Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Stone Thrower

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The Stone Thrower

by Jael Ealey Richardson, illustrated by Matt James
Groundwood Books, 2016

An inspiring, true story of Chuck Ealey who excelled at football when African American’s weren’t allowed to play.

A young boy living in the poor section of town, entertained himself by throwing rocks at the N on the N & W train cars that passed near his home.  At first he missed, but he taught himself how to hit the moving target every time.  His mom encouraged him to be like the trains that don’t stop until they get where they are going.  With her encouragement, he vowed to “…get out of the North End and get my education.”  In high school his coach asked him to be quarterback for his team.  He took a lot of grief for that, for many didn’t believe African Americans were smart enough to do that.  As quarterback, he won every high school game.  By 1971 he had won more games than any other quarterback in college football history.  Yet he wasn’t allowed to play on American professional teams, because of his skin color.  To achieve his dream, he left and played in Canada.

Inspiring story.  Moving illustrations are in pen and ink and splashes of bold acrylics.

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Pirate’s Perfect Pet

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Pirate’s Perfect Pet

by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Matt Myers
Candlewick Press, 2016

Pirate Captain Crave receives a note in a bottle listing what makes a perfect pirate and discovers he’s missing one thing, “Well, shuck me an oyster and set sail for land.  We needs to find me a pet.”  He and his crew hit the beach in search of their pet, but are not impressed with cranky crabs, clingy octopus’ or quiet clams, so they march to a farm and finally a zoo.  But it’s not until they go to the Pet Emporium that Captain Crave discovers a bird with attitude that stands up to his swashbuckling crew.  The bold, detailed illustrations in acrylic and oil both set the scene for the Captain’s story and rustles up another story for good measure.  This humorous tale includes a pirate who sports pink bunny slippers.  A jolly good read.

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Let’s Play

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Let’s Play
by Herve Tullet
Chronicle Books, 2016

Another interactive book by Herve Tullet, Let’s Play begins with a yellow dot who’s a bit bored.  To get started, he invites the reader to press the top corner.  On the next page the yellow dot is up in the corner.  The dot rides the wild lines, a ‘carousel’ and plays hide and seek with the reader.  Together, they enter a dark tunnel, a messy page of squiggles and come to a tall red ‘mountain’.  Let’s Play is the perfect book to introduce colors, stop lights, counting and having fun.  A perfect way to quietly play with a child.

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Surf’s Up

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Surf’s Up

by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Daniel Miyares
North South Books, 2016

When I read that this book was already changing non-reader’s opinion about reading, I had to find out why. I was even more curious when I saw that Newbery Medal award winner, Kwame Alexander, wrote it.  He gives voice to inside tensions, and, in a playful, appealing way, he does that with Surf’s Up.

The story opens with laid-back slang and the promise of surfing, but one character exclaims, “Not yet, Dude,” as he sits riveted to a book.  His friend can’t believe a book has captured his buddy, and he drags his buddy—with his book—towards the beach.  His buddy cries out his excitement as the story’s tension mounts and the friend must ask, “What happened?”  As his buddy draws him into a story of whales and pirates and storms and dangers, the friend, too, becomes excited about the story.  He asks how the story ends, but his buddy says, “Not telling.”  Lured into the story, the friend opens the book, while his buddy surfs the waves.

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First Grade, Here I Come!

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First Grade, Here I Come!

by D.J. Steinberg, illustrated by Tracy Bishop
Grosset & Dunlap, 2016

A collection of light and fun story rhymes about what happens in the first grade.  From the first-day excitement of backpacks, desks and books, to visiting the library, to a great mishap on a field trip—that made it the greatest adventure ever!  It also includes the very important experience of finding, losing and re-earning a BFF.  Fun-time stories clear to the last day of school.  The lightness and simplicity of the rhymes, stories and illustrations makes this a wonderful invitation to entering the first grade.   I don’t usually review age-specific picture books, but I happened to pick this one up and found it fun.  The author’s first book was targeted for starting kindergarten, worth looking at if you’ve got a young one starting school.

