20 Hungry Piggies

20 Hungry Piggies: a number book by Trudy Harris, illustrated by Andrew N. Harris.

This picture book begins with the comforting words of the This Little Piggy rhyme.  But that’s just how it begins.  From there we have skydiving piggies, ones that play music, and several who cook.  It is great fun.  Adding to the fun are the illustrations where children can find the wolf hidden in each picture until he decides to pounce. 

More than just a basic counting book to 20, this book talks in terms of first, second, third little piggies, offering preschoolers new terms for numbers.  I appreciated the way it started with the traditional rhyme and then went on from there.

Share this in a counting unit with preschoolers or kindergarteners.  You could also share it in a piggy story time.  But it will be best on someone’s lap or in a small group where children can see the pictures closely enough to find the hidden wolf.

Why Should We Believe the Blogger?

Hurrah for Adele Geras, who writes the article, “The literary universe is bigger in the blogosphere.”  This part is a real gem:

“But why should we believe the blogger?” comes the cry. “Who are they
and how are they qualified to tell us what to read?” The answer is: you
should believe them and trust them in exactly the same way you would a
critic in a newspaper or literary journal. There will be some you
admire and some you think are stupid. Some bloggers write well and some
badly and so do some literary critics.

That’s right!  We blog reviewers can be trusted just as much as print reviewers, in fact many of us are print reviewers too.  And bloggers just like print reviewers have varying tastes to take into account.  There are reviewers (both print and online) who I listen to no matter what.  There are others that I read, but with a large salt shaker at hand.

Pullman Is Carnegie Champ

Philip Pullman has won the Carnegie of Carnegies where people had the chance to vote for their favorite Carnegie winner.  This was done in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Carnegie Awards.  Pullman’s Northern Lights (known in the US as The Golden Compass) got 40% of the total votes. 

Here are the titles that were in contention:

Skellig by David Almond (1998)
Junk by Melvin Burgess (1996)
Storm by Kevin Crossley-Holland (1985)
A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly (2003)
The Owl Service by Alan Garner (1967)
The Family From One End Street by Eve Garnett (1937)
The Borrowers by Mary Norton (1952)
Tom’s Midnight Garden Philiby ppa Pearce (1958)
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (1995)

Elissa's Quest

Elissa’s Quest by Erica Verrillo.

Elissa is a thirteen-year-old who has lived with her Nana in a small village.  She doesn’t know anything about her parents and Nana refuses to tell her anything.  Elissa has a gift of talking with animals, and one of her best friends is Gertrude, a donkey.  Then one fateful day, Elissa’s father, a royal prince, comes and takes her away.  They travel to the Khan’s fortress, where Elissa is to be used as a bargaining chip between the Khan and her father.  It is only through her own gifts and newfound courage that Elissa finds her way free of the web she is trapped in.  This is the first book in a new series.

Yes, I know the paragraph above is short on details, but one of the joys of this novel is slowly discovering its twists and turns.  Elissa is a well-drawn protagonist, a girl who would never think she was brave but finds it deep within herself.  Her young companion, Maya, is also charmingly rendered.  The adult characters are not as fully imagined as the child characters, but young readers shouldn’t mind that.  There is a strong sense of mysticism in the novel, creating a deeper experience than many fantasy novels for youth.

This is the perfect book for tweens.  With a protagonist who’s a teenager, tweens should really enjoy reading this.  Yet it doesn’t have the sexuality or dark violence of a fully teen novel. 

Share this book with tweens who enjoy Tamora Pierce.  This is a new female warrior of a different type that they will enjoy rooting for.

Poetry Friday: This Is a Poem that Heals Fish

This Is a Poem that Heals Fish by Jean-Pierre Simeon, illustrated by Olivier Tallec.

Arthur’s fish is not looking well, in fact Arthur is quite worried that the fish could die of boredom.  His mother suggests giving the fish a poem.  First, Arthur searches the house for a poem and doesn’t find anything.  Then he heads out into the community to ask people what a poem is.  He gets answers like this one from the lady who works in the bakery: “it is hot like fresh bread.  When you eat it, a little is always left over.”  But even with this advice, he really doesn’t understand what a poem is until he is forced to try to revive his fish all on his own.  And the fish has a poem for him too.

This rather strange picture book doesn’t hit its stride until page 14.  The beginning sets the stage, but also has a rather odd part where noodles and a rag talk.  Anyway, once the story gets moving, it is lovely.  I truly enjoyed the different definitions of what a poem is and how they all weave together into Arthur’s.  The illustrations are filled with deep colors and interesting perspectives.  They suit the story perfectly.

This is a great book to use when working with children and poems.  It will give children the confidence to create their own poetry and to find it in their own worlds.  What more could you ask for?

Anti-Princess Reading List

Amy Keroes is a mother who was searching for good reads for her children.  She wanted books that offered positive and believable characters for her son and daughter.  Out of her search came the Anti-Princess Reading List, a collection of picture books that feature strong girls in lead roles.  Her site also offers books that feature working mothers and book for babies.  If you are a working parent yourself, she also has lots of parent reads she recommends.  

Continuing Saga of the Bears

PhillyBurbs.com has the news that despite Stan Berenstain’s death in 2005, the Berenstain series will continue.  Son Mike Berenstain is an illustrator who writes most of the series now.  In the article, he talks about how Dr. Seuss changed his parents’ work:

It was Geisel who advised Mike’s parents, Stan and
Jan Berenstain — primarily cartoonists — to make the Berenstain Bears a
series rather than a single book. The couple had intended to write
about penguins next.

Imagine that!

The Birthday Box

The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli.

Take one look at the cover of the book, and you can get the sense of exactly how this book reads.  It is a friendly, silly, imaginative book about a toddler who receives a box for his birthday.  When he unwraps the paper, he is thrilled to find a box that has a stuffed dog inside it.  He names the dog Oscar and they immediately set off on adventures based on the box. 

My favorite part of the book is the ending where the thrill of having a cardboard box is not broken, but sustained.  Perfect.  I also liked the way that the real present of the stuffed dog is incorporated into the child’s play, but just isn’t the center of it.  The illustrations are cartoony and friendly, perfect for toddlers.

Recommended for toddlers, but make sure to have a large cardboard box on hand in case it inspires them!  This book will work for a group of toddlers as well, because it combines two fascinations:  boxes and birthdays.


Whale by David Lucas.

Joe is asleep in bed when there is a sudden crash and his whole house tips sideways.  It turns out that a huge whale has beached and landed on the town.  No one knows what to do to fix the problem.  Joe asks the Owl who asks the Wind who asks the Sun and finally after a few more steps the Innumerable Stars are consulted.  And the Stars recommend that everyone sing the Rain Song.  Though there are people who don’t think it will work, they try it.  And the whale is free.  The town was still smashed to pieces until the sea creatures come to help.

The art of this book is wonderful.  It has a folksy feel to it that is warm and embracing.  I especially enjoy the pages filled with panels that move the story forward, such as the page where Joe notices the very large eye filling his window.  I also loved the size of the whale being so immense and amazing above the smashed buildings of the town. 

Lubar has written prose that goes beautifully with the art.  It has rhythm that is not intrusive but can still be clearly felt.  The device of asking the Owl, the Wind, etc. for advice ties the story to folktales, deepening the connection with the illustrative style. 

This one will fly off of library shelves due to the huge whale on the cover.  It would be a great addition to story times for Kindergartens and preschoolers on sea life, folktales, or just for fun.  This is definitely worth sharing.