Monthly Archives: August 2015

Tiptoe Tapirs (A “quiet” hero.)











Tiptoe Tapirs
by Hanmin Kim
Holiday House, 2015
Originally published in Korea

Written in a folk tale voice, readers discover a new hero, the quiet Tapir.

A long time ago jungle animals loved to be the loudest.  The elephant, with his Boom-Boom!, competed with the rhinoceros’ Bam-Bam!, and the ape’s Hoo-Haa-Hoo-Haa!  One animal never tried to complete, the quiet Tapir.  The tapir “tiptoed about the jungle ever so softly.”  She avoided stepping on flowers, ants and was careful not to disturb the resting crocodiles.  One day a leopard attacked the tapir—but because the leopard was so loud, hunters shot their guns at him.  Terrified and paralyzed with fear, the leopard couldn’t move.  Tapir said she could help and showed him how to tiptoe softly, hush, hush.  They escaped!  Soon the other animals learned of being quiet and each tried to be the quietest of all.  Thinking the animals gone, the hunters left.

Originally published in Korea, the pen and ink drawings with splashes of color have the appearance of Korean landscapes. Both words and illustrations are sparse, gentle and a delight to read.

Read more reviews and purchase at Amazon.

Author Interview: Patricia M. Newman

Patricia NewmanI caught Patricia Newman’s presentation at a local library and was I impressed!  When I arrived, I found a very large vase of water with pictures taped to it and many vials of interesting stuff.  She opened her talk discussing the benefits the ocean provides people, from swimming, to fishing, to providing us clean air.

She then moved into a history of the ocean during the past 300 years and how the introduction of plastics and their accumulation is impacting ocean life, air and people. Using the large vase as the ‘ocean’, clothes pins clipped to the vase to represent the earth’s growing population, and pouring into the vase  more than a dozen vials of ‘toxins’, trash, ‘fishing nets’, etc., the audience got to (almost) experience what happens in the ocean.  If you are unable to catch her in person, check out her book, Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the winner of The Green Earth Book Award.

PlasticAhoyQuestion:  How did you come to research and write Plastic, Ahoy!?  How long did it take?
I wrote Plastic, Ahoy! because of an article I read in the Sacramento Bee about a group of graduate student scientists who mounted an expedition to the North Pacific Central Gyre . The expedition had all the makings of a great book that might in fact become a call to action for future ocean stewards, e. g.  students who were themselves scientists, the scientific method, and, what was at the time, the mystery of how plastic trash affected marine life. The Plastic, Ahoy! scientists were among the first to study the floating garbage.

I first wrote a book proposal, which took about 18 months to be accepted. After I received a contract, I had about a year to write the book. The last few months of that time, I worked with my editor to make the book as perfect as we could.

Q:   How did you develop the presentation?
I wish I could say I created this presentation, but I didn’t. I found it in the December 2014 issue of POPULATION CONNECTION. I wrote to the editors to ask if I could use it during school and library visits. Luckily they said yes! Originally, the presentation was written for high school students, but I’ve modified it for middle-grade audiences.

Q:  One of my favorite parts of the presentation was when you identified little changes we can make to reduce our plastic use.  Can you share the top 3 that kids can do?
I’ll share five:

  1. SKIP THE STRAW. When you order a drink in a restaurant, tell your server you don’t need a straw, and be sure to say you’re saving the ocean! Better yet, speak to the manager and ask him/her to consider ditching straws altogether.
  2. SAY NO TO PLASTIC TO-GO BOXES. If you take food home from a restaurant, politely refuse Styrofroam to-go containers. Ask for a cardboard box or a piece of aluminum foil instead.
  3. REMIND YOUR PARENTS TO BRING REUSABLE BAGS INTO THE GROCERY STORE. A simple “fix” for our oceans. If you forget your bags in the car, ask your check-out person to load your groceries back in your cart and pack them in your bags when you get to the parking lot.
  4. BRING A REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE TO SCHOOL instead of opening a fresh plastic water bottle every day. If you have events at school, such as concerts or festivals, consider a giant urn of water where people can refill their water bottles or buy water in cartons rather than plastic bottles. Here’s a link:
  5. Did you know that most plastics are recyclable? In Sacramento County (where I live) we can recycle the following items to make sure they never wind up in the ocean:
  • All CRV containers
  • Containers with numbers 1 – 7 in the triangle symbol
  • Soda bottles, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, etc.
  • Tubs and containers (i.e. yogurt, margarine)
  • Plastic bags (stuff several bags inside each other)
  • Buckets, pails and crates
  • Toys (i.e. plastic tricycles)
  • Clamshell trays and deli containers
  • Plant pots
  • Laundry baskets
  • Polystyrene (Styrofoam®)

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Q:  Your book won the Green Earth Book Award.  Tell us what that experience was like for you.
The award was announced on Earth Day 2015, and Annie Crawley (the book’s fantastic photographer) and I were so excited we screamed at each other on the phone! We are going to Washington, D.C. for an October 1 ceremony. Can’t wait!

