Review: Water in the Park by Emily Jenkins

water in the park

Water in the Park: A Book about Water and the Times of the Day by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

This picture book opens with the sun rising just before six in the morning on the park.  The turtles warm their shells in the pond and the glow of the sun lights the water.  Dogs and their owners arrive for their morning walks.  When they arrive, the turtles slip back under the water.  By seven, babies have arrived at the park and are getting their drinks from the drinking fountain and setting up for a day of play.  At eight, the sprinkles in the water play area are turned on.  The day progresses with puddles, plants being watered, an ice cream truck, people cooling off in the shade, and lots of splashing.  In the evening, the rain comes and everyone clears out of the park, leaving it again to the turtles and the silence.

Purely satisfying, this book shows the cyclical nature of the day as well as the water cycle too.  All of the many ways that people use water in a park are shown here with a glorious sense of watching people’s lives from a bit away.  We get to know the personalities of children and dogs, the joy of the sprinklers, the heat of the day, and the merriment of a full day spent at the park.  It is also a celebration of the neighborhood park, where people from all over come together in a love of green space and water.

Graegin’s illustrations are filled with small touches that make them a pleasure to explore.  This book is not ideal for sharing with larger groups because so much of its charm is in the details.  It is those details that let us get to know the different people and animals without any explanation.  Small dramas play out in these pictures.

A wonderful book, this story will speak to children from both country and urban settings who know the joys of parks, ponds and community.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

Two weeks worth this time!

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



1st Welsh publisher dedicated to children’s books to help tackle literacy and tell great stories – Wales Online

BBC News – Authors back ‘malnutrition hits literacy’ study

Book News: Kipling Admitted Plagiarizing ‘Promiscuously’ : The Two-Way : NPR

The Book Smugglers | Progressive Publishers Doing Cool Things: Lee & Low Books (& Giveaway) #kidlit #publishers

Gwyneth Rees’s top 10 books about siblings | Children’s books #kidlit

Hear the Classic Winnie-the-Pooh Read by Author A.A. Milne in 1929 | Open Culture #kidlit

JK Rowling-Annotated Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone Sells At Record Price #kidlit

New Great Chapter Books for Kids and Summer Reading : PragmaticMom #kidlit

Picture books for children still popular – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette #kidlit

Read, Write, Reflect: Reflecting on Picture Books #kidlit

What books for toddlers can match the allure of Peppa Pig? | Children’s books #kidlit


HarperCollins makes it easier for authors to give away their ebooks — paidContent #ebooks

"OverDrive’s Big Library Read Boosts Checkouts, Sales" #books #libraries

‘Real Books From Real Trees for Real People’: Microsoft’s Fun eBook Predictions From 1999 – The Atlantic #ebooks


‘Artists in the Archives,’ at Greenburgh Public Library in Elmsford – #art #libraries

BBC News – Paperless public libraries switch to digital

Gun Violence, Videogames, and Libraries | American Libraries Magazine #libraries

Librarians: Your Most Valuable MOOC Supporters –

Libraries as Content Creators | American Libraries Magazine #libraries

A library revolution, started in part by Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk | TED Blog #libraries

Miniature Libraries

Suspended Boxes Transform Trees Into A Free Library – PSFK #libraries


Unprecedented e-mail privacy bill sent to Texas governor’s desk | Ars Technica #privacy



Barefoot Books Stops Selling to Amazon #publishers



10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day – Lifehack

25 Signs You’re Addicted To Books – I won’t tell you how many I exhibit…

Is He Reading? – Digital Book Today-Digital Book Today #reading


Facebook crafts new policies to better combat hate speech – Computerworld

Online video will be more popular than Facebook and Twitter by 2017 — Tech News and Analysis

Teens are tired of Facebook ‘drama,’ find refuge on Twitter and elsewhere, says Pew | The Verge

Yahoo revamps Flickr and offers a terabyte of free storage – Computerworld


Novels for young adults are reaching more (adult) readers – #yalit

TLT: Teen Librarian’s Toolbox: Relational Reading Revolution: How you can change the landscape of reading

Top 10 young adult books for summer #yalit

Top Ten YA Road Trip Novels by Ben Kuhlman | Nerdy Book Club #yalit

Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

beginning of everything

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

After finishing the galley for this book, I was surprised to find that the title has been changed.  I think it’s an unfortunate choice, since Severed Heads, Broken Hearts was a title that really reflected what the book is about.  I will also try to cope with the sunny yellow of the new cover, something that also jars me compared to the muted colors of the original cover.  But enough with my confusion, on to the real review!

