Monthly Archives: December 2016

Mousequerade Ball, A Counting Tale













Mousequerade Ball, A Counting Tale

by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Bloomsbury, 2016

With perfect rhyme woven into a complete story, this book teaches counting skills under a dashing cloak of fun!  Award-winning Lori Mortensen and Betsy Lewin have another winner.

We follow the crowd to the Mousequerade Ball and meet the entire cast of tidy mice who clean the rooms, black-tied mice who strum their lutes, baker mice who prepare fluff puff crumbs and silly jesters that do amazing tricks.  UNTIL…a cat arrives.  Then we count down as splendid ladies scatter across the floor, buccaneers scramble out the door and mice dash into sacks and cracks.  UNTIL…they learn the cat came to dance!  A fun story set in an elegant castle, perfect for young princes and princesses.

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When Green Becomes Tomatoes, Poems for All Seasons













When Green Becomes Tomatoes

Poems for All Seasons
by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Neal Porter Book, 2016

Written in e.e.cummings-style, with no capitals and periods, poems sprinkle randomly on the days of each month.  Some poems short, some a little longer, they each explore a seasonal moment common to most everyone’s experience, but said in fresh new ways.

march 26
shivering and huddled close
the forever rushing daffodils
wished they had waited

november 20
there is nothing left to bloom
or sprout
or bud
or grow
these showers will not bring you flowers at all
these showers are practice for snow

The book’s last poem is the same as the first poem told in spring, but told from the perspective of winter it takes on a new meaning. A clear, poetic, feeling experience of each season.  Delightful. Peaceful.  Adults will enjoy as much as children.

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The True Gift













The True Gift:  A Christmas Story

by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Brian Floca
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2009

While on their annual Christmas visit to their grandparent’s farm, Liam connects with this grandparent’s white cow.  Liam senses the cow is lonely since his buddy, a burro, returned to his family.  Sensitive to the animal’s needs, he decides to find a friend for White Cow for Christmas.  He posts “Friend for White Cow for Christmas” posters around town.  He learns of a brown calf, but it costs $200.  Liam and Lily pool their Christmas money, but are still short.  Find out what Liam sacrifices and how he saves the brown calf’s life.

A page-turning story for the holidays by Newbery Award winning author, Patricia MacLachlan.

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Quiet hero, animals, 9-12

A Family is a Family is a Family













A Family is a Family is a Family

by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Qin Leng
Groundwood Books, 2016

In a classroom setting, a teacher asks students what they thought made their family special.  One girl turned red and worried that her family was not like the others. Then one by one, each child shares what their family is like and, of course, some are giant, some are gay, some are deep, some are multi-racial, some have disabilities, etc.  She was finally able to share that she has a foster mom.  A gentle, safe exploration of how so many families are different.  Charming, educational, sweet, without the slightest hint that the reader is ‘learning’.  Lovely book.

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A Poem for Peter, the Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day












A Poem for Peter, The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day

by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
Viking, 2016

Written in poems, readers learn how Ezra Jack Keats bravely pioneered books in 1962 about African-American kids’ experience in the city.  Born of poor Jewish immigrant parents, Ezra faced prejudice early.  Drawn to be an artist, his father supported Ezra’s interests as much as he could with leftover paints.  Just when Ezra managed to get a scholarship for college, his dad died, and he had to earn a living to support his family. Enlisting in the Air Force for World War II, he made posters, booklets, charts, maps and art.  After the war, he returned to the same prejudices and decided to rearrange his name.  After he successfully illustrated a couple children’s books, the editors invited him to write and illustrate his own story. He created a story of Peter, a ‘brown-sugar boy’. In 1962, his book, The Snowy Day, led to six others.

The book takes you down a delightful lane sharing how Ezra came to do his books and how much kids enjoyed them.  Illustrations used are similar to Ezra Jack Keats style.  A great reminiscent look down memory lane for parents, a great introduction to a writer/artist for children.

