I Am Yoga by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (InfoSoup)
A girl explains how yoga helps her in her day. When she is feeling the world is moving too quickly and that her thoughts are racing, she uses yoga to slow her mind, stop her heart from racing, and make room for creativity and ideas. The book then moves into the girl doing yoga positions which she describes in terms of the way that they make her feel. They make her shine like a star, feel like she is dancing with the moon, seeing far and wide, and sailing on the sea. She also talks about what those moves do, like make her more focused, open her heart, and be more playful. Basically, it is a book that celebrates yoga and the many ways that it can impact your day and make you more mindful.
Verde’s words are ones of joy and cheer. She captures the zing of the busy day and the distractions that come with it. Then comes the centering and slowing and the yoga, that are quieter and even more joyful. The focus is on the beauty of those moments, the way they transform a person and the feeling that you are left with afterwards. The mindful piece is clearly there, though yoga and its movements takes center stage.
Reynolds uses simple images to convey the feelings of the various movements. Awash with watercolors, the line drawings glow on the page. Some pages have just one color while others have sunsets of oranges, yellows and purples. The use of the bright colors makes the book a rainbow to read, moving from one feeling to the next and guided by the colors themselves.
A vivid and lovely look at yoga and its power to transform, the book ends with a guide to the yoga positions seen in the book. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando (InfoSoup)
Black Cat is entirely black, from his ears to his tail. White Cat is entirely white. Black Cat only goes out during the day when he can see swallows flying, White Cat only goes out at night when the stars are out. Then one day, Black Cat decides to see the night. And that is how Black Cat and White Cat meet. The two decide to explore day and night together. The night has fireflies while the day has bumblebees. The day has daisies, birds and butterflies while the night has snakes, bats and mice. The two cats become best friends, and eventually have kittens of their own. And you will never guess what color they are!
Borando is an Italian author. Here she uses lovely simple language to convey the wonder of both night and day as seen through a fresh set of eyes. The budding friendship of the two cats is captured in a lively way on the page, each of them sharing their world with the other. The illustrations and design of the book is what makes it special. The use of just the two colors on the page, black and white is done with a subtle humor. Borando creates scenarios where the black cat provides the dark background for the white cat to appear against in the day time and then reverses it. These clever little twists are a joy.
Graphically interesting and beautifully designed, this picture book even has a surprise ending to enjoy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
Archer lives in a house that his grandparents filled with all of their discoveries from exploring the world. That’s the closest that Archer has ever gotten to having his own adventure. In fact, he’s really not allowed to leave the house except to attend school because his mother is afraid that he has “tendencies” towards exploring. And she is right! Even though he is stuck in the house, Archer manages to make two close friends in Oliver and Adelaide. The three of them begin planning to rescue Archer’s grandparents from the iceberg where they were last seen two years ago. They have to avoid detection from Archer’s mother as well as their horrible teacher who also lives in their neighborhood. As they plan their escape, the three friends are in for the adventure of a lifetime.
It is amazing that this is Gannon’s debut book. It is written with such surety and clarity. The plot is very strong, one that readers can count on answering questions after allowing the reader to puzzle and stew a bit. The writing is lovely, creating a setting that is clear and crisp. The house itself is a world separate from the rest, filled with mounted animals, surprising gifts, and red trunks. Descriptions are used to create this world and paint it before your eyes. They manage to not slow the pace of the book, which moves from leisurely storytelling to a wild mania at the end.
The illustrations too are exceptional. Done in old-fashioned full-color panels, they are filled with wonderful details. You get to see the various houses depicted in minute detail. The characters too are shown in a wonderful delicacy that shines with lamplight and sun. Even the darkness of the classroom is lit from the side, glowing with a wonder that matches the storyline.