Ezra was one of the popular kids at school.  Captain of the tennis team, he struggled to keep his sarcastic humor from confusing his teammates.  Then in one moment, his entire life changed.  Leaving a party after finding his girlfriend “entertaining” another boy, he was struck by a car and his entire athletic career disappeared in an instant.  Now he has to walk with a cane, has lost his girlfriend entirely, and also lost touch with his group of friends.  None of them came to visit him in the hospital or at home during his recovery.  So the first day of school after the accident has him wearing all black, pale from being indoors all summer, and sitting by himself in the front row of the bleachers since he can’t climb any higher without being a spectacle.  His childhood best friend sits next to him, someone who has also known tragedy, and who is no longer friends with Ezra.  But tragedies do strange things, close some options and open others.  The question is whether Ezra has the courage to reinvent himself.  The hot redhead doesn’t hurt things either.

Told in the voice of a John Green novel with intelligence and lots of humor, this book hooks you from the very first with its tale of a beheading at Disney World.  Schneider writes with a great deal of confidence here, taking readers on a journey of rediscovery that involves debate teams, rivalries, jealous ex-girlfriends, and lots of fun along the way.

Schneider has written teens who read like real people.  They are all complex, interesting and unexpectedly tangible.  Even the support characters are funny and intriguing, leading me to want to know more about them as well.  Though readers may see the ending coming, it is entirely satisfying to see it play out.  Schneider does not back away from tragedies, embracing them instead as moments of change and courage. 

Strong writing, great characters and plenty of puns make for a book that teens should love, no matter what the title is.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss.

I Wish I Had… by Giovanna Zoboli

i wish i had

I Wish I Had… by Giovanna Zoboli, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

Originally published in Italy, this thoughtful picture book takes children on an exploration of different types of animals, looking at some of their unique abilities.  Blackbirds can see every blade of grass with their sharp eyes.  Tigers can walk almost soundlessly through the jungle.  Lemurs have tails that let them swing through the high branches.  Whales can fill the ocean with their songs.  Done in pairs of animals with each line beginning with “I wish,” this book is poetic and rich.

Zoboli writes in verse here that has a gentle rhythm and repetitive structure that is particularly soothing and warm.  Through it all, the skills of the animals that are mentioned are all perceptive and sensory, all leading to better understand of one’s world or expressing oneself.  It is peaceful and has a great inclusive and unifying feel.

A large part of the success of this book are the incredible illustrations by Mulazzani.  Her art has a timelessness about it, thanks to the worn texture of the paint in places.  That quality plays against the modern lines of her art, creating a synthesis that is dynamic and invites readers to look more closely.

Perfect for bedtime with its quietness, this book could also be used very nicely for poetic exercises where children look for admirable qualities in animals and write their own poems of appreciation and wonder.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Review: Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid

picture a tree

Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid

How do you picture a tree?  Do you see a drawing on the sky?  A tunnel?  An ocean?  A sun umbrella to stop on your hot walk home?  What do you see?  These are just some of the ideas that Reid puts forward in her picture book that pays homage to trees and their ever-changing beauty.  Starting with the spring and moving through all of the seasons, this book will have you looking into the trees around you and noticing them even more.

Reid’s text here is simple but very effective.  She gets you dreaming of your own answers and also seeing trees from all angles and all seasons.  The true focus here though is her art.  Done entirely in Plasticine clay, they have a wonderful three-dimensional quality to them and are anything but simple.  In fact, the detail is amazing and will keep readers gazing long after they complete the words on the page.

An awesome addition to any Arbor Day, Earth Day, tree-related or seasonal story time or unit, this book should inspire all of us to wonder about trees.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

You can also see the trailer for the book for a glimpse of Reid’s art and words:

Review: Gandhi by Alice B. McGinty


Gandhi: A March to the Sea by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

This nonfiction picture book focuses on Gandhi’s 24-day March to the Sea in 1930.  Joined by over 70 others, this was a nonviolent protest of British rule of India and the taxes they had levied on salt.  Told in verse, this picture book explores how the march united the different faiths and castes of India into a common cause.  The book and journey ends with Gandhi scooping salt from the sea, inspiring many others to do the same.  Many were imprisoned for their actions, but they proved too numerous for the prison system and had to be released.  This is a profound and impressive look at a nonviolent action that was noticed around the world and still serves as inspiration today.

