Monday, February 27, 2012

The Prince's New Pet

Kirkus Review starred (October 15, 2011)

When the Queen died and her bereft king banished color from the kingdom, Prince Viridian's world turned the gloomiest gray. A mysterious present (a cute, colorful creature called a wooglefoof) crashes his birthday party and changes all that, spiriting its garish stripes across the castle and sending the king's Color Snatcher in fiendish, feverish pursuit. Scratchy, black ink drawings deliver wobbly, warped perspectives over undulating gray backdrops, punctuated with pop-eyed expressions and swift action. The wooglefoof's vivid fur clashes brilliantly with fine black linework and murky gray fog, propelling readers onward. Expert paneling unfailingly energizes and advances the story as well, creating a pace that leaves you panting. The sinister Color Snatcher's jagged cheekbones, sharp nose and supremely str-e-etch-ed smile raises goosebumps, while the wooglefoof's fluffy rainbow tail, googly eyes and spastic sprints deliver laughs. In Anderson's giddily dark world, where Tim Burton or Edward Gorey might happily put up their feet, the comic and ridiculous teeter alongside the horrid and beastly. Sophisticated language and frightening chase scenes broaden this book's appeal to older readers, who might start touting joyful flamboyance over ascetic boredom. Creepy, kooky and deftly delivered, this dark story offers a bright ending for readers who might think they've just outgrown fairy tales. (Picture book. 5-10)

Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur

School Library Journal (February 1, 2012)

PreS-K-This book begins as a little girl meets a dinosaur in a grocery store. The rhyming story presents a situation that she finds herself in, such as when the oversize creature knocks over a bunch of apples in the produce aisle. The text then asks, "If you pick them up, what will she say?" The dinosaur responds with a resounding, "Thank you." Each response to the question is displayed in a speech bubble, adding to the already vibrant illustrations. Basic words and phrases are presented, such as: "Please," Thank you," "No thank you," "I'm sorry," "You're welcome," and "Excuse me." Bowers's acrylic paintings are bright and filled with humor. For example, the adults all seem to be mystified that there is a dinosaur in the store while the little girl is perfectly accepting of this friendly looking dinosaur with pink cat's-eye glasses and a tiny purse and basket. The fun rhymes and humorous, full-color illustrations make the story a sure bet for multiple readings and discussions of manners.-Lora Van Marel, Orland Park Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Mosquitos are ruining my summer!

Booklist (April 15, 2011 (Vol. 107, No. 16))

Grades 3-5. Like other titles in the Silly Dilly series, this picture-book applies new lyrics to familiar songs. Here, the pages offer witty takes on summer camp; for example, “Somebody Send Me Home Now!” is intended to be sung to the tune of “Skip to My Lou”: “Breakfast—it’s / banana peel, / fresh cement / they call oatmeal. Few elements of the camp-going experience are exempt from the tongue-in-cheek riffing, and lively cartoon-style illustrations extend the hyperbolic humor through caricature and perspective. Musical notation isn’t included, but the selections are mainly well known. Entertaining, especially for veteran campers.

The Camping Trip That Changed America

School Library Journal (January 1, 2012)

Gr 1-4-Theodore Roosevelt (Teedie) and John Muir (Johnnie) both held important positions-Roosevelt was the youngest President of the United States, and Muir was a world-famous naturalist. In 1903, Roosevelt read of Muir's Sierra Mountain adventures and heard his plea for the government to save the mountain forests. Muir's response resulted in a meeting between Teedie and Johnnie, an adventure of only four days that traversed the wonders of the Yosemite Valley and established an understanding and respect between the two. Based on an actual event in which Roosevelt "dropped politics" and persuaded a reluctant Muir to camp with him, the book presents a fictionalized account of the shared experiences of these two strong-willed personalities that resulted in the addition of 18 national monuments and double the number of national parks. Gerstein's richly colored paint and detailed pen drawings heighten readers' vision of an expanded horizon on the full spreads. Turn the book lengthwise to accommodate the sequoia giants' full height, and back again as tiny vignettes fill the night sky in tales above lingering campfire shadows. Impressions of the wilderness emphasize the grand impact of the event, detailed by an author's note (bibliography and references to the Yosemite Research Library, John Muir National Site, and University of the Pacific Library are included). In interpreting and recording both personal relationships and the historical impact of the meeting, this offering makes a little-known bit of history accessible for younger readers, and encourages further research.-Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth

School Library Journal (February 1, 2012)

