Review: Where Are My Books? (2015)

Young Spencer loves his books. Before bed, he and his mom read his favorite, Night Night Narwhal, and then Spencer puts the book away in the same spot he always puts it on his bookshelf. Life is good, until the next morning when Spencer wakes up and the book is gone! He makes due with other titles, but the calamity continues as each night more books go missing. Where are his books?

IMG_2663 Debbie Ridpath Ohi has created a fresh new book with appealing illustrations and an unexpected twist. Kids will love solving the mystery of the missing books. I was certainly surprised to find out where they had gone! This book will soon get purchased and cataloged into our school library and I look forward to sharing it with our primary kiddos. It even talks about library procedures near the end and will lend itself well to library orientation.

My 5 year old son has one question after reading – “Do narwhals really sleep?” I’m guessing it’s time to develop some research skills together! -Erin



Review: Snoozefest (2015)


Snoozefest by Samantha Berger

Imagine a place you might go to listen to all the best bands, visit great vendors, and meet people with the same interests as you.  Now imagine that place was a cross between a music festival and a sleep away camp… for sloths.  You would be at Snoozefest.  “This is the place where the best sleepers go to snore their way through this naptacular show.”

Snuggleford Cuddlebun is the sleepiest sloth in Snoozeville and she only interrupts her napping to head to the great NuzzleDome where all the best sleepers in Snoozeville gather.  At Snoozeville, there are pj parades, stands for buying posters and t-shirts, bands with names like The Nocturnal Nesters and the Tranquility Trio performing, and, of course, milk and honey to go!

Written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Kristyna Litten, this book is on the Goodreads list of most anticipated picture books of 2015.  This is definitely a clever, fun idea for a children’s book.  The pictures are cute, and there is a lot happening on each page, maybe a little too much on some pages.  One of my absolute favorite things in the world is a rhyming picture book and I did love that this book rhymed.  But, some of the rhyming was forced.  I will tuck this book away in my mind with other cute rhyming stories that are perfect for bedtime, such as Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows and If Animals Kissed Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul.  -Marika


Review: Once Upon a Cloud (2015)

celeste 2On a recent trip to the public library, I picked up this exquisite new picture book debut by a Disney animator, Claire Keane. Oh, the illustrations in this book! Magical, lush, evocative. I could stare at the drawings of Celeste on their own and never tire of their many nuances, but then there is so much more on each page. The story follows Celeste through her dreams as she attempts to find a good gift for her mother. This book is a treasure for all of us who love to dream and believe in the power of our subconscious to lead us to answers for life’s puzzles.  It is a true example of a book where the art and text enhance each other. Highly recommended for fans of Disney animation. -Erinceleste2 2


Review: The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects (2015)

death 2Paul B. Janeczko and Chris Raschka reunite for this anthology. I will begin by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of poetry. I loved the organization of the poems throughout time, beginning in the Early Middle Ages through today. Each of the 50 poems is written about an object, further uniting the poems in the collection.

The poetry caused me to reflect on life and the human experience. Because the poems spanned so many centuries, it was also interesting to read about how someone once felt about certain objects in time gone by. Poetry is often written about nature and nature is certainly a theme here.

Raschka’s watercolor illustrations are breezy and light – but also sometimes require further consideration to catch his true meaning. Astute readers will notice that the solitary wildgoose from Cui Tu’s poem in the beginning flies through many of the pages, finally reconnecting with other geese in the end papers.

As with any collection, some of the poems and the illustrations struck a chord in me. Some did not. Most of my favorites were from the more recent years. I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth, Manhole Covers by Karl Shapiro, and both of the cat poems by William Butler Yeats and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It must be a difficult task to decide on the poems to include in an anthology, and the introduction is well worth the time to read.

For me, as a lover of the written word and admirer of poetry, this collection is a treasure. As an elementary school librarian, I am a bit more torn. The intended audience for this book is children, and here I’m afraid it may have missed its mark. I’m just not sure how much kid-appeal these poems hold. – Erin


Review: Maude: The Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton (2012)


Maude: The Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton by Lauren Child

I stumbled across this darkly humorous book at the library while I was looking for another written by Lauren Child.  I was drawn in by the pictures (the book is illustrated by Trisha Krauss) which are stylish and unique, filled with bold texture and color, and unlike any I have seen in a children’s picture book before.

