A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream by Kristy Dempsey

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A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream (Philomel Books, 2014; $16.99 Ages 5-8), by Kristy Dempsey and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

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Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream written by Kristy Dempsey with illustrations by Floyd Cooper, Philomel, 2014

Inspired by the story of Janet Collins, the first African-American ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream is a story of high hopes and grand dreams. Told from the point of view of a young African-American girl in 1950s Harlem, the story encompasses her wish to become a ballerina set against the realities of racial prejudice and poverty. Even though our young heroine has practically grown up at the ballet school and has accomplished the movements, she is concerned that she will be held back by societal barriers. Could a colored girl like me ever become a prima ballerina? Mama says hoping is hard work. Mama unpins the extra wash she’s taken on to make ends meet…If there’s one thing Mama knows, it’s hard work. Mama works all day long every day, and most times on into the night, for the ballet school.

Hopes are raised when Janet Collins’ performance is featured in the newspaper. The young girl and her mother go to the opera and watch as Ms. Collins takes the stage, and suddenly the girl’s heart jumps up from where I’m sitting, soaring, dancing, opening wide with the swell of music. In my heart I’m the one leaping across that stage, raising myself high on those shoulders. When she and her mother head home, the girl knows that there is no need to waste my wishes. I’ve got dreams coming true.

The art work is a perfect match for the story, seeming almost ethereal, as if the viewer is watching from beyond, back in time. The muted colors give a feel for the setting, with the factories spilling out pillars of smoke.

To be completely honest, this book brought tears to my eyes. It is a wonderful tale of courage, perseverance, and determination. Children, regardless of ethnicity, will be able to identify with having a dream, the fear that it might not come true, and the inspiration to see it through. My girls certainly did.


Robots, Robots Everywhere! by Sue Fliess

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ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE!

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Robots, Robots Everywhere! by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Bob Staake, Golden Books, © 2013

This latest Little Golden Books, ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE! (Random House Children’s Books, $3.99, ages 2-5), by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Bob Staake, should fly off the shelves because, between the flawless rhyme, the playful illustrations and the $3.99 price, it makes a perfect addition to any picture book collection.

Okay, so technically they’re machines, but robots are cool machines and we love ’em! In the book there are all kinds of robots featured in all kinds of places: on the ground, up in space, beneath the seas, in fields, on farms and at home. Here’s one of my favorite rhyming couplets –

Under couches, over rugs,
Vacuum robots have no plugs.

Kids will like the cheery, colorful looking robots because they look friendly and funny. And what’s funnier than a robot with a good sense of humor? The robots are clearly designed to appear non-threatening for even the youngest of readers. In fact, some are even used to save people like the one shown rescuing a little scout. (Rescue robots seek and find.)

Robots spin and race and run.
Robots, robots — I want one!

Well I want one, too, especially the vacuuming kind! For a child ready to learn about robots and all the different tasks they perform, Robots, Robots Everywhere! is an ideal introduction. The bonus is getting Fliess’s fantastic rhyming text together with Staake’s whimsical artwork. So parents, whether you’re a Jetson’s fan, or a fan of jetpacks, you’re going to enjoy sharing this picture book with your kids.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Author Sue Fliess has been reviewed on GRWR before so click below to read previous posts:

SHOES FOR ME

A DRESS FOR ME

TONS OF TRUCKS

For links to books illustrated by Bob Staake that were reviewed here, please click titles below:

BLUEBIRD

LOOK! A BOOK!

WE PLANTED A TREE

MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMP


Follow Your Heart

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DorothyI’m so glad I recently broadened my book review horizons to include titles by Spanish publisher, Cuento de Luz, as I have enjoyed each and every title I’ve read so far. This publisher’s books deliver powerful messages in delightfully subtle ways.

Dorothy: A Different Kind of Friend ($16.95, Cuento de Luz, Ages 5-7) by Roberto Aliaga presents readers with a story about an unidentifiable furry animal girl who befriends a not-so-popular girl in town, named Dorothy. Dorothy is big, clumsy and very different than the others. The bully girls in town all hang out together and tease the protagonist when she hangs out with Dorothy, saying very cruel and hurtful things about her. Will those harsh words be enough to make the protagonist drop Dorothy as a friend? Read the book and you will find out for yourself.

There are so many children’s books about being bullied that it is impossible to keep up with all of them. But what sets this book apart is that the characters are unique and the message is delivered in muted tones, leaving the reader with a lot to think about. The illustrations by Mar Blanco are both colorful and adorable, highlighting the uniqueness of the characters. In the end, we must all follow our hearts, no matter what others tell us to do, and Dorothy: A Different Kind of Friend shows us the way.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade


Sassy Board Book Series

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9780448477879HKnown for their developmental toys, Sassy has branched out into baby books and it’s a good move. The newest Sassy brand board books for babies are very cute because they’re simple, colorful, and bold. Like their toys which encourage exploration, these sturdy 12 page Sassy books, including Sassy Baby Sees: A First Book of Faces (Grosset & Dunlap, $6.99, ages 0-3) by Dave Aikins, invite even the littlest ones to look more closely.

