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Best Father’s Day Books Roundup

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.

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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

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Janine. by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

JANINE.
Written and illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
(Albert Whitman & Company; $16.99, Ages 4-7)

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Janine “is one of a kind” and this delightful picture book full of expressive dialogue and artwork, about a special little girl, portrays her uniqueness thoughtfully and unabashedly. I’m so glad this book’s been written because, while there are a spate of books that deal with kids who feel different, Cocca-Leffler knows first hand about children with disabilities and their differences. Janine. is actually based on her experiences raising her special needs daughter, the titular Janine. While Janine certainly marches to the beat of her own drummer, and adults reading the story might find her quirkiness quite charming, one particular classmate in the book certainly does not. That lack of empathy, along with Janine’s authenticity, is the basis for this tale.

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Interior artwork from Janine. by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, Albert Whitman & Company, ©2015.

Here’s just a snippet from the book’s very brief description of Janine, because for the most part, Cocca-Leffler lets Janine’s words move the story forward and that works so well.

She reads the dictionary
when others are playing
and listens when no one
thinks she is.

That’s how Janine overhears that a private party is being planned by this self-proclaimed “cool kid” and she’s not on the list of guests.

“Janine. You are STRANGE!
You have to
CHANGE!”

Kids with NLD (nonverbal learning disorder/disability), Asperger’s or high functioning Autism, often may be hyper verbal with amazing memories as Janine is depicted, but can often be lacking in social skills. This can make it difficult fitting in with their typically developing peers. Plus, kids can be cruel and insensitive at this age, like the bully who tells Janine she’s not invited to her party. NOTE: I love the illustration that immediately follows the bully’s nasty pronouncement above. One classmate in a red baseball cap who seems to like Janine, tosses his invitation after witnessing the bully’s hurtful behavior.

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Interior artwork from Janine. by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, Albert Whitman & Company, ©2015.

Ever resourceful, Janine decides to throw her own party …

“and EVERYONE is invited!”

And guess, what? Everyone except the bully wants to go!  With a happy ending like that, it’s easy to see why this book about kindness, and inclusion should be in every classroom and school library. It’s important to note, however, that not all real life situations have such positive outcomes; all the more reason why making available picture books about children with disabilities should be the goal of every school district and school librarian. The sooner we start the conversation about the importance of diversity, whether it’s race, gender or differing abilities, the sooner that bullies will wield less power in the classroom and on the playground and a more tolerant, accepting generation will emerge.

Be sure to read the jacket flap of this book to learn more about Cocca-Leffler’s inspiration for the story and Janine’s commitment to being a “role model to children and adults, encouraging them to focus on abilities, not disabilities.”

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Visit www.JaninesParty.com, created by Cocca-Leffler and Janine as a resource for parents, teachers and students.

Click here to download a Janine. coloring page.

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Edmund Unravels by Andrew Kolb

EDMUND UNRAVELS
Written and illustrated by Andrew Kolb
(Nancy Paulsen Books, $16.99, Ages 4-7)

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Edmund Loom, a bright turquoise blue ball of yarn, is filled with bouncy energy and springtime exuberance. From his earliest days when he plip-plopped down the front stairs, he has yearned to explore. His supportive parents, a lovely teal green mother with knitting-needled hair bun and a sturdy blue dad with spectacles, have always patiently reeled him in and rolled him back up.

Edmund tries to “keep it together” by following a steady although boring routine, though grumpily cuddling up with an adorable llama at bedtime. But even little balls of yarn grow up, apparently, and the bigger he gets, the farther away he can roll when unable to resist the “tug of discovery.” One day he unravels into his biggest adventure, satisfying his wanderlust through the city, mountains and desert. Edmund meets new friends, tries new foods, and soars high with excitement until he ultimately feels the gentle pull of homesickness and loneliness that reel him in.

