Review: Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons

Ellens Broom

Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter

After slavery ended, Ellen’s parents’ marriage would finally be recognized by law.  Until then, no slave marriages were seen as legal.  The broom had always hung over the fireplace mantel in their home and all of the children knew the story of their parents jumping the broom and becoming man and wife.  When the family set off to make the marriage legal, all four children came along and Ellen was honored to carry the broom.  As their parents were about to be married, Ellen and her sister ran outside and decorated the plain straw broom with flowers and her mother carried the broom as a bouquet.  When her parents were married, Ellen knew that the ceremony wasn’t complete until they had once again jumped the broom together as a couple. 

This lovely picture book looks at Reconstruction, a period not often featured in picture books.  The depiction of a loving family who have survived slavery and are rejoicing in their new rights and freedoms is the center of the book.  Lyons does not shy away from showing the lingering shadows and effects of slavery, though they are shown more as memories and concerns, making them appropriate for the young audience.

Minter’s illustrations have such a delicate line that at first they do not seem to be block prints, but they are.  The bright colors and play of light and shadow make for a vivid read.  The wood grain of the walls alone are a masterpiece of line and color.

This picture book embraces family, tradition and looks to the future.  It is a gorgeous book that addresses a time in history that is often overlooked for young readers.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Review: Little Dog Lost by Monica Carnesi

little dog lost

Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic by Monica Carnesi

Children along the banks of the Vistula River were the first to spot the little dog floating on the ice floes.  Firemen tried to help rescue the dog, but were unable to reach him before the river carried him away.  The river carried the dog into the Baltic sea where a ship arrived.  The crew members tried to rescue the dog, but it proved difficult.  At one point, the dog even slipped into the water but managed to pull itself back up onto the ice.  Finally, the crew managed to get a boat into the water and move close enough to the ice the dog was on and rescue him.  After warming up and getting dry, the dog was adopted by the crew and named “Baltic.”

This true story of a dog on the ice inspired the author to create a picture book demonstrating the heroism of both man and dog.  Unlike many nonfiction books, this is one that can be used with preschoolers and even toddlers.  The story is kept very simple, with only a few sentences on each page, making it move ahead quickly.  Add to that the drama of the floating dog and the fear that he will not survive and you have a picture book that is a real treat to read.

Carnesi’s artwork echoes that same child-friendly simplicity with its fuzzy dog.  The round-faced people are equally charming and inviting to young readers.  My favorite part was turning to the final page that tells more details about the rescue and recognizing the man holding Baltic from his depiction in the book. 

This entire work is charming, great fun to read, and also an inspiring story.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

Jan Berenstain Dies

Co-creator of The Berenstain Bears series, Jan Berenstain has died on February 24th at age 88.  The first Berenstain Bears book was published in 1962 and since that time more than 330 books have been published!   They have sold more than 260 million copies!

I know that I’ve checked out armloads myself for my sons who each went through a stage where they loved the familiarity of the stories and the fact that there were so many titles in the series.  It is a life well-led that has touched so many children.

Review: Up, Tall and High by Ethan Long

up tall and high

Up, Tall and High by Ethan Long

A group of birds talk about who is tall, who is high in the air, and who is up in a tree in a series of very short chapters.  Birds compare their height by insisting that they are the tall one.  The ending of that story comes with a short bird who is definitely not small.  The high in the air story is about a bird who can fly and a penguin who can’t, but a solution is found.  Up in a tree is a story about a little bird who is up in a tree and a larger bird who decides to join him there.  Each of the stories is short, clever and has a lot of humor.

The book is endearingly simple with bold lines and bright colors.  There are only a few words per page and many pages have no words at all.  Definitely designed with toddlers in mind, these three short stories are filled with a cheerful attitude.

Ideal for small children, these are stories that have the color, friendliness and humor to be a hit.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy received from Penguin Group.

Review: Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright

putting makeup on the fat boy

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright (Link to InfoSoup record)

Sixteen-year-old Carlos has always wanted to be a makeup artist to the stars, so when his friend suggests that he start out at a makeup counter in Macy’s as a first step, he immediately takes action.  The makeup business may seem glamorous on the outside, but as Carlos discovers it filled with jealousy too.  When Carlos gets on the bad side of his new boss, he has to try to figure out how to make things right again.  Unfortunately, that probably does not include taking a star up on doing her makeup on her TV show.  Carlos has other problems too, including a close friend who won’t talk to him after some expensive boots are ruined, his sister getting beat up by her boyfriend, and his own crush on a classmate.  This book explores the world of a gay teen who has a dream, is not afraid to fight for it, and steps beyond any stereotypes and into a place all his own.

Wright has written a dazzling character in Carlos, a boy who is not afraid of big dreams, drama and fabulous clothes.  Carlos at times can be very self-centered and focused on himself rather than others, but this aspect of him is honestly written and true of any teen who is looking to succeed at their wildest dreams.  Carlos could at first be read as a gay stereotypical character, but as the book continues readers see past the gay makeup artist and into the heart of a real person.

