Review: Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine by Allison Wortche

rose sprouts time to shine

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine by Allison Wortche, illustrated by Patrice Barton

Everyone thought that Violet was the best at everything.  She could run the fastest, sing the highest, and dress the fanciest.  But Rosie did not think that Violet was the best and was tired of hearing about Violet all the time.  When their teacher gave them an assignment to plant pea plants and care for them, Violet was sure that hers would be the best.  She decorated her pot with lots of sparkles.  Rosie’s plant was the first the pop up above the dirt, but Violet announced hers first.  So when Rosie came in early the next morning, she pushed soil over the top of Violet’s plant.  That day, they learned that Violet had chicken pox and would not be in for several days.  So Rosie started to care for both of their plants.  Rosie’s teacher told her that she was the best gardener she ever had in her class, as Rosie watered, rotated and sang to both plants. 

This book celebrates the quiet child, the one who is not the sparkliest or the loudest.  The book speaks to the need for all children to be praised and to be seen as being good at something.  Rosie definitely feels left out and jealous of Violet, and those feelings turn into action when she buries Violet’s plant.  But at the same time, that is the moment that the book turns around and Rosie starts to shine.  Happily, the jealous act is temporary and not the focus of the book.  Instead it is a much merrier book because of that.

The art work here has a wonderful softness to it that is very welcoming.  There is a freedom to the art as well that is very successful.  The lines are soft, the colors blend, and the effect is fresh.  The children in the classroom are multicultural, another small touch that makes the story all the more universal. 

A great book to share in the spring, when gardens start being planted, or when jealousies grow.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

Children’s Choice Book Awards

May 3rd is the deadline for children to vote in the 2012 Children’s Choice Book Awards.  There are thirty finalists in six categories.  Last year over half a million children participated, and this year it is expected to reach over 1 million participants.  The winners will be announced as part of Children’s Book Week.  The mix of books is intriguing with many books that you will not see on other award nominee lists.

Children can vote here.

Here are the nominees:

Kindergarten – 2nd Grade


Bailey by Harry Bliss

Dot by Patricia Intriago

Pirates Don’t Take Baths by John Segal

Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester L. Laminack, illustrated by Henry Cole


3rd – 4th Grade


Bad Kitty Meets the Baby by Nick Bruel

A Funeral in the Bathroom: And Other School Bathroom Poems by KalliDakos, illustrated by Mark Beech

The Monstrous Book of Monsters by Libby Hamilton, illustrated by Jonny Duddle and Aleksei Bitskoff


Sidekicks by Dan Santat

Squish #1: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm


5th – 6th Grade


Bad Island by Doug TenNapel

How to Survive Anything by Rachel Buchholz, illustrated by Chris Philpot

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan


Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog by Garth Stein


Teen Books


Clockwork Prince: The Infernal Devices, Book Two by Cassandra Clare

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Divergent by Veronica Roth


Passion: A Fallen Novel by Lauren Kate

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins


Author of the Year


Jeff Kinney for Diary of a Wimpy Kid 6: Cabin Fever

Christopher Paolini for Inheritance

James Patterson for Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life


Rick Riordan for The Son of Neptune

Rachel Renée Russell for Dork Diaries 3: Tales from a Not-So-Talented Pop Star


Illustrator of the Year


Felicia Bond for If You Give a Dog a Donut

Eric Carle for The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse

Anna Dewdney for Llama Llama Home With Mama


Victoria Kann for Silverlicious

Brian Selznick for Wonderstruck

Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards

The winners of the 26th Annual Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards have been announced.  The awards celebrate authors and illustrators who "impart Ezra Jack Keats’ values—the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family, and the multicultural nature of our world.”  The awards are given by The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation in partnership with the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries.

2012 New Writer Award Winner

Meg Medina for Tia Isa Wants a Car

2012 New Illustrator Award Winner

Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw for Same, Same but Different

2012 Honorable Mentions

New Writer Honor:

Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw for Same, Same but Different

New Writer Honor:

Nicola Winstanley for Cinnamon Baby

New Writer and New Illustrator Honor:

Anna White and Micha Archer for Lola’s Fandango

New Illustrator Honor:

David Ercolini for Not Inside This House!

