Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ten Big Toes and a Prince's Nose

Ten Big Toes and a Prince's NoseTen Big Toes and a Prince's Nose by Nancy Gow, illustrated by Stephen Costanza  Sterling, 2010

A prince and a princess think they will never find someone to marry. Their sadness is poignant as they suffer rejection and disappointment at the hands of others. His nose is too big and her feet are too long.

When the prince meets this princess on the ski slopes she does not know that the scarf wrapped around his face hides an overly large nose.   He does not realize that her feet are actually ski length.  Here are two kind people who have despaired at finding a kindred spirit.  Their pleasure in their new friendship is a joyous thing. (One can only hope Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton share something similar.)

The prince was enthralled by the princess's smile, her beautiful voice and her princess-y style. The princess laughed hard at His Highness's wit. She enjoyed a good joke. The young prince was a hit!

Stephen Costanza uses a dreamy, fairytale palette on the page.  His prince and princess are sympathetic and tender hearted.  The characters are comedic but also have a bright, sweet, and romantic whimsy.

Not all fairy tales are about "the fairest in the land" in the traditional sense.  These two are fair in spirit.  This is a lovely tale. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fairy tale design and architecture

The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale Steven Guarnaccia's books should be in every art and decorative arts museum gift shop. Guarnaccia is a program chair at the Parson's School of Design. 

The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale retold and illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia. Abrams, 2010

 Three little pigs leave their mother's house, aka Gamble House to build homes of their own.  The architectural visions of Frank Gehry, a house of scraps aka Gehry House,  Phillip Johnson, a house of glass aka The Glass House, and Frank Lloyd Wright's stonework Fallingwater, are presented as each little pig builds their dream home.  Alas when the big bad wolf arrives in his black leather jacket on a Phillippe Starck Voxan GTV 1200 the scraps and glass do not fare well from wolfish huffing and puffing.  The concrete and stone of "Fallingwater's" construction do survive and the wolf is foiled by the third little pig's trickery.

Designers will recognize high design interiors but Guarnaccia provides reference drawings on the end papers for the rest of us.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears: a Tale Moderne retold and illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia. Abrams, 2010
Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Tale Moderne 
Traditional telling but with a very moderne twist as the bears in this family are connoisseurs of the decorative arts and cutting edge modern design.  The chair that Goldilocks breaks is a Charles&Ray Eames molded plywood LCW chair, 1946 (the end papers provide a excellent index to the bears' furniture and interior design aesthetic)

Mama Bear's chair is a Arne Jacobsen Danish Egg chair, circa 1957.  The beds are Allessandro Becchi and D'Urbino Lomazzi.

Papa Bear looks like a Beat poet, Mama Bear is a bohemian while Baby Bear wears a vintage coonskin cap. 

These traditional retelling are excellent read alouds.  I can imagine a fun library lesson paired with photos and information about the designers and architects.   More please.

Monday, November 22, 2010

NonFiction Monday: KidsCan Press

Ultimate Trains (Machines of the Future) Dewey  385
Ultimate Trains written by Peter McMahon, illustrated by Andy Mora. KidsCan Press, 2010 (review copy from publisher)

Peter McMahon sees trains as an important part of transportation's future.  Touting them as a greener alternative to airplanes and cars he tracing the history of trains from their horse drawn days, through steam engines, diesel and on to magnetic levitation designs.   The quest for power and speed is reviewed, accompanied by clean-line illustrations and diagrams by Andy Mora.  

Hands-on experiments to illustrate the concepts in the book include, "Steam Engine in a Salad Bowl," "Riding the Rails," "Make your Own Electromagnet," and "Making a Maglev Test Track." There are templates of tracks and trains to photocopy (please, don't cut up the library book.) All the experiments are very do-able  with parental help to acquire wires, copper tubing, nails, batteries and other sundry supplies.  The final project, "Make a Working Maglev Model" requires lumber and Lexan (polycarbonate) which is more challenging. Detailed plans and photos of the projects are available on the KidsCanpress website
This is the first book in  a Machines of the Future series.

Looking Closely in the Rain ForestDewey:  578.734

Looking Closely in the Rain Forest by Frank Serafini.  KidsCan Press, 2010  (review copy from publisher)

Frank Serafini's Looking Closely series includes habitats like the forest, the shore, the desert, the pond, and the garden in addition to the rain forest. 

