Mama’s Bayou

Mama’s Bayou by Dianne de Las Casas, illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker

Take a sound-filled tour through the bayou as the animals that live there prepare to sleep.  Using the repeated phrase of “Mama’s by you on the bayou” the book moves from animal to animal offering the sounds they make.  Crickets chirp, frogs slurp, snakes hiss, mosquitoes (skeeters) buzz, and more.  Every few pages, there is a double-spread given over just to the accumulated noises of the animals.  These small breaks in the pattern of the book keep it from being too rhythmic and also give readers a place to pause and consider the noises of the night.

De Las Casas has written a book that is a lullaby directly from the bayou to you.  Her use of repetition is nicely done.  Also the cumulative nature of the animal noises makes for a fun read.  Stone-Barker’s illustrations are done in cut paper collages.  The papers have dimension and texture, offering a depth that is exciting.  She also uses deep colors of night very successfully.

A lovely way to celebrate the sounds of the night whether listening to the mosquitoes in the bayou or all the way north in Wisconsin.  We do have fewer crocodiles though.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Pelican Publishers.

Frankie Works the Night Shift

Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Jennifer Taylor

Frankie the cat, works during the night at the hardware store.  Counting from one to ten, he cleans counters, waters plans, climbs ladders, and then spots a mouse!  Dashing headlong through the store, he wakes up the entire family who are trying to sleep.  By the time he has chased the mouse off the premises, it is almost morning.  He may work the night shift, but he naps during the day.  So the book ends with ten huge yawns.

Peters writing is straightforward and easy to read aloud.  She has created a counting book with plenty of action which is unusual.  Additionally, her writing keeps the book from becoming sing-songy because each counting page is phrased differently.  Nicely done.

Taylor’s illustrations really take this book to another level.  The first pages of the city street had me hunkered over the page and delighting in the small details.  Then I had to know what medium she used to create the photographically clear but whimsically created images.  Her use of digital photography has created an intriguing look and feel that is never disjointed.  Beautifully rendered, I hope to see more from this debut book illustrator.

A counting book filled with gorgeous images and friendly text, this book with its furry and busy main character will delight young readers.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Children’s Book Council of Australia 2010 Book of the Year Shortlist

The 2010 Shortlist and Notables have been announced by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. 

Here are the titles on the shortlist for the various age groups:


Book of the Year – Older Readers

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

The Winds of Heaven by Judith Clarke

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Jarvis 24 by David Metzenthen

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard

Loving Richard Feynman by Penny Tangey


Book of the Year – Younger Readers

Matty Forever by Elizabeth Fensham

Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool by Odo Hirsch

Running with the Horses by Alison Lester

The Whisperer by Fiona McIntosh

Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy, illustrated by Heather Potter

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children by Jen Storer


Book of the Year – Early Childhood

The Wrong Book by Nick Bland

Kip by Christina Booth

The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky, illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Bear & Chook by the Sea by Lisa Shanahan, illustrated by Emma Quay

Fearless by Colin Thompson, illustrated by Sarah Davis


Book of the Year – Picture Book

Isabella’s Garden by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Rebecca Cool

Schumann the Shoeman by John Danalis, illustrated by Stella Danalis

To the Top End: Our Trip across Australia by Roland Harvey

Mr. Chicken Goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs

Fox and Fine Feathers by Narelle Oliver

The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers

2010 Lammy Award Finalists


School Library Journal has the story that the 2010 Lammy Award Finalists have been announced.  The Lambda Literary Award is given to books that show excellence in the field of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender literature.  The nominees for children’s and teen literature are:

Ash by Malinda Lo

How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart

In Mike We Trust by P. E. Ryan

Sprout by Dale Peck

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

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Mama Miti

Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Wangari grew up in a Kenya covered in trees.  When she moved and lived in the city, she still planted tress in her backyard.  They refreshed her spirit whenever she sat under them.  Poor women started coming to Wangari for advice and it was always the same, she advised them to plant trees.  Trees could feed them, give them fire wood, feed animals, provide medicine, keep out predators, and build new homes.  The trees returned to Kenya and so did the strength of the country.

Beautifully illustrated by Kadir Nelson, this version of Wangari’s story is delightful.  Napoli tells the true story with nod towards oral storytelling.  Her text reads aloud beautifully with a rhythm and cadence that really work well.  Her use of repetition is done with restraint, adding to the sense of heritage and lore.  Nelson’s illustrations are exquisite.  Done in oil paints and fabrics, they too are about heritage and a sense of place.  The faces of the people throughout the book have a strength and a presence that will have readers lingering over them. 

A lovely book about an inspiring figure who teaches us that each person can have an enormous impact upon their nation and the environment.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Also reviewed by Homegrown Families, The Booknosher, Jump Into a Book, Books for Kids, Kiss the Book, Advice from a Caterpillar, and Brimful Curiosities.

