Best Father’s Day Books Roundup

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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

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We really need a Father’s MONTH or even more to celebrate all the amazing things that dads do. That’s why Good Reads With Ronna dedicates this post to fathers everywhere and the kids who love them. Incidentally, this year I noticed a new theme pop up in some of the picture books I’m reviewing. It’s noises, the kinds that dads make. You’ll see what I mean soon.

TadandDadcvr.jpgTad and Dad is written and illustrated by Caldecott Honor winner David Ezra Stein, (Nancy Paulsen Books; $16.95, Ages 3-5). Tad the tadpole loves his dad, lots. He wants to be just like him, whether it’s making singing sounds in an echoing BUUURRPP or splashing sounds on touchdown after reaching new heights by jumping. Littles ones who have this endearing picture book read to them will also relate to Tad the tadpole wanting to spend the night beside his dad on the same lily pad. Trouble is, Tad’s growing up pretty fast and, as he grows, he naturally occupies more space … on his dad’s lily pad!

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Interior artwork from Tad and Dad written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, Nancy Paulsen Books, ©2015.

That means that at bedtime, when he asks to hop up next to Dad, any movement he makes is bound to be felt by his dad. And lately Dad’s been feeling sleep-deprived and exhausted.

“Tad!” said Dad, “When you jump in my bed, I can’t sleep because you’re always wiggling and poking, kicking and croaking!”

Kinda sounds familiar, huh? But when Tad offers to sleep all by himself on his own lily pad, Dad realizes he actually has more trouble getting to sleep without Tad by his side. This heartwarming tale of froggy affection makes its point effectively in a most delightful Stein way. That means with humor, whimsical artwork and most of all, with love.

IfMyDadWereanAnimalcvr.jpgIf My Dad Were an Animal is written and illustrated by Jedda Robaard, (Little Bee Books; $14.99, Ages 4-7). With very few words, this sweet picture book succeeds as a tribute to the many qualities that dads possess. Last month I reviewed If My Mom Were a Bird for Mother’s Day. The big difference in this companion book is that in If My Dad Were an Animal, boys and girls compare their dads to an assortment of animals. Some are like a “great, big, hairy … yak.” Or maybe stylish like a penguin. wise like a hooty owl or strong and burly like an elephant.

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Interior artwork from If My Dad Were an Animal written and illustrated by Jedda Robaard, Little Bee Books ©2015.

What works so well in this story is that Robaard has included each dad in the spread when the animals are revealed making it easy to show the  comparison with very young children. Her watercolor illustrations are not overly embellished, but don’t need to be because all her creatures are adorable and full of personality.

If My Dad Were an Animal Spread 2

Interior artwork from If My Dad Were an Animal written and illustrated by Jedda Robaard, Little Bee Books ©2015.

Parents can engage their youngsters with this tale by inviting them to think up more animals and characteristics they share with dads. The colorful pages of text contrast beautifully with the vast white space Robaard has intentionally left in order to draw attention to the child imitating his or her dad (see above).  All in all, If My Dad Were an Animal is an ideal picture book for Father’s Day and everyday.

DaddySatonaDuckcvr.jpgDaddy Sat on a Duck is written and illustrated by Scott M. Cohn (Little Brown Books for Young Readers; $15.00, Ages 3-6). Read the review, then scroll back up to enter Cohn’s hysterical giveaway here. I deliberately put the giveaway at the top because I absolutely love it and wish I could enter! It’s witty, quirky and seems to target the free range parent just like his debut picture book. The book opens with a *Note to reader: Try making the noises. You won’t be disappointed. And after reading the first two spreads, I dashed off to show my husband that there was someone else with his sense of humor. The fact that they’re both New Yorkers helps, but you don’t have to be from the Big Apple to find yourself laughing out loud at lots of the main character’s lines.

Cohn has created an offbeat picture book that should definitely not be designated a Father’s Day book because it’s simply too funny to take out only once a year for the holiday. In this tale, the narrator, a little girl, keeps hearing the call of the wild (daddy), in other words, sounds such as farts, yawns, or howls that could easily be mistaken for lions, hippos, and other feral creatures big and small.

I was starting to feel like I lived in a zoo.
So I asked my best friend if she felt that way, too.
“Do YOU ever notice wild beasts in your house?”
She said, “Only once” — when her mom saw a mouse.

In reality, she’s hearing the daily noises emanating from her father’s body, noises that eventually she learns to accept as part and parcel of being around her terrific loving dad. In addition to appreciating Cohn’s clever rhyming text, readers should scan his illustrations (created using Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop) several times so as not to miss even the smallest of details. My particular faves are illustrations of Uncle Johnny and Daddy singing and playing bass and guitar to Tom Petty’s Free Fallin,’ a penguin at the piano and Golden Doodle Louie with his shredded toilet paper tube. I’m happy Cohn’s tackled the topic of noises AND smells candidly and comically, and now look forward to what he does in his next book, Daddy Said a Word I Never Heard due out in the fall.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


Flashback Friday – Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein

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Ol’ Mama Squirrel written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2013, $16.99, Ages 3-5) is reviewed by Dornel Cerro.

