Review: A Special Gift for Grammy by Jean Craighead George

special gift for grammy

A Special Gift for Grammy by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

Hunter collected a big pile of stones and put them on his grandmother’s porch.  When his father and grandmother ask him what she is meant to do with them, Hunter replied, “What everyone does with a pile of stones.”  Hunter turned out to be right.  Everyone who saw the stack of stones knew just how to use one or more of them.  The postal carrier used one to weigh down the mail on a breezy day.  Workmen used them as hammers or weights.  They are used to stop wheels from rolling and show people what way to turn.  When Hunter returned only six little stones were left.  But this time it’s Grammy who knows just what to do with them.

I have one big issue with this book: the title.  It does very little to convey the charm that is inside this book.  I love the idea of a pile of stones that everyone borrows from and uses.  Then the end of the book is intensely satisfying.  I must admit though that with the uninteresting title, I almost passed on this book, expecting it to be a book about the death of a grandparent or a saccharine poem about familial love.  Instead it is a well-designed look at community, family and connections.  I’d much rather have had the title reference the stone pile or stones or rocks. 

The illustrations are done in collage, acrylic and pencil.  They have gorgeous deep colors, combined with lots of texture from the collage.  The collage is done in such a subtle way that it is almost invisible, just adding a level of texture and pattern to the paintings. 

This book truly is a special gift, but one that could use a new title.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins Publishers.

Review: Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker

steam train dream train

Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

The author/illustrator team that brought you the bestselling Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site returns with another gorgeous transportation-themed bedtime book.  The cheerful rhyme invites children to explore the different types of train cars and what sorts of items are stowed in each one.  This is done by a monkey crew who move monkey bars into the boxcars with tumbling moves and lots of bananas.  The hopper car is filled with bouncy balls by kangaroos and a helpful giraffe.  Elephants squirt paints into tankers with their trunks, each train car a different color.  The cold reefer car holds ice cream treats as well as polar bears and penguins.  Gondolas are filled with sand, beach balls and toys.  The autorack has lots of fast racecars.  The well cars have dinosaurs and their lunches.  Finally there are the flatbeds made into beds and the red caboose, the train heads off to a new day. 

First let me comment on the endpages which are done in train engineer cloth pattern and really invite young train enthusiasts to read on.  The book has that wonderful rhyme that is playful and youthful, dancing along merrily to the beat.  That sense of play is evident throughout the book, as the different animals load the train with things that will interest very young readers.  All of it has a silly tone that makes it great fun to read.

Lichtenheld’s illustrations add to that silliness with small touches that are such fun to discover.  Done in a soft yet rich style, the illustrations invite you to dream along with the book.  Their deep color captures the nighttime setting while the softness will have little heads snuggling in close. 

A worthy companion to the first book, get this into the hands of little engineers and fans of Thomas the Tank Engine.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

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


BEA 2013: Children’s Galleys to Grab #kidlit #BEA

A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teenager #kidlit

Maurice Sendak Tribute: Children’s Illustrators Donate Art For Auction

Middle Grade Saved My Life – The Horn Book #kidlit

Top book award named for Margaret Mahy – Newstalk ZB #kidlit

Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne was first world war propagandist | The Guardian


25 Vintage Photos of Librarians Being Awesome – Flavorwire

Architects of Dreams: Anythink’s Pam Sandlian Smith on the Power of Children’s Librarians | School Library Journal

CHANGE NEEDS A BRAND: don’t fear labels, leverage them – The Ubiquitous Librarian #libraries

Christian Zabriskie: Libraries in New York City: Why We Give a Damn and Why You Should Too #libraries

Hiring and Training Internet Mentors | TechSoup for Libraries #libraries

Seth’s Blog: Getting picked (need to vs. want to) – I can see libraries helping people pick themselves!

Voices for the Library » The Importance of Librarians and Libraries #libraries


Anna Dewdney’s Fostering Lifelong Learners conference speech – The Horn Book #reading

Free Comic Book Day 2013 – May 4th | Mighty Action


7 Myths of the Digital Divide » Cyborgology

Check out the New Ghost Blogging Platform Kickstarter: Funded in under 12 Hours! : @ProBlogger

Facebook deserted by millions of users in biggest markets |The Guardian

Flexible 20 micron thick RFID tags can be embedded in paper | Chips

FTC Guidelines: How to Ensure Compliance | How to Avoid Deceptive Ads #blogging

I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet | The Verge

The Webby Award Winners

Will the Kalq keyboard finally spell the end for qwerty? | Technology|The Guardian


alexie tweet

Anne Frank’s Diary Too ‘Pornographic’ For 7th-Grade Students, Claims Michigan Parent #yalit

Marie Lu on ‘Champion’ cover | Shelf Life – Gorgeous!! #yalit


Killing Time: How to Destroy Your Productivity