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You Make Me Happy

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You Make Me Happy
by An Swerts, illustrated by Jenny Bakker
Clavis Publishing, 2015
Originally published in Belgium and Holland

The exquisite artwork and title attracted me to this book. The story opens with Sofia blowing little clouds on the window and drawing little hearts.  When Grandma and Sofia go for a walk, Sofia asks, “Is it possible to love someone too much?”  They discuss Sofia’s very important concern, Grandma sharing when she first told Grandpa she liked him.  Grandma encourages Sofia to find a special place to tell her friend she likes him.  Sofia tells her friend in a very creative way.

A sweet story about what is a major concern for some children, their first love.  Loose illustrations highlight character’s faces and truly speak to the heart and introduce children to love.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Jumping Off Library Shelves, A Book of Poems

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Jumping Off Library Shelves, A Book of Poems
selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Jane Manning
WordSong, 2015

Jumping Off Library Shelves brims with the hope of dreams, possibilities, and adventures about what can be found in the library.  Beneath the words of each poem, there’s a palpable connection each poet has with the library.  Readers can feel it.  Even the title selection shows that excitement of reading and how the perfect book just seems to jump off the shelf.  Through this collection of library poems, readers can feel each poet’s love of libraries, from racing to the library, to owning a library card, to the magic found in books.  The illustrations, done in gouache and pencil, show the warmth, magic, and richness books bring into reader’s lives.   Poets in this collection include Nikki Grimes, J. Patrick Lewis X.J. Kennedy and more.  A delight for book lovers.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

River of No Return, The Black Rock Desert Trilogy, Book III

batsRiver of No Return, The Black Rock Desert Trilogy, Book III
by Rachael Freeman Long
Tate Publishing, 2016

When wolves attacked a herd of cows, Jack knows something is wrong.  When Jack meets up with his friends Sonny, a coyote, Pinta, a bat, and Midas, a raven, he learns the evil poachers are back.  They have encountered this gang before and they are determined to stop them forever.  A complex tale that includes the former lead pack wolf, banned from the pack; Sonny’s parents who had been captured; and poacher Sarge and his motley crew Earl and Mack.  Set in a desert wilderness where copper and gold mines and old volcano flows once flourished, it soon becomes a battle to stay alive as they trail the poachers.  River of No Return is a riveting story, each page turning itself.  Author Rachael Freeman Long, an expert on bats in real life, weaves in details about bats that become critical in the friends’ survival and success.

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Jack’s Worry

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Jack’s Worry

by Sam Zuppardi
Candlewick Press, 2016

A beautiful portrayal of how worries can cloud over life’s joys, and how they can be faced and tamed.

Jack has been practicing this trumpet for days for his first-ever concert.  But on the morning of the concert a worry appeared in his bedroom.  He tried to hide from it, he tried to run from it, but it followed him and seemed to grow bigger and darker.  When he played his joy, his trumpet, he only made things worse.  Unable to contain his worry, he shouted to his mom, “I don’t want to go!”  In doing so, he found the courage to face his fear and share it with his mom.  By the time he got to the concert, he saw the other kid’s fears and he knew exactly what to do.  Told as much in the loose and moving acrylic and pencil illustrations as in the words, this book can reach and reassure the heart of even the youngest readers as they begin to worry about what’s important to them in life.

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Mixed Me!

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Mixed Me!
By Taye Diggs, Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Feiwel and Friends, 2015

Mike’s voice is strong as he charges through his day.  He whips past his dad and past his mom with a “Hi!” and “Bye!”  When classmates comment that his parents don’t match, Mike hears his parents say, “We mixed you perfectly, and got you JUST RIGHT!”  Confident in his own skin, he says to his classmates, “If you don’t get it, then you don’t get it.”  The bold-action illustrations match Mike’s boldness in life.  Written in loose rhyme, almost rapping, the story shows how race and the color of one’s skin means little in the scheme of things.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.