The River

The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand

Ronnie has moved from Portland to rural Oregon with her parents.  They now live at the end of a dead-end road and run an inn.  Ronnie is not happy at all to have moved to this very isolated area where she can hear the river running.  Ronnie has taken up running and people along her route time her run, including the local ranger and a family with lots of children.  Ronnie quickly learned to follow one of those children, because Karen was always up for an adventure.  But when she is on her run one day, Ronnie glimpses something along the river and discovers Karen’s body.  Now the sinister and gloomy feel of the area comes to fruition as Ronnie is obsessed with figuring out who would kill Karen and what Karen may have discovered in one of her adventures along the river.

Beautifully atmospheric, this novel excels at bringing the world of rural Oregon to life.  Filled with sensory information like the sounds of the river, the feel of the rain, and the small details of life at the inn, readers are surrounded by Ronnie’s world.  The book also does well in building tension through the slow storytelling in the beginning.  The details and the pace help build the eeriness of the novel.

However, the book does fall short despite the great writing.  Ronnie’s character is well-developed and interesting, but others around her are not as well defined.  Her foster brother Tomas is not even introduced in the first couple of chapters and suddenly appears.  When their relationship becomes more involved, it is done suddenly and with little build up which was jarring.  Additionally, the slow pace of the beginning of the novel turns into a rushing speed where the lovely details are forgotten and the mystery is solved far too quickly.

I would have loved this novel if the pacing was more consistent and the characters better defined.  But even with these shortcomings, the novel will be enjoyed by teen readers who will find a contemporary mystery set in an evocative place.  Appropriate for ages 14-16.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Words World and Wings, Katie’s Bookshelf, Sarah’s Random Musings, The Reading Zone, Wordbird, and Katie’s Book Blog.

A Place for Frogs


A Place for Frogs by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Higgins Bond

This book is filled with fascinating information and facts about frogs.  It is less about the transformation from egg to tadpole to frog and more about individual species, specific habitats, and what we can do to help save frogs.  The book can be read two ways.  One way is less wordy and offers a chance to share the book with younger children.  The other way, incorporates the detailed information on frog species, which tells the story of how they live and what they need to survive.  Readers will be astonished to discover the different habitats that frogs live in and the wide variety of species. 

Stewart has a gift for offering scientific information in an inviting way for children.  She never talks down to them, but keeps the facts interesting and brief.  The focus on the environment makes this book a good one for green units or programs.  The information offered gives children a way to make a difference for these fascinating creatures.

Bond’s illustrations are almost photographic in detail, but better.  She is able to offer perspectives that would have been impossible to photograph.  Her use of long views of habitat combined with close-ups of animals makes the theme of the book even clearer.  These animals cannot survive without this place. 

Highly recommended, this book belongs in every public library.  Children will pick it up for love of the animal and in the process learn about their own impact on frogs.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.

One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Eleven-year-old Delphine has looked after her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, ever since her mother left them soon after Fern’s birth seven years ago.  Now she and her sisters have traveled across the United States from Brooklyn to Oakland, California to see the mother they barely remember.  Once there, they discover a distant woman who won’t let them into her kitchen, feeds them only takeout, and insists that they are gone outside all day.  She sends the girls to a summer camp run by the Black Panthers where they are educated about revolution and black rights.  Set during in 1968, the girls see first hand the changing times.  Written with a depth of character, pitch-perfect dialogue, and a great deal of warmth, this book is an amazing work of children’s fiction.

Williams-Garcia has outdone herself with this novel.  Her portrayal of the girls, their mother and the Black Panthers is done even handedly and with appreciation for what was being done.  Cecile, the mother, is a complicated figure with a complex history and a fractured relationship with her children.  Williams-Garcia’s depiction of her is captivating in both good and bad ways.   This book reads as though it is about real people, with real personalities living during real times.  The characters grow convincingly throughout the story, with no one leaving behind their personality for sudden, simple change.  It is all deeper and more honest than that.

Highly recommended, I would expect this book to garner Newbery attention as well as Coretta Scott King Award interest.  This would work well in a classroom, since it is filled with moments worth discussing.  It would also make a fantastic summer read.  Appropriate for ages 9-13.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by The Goddess of YA Literature, Bib-Laura-graphy, A Patchwork of Books, Muddy Puddle Musings, Fuse #8, A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy, and Young Books.

2010 RITA Finalists


The Romance Writers of America have announced the finalists for the 2010 RITA Awards.  Here are the finalists in the Young Adult category:

Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog

Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

The ABCs of Kissing Boys by Tina Ferraro

Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick


I haven’t read any of these.  For those of you who have, what’s your pick for the win?

Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for the link!