Monday, December 31, 2012

The Young Healer by McMillan - OPTIONAL


McMillan III, Frank N. The Young Healer, 208 pgs. Mackinac Island Press, 2012. Language - PG (9 swears, 0 "f"), Sexual Content - G; Violence - G; 

Feather's brother Peter is in the hospital worrying everybody. Feather wants to do something helpful, so, when her grandfather takes her out of school, she's relieved to go see her brother. However, the hospital isn't their first stop. Or their second. Or their third! Can all this running around really help Peter? 

The Native American culture I learned in this book is really interesting. Feather's grandfather is a medicine man and he shares some of the Indian ways with Feather and the readers. Another thing I like about this book is how Feather gets to go on an adventure in the city she's grown up in. An adventure doesn't have to mean going somewhere exotic as long as one can met new people, learn new skills, and discover the courage within themselves. 

EL, MS - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: CCH

Christmas Wombat by Jackie French - ADVISABLE


French, Jackie Christmas Wombat, illustrated by Bruce Whatley .  Clarion (Houghton), 2012.  $17.  PICTURE BOOK.  

A wombat finds his way onto Santa’s sleigh and discovers there is a whole world of carrots out there just waiting to be eaten.  I think my favorite wombat holiday book is still Wombat Divine by Mem Fox, but for sarcasm and cuteness, this definitely is a winner.  

Pre-K, EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher

Spilling Ink by Mazer and Potter - OPTIONAL


Mazer, Anne and Potter, Ellen Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook, 244 pgs. Roaring Brook Press, 2010. Language - G, Sexual Content - G; Violence - G; 

Anne and Ellen are inviting everyone to write. Write whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want. This duo goes through the "writing process" and hands out tips and challenges for anyone who wants to write. Their advice was very helpful in understanding writing terms I didn't understand as well as with writing. Just reading through the book gave me several writing ideas and a whole poem! Whether you've been writing for ten years or decided you wanted to try ten minutes ago, every writer will learn something from Anne and Ellen. 

EL, MS - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: CCH

Baby Penguins Everywhere! BY MELISSA GUION - OPTIONAL


Guion, Melissa Baby Penguins Everywhere!  Philomel (Penguin), 2012.  $17.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  

A lonely penguin finds a magic hat, which produces a plethora of penguins for her to care for.  

While the drawings of the baby penguins are of course adorable, there is not much to this book to grab onto.  Maybe if it were a counting book or something else to give it structure – not just a book about how everyone needs a moment to themselves?  Maybe as a board book?  

Pre-K, EL (K-3) – OPTIONAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce - OPTIONAL


Pearce, Jackson Fathomless, 291 pgs. Little, Brown and Company, 2012. Language - PG (10 swears, 0 "f"), Sexual Content - PG-13; Violence - PG-13; 

Celia and Lo aren't normal girls. Celia and her sisters have special powers and Lo and her sisters belong to the ocean, not land. One boy will bring them together, but his love also has the power to tear them away from the lives they lead. 

While in my favorite genre, I found this particular story hard to swallow. I'm not completely sure why, because I absolutely love how it turned out. If I had to pin down a couple reasons, they would be the odd combination of mythical creatures and the way they were introduced somewhat randomly. It's hard to explain, but this combination of unique "witches," "werewolves," and "mermaids" isn't my favorite. 

MS, HS - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: CCH

Just Right for Christmas by Black and Beardshaw - ESSENTIAL


Black, Birdie and Rosalind Beardshaw Just Right for Christmas.  Nosy Crow (Candlewick), 2012.  $16.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  

After the king has his seamstresses make a soft, large, red cloak for his daughter, the scraps pass from hand to hand, as consecutive users make more cozy, soft red gifts, until a scrap, just right for a little mouse, is all that is left.  

Ok – Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree is one of my absolute favorite Christmas books and this book plays upon that tradition in a perfect new way.  Love, Love, love it!  

Pre-K, EL (K-3), EL – ESSENTIAL.  GIFT. Cindy, Library Teacher

Fox & Phoenix by Beth Bernobich - OPTIONAL


Bernobich, Beth Fox & Phoenix, 360 pgs. Viking, 2011. Language - PG (7 swears, 0 "f"), Sexual Content - PG; Violence - PG; 

When the emperor falls ill and no one knows what to do when the princess doesn't respond to any messages, the task of finding the princess falls to Kai and his friends. Someone is going to great lengths to stop them from reaching their goal, but, with the emperor's life and the well-being of their home on the line, nothing can stop them from persevering. 