An imaginative and wonderful read, this book is one to snuggle up with and share aloud. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:
7Imp – The Women of Finding Winnie – http://buff.ly/1FdIAYE –
9 Ways People Who Read As Kids Have An Advantage Over Everyone Else – http://buff.ly/1QWTBP
Concerns over gendered children’s books and its impact – http://buff.ly/1KmqWi5
Katherine Applegate on Crenshaw – The Horn Book – http://buff.ly/1OspkJI
Katherine Rundell shares her list of the greatest literary wolves – http://buff.ly/1iVqQae
Roald Dahl Books to Be Given Away in Happy Meals in the U.K. http://buff.ly/1FfQ0uC
Roald Dahl Funny prize for children’s books is closed down – http://buff.ly/1FfKuZ1
Schoolboy calls for more disabled characters in children’s books – http://buff.ly/1Kxa77C
The St. Paul Public Library’s transformation – http://buff.ly/1Jl98Cd
Some Kids’ Books Are Worth The Wait: ‘They Do Take Time,’ Says Kevin Henkes – http://buff.ly/1WiTsIU
Top 10 reasons to go comic book crazy! – http://buff.ly/1Jf5x8J
Brace yourself for The Seattle Public Library name change – http://buff.ly/1L3IdlI
Cross-Country Mission To Track Down Carnegie Libraries – http://buff.ly/1Mmh8r7
The Public Library’s New Role As Community Center – http://buff.ly/1Jq5OWl
Serving Your LGBT Teen Patrons – http://buff.ly/1MHiqA4
Ted Dawe explains how his teen book got banned in New Zealand – http://buff.ly/1WiUiFH
Why we need books exploring Muslim teen identity – http://buff.ly/1jbdCXb
Public Radio International has the news of a new study that reveals yet another reason that reading is important for children. The study done at University of California Riverside shows that the text of children’s books contains “substantially more unique words than ordinary parent-child conversation.”
Transcripts of conversations were compared with text from a hundred children’s picture books, largely compiled from book lists from teachers and librarians, Amazon and the most popular books at the local public library.
The difference is incredible, with 70% more unique words in books than in speech.
The next step in the study of text vs. speech will be focused on sentence-level differences.
The Inker’s Shadow by Allen Say
Released September 29, 2015.
This companion book to the author’s Drawing from Memory continues the story of Say’s life. In this book, Say arrives in the United States as a teenager. His father had arranged for him to attend a military school where he would work to earn his keep. He was expected to learn English and prove that be could be a success. But Say was the only Japanese student at the school and soon racism had become an issue. His father helped kick him out of school and sent him on his way. Say managed to find a safe place to live as well as a school that would let him graduate along with his peers rather than moving him back to classes with much younger students. Say continued to work on his art in the United States and at this new school he gained the attention of several important people who arranged for him to attend art classes and art school at no charge.
This autobiographical picture book is an inspiring story of a teen given up by his father who discovers a way forward towards his dream. Say does not linger on the more painful moments in his story, allowing them to speak for themselves since they are profoundly saddening. His honesty in this book is captivating and allows readers to deeply relate to his story.
The Caldecott medalist paints landscapes from his past as well as providing multiple images of people he held dear. There are often both photographs and renderings of people in line drawings and full paintings. One gets to witness from this the skill of Say’s art as he perfectly captures these beloved people from his past.
A coming-of-age story that is bittersweet and imbued with hope for the future. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Scholastic and Edelweiss.
Maple & Willow Apart by Lori Nichols (InfoSoup)
Maple and Willow love playing together but what is going to happen when Maple goes off to kindergarten for the first time. On the first day, Maple came back from school and talked all about it. Willow had spent her day with a new friend, Pip, a friendly acorn she met. The next day Willow explored outside and Maple once again had lots of stories about her day when she returned home. Each day, Maple has stories about school but Willow also has stories about her day with Pip and all of the things they did together. Soon Maple is rather regretful about heading off to school, but the girls soon figure out a way that their days can still keep them in touch with one another.
This third book about Maple and her sister Willow delicately captures the experience of both the sister being left behind at home and the sister going off to school. There is the excitement of a new adventure for the older sister, the feeling of abandonment for the younger. There is the pull of wanting to be together for both of them, especially when the games at home seem so much fun. Nichols nicely figures out a way that works perfectly in the story for the girls to be connected and for their stories and experiences to continue on together in unison.
The art in all of the Maple and Willow books shines. Done in pencil on Mylar and digitally colored, the illustrations have a lightness that is captivating. The use of big colorful maple leaves is also very effective, and adds a distinct fall flavor to the entire read.
A great pick for families with children heading off to school for the first time and also for those left behind too. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.
Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon (InfoSoup)
The creator of Dragonbreath and Hamster Princess has an illustrated novel filled with sorcery, witches, magic and minions. The minions of Castle Hangnail are worried. If they don’t find a witch, wizard, sorceress or vampire to run the castle, it will be decommissioned and sold off by the Board of Magic. But the minions did not expect a twelve-year-old girl to show up on their doorstep, especially one that does not seem as wicked a witch as she should. Molly sets out to prove herself, taking on the list of requirements set by the Board of Magic. She is a natural witch and uses her magic to successfully turn a donkey into a dragon, though the spell does last a lot longer than expected. She also befriends the moles in the garden, vanquishes weeds alongside a local gardener, and tries to find a solution to the castle’s failing plumbing. But despite her success, Molly has been lying all along and her lies are about to tumble down around her and may have her leaving Castle Hangnail for good (or evil).