Kolb’s illustrations are colorful, crisp and playful. Edmund comes to life through simple though expressive round black eyes, eyebrows and mouth. A jaunty baseball cap and swirly strand of wooly hair counterbalance his long, ever trailing tail of yarn. The world that Kolb depicts in Edmund’s travels is imaginative and bright, introducing playful kittens, prickly pincushions, and rolls of adhesive tape. The details are fun to pore over, and young readers will get a kick out of the book’s cartoony appeal.

A special shout-out to the EDMUND UNRAVELS book designer for including clever scrawls of long, unwinding yarn on the end pages and a cheerful close-up of Edmund’s smiling mug that dominates the back cover. These give clear indications that this book is a visual delight from start to finish. Also of note is the adorable book trailer which captures Edmund’s upbeat personality and his omnipresent forward-rolling qualities to the tune of a charming wind chime soundtrack.

EDMUND UNRAVELS is filled with sweet whimsy and an endearing message that you will always remember who loves you and where you came from, no matter how far from home you may roll.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

 

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a copy of EDMUND UNRAVELS from my library and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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IS IT PASSOVER YET? Written by Chris Barash

Is It Passover Yet?
Written by Chris Barash
Illustrated by Alessandra Psacharopulo
(Albert Whitman & Company; $16.99, Ages 4-7)

 

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For me, living in Southern California, the signs that Passover is on its way are not necessarily related to the weather. Instead I begin spotting boxes of matzo and jars of gefilte fish popping up on the shelves of my local supermarket. Close local friends call with plans for the seder, and we decide who will cook what, and how much we need to prepare. Family and friends, both in the U.S. and abroad, begin posting Facebook status updates about all the cleaning they’re doing prior to the holiday. We have to get rid of all traces of leavened products in our homes. It won’t be long now until we’re sharing the tradition that Jewish families have done for centuries.

In Is It Passover Yet?, a joyful picture book celebration of the lead up to the first night’s seder, a brother and sister notice the changes that spring heralds in such as flowers blooming and grass growing. “Passover is on its way.” This phrase, repeated on every other spread, builds the anticipation for both the story’s reader and the siblings eagerly awaiting the arrival of Passover.

When all of the windows and floors start to shine.
And our whole house smells clean and looks extra fine …
Passover is on its way.

We see Dad’s busy setting the table with his daughter on the night of the first seder, while Mom’s got kugel cooking. Her son is helping her get the charoset ready. Soon the relatives show up “And everyone’s ready for stories and singing …” The songs are one of my favorite parts of our seders and it’s obvious they are in this tale, too. I love how Barash not only got the rhyming so right, but included a Nana in the book as well. I recall dozens of happy seders with my Nana, aunts, uncles and cousins, so it’s extra special when “Grandma” or “Gran” are replaced by Nana!

Psacharopulo’s illustrations light up every page with glowing colors and a cheerfulness that’s infectious. It’s lovely how she’s added in pets to the spreads because the holiday’s all about family and our pets are so much a part of the fabric of everyday life. When in the end “Passover is here!” is exclaimed, we get a last glimpse of the seder from outside an open window. Inside the the family is dining together on this cherished celebration of freedom while outdoors the miracles of nature abound.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Click here for a look at a few more marvelous illustrations.

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Twelve Dancing Unicorns by Alissa Heyman Blog Tour & Giveaway

Find Magic & Mystery in Twelve Dancing Unicorns
written by Alissa Heyman and illustrated by Justin Gerard
Blog Tour & Giveaway

A little girl’s good intentions enable her to accomplish what grown men could not in
Twelve Dancing Unicorns, by Alissa Heyman with illustrations by Justin Gerard, (Sterling Children’s Books 2014, $14.95, Ages 4-7).

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Cover of Twelve Dancing Unicorns. Reprinted with permission from Twelve Dancing Unicorns © 2014 by Alissa Heyman, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Justin Gerard.

Those of you familiar with The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the brothers Grimm, will enjoy this enchanting adaptation of the popular fairy tale. For those of you who haven’t read Grimm’s fairy tales, Twelve Dancing Unicorns, a stunning new picture book, easily stands on its own.