I was anticipating magic and adventure in this book, but I was disappointed. The magic aspect is unique to Beth Bernobich's story, which is interesting, but the adventure part was lacking. In an exciting adventure, readers are drawn in as if they, too, are experiencing it, but I didn't get that feeling with Kai's quest. Also, solutions came too easily, letting obstacles fall away while pages were filled with fluff details instead. During these parts, I felt like I didn't have much reason to keep reading. 

MS, HS - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: CCH

Happy Hanukkah, Curious George - ESSENTIAL


Happy Hanukkah, Curious George.  Houghton Mifflin, 2012.  $8.  BOARD BOOK.  

As soon as I saw this cute board book about Hanukkah, I knew I liked it, but I also took it my a friend of mine who is Jewish and she gave it a big thumbs up too.  Rhyming verse explain several of the major traditions of the holiday and of course we have George and the Man in the Big Yellow Hat – nicely done.  

Pre-K, EL (K-3) – ESSENTIAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

The Princess of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen - ADVISABLE


Knudsen, Michelle The Princess of Trelian, 437 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2012. Language - PG (23 swears, 0 "f"), Sexual Content - PG; Violence - PG; 

Meg thought that she would finally be able to relax now that Sen Eva was momentarily defeated, but she is finding out that being a princess-heir linked to a dragon is not in the least bit easy. Which comes first: duty, family, or Jakl? Meanwhile, Calen makes his own discovery: he might be a danger to everyone he loves. But he would never betray them, right? 

I was captivated by Meg and Calen's story from the first page. However, I would not suggest reading this book with reading the first book, The Dragon of Trelain, as I did. It was still an excellent read, but I wish I had read the first adventure before diving into the second one. 

MS, HS - ADVISABLE. Reviewer: CCH

The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood - ESSENTIAL


Underwood, Deborah The Christmas Quiet Book, illustrated by Renata Liwska.  Houghton Mifflin, 2012.  $13.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  

Underwood has brought her imaginative representations of quiet to the Christmas season.  I can’t wait to read this one with a small friend – It would be great to read as a bedtime book, to settle down restless bodies.  With a big yawn after every page, the children will be ready for their long winter’s nap in no time.  Though I do hope that next year brings a Christmas Loud book as a complement!  

Pre-K, EL (K-3)- ESSENTIAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

Elephant Joe, Brave Knight! by David Wojtowycz - ADVISABLE

Wojtowycz, David.  Elephant Joe, Brave Knight!  Random House, 2011.  $16.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  Elephant Joe and Zebra Pete were enjoying a swim in the moat when they heard a call of distress.  They ran into the castle and learned that a Dark Knight had stolen the king's crown.  Joe and Pete become knights and set off on their quest.  When they reach the Dark Knight's tower they discover a dragon and a damsel in distress.  They ask the dragon to please let them pass and he does because of their good manners.  The damsel in distress is really the Dark Knight in disguise who escapes.  Joe and Pete ride the dragon to chase him back to the castle where he falls into the moat and can't swim.  Elephant Joe dives into save the Dark Knight and the crown.  The Dark Knight's punishment is truly a hoot, but you'll have to read it to find out.  A fun, off-the-wall story about unlikely knights that will charm readers.  The illustrations are as zany as the story and are colorful and appealing.  Pre-K, EL - ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

Because Your Mommy Loves You by Andrew Clements - ADVISABLE


Clements, Andrew.  Because Your Mommy Love You, illustrated by R. W. Alley.  Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin), 2012. $16.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  A delightful story about a boy and his mommy.  When the boy gets lost in the camping store the boy yells for her.  Instead of mommy coming to find the boy, she calls out his name and he finds her.  They go camping together and the boy's pack is heavy.  His mommy could have offered to carry it, but she doesn't.  She allows the boy to cross the log by himself.  She lets the boy help set up the tent.  And when the boy burns his marshmallow, she could have offered to make one for the boy, but she doesn't. She shows the boy how to roast a marshmallow to perfection and he does it himself.  She let's him learn and explore and discover things for himself.  Even through failures.  Why?  Because she loves him.  An unexpected moral to a lovely book for mommies and boys.  The illustrationsby R. W. Alley are a perfect combination of ink, watercolor, and acryllic.   Pre-K, EL - ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS   

