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.