Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Shh! We Have A Plan

Booklist (October 15, 2014 (Online))
Preschool-Grade 1. Four friends are quietly trundling through a dusky grove when they spot a radiant bird in the distance. “Hi, birdie,” says the smallest, but the three bigger friends, all wielding nets, have other ideas. They shush the fourth and silently sneak over, but they’re thwarted at the last minute when the bird flies away. It happens again and again, but the smallest guy—all eyes, hat, and limbs—takes a different approach and offers his flighty new friend some bread. Then another bird arrives, and another, and soon the gloaming is full of brilliantly bright birds. It’s a dream come true, until the friends are outnumbered and the birds seek out some well-earned revenge on their would-be captors. Haughton’s stylish digital illustrations in chunky patches of color make masterful use of hue and contrast—the jazzy warm-toned birds are vibrant when set against the crepuscular blues of the friends and the woods. With only a few words total, a repeated refrain, and a visually unmistakable plot, this is a great choice for emergent readers or a group storytime.

Meet the Dullards

Booklist (November 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 5))
Grades K-2. Parents used to hearing “This is so boring!” might want to show this worst-case scenario to their kids. Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are trying to raise their three children—Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud—in their own image: dull as rocks. Horrified upon finding the kids reading books (instead of “nice blank paper”), the family uproots from its lawless neighborhood. (They’re still recovering from when the leaves changed color.) Their new house, though, has problems: a neighbor who uses exclamation points in front of the kids, and a room—brace yourself—painted bright yellow. So the family hurries off to buy some beige-gray paint and, you guessed it, watch it dry. The real story, however, plays in the edges: the three kids taking every opportunity to scurry away from their stultifying parents and cavort, climb, and cackle. Pennypacker packs the pages full of winning jokes (“Five vanilla cones, please. Hold the cones. And extract the vanilla”), while Salmieri’s colored-pencil art creates a perfectly monotonous world of straight angles and nondescript coloring. Rarely has boring been this boisterous. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Both Pennypacker (the Clementine books) and Salmieri (Dragons Love Tacos, 2012) are best-sellers. Dull as it is, this ought to sell well, too.

Byrd & Igloo A Polar Adventure

From the Publisher:

BYRD & IGLOO is the first narrative nonfiction book to tell the daring adventures of legendary polar explorer and aviator Richard Byrd and his lovable dog explorer, Igloo. Byrd is known for being the first to fly a plane over the North and South Poles, while Igloo is famous for being the only dog to explore both the North and South Poles. The adventures of Byrd and Igloo opened the door for science and research in the Antarctic. Featuring direct quotes from letters, diaries and interviews, newspaper clippings, expedition records, maps, charts, as well as never-before-seen photos, it will give the complete story of the explorers' journey. Though rooted in history with evidence from many museums and research centers, Byrd & Igloo will be exciting in tone, making it accessible and interesting for young readers.

Audrey (Cow)

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 15, 2014)
Move aside Wilbur and Babe. There's a new farmyard hero in town, and she has no desire to end up hamburger. Audrey isn't like the other cows. They might accept their lot as "food cows," but she has other ideas. After her mother is taken away to a slaughterhouse, the feisty Charolais concocts an elaborate escape for herself using the expertise and help of her barnyard friends. However, the escape itself proves to be only half the battle, and Audrey's experiences in the wild forest with its unpredictable denizens put both brains and moxie to the test. In a multiple-perspective, documentary-like format, each animal tells its part of the story with terrific humor and personality. From pompous Charlton the rooster, who considers his role in the story a moment of deus ex machina ("as the Romans would call it"), to a parliament of consensus-minded sheep to a thoroughly prejudiced squirrel, the many voices make the book an ideal read-aloud for a classroom and ideal fodder for readers' theater. Bar-el is also unafraid to engage in truly lovely descriptive writing (one cow's grief over losing her son is said to be akin to "a mist like we'd get on gray, foggy mornings that made the farm seem as if it were fading away along its edges"). Part Great Escape, part Hatchet, part Charlotte's Web, all wonderful. (Animal fantasy. 8-12)

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny

Booklist (October 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 3))
Grades 1-3. A prolific author and illustrator as well as an active practitioner of martial arts, Himmelman combines these interests in his latest book, a series starter starring a bunny named Isabel. Isabel is introduced as “the best bunjitsu artist in her school,” an expert in kicking, hitting, and throwing, who can also handle all of the paradoxes that Teacher sends her way. Isabel’s martial arts aren’t confined to the classroom, either—she also faces down some piratical foxes and turns an angry wave into one that lifts her up and transports her. There are some peculiar episodes in this early-reading book, including one in which Bear walks up to Isabel, engages in conversation, and then kicks Isabel across a field, flips her to the ground, and twists her “into a pretzel.” Isabel demonstrates how she doesn’t “give up” by kicking, flipping, and twisting Bear. The rest of the book is less cartoonish and violent in its exploration of Zenlike koans, and Himmelman’s black-and-white line drawings nicely convey Isabel’s swift and deft movements. We are ready for the sequel, Teacher.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stick and Stone

Booklist (November 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 5))
Preschool-Grade 1. Stick, a stick, is lonely. Stone, a stone, is too. They meet and become friends. The end! In the hands of debut author Ferry and unstoppable best-selling Lichtenheld, however, this nearly plotless affair becomes a thing of off-the-charts adorability. For starters, just look at them: Stone (described as “a zero” because of his shape) is a brown lump, while Stick (described as “a one”) is a stubby-limbed fella with a tall twig head topped by a leaf. They both have dots for eyes and dashes for mouths, all of which go giddy after they meet. Ferry uses a minimalism that matches the art: “Stick, Stone. / No longer alone. / Stick, Stone. A friendship has grown.” Then: a hurricane! Stick is missing! Then he is saved by Stone! Okay, it’s true, even this dynamic author-illustrator duo run out of things to do, but these two characters are a delight to know (at the end, quite cleverly, they form “a perfect 10”), and the irresistible cadence of the text should make this a repeat favorite.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: After such hits as Steam Train, Dream Train (2013) and Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site (2011), anything Lichtenheld touches will be gobbled up.