Despite being guarded by his finest men, the king finds his twelve prized unicorns mysteriously break free of their golden chains each night unseen by the watchmen. People come from all over the land to see the unicorns, but one young girl has grown particularly fond of the smallest one. She sees the creatures are unhappy being cooped up, and wants to help them.

When the king offers to grant a wish to anyone who can solve the mystery of the broken chains, the girl is the first to step up. Laughed at by the townspeople, and chided by the king for being too young to handle such a task, the girl remains undaunted. With the help of her mother, who gives her an invisibility cloak, and the bright moonlit sky, the girl discovers the unicorns’ secret, and has quite an adventure in the process.

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Interior Artwork Reprinted with permission from Twelve Dancing Unicorns © 2014 by Alissa Heyman, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Justin Gerard.

I was reminded of Jan Brett’s illustrations, as I got lost in Gerard’s ability to capture otherworldly beauty in his work. His use of page and picture boarders provides a classic fairy tale feel to a modern book. I found Heyman’s lyrical story book style of writing very appealing; her words capturing the wonder and glory of the mystical world of unicorns.

Twelve Dancing Unicorns: a must read, must keep, and must pass down from generation to generation picture book.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

Blog Tour & Giveaway:

Follow the Twelve Dancing Unicorns blog tour tomorrow on ‘lil Burghers by clicking here.

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Ninja! by Arree Chung

Today, MaryAnne Locher reviews Ninja!, the picture book.
✩ Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews
“High-flying fun to be read aloud or independently.”
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Ninja! by Arree Chung, Henry Holt 2014

No one is born a Ninja. It takes time and training, strength and stealth, and courage and carefulness.

In Ninja!, both written and illustrated by Arree Chung, (Henry Holt and Company 2014, $16.99, Ages 4-7) Maxwell, our young hero, is putting his Ninja ways to use: sneaking past the family dog, mounting a surprise attack on his sleeping father, and his most important mission, obtaining milk and cookies unnoticed.

Things are moving along nicely, until Maxwell’s baby sister takes a tumble and the blame is put on Maxwell. A true Ninja handles adversity with honor and respect, and never gives up. Maxwell  accepts responsibility for his actions, and comes up with a solution to keep his sister safe. He’ll train her in the ways of the Ninja.This original picture book shows children how to transform common toys, a tie, and dish gloves into Ninja gear, and addresses the problem parents and children often face when siblings are at different levels of physical development: someone always seems to get hurt.

The illustrations are rendered in acrylic paint and Photoshop. In the beginning of the book, colors, use of shadows, and the perfectly placed house plants Chung has chosen, provide a dark and mysterious setting for a Ninja on the prowl. Yellows, oranges, and reds intensify as we reach the climax of the book, and darkness comes again when Maxwell gets in trouble.

Quite the Ninja himself, Mr. Chung’s timing is perfect, his page turns are delightfully humorous, and his wording is carefully chosen to draw the reader into a Ninja mindset.

Arigato, Mr. Chung. Thank you for creating a masterful debut book.

Click here for an activity guide to the Ninja!

Click here for Chung’s blog.

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Frank! Written and Illustrated by Connah Brecon

Frank!, written and illustrated by Connah Brecon (Running Press Kids, $16.95, Ages 4-7), is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

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What is going on with Frank? He’s a hip, urban-dwelling kid bear in a red puffy vest and skinny jeans who is always late, but only because he is too helpful! Whether jamming with a pigeon trio, saving a cat up a tree, or helping bunnies bullied by an ogre, Frank always has an excuse. His teacher is less than pleased with his tardiness, although he does manage to be a little more on time each day.

Brecon’s illustrations are the star in this quirky, engaging story. While the story is conveyed in sharp black typeface, Brecon sets the tale in an Oliver Jeffers-esque palette and scatters hand-lettered text liberally on the page. Young readers will snicker at the odd pairings of animal and human classmates and fantastic versus realistic reasons that keep Frank from arriving on time. Seeking out the recurring pigeon and bunny trios tucked charmingly into page corners will further amuse sharp-eyed kids.