Animals, flowers, plants, insects and birds are examined in close-up detail. Only part of the photo is exposed on one page as the reader is invited to guess what the page turn will reveal.  Intense red color with a feathery texture is unmasked to be a hibiscus flower.  A few facts about the subject accompany the full page+ photographs.  The vivid photographs are high resolution and close up.  Good white space and a well sized typeface invite all reading levels to learn more about the rain forest. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Character education: Cooperation

Or, "Can't we all just get along?"
Ninja Cowboy Bear Presents the Way of the NinjaThe Way of the Ninja by David Bruins and illustrated by Hilary Leung, Kids Can Press, 2010. 

Another pleasing addition to what I hope will be an ongoing Ninja Cowboy Boy character education series.  The first book, Ninja Cowboy Boy, was reviewed here at BookMoot in 2009.

Ninja  does not want to pick flowers with Bear or paint with Cowboy. They agree to play his games but he will not play along with them.  Alone, Ninja realizes it is more fun to share and take turns with his friends.  

Leung's Japanese style illustrations are original and sweet. The small trim size of the series is easy for small hands to hold.  The way to pronounce the Japanese words/characters on the pages is given along with the translations. 

Six Crows Six Crows by Leo Lionni. Knopf, 2010

A farmer is tired of six crows who are eating the grain in his field.  He builds a scarecrow to keep the crows away but they retaliate by building a kite that looks like a giant bird to scare the farmer.  He arms his scarecrow to make it more fearsome and the birds build an even larger kite.   Finally, a wise owl acts as a go-between and gets the two sides talking to solve their differences. These are some of Lionni's strongest and most beautiful collages. This is another excellent choice for art teachers who are teaching collage.

There have been many inquiries on the school library listservs for books about bullying this past week.  This title would be a good addition to character units on cooperation and getting along.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Holler Loudly

Holler LoudlyHoller Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott.  Dutton, 2010

Field Tested and Passed (with flying colors!)

Yesterday and today I volunteered in our school district's Promise to Read community/school outreach program.  I visited two schools and read to second and first graders. 
In addition to Dragon, I carried Cynthia Leitich Smith's new book, Holler Loudly. I enjoyed this addition to the American tall tale cannon but my field tests have confirmed that it is a book that will stay in my "have-book, will-travel" bag for future deployment.

Holler was born with a big voice. There is no "dial down" on his volume control.  His parents, teachers, and grandfather and town folk wish Holler would "hush."  His voice causes chalk to burst into dust and can upend a fishing boat. Holler can't seem to control himself and wishes people didn't mind his voice.   There is a nice moment when Holler realizes that quiet does have its advantages and allows him to hear more.  When danger threatens the town though, Holler's voice saves the day.  First and second graders appreciated the irony of the town's "thanks" to Holler at the end.  

The students loved Barry Gott's illustrations.  His humorous style connected with them.  All the children noted the size of Baby Holler's wide open mouth and the carnage his voice caused in his school classroom.  The details in the illustrations invite closer looks.  The picture of a pig riding away from Holler's voice on the back of a cow at the state fair had the classes laughing.  

The book invites participation and, to my delight, I found the second graders clicked right away, with with Gott's oversize text that voices Holler's speech. Unprompted, they began to read Holler's lines, in unison.   In fact, at the climax of the story, as Holler booms out a command to the tornado about to swoop through the town, the children were reading together, with expression (loudly.) Several of them covered their own ears as they read.  

We talked about "tall tales" and thought about why Holler Loudly could be considered a tall tale character.  An additional teachable moment presented itself when they asked about the F&G I was reading from.  Ah, yes, what is the publisher's job, boys and girls?

Thank you to the divine Cynthia and Barry for a book it was pure pleasure to share, this week. 

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Odes to Reading

As a librarian I am naturally inclined to love books where people come to appreciate the joys of reading.  

How Rocket Learned to ReadHow Rocket learned to Read  by Tad Hills  Schwartz&Wade, 2010.

I don't think there is a Tad Hills book that I don't love. Rocket is an action dog. He just wants to run and play but, while taking a nap one afternoon, he finds himself drafted as the first student of a little yellow bird who wants to be a reading teacher.  Starting with the alphabet she hooks him with the power of a story by reading aloud.  Soon Rocket is recognizing letters and words all around him.  When the little yellow bird has to fly south for the winter, what will Rocket do?   His teacher's words, "Don't forget! Words are built, one letter at a time!"  are a comfort to Rocket and any child just learning to read. 

