Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Superhero ABC

Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod is great for geeky moms and fanboy dads, longing to introduce their children to comic book style superheroes! Each letter of the alphabet is treated to its own unique hero, and an alliterative blurb about them. For example, A is for Astro-man who "is always alert for an alien attack," B is for Bubble Boy who "blows bubbles at bullies," and C is for Captain Cloud who "calmly catches crooks." My favorite by far is Power Pup who "protects pets from the pound." The illustrations are colorful and quite detailed--in the background of Power Pup, you can see a parrot named Polly, a panting poodle, and a persian cat proclaiming "Pets are people too!" Children learning the alphabet will really like identifying the letters, especially those that spell their name!

The Perfect Nest

The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend with illustrations by John Manders is a very cute story about a very crafty cat. The cat in question, Jack, is attempting to attract the perfect bird, who will lay the perfect egg, which will make the perfect omelet, by building the perfect nest. First, a Spanish chicken arrives and lays an egg, then a French duck does the same, followed by a southern goose! Jack is ecstatic--he could have three omelets, if he can just get these bickering birds out of of the picture, which ends up taking more effort than he had planned. By the time they're gone, the eggs have hatched, and now three little chicks are calling Jack "mom." This is a fun read with a chance for you to practice your foreign accents!

Vulture View

Vultures are truly fascinating creatures. Teach your child about these interesting birds via Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre with illustrations by Steve Jenkins. Chances are you'll learn a lot too. For instance, did you know that vultures glide on pillars of hot air called thermals? Or that their heads have very few feathers because picking from dead animal carcasses is universally messy? You may find these carrion eaters disgusting, but they serve an important role, as nature's clean up crew! This book is especially good for boys who might think eating garbage sounds funny or cool. You could also take your child bird-watching after reading (I know our library parking lot is a perfect place to see some vultures)!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Visitor for Bear

A Visitor for Bear is an endearing tale by Bonny Becker with soothing illustrations by Kady MacDonald Denton. Bear seems quite sure he does not like visitors. He even has a sign on his door saying "NO VISITORS ALLOWED" which is why he's taken aback by a persistent mouse who continues to show up uninvited. "Vamoose!" he tells the mouse and "Be gone!" but he keeps appearing again and again. Finally Bear gives in. The mouse can stay for one cup of tea, but then he must leave. But when the mouse compliments Bear's home, appreciates his headstands, laughs at his jokes, Bear discovers he does enjoy company after all tears his sign down.

Stranger in the Woods

Stranger in the Woods is subtitled "A Photographic Fantasy" and that's exactly what it is. Created by wildlife photographers Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick, the book takes us into a snowy forest. "Take care!" the blue jay caws to the family of deer below, "Stranger in the woods!" All the animals are a-flutter seeking out this stranger. "I do see him!" chatters the squirrel. Who is it? The creatures all wonder. It's an edible snowman! The animals enjoy the stranger, left for them by some thoughtful children. Besides a lovely story and beautiful pictures, the book also includes a "Recipe for a Snowman" so you too can leave a treat in the woods.

Sally Goes to the Mountains

I really enjoy the "Sally goes to" series by artist Stephen Huneck. In Sally Goes to the Mountains, Sally, a black lab, and her owner are going camping. They pack up their van full of dog treats and head out. Sally is so anxious to make new friends in the mountains she falls asleep during the ride. She dreams of chasing rabbits, and climbing a tree to sing with a pretty bird! She imagines meeting an inquisitive owl (always asking "who? who?") Maybe she'll take a swim with the colorful fish, or find a stick (the beaver probably has one to spare). "A family of skunks is very nice," Sally thinks, "except for one little stinker." Soon she's arrived, and it's time for her mountain adventure to begin for real!


Pinduli is one of my favorites by fabulous author and illustrator Janell Cannon. It's the story of an adorable little hyena named Pinduli. At least, her Mama thinks she's adorable--everyone else makes fun of her big ears, her straggly fur, and her disorderly stripes. In effort to look more presentable, she pushes her ears flat, soaks down her fur, and rolls in the white dust. She certainly looks different. She looks like a ghost! So much so, she strikes fear into all the animals who objected to her appearance. She takes advantage of this and threatens to haunt them unless they become more tolerant (and leave food offerings). In the end Mama praises her: she's not only a beautiful hyena, but a very smart one!