Take Away the A

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2014)
Amid the flood of alphabet books, now and then one rises to the surface. This one is a prize catch. In a distinctive, refreshing approach, the text takes a word and subtracts one letter, turning it into a different word. "Without the A / the BEAST is the BEST." The stylized illustration on the double-page spread gives form to the concept by depicting a photographer (a buzzard) focusing on the winners of a competition: A monster wearing a "Scariest and Hairiest" sash stands in first place, with a goose and fish in second and third. "Without the B / the BRIDE goes for a RIDE." A worried-looking buck holding a balloon and a doe wearing a bridal veil are riding on a Ferris wheel. Now picture these: The chair has hair; the dice are ice; plants are pants; the crab hails a cab; and so on. All of the figures are animals fashioned with touches of humor; a white mouse pops in and out throughout the scenes. For Q, the word "faquir" (a turbaned tiger) attends a "fair"; for X, "foxes" become "foes." The artwork is deceptively simple; subtle details betray its sophistication. Altogether, the fascinating illustrations, crafty composition and tall format give the book real flair. Without a doubt, these inventive images are imaginative and engaging--chock full of inspiration for kids to try their own wordplay and a boon to teachers. (Alphabet picture book. 7-10)

Cheese Belongs to You!

Booklist (December 1, 2013 (Vol. 110, No. 7))
Rat law is simple: if you find the cheese, then it belongs to you. Unless someone bigger, quicker, hairier, or scarier wants it—then the cheese belongs to them. If all the other rats exhaust themselves fighting over the cheese, then the cheese belongs to a kind rat who is willing to share. The text starts slowly and then builds on itself, until readers are left breathless after each long sentence. The illustrations clearly show how each rat is different and more terrifying than the last and are sure to produce squeals of fright and delight from readers. Surprisingly, there is a great lesson about sharing tucked neatly into the last pages, which gives this silly story a little extra heart. For a storytime that is sure to leave the librarian breathless, pair with There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, by Simms Taback (1997). Any way that a young reader experiences this book, whether during individual reading or in a group, this will be fun.

Albie's First Word

Booklist (October 15, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 4))
Grades 2-4. Spun from a remark of Albert Einstein’s that he took several years to begin talking, this mostly extrapolated tale takes a silent yet expressive lad through a series of experiences: family outings, concerts, a science lecture, and a model boat race. Despite the best efforts of his loving, worried parents and a wise doctor to elicit some comment or remark, little Albie never says a word—though he smiles, hums, gesticulates, and takes a lively interest in everything. Evans’ accomplished, atmospheric illustrations set apart this variation on a well-known aspect of Einstein’s childhood. In warm, softly focused scenes washed with golden light, Evans depicts a bright-eyed, large-headed child with amusingly recognizable features, and places him in a fully and carefully detailed late-nineteenth-century setting. Albie at last gives verbal expression after seeing a shower of falling stars: “Why?” An extended note introduces Einstein in greater detail and explains that while many of the story’s specifics are invented, its core, his parents’ fear he might never learn, is true. A reassuring episode for late bloomers, and their parents, too.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dare the Wind

Booklist (December 15, 2013 (Vol. 110, No. 8))
Grades 1-3. The daughter of a schooner captain in the early 1800s, Ellen Prentiss was just a girl when her father taught her the difficult technical skill of navigation, as well as sailing. After her marriage, Ellen navigated ships captained by her husband. When he was given command of a new clipper, the Flying Cloud, and the challenge of carrying cargo and passengers from New York City to the Gold Rush rose swiftly, Ellen navigated the ship through storms and other perils by drawing on experience, research, courage, and caution. In a picture book “based on a true story,” Fern takes as her heroine this unusual nineteenth-century woman and, in telling the tale, chooses metaphors (“her face turning white as whalebone”) from seafaring life of the period. McCully’s precise ink drawings gracefully delineate the characters and settings, while the layers of paint create depth of color and nicely textured effects. A map showing the 1851 voyage of the Flying Cloud appears on the endpapers. A handsome picture book portraying an accomplished woman.

Star Stuff

From the Publisher:
For every child who has ever looked up at the stars and asked, "What are they?" comes the story of a curious boy who never stopped wondering: Carl Sagan.
When Carl Sagan was a young boy he went to the 1939 World's Fair and his life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe and seeking to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space. This book introduces the beloved man who brought the mystery of the cosmos into homes across America to a new generation of dreamers and star gazers.

Why We Live Where We Live

From the Publisher:
Why do you live where you do? The answer is a lot more complicated than it might seem. Why that house? Why this community? Why do cities sprout where they do? And what makes living there even possible? Geography, topography, climate, landscape, food, politics, economics, and more all play a role in how we choose the place we call home. This book takes readers on a tour of various ways humans adapt to our environments — or change them to suit our needs. It considers the big picture — we live on Earth because it has a breathable atmosphere — right down to the little things, like friendly neighbors, that simply make us happy. Why We Live Where We Live looks back in history at the transition from nomadic hunting to farming and the rise of cities following the Industrial Revolution. It also looks ahead to anticipate new concerns: how will climate change and rising water affect people who live near the ocean? Can humans survive in space? This comprehensive, cross-curricular resource will equip readers with solid background in human habitation and context about their place on the planet.

Neighborhood Sharks

From the Publisher:
Up close with the ocean's most fearsome and famous predator and the scientists who study them—just twenty-six miles from the Golden Gate Bridge!
A few miles from San Francisco lives a population of the ocean's largest and most famous predators. Each fall, while the city's inhabitants dine on steaks, salads, and sandwiches, the great white sharks return to California's Farallon Islands to dine on their favorite meal: the seals that live on the island's rocky coasts. Massive, fast, and perfectly adapted to hunting after 11 million years of evolution, the great whites are among the planet's most fearsome, fascinating, and least understood animals.
In the fall of 2012, Katherine Roy visited the Farallons with the scientists who study the islands' shark population. She witnessed seal attacks, observed sharks being tagged in the wild, and got an up close look at the dramatic Farallons—a wildlife refuge that is strictly off-limits to all but the scientists who work there. Neighborhood Sharks is an intimate portrait of the life cycle, biology, and habitat of the great white shark, based on the latest research and an up-close visit with these amazing animals.

