Saturday, December 31, 2011

final flourish of picture books for 2011

THE UNRULY QUEEN by E.S. Redmond (Candlewick 2012) presents one of the most rude children to grace a picture book. Minerva Von Vyle pitches fits, throws food to the floor if it is not to her liking, and demands candy all the time. After going through a nanny per week for a year, she is about to meet her match in a new nanny.

AND THEN IT'S SPRING (Roaring Brook 2012) by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Erin E. Stead (Caldecott artist for SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE) opens with all of the fields and woods in shades of brown. However, a young boy knows that spring will come eventually. And so he plants and waits and waits for the brown to give way to the green. Soft pastel colors exude the calm patience of the young boy as he waits for his blooms to appear. <682>

Jeremy and the Monster are back in THE MONSTER RETURNS by Peter McCarty (Holt 2012). When Peter receives a note on a paper airplane, he learns that his monster is coming back. Jeremy enlists the aid of several of he neighborhood kids to welcome the monster back. Pay attention to the end papers in this book (and there are two different sets of endpapers) and also ask kids about the numbers...<683>

PIGGY BUNNY by Rachel Vail with illustrations by Jeremy Tankard (Feiwel and Friends 2012) is about holding on to dreams. Piggy wants more than anything to be the Easter Bunny. His friends scoff; his parents are dismayed. Only his grandparents listen to his desire and assist Piggy in fulfilling his dreams. <684>

On a perfect Kite Day, Bear and Mole design and create a kite. In KITE DAY (Holiday House 2012) Will Hillebrand not only creates a lovely friendship between mole and bear, he shows readers what even when something does not quite work the way you intended, good things may come of it. <685>

FRISKY BRISKY HIPPITY HOP by Alexina White and Susan Lurie with photo illustrations by Murray Head (Holiday House 2012) follow some squirrels in their antics up and down trees and flying between branches, foraging for food, and just generally having a great squirrel day. <686>

Friday, December 30, 2011

finishing out the year in picture books galore

Big (animal) families are theme for these two picture books.

THE HOUSE OF 12 BUNNIES By Carolyn Stills and Sarcia Stills-Blott with illustrations by Judith Russell (Holiday House 2012)opens with Sophia, one of the 12 bunnies, searching for something. As she searches, careful readers will notice lots of twelves in the book. They are presented in a variety of permutations: 3 baby carriages, 4 tricycles, 2 scooters, 2 pogo sticks and a bike for example. What is Sophia looking for? See if readers can guess. <679>

ANOTHER BROTHER by Matthew Cordell (Feiwel and Friends 2012) presents readers with Davy. At first, Davy is an only "child" (he is a lamb). When his brothers come along they pester him by copying his every action. When Davy finally gets them to stop, he discovers he is lonely. Who will fill the void? <680>

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Critters in Picture Books

Here are a few picture books that provide some information about various creatures through rhyming text and other more visual elements.

IN THE SEA by David Elliott with illustrations by Holly Meade (Candlewick Press, 2012) is a collection of short poems about various sea creatures. Here is a quarter of poems from one double page spread:

The Urchin
The Sardine
The Mackerel
The Shrimp

BUGS GALORE by Peter Stein with illustrations by Bob Staake (Candlewick Press 2012) is one long poetic homage to bugs of all kinds: stinky bugs, crawly bugs, roly poly, swimming, shiny, etc. Two children frolic in their adventures as they discover more and more bugs. <673>

I SPY UNDER THE SEA by Edward Gibbs (Templar Books 2012) has a die-cut hole in the cover that allows readers to "spy" on a tiny piece of a sea creature. Using the clue provided, they are invited to guess which animal will appear on the next page. <674>

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Picture Books and Animal Romps

SCOOTER IN THE OUTSIDE by Anne Bowen with illustrations by Abby Carter (Holiday House 2012) will delight readers as they follow Scooter the dog on an adventure outside on his own. At first, life is quite good as he bounces merrily down the street and crosses to the "other side." Soon, though, he is lost and frightened. His owner comes to his rescue, thankfully, and Scooter has learned a valuable lesson about the outside. <675>