Gr 2-6-This heavily illustrated title is a fantastic adventure loaded with information for kids to absorb. Leonid is journeying to the center of the Earth, and Leo Geo takes readers along for the ride. The combination of humor, excitement, and science is intriguing and extremely hard to put down. Chad's imaginative storytelling introduces youngsters to the Earth's layers and sparks the desire to learn more about the planet. The introduction explains how to hold the book, which makes it more accessible for those unfamiliar with the format. The pivot point at the center of the Earth is enhanced when the book has to be turned over and read in the other direction. The physical object requires so much interaction that even reluctant readers will stay on task. The black-and-white artwork is totally engaging and the structure of the book is crucial to the story line. The trim size reinforces the idea that the journey is a long one and there is so much to see and do along the way. This is a must-have for libraries. Buy extra copies; you'll need them.-Catherine Brenner, Bethlehem Public Library, Delmar, NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Energy Island

Booklist starred (March 1, 2011 (Vol. 107, No. 13))

Grades 1-3. The small Danish island Samsø has received worldwide attention for its “energy independence,” achieved by shifting completely from fossil fuels to renewable resources, such as wind power, captured on its shores. The leader of the movement? A grade-school teacher who started his visionary campaign with his students. “Imagine if we really could make enough energy from the sun, and our crops, and even our own legs, to power up the whole island!” In this first title in a planned series of picture books about sustainable energy, Drummond combines winsome, kinetic, ink-and-wash illustrations with a succinct, simply phrased, smoothly flowing narrative that describes how Samsø transformed itself. “Some people had big ideas. Some people had small ones. But all were important in working toward our goal.” The frequent sidebars that explain such terms as nonrenewable energy feel aimed at a slightly older audience than the main body of text, and younger children will likely need help grasping references to complex ideas, such as how electricity is captured and sold. Still, through the story of one community, Drummond offers a wholly engaging look at the ways we may produce and use energy in the future while delivering an inspirational challenge: “We’re all islanders on the biggest island of them all—planet Earth. So it’s up to us to figure out how to save it.”

Cold Cereal

Booklist (February 1, 2012 (Vol. 108, No. 11))

Grades 4-7. On his first day of school, Scott Doe accompanies his new sixth-grade class on a field trip to the Goodco Cereal Factory—here, he encounters a leprechaun whom nobody else can see. Meanwhile, in a parallel story, twin orphans Erno and Emily Utz undertake their latest game, which is foisted upon them by their foster father, and which is supposed to test their intelligence. Eventually the stories converge, bringing together magical experiments, chase scenes, Merle Lynn and a colorful variety of fay, from a pink dragon to a Bigfoot nanny. The children unite and, with the help of friends fairy and real, attempt to thwart the cereal company’s dastardly plans. Rex supports his centrifugal imagination with tight storytelling, effervescent characterization, and strong imagery and metaphor (plus black-and-white illustrations). The result is a story that’s simultaneously dense and frothy, like chocolate perforated with bubbles. And while his imagined world is fully realized, he’s careful not to explain too much, building a sense of mystery that will leave eager readers anxious for the sequel.

11 Experiments That Failed

School Library Journal (November 1, 2011)

K-Gr 2-Beginning with a question followed by a hypothesis, an exuberant budding scientist follows what she believes to be logical steps in proving her theories in, alas, 11 experiments that fall short of expectations. Each of her tests includes a "What You Need" and "What to Do" list and concludes with "What Happened." From attempting to confirm that children can live on a snow and ketchup diet to sending a message in a bottle to the sea via the toilet, this enthusiastic child in her white lab coat, pink rubber gloves, and safety goggles has a never-give-up attitude, much to her mother's distress. Intriguing pen-and-ink and digital media illustrations are inventive themselves as they take readers through the various steps toward unfulfilled promise and sometimes unmitigated disaster. One humorous vignette appears in both this title and in this team's 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore (Random, 2006): the same dog with the same long tongue licking food off the table. Though this book should come with a caution label: "Do NOT read this book to children who may perform these experiments," kids and adults will get a kick out of it.-Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Monday, February 13, 2012

One Cool Friend

Booklist (January 1, 2012 (Vol. 108, No. 9))

Grades K-3. Polite, bow-tie-and-suit-wearing Elliot is none too excited when his father suggests attending Family Fun Day at the aquarium. But once he is there, he is drawn to the Magellanic penguins, whose tidy black feather tuxedos with their proper posture remind Elliot of himself. So he decides to sneak one home in his backpack, under his father’s seemingly oblivious eye. Once home, Elliot and his new penguin pal dine on frozen anchovy pizzas, share Goldfish crackers, and skate on a mini ice rink in his room (created with a wading pool and hose)—all the while his father is blithely engaged with his atlas, maps, and charts and appears not to notice the goings-on. Small’s black-and-white line illustrations with pops of soft color are an artful blend of elegance, wit, and whimsy. They echo and complement the text and depict expressive characters, including the playful penguin. This charming picture book has many humorous details throughout, and kids will likely laugh out loud at the surprise ending—particularly for the father!

