Review: Scritch Scratch Scraww Plop! by Kitty Crowther

Scritch Scratch Scraww Plop by Kitty Crowther

Scritch Scratch Scraww Plop! by Kitty Crowther

Jeremy doesn’t like the dark. So when bedtime comes, he is just fine as he gets ready for bed. He’s happy when his father reads him a bedtime story and his mother comes in for a final hug and kiss. But once he is left alone in the dark in bed, he hears something. It’s a “scritch scratch scraww plop” and Jeremy is fairly sure that it is some sort of monster in his room. He goes to tell his father, but his father just moves him back to bed. Eventually after being unable to sleep after several tries, Jeremy climbs in bed with his parents. His father can’t sleep then, and goes to sleep in Jeremy’s room. And that is when he hears a “scritch scratch scraww plop!” He heads back to get Jeremy and the two of them go outside together to figure out what is making that noise.

Crowther takes a universal situation of being scared of the dark and places a lovely natural twist at the end. The fact that Jeremy is not making up or imagining the scary noise he is hearing is central to the story. Reading this book aloud is a treat with the “scritch scratch scraww plop” offering a great opportunity to add a little shiver into the room. The design of the book is old-fashioned and warm. I immediately thought of Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter when I opened the book. The clear celebration of nature at the end of the book is a strong way to finish on a high note.

Crowther’s art is done in discrete panels on each page adding to the vintage feel. The art itself is jaunty and friendly. The pools of water on the floor that make up their carpet is funny and the real darkness on the page done in black is deep and adds to the scary feel when Jeremy is alone.

This import from Belgium will be welcomed as a bedtime story for those who have their own monsters and scary noises to deal with at night. It may also invite exploration out into yards and gardens to discover what is making those noises. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Review: Half a Creature from the Sea by David Almond

Half a Creature from the Sea by David Almond

Half a Creature from the Sea by David Almond

In a series of short stories, master author Almond takes readers back to the magical times of his childhood as well as our own. The stories are all set in the places that Almond grew up in. The stories range in topic, but each one offers glimpses of wonder and deep understanding. They also all speak to the power of stories in our lives, whether they are to reveal or to hide the truth. The eight stories in the book give us characters living normal yet extraordinary lives. There is the girl rejected by school and society who finds it easy to believe she comes from somewhere far away. There is the home with a monster hidden inside it where you can hear its noises if you put your ear on the wall outside. There are the boys who run miles and miles to swim in the sea on one perfect summer day. There are poltergeists mixed with soccer games, bullies mixed with heroes. It is a beautiful collection of stories which put together make up a glimpse of a world past that still is relevant in our modern one.

Almond’s writing is exceptional. This shorter form allows him to create little worlds of magic, astonishing moments of clarity, decisions that reverberate in the community. He invites us into his home, revealing in paragraphs before each story the way that the story ties to his childhood or to a place that is dear to him. It gives us a look at his process, a way to understand the fictionalizing of memories and the beauty of turning everyday into amazement. The fantasy elements are there, dancing under the cloak of faith but there still, explained but also not completely fictional. There is a delicacy to this writing and yet a robustness to the setting that work particularly well together.

One of the best short story collections I have read in a very long time, this collection is exceptional. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

Review: Waiting by Kevin Henkes

Waiting by Kevin Henkes

Waiting by Kevin Henkes (InfoSoup)

The award-winning Kevin Henkes returns with a new picture book about waiting. Five toys wait on a windowsill, looking outside. The owl waits for the moon, the pig waits for rain, the bear waits for wind, the dog waits for snow and the rabbit waits because he enjoys waiting and watching out the window. Seeing what they are waiting for makes each of them happy and so do new objects and visitors. Some visitors stay for only a short time while others stay longer. They all wait together. When a cat joins them, she too is waiting but for something very specific and it will be a wonderful surprise for everyone when it comes.

This is such a quiet and marvelous book. Do not read it expecting action and adventure, rather this is a book about waiting and patience. It is a book that shows the beauty of just being, of mindfulness, of acceptance of your day. Yet it is also a book about the tug of wanting and wishing, about time passing and about being friends in the most quiet and yet deep way. There is a silence about the book too that is compelling and superbly done. This is a philosophical book, one that quietly sneaks up on the reader how deep it actually is.