ZOO AH-CHOOO by Peter Mandel with illustrations by Elwood Smith (Holiday House 2012) is a comical look at what happens one day at the zoo when the sneeze of a snow leopard seemingly triggers a chain reaction with all the animals in turn sneezing and causing quite a bit of mess and mayhem. <676>

AUNT ANT LEAVES THROUGH THE LEAVES: A STORY WITH HOMOPHONES AND HOMONYMS by Nancy Coffelt (Holiday House 2012) is similar to The Little Red Hen. Monkey has a ton of bananas and wants to make pie. The animals, though, are all in too much of a hurry to help, at least at first. Aunt Ant comes to the rescue and eventually the other animals follow suit. Part of the word play here is the inclusion of homophones and homonyms. <677>

LET'S HAVE A TREE PARTY by David Martin with illustrations by John Manders (Candlewick Press 2012) is a rollicking rhythmic rhyming story of animals having a party in the tree. There is even a game of Simon Says to add to the fun. Join Crow and Bear and the others for the tree party. <678>

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

picture books for math class

As I finish out the year with a plethora pf picture books, I thought I would point out some that would work well in other content areas. Here are two that are excellent for inclusion in math classes.

PERIMETER, AREA, AND VOLUME: A MONSTER BOOK OF DIFFERENCES by David Adler with illustrations by Edward Miller (Holiday House 2012) provides a terrific introduction to the concepts of dimensions and the mathematical terms that describe different dimensions. Making concepts more concrete with picture books allows readers who are still not able to think abstractly a scaffold by which they might begin to grasp these concepts. <670>

ZERO THE HERO by Joan Holub with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld (Holt 2012) is a funny story about how zero feels outcast from the other numbers. They tease him until one day they discover that without him they cannot perform some of their mathematical functions. Zero comes to the rescue when the other numbers are captured by Roman Numerals. Lots of good humor here to make for a fun lesson or two in math class. <671>

Monday, December 26, 2011

The return of Mickey Rangel

Fellow Texan, Rene Saldana, created this series featuring Mickey Rangel, boy detective, a couple of years ago. THE LEMON TREE CAPER (Pinata/Arte Publico 2011) gives readers another mystery to solve along with Mickey. Mickey's mouth is watering as his unairconditioned school bus passes Tina's lemonade stand on the way home. Before he can make it to her stand to quench his thirst, though, he hears a blood-curdling scream from his neighbor's house. There he discovers TWO mysteries. One he is able to solve quickly. The other one: who stole Senorita Andrade's lemons straight from her tree, might take some time and maybe assistance from his ghost sidekick or whoever it is who leaves him notes with clues and hints. Mickey is a welcome addition to the sleuths of children's literature. This book is in English; flip it over, and the text is in Spanish as well.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Seifer Tombstone (and do enjoy the names of the characters in this GN) has been living a rather sedate life until he is kidnapped. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself "volunteered" to play the role of a missing prince: Prince Talon Pandemonium. In PANDEMONIUM by Chris Wooding (Scholastic Graphix, February 2012), the adventure has just begun. Siefer might be a dead ringer for the missing prince, but he is not fooling everyone at the palace, especially his "pet" cat who nearly shreds him when he enters the Prince's bedroom. Siefer must be able to convince the royal family and the armies that he is the prince in order for the kingdom to survive. Wooding's creations are snarly and sharp tongued and sharp witted. This makes for a wonderfully humorous and adventurous read. The GN format is well suited to this tale of mistaken identities and double crosses and political intrigue. <669>

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Gift

THE CARPENTER'S GIFT: A CHRISTMAS TALE ABOUT THE ROCKEFELLER CENTER TREE by David Rubel with illustrations by Jim LaMarche (Random House 2011) is a perfect gift for the holidays. Near Christmas of 1931, Henry and his father take a load of trees into the city to sell. The family has been hard hit by the Depression; the money from the tree sale will certainly help. On Christmas morning Henry and his family awaken to a wonderful surprise: a group of workmen to whom Henry's father had donated his leftover trees come to the farm to help build a proper home for the family. The spirit of generosity is alive and well in this story. <687>

watch out giants, here comes Claudette!