Calli Be Gold

Booklist (March 15, 2011 (Vol. 107, No. 14))

Grades 4-6. Calli Gold hasn’t yet found what her father calls her passion. Her brother is a star basketball player, and her sister attends endless skate-team practices, but Calli is less worried about this void than her parents are. A wise 11-year-old, she also perceives that her sister isn’t happy on the ice and that her father is overly involved in her brother’s games. Hurwitz’s engaging debut charts how Calli makes her family see an alternative to the rush-rush lifestyle they lead. The author has created an appealing narrator, who’s quiet, observant, and stuck in a family of louds. Calli quotes the exasperating things her parents say as they prod her through the family’s busy schedule and promote her involvement in one area or another. At the same time, she is drawn to help a second-grade boy who needs a good friend. Hurwitz nicely conveys the sense that it’s OK for reserved Calli to be loud sometimes—with outbursts that she didn’t plan and behavior she didn’t expect—and that families can be enriched by their younger members’ ideas.

Benjamin Franklinstein Meets the Fright Brothers

Kirkus Review (August 1, 2011)

Renowned inventors square off in a battle for modern Philadelphia in this daffy sequel to Benjamin Franklinstein Lives! (2010). Reanimated in the previous episode after centuries of suspended animation, genial Ben and his two young Karloff Street cohorts-serious minded Victor Godwin (son of Mary) and his deceptively idiotic buddy Scott-must swing back into action. They find themselves johnnies on the spot when a wave of giant-bat sightings is followed by one city official after another suddenly acquiring spots on their necks, glowing eyes and robotlike behavior. Checking out strange doings at the just-opened "Right Cycle Company," the investigators find two likewise reanimated gents in antique clothing engaged in turning bicycle parts into a huge flying machine designed to finish the job and take over the city at the behest of a shadowy "Emperor." Enhanced by frequent charts, diagrams, lists and other visual aids, a spirit of rational (if often reckless) scientific inquiry pervades the tale, as Ben and his allies translate coded messages, analyze evidence, get a lesson in meteorology and conduct experiments using both real and science-fictional gear on the way to a literally electrifying climax. The Emperor's identity is revealed at the end but as he remains at large, expect further sequels. The authors have way too much fun taking the opener's premise and evil conspiracy to the next level. Readers will too. (Sci-fantasy. 10-12)

The One and Only Ivan

Kirkus Review starred (October 15, 2011)

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage. Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human--except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and, rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers' passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout. Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author's note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Can You Survive the Titanic? An Interactive Survival Adventure

School Library Journal (December 1, 2011)

Gr 3-5-In this entertaining blend of fiction and nonfiction, readers have the choice of a voyage on the Titanic as a boy, a maid, or a ship's officer. In Storm Chasing, they get to decide if they'd rather face a hurricane, tornado, or flash flood. Each story path has many choices and a plethora of endings-and not all are happy. These are fast reads that will have students turning the pages back and forth until they think they've reached every permutation possible. The photos are bright, vivid, and exciting, and the books are graphically appealing.-Esther Keller, I.S. 278, Marine Park, NY (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Hamster

Publishers Weekly (June 27, 2011)

It's Hamster's birthday, but his best friend Dog seems to have forgotten. Hamster accompanies him on errands, including stopping at a bakery, as well as toy and party stores. At each stop, the hefty bulldog pretends to shop for himself, but is actually in cahoots with three mice keeping tabs on what Hamster wants. Lord uses a rhyme scheme similar to that in Hot Rod Hamster to describe the items in each store: "Spin toys, glow toys, wind it up and go toys./ Soft toys, hard toys, ride it through the yard toys. Which would you choose?" Just as Hamster becomes despondent, his friends greet him with a lively celebration. Those who miss the clues the first time, should enjoy being privy to them upon rereading. Ages 2-6. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Titanic Voices From the Disaster

