Archive for September, 2010


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Mimi Loves to Mimic by Yih-Fen Chou, illustrated by Chih Yuan Chen

Mimi Says No by Yih-Fen Chou, illustrated by Chih Yuan Chen

These two books capture the essence of being a toddler and the ups and downs of their days.

In Mimi Loves to Mimic, Mimi copies whatever the grownups in her family are doing.  She throws things away, puts on lipstick, plays the trumpet, makes “soup” and even shushes people.  When Mimi kisses her mother after being kissed, the other adults share some kisses too.  Just like Mimi.

In Mimi Says No, Mimi does the classic toddler trick of saying no to absolutely everything.  She wants to dress herself, pour her own milk, walk alone, and slide down the slide on her own.  But when she ends up getting hurt a little, she finds her own way to get a hug from her mother.

Chou’s words are brief and simple.  Yet they have a wonderful rhythm to them, refrains that repeat, and a steady structure that toddler will enjoy.  Chen’s art may have readers wondering just what kind of creature Mimi is, but that only lasts for moments before the story pulls you in.  The art is friendly, clear and very child friendly.  Children will see themselves in the picture books, but they are not here to teach lessons.  Rather they are a celebration of toddlerhood itself.

These books have been translated into 14 languages from their original Chinese. Their appeal is universal and will surely find a place in American toddler’s reading.  Appropriate for ages 2-3.

Reviewed from copies received from Independent Publishers Group.

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Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires

This sequel to Binky the Space Cat continues Binky’s adventures as a cat who believes he lives in outer space.  The graphic novel format is an ideal way to showcase the wry humor of the story.  In this latest adventure, Binky is busily battling his enemies, the insects that he considers aliens.  But when he pushes too hard on a window screen, he falls out the window and into the backyard, or outer space!  Luckily, Binky thinks quickly and finds a oxygen source (the garden hose) and ties himself down securely to keep from floating off (on a garden gnome.)  He takes notes on alien activity and as he is doing that notices that his co-pilot Ted has also fallen into outer space.  But before he can rescue Ted, he is attacked by wasps and then taken inside by his human.  Now Binky must launch a brave rescue of Ted by re-entering the vastness of outer space.

Spires’ illustrations are very funny, showing the truth of Binky’s situation clearly to the reader.  Much of the humor is physical and vaudevillian, playing out in the illustrations themselves.  The use of graphic novel format will make this series one that children, especially reluctant readers, will pick up and enjoy.  Even better, Spires is not afraid of using some fart humor every now and then.  Perfect for the target age.

The text is just as funny as the illustrations, taking a wonderful tone that will immediately have readers connecting it with science fiction films.  Nicely, the narration plays entirely into Binky’s fantasy, so readers themselves have to get the joke of the books.  And they definitely will.

A great sequel to the first book, this book should be added to elementary school graphic novel collections and children’s collections in public libraries.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

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If you love videos that are trailers for children’s and teen books, then The Trailee Awards is the competition for you!  The nominees have been narrowed by a panel of judges to 24 finalists.

The finalists are broken into six categories with four videos competing in each section.  The sections are:

Publisher/Author created for elementary readers

Publisher/Author created for secondary readers

Adult (18+) created for elementary readers

Adult (18+) created for secondary readers

Student created for elementary readers

Student created for secondary readers

 

Take some time, watch the videos and cast your vote!

Where the Sunrise Begins

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Where the Sunrise Begins by Douglas Wood, illustrations by Wendy Popp

Wood’s poem asks the question “Where does the sunrise begin?”  He then offers ideas of where it might begin.  Perhaps the mountains?  Maybe the treetops?  Could it be the marsh, the lake or the sea?  Maybe different regions of the world?  The Middle East, Africa or the Far East.  In the end, readers will be warmed by his answer of where exactly the sunrise begins.  Written in beautiful language, this book truly celebrates our world and each one of us. 

