Monday, May 6, 2013

Water In the Park

Booklist starred (March 15, 2013 (Vol. 109, No. 14))

Preschool-Grade 2. It’s a hot day at the city park, a pleasant green oasis of open space, play equipment, and water. The jacket illustration offers a bird’s-eye view of the pond, hill, playground, and flower beds, areas that will be seen again and again from different angles. Around six o’clock in the morning, several dogs and their people head for the pond. By seven, two babies and their grown-ups have arrived at the playground. Hour by hour throughout the day, visitors come and go. In the crowded playground at ten o’clock, a sprinkler in a shallow pool amuses toddlers, while older kids line up at the drinking fountain for water to fill their water balloons, to wet the sand for sand castles, and to cool the slide. While the quiet text creates a satisfying, structured narrative full of details that will intrigue young children, they will also be engaged by the inviting pictures. Using digitally assembled pencil drawings and ink washes, Graegin creates illustrations with a traditional look and plenty of human interest. The park within the book becomes a destination that a child can visit and revisit, noticing new details each time and connecting familiar ones in new ways. A wonderfully fresh look at a timeless topic.

The Great Lollipop Caper

School Library Journal (April 1, 2013)

K-Gr 2-Being earthy and acidic feels like a curse to Mr. Caper, whose sophisticated flavor appeals only to adults. Kids can't stand him, and he is insanely jealous of Lollipop, wishing that he could take his red rival's place. After Mr. Caper sneaks into the lollipop factory and tampers with the liquid in the vats, green, caper-flavored lollipops emerge, ready for consumption. But the world turns topsy-turvy when children taste the new sour treat and become sourpusses themselves. Now even grown-ups despise Mr. Caper, and it takes the sweet red lollipop to set the world right once more. Remorseful Mr. Caper is forgiven, and, more importantly, he comes to accept that his own unique flavor is perfectly fine. Krall's self-acceptance lesson is delightfully easy to swallow. This hilarious and highly original tale is enhanced by laugh-out-loud Photoshop cartoon illustrations and clever, punchy dialogue. Guaranteed to please a variety of tastes and an undeniably sweet treat for the picture-book shelves.-Gloria Koster, West School, New Canaan, CT (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2011)

Wolitzer turns to writing for young readers with an ever-so-slightlymagical tale of friendship and what it takes to be a winner. Just before starting in a new school, 12-year-old Duncan Dorfmandiscovers he can read through the fingertips of his left hand. His single mother makes him promise not to tell anyone. When he just can't take being a nobody any longer, though, he shows his table mate at lunch and draws the attention of Carl Slater, who is determined to win the national Youth Scrabble Tournament by any means necessary. In Portland, Ore., April Blunt and her Scrabble partner practice regularly and search for a boy April met and lost touch with. In New York, Nate Saviano is struggling under the yolk of homeschooling (which is just his father's way of making him study 24/7 to win the tournament; Mr. Saviano lost when he was 12). The teams bond over Scrabble boards, helping each other win in ways that surprise even them. The novel is shot through with Scrabble words and rules in a way that is reminiscent of Louis Sachar's The Cardturner (2010). Readers will identify with and root for the characters as their tales intertwine to a satisfying if slightly too cheery close. Word wizards aren't the only ones who will enjoy this readable rumination on ethics, competition and identity. (Fiction. 9-14)

Everyone Can Learn To Ride a Bicycle

Booklist starred (April 15, 2013 (Vol. 109, No. 16))

Preschool-Grade 2. From the reassuring title onward, this vibrant picture book describes learning to ride a bicycle—a monumental challenge for many children. A father guides his daughter through the process, which begins with choosing the perfect bike, watching others ride, and realizing that all those expert riders once learned this skill as a beginner, too. The girl begins to ride with the training wheels set low, then set high, and then removed. She takes some spills, gets back on, and tries again. When she is frustrated, her father encourages her to try again and again and again—and eventually, she can ride a bicycle. So much is heartening about the book, from the father’s consistently kind, matter-of-fact tone to the fact that the process begins with simple steps and leads up to more challenging ones. Rendered in Raschka’s signature style of fluid, kinetic brushstrokes, the ink-and-watercolor illustrations beautifully capture the action and emotion in each scene. (Safety-minded adults will also be happy to note that the girl is wearing an enormous helmet throughout the book.) Deceptively simple and perfectly paced for read-alouds, this latest from the two-time Caldecott medalist captures a child’s everyday experience with gentle, joyful sensitivity.

Face Bug

School Library Journal (April 1, 2013)

K-Gr 5-Visitors to this book get close-up, photographic views of 15 amazing creatures, including the Hickory Horned Devil and the Nursery Web Spider, whose eyes are impossible to avoid counting. "Eight black eyes in a whiskery face,/Eight round eyes in a dark crawl space/That never bother blinking back/Could give a kid a heart attack!" The endnotes, "written" in first person by the various bugs, describe "Where I Live," "How I Grow," "What I Eat," and "What Eats Me" with scientific accuracy and humor. Budding bug fans will love this title. The poems are funny and based on actual bug behavior and attributes, the photographic portraits of the faces and eyes are marvelous, and the ink and graphite drawings guide readers through the museum collection. Murphy's anthropomorphized creatures visit the "Nectar Cafe" and try on different pairs of glasses to sample being bug-eyed, compound-eyed, eight-eyed. The interactive science museum has gizmos such as cicada sound buttons and a camouflaged Goldenrod Stowaway Moth hidden in a cluster of flowers. Readers will not see bugs again in the same way: "You may think you've seen our Show Bugs in the trees or in the sky,/But you never really know bugs till you look them in the eye." There will be many returns to the Face Bug Museum as this book has so much to offer. Wonderfully conceived and executed.-Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.