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Little Night Cat













Little Night Cat

by Sonja Danowski
NorthSouth Books, 2016

Little Night Cat’s breath-taking illustrations will capture reader’s hearts in this heartfelt story of a young boy who gives away his most cherished possessions.

Tony wakes in anticipation of a big day at the animal shelter.  He decides to donate his collection of stuffed animals.  His mother suggests that it is not a good idea, but Tony insists the animals want to do it to help. While at the shelter, Tony is attracted to a gray tomcat, who approaches Tony and purrs.  Without his animals, Tony can’t sleep that night and his mother pulls out of the closet an old, ragged stuffed animal from her childhood.  He begs her to bring the stuffed animal when she returns to pick him up from school.  She does not and he is crushed, until…he sees the surprise waiting for him.

Illustrations are rich in colors, rich in details, and moving. Each page is filled with life. This is the kind of art most can’t afford, but it can be found in a picture book. A book that will be read over and over again.

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The Christmas Boot













The Christmas Boot

by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016

A fresh tale of an old woman who lives alone in her ramshackle cabin in the snow-covered forest.  While collecting firewood, she spots a black boot.  She pulls it over her rag-wrapped foot.  Though grateful, she wishes she had its mate, and in the morning it appears!  Happy, she comments that if she had warm mittens, “I would be the happiest woman in the world,” and red mittens appear.  Amazed, she wonders if the boot will give her a big fancy house and when she returns that day, one appears. She later opens her door to a man in a red suit with one boot.  She returns the boot.  He leaves behind boots and mittens and when she goes to bed, she discovers her heart’s desire, ‘someone to talk to.’  Beautifully illustrated in pencil and watercolors, this Santa tale will capture young hearts for Christmas.

Lisa Wheeler and Jerry Pinkney teamed up for a delightful, snuggle-under-the-blanket read and pure enjoyment.

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Adventures in Asian Art, An Afternoon at the Museum













Adventures in Asian Art, An Afternoon at the Museum

By Sue DiCicco with Deborah Clearwaters and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Tuttle Publishing, 2016

In Adventures in Asian Art, An Afternoon at the Museum we follow a girl and her brother as they explore 53 pieces of art at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The author and illustrator cleverly work in how the children interact with each art piece shown.  They meditate with the Buddha, they ride rhinos, they wear samurai warrior suits of armor.  The story is written in simple, up-beat rhyme, blending the art with the child’s imagination:

“You’ll dance with the Sky-walker
And clear the path ahead.
You’ll carry the fire of wisdom
Through the hair upon your head.”

Juxtaposing the rhymes with the art, the child can put together the references to each.  Each page invites the youngest into the fun and imagination of the artwork, while showing the actual art piece itself.  Art pieces includes kimonos, statutes, puppets, paintings, and more from centuries ago to modern times.  Unlike traditional museum art books, this book is abundant with up-beat energy and kid-like fun on every page to draw in young readers.

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Winnie the Pooh, The Best Bear in All the World

winnie1Winnie the Pooh, the Best Bear in All the World
by Paul Bright, Brian Sibley, Jeanne Willis, and Kate Saunders
Dutton Books, 2016

I fell in love with the Winnie-the-Pooh gang in this collection of new Pooh stories written by today’s authors.  Who can resist the innocence and simple thinking, so much like young children?  While not a picture book, an illustration rests on every page for young listeners to gaze upon. Each story introduces an intruder or danger and the members of the Pooh gang try to make sense of it. Outside of their experience, they make guesses at which adults will chuckle, but which toddlers often take serious, until the end of the story when all becomes well.

The book contains four stories.  Pooh and Piglet meet a dragon, Penguin arrives at the forest, Eeyore suspects Another Donkey is after his thistles, and the Sauce (source) of the Nile.  A book perfect for snuggling under a blanket and reading on a cold winter evening.

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