The Day I Lost My Superpowers

Horn Book (July/August, 2014)
A masked superhero (in black cape, red pajamas, and pigtails) lays out the facts about her extraordinary abilities. "The day I discovered I could fly, I knew that I was special." As in this author/illustrator team's The Brief Thief (rev. 7/13), the text plays it straight while the illustrations slyly show what's really happening. After lots of practice, she does the slide and into the sandbox. She can make things disappear (a cupcake: "poof!"), but "sadly, it doesn't always work" (peas are her kryptonite). Where our hero says she likes "going through walls," the accompanying picture shows her sock-puppet-adorned arm sticking out through a hole in the wall, a hammer on the floor. She also likes "becoming invisible" -- i.e., hiding under her bed when Mom discovers the damage caused by her heroic hijinks. The oversize pages feature dynamic compositions in muted shades of brown, red, and teal on lots of white space, with the protagonist and her shenanigans front and center. Both art and text respectfully stay true to a child's complete immersion in pretend play. When the narrator's powers unexpectedly fail her and she hurts her knee (an ill-conceived flying apparatus is involved), it's Mom's magic kiss to the rescue: "I think my mom has superpowers too!" It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a message that will fly with kids and parents alike. kitty flynn

Ten Thank-You Letters

From the Publisher:
Pig is writing a thank-you note to his grandma when his friend Rabbit comes over to play. Eager to get in on the action, Rabbit writes one of his own . . . and another . . . and another . . . until his flurry of thank-you notes has Pig in a tizzy. Pig just wants to finish writing his note in peace! Fortunately, Rabbit's last thank-you note reminds Pig how lucky he is to have Rabbit as a friend.

This funny friendship story shows how different personalities can manage to fit together perfectly. Rabbit's letters to everyone from the president to the crossing guard will have readers chuckling as the delightful duo from Ten Things I Love About You discovers the joy of showing gratitude to the special people in their lives.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

From the Publisher:
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change.
Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, the princes stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.
Christopher Healy's Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a completely original take on the world of fairy tales, the truth about what happens after "happily ever after." It's a must-have for middle grade readers who enjoy their fantasy adventures mixed with the humor of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.

Hermelin the Detective Mouse

Booklist starred (May 1, 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 17))
Preschool-Grade 3. This winning picture book opens with a scene of a tiny community of attached houses on Offley Street, where the residents and their pets are engaged in all sorts of activities simultaneously. Next, the narrator introduces himself. Hermelin, a charming white mouse, lives in an attic and enjoys typing messages on an upright typewriter. After reading on a notice board that his neighbors have lost a number of items, he quickly solves each case and also saves a baby from an untimely end. The residents gather to thank their unknown benefactor, but when the mouse appears, panic ensues. Downcast, Hermelin prepares to leave Offley Street, but a friendly neighbor offers him a better option. In both the precisely written text and the richly detailed mixed-media illustrations, this title offers a treasure trove of narratives, large and small. The colorful artwork is full of drama and inventive details, and while the double-page spreads are sometimes crowded, they are also dynamic, well structured, and satisfying. Some children will enjoy the challenge of solving the mini-mysteries using clues found in the illustrations, while others will be content to follow the adventures of the amiable mouse as his tale unfolds. An absorbing picture book with a small but worthy hero.

Emily's Blue Period

School Library Journal (May 1, 2014)
Gr 1-3-A lovely, contemplative picture book. The text is short, with no more than a few sentences per page, but the writing is evocative and does a wonderful job of portraying the complicated emotions and behaviors experienced by children during confusing times. Divided into five vignettes labeled as chapters, the story is that of Emily, a young girl who loves art-particularly Pablo Picasso's unique way of portraying the world through cubism. When her parents separate, both she and her younger brother struggle to cope with the new reality. This book does a beautiful job of using the arts to show Emily's process as she grieves, accepts, and adapts to the changes in her family. The pencil and watercolor illustrations are appropriately muted, sticking to a soft blue, green, and brown color scheme with highlights of yellow and red. The subtle addition of some digital imagery creates lively, relatable illustrations. Despite the difficulties that Emily's family may be having, their imperfect life is full of love, and that comes through in both art and text.

123 versus ABC

School Library Journal (June 1, 2013)
K-Gr 3-A blue Number 1 declares this book is about numbers, while an orange Letter A on the opposite page announces it's about letters. An argument ensues as more and more creatures appear on the pages, each one's name beginning with a sequential letter, while the number of individuals, what they are eating, traveling in, or carrying, can be counted or given sequential letter names as well. For example, in one spread, there are 3 cars, 4 dinosaurs have 5 eggs, and 6 toads (er, frogs) provide 7 hungry geese with 8 hot dogs and 9 ice-cream cones. The spreads become more and more crowded as greater numbers of digitally rendered animals engage with increasing numbers of objects. Fortunately, the backgrounds are white; all of the numbers are printed in blue, while the alphabetical letters are in orange, so readers can keep track of what is going on. Finally, all 26 numbers appear across the top half of a spread while the letters appear on the bottom, each with some spot illustrations, and the two antagonists agree, "Of course. This is a book about Numbers. and Letters!"

The Turtle of Oman

From the Publisher:
This accessible, exquisite novel shines with gentle humor and explores themes of moving, family, nature, and immigration. It tells the story of Aref Al-Amri, who must say good-bye to everything and everyone he loves in his hometown of Muscat, Oman, as his family prepares to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is acclaimed poet and National Book Award Finalist Naomi Shihab Nye's first novel set in the Middle East since her acclaimed Habibi.
Aref Al-Amri does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Siddi. He does not want to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his parents will go to graduate school. His mother is desperate for him to pack his suitcase, but he refuses. Finally, she calls Siddi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Siddi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Siddi's roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, and they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Siddi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref's suitcase—mementos of home.

