Book Review: 999 Tadpoles by Ken Kimura


999 Tadpoles by Ken Kimura, illustrated by Yasunari Murakami

Released May 1, 2011.

999 tadpoles are born in a small pond but when they turn into frogs, they completely run out of room to even breathe!  So mother and father frog decide they must find a new home to live in.  All of the 999 tadpoles follow their father across a big field.  He warns them about the dangers of snakes, just a moment before the little frogs come dragging a sleepy snake up to him.  They escape that danger, but don’t notice the hawk circling above them.  Down comes the hawk and grabs the father frog in his talons.  But when he flies up into the sky again, it is not just the father frog that comes along for the ride, but all of the frog family.  It’s a much heavier load than the hawk can manage, but what will happen if the frogs are dropped?

Kimura has written a book is a friendly, conversational style that is a pleasure to read aloud.  The voices of the little frogs and their parents are clear and individual.  Get ready to speak in more than one froggy voice for this book!  Kimura has also built plenty of action into his story which has adventure and dangers that will keep children’s attention.

Murakami’s illustrations create a very unique feel to the book.  Using white space to great effect, the polished yet simple illustrations have a graphic appeal to them.  With so many of the illustrations being shown from the overhead perspective, the humor of the number of little frogs is never lost. 

A book about tadpoles and frogs that focuses on fun, family, and humor.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from NorthSouth Books.

Also reviewed by Kids Book Review.

Book Review: Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House by Libby Gleeson


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

When Clancy and his family move to a new house, everyone is delighted, except Clancy.  Clancy think everything about the new house is too big.  He fondly remembers his old room, the old fireplace, the old house.  Clancy heads outside to play and discovers the huge pile of cardboard boxes left from the move.  He starts to play in them and then hears someone’s voice.  It’s Millie, a new neighbor.  The two play together with the boxes, finally building a house out of them, a very fine house.

Gleeson has captured the uncertainty of a move.  She never descends into melodrama here, instead speaking directly to Clancy’s feelings and reactions to the new home.  Children who have experienced a move, even one they enjoyed, will recognize the emotions here.  Gleeson’s use of the moving boxes as a way to deal with the move and make a new friend is very clever.  They change from a symbol of what Clancy moved away from into a symbol of what he moved to. 

Blackwood’s illustrations show the move from Clancy’s point of view.  The rooms of the new house loom, gray and empty around him.  The images from his memories are brighter and cozier, clearly contrasting with the new home.  The tower of boxes seems taller than the houses when Clancy heads outside.  The potential is there is the gravity-defying stack. 

This is a great book about moving, making new friends, and the power of imagination to create new connections and memories.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.


Book Review: The Red Wagon by Renata Liwska


Red Wagon by Renata Liwska

Lucy has a bright-red new wagon that she wants to play with so badly.  When she asks her mother though, her mother sends her on an errand to the market.  Lucy takes her red wagon to help her, but isn’t sure that it sounds like much fun.  On the way, Lucy and her friends have great imaginary adventures that include surviving a flood, being part of a wagon train, performing in a circus, and flying in a rocket.  By the time she gets back to her mother, Lucy is tuckered out completely but finally is free to play with her wagon.

Liwska is the artist behind The Quiet Book and The Loud Book.  This book is her first as both author and illustrator.  One could never tell that she hasn’t been writing books for children for some time.  She has just the right amount of text per page, clever pacing, and humor to spare.  It is all done from a child’s point of view with a child’s voice, making it very charming.

Her art is stellar with its spiraling lines that create soft textures.  There are small touches throughout that add humor and fun to the story.  I particularly like the three-eyed raccoon in the UFO when they are pretending to rocket into space. 

A clever, warm book about helping out and still having fun, this book celebrates the joy of a vivid imagination.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.

Also reviewed by Books Beside My Bed and Twenty by Jenny.

Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray


Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Released May 24, 2011.

Printz-award winning author, Libba Bray, returns with another modern story for teens that is filled with satire, sarcasm, and wit.  It is the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on an island. The girls must figure out not only how to deal with several deaths and the wildlife of the island, but also how to keep up their beauty routines and pageant skills.  As the days pass, the girls discover that they have far more skills than anyone would have thought and that it takes a woman to build a village, or at least a hut.  As their chance at a rescue diminishes, they discover that the island is home to far more than they ever dreamed or dreaded. 

The book begins as a chance to giggle at the poor girls who are left to fend for themselves rather ineptly.  Readers will smugly watch the beauties have tiffs and arguments.  It is all very satisfying to see them get their due.  But then the book twists, stealthily, until readers see the real girls behind the makeup and start to root for these heroines.  It is masterfully done and all with a lot of humor. 

Bray takes the opportunity to really give commentary on our American life.  She skewers beauty ads, commercialization, pert actresses, and reality TV.  She mocks popular stores and movies.  But this book has depth as well as biting humor.  The contestants who survive are portrayed as individuals, which gives us a cast of teen girls who are all unique and fascinating.

