Monday, October 24, 2016

Whose poop is that?

by Darrin Lunde
illustrated by Kelsey Oseid
age: 4 to 7 years old

Although it might sound like an accusation, the title is actually a scientific inquiry. Using seven different animals as example, the author shows how many things we can learn from observing and studying (in the case of scientists) poop. In poop we can find bits of bones, feathers, fur, and twigs. Poop also has different appearance, shape, color depending on the animal and its diet. Sometimes something that looks like poop could be vomit, since this is another way animals waste undigested food. A list of facts at the end of the books adds some more interesting information like the importance of poop for the environment, and how it is used to build a nest, mark territory, or spread seeds. 

This topic is very interesting for kids. We all know kids love "gross stuff". The information is presented in a funny and concise way. The pictures illustrate well the differences between the different "samples" without being gross, and without distracting the attention from the nutritional and digestive facts being discussed. And the animals are cute. I really think this non fiction picture book will be a win.

By the way... I never thought I would write a review with the word "poop" so many times in it... 

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Author's faves: Melissa Iwai

Here you have Melissa Iwai's favorite picture books, and her comments on them. Melissa is the illustrator of many wonderful books, among them I'll hug you more, which I have recently reviewed. Enjoy!

Arm In Arm
by Remy Charlip

I remember receiving this book when I was four in 1970 as part of a monthly book club my mother signed up for via the now defunct Parents Magazine Press. I was captivated by the strangeness of this book -- one like no other I had ever seen, and one that was ahead of its time. The cover opens to the back of the book, for one (it has since been re-released by Tricycle Press in 1997 and this newer version doesn't have this feature)! The book is filled with little stories and drawings, almost all of which intrinsically are entwined with each other, much like the title's reference of this story: "The two octopuses got married and walked down the aisle arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm in arm"! 

Piero Ventura's Book of Cities
by Piero Ventura

This is another childhood favorite. I remember asking my dad to buy me this book when I was a tween -- much older than your average picture book reader. I was and still am captivated by his spare, yet highly detailed illustrations of great cities in the world. He describes the unique features of each place, as well as what it's like to live there:  What are the houses like? What kind of work do people do? What do the inhabitants do for fun? Each scene is full of activity, and it is so enjoyable to see what all the tiny city people are doing. I literally wanted to live in his drawings! Now, as an adult, I'm happy to say that I've visited most of them and now live in one of my favorite illustrated city, New York! 

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
by William Stieg

This classic by William Stieg, which won him the Caldecott, is a family favorite. I received it from a dear friend when I was pregnant with our son thirteen years ago. Sylvester, a donkey, comes across a magic pebble, unwittingly cuts himself off from his family, and turns into a rock. The text is straightforward and the drawings are simple, but they capture the depth of emotion and pathos and humor that is all part of life. I still can't help choking up every time I read this story aloud when Sylvester is finally reunited with his parents and they all realize that they don't need a magic pebble to grant them anything ---"they had all that they needed". 

The Chicken Sisters by Laura Numeroff,
illustrated by Sharleen Collicott

Laura Numeroff delivers in this zany, hilarious story about three hens with quirky personalities (annoying to their neighbors) who drive away a scary wolf who's moved into town. On the surface the premise isn't that compelling, but the way it's executed is brilliant. The story is told in a dry, dead-pan manner, which when read aloud, is hilarious. Sharleen Collicott's amazing gouache paintings take it to another level with her humor and attention to detail. I bought this book long before we had our son, and I pored over the wonderful artwork for hours. Collicott perfectly illustrates the characters' eccentricities and their relationships with each other. And my husband and I still quote the phrase, "Boy, do I love to ____!" over a decade later, invoking the memory of the Chicken Sisters, as an inside joke.

The Little Fur Family, by Margaret Wise Brown 
illustrated by Garth Williams

The little fur child explores the "wild wild wood" where he lives with his fur mother and father in a "warm wooden tree". Margaret Wise Brown expertly and gently writes about the fur child's exploration and discovery and growth in such simple words! And Garth Williams perfectly captures the warmth and love of the fur family, "warm as toast, smaller than most, in little fur coats". My husband and I like to believe he depicts a biracial family using animals, though Williams has never said this was on purpose. In 1959, The Rabbits' Wedding was controversial in Alabama, because some believed Williams was subliminally criticizing racial segregation with his paintings of a black and white rabbit getting married. He denied it was his intention - that he made them black and white, so he could tell them apart.

Still, my husband and I like to pretend we are the fur family in The Little Fur Family, living in with our "little fur child" in our "little fur world".

Thank you, Melissa!

"The Little Fur Family that we own, 
which was released more recently. 
We love the furry book cover! :)"

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Gertrude and Toby save the Gingerbread Man

#2 in the Gertrude and Toby Series
by Shari Tharp
illustrated by Jim Heath
age range: 5 to 7 years old
Atlas Publishing

Gertrude the goat, and Toby the turtle are best friend. In this second book in the series they try to help the Gingerbread Man, who is being kept in a cage by a giant who lives up in an also giant vine. They count with the help of a flying carpet, and also Hansel and Gretel. 

This book is very humorous with that kind of humor that includes as much ingenuity as absurdity. The presence of so many characters from fairy tales gives it an air of surreal too. Addressed to kids who are leveling up from the "early readers" step, the story would work great ether if it is read by or to the kid. Since I read an ARC copy, many of the illustrations were still in the sketch stage, but all of them, finished and unfinished, look really funny, with expressive characters and only the necessary details. 