The images of Mommy! Daddy! Dog! Cat! are in black and white providing the high contrast newborns can see most easily. There’s even an embedded mirror at the end page for a lovely surprise. Colored dots and striped patterns on the pages opposite each picture work as nicely in this book as they do on the toys.

These books, along with some complementary developmental toys, are perfect for a baby shower gift. Other titles in this line of board books are: Sassy Who Says?Sassy Baby’s World: A First Book of Senses, and Sassy Baby Loves Colors.

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Splash!

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deep puddleLast week Debbie Glade reviewed a terrific counting book about primates, so she thought it perfectly fitting to review a very different (but equally as fantastic) counting book this week.

I love it when my dog pulls me toward a puddle so he can splash through it like a toddler. What little kid doesn’t love a puddle? There’s just something so wholesome about it, don’t you think? The Deep, Deep Puddle ($16.99, Dial Books, Ages 3-6) by author and former teacher, Mary Jessie Parker, will enchant even the youngest of readers and set imaginations soaring (or swimming!).

One day, in a big city, it starts to rain and a small puddle forms. It rains and rains and rains and the puddle grows as do the number of items and creatures who fall into it. From taxis and street vendors to cats and dogs, everything seems to disappear in the ever growing puddle, counting from one to twelve things. Then something amazing happens to make the puddle shrink more and more and more. And the counting goes backwards from twelve to one.

What I love about The Deep, Deep Puddle is that it is so absurd, albeit ultra creative, making it a wild adventure to read as the cover clearly shows. The words have unique sounds, so fitting for a young child’s book, and the vibrant illustrations by Deborah Zemke couldn’t be better. I enjoyed studying each picture for a while, and their adorableness made me smile.

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If you’d like to teach your child to learn to count in a fun, fun way, and you love looking at beautiful illustrations, this is the perfect book.


Too Cute For Words

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I appreciate author/illustrator Michael Townsend’s sense of humor. How many picture books do you see with wording on the jacket cover like the latest mouthwash or detergent only funnier? Now with added CUTENESS! 

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From the striped jacket art to every last delightfully drawn facial expression on the characters’ faces, CUTE & CUTER (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15.99, ages 5-8), will pull kids in and keep them turning each and every adorable page! Designed in quasi comic book style, this 40 page book will not just help parents broach the sensitive subject of sibling rivalry or tackle the topic of why the new baby demands so much of mom and dad’s attention, it will entertain and amuse. I know because I had a huge grin on my face from the moment I was introduced to Janie Jane, “an expert on all things cute.”

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The language Townsend uses throughout the story will totally appeal to today’s youngsters who would absolutely name their own new puppy Sir Yips-a-lot just like Janie Jane does. The new pet and owner spend 24/7 together year round until Janie Jane’s next birthday when she receives a new kitty. Suddenly, no longer the cutest pet in the world, Sir Yips-a-lot must take a back seat to Lady Meow-meow, “The World’s Cutest Kitty!” according to Janie Jane.

Watching Sir Yips-a-lot try to win back Janie Jane’s attention is hysterical and his realization that he is jealous will surely be a conversation starter for many families. But my favorite part was the page devoted to Sir Yips-a-lot’s schemes to rid the world of his competition as he launches OPERATION CUTE-BE-GONE!! Things backfire, however, when the puppy feels guilty about his awful deed and is determined to find Lady Meow-meow.

Townsend’s plotting is perfect and he wraps things up or maybe I should say unwraps things (see for yourself) with a happy ending that makes CUTE & CUTER ideal both for story time or for bedtime. TCFW!!

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


It’s A Firefly Night Picture Book Giveaway!

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ItsAFireflyNight_CVRWe’re excited to be giving away two copies of this marvelous book reviewed by Debbie Glade and perfect for summer!

Enter now by clicking here and you may be one of two lucky winners to receive a copy of IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT by Dianne Ochiltree. Remember to write FIREFLY in the subject line and please give your name and address in the email.  The giveaway ends midnight on June 17, 2013. For full contest rules click here. Good luck!

What child (or adult for that matter) doesn’t love fireflies? After all, they are the first sign that summer has truly arrived. It’s a Firefly Night ($12.99, Blue Apple Books, Ages 3-6) is a beautiful picture book that celebrates every child’s rite of passage into the warmest season of the year.

The concise flowing, rhyming prose by Dianne Ochiltree offers the youngest readers insight into the story of a little girl and her dog who are out in the yard with a jar, chasing, capturing and releasing fireflies back into the air. Just reading the book will make you want to get out into the fresh air with your family. In the back of the book is a spread with factual information about fireflies. Did you know that fireflies are beetles?

“Flickering quicker,
they sparkle and shine.
I love catching fireflies,
but they are not mine.”

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What makes this book standout are the vivid collage illustrations by Betsy Snyder. The colors are both deep and brilliant, depicting the most magical night sky you could ever imagine. It’s a Firefly Night is a great way to kickoff summer with your kids. Just be prepared to get out in the yard with them chasing those glittery sparklers as soon as they appear.