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is the story of a mischievous boy named Max, sent to bed without supper. But in his room, a forest grows and the walls give way to jungle and ocean. Max sails to a land of wild things (like himself). The monsters show Max how terrible they can be, but he tames them, and they name him their king. Max commands "let the wild rumpus start!" and he and the other wild things swing and dance and march, until Max remembers how hungry he is. He waves goodbye to his monster friends and sails back to his room, where dinner is there waiting (and still hot too)!

Old Bear

Old Bear is the latest book from celebrated author and illustrator Kevin Henkes. It's the story of a bear who goes to sleep, to hibernate for the winter. It's snowing outside his cave, but he's dreaming of seasons past, the springs, summers, falls, and winters of his youth. He dreams of being a cub again, frolicking amongst the flowers, chasing butterflies in the light rain, and playing in the autumnal leaves by a river full of fish! He even dreams of the winter world covered in snow, staring up at beautiful northern lights. He sleeps and dreams a very long time, but to him its as if no time has passed at all. When hewakes up to look outside his cave he expects to see snow, but is happily suprised to walk out into a wonderful spring day!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Library Doors

Toni Buzzeo offers us The Library Doors, a playful media-centric reinterpretation of the popular children's sing-along chant, "The Wheels on the Bus" with the help of illustrator Nadine Bernard Westcott. Join some elementary school students on a trip to their library. There's a lot of fun things to do there, but you have to be quiet! You can go to story time, look up books in the catalog, browse the shelves for things you like, and of course read read read! There's also computers to help you do your homework or find information you're interested in. When you go to check your books out, be sure to wave goodbye to the librarian, and let her know you'll be sure to come back "all through the year!" This is a fun book to recite with your child, or if you're feeling up to it, sing! You know you know the tune...

Polar Bear Puzzle

Polar Bear Puzzle is part of the Adventures of Riley series by Amanda Lumry and Laura Hurwitz, endorsed by the Smithsonian Institute and the World Wildlife Fund. This series is really creative in that it mixes photographs with drawn illustrations, and stories with non fiction facts. For instance in Polar Bear Puzzle Riley goes to visit his biologist uncle Max in Churchill Canada, Polar Bear Capital of the world. Due to climate change, Uncle Max must tag and transfer bears to colder parts of the country, and Riley gets to help! On the way they meet several other arctic animals, and even see the northern lights. This is a very cool book with tons of timely information.

Ghosts in the House

Ghosts in the House is a charming picture book by Kazuno Kohara. The illustrations are all orange, black, and white, making it a perfect read for Halloween! The story begins with a little girl and her cat who've gone to live in a nice big house on the edge of town. Unfortunately, the house is haunted! But that's just fine with this little girl because she happens to be a witch. She's going to whip this house's ghosts into shape! Before you know it, she's caught and cleaned them all, and turned them into linens for her new home. She's got ghosty curtains, ghosty table cloths, and ghosty blankets for her bed! Ghosts in the House is an adorable story about a girl, a cat, and some ghosts, that all live happily ever after.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And Tango Makes Three

You may have already heard about And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. It was the most challenged book of 2008. If you're at all curious to see what the fuss was about, I highly recommend you check it out, because beneath all the controversy this is a story for children about an unconventional family of penguins. Roy and Silo were two real male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who played surrogate fathers to an egg, helping to bring little Tango into the world, and you can still visit them all today in New York City! Heartwarming illustrations provided by Henry Cole.


Jabberwocky by Christopher Myers is a fantastic re-imagining of the nonsensical poem from Lewis Carroll's classic Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. Myers interprets the piece to be about a particularly intense game of basketball (an analysis, by the way, he backs up with a tremendous amount of research on both Carroll and James Naismith, the "inventor" of basketball, and their mutual interest in an ancient Aztec ritual called ollamalitzli). The words of the story are practically gibberish, for instance, the narrator warns us to "beware the jubjub bird and shun the frumious bandersnatch!" The illustrations that accompany the poem really tell the story of a David-and-Goliath-esque courtside battle of epic porportions, held on a hot summer day in the inner city.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Abe's Honest Words

There's probably no historical figure I find more admirable than Abraham Lincoln. That explains why I love Abe's Honest Words by Doreen Rappaport, featuring illustrations by the fabulous Kadir Nelson. This is a lovely juvenile biography of our sixteenth president, who had the unenviable job of leading our country through, and out, of the Civil War. Rappaport treats us to Lincoln's life story--his upbringing after the death of his mother, his love for reading and writing, his election and presidency, to his tragic assasination--insterspliced with his own words. The book is a touching tribute to the man who wrote "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think, and feel."