Wood has written a lengthy poem that is ethereal and beautiful.  At the same time, he doesn’t rely on large words to convey his message.  His writing is simple yet compelling.  The use of the question as a refrain offers a necessary structure to the poem, giving young readers a place to return to and start again on another quest for the answer. 

Popp’s illustrations really make this book glow.  Each page is a powerful image, filled with light and softness.  The images are done in conte crayon and pastel that have a depth of color that is amazing.  The complex colors of daybreak are captured in the pages, with their pinks and blues that mix at no other time of day.  Popp has captured the special texture and weight of this light.

A beautiful book, this is a poem worth reading combined with illustrations that elevate.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

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StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Published on October 1st, 2010.

When I find a book that is entrancing and beautifully written, I want to linger with it.  So this book took me an awfully long time to read as I savored each page. 

Digger is a thief on the run after her partner is captured by the Greenmen.  Wounded and afraid, she finds escape from the city with a small group of aristocrats on a boat.  This turns into more than just a way to escape the city, as Digger, who now calls herself Celyn, is slowly drawn into their world.  She accompanies the family to a rebuilt fortress in the high mountains, even farther outside of the city.  There she finds herself looked after and cared for in a way that she never has been.  But as a thief, she cannot relax.  Her forays to find information get her blackmailed by one of the family friends, who wants to use her skills for personal reasons.  The more secrets Digger uncovers, the more alarming they are, as the country heads to war.

The world building in this fantasy novel is beautifully done.  The world is completely envisioned and brought to life for the reader.  Each piece makes sense, from the banning of the use of magic to the Inquisition itself.  The turning away from a pantheon of gods and goddesses to a single God makes for an additional layer to the story, adding to its depth. 

Digger herself is an incredible heroine.  She is strong, independent and smart.  At the same time, she doesn’t lose her femininity at all.  I really enjoyed a teen heroine who is not crushing on a boy, but rather is consumed with the mysteries before her.  While others do play a part in uncovering some of the mystery, Digger does all of the work.  As she uncovers each piece and is confused by the details, readers will be right there with her trying to puzzle it all out. 

Highly recommended, get this into the hands of fans of Tamora Pierce and Shannon Hale.  Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

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The Fantastic 5&10 Cent Store

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The Fantastic 5&10 Cent Store: A Rebus Adventure by J. Patrick Lewis and Valorie Fisher

Something new has appeared at the end of town.  Benny Penny sets off to find out what it is and discovers a five and dime store that is filled with unusual items.  The only thing missing at the store are customers and Benny Penny has an idea of how to bring them in!  Pure silliness, this book celebrates the hodgepodge of an old-fashioned dime store with its amazing mishmash of offerings. Told in rebus format, this book is not designed for emerging readers because the rebus clues are rather difficult.  Instead hand this one to reluctant readers who are a bit older and will enjoy deciphering the story. 

Lewis has written a poem filled with the strange and zany.  It is perfect fodder for a rebus because it offers so much to draw from for the clues.  Fisher’s illustrations and her rebus creations are very colorful and creative.  They have a combination of vintage prints, physical items and modern illustrations.  The mix is refreshing and fun, just like the rest of the book.

The puzzles in the rebus can be difficult to decipher, but that just makes it all the more rewarding and fun to try.  Readers can also use context in the sentences to help with figuring things out. 

An unusual and adept book that will have readers puzzling things out with smiles on their faces.  Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

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In Front of My House by Marianne Dubuc

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened this book.  It’s not a normal picture book size, being rather square and short.  But it was the length that threw me most of all.  It’s much longer than most picture books, having the heft of a chapter book.  But oh how I enjoyed this squat little book.