The Scraps Book Notes from a colorful life

Booklist starred (January 1, 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 9))

Grades 1-4. Ehlert offers a highly visual presentation of her roots as an artist and her process as a writer and illustrator of picture books. She describes growing up with “parents who made things with their hands.” They encouraged her to do the same, providing her with good tools and a place to work as well as leftover fabrics, buttons, and wood scraps. Later, she went to art school and began to create picture books. Simply written and inviting, the text leads readers to understand her approach to creating books as well as her hands-on involvement with art throughout her life. Ehlert guides readers through the making of picture books, including gathering ideas, writing, creating storyboards, and making collages. Admirers of her clean, precise pictures may be surprised to read, “I’m messy when I work.” Illustrated with photos from her childhood, vivid artwork from her books, and found objects that she has incorporated into her collages, the colorful pages of this “portrait of the artist” are visually riveting. Creative children will find inspiration and encouragement here. And, short of a personal visit from the writer herself, this is the best resource available for any classroom doing an author/artist study on Ehlert and her distinctive books.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quinny & Hopper

Booklist (July 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 21))
Grades 2-5. Uprooted from her apartment in New York City, spirited Quinny and her two annoying little sisters land in the country. Quinny is not happy. The list of things she misses about the bustling city is very, very, extra-very long and includes tae kwon do and accordion lessons. Things look up when she spies a couple of exciting new things: a black-and-white striped chicken and a quiet boy next door named Hopper. Hopper is nothing like Quinny. He prefers low-key activities, like art, that no one in his family except his grandfather understands. Their friendship has a rough start, thanks to bullying older brothers, Quinny’s martial-arts training, and a broken vase. Soon though, they are fast friends, scheming to reunite the chicken with its former owner. But they hit another rough spell when school starts and Quinny becomes friends with a mean girl. Quinny and Hopper narrate alternating chapters, each with a strong voice, spot-on language and emotions, and charming black-and-white spot illustrations. Funny, honest, and fast paced, this book about friendship should have wide appeal.

Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey

Horn Book (September/October, 2014)
Pigsticks Pig comes from a long line of august ancestors, or, as he puts it, forepigs. From the portraits on the wall we see that these include Emmeline Pighurst and Mustapha Snuffles. But a young pig has to make his own mark, and Pigsticks decides on an expedition to the Ends of the Earth. In the tradition of the great British explorers, he equips himself with the essentials, including a pith helmet and a teakettle, and proceeds to engage an assistant, a mild, anxious, cake-loving hamster named Harold. In three generously illustrated chapters we follow the explorers as they survive swamps, deserts, rickety rope bridges, malevolent mountain goats, and an avalanche to return home triumphant. The art is slapdash-goofy: Pigsticks looks like a yam with a snout, and Harold is a mustachioed hacky sack. Frequent disconnects between text and pictures carry much of the humor in this tongue-in-cheek-funny (everybody will have the pleasure of seeing right through Pigsticks's charming arrogance) early chapter book. Plums for grownups? Mild satire of the British-colonial mindset and some porcine parodies of cubist masterworks on Pigsticks's walls. sarah ellis

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods

School Library Journal (October 1, 2014)
Gr 3-7-Riordan takes the classic guide to Greek myths and makes it his own, with an introduction and narration by beloved character Percy Jackson. With 19 chapters, this oversize hardcover includes a variety of stories, from the early tales of Gaea and the Titans to individual tales of gods readers encounter in the "Percy Jackson" series (Hyperion), such as Ares, Apollo, and Dionysus. Percy's irreverent voice is evident from titles such as "Hera Gets a Little Cuckoo," "Zeus Kills Everyone," and "Artemis Unleashes the Death Pig," and the stories are told in his voice with his distinctive perspective ("Another guy who got a special punishment was Sisyphus. With a name like Sissy-Fuss you have to figure the guy had issues."). The format and illustrations are fairly traditional, considering the tone, featuring painterly depictions of the gods and their world. While these are actual tales of Greek mythology, Percy's take adds more color than would be helpful for those working on research projects or reports. The stories do make for fun reading, however, and might work as starting points for schoolwork. This original and wildly entertaining spin on Greek mythology is bound to be popular among fans of the series.-Heather Talty, formerly at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York City (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Life of Zarf The Trouble with Weasels

Booklist (September 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 1))

Grades 3-6. A Wimpy Kid format with a fairy-tale twist? Yes, this is bound to be a hit. Middle school is tough, but it’s even tougher when you’re a troll—the absolute bottom of the social heap. Zarf can’t control his troll blood, and that causes him trouble when it comes to the annoying Prince Roquefort. After King Cheznott goes missing, Snuffweasels start attacking the kingdom, and Prince Roquefort throws Zarf in the dungeon, a wild adventure begins. This is a witty twist on ordinary school-day troubles, and Harrell’s turning of familiar fairy-tale tropes on their heads adds to the charm (and a lot to the amusement factor): Goldie Locks is the lunch lady, Zarf’s best friends are a worrisome pig and a not-so-funny aspiring jester, ogres play football, etc. Interspersed with bratty illustrations, this ought to find a sweet spot at the nexus between fans of humor and fans of fractured fantasies.

I Am Blop!

School Library Journal (June 1, 2013)

Gr 1-5-Imagine a shape, neither blob nor spot, an irregular shape with four bumps-a Blop. This clever, engaging exploraton of the world of Blop begins simply but soon moves to the unconventional-unlimited even by the shape of the book. Each page receives a title and progresses appropriately slowly from black and white to an explosion of color one-third of the way through. There's a Blop made from thumbprints, a Blop family, Blops in the classroom and on the playground, museum-inspired Blops, an "invisible" Blop, a museum Blop, a pop-graphic Blop, flower and animal Blops, and a Blop in the mountains or under the ocean. If you need mobile Blop, there are punch-outs on a page and even a frighteningly realistic "scribbled-on" version. The art culminates in a series of questions. "What do Blops do all day?" "What do Blops eat?" "Are Blops friendly?" "Do Blops like to sing?" Imagination takes flight. For readers of all ages, the possibilities make an excellent story starter or may be shortened with emphasis upon a single page. All that's missing is Blop in a library..-Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Fairy Tale Comics