A Brand-New Day with Mouse and Mole by Wong Herbert Yee - ADVISABLE

Yee, Wong Herbert. A Brand-New Day with Mouse and MoleGreen Light Readers (Houghton Mifflin), 2012.  $4.99.  EARLY READER.  A Level 3 Green Light Readers book for independent readers.  Guided Reading: L.  Reading Recovery: 19.  Grades 2-3.  There is a hole in Mole's pants!  Moths have been eating his clothes.  His friend Mouse takes Mole to buy new clothes.  The only problem is that Mole doesn't want new and different clothes--he just wants his old clothes.  Mole buys some new clothes and Mouse takes his old clothes and puts patches on all the holes.  They learn that you can make new things out of old ones. The story is simplistic, but the pictures are charming.  Early readers will be able to relate with Mole and his difficulty in giving up his favorite old clothes for new ones that are different.  EL-ADVISABLE. Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

Ballet Stars by Joan Holub - ESSENTIAL

Holub, Joan. Ballet Stars, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas. Random House, 2012. $3.99.  EARLY READER.  A Step 1 book from the Step Into Reading series, this one shines with its simple rhymes.  Large typeface and only a few words per page make this a perfect beginning reader.  Today there will be a ballet show and all of the dancers are so excited.  They put on their costumes and preform in front of their families.  Illustrator Shelagh McNicholas does an excellent job of portraying multiracial characters and even a boy who likes ballet too.  The illustrations are pretty and perfect for appealing to young girls.  Pre-K – ESSENTIAL.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.   

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Song for My Sister by Lesley Simpson - ADVISABLE

Simpson, Lesley.  A Song for My Sister, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss.  Random House, 2012. $16.99.  PICTURE BOOK.   A young girl named Mira dumps her piggy bank into a wishing well hoping for a sister.  Four years later when the wish comes true she’s not so sure about having a sister after all.  The baby cries a lot.  Mira suggests that her parents put the baby on a police car for the siren.  Mira waits for her sister’s simchat bat, when she is welcomed to the world and named on her eighth day.  When the rabbi arrives at their house her sister is still crying.  The rabbi lights a candle, mom puts a cinnamon stick under the baby’s nose, and dad dips his finger into his Kiddush cup and then places it on the baby’s lips.  Then it’s Mira’s turn.  She sings and miraculously her baby sister stops crying.  Her parents name the baby Shira which means song.  The illustrations draw the reader into the book and are truly sweet.  The story about sisterhood and adjusting to new siblings is universal and one that members of all religions (or lack thereof) will enjoy.  Being unfamiliar with the Jewish culture, I would have enjoyed a small glossary at the end of the story explaining the different terms and ceremonies found in the book.  EL- ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.   

Small Bunny's Blue Blanket by Tatyana Feeney - ADVISABLE


Feeney, Tatyana.  Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket.  Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. $16.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  This is a book for every child who has loved a special blanket.  Small Bunny loves his blue blanket.  He takes it with him everywhere.  It helped him swing higher on the swingset, paint pictures, read, and even play in the sandbox.  Then the inevitable—Mommy Bunny wanted to give Small Bunny a bath and to wash his blanket.  Small Bunny thought his blanket was perfect just the way it was.  Mommy Bunny assures him it will only take a minute—it takes 107.  Author/illustrator Feeney uses only three colors to illustrate her story: blue, charcoal, and a little bit of pink.  The focus of the illustrations and the story is entirely on Small Bunny and his blue blanket, as it should be.  Small children will readily relate to this story and parents too!  Pre-K-ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS. 

One Two That's My Shoe! by Alison Murray - ESSENTIAL

Murray, Alison.  One Two That’s My Shoe!  Disney Hyperion, 2011.  16.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  Author/illustrator Alison Murrary has taken the popular nursery rhyme “one-two buckle my shoe” and made into something new and fun.  It’s both a counting book and charming story.  A little girl’s dog takes one of her two red shoes and  after passing three teddy  bears and four blocks, heads out the door.  The chase continues all the way to the number ten and ends when the little girl gets her shoe back and she and her doggie are “friends again.”  Murray has chosen blues and greens for her main pallet with red accents (including the shoes).  A short and enjoyable read aloud story sure to be a hit with preschoolers.  Pre-K—ESSENTIAL.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.    