GIANTS BEWARE by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado (First Second, April 2012 courtesy of NetGalley) is a GN for younger readers. Claudette wants to slay a giant. When a giant threatens her town, she enlists the aid of her two friends. Marie, who plans to be a princess when she grows up and Gaston, an aspiring chef, accompany Claudette as she sets off to confront the giant and defeat him before their absence is discovered by their parents. Humor abounds in this fantasy which taps deeply into wish fulfillment. <668>

Friday, December 23, 2011

if you go into the woods today...

WILDWOOD by Colin Meloy with illustrations by Carson Ellis (Balzer and Bray 2011) takes readers on a perilous journey with Prue McKeel into the Impassable Wilderness, the dark woods at the edge of her neighborhood. Prue does not intend to venture into the woods, but when her younger brother is kidnapped by a flock of crows (a MURDER of crows), she knows she must find him. Prue and her friend Curtis could never have anticipated what awaits them in the dense and dark tumble of woods and brush and vines. There they will meet soldier coyotes who protect an insane Dowager who intends to sacrifice Prue's brother to regain power. There are assorted bandits, a meditative group who listens to the woods to know what is afoot, and an aviary army. WILDWOOD is a book that weaves classic elements of fantasy with contemporary issues and characters. Readers who loved A TALE DARK AND GRIMM and LEISL AND PO and BREADCRUMBS will want to add this book to their stack. <667>

Thursday, December 22, 2011

if you give an illustrator a box...

Kazu Kibuishi, creator of the AMULET series of GNs, has edited a collection entitled EXPLORER: THE MYSTERY BOXES (Amulet, March 2012). Seven graphic novelists provide their answer to the question: what's in the box? Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, and Kibuishi himself are among the talented artists and illustrators whose stories are a part of this collection. Sometimes the boxes contain wondrous gifts; other times there are more sinister things that rise from the box. Students will enjoy exploring the different stories as well as the different artistic approaches. Teachers might easily use this book to demonstrate mood and tone since the scaffolding of the visuals makes it readily apparent which stories are more lighthearted than others. <666>

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Seeing ghosts

Henry Winkler and Linn Oliver team up again for a new series, Ghost Buddy. Book #1: HERO TO ZERO (Scholastic, January 2012) introduces readers to Billy Broccoli as he and his family move to a new home and a new school. Billy now has a stepsister and while he might not exactly think of himself in a Cinderella situation, he is not exactly happy with the move. Add to the fears about a new school the fact that his bedroom in the new house is in shades of lavender and pink. One more complication: it comes equipped with a ghost named Hoover Porterhouse. Billy's problems are just beginning in this adventure, mystery, school story that is certain to please those readers who already love Hank Zipzer and welcome new fans as well. <664>

Capstone's imprint, Stone Arch, highlights short easy to read chapter books. BASEMENT OF THE UNDEAD by Jason Strange (Capstone 2011) features zombies living in the basement of the school, school bullies, and lots of chases. Jason Strange is the narrator and the "detective" who investigates strange occurrences in Raven's Pass. If there are monsters to be found, leave it to Jason Strange to come to the rescue in the nick of time. <665>

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Need some funny? here is a perfect gift!

IT SEEMED FUNNY AT THE TIME: A LARGE COLLECTION OF SHORT HUMOR by David Lubar (Kindle 2011) seems to me to be a perfect selection in this frenetic season where people cut into lines and lanes and lives. Since it is an eBook, I can pull it up whenever I need some laughter to dispel the irritation brought on by the slings and arrows of a busy holiday season. From the copyright page to the table of contents, it should be readily apparent that this is one funny man and one funny book. The essays range in topics as varied as HMOs, home made beer, Halloween, computers, book reviews, and much more. I hope Lubar will forgive me for a small excerpt from "An Aptitude Test for Reviewers."