Interior art from Frank! written and illustrated by Connah Brecon, Running Press Kids ©2014.

Frank finally gets to school on time, but trouble has found him right at the classroom door. How will they cope with a giant zombie lizard king threatening the school? Frank shows that although he has not been in class very often, he has learned something about how to make friends.

Unique and delightfully unpredictable, Frank! is an imaginative tale with light-handed messages about punctuality, compassion and teamwork.

–       Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

–       Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher and received no compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

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Best Valentine’s Day Books for Children: We Love Each Other, Never Too Little to Love & Love Monster

 Read about: We Love Each OtherNever Too Little to Love & Love Monster

Our Valentine’s Day Roundup from Rita Zobayan♡ 
features a selection of faves for the whole family!

Valentine’s Day is almost here. For many adults, the day is a fun indulgence of chocolates, flowers, jewelry, and the beverage and meal of choice. With children, however, the celebration is so much purer: to love and be loved.  These three books wonderfully encapsulate the true sentiment of Valentine’s Day for children.

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We Love Each Other by Yusuke Yonezu, Minedition, 2013.

We Love Each Other by Yusuke Yonezu (Minedition, $9.95; Ages 2-5) is a cleverly disguised shapes and colors die-cut board book. Six colorful animal pairs and one trio love each other and form shapes. The red birds are cozy next to each other and create a heart.  Parent elephant shelters baby elephant and together they form a gray semi-circle. The cuddly brown bears don’t like to be apart, so they hug and create a square.

The text and drawings are appropriately simple for a young audience. Mice love each other. Rabbits love each other. Cats love each other. The animals are presented on a white background that does not distract from the purposes of the text: to highlight love and to teach shapes and colors.  We Love Each Other is a Valentine’s Day book that can be read all year long.
What’s a mouse to do when he’s in love with someone a lot taller?

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Never Too Little To Love by Jeanne Willis with illustrations by Jan Fearnley, Candlewick Press, 2013.

Never Too Little to Love (Candlewick Press, $8.99; ages 3-7), written by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Jan Fearnley, chronicles Tiny Too-Little’s quest to kiss his beloved, Topsy Too-Tall, a giraffe. Tiny Too-Little painstakingly and ingeniously stacks items to help him reach the heights:

                  He’s too little, even on tiptoes on a matchbox,

                  He’s too little, even on tiptoes on a teacup,

                  He’s too little, even on tiptoes on a clock,

                  Tiny Too-Little reaches way up. Wobble…wobble…wobble…CRASH!

Alas, all his hard work is in vain! Poor Tiny Too-Little! But, Topsy Too-Tall loves him and she has an idea. Will her idea work? Will Tiny Too-Little and Topsy Too-Tall finally get their innocent kiss?

Children will enjoy this book, perhaps especially for its unusual use of pages. As Tiny Too-Little stacks his “ladder” of love, the page lengths become progressively shorter. It’s a clever and engaging technique that helps the young reader visualize Tiny Too-Little’s efforts. Jan Fearnley’s artwork is spot on.  The pastel colors and endearing details, such as little hearts floating up to Topsy Too-Tall, fit beautifully with the sentiment of the story.

Never Too Little to Love proves that when it comes to true love, your size doesn’t matter. What matter is the size of your heart.

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Love Monster by Rachel Bright, Farrar Straus, Giroux, 2014.

Sometimes being a monster isn’t easy, especially if you happen to live in Cutesville: Home of the Fluffy.  Love Monster (Farrar, Straus Giroux, $16.99; ages 4-7) by Rachel Bright presents the heartfelt and brave undertaking of Monster, who does not quite fit in Cutesville.

When everybody loves kittens…and puppies…and bunnies. You know, cute, fluffy things, it’s hard to be a slightly hairy, I-suppose-a-bit-googly-eyed monster. But, Monster is not one to mope and decides to take matters into his own hands. He sets off to look for someone who’d love him, just the way he was.