The book starts out on a hill under a tree with a house.  In front of the house is a rosebush.  On the rosebush is a little bird.  Above the bird is a window.  Head through the window, and the into the room, open the book of fairy tales and your journey really begins.  This is a very engaging book with short sentences that bridge the page turn so that the next step of the story is hidden until you turn the page.  It is a very simple concept, but one that mirrors a child’s imagination so closely that it reaches beyond that simplicity and becomes something more.  One really never knows what is around that next page turn…

Dubuc keeps her sentences very basic, using only a single adjective at times and plenty of prepositional phrases.  Her illustrations have the same simple approach with plenty of white space that allows the object itself to really be highlighted.  The book design is exceptional.  The words curve, blast, stand vertical like a tree, hang upside down.  It is a dynamic book that is delightful to read. 

This is a book that will inspire circular story telling in children and will work to get creative juices flowing.  What other book has vampires, werewolves, a whale, a dragon, a bear, and a lost baby penguin?  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

Also reviewed by:

 

The Guardian has a new series of audio slideshows where “some of the most revered names in children’s illustrated books discuss their works.”  They are absolutely delightful.  There are two slideshows so far in the collection.  The first was with Eric Hill, celebrating Spot’s 30th birthday.  The second is with Raymond Briggs.

Both men speak of how they fell into illustrating children’s books and their subsequent careers.  I really enjoy the slideshow format with an audio interview accompanying it.  A marvelous way to spend some time with beloved characters and artists.

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Ivy Loves to Give

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Ivy Loves to Give by Freya Blackwood

Ivy is a little girl who loves to give gifts.  She gives a snail a shoe, glasses to the dog, tea to the hen, and a pacifier to the cat.  Wait, that doesn’t feel right.  Sometimes she does get it all right.  The baby gets his pacifier.  Her mother gets her tea, now with an egg in the cup.  Her grandmother gets the glasses.  Her father gets his shoe.  But there is one thing that Ivy doesn’t want to give away, even though it’s not hers to keep.  But she has just the right gift to say thank you for something given to her.

Blackwood keeps this book short and very sweet.  Her brief lines of text are ideal for toddlers who will understand both the love of gifting and the love of keeping all wrapped up together.  While the concept of the book is simple and will have children laughing at the mix-ups, Blackwood nicely ties the end together with something a bit more complicated.  Handled very successfully, the topic of giving and taking is secondary to the family relationships we see at work in the book.

Blackwood’s art is done in pencil and watercolor, giving it a beautiful softness.  The layout of the book is done with attention to the way it will read, offering plenty of white space beyond that needed for the words themselves.  This expansive feel makes the book feel welcoming and warm.  Her colors are vibrant and work to create illustrations that will function well with a group.

A solid choice for toddlers, this book is appropriate for ages 1-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.

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The Last Train by Gordon Titcomb, illustrated by Wendell Minor

Based on a song by Gordon Titcomb, this book celebrates the days of the steam engines and small depots.  A modern child visits the decrepit old depot in his town, the rusty tracks that no long gleam.  He thinks about his grandfather and father and the work they did on the railroad.  He dreams of huge engines and shiny cars streaking past.  His box of memorabilia has plenty of memories stored inside of the glory days of the railroad.  Titcomb’s words are enduring as he speaks to the wondrous power of the steam locomotive and the days when they ran.  Minor’s art brings both modern days and history to life in warm colors, allowing young train enthusiasts to dream along with him about the power of steam.

Titcomb’s song and this book really celebrate the steam engine and the magic that those days still hold for modern children.   The entire book is nicely summed up in the final lines:

A blast of steam,

the whistle screamed its mournful last refrains,

Long silent, though its echo still remains.

The words are poetry, they rhyme and dance, chugging along at times, at others sleekly gliding past.  He captures the joy of the rails perfectly.

Minor’s art is celebrates the trains too.  From the engine in the darkness under a star-filled sky to the caboose disappearing as the snow blows in.  But he also celebrates a child’s relationship with trains.  His old depot is filled with details that bring it to life.  His meadows of flowers serve as a backdrop to the aging railyard.  His flattened coins remind us all of sunny days and the surprising warmth of a smashed coin after the train goes by.  In short, he shows us just why we all love trains.

A beautiful book, this is sure to be enjoyed by train lovers old and young.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from illustrator.

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