Kirkus Review starred (January 1, 2012)

In what's sure to be a definitive work commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, Hopkinson offers a well-researched and fascinating account of the disaster. On Monday, April 15th, 1912, the magnificent Titanic sank after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Of the 2,208 people on board, only 712 survived. It's a well-known story, though maybe not to young readers, who, if anything, might have seen the movie. Hopkinson orchestrates a wealth of material here, using a third-person narrative voice to tell the story while incorporating eyewitness accounts of people on the "most luxurious ship the world had ever seen." A huge number of archival photographs and reproductions of telegrams, maps, letters, illustrations, sidebars and even a dinner menu complement the text, yielding a volume as interesting for browsing as for through-reading. The voices include a stewardess, a science teacher, a 9-year-old boy, the ship's designer, the captain and a mother on her way to a new life in America. Best of all is the author's spirit: She encourages readers to think like historians and wonder what it would have been like on the Titanic and imagine each character's story. Fifty pages of backmatter will inform and guide readers who want to know even more. A thorough and absorbing recreation of the ill-fated voyage. (Nonfiction. 8-16)

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda

From the Publisher: In 1934, Ruth Harkness had never seen a panda bear. Not many people in the world had. But soon the young Mrs. Harkness would inherit an expedition from her explorer husband: the hunt for a panda. She knew that bringing back a panda would be hard. Impossible, even. But she intended to try. So she went to China, where she found a guide, built traps, gathered supplies, and had explorers' clothes made--unheard of for a woman in those days. Then she set out up the Yangtze River and into the wilderness. What she discovered would awe America: an adorable baby panda she named Su Lin, which means "a little bit of something very cute." With breathtaking illustrations from Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet, this little-known true story shares the tale of an adventurous woman who was bold and brave--and the unforgettable journey that helped shape American attitudes toward wildlife. "From the Hardcover edition."

Life in the Ocean

Kirkus Review starred (January 1, 2012)

Young explorers will be happy to dive into this captivatingly illustrated biography of the renowned oceanographer. Blue is everywhere, as is the marvelous diversity of undersea life, as Nivola recounts Earle's passion for the oceans. From early childhood, she cultivated her love of nature; her family's move to Florida, close to the Gulf of Mexico's enthralling depths, clinched things. From then on, Earle's explorations took her further and deeper. She helped design devices that allowed dives to profound underwater depths and witnessed the extraordinary phenomenon of bioluminescence. She lived for two weeks beneath the waves in a deep-sea station. Studies of whales yielded nearly magical observations. The detailed, richly colored, jewel-like illustrations capture the majesty of the undersea world and its astonishingly beautiful inhabitants. Nivola is careful to show Earle in perspective, so readers can fully comprehend the ocean's vastness and understand that humans are merely a part of the amazing richness of life on Earth and under its waters. A delicious invitation to swim with the fishes. (author's note, bibliography)(Picture book/biography. 5-9)

The Adventures of Beanboy

Publishers Weekly (January 2, 2012)

Good-naturedly sardonic Tucker MacBean is a collector and aspiring creator of comic books, a preoccupation that he realizes doesn't rank high "on the sliding scale of middle-school coolness." He enters a contest to create a sidekick for his favorite superhero, convinced that a win will jump-start his popularity; he plans to give the prize-a college scholarship-to his overextended single mother, who's juggling classes and work. Tucker joins the art club to prepare his entry, and Sam (a classmate who Tucker sees as "arch nemesis to the world") is hired to babysit his special-needs brother after school. As Beanboy, Tucker's invented sidekick, takes shape (Harkrader also contributes sketches and comics-style panel art throughout), Tucker displays his own heroism when he reaches out to Sam after discovering why she is so belligerent and defensive. Tucker's rapport with his brother, concern for his mother, and frustration with his absent father (who now "only existed in e-mails") add emotional depth to Harkrader's (Airball: My Life in Briefs) believable portrait of school and family life. Ages 9-12. Agent: Steven Chudney, the Chudney Agency. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Plant a Kiss

Booklist (December 15, 2011 (Vol. 108, No. 8))

Preschool-Grade 2. Children must wonder why adults say some of the curious things that they do—for instance, the phrase planting a kiss. Here, in charming, minimalist fashion, Rosenthal imagines a literal interpretation of the trope, spinning it out to a whimsical yet weighty conclusion. A young girl, known in the rhyming text as Little Miss, plants a kiss in the ground. After careful tending, a delicately sparkling sprout grows, and the girl decides to share her wondrous harvest with the world, diligently traveling to the farthest corners to do so. What is being shared exactly is left open to interpretation, but Reynolds’ winsome, small-scale illustrations—a perfect vehicle for this conceptual story—feature flourishes of yellow glitter that will help young children connect to the metaphorical aspect of the tale. A fine starting point for discussions about kindness, generosity, and how every person has the potential to affect big change. Not bad for a book that starts with one little kiss.