The book also remedies some of the worst tropes of teen novels.  First, the girls may love hot boys, but they do not need the boys to rescue them.  Second, those same hot boys are great for hot sex scenes, and this book has them for sure.  The girls have sexual encounters with no horrible things happening to them as payback for their slutty ways.  They have sex on their own terms, with the boys they choose, and the world continues to turn.  Imagine that!

Bray also introduces a lesbian character who doesn’t angst over being a lesbian, a bisexual, and a transgendered girl who finds love in a young pirate who steals her high heels. 

The cover is great.  I love the lipstick in place of ammo and the sash that if you look closely is battered and dirty.  It speaks directly to the book, its humor and attitude.

This book is wildly, laugh-out-loud funny.  Bray has created a read that is exactly what I needed in my late teens to see that I was OK the way I was.  Each and every teen girl will see themselves supported by this book, and hey the hot scenes alone make it worth the read!  This is a great feminist read for any teen girl. Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.

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More Hunger Games Casting

Meet the new District One tributes, Marvel and Glimmer.  They are to be played by Jack Quaid and Leven Rambin.


Follow the tributes yourself on The Hunger Games Facebook page.

The Hunger Games–Prim Cast

Newcomer Willow Shields will play Katniss’ sister, Prim in the upcoming film.  Again, it’s a face I really like.

Via /Film.

Book Review: Ice by Arthur Geisert


Ice by Arthur Geisert

Geisert returns with another wordless picture book featuring his industrious little pigs.  In this book, the pigs are on a desert island where it is hot and water is running very low.  So the pigs hatch a plan to find water.  Delightfully, they create a hot-air balloon from their boat and fly over the waves.  They find an iceberg, where they install a sail on the ice and take the entire thing back to their island.  The final pages show interesting details of transferring the iceberg into the water tank and the differences the ice has made in their lives.

Geisert excels at details in his illustrations.  Sweltering heat and low water are shown by bucket brigades and drooping pigs.  The time with the iceberg is shown as almost a party with pigs dancing and celebrating.  The pigs then begin working again to get the ice moved to the tank.  Somehow Geisert makes work look fun or at least very intriguing. 

These are illustrations that are small, detailed and worthy of some time spent looking at them.  Share this book with a child who loves looking closely.  Or even better, curl up together and share some time with ice, invention and imagination.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Also reviewed by:

Book Review: Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich


Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich

Mister Bud had a great life.  He had his own bed, his own toys, his own dish, and best of all, his own schedule.  His schedule had plenty of nap time, meal time, and walks.  Everyone followed the schedule.  Period.  But one day, the schedule was interrupted when a stranger showed up.  Zorro, a new dog, was moving in with them.  At first it was tough and there were fights, but then both Mister Bud and Zorro realized that their lives were a lot better together.  And everyone followed the new schedule.  Period.

Goodrich writes with a real sense of comic timing.  The book reads aloud beautifully, often using a page turn to add to the suspense of a sentence.  The growing friendship of the two dogs is a pleasure to read.  Especially noteworthy is the fact that neither dog changed their personalities as the book progresses, but rather found common ground for their friendship.

The illustrations make great use of the white background.  They tell the story with visual humor that adds to the book’s tone.  The colors are bright and friendly.  Best of all, the illustrations capture emotions perfectly.  There is the joy of a walk, the quiet of a nap, the anger of a new dog, and the silent lean of a dog waiting to be fed. 

Pet lovers, this is a book that you will relate to immediately.  A great addition to any dog story time, this book will also work for friendship or new sibling units.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

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Book Review–Three by the Sea by Mini Grey


Three by the Sea by Mini Grey

Dog, Cat and Mouse all live happily together by the sea with their household chores neatly divided.  But when a Fox comes ashore, he causes all sorts of trouble.  He brings tempting items from The Winds of Change company that will change their lives.  Dog’s gardening is criticized for only being buried bones, so the stranger offers Mouse herb seeds and new cookbooks.  Dog is encouraged to wear a new collar and is upset at Cat’s laziness.  Cat is shown how dull and repetitive Mouse’s cheesy recipes are by the Fox offering some canned fish.  Soon all of them are at odds with one another.  In the end, Mouse heads away along the shore, but is picked up by a wave and carried out to sea.  When Cat tries to help, she has trouble floating.  So finally Dog, rescues them both.  Now the lives of the three look very different, so was the Fox actually helpful or harmful?

Grey’s book is about cooperation, working together, and also outside influences which can be seen in different ways.  She has created a picture book that is not definitive about the Fox and his influence.  The nuanced conclusion offers room for discussion and speculation.  Grey’s illustrations continue to charm.  She incorporates photographs and cut paper art into them to great effect.  They have a whimsical charm that invite readers right into the world she creates.

Another winner from a great picture book author and illustrator, this book will be a great addition to any beachy story time.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf.

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