Celebrate the Chinese New Year With The Great Race by Christopher Corr

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Written and illustrated by Christopher Corr
(Frances Lincoln Children’s Books/Quarto; $17.99, Ages 3-6)



A new retelling of The Great Race, a classic Chinese folk tale, comes to us from author-illustrator Christopher Corr. In this version of the Chinese zodiac story, the Jade Emperor, realizing he doesn’t know his age, creates the Great Race in order to start measuring time. The first twelve animals to cross the river get a year named after them. Each animal’s story ensues. For those unfamiliar with the animals, they are the rat, ox, horse, goat, monkey, dog, pig, snake, tiger, rabbit, rooster and last but definitely not least, the dragon.


Tiger and Jade Emperor interior images from The Great Race by Christopher Corr


This 32-page picture book contains an abundance of brilliantly colored illustrations. Shorter scenes are set in oval shapes against bright white backgrounds. In visually exciting two-page spreads, the Jade Emperor interacts with various animals; black text is subdued into the art. Corr “works in gouaches, painting on Italian and Indian handmade papers as though he’s using a pen” and “takes a great deal of inspiration from his travels—to India, North Africa, and New England, for instance.”


Interior artwork from The Great Race by Christopher Corr


All told, The Great Race: Story of the Chinese Zodiac is another wonderful way to enjoy the stories of the twelve animals representing the Chinese zodiac.

All artwork provided courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books/Quarto Books ©2018.

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com




Putting The Monkeys To Bed by Gennifer Choldenko

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Written by Gennifer Choldenko
Illustrated by Jack E. Davis
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons; $16.99, Ages 3-5)


     If you thought getting your children to go to sleep wasn’t difficult enough, try your hand at Putting The Monkeys to Bed. This new picture book by popular children’s author, Gennifer Choldenko, is a whimsical tale of nighttime shenanigans started by young Sam’s active imagination and perpetuated by a trio of plush merry-making monkeys.


Interior artwork from Putting The Monkeys to Bed by Gennifer Choldenko with illustrations by Jack E. Davis, G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ©2015.

     As is often the case with so many little ones, going to bed can be a chore when there’s still so much to think about:

Do pirates sleep with their eye patches on?

Do fish go to bed in their bathing suits?

Where do baseball players sleep at night?


Interior artwork from Putting The Monkeys to Bed by Gennifer Choldenko with illustrations by Jack E. Davis, G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ©2015.

… and so much fun still to be had. But when the day begins to catch up with him, and Sam is ready to call it a night, it seems the simians can’t switch off. Even calm inducing in and out breathing turns into ping pong singing for the primate pals eager to play the night away. Davis’s light-hearted illustrations capture the antics of the monkeys as they try everything in their power to keep Sam awake, my favorite being the one where the monkeys mimic the ubiquitous Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil statues. Eventually though, the monkeys succumb to some serious snuggling and a bedtime story read in a whisper by the weary Sam as “Arms cuddle close. Covers nestle round. Heavy heads sink into soft pillows.”

     Parents, if you and your kids are still awake after this wonderful wind down, check out the humorous author’s note at the end with answers to Sam’s questions posed above. I also recommend going back through each spread to enjoy all the details Davis has included. Then, if yawns and heavy eyelids are still not evident, you can always try singing a lullaby, but somehow I think that won’t be necessary. Look for satisfied smiles all around as little ones drift off to dreamland when you share Choldenko’s Putting The Monkeys to Bed tonight.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison

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Extraordinary Jane, a new picture book
written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison,
is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.


Extraordinary Jane written and illustrated
by Hannah E. Harrison,
Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin, © 2014.

Kids will fall in love with Jane, a circus dog, and the most adorable and extraordinary character in Harrison’s new picture book, Extraordinary Jane (Dial, $16.99, Ages 3-5). Jane might be a mutt although she reminded me of a little fluffy, white Maltese my family once rescued. But that really doesn’t matter because what Jane definitely is is lovable, precious, friendly and loyal. And while these qualities make her so very special, Jane clearly doesn’t realize these things about herself.

The book opens with a spread of antique-style circus posters, none of which show Jane. From these first illustrations readers know they’re in for a treat with Harrison’s warm, inviting and detailed artwork. Parents will love the opportunity to scour each page for the fine details Harrison’s included so they can point them out to younger children. Older kids may find them on their own. Written with few words, the story is still easily understood and helped along by the circus characters’ many expressions and emotions which say so much.

“She wasn’t graceful like her mother [who rides atop a galloping horse], or mighty like her father.” We see the daddy dog lifting a humongous elephant while Jane struggles to pull a pail of water nearby. Jane has to cover her ears when her daring brothers are blasted out of circus cannons and, fearful of heights, Jane could never attempt to traverse the tightrope like her sisters.

“Jane was just Jane.” And just being Jane meant being loved by all the circus members despite an array of things she was unable to do (and humorously conveyed in Harrison’s illustrations). My favorite image is of Jane looking down from the trapeze as “She tried to find her special talent.” She does not look happy in the least!

Everyone knew what was good about her, especially the Ringmaster and ultimately, Jane.  This ideal read-aloud book is great for story time, bedtime and any time a parent wants to reinforce the message to their child about how they should celebrate themselves. I’m looking forward to Harrison’s next book because if it’s half as good as Extraordinary Jane, it will still be super.

If you enjoy Harrison’s artwork, click here to read our review about another book she illustrated called Just Like You.

Kohl’s Cares Beginner Books – A Great Way to Help Kids!

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Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 6.34.33 PMEvery season the Kohl’s Cares program creates a great new reading opportunity for families at affordable prices. We’ll never tire of sharing the $5 book offers every chance we can. And what we love most is that Kohl’s Cares not only supports children’s health and education initiatives nationwide, but it also offers parents a terrific selection of some of the best picture books around at a low, low price making it easy to own new Beginner Books, encourage reading at home and start your own collection.

In addition to the books, the Kohl’s Cares program also sells plush toys and cookbooks for the hard-to-resist price of $5 for any item. That’s not a typo! It’s just the Kohl’s Cares philanthropic platform of the Kohl’s Department Stores. Your purchase of products from the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program helps Kohl’s give back not only to help children’s initiatives, but to support the fight against breast cancer and champion environmental issues, too. Click here now to be connected with the online program or head to your local Kohl’s.

Customers can buy these products on sale now through April 5th both online (including several online exclusives) or in stores, but don’t wait so that your first choices are gone. Choose from the following children’s books (recommended for ages 3 and up) and coordinating stuffed animals, along with cookbooks for adults:


Put Me In The Zoo by Robert Lopshire, and Zoo character plush

1526388*Go, Dog, Go! by P. D. Eastman, and Dog plush    *A GRWR Blog Fave!


The Nose Book by Al Perkins with illustrations by Joe Mathieu, and Elephant plush


Hand, Hand, Fingers Thumb by Al Perkins with illustrations by Eric Gurney, and Monkey plush



Big Dog … Little Dog by P. D. Eastman, and Fred and Ted plush toys – ONLINE EXCLUSIVE



For adults, check out the following:

15263751526422Cook This, Not That! Skinny Comfort Foods by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding
including 125 fast recipes © 2012 Rodale

Delish – Just Four Ingredients Fast!  from ACP Magazines Limited including 152 recipes
© 2013 Hearst Books

For more info about Kohl’s philanthropic programs, please visit www.Kohls.com/Cares.