Dog Loves BooksDog Loves Books by Louise Yates.  Knopf, 2010
"Dog loves books.  He loved the smell of them, and he loved the fell of them.  He loved everything about them..."
Finding a way to share his love is more difficult though when he decides to open a bookstore and no one comes.  Dispirited, he remembers that as long as you love books you are never really alone.  Creatures and characters from the stories keep him company until a real customer comes in one day. Then he really has someone to share his love with. 

Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don't)Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don't) by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley.  Knopf, 2010
The truth and brilliance of this book take my breath away.  This is a not a sentimental testimonial to the joys of reading but a realistic and oh-so-humorous tribute to those kids who challenge librarians every day by declaring,  "I don't like to read."

This declaration is often a plea as they really DO want to find the right book to read but they are afraid it will never happen. The young girl in this story is one of those kids.  Reading does not interest her. The librarian, Miss Brooks, never gives up though.  She is relentless in her efforts to make the match between book and reader. When it does not happen she is non-judgmental and just keeps trying.  

The crisis arises during Book Week as each student must share a book they love.  What happens if you do not love a book?  

Emberley's Miss Brooks is a zany, costumed, book loving, cheerleader who is not offended at the child's lack of interest. Her demented "Hungry Caterpillar" costume is worth the price of the book.  The child's slouchy, short stature and pulled down hat/hands in her pockets demeanor, tell us a great deal about her expectations for reading success.  Later, her jubilant face tells the rest of the story when she does find the right book at the right time that is worthy of her attention. The book she loves is a perfect match full of warts and snorts.

Calvin Can't Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie
Calvin Can't Fly: the Story of a Bookworm Birdie by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Keith Bendis.  Sterling, 2010

The European Starling has an interesting history in North America. Since the birds were purposely introduced here in 1890 their numbers have increased to levels that put them in the "pest" category, just ask any purple martin lover.  A nearby road near my home that is swarmed by starlings at certain times of the year and resembling a  scene from Hitchcock's The Birds. It is very freaky.

Calvin is a thoughtful and quite endearing starling though. Calvin loves to read. While the rest of his large family is learning how to fly, he is at the library.  He does not learn to fly and his relatives mock him, calling him a "nerdy birdie" "geeky beaky" and "bookworm.  He reads everything. "His books took him to places wings  never could. And his heart fluttered with excitement."  Calvin's book learning pays off when he saves the lives of all the birds in the flock. 

Illustrator Keith Bendis's cartoon starlings are comical and expressive. The flock swirls and swoops in formation just like the ones near my house. His Calvin is pensive, comical, hurt and triumphant.  This book is a keeper.  

Thursday, November 04, 2010


EcoMazes: 12 Earth AdventuresEcoMazes by Roxie Munro. Sterling, 2010.

Roxie Munro's maze books are brilliant combinations of facts and fun.  
EcoMazes serves a real need in curricula and for all those children who will be writing animal reports next spring.

Animal reports are perfect for "first" research projects. In any series book in the library a student will easily find a description of the animal,  its lifecycle AND its habitat.  All these facts are usually required points in their projects.

Habitat/ecosystem is a tricky thing for a second grader to wrap their mind around and differentiate.  Oh certainly, it is easy to understand the difference from Arctic/Polar regions and say the Tropical Rainforest but where is the line between Grasslands and Tundra?  It gets a little squishy there and not just for kids.

Munro's book allows the reader to travel through the area, locating the hidden mammals, birds, and reptiles  that live there.  The solutions to the mazes are found at the back of the book along with more information about each ecosystem.  She also includes a list of websites and other books on the subject.

School librarians, you need this title. 

Mazeways: A to Z

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

It's a Book

It's a BookIt's a Book by Lane Smith.  Roaring Brook, 2010
(review copy provided by the publisher)
Lane Smith's irreverent and smart tribute to the traditional book is making little waves in the school library world.  Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes has a splendid summary of the different blogs and discussions as well as his own feelings about the book as a read-aloud.

Smith' characters are a mouse, a monkey and a jackass. Jackass has a laptop and Monkey has a book.  Jackass wonders that Monkey's book does not scroll, tweet, text, blog, make sounds or need recharging.  He does discover it is is full of adventure and story.

The end of the book sees the Monkey again explaining, as he has all through the story, "It's a book," but he directs his comment, using the name, "Jackass."  His use of the word has the meaning of the character's name and species but also implies the insult.  When someone scares me silly by almost taking off the front end of my car as they change lanes on my local interstate,  I don't call them a "donkey." 