His journey is not easy, and Monster searches far and wide.  Along the way, he must overcome disappointment and fear.  And, just as Monster has reached his limits, he unexpectedly learns that things can change in the blink of a googly eye.

In a society that bombards children with the idea that self-worth and overall acceptance are tied to a cuteness factor, this book is a breath of fresh air. I love that at no point does Monster attempt to make himself cute or change who he is. No, instead, he looks for a love that will accept him as he is. It’s a powerful message of unconditional love for and acceptance of oneself as being worthy of love.

The illustrations are as monstrously enjoyable as the storyline. Children will have fun reading the titles of Monster’s self-help books and his list of places to look for love.

Love Monster is a must-read for Valentine’s Day.

 

 

 

 

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The Eighth Menorah by Lauren L. Wohl: Review and Giveaway

Review of The Eighth Menorah & 2 Book Giveaway Opp!

The Eighth Menorah by Lauren L. Wohl with illustrations by Laura Hughes

The Eighth Menorah by Lauren L. Wohl with illustrations by Laura Hughes, Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99, ages 4-7, 2013.

The Eighth Menorah, (Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99, Ages 4-7) by Lauren L. Wohl with illustrations by Laura Hughes, is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

Growing up, I had one favorite menorah. It looked ancient to me with its pretty patina of brass and oxidized green brass, covered with assorted lava-like formations of old wax. My family also had an electric menorah we’d display in our front window. As a parent I now have four menorahs, one my husband and I were given as a wedding gift, a mini travel one, and the two my children made in Sunday school.

That’s why when Good Reads with Ronna was invited to participate in this special opportunity from Albert Whitman & Company, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. And to celebrate the early arrival of Hanukkah this year, we’re giving away two (2) autographed copies of  The Eighth Menorah, a terrific new picture book reviewed here today just in time to share with the family!

TO ENTER:

Just LIKE our Facebook page and/or follow us on Twitter first. For your chance to win, send an email by clicking here to enter. Please remember to include your name and address and write MENORAH in the subject line!  This giveaway ends on 11/21/13 at midnight and two (2) winners will be selected on 11/22/13. For detailed rules click here. HAPPY HANUKKAH and good luck!

With The Eighth Menorah, Wohl has created an amiable young character in a just-right-to read-aloud picture book. Sam is a Sunday school student who’s reluctant to participate in his class project. Mrs. Zuckerman, Sam’s teacher, has asked the students to make a menorah from clay using stones, marbles and buttons, but Sam knows his family already has seven menorahs at home. He’s convinced an eighth menorah is simply not needed.

The colorful and emotive illustrations by Hughes show Sam’s close relationship with his grandmother with whom, via telephone, he sort-of shares his Sunday school secret. Sam says the secret’s about something the kids are making in Hebrew school without revealing exactly what that something is. “It’s a secret, Grammy.” When soon after Sam learns that safety rules at Grammy’s new condo do not allow open flames unless they’re in the community room, Sam thoughtfully invites his grandmother to join him at home for the first night of Hanukkah.

Having been instructed to bring the menorah home and hide it before presenting it to his family, Sam now realizes he has a clever and caring solution for the one-too-many menorahs. I hope when you read this super spirited holiday story, you’ll note the significance of the eighth menorah and rejoice in the way it lights up so many people’s lives!

Click here for a fun activity – a dreidel game that’s at the end of the book.

These other bloggers are also sharing a giveaway opportunity courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company. Why not visit them all to increase your chances of winning?! Find their posts now through 11/15/13. The other bloggers are http://dulemba.blogspot.com, http://mcbookwords.blogspot.com, http://www.buriedinbooks.blogspot.comhttp://www.thechildrensbookreview.comhttp://smartpoodlepublishing.com/blog, and http://fourthmusketeer.blogspot.com.

