Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano by Peggy Gifford

This third book in the Moxy Maxwell series continues with the same spirit and humor as the first two.  In this book, Moxy is getting ready for her piano recital, or she is supposed to be.  But she has a long list of things she has to do, which doesn’t include practicing her duet with her little sister Pansy.  So she must make a Green Grass Power shake for upper body strength, she must warm up her voice in case she is asked to sing, she must try on the cape that her grandmother is making for the recital, and much more.  Plus her mother expects her to practice the hard part of her song and her piano teacher expects her to stop at the end of the song and stop the banging in the middle.  Even with everyone’s great planning and expectations, things do not work out as Moxy envisioned them at the recital.

I adore Moxy’s character.  She is headstrong, unique and vivacious.  In each book, she remains true to herself and no one else.  Every other character is also written with great spunk, giving Moxy a canvas to really shine against.  All of the book feature the skilled photography of Valorie Fisher, who manages to take pictures just like a gifted young person would.  Her great eye mixes flawlessly with the great voice of the novel. 

Laugh-out-loud funny and a great hoot for this daughter of a pianist, I highly recommend you head out and read all of the Moxy books.  Right now!  If you are already a fan, this third novel will not disappoint at all.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy sent by the publisher.

One Fine Trade

One Fine Trade retold by Bobbi Miller, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

A retelling of the classic folktale style of trading for something worse and then reversing the trading to finally get what you set out for.  In this version, Georgy Piney Woods is a peddler.  His daughter asks him to trade her horse so that she can get a silver dollar to buy her wedding dress.  So he trades the horse for a cow, the cow for a dog, the dog for a stick.  Sounds worse and worse, doesn’t it?  But never fear, a solution, unexpected and wonderfully complex, is on its way.  I wouldn’t want to spoil the tale and tell you the ending though!

Miller excels at writing in a traditional way.  Her words evoke a history of folktales without effort.  It is filled with great folksy sayings like “How-do!” And the text is made for reading aloud with its partial sentences that really read like someone is speaking.  Miller has also added lovely descriptive passages about the land Georgy is passing through on his travels.  Daisies are a-dancing, gators are a-splashing, and catbirds are a-mewing.  Hillenbrand takes these passages and brings the entire story to life.  His art is friendly and folksy, with an angular horse, deep darkness of swampland, and one amazingly large stick.  Each character he draws has its own feel and style, which is quite a challenger in a book with such a series of people appearing.

A great read-aloud version of the folktale and well worth trading a horse for!  Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Fuse #8 and Shari Lyle-Soffe.

Papa Is a Pirate

Papa Is a Pirate by Katharina Grossman Hensel

When a little boy wonders what his father did today, he gets a big surprise.  Because his father is claiming that he is a pirate captain.  Could it be?  Yes, he bikes to work, but that’s just until he reaches the harbor and his pirate ship.  He claims wooden legs are “a nuisance” and that Petey the parakeet has the heart of a parrot.  Papa has great tales about his adventures, including sea monsters!  Could it be that he is really telling the truth?  You will just have to read the book and decide for yourself.

Hensel nicely creates a story where you believe one thing and the illustrations show another.  Her prose reads aloud fluidly and is filled with humorous touches.  My favorite is that the pirates make money by putting on pirate shows for cruise ships.  The tone here is light and fun but still filled with adventure and story telling.  Hensel’s illustrations are just as humorous as the text.  From a cross-section of the pirate ship complete with stored birdseed for the parrot to the appeal of a cozy shared hammock chock full of sleeping pirates the illustrations offer a homey and welcoming view of life aboard a pirate ship.

Fresh and friendly, this is a great pirate book for young readers who will end up asking themselves if perhaps their parents are pirates during the day!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Lesley Blume’s List of Must-Read Children’s Books

With a focus on the classics, Blume (author of Tennyson) has created quite the list of must-read children’s books plus a great interview on NPR.  The list has a few of my personal favorites and others that I agree with, and some that make my head tilt in a questioning way.  Meaning that it is a good list!

Here are my favorites on the list, all of them straight from my own childhood reading:

The Devil’s Storybook by Natalie Babbitt

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg


Watership Down by Richard Adams

My mother read this aloud to my brothers and me at breakfast.  Twice.  Maybe more.  Bigwig…  Sigh.  I remember us all listening with rapt attention and tears streaming down our faces.  It was truly transporting.  And what a joy to see it on this list.