Archive for April, 2011


New Photos from Breaking Dawn

Entertainment Weekly has a new batch of photos from the upcoming film Breaking Dawn.  Enjoy your Bella, Edward and Jacob fix!

The movie trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two has been released:

The movie is out in theaters on July 15th.

clink

Clink by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Matthew Myers

Clink used to be a new robot, but now he is dusty and squeaky.  Even his ability to make toast and play music doesn’t attract the children anymore.  Instead they want newer robots with retractable arms or the ability to bake cookies.  When Clink tried to be like the newer robots, it never worked well.  Finally Clink just gave up and hid himself away.  A long time later, a boy came to the shop and wasn’t interested in any of the new robots.  As the boy left the store, he played a song on a harmonica.  When Clink heard the music, he came to life.  He began to sing and then to dance.  But just as he caught the boy’s attention, a spring popped free and hit the boy right in the face.  Had Clink lost his chance to finally find a home?

DiPucchio has created a world where robots are cool but only if they are new.  Her writing is long enough to really describe a full world.  The book reads aloud easily and has a great built-in appeal with the charm of Clink himself on the cover and the robot theme. 

Myers helps visually build the world that DiPucchio describes so well.  His depictions of the new robots are just as whimsical as Clink himself.  I especially enjoy the hair-cutting robot that moves around on a broom and the cookie-baking robot that wheels around on a rolling pin.  Myers uses bright colors and deep colors together.  He manages to make the robots feel physical and real.

A good pick for any young robot lover, who might enjoy designing their own robot on paper and giving it some interesting capabilities too.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

allthewaytoamerica

All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel by Dan Yaccarino

Yaccarino tells the story of several generations of his Italian family in this picture book.  The book starts with his great-grandfather who grew up in a farm in Sorrento, Italy.  He headed for America in search of new opportunities, leaving his parents behind.  His father gave him a little shovel, reminding him to work hard, but remember to enjoy life.  His mother told him to never forget his family.  As time goes on, Michael and his descendants used the small shovel in a variety of ways.  Michael used it at his first job in America to scoop flour and sugar.  When he opened his own pushcart, he used it to measure dried fruits and nuts.  His son Dan used the little shovel in his market.  His son Mike used it to pour salt on the icy sidewalks in front of his barbershop.  And now Dan, the author of the book, worked hard himself and uses the shovel to on their terrace to grow fruits and vegetables.

I love the use of the symbol of the shovel to tie the different generations together.  Additionally, the ways that the shovel is used by different people add an interesting piece to everyone’s story.  Yaccarino has created a vibrant picture book from his heritage that is warm, friendly and intriguing.  His writing contains just enough detail to be interesting and to evoke a specific time, but not too much for the young audience.

Yaccarino’s illustrations have a wonderful graphic nature to them that is fresh, modern yet evokes the past clearly.  Watching the features of the family change from one generation to the next is a treat.  The illustrations are filled with color to the edges of the page, making for a bright, complete world.

A great pick to use with youngsters learning about their family tree, this book would also make a good place to start off family conversations.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

Also reviewed by Jen Robinson’s Book Page.

You can also take a look at the book trailer:

nosleepforthesheep

No Sleep for the Sheep! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

A very silly read-aloud that follows in the tradition of funny bedtime stories set on farms.  Here, the sheep is very tired and wants nothing more than to go to sleep.  But one by one, he is bothered by animals.  First a duck, then a goat, a pig, a cow, and even a horse.  And no one leaves for their own bed, but instead joins the sheep where he sleeps.  And in the end, just when the sheep finally is able to fall asleep, there is one last noisy animal to wake him up.  This time with a COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!

Beaumont has created a text that reads aloud beautifully.  It has a rollicking rhythm and a pattern that repeats again and again.  This makes it ideal for toddlers and young preschoolers, who will enjoy the repetition.  The humor of the text is delightfully simple, made from the silliness of animal noises and interruptions. 

Urbanovic’s art adds a jolly tone to the book.  The fuzzy and increasingly manic sheep, the rotund pink pig, and the mounds of sleeping animals add to the fun.  The facial expressions of the animals are funny all on their own as well.

Add this to any farm story time or any bedtime story times you do.  It will be enjoyed by small children with big senses of humor looking to avoid going to bed.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

queenofthefalls

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg

What does a daredevil look like?  What traits must they embody?  Take the first person who ever went over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  Who do you think that person might be?  I’ll bet you didn’t think of a retired charm school teacher named Annie Edson Taylor.  She decided to try for fame and fortune through her stunt.  So she had a custom-made barrel designed and created, riding it over the falls in 1901.  This picture book follows her through her decision, preparations, over the falls, and then how her chance at fame turned out.  It is a book that explores fame, courage, and stereotypes.

Van Allsburg’s writing is rich, offering more text than is usually found in a picture book.  His picture books tend to have more text and be aimed at an older audience than general picture books, so this is exactly in the vein of his previous work.  The writing offers readers a glimpse into Annie’s though process as she changed from teacher to daredevil.  So much of the story would have been lost without the writing to carry it.

Of course any Van Allsburg book is about the illustrations.  He captures moments of inspiration, times of disappointment and anger, and also what a person’s face would look like as they go over Niagara Falls.  There is a beauty to this feisty woman who would not stop because of derision from those around her.  Van Allsburg reveals her as a real heroine in his book, creating incredible moments of tension in his art.

