Compost Stew Review for International Compost Awareness Week

COMPOST STEW:
AN A TO Z RECIPE FOR THE EARTH
Written by Mary McKenna Siddals
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
(Tricycle Press/Random House Children’s Books;
$15.99 Hardcover, $7.99 Paperback, Ages 3 and up)

 

Compost Stew book cover illustration

 

For International Compost Awareness Week I wanted to check out Mary McKenna Siddals’ popular picture book, Compost Stew, because it’s always recommended for Earth Day as well as when a well-crafted “green-themed” book is needed to share its important content. It turns out that while I had’t read it before, it felt so familiar because my daughter, around age five or six, used to make her own variation of compost stew although quite unintentionally! Who knew then that it would have helped our garden grow or that we were accidental environmentalists?

 

Interior artwork from Compost Stew

Interior spread from Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth written by Mary McKenna Siddals and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, Tricycle Press/Random House BYR ©2010/2014

 

Earth’s resources are not infinite so it’s important for children to learn early on to treat our planet with respect, and how. In Compost Stew readers will be treated to a recipe for outdoor fun from A to Z beginning with “apple cores” and “bananas, bruised” all the way through to “yellow pine shavings” and “Zinnia heads.” But the best part is reading about what other ingredients get added to the environmentally friend concoction. Adding to the appeal of this story are illustrator Ashley Wolff’s “collage illustrations using recycled and found materials.” Not only do they pair perfectly together with Sidall’s prose, but looking at the newspaper and other items Wolff has incorporated into the artwork may yield some surprises like the stew itself.

 

 

Interior artwork from Compost Stew

Interior spread from Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth written by Mary McKenna Siddals and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, Tricycle Press/Random House BYR ©2010/2014

 

Siddals’ story, though eight years old, feels as fresh and appropriate today as it would have when first published. And caring for our planet never goes out of style! Having reviewed several of Siddals’ other picture books (Bringing the Outside In and Shivery Shades of Halloween) I should have known there would be catchy, clever rhyme involved bringing a bonus to this already engaging and educational story.

 

Final int spread from Compost Stew

Interior spread from Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth written by Mary McKenna Siddals and illustrated by Ashley Wolff, Tricycle Press/Random House BYR ©2010/2014

 

A helpful “Chef’s Note” is included as back matter so that youngsters will know what truly constitutes compost and what does not.

Grass clippings
Hair snippping
and an Insect or two

Just add to the pot
and let it all rot
into Compost Stew.

For example, egg shells are okay but not meat or dairy. Siddals also smartly advises readers to check with authorities for local regulations. Keeping that in mind, it’s time to start looking around to see what might go into your very first compost stew. Happy cooking!

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

Behind-the-scenes with illustrator Ashley Wolff on the making of Compost Stew:
https://gotstorycountdown.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/earth-day/

Illustrator Ashley Wolff on the creation of Compost Stew:
https://dulemba.blogspot.ca/2015/04/ashley-wolffs-compost-stew.html

Author’s Website: www.siddals.com
Illustrator’s Website: www.ashleywolff.com
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CompostStew
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Bringing the Outside In (Random House)
Shivery Shades of Halloween (Random House)
Compost Stew (Tricycle/Random House)
Millions of Snowflakes (Clarion/Scholastic)
Tell Me a Season (Clarion)
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http://www.facebook.com/BringingTheOutsideInBook
http://www.facebook.com/ShiveryShadesOfHalloween
http://www.facebook.com/CompostStew

Christmas Books Roundup Part Two

CHRISTMAS BOOKS ROUNDUP
PART TWO
By Cathy Ballou Mealey & Ronna Mandel

ChristmasBooksRoundup

 

MerryMerryHollyHollyMerry Merry Holly Holly (Cork and Fuzz)
Written by Dori Chaconas
Illustrated by Lisa McCue
(Viking BYR; $16.99, Ages 3-5)

Merry Merry Holly Holly is a simple and sweet feel good story to share this holiday season. Usually found in level readers, Cork and Fuzz have entertained children for 10 years, but for their anniversary they’re starring in their first picture book. Cork the muskrat “had a head full of thoughts,” while Fuzz the possum “seems to have a head full of air.” Cork felt there was something special about this particular snowy day, only he couldn’t quite put his finger (or paw) on why. Lying under the canopy of a tree (or bare branches in some cases) was the ideal “little piece of quiet” that Cork needed to figure things out so this tale unfolds as the two friends go in search of a good tree. Along the way Fuzz finds a bell he thinks is a stone providing the impetus for some Merry Merry Holly Holly singing, sure to tempt little ones to join in. It’s obvious that Cork and Fuzz, like Frog and Toad or George and Martha, have the most marvelous give and take friendship. When Cork discovers why he felt the day was so special, your child will undoubtedly agree. McCue’s artwork sparkles and brings these two endearing characters to life with every turn of the page.