Review: Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning

laundry day

Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning

A young boy tries to sell shoe shines on the streets of New York City in a time before cars, when the streets are crowded with horses and carts.  Suddenly, a red cloth drifts down from above.  The boy looks up to see rows and rows of laundry drying above the street, so he starts to climb with the red cloth around his neck and his small cat following behind.  As he searches for the owner, he meets people from all over the world.  There is the Chinese woman who offers him a mooncake after he helps fold some laundry.  A Ukranian woman with a wailing baby suggests he check with the Italian organ grinder who lives above her.  A family of Polish little girls try to get him involved in their games.  When he finally finds the owner, he has traveled the world in just a few buildings, sharing in treats, hearing a few words of their language.  His high-wire antics add a little spice to the story and a wonderful play off of old films.  This is an old-fashioned treat of a picture book.

Manning adroitly wraps international content in a comfortable package.  The various cultures shown in tiny tastes here are done with a gentle hand and an eye to history.  There is a feeling of merriment throughout this book, with never a fear that the boy will injure himself or that he will find anyone unkind on his adventures.  

The illustrations too have a playful vintage quality about them.  There is a freshness mixed with a timeless feel.  The freshness comes from the cartoonish lines of the art and the comic-like panels used on some pages.  It’s an inventive mix of modern and timeless.

This picture book mixes vintage and new, international and American into one wonderful diverse story.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

false prince

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

It is a strange, unique day when only an orphan boy of no particular breeding can save a kingdom from war.   But that is the plan hatched by Conner, a nobleman, when the entire royal family is poisoned.  The only possible way to save the kingdom from immediate war is to find a young man who resembles the prince, who was thought to be dead years before.  So it is that Sage and three other young orphans are gathered up.  It is made clear from the beginning that this is no joke, and that Conner will do anything to keep this secret safe.  The boys begin learning to be princes, competing for the one spot as the prince.  They must learn to read, write, ride a horse, fight with swords, and use genteel manners.  Among them, Sage is the one with the arrogance, fearlessness and pride to be a prince, but if he doesn’t try at his lessons, he may not be the one chosen.  All of the boys realize what it means not to be chosen – certain death.

Nielsen has created a book that dashes forward, blazing with a strong concept from the beginning.  The idea of the false prince and a life-or-death competition for a single role makes for exhilarating reading.  Her pacing is brilliant, as is the ease of her writing, making the book almost impossible to put down.  In Sage, she has created a boy who could have been dislikable but instead reads as brave, valiant, and true. 

Nielsen does not shy away from violence or death.  This is a world of lies, cunning and manipulation.  Within that world, people will do what they have to in order to get ahead.  That is a large part of the appeal of Sage.  He is somehow immersed in that world of desperation, but remains unwilling to ever be desperate or eager.  He is a complex character filled with charisma.

Written in the first person, a rather daring choice for this sort of book, Nielsen manages to not allow the reader to guess the truth of the story until she reveals it.  While readers may guess at how the book will end, they will not be certain until that moment of revelation.  It’s another feature that makes the book so very readable.

The first in a trilogy, I was thrilled to find a book that stands on its own.  While there are plot points that I look forward to finding out more about, this book has a very satisfying ending.  Get this into the hands of readers who want action, intrigue and enjoy a little sinister darkness in their books.  Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Review: House Held Up by Trees by Ted Kooser

house held up by trees

House Held Up by Trees by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Jon Klassen

This is the story of a family and a house.  When the house was new, it stood upon a newly planted lawn where the trees had been removed.  It was bare, not even a stump left behind.  On either side of the bare lot were trees of all sorts, the kind that spread seeds and scents.  Two children lived in the new house and often played in the trees at the edges, watching their father care for the lawn.  Their father mowed down all of the small tree seedlings before they could get started at all.  But the children grew up, the man moved away to be closer to them, and the house was left alone.  Alone except for the trees, which grew and took over the barren lawn, and eventually lifted the house high on their shoulders.