Booklist starred (June 1, 2013 (Vol. 109, No. 19))
Preschool-Grade 2. To follow up the winning Nursery Rhyme Comics (2011), First Second offers this similarly spectacular idea. Once again gathering a coterie of grand artistic talent from kids’ and indie comics (many returning from NRC), this collection features 17 stories longer than those in the previous project, which gives each work more room to delight. Many classics appear, from “Snow White” to “Goldilocks” to “Hansel and Gretel,” but an effort has been made to turn up a few more obscure fables, and the balance between familiarity and novelty proves just right. The artists all bring their A-game to produce standouts like Emily Carroll’s wondrously textured “12 Dancing Princesses,” Luke Pearson’s mystical and eerie “The Boy Who Drew Cats,” Joseph Lambert’s rousing and hilarious “Rabbit Will Not Help,” and David Mazzucchelli’s stark-lined and graceful “Give Me the Shudders” (his first comics work since Asterios Polyp, 2009). But every artist here knows how to turn in an elegant, flowing story, and every tale is pitch-perfect for young readers and intimate read-alouds. Overall, the book is an ideal choice for a child’s first comics experience and a new way to enjoy old favorites.

A Big Guy Took My Ball!

School Library Journal (July 1, 2013)
PreS-Gr 1-Once again Willems observes truths about human behavior through the eyes of Gerald, an elephant, and Piggie. The premise this time is that Piggie's recently acquired ball has been snatched by some unknown creature, one so big that Piggie begs Gerald to intervene. But Gerald's perceived power and genuine desire to help his smaller friend cannot provide him with sufficient courage once he sees that he'll have to confront an enormous whale. Outward appearance is rarely a true indicator of inner feelings, though, and the same reality is reflected in the whale, who turns out to be a gentle giant who is remarkably polite. Size should never be a factor in determining friendship, and Willems's two pals are happy to have a new playmate. The story engages readers with delightfully familiar cartoon illustrations and invites them to follow it independently by reading the speech bubbles. This title is a wonderful addition to the series; it's particularly useful for discussions of inside and outside traits, as well as the tricky topic of threesomes.-Gloria Koster, West School, New Canaan, CT (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Once Upon an Alphabet

School Library Journal (October 1, 2014)
Gr 1-4-Jeffers's empathic nature, evident from his sympathetic renderings of Drew Daywalt's beleaguered crayons in The Day the Crayons Quit (Philomel, 2013), here extends to the hardworking letters. This eccentric and entertaining anthology is introduced by an eloquent syllogism about the relationship of letters, words, and stories. While each four-page tale showcases a (seemingly) hand-drawn capital and lowercase letter, and many of the words-and unnamed objects-begin with the corresponding letter, this is not your mother's abecedarium. It is a framework for Jeffers's intriguing worldview, combining ludicrous juxtapositions and situations and a great capacity for gentleness. Some passages are scientific: "Mary is made of matter..she got sucked through a microscope and became the size of a molecule." The facing page shows Mary floating under the lens. The blackboard-style background is filled with "molecular" diagrams (mattresses, a moose, mums). Other sections are a mite macabre: "Jack Stack the Lumberjack has been struck by lightning one hundred and eleven times.." The lightning illuminates a skeleton, but after the page turn, the man appears in his jammies, normal, except that he can provide his own electricity. There is humor in the alliteration and mixed-media scenes: a puzzled parsnip, Victor the vanquished "plotting his vengeance," and an enigma featuring elephants and envelopes. The author respects his readers' intelligence, inserting expansive vocabulary, cameos from characters in previous books, people and plot threads that cross stories, and quiet details to discover in subsequent readings. An altogether stimulating, surprising, and satisfying reading experience.-Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Winter is Coming

Booklist starred (August 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 22))
Grades K-3. On a cold September day, a girl takes her binoculars, sketch pad, and pencils outdoors to draw the wildlife around her family’s farm. She returns several times before late November, when the first snowflakes fall. Often observing from a platform in a tree, she sketches what she sees: a red fox, a bear with her cub, a lynx, a skunk family, woodpeckers, rabbits, chipmunks, a doe with two fawns, Canada geese, and wild turkeys. The geese are flying south, but the other animals are foraging for food as they prepare to winter in the woods and fields around the farm. Written from the girl’s point of view, Johnston’s text is plainspoken and natural sounding but poetic in effect, with graceful repetition: on most double-page spreads, the lines end with “Winter is coming.” Created with acrylics, colored pencils, and opaque inks, LaMarche’s captivating illustrations convey the radiance of an autumn meadow, the girl’s rapt attention to her surroundings, and the unique qualities of the animals she observes. Winter may be in the title, but this evocative picture book is best for reading aloud in the fall, when children can notice the subtle changes happening in their own outdoor spaces. A quiet, beautiful picture book to share.

I'm My Own Dog

Horn Book (September/October, 2014)
"I'm my own dog. Nobody owns me. I own myself." This independent, self-starter narrator looks down on ordinary pups, the ones owned by people. This dog will not sit for anyone, even if a bone is the reward. But one day, when his legs prove to be too short to reach an itchy spot in the middle of his back, our canine actually lets someone scratch it. That someone is a mustachioed man who scratches the dog's back and then follows him home. Soon the dog is taking his "good boy" on walks, teaching him about chasing squirrels, and showing him how to throw sticks. Stein's gestural watercolors are the perfect foil for the droll text. As the story unfolds, young readers will begin to understand the humorous tension between what the text says and what the pictures show (and what they know to be true about dogs and their owners). When the dog complains about having to "clean up after them," one can imagine a child laughing at the scene of spilled ice cream. Dog-loving parents will be reading this one over and over--and will never tire of it. robin l. smith

Shh! We Have a Plan

Four friends creep through the woods, and what do they spot? An exquisite bird high in a tree! "Hello birdie," waves one. "Shh! We have a plan," hush the others. They stealthily make their advance, nets in the air. Ready one, ready two, ready three, and go! But as one comically foiled plan follows another, it soon becomes clear that their quiet, observant companion, hand outstretched, has a far better idea. Award-winning author-illustrator Chris Haughton is back with another simple, satisfying story whose visual humor plays out in boldly graphic, vibrantly colorful illustrations.