This novel works exceptionally well. Vernon captures a diverse set of characters. There is the guardian of the castle who is doubtful about Molly from the start, the animated suit of armor who would fight anyone who threatens the castle except that his knees seize up, Pins the animated fabric doll who is a great tailor, and his pet goldfish who suffers from being a hypochondriac. Against this wild cast Molly is refreshingly normal. She’s a girl who is not squeamish about bats or insects, enjoying that liking them counts as being wicked. She is clever in her solutions to the list of requirements and figures out how to use her uneducated power to accomplish great things.
The book is also illustrated, adding to the delight for the reader. There are just enough illustrations to have the book still be a novel but also to break up the blocks of text very nicely for young readers. Readers will enjoy seeing what Pins looks like, what a dragon-donkey appears as, and the little bat who is sent to stay with Molly because he likes being awake during the day. All of this adds to the friendly and fascinating menagerie of characters throughout the book, with Molly the wicked witch being the foil for all of it.
Filled with humor and a strong sense of home, this fantasy novel for children has enough action and magic to win the day. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
Scarecrow Magic by Ed Masessa, illustrated by Matt Myers (InfoSoup)
A shivery and wonderfully strange autumn read, this picture book explores what happens on the night of a full moon. It all starts with the moon bright in the sky and a scarecrow that starts to move. Magic is building all around, and creatures begin to emerge from the ground and the shadows. As the others arrive, the scarecrow unties himself, removes his clothes and then his skin! As a skeleton, he dashes around ready to play. He jumps rope with a vine, takes a dip in the pond, bowls with pumpkins, plays hide-and-seek. At snack time they all feast on worms and slug balls. By the time the sun rises, it’s all tidied up and Scarecrow is back to work on his post.
This picture book is not sweet and quiet, rather it’s a wild raucous picture book that has some darkness mixed in. So it may not be for every child and may not be ideal for right before bed. There is joy in a picture book that takes a autumn figure like a scarecrow and unveils the skeleton underneath. The magic at play all around in a rural area is also a treat to see come alive. The book is written in rhyme that bounces and dashes along, carrying this zingy story forward even faster. Halloween is not mentioned at all, but this would be a great pick for a read aloud at a Halloween event where scary darkness is to be expected and embraced.
Myers sets a great tone with his illustrations, creating a wonderful glow of the moon and a deep darkness of night. The skeleton’s white bones pop on the page as he gallivants around. The dark purples, blues and greens capture nighttime in the country. Against that backdrop, the strange creatures who come from the shadows and the ground are a mix of friendly and fearsome that works very well. They are just enough to be creepy but not really frightening.
Jaunty rhyme, a spooky night and one wild skeleton make for a treat of a book for a Halloween read. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko
Released September 29, 2015.
Mini and her mother almost hit a dog on their way home from Mini’s grandparents’ home. Mini’s mother hops out of the car and discovers that the dog is wearing bright yellow shoes. It doesn’t have a collar and there is no owner in sight, so they take the dog home with them. There, the dog starts to howl until they head out to the park together after purchasing a leash and collar. They get the attention of all of the dog owners at the park and the dog shows all of her tricks to everyone. Mini is very proud to be her owner. But when she tries to have the dog fetch a stick, the dog runs away. Now Mini knows that if she can find the dog again, she also has to find their original owner.
This book has such a marvelous sense of humor right from the beginning. If you only read the text, it is very simple and straight forward. Combined with the illustrations, it creates a rich humor that allows the text to be the straight man up againt the wild antics of the pictures. The book embraces the emotions of finding a stray animal, realizing that it probably has owners who are missing it, and then getting your own pet who actually suits you even better. The emotions are honest on the page, creating real heart in a book that could have been simply a lighter funny read.
I received an online version of this book for review and all I needed to see was the first few images to realize that this was a special book. From the boredom on Mini’s face as she rides home in the car to the dizzying range of emotions she shows throughout the day, the book is zingy and zany. It’s done entirely in black and white except for the pops of yellow for the dog’s shoes and the red of the leash and collar. All of the art is filled with personality and wit.
A wonderful read-aloud, this glowing picture book is a special find. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.