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Back to School With Eerdmans

Ready and Waiting For YouHere in L.A. many schools have already begun, but there are plenty around the state and country that don’t begin until close to or after Labor Day. READY AND WAITING FOR YOU written by Judi Moreillon with art by Catherine Stock (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, $17.00, ages 4-7) is an ideal picture book to share with youngsters this time of year as they change gears from lazy summer daze to busy school days. As families head to the stores to purchase school clothing, stationary supplies and books, consider adding READY AND WAITING FOR YOU to the list. It’s designed as a warm welcome back to school and the school year for kids just beginning school or those starting in a new school.

Every other page pulls open to reveal more of Stock’s bright and cheery, cut paper illustrations that correspond to Moreillon’s text. I love the repetition of the phrase, “We’re ready and waiting for you.” It’s calming yet upbeat. And the way the story moves from the various personnel involved in school works wonderfully. Children will meet a bus driver, crossing guards, the principal, the school secretary, attendance clerk, nurse, librarian, computer technician, gym, art and music teachers. Also included are the cafeteria cooks and food workers (aka lunch ladies), playground monitors, custodians and parent volunteers. Best of all there’s the classroom teacher and all the other pupils, and “everyone’s waiting for you!” Now parents, doesn’t that make you wish that you, too, were going back to school?

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Click here to read what author/librarian Judi Moreillon has to say about writing this picture book.

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Imagine All The Fun

51y8ExSkxHL._SL500_AA300_ Molly Lou Melon is a little girl with big hair and a gigantic imagination. This second book in the Molly Lou Melon series, Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon, (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99, Ages 4-7)  is all about making the most of playtime. Molly Lou has a toy chest overflowing with all the toys any child could want, but her grandmother tells her how things were in the olden days when there weren’t a lot of fancy toys and action figures to play with. Back then kids made toys themselves out of things they found laying around and out of their imaginations.

So Molly Lou Melon takes what she learns from her grandmother and fills her playtime with magical tree houses and hand painted boxcars. And instead of watching TV, she watches the wondrous clouds while lying in the grass and finds endless hours of entertainment there. One day Molly Lou invites her new neighbor, Gertie over to play. Gertie brings her fancy dollhouse to show her new friend, while Molly Lou shows Gertie her tree root palace.  Can these new friends agree on how they will play together? Fancy toys or imaginative ones?

The glorious illustrations by David Catrow in this fantastic book are just as imaginative as Molly Lou Melon herself. They are colorful and wispy and full of great detail. Your child will enjoy examining every single page and lingering a while. What you’ll appreciate most about this book is that both the illustrations and the words by author/teacher Patty Lovell will inspire your children to get creative for playtime. And they might just ask you to lie on a blanket with them outside and look up at the clouds for a while to see what you can see. What could possibly be better than that?

large_stand-tall-molly-lou-melon_001If you love this book, as I know you will, check out the first book in the series, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, also by Patty Lovell and David Catrow.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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Batter Up!

Take me out to the ball game, please!!

9781623700003Say hello to Good Night Baseball ($14.95, Capstone Young Readers, ages 4-7), a new Sports Illustrated Kids picture book from prolific children’s book author Michael Dahl with illustrations by Christina Forshay.

As spring training kicks off, Good Night Baseball provides the perfect play by play to introduce young fans and potential fans to this beloved American sport.  I got excited reading the rhyming text in anticipation of my family’s annual outing to see our favorite minor league team, the Quakes, based in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Their home opener’s on April 4th. Be prepared for your kids to get in the mood for some serious snacking, too, when they see the tempting artwork. “We eat popcorn and hot dogs and hold drinks in our laps … with the names of our favorite teams bright on our caps.” Don’t forget the pretzels, peanuts and fries!

While the whole book is a lot of fun, my favorite part was when the little boy who is attending a ball game gets to go down on the field along with his dad and say, “Goodnight, diamond. Goodnight, grass. Goodnight, home plate where each runner ran past.”  Towards the end, in this quasi homage to Goodnight, Moon, Dahl’s book really shines as he describes the boy getting tired and ready to call it a night. We all know how exhausting watching a nine inning baseball game can be for youngsters and Forshay’s illustrations capture that mood with both the color changes on the last few pages and the look of pure contentment on the baseball fan’s sleepy face. Goodnight, baseball. Goodnight, baseball fan!