Kooser writes with amazing depth here, each sentence resonant with meaning and feeling.  While the book can be read more lightly, the joy here is in that dark deep that lies behind the lines.  The story plays with man vs. wilderness, the American obsession with lawns, children being pulled to the edges to find their own wild spaces, and the return to nature in the end.  The writing is beautiful because of that ever-present ache that is there, the tug of the trees, the dance of the seeds.

Klassen has illustrated this book with such delicacy that it shows he feels that same amazing pull.  He lets us peek at the house from the shelter of the woods, our eyes almost aching with the bareness in the sun.  He captures the tree seeds in flight from high above, allowing us to fly with them and plant ourselves too.  He plays with light, shadow and darkness, just as Kooser does. 

This book is poetry, without the stanzas.  It is a picture book that has depth, courage and looks deeply into our relationship with nature and with our families.  Beautiful.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley


Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley

Jane Doe is a very ordinary person, which wouldn’t be that odd, except she lives in the town of Remarkable, which is filled with the most gifted and talented people anywhere.  Her family is full of gifted people, like her grandmother the mayor, her mother the architect, her brother the painter, her father the best-selling author, and her sister the mathematical genius.  Jane on the other hand is just like her grandfather, easily overlooked and ordinary.  They are so ordinary that they can’t get noticed long enough to get ice cream at the local soda shop.  Jane is the only student left in the regular school, since all of the other children are in the gifted school.  But then things start to change in Remarkable.  A pirate captain comes to town, followed by three of his crew who are searching for him.  Jane gets two classmates who have been kicked out of the gifted school because of their mischief.  In fact, Jane’s life might not be quite as dull and ordinary as she first thought.

Foley takes the idea of a very ordinary character and runs with it.  Jane is completely normal and it is her surroundings that are wild, extraordinary and unusual.  At the same time though, Foley does much to celebrate the ordinary and to point out that the quiet, the plain and the unassuming have gifts too though it may take some time to find them or notice them.

Foley’s writing is great fun in this book that mixes a huge sense of humor with some wild adventures.  The book starts slowly, nicely building towards the incredible ending that is filled with pirates, storms, music, cheap jelly, and even a sea monster.  The story has wonderful little touches, side characters who are nice diversions, and plenty to love. 

This would make a great pick for a class read aloud in elementary school and it would also make a remarkable read this summer.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

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

If you’re interested in general library and e-book news, I also tweet about that and compile it on my Sites & Soundbytes blog.

‘Charlotte’s Web’ at 60: By the numbers

Conrad Mason’s top 10 magical objects | Children’s books | #kidlit

How to Make Reading Fun: 6 Simple Suggestions « Literacy News #reading #literacy

Hunger Games: How Controversial Books Build ‘Empathy Muscles’ | LiveScience #yalit

JK Rowling: further details of first adult novel emerge | Books |

Popularity of Newbery Medal Books for Kids May Depend on Decade #kidlit

Q&A with author Kate DiCamillo – JSOnline #kidlit

Tolkien and Dickens grandsons join for two new children’s fantasy books #kidlit

Review: Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon

robot zombie frankenstein

Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon

Two robots who are friends try to out-do each other as they dress in costumes.  It starts out with Robot Zombie and goes on from there, until they each have pirate hats, eye patches, capes, chef hats, space helmets, and much much more.  By the end, the two of them look very silly, dressed in all of that gear.  The competition continues until one robot pulls out a cherry pie and the two friends decide to drop the costume competition and share a treat.

A large part of the appeal of this book are the illustrations.  They have white backgrounds that really make the bright-colored shapes pop against them.  Simon uses simple shapes, wild colors and lots of creativity to make costumes for these characters.  Along the way, she shows just how little it takes to evoke a character, sometimes only a few stitches on the head, or a cape around the shoulders.

The writing takes a backseat here, simply supporting the wild antics in the images.  Its use of popular subjects like zombies and robots will get young readers to pick up this book.  The cover completely drew in my son, who just had to read this book immediately.

Halloween story times can be tricky, and this is just the right story to add to your not-scary-at-all version for the youngest listeners.  It’s also a book with plenty of humor and zip that will appeal to any youngster who enjoys a good giggle and a great costume.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.