Monday, November 24, 2014

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole review


Sam and Dave are on a mission. A mission to find something spectacular. So they dig a hole. And they keep digging. And they find . . . nothing. Yet the day turns out to be pretty spectacular after all. Attentive readers will be rewarded with a rare treasure in this witty story of looking for the extraordinary — and finding it in a manner you’d never expect.(goodreads summary)

Sam and Dave are digging a hole in the hopes of finding something spectacular.  As they dig deeper and deeper they keep coming up empty handed.

This clever story is simple, easy-to-read and big on subtle humor. Kids will find the illustrations visually fun to look at as the boys dig in different directions while unknowingly, the something spectacular they are looking for is right there in front of them.  They will giggle when they see how close the boys come to discovering something amazing and will want to shout out "it's right there!"  The ending was different than I expected but leaves open for wondering and thought provoking question. An observant reader will also notice that the beginning picture and ending pictures have slight differences. If they catch it, they will have fun pointing them out to others. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-7.~

Title: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
Author: Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Pub. Date:  October 2014, Candlewick Press
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving for Emily Ann review

Emily Ann doesn't like Thanksgiving, not one bit. With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday, she feels a little ignored...and just a little bit sad. But just as Emily Ann prepares to do her worst, her family comes together to show her what matters most about Thanksgiving: family.(goodreads summary)

What would Thanksgiving be without at least one new story for the holiday. But by the looks of this cover, I think Emily Ann may be a little devious. Feeling alone and left out while the Thanksgiving Day preparations are going on around her, she decides to be a little bit naughty with the family turkey. Luckily, her plan is intercepted by her mom and realizes that Thanksgiving is a wonderful time after all.

This is a short and simple rhyming story that has a theme of gratitude and family.  Emily Ann's negative attitude turned around for the better when she saw the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Her expression went from naughty to cheerful and then I liked her much better as a character. The dog was cute as her sidekick on each page. This is a quick read and one to share that encourages the meaning of Thanksgiving.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~

Title: Thanksgiving for Emily Ann
Author: Teresa Johnston, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Pub. Date: August 2014, Cartwheel Books
Genre: picture book, Thanksgiving
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Kill the Mockingbird review


When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.”

Lucy and her two best friends are excited about the summer before their freshman year of high school. Their new 8th grade English teacher gives them a summer reading list and Lucy's favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, is among the recommended. Unfortunately, her fellow classmates are not as thrilled as she is about reading it. With the help of her friends, they come up with a plan that blossoms into something bigger than they ever imagined.  Soon their intentions get out of hand and as the demand increases for the popular book, it soon turns into an unexpected revolt.

This story has everyday modern teenagers using and learning about the power of social media. Lucy, Elena and Michael's anonymous campaign gets everyone talking about the book and wanting it more by making it unavailable. The plan was to re-shelve books at local bookstores and libraries while also making a website declaring the destruction of the book.  Unfortunately, their crusade takes a bad turn and quickly explodes outside of their small town unknowingly realizing the impact the Internet can have.  Of course they have serious damage control now and problem solving was a key to eventually fixing the monster they had created.  Among all of this, each character seemed real with individual stories of their own. Lucy was coming to terms with her mom's Cancer, Elena lived with her Uncle above his bookstore because her parents died in a car crash and Michael was a baseball superstar discouraged because he is not using his skills to full potential.  Lucy and Michael also have this attraction to each other that is uncertain.  The three attend a Catholic school and there is a lot of religious speak throughout the book. The characters are definitely a rare breed for their young age, being such big book nerds and declaring what they do "for the love of books." It is refreshing though to find a clean, witty coming-of-age story. The chapters are short and flow easily for a quick read. For kids who have read To Kill a Mockingbird already, there are many references that they will connect to. There are so many other mentions of book titles and authors that I felt myself  saying "oh yeah, I know about that." The kids do learn a big lesson and take ownership for their actions which I was happy to see. 

I read that this book is recommended for grades 5-8. Towards the end, the kids are discussing what is in To Kill a Mockingbird and one reference is that "the story has rape, murder, lynching and rabies."  In our school district To Kill a Mockingbird is the big freshman year reading book and that subject was a short topic of discussion before the kids read it.  They should understand the content first so I'm not sure how this would be a good fit for a 5th to 6th grader.  I feel it may be better suited for a mature reader instead.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 12-14. 

Title:  I Kill the Mockingbird
Author:  Paul Acampora 
Pub. Date: May 2014, Roaring Book Press
Genre: fiction, middle grade
Hardcover, 166 pgs.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hands off my Honey! review


Bear has a great big jar of delicious honey. And he wont share with anyone! But Mouse, Mole, and the Rabbit Brothers are hungry. With a jump, leap, and a roll, they set out across the forest. Can they make it to the honey without that scary bear seeing them?(goodreads summary)

All the animals run and hide while Bear stomps through the forest declaring the jar of honey for himself. He will not share even one drop; but the other creatures are determined to get some of that delicious honey too. While Bear sits and eats from his enormous jar, the others are sneaking up on him with anticipation for some yummy eating as well.