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Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013.

Ol’ Mama Squirrel, having raised many litters, refuses to let any creature harm her young. Her loud and insistent scolding (“chook, chook, chook”) and threatening gestures scare away the bravest of foes. However, one day she meets up with a “great, growling grizzly bear …” who’s not so easily frightened.

Repetitive words and phrases (“and that takes care of that”), make this a lively and interactive read-aloud for young children. Simple words and word sounds in large font (“PLONK”) enabled my emerging readers to participate alongside more advanced readers. Together they all roared out the bear’s evil “WA-HA-HA” laugh (I do not have a quiet library).

Stein sprinkles some great vocabulary (“afoul,” “scamper,” “puny”), and puns throughout the story, enriching children’s language and comprehension skills. A dog, frightened away by Mama Squirrel exclaims: “this squirrel is crazy! … “They must put crazy powder in the nuts around here!” Grizzly bear threatens Mama Squirrel: “I’ll eat your whole family tree.”

The humorous and expressive illustrations not only extend the narrative but practically tell the story on their own. Reminiscent of his artistic work in Leaves, Stein uses deft strokes to suggest shapes and animate characters. Soft, muted watercolors and crayons fill in the outlines. Along with framed single page illustrations, Stein uses double page spreads to create larger than life characters, transforming Ol’ Mama Squirrel from a proud mother to a fearsome opponent. My students laughed uproariously at the two page spread of Mama Squirrel snarling “not on my watch buster” as she and her babies escape from grizzly bear.

The Caldecott winning author and illustrator of Interrupting Chicken has another hit on his hands –just ask my K-1 students who proclaimed Ol’ Mama Squirrel “…a superhero!”

Highly recommended for children ages 3 -6, but be prepared for a rousing story time!


Because Amelia Smiled Picture Book Giveaway

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61D-B9B8C2L._SL500_AA300_We reviewed Because Amelia Smiled ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 3-7) by David Ezra Stein several months ago and are now excited to be able to give away a copy of the book to two Good Reads With Ronna readers. Are you smiling yet?

In Because Amelia Smiled, Stein effortlessly takes readers on a world tour all because a little girl, Amelia, wore an infectious smile while skipping down the street. For details how to enter and for entire contest rules, please click here or scroll down all the way to the bottom of this page for partial info. The contest ends midnight on April 16, 2013 so don’t wait to enter and good luck!

As Stein says in his jacket flap, “The story of Amelia is bigger than anything that can fit in a book. It’s the story of how we are connected.”  I could not agree more. Perhaps you are as fascinated by the idea of six degrees of separation as I am and if so, you will love sharing this picture book with your children.

You may know Stein from his Caldecott Honor–winning Interrupting Chicken. Here again Stein’s art flows from page to page, person to person, country to country just the way  today’s technological tapestry has brought us all together seamlessly. So, rather than tell the entire story, I suggest you read Because Amelia Smiled  to learn what caused Amelia to grin in the first place and then find out how many people are positively affected by Amelia’s smile, including you! For more of our review, please click here.
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HOW TO ENTER:

  1. Beginning Monday, April 8 we’re offering two readers the chance to win a copy of Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein. Simply LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by midnight Tuesday, April 16, 2013 and you’ll be entered to win a copy of this picture book. Remember to write SMILE in the subject line.
  2. The giveaway opportunity ends at midnight on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 and two winners will be randomly chosen on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. For an additional entry please follow us on Twitter @goodreadsronna too! If you don’t provide an email where you can be contacted your chance to win is forfeited.
 

Because I Lived in Queens

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Today’s review is from former Rego Park (Queens, NY) resident, Ronna Mandel.

Because author David Ezra Stein lives in Kew Gardens, Queens, I decided to read and review this wonderful new book, Because Amelia Smiled ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 3-7). And because I lived in Queens and decided to sell a sofa, I met my future husband who just happened to live in the same apartment building and whose friend needed a sofa!  And because I met my husband, we decided to move to Los Angeles where I eventually found work reviewing children’s books.

As Stein says in his jacket flap, “The story of Amelia is bigger than anything that can fit in a book. It’s the story of how we are connected.”  I could not agree more. Perhaps you are as fascinated by the idea of six degrees of separation as I am and if so, you will love sharing this picture book with your children.

Stein effortlessly takes readers on a world tour all because a little girl, Amelia, wore an infectious smile while skipping down the street. That smile just happened to be caught by Mrs. Higgins who was glancing out her window. The results of that single smile continued on to Mrs. Higgins’ grandson Lionel in Mexico, and then to one of his students, a kickboxer named Sensacia Golpes.  Her cousin videotaped the kickboxer and put the video online.  You can probably guess what happened next! Yep, someone in England saw the video and added some new moves to their ballet performance.

You may know Stein from his Caldecott Honor–winning Interrupting Chicken. Here again Stein’s art flows from page to page, person to person, country to country just the way  today’s technological tapestry has brought us all together seamlessly. So, rather than tell the entire story, I suggest you read Because Amelia Smiled  to learn what caused Amelia to grin in the first place and then find out how many people are positively affected by Amelia’s smile, including you!