1. Before writing a review, it is essential that the reviewer:
a. crefully read the entire book
b. skim the book or at least most of it
c. carefully read the entire book jacket
d. skim the jacket or at least most of it
e. kill a kitten with his bare hands

Do yourself a favor. Download the book. Save yourself some raging during the holidays. <663>

Monday, December 19, 2011

burning questions about skivvies? seek no more.

Lloyd Kyi's 50 UNDERWEAR QUESTIONS (Annick Press 2011, courtesy of NetGalley) provides some answers to the questions of the origin of undergarments and how they developed over the centuries. Lots of humor in the writing and the illustrations will appeal to less than avid readers who are looking for something to browse.Direct kids to other books on the subject including HOW UNDERWEAR GOT UNDER THERE, THE REVEALING STORY OF UNDERWEAR, or books about Bloomer, Stanton, and others whose lives were altered due to changes in underwear. <662>

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One Shirt Perseus?

Full Cast Audio brings to life Geraldine McCaughrean's retelling of the myths of PERSEUS (Full Cast Audio 2011). Perseus, son of Zeus and a mortal woman, undertakes the beheading of Medusa, one of the Gorgons. Later, he slays a sea monster to rescue a beautiful young woman before returning home to glory. McCaughrean language begs to be read aloud, or in this case, listened to. Full Cast Audio's production underscores the humor as well as the adventure of the story with narrator Cynthia Bishop and a full cast giving voice to the other players in this retelling of the myth. Offer this audiobook along with others that feature McCaughrean's retellings such as Odysseus and Cyrano, both from Full Cast Audio. <661>

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Totally Awesome, Man!

THE ASTONISHING SECRET OF AWESOME MAN (WITH MOSKOWITZ, THE AWESOME DOG) by Michael Chabon with illustrations by Jake Parker (Balzer and Bray 2011)at first seems like your typical superhero takes on archnemesis book. However, there are some clues here and there abut the true identity of Awesome Man. Join him as he fights slime monsters and his worst enemy The Flaming Eyeball. Awesome Man's true identity, if you have not figured it out, is revealed on the final pages of this awesome book.

Friday, December 16, 2011

See You at Harry's

SEE YOU AT HARRY'S by Jo Knowles (Candlewick, May 2012) absorbed my total attention on a flight to Chicago. I was actually happy (well, as happy as one can be on a plane) with the delay on the tarmac before take off and the delay in finding an open jetway on the other end of the journey as I did not want to leave this book unfinished. Fern's family owns and operates a restaurant, Harry's. Fern's Dad is always looking for a way to get publicity, but his latest scheme is, well, embarrassing. When you are 12, all is potentially embarrassing, but having to take part in a commercial wearing a doofus t-shirt is almost more than Fern can bear. But then events conspire, and the embarrassment of the commercial seems a silly thing of the past. Knowles has created a family that will resonate with so many readers, a family they will come to love. Hers is a story of family, of heartbreaking loss, of finding hope again. of moving forward despite the stultifying pain of doing so. Here is a book that will make you laugh in rueful recognition and make you weep because you care about these characters so lovingly created. Order your copy now. <659>

Note: I used my Magic Wand to scan the cover of the ARC. Thanks @skajder for telling us about it at #ncte11!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Though neither of these Christmas books are new, they are certainly perfect for holiday reading for the family. Don't forget THE POLAR EXPRESS, DECEMBER, AUNTIE CLAUS, HERSCHEL AND THE HANUKKAH GOBLINS, and the other gifts of reading for the holidays.