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pilots and what they do

by Liesbet Slegers
age range: 2 to 4 years old
Clavis Books

Airplanes are always a source of fascination for kids. There are so many things to ask about them! While telling about what pilots do, this book also guides the reader inside a plane, and instructs about how it flies. From what a pilot wears to a nice and safe landing, we meet the flight attendants and the cockpit; we read about the control tower and the runaway; we checked the fuel, wind, height and speed; we knew about seat belts, snacks and drinks; we learn about wheels and wings; and of course we enjoyed beautiful sights from above.

The illustrations are simple and colorful. The page layout reminds me a books I used to read when I was a toddler, with a full picture on the right side, and a white page with the text and a small picture of a detail on the left. It is interesting. It encourage questions. It makes you feel like you learn something new and amazing. The author also plays with the idea of many kids dreaming about being pilots when they grow up. In summary, a very good non fiction picture book for little kids on a attractive topic.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The case of maker mischief

#2 in the West Meadows Detectives
by Liam O'Donnell
illustrated by AurĂ©lie Grand
age range: 7 to 10 years old
Owlkids Books

Myron is a detective third grader, and Hajrah is his partner. In this second book in the series they are trying to find out who stole Robson, a robot built by their classmates, Jordan and "Glitch", for the Maker Faire Robot Maze Challenge. So far this sounds like an good mystery like many other mysteries for this age range. So, what makes this book different? 

The West Meadows Detectives series is told in first person by Myron, who happens to be in the autistic spectrum. The reader will notice from the very first pages how this is mirrored in the writing style, which is focused in the facts, without unnecessary descriptions, or needless extra words. Myron also express in many opportunities along the story how he feels about the situations in his everyday life, like noisy places, unexpected changes in the routine, or how sometimes his brain feels overloaded by the world around him. And at the same time how much he loves logic facts, and his ability to find and process clues. At the same time Hajrah happens to be hyper-energetic, with difficulties to sit or stay still, but also a great sense of how to help Myron when he feels overwhelmed by a situation. And Myron and Hajrah are not the only ones, since they are part of a neuro diverse group at the West Meadows School. The readers will also meet Sarah "Smasher" McGintley, who is a female bully bulling boys, something also uncommon to find in children's novels.

These nontraditional characters already make the story more than worthy. Now add a pinch of science, robots, coding, and challenges. Serve with black & white enjoyable pictures, that also complement the story showing the characters' body language and actions. And there you are.  A wonderful book I recommend you to try. I will keep a close eye on this series myself.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Move it, Miss Macintosh!

by Peggy Robbins Janousky
art by Meghan Lands
age range: 4 to 6 years old
Annick Press

There are many common worries on the first day of kindergarten: what if nobody likes me? What if I can't find my classroom? What if I can't open my lunch box? Even phrases like "school is not for me" and "I'm not going" are totally normal. But what if all this thoughts are coming from Miss Macintosh, the kindergarten teacher?

This book bring the "everyone's new in kindergarten" idea a little farther making the reader laugh about all this worries. I think is a great story to share with anxious future kindergartners, and even a perfect read aloud read on the first day of school as an ice breaker. Along the way the readers also meet the principal, the school bus driver, the lunch lady and many other special teachers, who in some funny way let everyone know all the amazing things that are awaiting at school. And before Miss Macintosh could even realize it, she is already loving kindergarten!

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Everton Miles is stranger than me

sequel to The strange gift of Gwendolyn Golden
by Philippa Dowding
age range: 9 to 12 years old

Gwendolyn is a fourteen years old girl who also happens to be a Night Flyer, which means she has the ability to fly without mechanical assistance. As every Night Flyer she has a Mentor and a Watcher, and she also has all the problems a "normal" teenager has. Everything gets even more complicated when Everton Miles, another Night Flyer, moves to town. Everton is strange, it's true, but not as strange as the black feathered creature who follows Gwendolyn calling her when she flies at night. What it is happening here?

This middle grade novel was very enjoyable to read. The plot is absolutely engaging from the very first pages. Although it clearly has fantastic components, the story is set in a pretty normal small town. There are many funny moments, and some scary ones. Some of the issues of being a teenager are addressed along the way: gifts and responsibility, grief and expectations, dreams and reality. Friendship, in its different forms, is probably the main theme. I didn't read the first book in the series, but I will do it soon. And I really would love to see more books in this series. I think Gwendolyn, Everton, Martin and Jez has still much more to give us.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 3, 2016

In the land of broken time

by Max Evan
illustrations by Maria Evan
translation by Helen Hagon
age range: 8 to 12 years old

Everything stars when a circus arrives to town and Christopher decides to sneak away at night to see it. There he meets Sophie, they are chased by a guard, and decided to hide in the basket of a hot air balloon. Afraid of being caught they undo the knot, and the balloon flies free caught in the wind. That's when Duke, a talking golden retriever who was sleeping in the basket, appears. All of this is exciting enough. Now imagine when they land in a strange place where time is broken...

In the land of broken time is a short fantastic novel in seven chapters full of action, and adorable characters. The themes are time and friendship. Information about how to measure time and how it affect us is exposed as part of the plot, and the way the characters love and take care of each other is beautifully touching. The illustrations are lovely, colorful, and add to the dreamy feeling of the story. I think this book is an interesting option for kids who love fantastic plots, time travel, and action. It is also a quick read. 

I received this copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.