Henkes’ illustrations are done in a limited color palette. They have a quiet tone all their own in their pastels. The objects themselves have an old-fashioned feel, one of timelessness which is quite appropriate here. There are sections of the book done just in pictures, which allow the reader to see the relationships between the characters as well as the patience it takes to wait.

A gem of a picture book, this one is difficult to explain well but such a great read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: I Am Yoga by Susan Verde

I Am Yoga by Susan Verde

I Am Yoga by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (InfoSoup)

A girl explains how yoga helps her in her day. When she is feeling the world is moving too quickly and that her thoughts are racing, she uses yoga to slow her mind, stop her heart from racing, and make room for creativity and ideas. The book then moves into the girl doing yoga positions which she describes in terms of the way that they make her feel. They make her shine like a star, feel like she is dancing with the moon, seeing far and wide, and sailing on the sea. She also talks about what those moves do, like make her more focused, open her heart, and be more playful. Basically, it is a book that celebrates yoga and the many ways that it can impact your day and make you more mindful.

Verde’s words are ones of joy and cheer. She captures the zing of the busy day and the distractions that come with it. Then comes the centering and slowing and the yoga, that are quieter and even more joyful. The focus is on the beauty of those moments, the way they transform a person and the feeling that you are left with afterwards. The mindful piece is clearly there, though yoga and its movements takes center stage.

Reynolds uses simple images to convey the feelings of the various movements. Awash with watercolors, the line drawings glow on the page. Some pages have just one color while others have sunsets of oranges, yellows and purples. The use of the bright colors makes the book a rainbow to read, moving from one feeling to the next and guided by the colors themselves.

A vivid and lovely look at yoga and its power to transform, the book ends with a guide to the yoga positions seen in the book. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando

Black Cat White Cat by Silvia Borando

Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando (InfoSoup)

Black Cat is entirely black, from his ears to his tail. White Cat is entirely white. Black Cat only goes out during the day when he can see swallows flying, White Cat only goes out at night when the stars are out. Then one day, Black Cat decides to see the night. And that is how Black Cat and White Cat meet. The two decide to explore day and night together. The night has fireflies while the day has bumblebees. The day has daisies, birds and butterflies while the night has snakes, bats and mice. The two cats become best friends, and eventually have kittens of their own. And you will never guess what color they are!

Borando is an Italian author. Here she uses lovely simple language to convey the wonder of both night and day as seen through a fresh set of eyes. The budding friendship of the two cats is captured in a lively way on the page, each of them sharing their world with the other. The illustrations and design of the book is what makes it special. The use of just the two colors on the page, black and white is done with a subtle humor. Borando creates scenarios where the black cat provides the dark background for the white cat to appear against in the day time and then reverses it. These clever little twists are a joy.

Graphically interesting and beautifully designed, this picture book even has a surprise ending to enjoy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

Archer lives in a house that his grandparents filled with all of their discoveries from exploring the world. That’s the closest that Archer has ever gotten to having his own adventure. In fact, he’s really not allowed to leave the house except to attend school because his mother is afraid that he has “tendencies” towards exploring. And she is right! Even though he is stuck in the house, Archer manages to make two close friends in Oliver and Adelaide. The three of them begin planning to rescue Archer’s grandparents from the iceberg where they were last seen two years ago. They have to avoid detection from Archer’s mother as well as their horrible teacher who also lives in their neighborhood. As they plan their escape, the three friends are in for the adventure of a lifetime.

It is amazing that this is Gannon’s debut book. It is written with such surety and clarity. The plot is very strong, one that readers can count on answering questions after allowing the reader to puzzle and stew a bit. The writing is lovely, creating a setting that is clear and crisp. The house itself is a world separate from the rest, filled with mounted animals, surprising gifts, and red trunks. Descriptions are used to create this world and paint it before your eyes. They manage to not slow the pace of the book, which moves from leisurely storytelling to a wild mania at the end.

The illustrations too are exceptional. Done in old-fashioned full-color panels, they are filled with wonderful details. You get to see the various houses depicted in minute detail. The characters too are shown in a wonderful delicacy that shines with lamplight and sun. Even the darkness of the classroom is lit from the side, glowing with a wonder that matches the storyline.