Einstein The Class Hamster and the Very Real Game Show

In Einstein the Class Hamster and the Very Real Game Show, the companion to Janet and Jake Tashjian's Einstein the Class Hamster, we follow Ms. Moreno's class as they face off against the students of Crackerjack Elementary on the hit game show Kids Know Stuff. But when Principal Decker sneaks Twinkles the python into the studio, there's widespread panic; the show's host is afraid of snakes and walks off the set. Now is Einstein's chance to shine! With the assistance of a sound engineer who can also hear Einstein, Ned and Marlon help Einstein get ready to host the show and save the day. But something goes wrong. Does Einstein have . . . STAGE FRIGHT? Oh no! Ned and Marlon must find a way to help Einstein and win the game show.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Farmer and the Clown

School Library Journal (August 1, 2014)

PreS-Gr 2-Frazee's controlled palette of subdued golds, browns, and grays offers a fitting backdrop for the hard-working farmer foregrounded in this wordless tale. Bent over his wheat, he misses the drama above as sweeping cloud formations bleed off the page. A swiftly moving circus train on the horizon introduces color and an unexpected visitor, when a bump on the tracks ejects a young clown. Exuberance meets quiet responsibility as the whirlwind in a red one-piece, the small clown, embraces the legs of the old man. Their similar silhouettes invite comparison, while their hats (one black and wide-brimmed, the other red and conical) suggest contrast. Hand in hand, they enter the farmhouse, where softly textured gouache and black pencil scenes in panels of varying shapes and sizes depict shared meals and ablutions, a protective night watch, and unanticipated antics as rust-colored long johns seem to conjure the farmer's playfulness. The bond, conveyed visually through mirrored motions, continues to develop until the train returns. Readers will wonder how to feel in the penultimate scene until they notice a clown with a black hat waving from the caboose, and the final page contains another surprise. This is a tender look at light and shadow, the joy and comfort in companionship, the lift that laughter provides, and the friendship possible among generations (and species). The poignant relationship calls to mind the quiet potency of scenes in Raymond Briggs's The Snowman (Random, 1978) and Sarah Stewart's The Gardener (Farrar, 2007). Lovely.-Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus Reviews starred (September 15, 2014)
Two boys get carried away when their mom tells them they will have a surprise at dinner. Little brother Leo thinks it's curly fries, but the young narrator starts thinking...and that's how they get into trouble! They brainstorm a list of ever bigger and better possibilities (a bike! a new car! a swimming pool!), and finally, with visions of grass skirts and volcanoes in their heads, they conclude it must be an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii. Both voice and reasoning are hysterically, authentically childlike. Dynamic, rapid-fire collage-and-pencil illustrations capture the zany escalation. The text increases in size, replicating their ever bolder assertions. Excited, they tell everyone at school, where even the staff celebrates by giving the students an extra 10-minute break. But when they get home, the siblings discover a very different surprise awaits them, leaving the narrator feeling rather sick until contagiously enthusiastic Leo cheers him up. How lucky can a kid get? This is a quirky, spot-on snapshot of family life, perfect for family sharing and repeated readings. And children will love examining the whimsical, surprisingly delightful details in the drawings. A winner. (Picture book. 4-8)

Brown Girl Dreaming

Booklist starred (August 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. What is this book about? In an appended author’s note, Woodson says it best: “my past, my people, my memories, my story.” The resulting memoir in verse is a marvel, as it turns deeply felt remembrances of Woodson’s preadolescent life into art, through memories of her homes in Ohio, South Carolina, and, finally, New York City, and of her friends and family. Small things—ice cream from the candy store, her grandfather’s garden, fireflies in jelly jars—become large as she recalls them and translates them into words. She gives context to her life as she writes about racial discrimination, the civil rights movement, and, later, Black Power. But her focus is always on her family. Her earliest years are spent in Ohio, but after her parents separate, her mother moves her children to South Carolina to live with Woodson’s beloved grandparents, and then to New York City, a place, Woodson recalls, “of gray rock, cold and treeless as a bad dream.” But in time it, too, becomes home; she makes a best friend, Maria, and begins to dream of becoming a writer when she gets her first composition notebook and then discovers she has a talent for telling stories. Her mother cautions her not to write about her family, but, happily, many years later she has—and the result is both elegant and eloquent, a haunting book about memory that is itself altogether memorable.


A king emerges from a hidden door in a city park, startling two children sheltering from the rain. No sooner does he push a map and some strange objects into their hands than he is captured by hostile forces that whisk him back through the enchanted door. Just like that, the children are caught up in a quest to rescue the king and his kingdom from darkness, while illuminating the farthest reaches of their imagination. Colored markers in hand, they make their own way through the portal, under the sea, through a tropical paradise, over a perilous bridge, and high in the air with the help of a winged friend. Journey lovers will be thrilled to follow its characters on a new adventure threaded with familiar elements, while new fans will be swept into a visually captivating story that is even richer and more exhilarating than the first.

Once Upon an Alphabet

From the Publisher:
THE alphabet book to top all others, from the illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit!

If words make up the stories and letters make up the words, then stories are made up of letters. In this menagerie we have stories made of words, made FOR all the letters.

The most inventive and irresistible book of the year spans a mere 26 letters (don't they all!) and 112 pages. From an Astronaut who's afraid of heights, to a Bridge that ends up burned between friends, to a Cup stuck in a cupboard and longing for freedom, Once Upon an Alphabet is a creative tour de force from A through Z. Slyly funny in a way kids can't resist, and gorgeously illustrated in a way readers of all ages will pour over, this series of interconnected stories and characters explores the alphabet in a way that will forever raise the bar.

In Once Upon an Alphabet, #1 New York Times bestseller Oliver Jeffers has created a stunning collection of words and artwork that is a story book, alphabet book, and gorgeously designed art book all in one.