TheNightBeforeChristmasThe Night Before Christmas
Written by Clement C. Moore
lllustrated by David Ercolini
(Orchard Books; $16.99, Ages 3-7)

Ercolini’s zany contemporary illustrations bring a fresh spin to the oft-repeated poem. Kooky reindeer costumes, lavishly outlandish decorations and zany elf antics makes this cartoony Christmas a visual delight to pore over repeatedly. Ercolini’s zany contemporary illustrations bring a fresh spin to the oft-repeated poem. Kooky reindeer costumes, lavishly outlandish decorations and zany elf antics makes this cartoony Christmas a visual delight to pore over repeatedly.

A Homemade Together ChristmasAHomemadeTogetherChristmascvr
by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
(Albert Whitman & Company; $16.99, Ages 3-7)

A delightful family of rosy-cheeked pigs decide to make Christmas gifts for one another rather than buy them. While Luca’s parents and sister Rosie get busy creating their presents, the youngest pig struggles to execute his ideas. Then on Christmas Eve his efforts finally inspire a just-right gift for this sweetly non-commercial family tale.

TheNightTheLightsWentOutonChristmasThe Night The Lights Went Out on Christmas
Written by Ellis Paul
Illustrated by Scott Brundage
(Albert Whitman & Company; $16.99, Ages 3-7)

A bright, funny look at how one family’s Christmas light display grew over time until their entire neighborhood was bathed in a dazzling neon glow. Based on a song by the author (included as a download) the crazy accumulation of blazing doo-dads finally reveals that the ultimate holiday display was right over their heads all along.

TheGingerbreadManLooseatChristmasThe Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas
Written by Laura Murray
Illustrated by Mike Lowery 
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons BYR; $16.99, Ages 3-7)

The third book in the Gingerbread Man series finds the charming cookie champ teaming up with his class to deliver simple holiday cheer to community helpers throughout the town. Bouncy rhyme and a theme of gratitude and thoughtfulness make this playful spiced supercookie story a tasty holiday treat.

 

 

 

Enzo and the Christmas Tree Hunt!EnzoandtheChristmastreeHunt
Written by Garth Stein
Illustrated by R.W. Alley
(HarperCollins; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Garth Stein’s Enzo will likely steal your heart as he did mine. Told from this adorable dog’s point of view with humor and insight, the story takes readers to a Christmas tree farm where Enzo’s owner, little Zoë, is in search of the perfect tree. Zoë gets lost, there’s a case of mistaken identities and ultimately Enzo (with help from a Newfoundland), saves the day. All the while the perfect tree’s right smack in front of them! Alley’s illustrations in “pen and ink, pencil, watercolor, gouache and acrylics” convey just the right ambiance of a cold snowy evening settling in so be sure to grab a cup of cocoa before sitting down to read this one.

 

The Reindeer WishTheReindeerWishjpg.172x250_q85
Written by Lori Evert 
Photographed by Per Breiehagen
(Random House; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

The third title in this family’s beautifully photographed “Wish” series, the young heroine clad in gorgeous Nordic garb raises an abandoned baby reindeer with tenderness and love. As the caribou grows, so does their friendship, until he is invited to join Santa’s North Pole team. A magical, visual fantasy warm with imagination.

 

Miracle on 133rd Streetmiracle-on-133rd-street-9780689878879_lg
Written by Sonia Manzano
Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
(Atheneum BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Miracle on 133rd Street introduces us to Papa and son, both called José, who must try to find a pizza oven, likely the only thing big enough for Mami’s roast. As father and son head downstairs in their apartment building, we meet a diverse cast of characters bursting with personality. It’s Christmas Eve and we get a brief glimpse of all the tennants’ lives before the pair depart 133rd Street and cross “over the Bronx River to Regular Ray’s Pizza.” The joy in this story stems from the way Manzano brings all the neighbors together with such love and warmth on a cold, cold evening to share the roast together. Priceman’s illustrations have a Matisse-like quality that makes the scenes jump off the page and into your living room, very much the same way Manzano’s characters make you want to move into that very apartment building or at least be there on Christmas Eve to be a part of the community and infectious camaraderie.