I love stories that can appeal to both children and tothe adults who read to them, and Child has written this one to do just that.  Maude, the main character, comes from a family of attention-seekers. They all have a special talent that makes them stand out in a crowd, but Maude is different. She prefers to go unnoticed. Maude is pitied for her blandness but, when she receives an unusual gift (one she didn’t ask for), it turns out she is quite lucky to be inconspicuous. I appreciated the audacious irony Child uses as a curtain for unveiling the lesson that sometimes “not being noticeable is the very best talent of all.”

My children have been choosing this book as a bedtime read-aloud each night since we brought it home from the library.  They love looking for Maude in each of the pictures (as Krauss has cleverly drawn her to blend into the background of the pictures).  As a parent and teacher, I appreciate the wonderfully descriptive vocabulary used by Child to describe each of the characters.

This book is clever and entertaining, and just a little bit dark.  A perfect pick for your next library visit!  -Marika


Books On CD: The Perfect Road Trip Companion?

I recently returned from a road trip with my two small children.  Fifteen hours in the car (one way) makes for looo-oong driving days with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old.  To pass the time in the car, I brought along some books on CD.  We have tried books on CD before with only mild success.  Last time we traveled, we brought along Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes by Kate DiCamillo.  My kids were already very familiar with Mercy Watson books but seemed only half-heartedly interested in hearing the familiar story read by somebody new.

For this trip (one year later), I decided to try a couple of books that are new to my kiddos.  We stHorrible Harry & the Green Slimearted with Horrible Harry and the Green Slime by Suzy Kline which is read by Johnny Heller.  I chose this one because it is a short chapter book with lots of pictures and I had a copy for my son to follow along with.  Since it is a series, I also hoped that he might take a liking to it and want to try reading more Horrible Harry books after the trip.  I know Horrible Harry books are written to have short, simple sentences that are easy to read but I was still disappointed with the way this book was read out loud on the CD.  While my son listened dutifully (and even laughed occasionally as he listened), Heller read the book with such a staccato, abrupt voice that I found the story to be slightly jarring and uncomfortable to listen to.  The best thing about this book on CD was that it was over in less than an hour.  When I asked him about it later, my son did say that he liked the book though so that’s something.

The second book on CD that accompanied us on our road trip was an absolute delight!  I took along Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.  I am a huge Kate DiCamillo fan and purchased this book at an author event where I was able to meet DiCamillo just before the book won the Newbery.  This book was read by Tara Sands and shFlora and Ulyssese did a phenomenal job!  Her tone was perfect and the subtle voice changes helped to distinguish each of the characters as they spoke.  The idea of a “superhero” squirrel who writes poetry and the temporarily blind neighbor boy were humorous enough components to the storyline to delight my 5-year-old. What was most impressive to me, though, was the way Tara Sands handled “reading” the graphic novel portions of the book.  She described each scene with simple, straightforward and clear explanations that enhanced the story and (had you not had a copy of the book in front of you like we did) would have made the reader completely oblivious that they were missing any pictures.  It was beautifully done, and I imagine I may have enjoyed the book even more for having listened to it.  My 35-year-old husband, my 5-year-old son, and I each enjoyed the story immensely, which was most evident when my son would ask to hold the book in order to follow along with the words and pictures, and also when he would ask to listen!  When I talked to my son after the trip about which book he liked listening to better, there was no hesitation when he said Flora and Ulysses.  I would highly recommend picking up Flora and Ulysses on CD for your next road trip (with or without kids)!  -Marika


Review: Sick Simon (2015)

Sick Simon by Dan Krall

This is a book teachers have begged me for. Usually this happens when the weather changes and flu season hits, but sometimes it happens earlier in the year. “What do you have that will teach my students about spreading germs?” Initially I purchased a few non-fiction titles about germs, which are great and purposeful, but here we have an engaging storyline with pictures kids will love (they turned my stomach, just like they are meant to!) Simon is sick but he LOVES school, so he continues to go. Worse than that, he is one of those kids that has no understanding of the ways he is spreading his germs to his friends and teachers.

I think this story can be effective as a teaching tool in the classroom. Teachers will have to explain that germs are really too small for us to see, unlike the pictures of the hidden germs on all of the “sick” pages. My 8 year old daughter pointed those out to me. It would be great to pair it with a non-fiction title on germs.