. If they aren't, make the stamps for them and let them stamp away! Wrapping paper or framed artwork alert!
  • Cook your favorite potato recipe. YUM.
  • Read a stack of potato books. Some I've read: ONE POTATO, TWO POTATO by Cynthia DeFelice (A Strega Nona type folktale), THE ENORMOUS POTATO by Aubrey Davis (folktale), POTATOES, POTATOES by Anita Lobel (explaining war to children). More recommended by Windham County Farm to School. I wasn't able to find a copy yet, but I'm adding Kathleen Lindsey's SWEET POTATO PIE to my reading list.
  • For older readers. Make a list of favorite foods. Research whether that food is native to your area.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoy my selection this week. I love to hear what you think about it in the comments!

This review is part of PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books. Organized and curated by author Susanna Leonard Hill, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Friday, March 3, 2017

SING A SEASON SONG - #PPBF

Where I live, the winter has been mild this year and my thoughts have turned to Spring . . .
 

 
Title: SING A SEASON SONG

Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Lisel Jane Ashlock
Publisher: Creative Editions, 2015
Intended Ages: 4-8
Themes: The seasons, Writing in rhyme, Animals

Opening Line: "Snow, snow, shiver and blow.
Icicle popsicles drip, drop and dropsicles."
Synopsis: Beginning and ending with winter, this book celebrates the cyclical nature of the seasons.

What I like about this book: The text and illustrations marry perfectly. A few animals are mentioned in the text, then the illustrations add layers of detail, together bringing the seasons to life. I felt the whoosh of wings and the thump of paws. Nature takes center stage, with children and adults tucked into the backgrounds. The scenes come vividly to life with something new to feel or see in several re-readings. Picture book aficionados may smile at the owl prominent in the first spread, remembering OWL MOON. Yolen's text is a rhythmic read aloud treat. A longtime Yolen fan, this is a new favorite for me. While each season may have unpleasantries, they aren't mentioned here! The tone of this book is a gentle celebration of the repeating cycle.

Resources/Activities:
  • List the best and worst things about each season. Compare lists. If you were a butterfly, would your answers be different? A polar bear? A frog?
  • The internet has many kid-friendly activities to explore the seasons. Start with Pinterest?
  • Teachers.net has grade level appropriate lesson plans about the seasons.
  • Start a seasonal scrap book, recording your observations on the first day each month.
  •  What is your favorite food to each during each season? Make some!
Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoy my selection this week. Have you read this one? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments!

This review is part of PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books. Organized and curated by author Susanna Leonard Hill, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Friday, January 27, 2017

Adding to Others' Accolades #PPBF

     My post today won't be linked to the Perfect Picture Book Friday bunch, because there's nothing new. New to me--yes. But these books have been reviewed a lot of places already. However, sometimes after I read the books that are recommended, I think "eh." And sometimes I think "YES!" So I thought I would share a few that made me say "YES!" even though they have already been plentifully reviewed. Perhaps you forgot about them and could use another nudge.
   
I love Deborah Freedman's book, SHY. Maybe it's because I identify with the subject matter. As an adult, I take that big breath before I walk into a group of strangers. As a child, I just sat on the sidelines. And the way Deborah uses perspective and  the physical gutter (the center of the book) in her artwork is brilliant. I've seen some reviews that found fault with the lack of options to deal with shyness in the story, but I found it a great way for kids to discuss the subject at all. To recognize that some kids might need help with introductions, and an example to the shy kids that a happy ending is a possibility if they make the effort to connect. You can find a complete review of this book at Unleashing Readers.




     Big thumbs up to the following stories as well:
     TELL ME A TATTOO STORY by Alison McGhee  (reviewed by Joanna Marple)
     A SQUIGGLY STORY by Andrew Larsen (one review at Pickle Me This) and last but not least
     Teeny Tiny Toady by Jill Esbaum (there aren't any caps in the title, so I couldn't bring myself to do it here!) (reviewed by Sue Heavenrich).
 
      Just wanted to let other reviewers know that your reviews ARE being read and appreciated! It's hard to keep up with everything and reviews are one way to pare down the library list.