 

JingleBellsAMagicalCutPaperEditionJingle Bells: A Magical Cut-Paper Edition 
Written by James Lord Pierpont
Illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat
(Candlewick Press, $19.99, Ages 4-8)

An elegant interpretation of another holiday class song, this luxurious book sets the familiar lyrics in lush silhouetted landscapes of snow and sleigh. Highly detailed, thick cut paper pages, gold embossing, and an amazing pop-up finale pages make this an ideal gift book for adults as well as children.

 

 

 

LittleElfieOneLittle Elfie One
Written by Pamela Jane
Illustrated by Jane Manning
(Balzer + Bray; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Take a trip up North to Santa territory in this charming and engaging picture book. Filled with rhymes that progress up to 10 starting with Little Elfie One, eager for Santa’s arrival in one more day. Also included are mice, gingerbread men, carolers, polar bears, snowmen, stars, Santa’s helpers, reindeer and kittens. Using the nursery rhyme “Over in the Meadow” as inspiration, Jane’s cheerful choice of language coupled with Manning’s upbeat watercolor and ink illustrations (love the snowmens’ caps!), make Little Elfie One a pleasure to read aloud. Bring the excitement of Christmas with this book today.

 

TheChristmasMiracleofJonathanToomeyThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
Written by Susan Wojciechowski
Illustrated by P.J. Lynch
(Candlewick Press, $17.99, Ages 6-9)

The 20th anniversary edition of this lyrical tale reminds us of a gentle grouch who keeps a sad secret until tenderly nudged into a new life by a young widow and her son. Lynch’s breathtaking early American paintings pair perfectly with the deep emotions of Wojciecowski’s sentimental tale, resonating with warmth and hope.

 

 

 

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Robots, Robots Everywhere! by Sue Fliess

ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE!

Robots.jpg

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

School Lunch Superhero Day

School Lunches and Lunch Lady:
Packed With Power

LUNCH LADY AND THE VIDEO GAME VILLAINToday, May 3rd, together with Lunch Lady author Jarrett Krosoczka and the School Nutrition Association, Random House Children’s Books is celebrating School Lunch Superhero Day! This is a day for students, teachers, and school staff to give thanks to the school nutrition professionals that feed over 31 million students each day.

WIN WITH IMAGINATION: Tell us what you imagine your lunch lady does when she’s not serving meals and you may win a copy of LUNCH LADY AND THE VIDEO GAME VILLAIN! Scroll down for entry rules.

index~~element25About School Nutrition Association
School Nutrition Association is a national, non-profit professional organization representing 55,000 school nutrition professionals across the country. Founded in 1946, SNA and its members are dedicated to making healthy school meals and nutrition education available to all students. School Lunch Superhero Day will kick off SNA’s annual School Nutrition Employee Week (May 6-10, 2013), recognizing the many contributions of school nutrition professionals. To find out more about today’s school meals, visit www.TrayTalk.org.
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INSPIRATION: Jarrett’s very own School Lunch Superhero, Jean Cariglia, inspired his Lunch Lady series. When Jarrett visited his school after the first book was published, he was astounded to see how much this recognition meant to Jean. This, and other acts of kindness he has seen while touring for the series, planted the seed for School Lunch Superhero Day.
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WAYS TO CELEBRATE: The SchoolLunchSuperheroDay.com website has all kinds of activities to help schools celebrate – games, activities, valentines, you name it!

TED: Besides creating a really innovative take on superheroes, Jarrett is also a really amazing individual. Last fall, he was invited to present a TED talk. His talk has over 500,000 combined views and is really inspirational. See the video here.

NEW LUNCH LADY: LUNCH LADY AND THE VIDEO GAME VILLAIN is on sale now. This is an action-packed graphic novel series with fun food-related gadgets. The series is great for beginning readers, and the latest title is reviewed here by Ronna Mandel.