McGinty’s verse is free and flowing.  She nicely integrates imagery that is moving and speaks volumes about the situation.  Just one line from when Gandhi reaches the sea: “white salt dusting dark sand.”  McGinty also weaves in the way that Gandhi inspired others to spin their own thread rather than relying on British cloth, how he prayed together with all faiths, truly how he created a single community out of so many different ones.

The illustrations by Gonzalez are exquisite.  His paintings capture the stones on the path, the crowds that gathered, and finally Gandhi by the sea, alone and strong.  All of the images show a man of strength of conviction and a spirit that was unfailing.  They are stunningly evocative of the man and his mission.

This is a top-notch picture book that truly conveys the difference one man can make in the world being nonviolent.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

bitter kingdom

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Released August 27, 2013.

This is the third and final book in the Fire and Thorns trilogy and it is just as amazing as the first two.  In this third book, Elisa has been forced out of her kingdom.  Her enemies have taken her captain of the guard hostage but even more than that, they have stolen Elisa’s hopes for a budding romance with him.  Now she must go after him, trying to respond as a queen rather than someone who is heartsick with worry.  As she follows their trail, she learns more about her enemy and more of the secrets that her family kept from her about her Godstone and its powers.  She must call upon all of her courage, all of her humanity and all of her magic to survive this quest.

It is seriously hard to keep that vague about a book I loved, but a large part of my pleasure in reading this book was not knowing where it was headed.  I have only given plot points that are revealed in the first few chapters, nothing about the latter part of the book that is filled with action and reveals information about Elisa’s destiny and the world she lives in that readers will find immensely rewarding.

Carson neatly crosses boundaries of fantasy and science fiction in this final book.  Her heroine is no longer recognizable as the chubby girl being sent to an arranged marriage who started this series.  This instead is a queen, a queen with a heart that loves endlessly and who also has immense trust in others.  She is a queen with a destiny that is unknown, a duty that has been stolen from her, and a love who is missing.  In short, she is one incredible heroine for a trilogy.

Beautifully written, this series speaks to acceptance, transformation and being true to oneself.  Get this series into the hands of fans of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore.  They will adore Elisa utterly.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss.

Review: Peanut & Fifi Have a Ball by Randall de Seve

peanut and fifi have a ball

Peanut & Fifi Have a Ball by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Paul Schmid

Peanut had a brand new ball.  It was blue and special.  But Fifi wanted to play with the ball too.  She tried grabbing it away from Peanut, and she tried being polite and asking “Please.”  But Peanut would not share it.  Then Fifi got creative and started coming up with ideas of how they could play with the ball.  It could wear a hat.  It could be a crystal ball and Fifi could tell fortunes.  It could be bread dough and Fifi could be a chef.  This book about sharing as siblings ends with a believable twist that is clever and satisfying.

De Seve’s text really comes alive when Fifi starts to imagine what she can do with the ball.  He is consistently simple and clear throughout, allowing the story to play out with a natural rhythm and flow.  The pacing is nicely done as well, allowing both sisters to have their space to think and react.

Schmid’s art is what makes this book really stand out.  His hip and modern visual style uses strong black lines and tropical colors.  In just a few lines, Schmid manages to convey a character’s mood clearly but not in an over-the-top manner.  His art is simple and very effective.

A great pick for toddlers and early preschoolers that would make a nice addition to story times or book lists about sharing.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

Review: Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt

scaredy squirrel goes camping

Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt

Scaredy Squirrel is back!  This time he wants to stay far away from camping outside, much happier to watch a TV show ABOUT camping.  Unfortunately though, he needs to plug his TV in for it to work.  So he has to find an electrical outlet which means heading outside and into the campground.  As always, Scaredy plans his trip carefully.  He lists what he is scared of, packs important survival supplies, picks out a wilderness outfit to keep himself safe from things like nasty odors and bugs, and has a map of his mission timed to the minute.  But things do not go as planned, showing Scaredy that sometimes it’s not about the plan itself but the journey on which it takes you.

Watt has a wonderful comedic timing that she displays in all of her Scaredy Squirrel and Chester books.  It is all about those moments of hesitation that make the humor all the more funny.  Scaredy is a great character with his obsessive planning and worrying.  Many children will see themselves in Scaredy and also be able to see the humor as well.  As always, the illustrations are clear, clean and add to the fun.

Another great book in a strong series, this one is perfectly timed for spring and summer camp outs.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.