El Deafo

School Library Journal (September 1, 2014)
Starred Review. Gr 2-6-Cece loses her hearing from spinal meningitis, and takes readers through the arduous journey of learning to lip read and decipher the noise of her hearing aid, with the goal of finding a true friend. This warmly and humorously illustrated full-color graphic novel set in the suburban '70s has all the gripping characters and inflated melodrama of late childhood: a crush on a neighborhood boy, the bossy friend, the too-sensitive-to-her-Deafness friend, and the perfect friend, scared away. The characters are all rabbits. The antics of her hearing aid connected to a FM unit (an amplifier the teacher wears) are spectacularly funny. When Cece's teacher leaves the FM unit on, Cece hears everything: bathroom visits, even teacher lounge improprieties It is her superpower. She deems herself El Deafo! inspired in part by a bullied Deaf child featured in an Afterschool Special. Cece fearlessly fantasizes retaliations. Nevertheless, she rejects ASL because it makes visible what she is trying to hide. She ventures, "Who cares what everyone thinks!" But she does care. She loathes the designation "special," and wants to pass for hearing. Bell tells it all: the joy of removing her hearing aid in summer, the troubles watching the TV when the actor turns his back, and the agony of slumber party chats in the dark. Included is an honest and revealing afterword, which addresses the author's early decision not to learn ASL, her more mature appreciation for the language, and her adage that, "Our differences are our superpowers."- Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great

Booklist starred (May 1, 2013 (Vol. 109, No. 17))
Preschool-Grade 2. Goat feels upstaged by Unicorn, who seems to do everything better than he does. (Goat can almost prepare marshmallow squares; Unicorn can make it rain cupcakes.) But everything changes when Unicorn discovers Goat’s special gifts: goat cheese! cloven hooves! (“What is up with those hooves?” Unicorn asks. “Those things are out of control.”) Now it’s Unicorn’s turn to be deflated, even kicking rainbows out of the way, until a terrific idea is born. Together, they will be unstoppable. Goat and Unicorn are simply shaped cartoonlike figures with colored bodies and faces that are highly expressive, though executed with a minimum of lines. When Unicorn is front and center, the pages are full of soft, bright rainbow colors with stars and lots of golden images. Goat is pictured less energetically, and his color is fittingly blue. But as things brighten for him, so does his bright orange background. Then, as friends, the duo are surrounded by a circle of gold. Shea’s cleverly written tale makes this a standout, but there’s substance here, too. The grass may always seem greener, but the message comes across that everybody has special strengths, and togetherness can often maximize them. This tale of discovered friendship will delight unicorn fans and perhaps create new fans for goats.

Otis Dooda Downright Dangerous

School Library Journal (June 1, 2014)
Gr 3-5-Potter and Heatley pair up again for the second installment in the series. As in the first book, Otis Dooda, Strange but True (Feiwel & Friends, 2013), there is enough slapstick humor to keep even the most reluctant readers engaged. Otis begins third grade as the new kid in school, and as his brother, Gunther, predicted, the only person who sat next to Otis was the kid who "digs in the treasure box." That kid also happens to be the most annoying kid on the planet-Boris, who lives on the fourth floor of Otis's apartment building. As Otis navigates his new school, zaniness ensues. He annoys Potted-Plant Boy again, who then places a curse on him. Later, Otis and his best friend Perry try out belly button poppers and bubble blasters for Perry's dad, with a range of crazy results. Otis loves LEGOsr and believes himself to be the greatest block-building genius who ever lived. Enter arch nemesis, Sid Frackas. There is nothing Sid won't do to keep Otis from entering the LEGOr contest. Fans of "Captain Underpants"(Scholastic) and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (Abrams/Amulet) will enjoy the graphic novel format of this series. With black-and-white line drawings, large font, and gross bathroom humor, reluctant readers will gravitate toward Otis Dooda.-Annette Herbert, F. E. Smith Elementary School, Cortland, NY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

My Teacher is a Monster!

Booklist starred (April 1, 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 15))
Preschool-Grade 2. Bobby’s teacher, Ms. Kirby, is a roaring, teeth-gnashing, galumphing giant green monster. Really! (And it has nothing to do with her reaction to that paper airplane Bobby threw.) When Bobby goes to the park to blow off some steam, something terrible happens: he runs into his ghastly teacher. Ms. Kirby isn’t happy to see Bobby, either, but after some awkwardness, they start a friendly—if formal—conversation. When a sudden gust of wind blows Ms. Kirby’s favorite hat away, Bobby’s the one who catches it before it flies into the pond. Soon Ms. Kirby and Bobby are showing each other their favorite places in the park, and all the while, Ms. Kirby looks less like a grumpy monster and more like a friendly young teacher in a big hat. Brown (Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, 2013) shapes his cartoony characters with blocky patches of bright colors, and at the heart of the awkward-pause-filled humor are Bobby and Ms. Kirby’s marvelous facial expressions: Bobby, with an impressive cowlick, has a constant look of shocked disbelief, while Ms. Kirby wears a deadpan grimace of resignation. That is, until they each learn there’s more to the other than just a misbehaving student or grouchy teacher. This playful, eye-catching story goes a long way to humanize both teachers and students. Ed: kill the period after Not in the imprint title.

The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Hot-Air Baboons

School Library Journal (August 1, 2014)
Gr 1-3-Ace and Bub are enjoying their snowy spring break on the slopes when a band of sneaky baboons set up a gigantic hair dryer to melt the snow into water for swimming pools. The brothers don't trust the baboons' intentions and investigate to uncover their double dealing plans. Another wacky and charming addition to the series. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dog vs. Cat

Booklist (July 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 21))
Grades K-2. When Mr. Button brings home a dog, and Mrs. Button brings home a cat, the two very different pets have to learn to share a room together. In a cute spin on a dorm-room situation, the two greet each other cordially, but soon their idiosyncrasies begin to grate on each other. Cat has no interest in chasing tails. Dog is not a fan of Cat’s indoor bathroom habits. And what’s up with Dog sniffing everything and Cat clawing everything? Gall has a field day with his comic colored-pencil art, offering so much to laugh at that it’s hard to keep up: Dog’s frat-house sloppiness, Cat’s rack of identical jackets, Dog’s iBone device, and more. After a phase of sabotage (Cat hacking hairballs into Dog’s bowl, etc.), the two rejoin forces when a third character arrives, louder and stinkier than either of them: a baby. This final plot swerve feels a touch extraneous, but that doesn’t take away from the giggly joy anyone will get from these odd bedfellows. A second round would be welcome.