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard

Horn Book (January/February, 2012)

Alice and her family have a wonderful plot of land upon which they grow edible plants, raise chickens, and enjoy their many interactions with the wide variety of living things in their backyard ecosystem. Changes that occur during the garden growing season are attractively portrayed in Lamont's cheery illustrations, where even the bugs and dirt are irresistibly appealing. Also included is scientific information about such topics as composting, plant life cycles, food chains and food webs, and nutrition. The anthropomorphized chickens, it seems, are quite science-savvy, as their direct addresses to readers throughout the text explain the underlying facts. Particularly effective is the careful building of the concept of the food web from initial discussions of what eats what to full consideration of interdependent food relationships. danielle j. ford

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!

Kirkus Review (January 15, 2012)

A terrific opening--a serene, classical landscape interrupted by Pablo Picasso's exuberant burst through the canvas of this bucolic scene--leads into a simplified look at Picasso's artistic development from adolescent prodigy through his 20s. From Picasso's "blue" period in Paris through his cheerier "rose" period, the young "Mr. Big Famous Art Star" still beloved of critics discovers the visual power of African masks, eventually producing the surprising Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Winter charts the course of an artist determined to travel by his own compass. He depicts the young adult Picasso beset by critics on every side (including an unnamed wife--"Why can't you keep painting beautiful pictures?"--though Picasso would not actually marry any of the women in his life until much later). Hawkes' vibrant, full-bleed illustrations offer Picasso as a superhero of sorts, red cape included, dashing as his artistic muse might inspire, and faithfully reproduce a few familiar works. A bit of magical realism intrudes as Picasso floats through Paris and later when "Picasso expands himself to a height of one hundred feet" to face down his critics. A mere taste of the iconoclastic artist emerges, but an essential point is conveyed--that Picasso understood that art is more than the eye perceives as "real." An energetic and affectionate introduction to an artist who was always somewhat larger than life. (biographical note) (Picture book. 5-10)

Here Come the Girl Scouts!

Booklist (January 1, 2012 (Vol. 108, No. 9))

Grades 1-4. On March 12, 2012, the Girl Scouts will have been in existence for 100 years, and it’s all thanks to Juliette Daisy Gordon Low. Daisy was a girl with gumption; an opening illustration shows her joy at hanging from a tree, petticoat on full display. A trip to England later in life introduces Daisy to the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, and the rest, as they say, is history. Ambitious in scope, this picture-book biography covers everything from the first meeting of the Girl Scouts to its first handbook (with guidance on such things as how to stop a runaway horse) to troop expansion across the country. A final inspiring spread offers up portraits of former Girl Scouts, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gloria Steinem, and it leaves one portrait empty: you. Well-chosen quotes from the original handbook (fresh air is your great friend) are incorporated into Hooper’s exuberant illustrations, which were created using paint, ink, and printmaking techniques. Extensive back matter includes Girl Scout–related history, legacy, photos, and sources. Girl power, all the way around.

Same, Same but Different

Horn Book (November/December, 2011)

Kailash, from India, and Elliot, from the United States, exchange letters and drawings in this joyful celebration of transcontinental pen-pal friendship. In Nepal and India, author-illustrator Kostecki-Shaw learned the saying "same, same but different" to compare cultures, and the boys use it throughout the book as they learn about each other's families, abodes, schools, alphabets (Kailash's is Hindi, yet not identified as such), and ways of greeting. Simple, predictable, repeated text, written in a handwritten but clear font, makes the story easy to read. Brilliantly colored illustrations created with collage, acrylics, crayon, pencil, and tissue paper help highlight the two worlds and make the book perfect for sharing with a crowd. Tiny details (stamps, painting on walls, signs on city buildings) add interest for close viewing as well. The children in the stylized art, large-headed and open-eyed, add humor to a book that could have simply been a lesson in "let's all get along." Young readers will close the book longing to have a friend from another place; for schools with global partnerships, this will be a go-to book for introducing these projects to classrooms. robin l. smith