Month: April 2011

Book Review: Clink by Kelly DiPucchio


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.

Book Review: All the Way to America by Dan Yaccarino


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:

Book Review: No Sleep for the Sheep! by Karen Beaumont


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.

Book Review: Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg


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.

Book Review: Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle


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.

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