Q:  You have 14 books, most non-fiction.  You seem to have many interests.  How did you come to write on so many different topics?
I often ask myself the same question. I guess I go where my curiosity takes me (although sometimes book topics are also suggested by editors). You never know where I’ll turn up to ask questions for research.

Q:  Have you always wanted to be a writer?  How did you get into writing children’s books?
I never thought about being any kind of writer—although I was always the go-to person in my other jobs for written materials. Somehow it just worked out that way. After my kids were born and I started reading children’s books again, I knew I wanted to give it a try. It’s rewarding, but it’s also the hardest job I’ve ever had.

Q:  What’s the hardest part of writing for children?
To paraphrase Eudora Welty, each book teaches me to write itself but no other. My biggest challenge is finding my way into a new book. How will the story start? What do I want to say with this book?

Q:  The past 5 ½ years you’ve been a Regional Adviser (RA)
for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)?  Tell us about SCBWI and share with us how you find time to write.
SCBWI is the only professional organization dedicated to people who create content for children. It provides craft instruction and entrée to the editors and agents who buy our work. I loved my time as a volunteer RA for SCBWI, and mostly through the help of an exceptional team who worked with me, was able to continue writing while organizing events. I stepped down in January 2015 so someone else could experience the camaraderie of the organization.

Q:  You have a new book coming out October 1, 2015.  Tell us about it and how it came to be.
Ebola Fears and Facts cover (1)EBOLA: FEARS AND FACTS is the brainchild of my brilliant editor, Carol Hinz, at Millbrook Press. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a “disease” book, but the opportunity to work with Carol made the decision an easy one. I’m especially fond of the way the School Library Journal reviewer describes the book, “Breaking new ground, Newman has written a truly excellent book for middle grade students that tackles the terrifying specter of Ebola. As the title suggests, readers will come away with more facts and less fears.”

For more information about Patricia Newman, visit her website:

You Are (Not) Small













You Are (Not) Small
by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant
Two Lions, 2014
Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner

It’s a concept book, a bully book, and a laugh-out-loud funny book all rolled into one.  It’s a book for every toddler’s library.

A big bear tells a small bear that he is small, insinuating that being small is a bad thing.  But the small bear tells the big bear, “I am not small.  You are big!”  The two argue to the extreme about who is what until a huge foot stomps between them and a tiny bear floats down.  They learn another is smaller and another is bigger and decide it really doesn’t matter and walk away.  Until the tiny bear makes an observation about the huge one.

It’s easy to see why this book won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award!

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.


My Heart is Laughing

myheartlaughingMy Heart is Laughing
by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Ericksson
Gecko Press, 2014
Translated from Sweden

My Heart is Laughing is an early chapter book that gives the heart something to explore and discover.

We meet Dani, are introduced to the characters in her class, and learn the seat next to hers is saved for when her best friend, Ella, who moved away, returns.  Everyone tells her Ella will not return, but Dani believes it could happen.  On the surface, this story is about two girls who dream of the same boy and become jealous—and mean—when the boy pays attention to Dani.  When the teacher sits Dani between the two girls, they start pinching her, hard.  They get in a food fight until Dani accidentally squirts the teacher.

Dani’s father is called in and doesn’t understand why Dani would squirt the teacher; it is not like her.  He tries to talk to Dani, but Dani is afraid.  Finally she shows her dad the bruises from the pinches.  He marches into the classroom and questions the two girls.  Dani is asked to show her bruises and the class hushes.  The two girls refuse to apologize.  A visitor interrupts the incident—and it’s Ella!  Miracle upon miracle she shows up for the day, just like Dani knew she might.  Learn how Dani takes care of the situation and how Dani and Ella enjoy their one day together.

On the surface, this delightfully written, heartwarming story tells of how Dani deals with bullies, but underneath it’s about a girl who has faith that she will see her friend again.  A story that will be read again and again.

I loved this book so much, I looked up My Happy Life, the first book of this series, and loved it equally.  As The New York Times Book Review says:  “If only all early chapter books were this beautifully conceived.”

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.



Stephanie’s Ponytail













Stephanie’s Ponytail
by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Matchenke
Annick Press, 1996

Stephanie decides to wear her hair in a ponytail to school and everyone makes fun of her; but the next day, everyone shows up wearing a ponytail.  She wears a ponytail off to the side the next day and, again, everyone makes fun of her; but the next day they show up wearing ponytails off to the side.  Stephanie wears one on top if her head and in front of her face.  When they continue to copy her, she yells they are a bunch of brainless copycats and vows that tomorrow she will return with a shaved head.  If you’re familiar with Robert Munsch’s humorous books (such as The Paperbag Princess), you’ll guess what happens next.  A classic, funny Munsch book.