Fancy Nancy is distraught in SPLENDIFEROUS CHRISTMAS (Harper 2009) by Jane O'Connor with illustrations by Robin Glasser. Her beautiful tree top ornament crashes and breaks. But Grandpa comes to the rescue and makes Christmas perfect again. <657>

Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" continues to see incarnations each year. Here is Mary Englebreit's interpretation in THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (Harper 2002) with elves from Santa's workshop gracing the end papers and jellybeans sitting in reindeer antlers. Kids will enjoy finding fairies, elves, jellybeans, and lots of other items in these illustrations. <658>

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

picture books to inform

GODS AND GODDESSES OF GREEK MYTHOLOGY by Don Nardo (Capstone/Compass Points, 2012) provides readers with a terrific overview of the various gods and goddesses from mythology. From Gaea and Uranus to the Titans and the gods of Mount Olympus, readers will enjoy the "snapshot" text and the full color illustrations. If students like this book, introduce them to George O'Connor's GN series on the gods and goddesses as well. <654>

THE GIRL'S GUIDE TO MERMAIDS: EVERYTHING ALLURING ABOUT THESE MYTHICAL BEAUTIES by Sheri Johnson (Capstone/Compass Point, 2012) introduces readers to the mythology of the mermaid. How did the story of these creatures begin? Is there some basis in reality (narwhals, manatees)? Additions such as the Mermaid yearbook (famous mermaids) and mermaid quizzes are perfect for younger readers. <655>

IT'S A PATTERN by M. W. Penn (Capstone/Pebble, 2012) discusses patterns that can be seen and patterns that can be heard. It asks readers to guess the next number in a pattern sequence, thus making this a great book to bring into a math class. Photographs accompany a rhyming text geared toward sharing with young readers. <656>

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hanging out with boys

FRIENDS WITH BOYS by Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, February 2012, courtesy of NetGalley) combines the very realistic story of Maggie's first year in high school with a nifty ghost story. Maggie has been home schooled all her life. Her first day of high school is both exciting and terrifying at turns. It also means having friends outside of her rambunctious brothers to whom she is just one of the guys. Maggie manages to make some new friends and begins to see how different her brothers' lives are outside of their house. Add to this coming of age story, the story of the ghost who has followed, not exactly haunted, Maggie for years and the GN format, and you have a book certain to pull in a wide array of readers. <653>

Monday, December 12, 2011

Evernight Lives On: Balthazar

Skye Tierney has returned home from Evernight followings its destruction in the battle between the vampires and the wraiths. In BALTHAZAR (HarperTeen, March 2012), Claudia Gray continues the stories from Evernight Academy. When Skye's life is threatened by Redgrave, a cruel master vampire, Balthazar comes to her rescue. It seems as though Skye possesses powers that are seductively attractive to Redgrave and his followers. Balthazar has a score to settle with Redgrave, the vampire who turned him centuries ago. And perhaps, Balthazar will finally allow someone to grow close to him? <652>

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Before E: Some Rules for Remembering

There is no saying this any other way: I am old. I use phrases like "carrying coals to Newcastle" which few people have a frame of reference for any longer. Perhaps that is one reason I found I BEFORE E (Reader's Digest 2011; available from netgalley) by Susan Randol such familiar territory. How do we create mnemonic devices to help us remember rules and the order of the planets and the Great Lakes? Here they are in one book. Share some with your students and encourage them 9as the book does) to create their own ways of keeping things stored in their memory. <651>

Saturday, December 10, 2011

life throws us curves

Jordan Sonnenblick's new novel, CURVEBALL: THE YEAR I LOST MY GRIP (Scholastic, March 2012) is the story of two best friends who had their lives planned out on the baseball field. But Peter has been ignoring the pain in his elbow too long and as he releases a pitch, he knows his plans are going to have to change. Peter Friedman, pitcher, becomes Peter Friedman, the photographer. He has learned from the best: his own grandfather. Perhaps Peter can put a new life plan together. All it will take is dealing with telling the truth to his best friend (there will be no more pitching), his parents (his grandfather seems to be sinking into Alzheimer's complications faster and faster without letting anyone know), and himself. Sonnenblick's books work because readers are drawn into the lives of the characters he so carefully crafts. <650>