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Great and Noble Knighttime Reading

Ronna Mandel reviews King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson ($15.99, Candlewick, ages 4-7) written and illustrated by Kenneth Kraegel.

Meet Henry Alfred Grummorson, the newly turned six-year-old descendant of King Arthur of Round Table (and I’m not talking pizza) fame. On his birthday Henry seeks to follow in his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s footsteps and find adventure around every corner. Alas, the first bit of excitement he encounters is a smoke-rings blowing Dragon, not the fire-breathing one he so desperately hoped to battle.

Here parents can channel their best British accent when reading the bold print aloud: “BEHOLD, VILE WORM! I, HENRY ALFRED GRUMMORSON, A KNIGHT OF KING ARTHUR’S BLOOD, DO HEREBY CHALLENGE YOU TO A FIGHT TO THE UTTERMOST!” Henry’s demand to fight comes to naught when the docile Dragon suggests he look for the Cyclops, high in the mountains. The young lad, eager to uphold the family name, goes in search of the Cyclops who, like the Dragon, is more interested in playing, this time in a staring match. After that it’s onto a chess-playing Griffin and a less-than-lethal Leviathan, all wanting just one thing, friendship.

Will Henry discover that making friends beats doing battle? Kraegel conveys this and other important messages including: perseverance pays off, friends come in all shapes and sizes, appearing when we least expect them and stereotyping gets it all wrong every time because as the book shows, big does not necessarily mean one’s bad or a bully.

Illustration copyright Ⓒ 2012 by Kenneth Kraegel

Kraegel deftly blends his beautiful water color and ink illustrations with his well-timed text as readers follow along on Henry’s quest. Youngsters will want to join in repeating Henry’s loud declarations. Maybe even trying out their own Monty Pythonesque voice because the dialogue really calls for having fun with this story. My only recommendation is that parents first try this picture book out in the daytime (before knighttime) what with all Henry’s shouting and exclaiming, it might not be conducive to lulling your littlest ones to sleep!

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Too Much Noise

It’s a story anyone who has ever had a college roommate or a noisy apartment neighbor can relate to. You are ready for bed after an exhausting day, burrowing under the covers and trying to surrender to sleep when you hear an incessant noise—the pounding of base that throbs along with your mounting headache. The neighbor’s are playing their music too loudly again, and it’s 11:00 p.m. Josh Selig’s new children’s book Red and Yellow’s Noisy Night ($14.95, Sterling  Children’s Books, ages 4-7) parallels this experience we have all likely had as adults, but in a way that teaches children to stop and consider those whose actions are irritating them.

Charmingly illustrated by Little Airplane Productions, Red and Yellow’s Noisy Night tells the story of Red and Yellow who live together in an Olive Tree—the symbolism should not go unnoticed. One night, as Yellow is trying to sleep, he hears a very loud noise: Red playing his guitar loudly. Yellow confronts Red, but neither can see the other’s side. However, through compromise Red and Yellow come up with an idea that allows both to get what they want—Red can continue to play his guitar, while Yellow can get his zzz’s.

Based on an animated television series, “The Olive Branch,” which promotes conflict resolution and mutual respect, Selig’s story is an important book for any child to have in his or her collection. In a world of growing division and increasing animosity towards those whose views differ from our own, children need to learn about acceptance and compromise early in life. Using a story such as Red and Yellow’s Noisy Night gives parents a platform for encouraging their children to consider the other side’s perspective and to negotiate a reasonable compromise with which both parties will be contented. It’s message is clear: there is no one right viewpoint, but if we can learn to accept others and be sensitive to their positions, perhaps we too can live happily together like Red and Yellow in their Olive Tree. All parents who want to teach their children to grow into compassionate and thoughtful youngsters should pick up a copy of Josh Selig’s Red and Yellow’s Noisy Night and share it, and its message, with their children.

Today’s review was written by Karen B. Estrada.

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