Monthly Archives: May 2016

There is a Tribe of Kids

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There is a Tribe of Kids

by Lane Smith
Roaring Brook Press, 2016

It’s the exquisite illustrations that make this book work.  I think the author/illustrator Lane Smith created the words just to stretch his artistic genius.  Using oils, acrylic varnish, colored pencils, graphite and more, the readers follow a young boy as he explores different groupings of wildlife.  From a colony of penguins, to a smack of jellyfish, to an unkindness of ravens, we follow the mischievous boy as he playfully explores his worlds.  Moving through a bed of clams and a night of dreams, the boy discovers a tribe of kids like him!  Readers rejoice with the boy when he sees all the playful, creative kids to play with.

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You’re Here for a Reason

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You’re Here for a Reason

By Nancy Tillman
Fewel and Friends, 2015

The words are wonderful—and the illustrations send it over the top in Nancy Tillman’s latest book, You’re Here for a Reason.

Layering her message with words and illustrations, Nancy assures the reader that they are important and matter in this world.  In the first half of the book, the story opens with a boy petting an elephant on an ocean beach, with a kite flying behind him.  On the next page, the words, “Even the smallest of things that you do blossom and multiply far beyond you,” are illustrated with a boy helping the elephant cross the street, a simple act of kindness.  “A kindness may… set things in motion in different ways” directs our attention to the kite flying away.  On the next several pages, the kite brings kindness to a mother fox and her kits, a blue jay, a white weasel, and tigers.  In the second half of the book, a boy learns that life isn’t perfect, there’s good and there’s bad, and we don’t always know the big picture when things happen.  The book ends with, “I just can’t imagine a world without you.”

A lovely book with a message that goes straight to the heart.

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Who Done it?

Who done it

Who Done it?
By Olivier Tallec
Chronicle Books, 2015
Originally published in France

Done in an unusual size and where the reader turns the pages up, this is a delightful interactive book for toddlers.  Each turn offers nine friendly creatures and a question.  The question may ask, for instance, who is pulling a prank?  Whose arm hurts?  Who is sleepy?  The reader must look carefully at each creature to determine which one is doing what the question asks.

The clean, simple illustrations with lots of white space provides the time and space for the toddler to study each creature and decide what ‘hurt arm’ looks like, or what ‘sleepy’ looks like.  A fun brain teaser for little ones.

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Agatha

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Agatha

By Anna Pignataro
Little Bee Books, 2015
Originally published in Australia

This is a book on ‘being different’ told primarily through illustrations.

In the opening page we see her parents are a bear and a pig, but because they look so happy together, we quickly overlook their differences.  While words said, “she didn’t quite fit in,” she looked like she fit in okay.  When it was her turn to share her one special quality, she was so embarrassed she hid.  When she came out, each of the others shared a special quality they saw in her.  The story ended when someone shared the universal truth that applies to everyone, “No one else is a better Agatha than you!”  First published in Australia, the expressive drawings accented with simple colors provides a subtle message that being unique is special and a good thing.  The drawings are so expressive, each child will find a character they can relate to.

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Two Mice

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Two Mice 
by Sergio Ruzzier
Clarion Books, 2015

Created for toddlers, Two Mice features two mischievous friends who set out for a full day of adventures.  Bouncing along, they discover boats and take one out for a ride.  One of the mice cleverly tricks the other to do the rowing!  They shipwreck!  But survive, until they are captured by an eagle and taken to her babies as food!  But, ever so clever, they escape.  All ends well and they return home.  Author/illustrator, Sergio Ruzzier sprinkles humor throughout the story in both words and illustrations.  Fun, freedom-seeking illustrations are beautifully done in pen and ink with soft pastels.

The beauty of this book for toddlers is that it introduces counting!  Up to three and back again! The book is small, a mere about 6”x7”, that fits perfectly in a toddler’s hands.  Two Mice is a great vehicle to encourage the child to tell the story in their own words.

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Swan, The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

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Swan, The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Chronicle Books,  2015

This poetically written story dances across the page to provide a glimpse into the early life of Anna Pavlova.  A young Russian girl born into a poor family, Anna is taken to a ballet performance. From that night on, she wanted to be a ballerina; she could not stop her body from moving.  She was not made to be a ballerina, her body was thin and frail, with a weak back and severely arched feet.  As a child, she danced continually, she could not stop.  Dancing became her only dream.  Eventually she was accepted into the Imperial Ballet School.   She was a natural ballerina.  When she steps onto the stage in her performance of The Dying Swan, it’s like she sprouts white wings and becomes a swan in a breath-taking performance.  The book contains an author’s note that includes additional biographical information.  The story and notes are a joy to read; inspiring for any young dancer.

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My New Mom and Me

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My New Mom and Me

by Renata Galindo
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016

In simple, muted colors, author/illustrator Renata Galindo shows how a newly adopted child (shown as a dog) adjusts to his new mother (shown as a cat).  At first the dog tries to look like his new mother, and the mother assures him he doesn’t need ‘fixing’ and that she likes that they are different.  The child plays with his mom and lets her take care of him.  Sometimes she makes him do things that make him mad and he doesn’t like her at that moment, but Mom assures him that they will be okay and they both must try harder.  They agree that they are learning how to be a family.  The story is nurturing, loving, understated and simply told so a young child who is adopted, or a friend of someone who is adopted, can grasp the subtleties of their new situation.

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Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs

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Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs

by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Clarion Books, 2016

A perfect way to introduce children to new animals while expanding their vocabulary.  Each page spread provides a new animal doing what it name suggests:  “Yaks yak”, “Bugs bug bugs” and “Flounders flounder.”  Once readers understand how it works, it’s truly irresistible for them to turn the page to see what animal and verb pair is next.  Included in the often humorous illustration is a short verb definition.  An afterward provides a fuller definition, including word origin.  Loose drawings, rendered in watercolor and pen, illustrate each word pair in a light, fun way.  The last word pair is a surprise, you’ll have to read it to find out!

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Take Your Mama to Work Today

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Take Your Mama to Work Today

by Amy Reichert, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012

Take Your Mama to Work Today is an instruction manual on how to take your mother to work.  From pushing the elevator button, to making photocopies, to helping your mom’s boss do a presentation, a fancy word for show and tell, the girl’s innocence permeates every page.  She investigates Mrs. Honey’s candy stash, learns that snack time is called coffee break at work, and she livens up a boring picnic with a quick game of chair tag.  For the parents, its fun to see how one girl understands “work”, and, for kids, it’s a warm up for the time they will be able to visit their parent’s workplace.  Lively, quirky illustrations show dozens of work activity possibilities for a young worker.

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