No word goes un-measured, un-pondered or un-dissected in a picture book so we KNOW there was a discussion about this word choice.  My thought is that one intended audience for the book is adults who are making the purchasing decisions of Kindle vs Nook vs eReader. 

I probably will not use it as a read-aloud in a school library setting because I do not want to die on THAT hill. I CAN imagine kids, especially older ones having a lovely chuckle over the impertinent ending when they discover it on the shelf.  

I also can't wait to share it with my grown-up book club.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween: Hubknuckles

HubknucklesHubknuckles by Emily Herman, Deborah Kogan Ray. Crown, 2010

This is a special anniversary edition of the book, originally published in 1985.  Herman's story feels like it dates from an even earlier time of children's picture books. Her writing has a kind of timeless innocence.

This gentle story of Halloween traditions and a child's belief provokes a yearning in me for a time when elementary schools held costume parades and there were cupcakes instead of the current state of affairs where the day is so controversial that some schools practically shrink from any utterance of the "H' word.  

Maybe it is my own nostalgia but I do yearn for the Halloweens of yore when the night was a celebration of all childish things, candy greed, costumes and make-believe and freedom to roam the streets of the neighborhood in the mysterious dark.

Every Halloween a ghost named Hubknuckles visits Lee's family and dances outside their window.  Is the ghost real?  Lee thinks she wants to know and decides this year she will investigate to discover the truth.  Deborah Kogan Ray's softly rendered illustrations in powdered graphite and pencil lend exactly the right tone of mystery to the story. Hubknuckles, the moon and the leaves outside the window glow in the moonlight.  The story and illustrations balance each other beautifully.

Halloween: Annie Was Warned

Annie Was WarnedAnnie Was Warned by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  Knopf, 2003

In all his books, Jarrett Krosoczka conveys a playful insight into children that is a rare and fine thing.  Anyone who has shared his books as read-alouds can attest to the response to them from young listeners.

His children look out from the page into the eyes of the child holding the book and recognition sparks there.  Krosoczka's "serious" bio on his website mentions that he worked summers at camps, including the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp,  for children dealing with illnesses and other serious life issues.  I understand something about that kind of work as a parent whose child has benefited from similar summer experiences.  Krosoczka has looked into the eyes of children who are facing challenging and profound hurdles in their lives. I think he saw something very elemental at the core of childhood there.  That understanding shines through his work.

His work touches on many aspects of the every day lives of children. A bad, self-inflicted haircut is the reason for Baghead. Class elections in Max for President and dreams of rock stardom echo in the Punk Farm tales.  Lunchtime, the heart and hub of every school day (for better or worse) is acknowledged in the exploits of The Lunch Lady who defends the cafeteria, the school and the students in the graphic novel series.

In Annie Was Warned, Annie's birthday is on Halloween.  She tests her nerve and courage by going to a creepy, haunted? house, on a dare, on Halloween night.  On the book cover, Annie peers around a door.  Her eyes are wide. Her face registers apprehension and fear but she IS moving forward, shining her flashlight into the eyes of the reader, dazzling us with the light and her bravery. Krosoczka's artistic technique, composition, color palette evoke the eeriness of the night and solitude of the child in the book's paintings.  There is a fun and happily-ever-after to reward her courage. 

Halloween clearly inspires his storytelling.  Admire his pumpkins photos on his blog, The JJK Blog.  Each photo could be the jumping off point for a tale or two.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sadness: Eva Ibbotson

It was with terrible sadness that I read the news that Eva Ibbotson died yesterday.

The Star of KazanI discovered Ibbotson as a new school librarian and wondered why I had not found her earlier. I inhaled her ghost stories including The Great Ghost Rescue, The Haunting of Granite Falls, and Dial-a-Ghost  which are wicked-funny as her displaced spirits do their best to survive in a modern world that really has no time for apparitions.   Her novels The Star of Kazan and Journey to the River Sea have a heart-felt charm and elegance that are timeless.

Dial-a-GhostMagic and fantasy overlay Island of the Aunts, The Secret of Platform 13 and Which Witch.  The pairing of her stories with the cover art by  Kevin Hawkes was an inspired choice.

Ellen Potter's The Kneebone Boy and Suzanne Selfors's novels  continue of the tradition of "magical whimsy" that Ibbotson did so well.

I never read an Ibbotson novel that I didn't love.The closest I've ever come, as an adult, to recreating that time of reading "unconscious delight" that I knew as a child was when I was reading her works.

Reading Ibbotson is like taking a vacation to a time and world apart. Luckily I have still not read them all. I have many more trips to look forward to.