BOOK REVIEW:

I first fell for the Lunch Lady series exactly three years ago (to see my first review click here) and back then there were only three books out. Now your beginning and/or reluctant reader can devour all nine and at just $6.99 each, it’s an affordable collection to own. Lunch Lady and The Video Game Villain, (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children’s Books, ages 7-10), is yet another Jarrett Krosoczka treat so hungry fans will not be disappointed with this latest serving. It packs the usual puns and punch in addition to the comical graphic illustrations at which Krosoczka excels. Hector’s friends have decided he’d make a great class president, but guess who he’s up against? None other than #15, Milmoe the menace! So does Hector even stand a chance? Plus, lots of electronic items are going missing and Lunch Lady and her cohort, Betty, decide to investigate. Will the culprit be the school janitor, Mr. Kalowski, Milmoe, or maybe the mystery man who prints his posters? Then of course, there’s poor, overworked Gavin Computo, the tech teacher. Could he possibly be involved in illegal gadget garnering? Throw in an upcoming visit from new school superintendent, Dr. Van Grindheimer, to inspect the cafeteria and the hallowed halls of Thompson Brook may be anything but … While I do recommend kids begin with the first book in the series, those eager to take a bite out of the newest installment will certainly find it satisfying.

Giveaway Rules:

One winner, chosen at random (at Random.org) from comments on our Facebook page, will receive a copy of Lunch Lady and The Video Game Villain by Jarrett Krosoczka worth ($6.99). You must LIKE us on Facebook to be eligible. All comments must be made by midnight, Friday, May 10th and a winner will be selected and notified on Saturday, May 11th.

Elmo’s Havin’ a Party

Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash!–A Step into Reading App ($3.99Sesame Workshop and Random House Children’s Books, ages 2 and up*)  is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

NOTE: *The iPad rating is for 4+, but I believe a child two years and older can benefit from this app.

            My three-year-old daughter is like most of Generation Z: she understands technology at a very early age. She knows the basics of how touch screens work, understands that the blue bar means loading and knows that devices have to be charged. She’s also very aware of apps, and even has her particular favorites. Despite her growing technological sophistication, however, she is still a young child who loves cuddling up next to Mama and being read to. She still believes that characters from books (and television/movies) are real, and actively uses those media to engage her own imagination.

            Enter Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash! !–A Step into Reading App, an iPad application that is an interactive storybook. This easy-to-use educational app centers on Elmo’s birthday party. It’s an immediate hook, really. After all, which child doesn’t want to see what’s going to happen at Elmo’s party? We follow along as Sesame Street’s very own Bob McGrath narrates how Elmo prepares for his party and invites his friends, who, in turn, brainstorm thoughtful gifts. And, of course, we get to join in the birthday fun along with Abby, Big Bird, Zoe, Cookie Monster and more of our favorite Sesame Street residents!

As we read, my daughter and I enjoyed the story’s features. Each page had something enjoyable, such as changing Elmo’s drawings, moving refrigerator magnets, and my daughter’s favorite, of course, tickling Elmo.  The words were highlighted as we followed the narration. All words, once touched, pop up and are pronounced. Words bolded in red have a pop-up text box, a verbal definition and follow-up question. For example, following the definition of dish, Bob asks, “What is your favorite birthday dish?” These seemingly small touches made it so easy to personalize the story for my daughter. She wasn’t passively viewing Elmo’s birthday, but was actively thinking about and imagining her own.

In addition to the story, there are three games. The first consists of placing the invitations into the correct mailboxes and promotes letter identification. The second game has the reader match Elmo’s gifts with their beginning sounds. In the final game, the reader helps rhyme the content of Elmo’s dream because he loves to “dream in rhyme.” The games alone held my daughter captive for extended periods of time because they were fun and simple to play. Over and over, she moved the invitations into the mailboxes, checking to see which letters matched and reading the letters out loud.  I loved seeing how proud she was as she announced, “I did it!”

            The piece de resistance for me was the ability to record the story in my own voice. Now, I’m no David Attenborough, Oprah Winfrey or Bob McGrath, but, boy, did I enjoy trying to be. Even my older daughter, who is far removed from the Sesame Street age group, got in on the act, snuck away the iPad and recorded the story for her younger sister to listen to!

            The app has more features, including a “Parent Info” section that provides reading tips and parent tips. There’s a help section that includes a screen shot with story page explanations and the settings menu features. These are handy guides because the app has a lot going on, and the guides made it easier to make sure I wasn’t missing any of the many components.  (Unlike my daughters, I’m not so technologically sophisticated. My older daughter figured out the recording feature before I did!)

            Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash! !–A Step into Reading App impressed both of my daughters and me. It’s silly, good fun that promotes literacy via technology. What more could a former English teacher ask for her Gen Z kids?

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