An imaginative and wonderful read, this book is one to snuggle up with and share aloud. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.

This Week’s Tweets, Pins & Tumbls

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:

So many great seasonal reads!  Fun pumpkin books for kids that connect with Fall activities.:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

7Imp – The Women of Finding Winnie – http://buff.ly/1FdIAYE #kidlit

9 Ways People Who Read As Kids Have An Advantage Over Everyone Else – http://buff.ly/1QWTBP #reading

Concerns over gendered children’s books and its impact – http://buff.ly/1KmqWi5 #kidlit

Katherine Applegate on Crenshaw – The Horn Book – http://buff.ly/1OspkJI #kidlit

Katherine Rundell shares her list of the greatest literary wolves – http://buff.ly/1iVqQae #kidlit

Roald Dahl Books to Be Given Away in Happy Meals in the U.K. http://buff.ly/1FfQ0uC #kidlit

Roald Dahl Funny prize for children’s books is closed down – http://buff.ly/1FfKuZ1 #kidlit

Schoolboy calls for more disabled characters in children’s books – http://buff.ly/1Kxa77C #kidlit #diversity

The St. Paul Public Library’s transformation – http://buff.ly/1Jl98Cd #libraries

Some Kids’ Books Are Worth The Wait: ‘They Do Take Time,’ Says Kevin Henkes – http://buff.ly/1WiTsIU #kidlit

Top 10 reasons to go comic book crazy! – http://buff.ly/1Jf5x8J #comics #kidlit

The world:

LIBRARIES

Brace yourself for The Seattle Public Library name change – http://buff.ly/1L3IdlI #libraries

Cross-Country Mission To Track Down Carnegie Libraries – http://buff.ly/1Mmh8r7 #libraries

The Public Library’s New Role As Community Center – http://buff.ly/1Jq5OWl #libraries

Serving Your LGBT Teen Patrons – http://buff.ly/1MHiqA4 #lgbt #libraries

Library Zombie Apocalyopse  #thewalkingdead #librarydisplay #library:

TEEN READS

Ted Dawe explains how his teen book got banned in New Zealand – http://buff.ly/1WiUiFH #yalit

Why we need books exploring Muslim teen identity – http://buff.ly/1jbdCXb #yalit

Another Reason for Kids to Read

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Public Radio International has the news of a new study that reveals yet another reason that reading is important for children. The study done at University of California Riverside shows that the text of children’s books contains “substantially more unique words than ordinary parent-child conversation.”

Transcripts of conversations were compared with text from a hundred children’s picture books, largely compiled from book lists from teachers and librarians, Amazon and the most popular books at the local public library.

The difference is incredible, with 70% more unique words in books than in speech.

The next step in the study of text vs. speech will be focused on sentence-level differences.

Review: The Inker’s Shadow by Allen Say

The Inker's Shadow by Allen Say

The Inker’s Shadow by Allen Say

Released September 29, 2015.

This companion book to the author’s Drawing from Memory continues the story of Say’s life. In this book, Say arrives in the United States as a teenager. His father had arranged for him to attend a military school where he would work to earn his keep. He was expected to learn English and prove that be could be a success. But Say was the only Japanese student at the school and soon racism had become an issue. His father helped kick him out of school and sent him on his way. Say managed to find a safe place to live as well as a school that would let him graduate along with his peers rather than moving him back to classes with much younger students. Say continued to work on his art in the United States and at this new school he gained the attention of several important people who arranged for him to attend art classes and art school at no charge.

This autobiographical picture book is an inspiring story of a teen given up by his father who discovers a way forward towards his dream. Say does not linger on the more painful moments in his story, allowing them to speak for themselves since they are profoundly saddening. His honesty in this book is captivating and allows readers to deeply relate to his story.

The Caldecott medalist paints landscapes from his past as well as providing multiple images of people he held dear. There are often both photographs and renderings of people in line drawings and full paintings. One gets to witness from this the skill of Say’s art as he perfectly captures these beloved people from his past.

A coming-of-age story that is bittersweet and imbued with hope for the future. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Scholastic and Edelweiss.