Read reviews and order on Amazon.

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine

By Allison Wortche, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Alfred A Knopf, 2011

A beautiful story showing how to accept one’s gifts and let others be who they are, even if you don’t always like it.  That’s just who they are.  It’s also a story about the quieter child who out shines the class’s ‘best at everything’ classmate.

Rosie’s classmate, Violet, is the best everything and let’s you know it in no uncertain terms.  Rosie doesn’t like it.  At school they decorate pots and plant a seed.  Violet claims her pot is the sparkliest.  When they start to spout, Violet claims hers is the first to grow.  To show her up, the next day Rosie gets more dirt and buries Violet’s plant a little.    Now Rosie’s looks like the best.  Rosie worries she’ll be caught, but that day Violet stayed home with the chicken pox.  Rosie started feeling bad for Violet’s plant and decided to care for it.  She cared for both plants. Rosie’s two plants were the tallest.  Rosie is proud when the teacher claims Rosie is the best gardener.  Soon Violet returns and claims her plant is the tallest, until she sees Rosie’s plant.  Finding out whose it was and learning it was Rosie who cared for her plant while she was gone, Violet claimed, “mine’s still the sparkliest!”  Rosie looked at the teacher, and the teacher looked at her and they smiled.

Read reviews and purchase on Amazon.

Little Red Henry











Little Red Henry

by Linda Urban, illustrated by Madeline Valentine
Candlewick Press, 2015

Little Red Henry, the youngest, is cared for by everyone in the family.  They all hover around to feed him, to brush his teeth and to dress him.  When he starts to declare his independence and do things for himself, his family is shocked.  He suggests they learn to do other things.  They each find things to do and Henry, at last, can do things on his own.  But when he goes to bed and no one is there to tuck him in, he’s not so sure this independence is so good.  A laugh-out-loud funny and heart-warming story!

Read more reviews on Amazon.

A Horse Called Hero

A Horse Called Hero

Sam Angus
Feiwel and Friends, 2013

Wonderful story about a boy and his horse, set in the turmoil of World War II in England.

Eight-year old Wolfie and his older sister Dodo live in London with a caretaker while their father is serving in the military.  As bombing escalates, children are evacuated and sent to live with families in the country.  They are stuck with a caretaker that doesn’t want them. Wolfie discovers an abandoned newborn colt.  Neighbors say it won’t survive and decide to kill it, but Boy claims it as his.  His medal-winning father returns to England, but he has been charged with desertion and remains in jail.  The locals want nothing to do with kids of a deserter; they are returned, but their teacher takes them in.

The horse is magnificent and keeps the family focused during numerous hardships including thievery, floods, and mining battles, all of which they have no control. For five years, the father and children write each other regularly.  While not a true story, it includes real events that occurred during World War II and keeps readers engaged with several life-and-death situations.

Read more reviews on Amazon.


My Two Blankets












My Two Blankets
by Irena Kobald, illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2015
Originally published in Australia

The story of a young immigrant who equates the feelings of her native language to a warm blanket and in time learns to create a different blanket with the words of the new country.

A young girl from Sudan moves to Australia where everything looks different, everyone dresses different and everyone talks different.  She feels she is in a “waterfall of strange sounds”.  By the end of the day she wants to be alone with her comforting blanket of familiar words.  At a park a new girl befriends her and slowly introduces new words to her.  Over time the new girl creates a new blanket of new words until she has two blankets.

Beautifully illustrated, the artist, using watercolors and oils, uses warm reds and oranges to show the feelings of the girl’s home country and uses cooler blues and greens to represent the new county.


More reviews on Amazon.

Emily’s Balloon

EmilyBalloonEmily’s Balloon
by Komako Sakai
Chronicle Books, 2006

A gentle, loving story of the girl’s first friendship with her balloon.

A toddler girl experiences the magic of her first balloon.  The first one gets away, but the next is tied to her finger.  At home the untied balloon climbs to the ceiling and she calls for help.  The balloon is tied to a spoon so it doesn’t fly away.  She opens the door and they go outside to play house—until the wind sweeps the balloon up into a tree!  She is sad and cries, for she had wanted to eat dinner with her new friend.

Loose pencil illustrations combined with muted tones, emphasize the innocence, wonder and joy of the girl with her bright yellow balloon.   A heartfelt story.

If you like this, check out Wait! Wait!, illustrated by Komako Sakai.

Read more reviews on Amazon.