This is a delightful story with big, bold illustrations and large text for easy reading. The forest animals were cute as they worked as a team trying to get some of Bear's honey for themselves. One character, Mole, was exceptionally clumsy and the others were very forgiving which was heart-warming. This will be a fun read aloud and young ones will be surprised at the unexpected twist at the end.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~

Title: Hands off My Honey!
Author: Jane Chapman
Pub. Date: March 2013, Tiger Tales
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to Behave at a Tea Party review


Julia's little brother doesn't know how to behave at a tea party.  She will show Charles that slurping and burping are not allowed, that teacups are not building blocks, and that underwear does not count as a fancy hat. Charles will teach Julia that tea parties sometimes require deep breaths, and welcoming unexpected guests, and that maybe--just maybe--there is more than one way to properly behave.

How do you behave at a tea party? Well, Julia knows all about the proper etiquette to hosting the perfect tea party and she is determined to teach her younger brother Charles. There are many things you must do to get ready for a tea party... First, you open your invitation; next, wash your elbow and knee; put on your fancy clothes and eventually, hold your tea cup nicely by the handle. Unfortunately, she learns that some guests have their own idea how to behave at tea parties that do not always match hers.

This was a cute story with a funny twist about being flexible and finding out there is no perfect way to do things. Many kids might relate to the sibling relationship as Julia wants Charles and the neighbor boys to behave a certain way; yet instead they have their own minds about things. The boys do cause quite a bit of mayhem and you feel Julia's frustration as she gets angry and yells at them to go away.  But with a second thought, she opens up to the situation and ends up throwing the best party after all. This would be a fun read-aloud for a tea party play date with plenty of giggles. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-7.~

Title: How to Behave at a Tea Party
Author:  Madeyln Rosenberg
Pub. Date: September 2014, Katherine Tegan Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Emily's Blue Period review


Emily wants to be an artist. She likes painting and loves the way artists like Pablo Picasso mixed things up.Emily's life is a little mixed up right now. Her dad doesn't live at home anymore, and it feels like everything around her is changing.“When Picasso was sad for a while,” says Emily, “he only painted in blue. And now I am in my blue period.”It might last quite some time.(goodreads summary)

In school, Emily is learning about Pablo Picasso. She would like to be an artist herself someday but at the moment her life is a little out of sorts. Her parents are getting divorced and Emily feels that everything is mixed up and is sad on the inside.  When Picasso was sad he only would paint in shades of blue. Emily feels that she is having one of those blue periods and that it might last for a long time.  

This is a wonderful book told from a child's point-of-view about the feelings and emotions they have when parents divorce. Usually the topic is covered more at the middle grade level, so it is nice to find one geared towards the younger age group. Many will find themselves connecting with Emily and her brother on some feelings and changes they could be facing with their own family. In Art Class, Emily has a collage project to make about her house but it raises questions about her home since she now will have two. This book depicts many emotions such as sadness, anger and confusion not only from a child's perspective in words but illustrated wonderfully that I felt Emily's blueness.  Her brother Jack's insightful take on where home is was heart warming. This would work well opening up discussion about how kids are feeling on a new situation. Although a picture book, the story is written in a chapter-like style. I also liked that it teaches a little about Pablo Picasso.  This may be  suited for an older picture book reader independently or to be read-aloud to younger ones.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 5-9.~

Title: Emily's Blue Period
Author: Cathleen Daly
Pub. Date: June 2014, Roaring Brook Press
Genre: picture book, chapter book
Hardcover, 56 pgs.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Winter Is Coming review

Day after day, a girl goes to her favorite place in the woods and quietly watches from her tree house as the chipmunks, the doe, the rabbits prepare for the winter. Silently she observes the world around her as it reveals its secrets. It takes time and patience to see the changes as, slowly but surely, winter comes. (goodreads summary)

Taking moments to sit quietly and observe nature can be an incredible experience for our children. They always seem to be on the go and do encounter a much more faster paced world than we did as kids.  

The little girl jotting in her notebook who sits silently still, high upon a tree platform in the woods, tells a beautiful story about the appreciation of nature.  The thoughtfully written text, along with the serene Autumn illustrations, definitely makes this book a favorite of mine as the fall and winter season approaches.  The story comes alive with its' beautiful colors and the enchanting expression of the girls eyes who seem to be filled with wonderment. I heard her voice as she gently tells about the animals she sees and sketches, teaching us how they prepare for the long upcoming winter. A wonderful book for a fall into winter nature hike, exploring the beauty and bringing out the Aldo Leopold in all of us. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 5-8.~

Title: Winter is Coming
Author:  Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche
Pub. Date: August 2014, Simon & Schuster
Genre: picture book
hardcover, 40mpgs.