A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and Down by Dana Jensen -- OPTIONAL


Jensen, Dana. A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and Down, illustrated by Tricia Tusa. Houghton Mifflin, 2012. $16.99.  POETRY.  Each poem either starts at the top of the page or the bottom of the page with no clear indication for the reader.  Author Dana Jensen wrote, “Hmm—which is which?  That’s up to you to find out.  Have fun!”   As a reader I found it more frustrating than fun figuring out where the poem began and where it ended.  It is usually obvious once you read it because one way (up or down) doesn’t make any sense.  My favorite poem in this format began at the bottom of the page and was about a zipper: “zip/ all/ the/ way/ up/ to/ my/chin…”  The poems are short and simple, but the language is beautiful (once you figure out the format).   Illustrator Tricia Tusa’s pictures are what truly steal the show.  The watercolor and ink illustrations are charmingly whimsical and are in a style entirely her own.  EL-OPTIONAL.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

Hide & Seek by Il Sung Na - ADVISABLE

Na, Il Sung.  Hide & Seek.  Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. $15.99. PICTURE BOOK.  The story is just what the title says it is…a game of hide and seek.  The elephant counts to ten while the other creatures hide.  The giraffe finds a tall tree to hide behind etc.  The elephant finds all of the animals except one, the chameleon.  Na’s illustrations are a combination of painterly textures and digitally generated layers.  The result is a colorful and utterly unique view of creatures and scenery so familiar to us.  The story is simple and very relatable to small children.  A good book to read aloud for a storytime. Pre-K, EL-ADVISABLE.  Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.

Above World by Jenn Reese - ADVISABLE


Reese, Jenn Above World, 356 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2012. Language - G, Sexual Content - PG; Violence - PG-13; 

Aluna and Hoku are not going to sit on their fins like the Elders are while their race is dying! The only goal in mind is to save their people when Aluna and Hoku leave. However, once they get to the Above World, plans change as allies are made and new dangers are uncovered. 

From the ocean to the sky to land and back again I happily went wherever I was led. I was so dazzled by the adventure and humor and wit and dangers that I didn't notice it was coming to an end before I found myself upon it. I fell in love (or hate) with each new--and very unique--character Aluna and Hoku came across. The sequel Mirage cannot come soon enough. 

MS, HS - ADVISABLE. Reviewer: CCH

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas by Watt - ADVISABLE


Watt, Melanie Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas, 72 p. Kids Can Press, 2012.  $18.  Content: G.  PICTURE BOOK.  

Scaredy Squirrel is getting gready for Christmas, and the process is much more involved that any of his previous escapades.  From dealing with mistletoe to choice holiday outfits, Scaredy tries to cover it all.  Watt has stuffed wealth of holiday do’s and don’ts into a little book – almost enough to be overwhelming.  This is more a book that adults would give to each other rather than a book that small children will sit down and read again and again.  But don’t be a scaredy – enjoy it!  

EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough - OPTIONAL


Barraclough, Lindsey Long Lankin, 455 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2011. Language - PG (39 swears, 0 "f"), Sexual Content - PG-13; Violence - PG-13; 

Cora and Mimi are left with their great-aunt Ida when no one else will take them. While this seems like a good option from their father's point of view, it is actually the worst possible place for the girls. Just down the street from Auntie Ida's house in a church and graveyard. It is here that Long Lankin has been waiting patiently for a new child to prey on; Mimi is perfect. 

My expectations going into reading Long Lankin were too high for it to reach. The action moved slower than molasses, making it painful to read each page. Also, it was hardly scary at all! The scariest and most eventful part didn't happen until page 400. By then I couldn't even enjoy it because I was counting down the pages to the back cover. 

MS, HS - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: CCH

I Love to Eat and I Love to Sleep by Graux - OPTIONAL


Graux, Amelie I Love to Eat and I Love to Sleep BOARD BOOKS. HMH Books, 2011.  $9.99. Content: G. 

These board books introduce very basic eating and sleeping vocabulary with words in three languages (English, French, and Spanish.) The pictures are also combined with textural components, which babies and young children will love to touch.  The books are immediately appealing, as there is texture on the covers.  They also seem a little classier than typical board books because of the vibrant, yet simple pictures and the added language component.  Because of the basic content, I can’t say they are the most spectacular board books I have ever seen, but they are elegantly created and purposeful. 

PRE-K – OPTIONAL.  Reviewed by: Shay, Library Media Specialist

Because it is my Blood by Gabrielle Zevin - ADVISABLE


Zevin, Gabrielle  Because it is my Blood, 350 pages.  Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012.  $17.99  Content:  Language: PG (6 swears); Violence: PG-13; Mature Content: PG.  

This is the second book in a series.  