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories is a collection of three great stories by Dr. Seuss, each with a lesson to teach us (as Seuss so often has). "Yertle the Turtle" is supposedly an allegory for Hitler-era fascism (and Horton Hears a Who is supposedly an allegory for Japanese internment camps. Who knew Seuss was so political). Yertle is the king of all he sees, which is a bunch of turtles in a pond. But he realizes if he commands all the turtles to stand in a stack with him on top, he could rule so much more! His plan seems to go swimmingly until Mack, the poor base turtle, does something very impolite... In "Gertrude McFuzz" (one of my childhood favorites) we meet a bird with a bit to learn about envy and vanity, and then there's "The Big Brag" in which a rabbit, a bear, and a worm argue over who has the best senses. All classics!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Fartiste by wife and husband authors Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, and illustrator Boris Kulikov, relates the true and intriguing tale of French artist, Joseph Pujol, who, at the height of his popularity, performed at the Moulin Rouge, to audiences of royal stature, pulling in tens of thousands of francs a night. And what was his talent, you might ask? Well, at age eight Joe discovered he had the ability to pass gas on command with no smell! He grew up to be a baker, but to help support his wife and ten children he began farting on street corners, then filling concert halls, eventually becoming the toast of gay Paris, and the rest is history!

The House in the Night

I thoroughly recommend The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson. It's a really great book to read at bedtime. Some people underestimate the power of a good bedtime story. This book begins with a key. The key is to a house. In the house is a light. The light is next to the bed. On the bed is a book. In the book is a bird. Every page leads naturally into the next. It's ordered, like the universe, which can be very reassuring for a child. The story takes us up in the sky, then down back to the house, into bed, where it's time to sleep. The illustrations by Beth Krommes are superb. They are completely interwoven with the words of the story, portraying them beautifully in shades of black, white, and gold. It reminds me of nursery rhymes that lulled me to sleep when I was young. Check it out!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Boogie Knights

Boogie Knights, by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Mark Siegel, takes place in a castle on a very special night. When the clock strikes twelve, it's time for the Madcap Monster Ball! Look who all is invited--the werewolves hustle, the zombies bustle, the mummies mamba, and the serpents samba, and all the while upstairs seven boogie knights (Sir Veillance, Sir Prize, Sir Loin, Sir Round, Sir Cumference, Sir Ender, and Sir Vivor) awaken one by one to the sounds of monsters mashing, bogeys bashing, witches waltzing, and wizards wiggling. The castle's small prince witnesses it all from the shadows until he meets a ghost princess, and then they join in the fun! You can join too! Groove with goblins, jitterbug with jesters, turn your living room into a veritable discotheque with the help of Boogie Knights!

Rough Weather Ahead for Walter the Farting Dog

Rough Weather Ahead for Walter the Farting Dog is the third in a bestselling series by authors William Kotzwinkle, Glenn Murray, and Elizabeth Gundy, and illustrator Audrey Colman about the titular gassy canine. In this installment, Professor Kompressor claims to have a secret formula to stop Walter's flatulence. Father and Mother think it's working perfectly, but the farts are just building up inside, turning Walter into a blimp! One night he floats away from home! He floats to the edge of town, before he finds a way to get down, saving some frozen butterflies in the process. Finally his owners accept him for the wonder dog that he is!

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish is by frequent collaborators author Neil Gaiman (well-known for his fantasy work for adults) and illustrator Dave McKean. The trouble begins when our narrator offers to swap everything in his room for his friend Nathan's two goldfish. But Nathan's not interested, so he offers up his dad (against the advice of his little sister). It seems like a fair trade, but Mom is not pleased, so the boy goes to swap the fish back. Unfortunately Nathan has swapped Dad to Vashti for an electric guitar. And Vashti swapped him to Blinky for a cool gorilla mask. And so on. To what lengths must our narrator go to get his dad back? Find out in this funny book.
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