The writing here is straight-forward and reads with great ease.  The story has enough tension to keep it moving, deals with deeper subject matter than makeup and great clothes, and looks into the world of a boy who is out and proud.  Those around him in his family are supportive, but others are less so, something we see in modern society today.  Again, the book is real and honest about acceptance but also points to the importance of being true to oneself.

The winner of the 2012 Stonewall Book Award, this is a book that opens minds, invites in dreams, and is absolutely as fabulous as a pair of Stella McCartney boots.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Review: Pip’s Trip by Janet Morgan Stoeke

pips trip

Pip’s Trip by Janet Morgan Stoeke

This sequel to The Loopy Coop Hens returns to the Loopy Coop Farm and the hens, Pip, Midge and Dot.  When they watch the farmer’s truck drive away, the hens start to wonder what it would be like to take a ride in it.  Pip thinks that it might be fun and climbs into the back of the truck.  But the other two hens decide that they will go get Rooster Sam to go with them, leaving Pip in the truck alone.  Pip gets worried, she feels a vibration and it gets noisier.  So she hides under a blanket and misses the whole wide world passing by.  When the truck quiets down again, she peeks from under the blanket and finds herself on the farm, safe and sound.  Unfortunately, when she climbs down, she discovers that she really didn’t have the adventure she thought she did.

Written as a picture book with short chapters, this book would work well as both a picture book and an easy reader.  The text is large, simple and very friendly.  There is also a rich vein of humor through the entire book, especially when readers will realize early in the story that Pip did not actually take a ride in the truck. 

Stoeke’s art is just as simple as her prose.  Done in washes of color and strong black lines, the illustrations are almost coloring-book style.  The hens have their own unique personalities that are shown both in their visual and audible reactions to things.  In addition, both the story and illustrations show the love between the three hens and their support for one another. 

A sweet and simple book about adventures and friendship, this is one ride that young readers will be happy to go on.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Last Week’s Tweets and Pins

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter and Pinterest accounts that you might find interesting:

Better Book Titles – the best of children’s literature with warped titles –

Colbert to release kids’s book about a flag pole –

Digital Life – Mean teens online: Most ignore them or defend victim – study

EarlyWord » Next Up for BEAUTIFUL CREATURES #yalit

Free Printables for The Hunger Games party:

The Future Of Children’s Books : NPR

Is homophobia disappearing? – LGBT –

J.K. Rowling to write a book for adults | Shelf Life

New IMAX Poster and Character Images for The Hunger Games

Once students have the "right" book, they must have uninterrupted time to read it.

Pottermore: a fan’s quest for answers |

Publishers Weekly Fall 2012 Sneak Previews – plenty of children’s book titles to long for! #kidlit

RJ Palacio: ‘I keep hearing about grown men weeping’ | The Observer

R.L. Stine, Goosebumps Author, Tweets Out a Horror Story

Social Media Makes Teens Aware Of Others’ Needs, Study Says

2011 Scottish Children’s Book Award

The 2011 Scottish Children’s Book Awards have been announced.  Nominees must be authors or illustrators resident in Scotland.  The awards were voted on by over 23,000 Scottish children and are split into three categories:

Bookbug Readers (Ages 0-7)

Dear Vampa by Ross Collins


Young Readers (Ages 8-11)

Zac & the Dream Pirates by Ross MacKenzie


Older Readers (Ages 12-16)

Wasted by Nicola Morgan

Review: Another Brother by Matthew Cordell

another brother

Another Brother by Matthew Cordell

Davy was an only child for four years.  His parents paid close attention to everything he did and loved it all.  It all changed when Davy got a little brother, Petey.  Petey distracted Davy’s parents from everything he did!  And if Petey wasn’t bad enough, more little siblings started to arrive until Davy had 12 brothers!  All of them copied whatever Davy did.  They played with the same toys, had the same things for breakfast, walked like he did, and even ran after him when he tried to escape.  It drove Davy crazy.  But what would happen when those same little brothers decided not to copy Davy anymore?  It just might be worse!

Cordell’s zany book has an awesome sense of humor.  The book takes having a little brother to an extreme with an entire flock of brothers messing up Davy’s life.  Children with younger siblings will immediately recognize the truth of the story behind all of the humor.  Add in the references to vomiting, potty and burping and you have a picture book that is sure to be a hit when read aloud. 

Cordell’s illustrations are fine-lined and detailed.  They will work best with small groups or one-on-one since much of the humor is visual.  The rainbow-dotted sheep, the small details of their lives, and the touches like the balloon in front of the moon towards the end of the book all add up to a book that is designed to be adored and read again and again.

An outstanding pick for children dealing not with new infants but with the annoying little brother that follows them everywhere, though the humor alone will give it universal appeal.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel & Friends.