Detective Blue

Horn Book (September/October, 2011)
Little Boy Blue is all grown up and trying to keep a handle on crime in storytown. He tracks down the Dish and the Spoon, nabs Mary's little lamb -- but where is Miss Muffet? Takeoffs on Mother Goose and other folk literature have been thick on the ground since The Stinky Cheese Man (rev. 11/92); this one stands out for its sheer relentlessness, as one iconic character after another advises and distracts Detective Blue in his quest to find the missing Miss: "FORGET the plum, Horner! Just give me the FACTS!" The Three Blind Mice, sitting on a park bench, are not helpful, either: "Who just ran by?" "I didn't see anyone." "Maybe it was the farmer's wife." Comic-strip panels illustrate Blue's determined investigation, with Arnold's goggle-eyed characters alert to the quest and the humor. The story saves its best joke for the end, which we won't give away here except to ask, Do you know Miss Muffet's first name? roger sutton

Comics Squad Recess!

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2014)

An all-star comics anthology tackles everyone's favorite subject: recess. Comics veterans and masters celebrate recess with favorite characters from Babymouse to Lunch Lady as well as stories from such acclaimed creators as Printz winner Gene Luen Yang and Eisner winner Raina Telgemeier. In Yang's ebullient "The Super-Secret Ninja Club," nerdy Daryl turns the tables on his friends when he immerses himself in the way of the ninja. In Eric Wight's imaginative "Freeze Tag," a lovable cupcake named Jiminy Sprinkles takes on the Mean Green Gang (consisting of a cucumber, broccoli, a green bean, a green pepper and their leader, a brussels sprout) for a game of freeze tag aided by some superpowers and a peppermint candy. Captain Underpants' creator Dav Pilkey amuses with his "Book 'Em, Dog Man," a story within a story about an evil cat determined to dumb down the world by destroying all books. Fans of Krosoczka's Lunch Lady series will delight in seeing Betty as the star of her own story, in which she must take down a perilous pizza monster. Anthologies can sometimes suffer from unevenness, when some pieces seem to be more filler than substance; this lively, upbeat and all-around-awesome offering is consistently convivial and laugh-out-loud funny from cover to cover. More fun than the playground at recess! (Graphic anthology. 7-12)


School Library Journal (March 1, 2014)
Gr 2-5-How do we stay put on our planet and not float away into outer space? What makes things fall to the ground from high places? Chin introduces youngsters to the concept of gravity, presenting the information in highly understandable language and in captivating paintings that will delight young readers. Deceptively simple large print text describe how gravity affects all things on Earth as well as in outer space. Colorful and incredibly detailed watercolor landscapes and close-up illustrations keep readers' attention, and certain objects are repeated throughout the pages. Although Gravity is set up like a fictional text, the information necessary to understand the basics of gravity are present. This is a wonderful addition to libraries for younger students. In the "More About Gravity" section, readers can add to their increasing knowledge of the topic with important vocabulary and comparisons that allow for deeper understanding.-Katy Charles, Virgil Elementary School, Cortland, NY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Colors versus Shapes

School Library Journal (July 1, 2014)

K-Gr 2-Two teams vie for a starring role in the book. One of the judges, a bespectacled alligator asks, "Why should this book be about you?" The smiling, raisin-shaped daubs of color begin their audition, but the team of black-and-white shapes interrupts. Waving their gloved hands and running around the stage, members of the opposing teams banter back and forth in a series of dialogue bubbles. The contestants all begin to show off, mixing it up to create new and unusual colors (turquioise, maroon, and amber) and shapes (rhombus, hexagon, and irregular polygons), until chaos reigns. Finally, there is a splattering collision resulting in a bright red octagon, and the teams come to the conclusion that cooperation is the answer. Together, the contestants create a bright and sunny landscape filled with buildings and vehicles constructed of squares, circles, and triangles. Their efforts duly impress the judges. The action is set against plenty of white space, and the names of the colors are printed in corresponding shades. Boldt's new title follows his equally engaging 123 Versus ABC (HarperCollins, 2013) and offers an amusing lesson on competition and cooperation as well.-Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston, MA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Booklist starred (December 15, 2013 (Vol. 110, No. 8))
Grades 4-6. Ophelia is a grieving 11-year-old who only believes in things that science can explain. Following her beloved mother’s death, her father takes a job at an enormous museum in a city where it constantly snows. There Ophelia discovers the imprisoned Marvelous Boy, who discloses to her that in three days the Snow Queen will discharge her wretchedness upon mankind. He further reveals that he must save the world before that happens and that only Ophelia can help him. As the boy tells his story, Ophelia accepts the challenges required to release him from his three-hundred-year captivity. She faces magical snow leopards, child ghosts, a Spanish conquistador, and a monstrous misery bird—none of which, like the boy, can be scientifically explained. Nevertheless, Ophelia learns there are truths she never dreamed of and that courage is less about bravery than about the decision to help people in need. Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, this clever story-within-a-story reads easily yet offers deep lessons about trust, responsibility, and friendship.

A Snicker of Magic

School Library Journal (January 1, 2014)
Gr 4-7-A delightful and inspiring debut. Mama has a wandering heart, which means that 12-year-old Felicity Pickle and her little sister, Frannie Jo, have wandered along with her in their battered van. But Midnight Gulch feels like home, and not just because it's where Mama grew up. It's one of those quirky little towns where there just might be magic. It's the characters that make this story shine: gruff Aunt Cleo and her tongue-tied swain; Oliver and Ponder, purveyors of unusual ice cream and baked goods, respectively; Jewell Pickett, hair-stylist and auto-mechanic extraordinaire; and her son Jonah, who has the amazing ability to make things better for anybody, despite his own difficulties. And Felicity, who sees words everywhere and uses them in remarkable ways. She's a girl who loves deeply and openly, and who creates her own kind of magic. Added to these elements are a series of folkloric backstories about feuding brothers, doomed romances, mysterious do-gooders, lost children, and a curse. Mibs Beaumont and her magically gifted clan from Ingrid Law's Savvy (Dial, 2008) would feel right at home here. As Felicity loves to say, "Yes.yes.yes!"-Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.