Friday, December 9, 2011

love from all angles

Pearl loves to give hugs, but when you are a porcupine, sometimes hugs hurt. in HUGS FROM PEARL by Paul Schmid (Harper 2011), Pearl comes up with an ingenious way to give hugs without hurting her friends. <647>

In a similar vein, meet HEDGEHUG by Benn Sutton with illustrations by Dan Pinto (Harper 2011). On Valentine's Day, Hedgehug heads up out of his burrow with a card in hand and a heart to give. Unfortunately, his hugs come with stickers, and his love is spurned until he meets Doris the Armadillo. <648>

The final book in this love trifecta is YOU by Stephen Michael King (Greenwillow 2011). Simple text and soft watercolor illustrations combine to convey how one feels when he or she is in love. Music is sweeter and the world is more colorful as long as "you" are in it. <649>

Morris shortlist announced

Paper Covers Rock written by Jenny Hubbard, published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Publishers. ISBN 978-0-385-74055-5.

Alex, a junior at an exclusive boarding school, uses his journal (neatly hidden inside a copy of Moby Dick) to relate the disturbing events that led to the drowning of a classmate. Hubbard’s literary references, her creation of Alex’s poems and journal entries, and her storytelling skills combine in a story about the code of silence that often compromises the code of honor.

Under the Mesquite written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, published by Lee and Low Books. ISBN 978-1-60060-429-4.

This novel in verse tells the story of Lupita, the oldest of eight children. When Lupita’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, it is up to Lupita to step into a role she never considered taking in her drama class: surrogate parent. McCall’s chapters are exquisite poems with language that sings and stings. Finding hope amidst despair, finding the chance to laugh, and finding the incredible power of family make this a memorable reading experience.

Girl of Fire and Thorns written by Rae Carson, published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-0-06-202648-4.

Elisa bears the Godstone. She is a chosen one. What she is chosen to do is unclear, but perhaps her journey to marry the king of a neighboring country in the midst of war will provide some of the answers. Carson weaves together religion, politics, prophecy, and more in this fast-paced fantasy that brings Elisa to a destiny no one could have anticipated.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing. ISBN 978-0-4424-1333-7.

Lily, Arkansas, seems like a sleepy town where it would be unlikely for anything of note to the outside world to happen. But Cullen’s seventeenth summer is marked by the overdose death of a relative, his brother’s disappearance, and the discovery of a woodpecker thought to be extinct. These seemingly disconnected events collide in this novel which demonstrates that nothing is random. Whaley’s story will absorb readers as they follow Cullen on his journey through an unforgettable summer.

Between Shades of Gray written by Ruta Sepetys, published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA. ISBN 978-0-399-25412-3.

In lyrical prose, Sepetys introduces readers to 15 year old Lina and her family as they are evicted from their home in Lithuania and transported to Siberia as prisoners during Stalin’s reign of terror in the 1940s. The journey is perilous; not all will survive. Lina is determined to document it all in her art and her journal. Sepetys shines a light on a corner of history not often seen in YA literature. The juxtaposition of lyricism in the midst of the horror underscores Lina’s indomitable spirit.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

every picture tells a story

It's scary when it
Happens. Dad is arrested
And goes to prison.

THE NIGHT DAD WENT TO JAIL: WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE GOES TO JAIL by Melissa Higgins with illustrations by Wednesday Kirwan. Captsone 2011. <642>

Taking care of gramps
Requires lots of planning
Here is what to do.

HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA by Judy Reagan with illustrations by Lee Wildish. Knopf, 2012. <643>

Good night laila tov
Comforting words from parents
Send kids off to sleep.

GOOD NIGHT, LAILA TOV by Laurel Snyder with illustrations by Jui Ishida. Random House, 2012. <644>

Papa works far from
Home. I cannot wait to see
Him. I miss Papa.

LET'S GO SEE PAPA by Lawrence Schimel with illustrations by Alba Marina Rivera. Groundwood 2011. <645>

Butterflies spread wings
Showing off fancy colors
Spreading pollen wide.

BUTTERFLIES by Seymour Simon. Collins 2011. <646>