Anya has been released from juvenile detention and is trying to make a future for herself regardless of her record.  She has a little sister to protect, a brother that she has hidden to help him avoid his criminal punishment, and she is part of a large crime family whose business specializes in chocolate.  On top of all of her responsibilities she has to avoid her ex-boyfriend Win, because if she doesn’t, Win’s father (the District Attorney) will return Anya to the juvenile detention center.  After Win holds Anya’s hand and is caught on tape, Win’s father has Anya put back in jail.  Anya’s lawyers help her escape to Mexico where she befriends a boy named Theo and learns the agricultural side to chocolate.  After a double attempt on Anya and her sister’s lives, Anya decides it’s time to return home and set things right with her family.  What she finds when she gets home is a lot of buried secrets and heartache, but Anya is strong and she has ideas of her own for her family and the chocolate trade.  

This book is fun because it has strong characters, is well written and has a fast paced story.  The ending definitely sets up for a third book and I can’t wait to read it.  Anya is a character that overcomes hardship to take care of her family and this is a great book to add to your library.  

MS, HS-ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Waga’s Big Scare by Samuel Hiti - OPTIONAL


Hiti, Samuel Waga’s Big Scare, Carolrhoda Books, 2012.  $16.95. Content: G. PICTURE BOOK. 

Waga is a creepy little monster who likes to scare.  Unfortunately for him, his scare is lost.  If he doesn’t find his scare before morning, Waga will disappear.  He searches around all sorts of spooky haunts to find it, with no luck.  When it seems that Waga will be gone forever, he remembers where to find his lost scare.  

When I opened this book the interesting illustrations and catchy start to the story made it seem pretty promising.  I love a bit of nonsense, but this was too disjointed.  Everything just suddenly happened or just “was” because the author decided it to be so.  There wasn’t much flow to the story.  The ending is supposed to give a good scare, but I just wasn’t impressed.  

Pre-K, El (K-3)-OPTIONAL. Reviewed by: Shay, Library Media Specialist

Just Grace and the Flower Girl Power by Harper - OPTIONAL


Harper, Charise Mericle  Just Grace and the Flower Girl Power, 192 pgs.  Houghton Mifflin, 2012.  $15.99  Content: G.

  Grace’s downstairs neighbor, Augustine Dupre, is getting married.  Grace and Augustine have been friends for a long time, so Grace hopes that she can be the flower girl at Augustine’s wedding, but she is disappointed to find out that she will not be the flower girl.  Augustine promises her an important job of handing out flowers to the guests, and Grace is excited about the pretty dress she gets to wear.  Grace also wants to give Augustine a cool present, so she decides to try and train the pet cat, Crinkles to walk down the aisle during the wedding.  The fact that cats aren’t easily trained doesn’t stop Grace.  Her surprise amazingly works and Augustine loves her gift from Grace.  

I have loved all the Just Grace novels I have read so far because I feel like Grace is a good friend and she is a rational problem solver.  However, in this book Grace’s solution to a problem of a wedding gift was ridiculous and completely unbelievable.  I felt like Grace tried to take the spotlight from Augustine’s wedding with the cat walking down the aisle, making her a selfish friend.  I didn’t like this book in the series.  

EL (4-6)-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford - OPTIONAL


Hosford, Kate Infinity and Me.   PICTURE BOOK. Carolrhoda Books, 2012.  $16.95. Content: G. 

Uma is a little girl trying to fathom the concept of infinity.  She asks the many people in her life for their opinion on how they imagine what infinity means.  Uma starts to try to combine the idea of infinity with the notion of forever.  She listens to all of the examples and begins to construct her own impression of infinity.  

This is a unique subject for a book and would be a good tool for elementary teachers when they are introducing infinity as a mathematical concept. I liked the idea of the book and the illustrations were very unique and special, but I don’t think the idea was executed as well as it could have been.  The topic of infinity can be a little confusing itself, but the story jumped around a bit, which made it even more difficult to follow.  There were some details that could have been left out. 

EL (K-3)-OPTIONAL.  Reviewed by: Shay, Library Media Specialist

Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac by Anita Silvey - ADVISABLE


Silvey, Anita Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, 366 p. Roaring Book Press, 2012.  $20.  Content: G.  

Anita Silvey is my new hero.  The next time I am at ALA Annual, I am going to have to hunt her down and kiss her feet.  Or maybe I can just restrain myself to a heartfelt message of admiration.  Maybe.  She has a gorgeous book that not only tells you a few significant happenings, like any almanac does, but she also has written a thoughtful essay about a book or a series – EVERY SINGLE DAY since October 2010.  This particular book is a compilation of all of the essays for 2011.  Yes, I know you could go read it all on the website (http://childrensbookalmanac.com/), but I think I will have to buy the book every single year (hopefully), because I really want to own these essays, not just read them once.  What a GREAT gift for a librarians, children’s teacher, book enthusiast!  

GIFT – ADVISABLE.