Highly recommended, this book celebrates a vibrant, risk-taking woman who deserves to be much better known than she currently is.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

HurricaneDancers

Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle

Engle’s latest historical novel in verse explores piracy in the Caribbean Sea in the 1500s.  It is the story of Quebrado, a fictionalized character, who is a slave aboard a pirate ship.  Also on the ship is Alonso de Ojeda who has been captured.  That ship, owned by real historical figure Bernardino de Talavera, becomes shipwrecked.  The story is populated by people from history, but told primarily through the voice of Quebrado.  It is a pirate story that removes the swashbuckling glamour and tells the bitter truth about what piracy was.

Engle captures such emotion in her verse, creating moments of pain, wonder and even delight in this brutal story.  The book is immensely engaging, thanks to its brisk pace and lively subject matter.  There is adventure and even a touch of romance in this story, giving light in the darkness of slavery and piracy. 

Engle pays close attention to the native people of the islands, allowing glimpses into their lives and their beliefs.  They make a great foil to the lying, manipulations of the pirates.  It is a story that is elegantly crafted and vividly written.

A great choice for late elementary and middle school students who are interested in history and pirates.  This is a book that is fast, fascinating and fabulous.  Appropriate for ages 11-14.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by:

perfectsquare

Perfect Square by Michael Hall

One perfect square is transformed again and again into something surprising and new.  On Monday, the square had holes poked in it and was cut into pieces, so it became a fountain.  On Tuesday, the square was torn into scraps, so it became a garden.  Shredded strips became a park.  Shattered shards became a bridge.  Ribbons with curves became a river.  Wrinkles and crumples became a mountain.  Until finally, the square was just a square again and had to find a way to change within its four sides.  The result?  Triumphant!

This very simple premise offers small children a glimpse at art and inspiration.  It celebrates creativity, creating something new from something ripped, crumpled or sliced.  Hall sets the perfect tone with his brief text, allowing the images to do most of the work in the book.  My favorite part of the text is that the square is the one reinventing itself rather than an outside force doing the creativity.  It changes the dynamic of the book entirely.

I can see so many art project emerging from this book.  Get it into the hands of elementary art teachers in your school district!  If you enjoy crafts with your preschool story times, share some squares of paper in a variety of colors, offer scissors, hole punches, markers and more.  You just wait to see what those children create!  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Fuse #8 and There’s a Book.

smallacts

Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan

Rosalind is not a normal British child living in India in 1918.  The other girls her age are shipped back to England for boarding school or spend their days at the club flirting covertly with young English soldiers and swimming in the pool.  Rosalind has never been to England, her mother refused to send her to boarding school because her older brother died in England while at school.  Rosalind doesn’t identify with the other English girls.  Instead her best friend is the daughter of one of the Indian servants and together they make illicit visits to the bazaar.  When Rosalind’s father returns from World War I, he brings with him stricter rules than Rosalind has been living under.  He disapproves of her friendships, forbids her going to the bazaar, and objects to her interest in Gandhi and his politics.  Rosalind’s world changes just as India begins to seek its independence from the British in this fascinating historical novel.

Rosalind is a great protagonist.  She is at odds with her English world, yet it is never pushed so far that her reactions and attitude loses touch with the historical setting.  She is strong, vibrant and a great lens to see India through because she is a bridge between modern readers and World War I.

Whelan creates her world with tiny touches, drawing India for readers in the details.  Her imagery is lovely, emphasizing the impermanence, the beauty, and the restlessness of the story. Yet the story does not drag at all.  This is historical fiction that is relevant, vital and interesting.  The pacing is beautifully done, offering the languid pace of an India heat wave, the time it took to travel at that time, and the desperation of a people.

I am hopeful that we will read more of Rosalind’s story in an upcoming book.  I look forward to seeing where Whelan will take readers next.  Perfect for middle school readers who will enjoy the engaging heroine and the touch of romance.  Appropriate for readers age 10-13.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Also reviewed by:

999tadpoles

999 Tadpoles by Ken Kimura, illustrated by Yasunari Murakami

Released May 1, 2011.

999 tadpoles are born in a small pond but when they turn into frogs, they completely run out of room to even breathe!  So mother and father frog decide they must find a new home to live in.  All of the 999 tadpoles follow their father across a big field.  He warns them about the dangers of snakes, just a moment before the little frogs come dragging a sleepy snake up to him.  They escape that danger, but don’t notice the hawk circling above them.  Down comes the hawk and grabs the father frog in his talons.  But when he flies up into the sky again, it is not just the father frog that comes along for the ride, but all of the frog family.  It’s a much heavier load than the hawk can manage, but what will happen if the frogs are dropped?

Kimura has written a book is a friendly, conversational style that is a pleasure to read aloud.  The voices of the little frogs and their parents are clear and individual.  Get ready to speak in more than one froggy voice for this book!  Kimura has also built plenty of action into his story which has adventure and dangers that will keep children’s attention.

Murakami’s illustrations create a very unique feel to the book.  Using white space to great effect, the polished yet simple illustrations have a graphic appeal to them.  With so many of the illustrations being shown from the overhead perspective, the humor of the number of little frogs is never lost. 

A book about tadpoles and frogs that focuses on fun, family, and humor.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from NorthSouth Books.

Also reviewed by Kids Book Review.

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