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Of Hanukkah Candles and Christmas Carols

What happens when your dad, who grew up celebrating Christmas, and your mom, who grew up celebrating Hanukkah, get married and raise a family?  They celebrate both holidays, that’s what!

In the 21st century when more and more families are interfaith ones, it’s common to find beautifully decorated Christmas trees alongside brightly glowing Hanukkias (the special Hanukkah Menorah with places for 9 candles).

daddy-book

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama written and illustrated by Selina Alko ($16.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, ages 5 and up) brings the right mix of both family traditions in an easy to understand, thoughtfully illustrated picture book. I think it’s fantastic how the family featured in the story embrace both holidays. Together they prepare a meal for the last night of Hanukkah including turkey stuffed with cranberry kugel dressing while Mama makes “jelly donuts and fruitcake for dessert.” Throughout the home readers will see festive decorations of Mogen David (Jewish stars), candy canes, mistletoe and poinsettias.

And while there are indeed gifts galore for the two holidays celebrated, it’s really not about the gifts, but about families being together. The story of the miracle of the oil that lasted eight nights is shared for all to enjoy. Soon after presents are unwrapped from under the Christmas tree, the family relaxes and soaks up the last vestiges of the blended holiday festivites that will become memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Also included in the end pages is the Cranberry Kugel Dressing Recipe if your family would like to add this delicious food to your seasonal repast repertoire. So get out your dreidels, your Hanukkah gelt, string lights up on your Christmas tree, and celebrate all the positives of being a blended 21st century family.

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Emma Thompson Channels Beatrix Potter Beautifully

The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit  ($20, Frederick Warne, ages 5 and up) written by Emma Thompson and illustrated by Eleanor Taylor is reviewed by Ronna Mandel. 

110 years on and Beatrix Potter’s characters are still bringing smiles to children around the world, this child included! Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson has captured the voice, pace and perfect plotting of Potter’s mischievous rabbit in both the newly imagined picture book and the included CD recording. Taylor’s charming illustrations are an additional delight.

The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit takes Peter – ever in search of something interesting to occupy his time and against the cautions of Benjamin Bunny – back into the off-limits world known as Mr. McGregor’s garden. What ensues is both a surprise and an adventure, as Peter ends up nodding out in a picnic basket and finds himself in the back of the McGregor’s cart, a wee bit far from home; in Scotland to be precise.

Fortunately cousin Finlay McBurney chances upon the lost lad and, in safe surroundings and no time at all, Peter’s up to his shenanigans in a radical way. Without spoiling the plot, suffice it to say that a radish hollowed out by Peter in a fit of hunger plays an important role in a shot put-like competition that will leave readers reeling. Not only was this a totally satisfying read, but a fun one bound to become a bedtime favorite.

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Roses and Noses, Oh How They Smell

Dangerously Ever After ($16.99, Dial Books, Ages 5 and up) by Dashka Slater is not your every day fairy tale. Sure there’s a prince, princess, a castle and a forest. But other than that, you’ve never heard this plot before. Princess Amanita is not your quintessential prissy princess, rather she mostly likes things that are dangerous – a pet scorpion, broken glass and a bicycle without brakes, to name a few.

One day, Prince Florian from a neighboring castle stops by and brings her roses. The princess loves the long, painful thorns that poke through her skin so much that she puts the roses in a vase with the stems sticking up and the flowers facing down. She asks the prince to please give her some seeds so she can grow more prickly roses. He brings her some seeds, but instead of roses, she finds the seeds have sprouted a bunch of sniffling, sneezing noses. (This part of the book gave me a huge chuckle as I am likely the most allergic person on the planet; one who sneezes throughout the day, every day of every year.) Well Princess Amanita is so disappointed with the useless noses that she sets out on an adventure to return them to the prince. But what she discovers is that these noses may be able to serve a useful purpose.

This book is sure to entertain because:

  1. Despite the fact that the book is about a princess, the story is extremely creative, original and humorous.
  2. The main character, Princess Amanita, is independent and daring, unlike so many princesses in so many fairy tales.
  3. The princess looks at every day things in ways much different than most of us look at them, teaching the reader new creative ways of thinking.
  4. Though a very unique plot, the story is still enchanting the way a fairy tale should be.
  5. The illustrations by Valeria Docampo are excellent, vibrant and very detailed.

A while back I reviewed another story about a princess – Seriously, Cinderella is So Annoying, that I also loved because it was unique and funny just like this book, yet in a different way. Any story that surprises and delights the reader is worth a look, and Dangerously Ever After is one of those stories.

Note: If your child is an early reader, this book is a bit sophisticated and longer than most picture books, so it is best that you read it together.

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Snow White and Rose Red, the Brothers Grimm Way

Rita Zobayan reviews Snow White and Rose Red: A Pop-Up Fairytale ($19.99, Tango Books; ages 5-7), by the Brothers Grimm and illustrated by Rachel Cloyne.

Long before Snow White sang with forest critters and took up with seven gentlemen of diminutive stature, the Brothers Grimm had written the original version of her story that is still prevalent in Europe today. Snow White and Rose Red is the traditional tale that does include a dwarf and a prince, but tells a deeper story of kindness in the face of ingratitude and of bravery in the face of danger.

Sisters Snow White and Rose Red live with their mother near a forest. They often venture into the forest and fields to gather food. When a talking bear visits them on a cold winter’s night, their simple lives are changed forever. Suddenly they are beset by a wicked dwarf, who often needs their help and yet shows them nothing but contempt.

There they found a Dwarf with an old wrinkled face and a long snow-white beard. The end of his beard was caught underneath a fallen tree…He glared at the girls with red fiery eyes and exclaimed, “Why do you stand there? Are you going to help me?”…

As soon as the Dwarf was freed he snatched his sack filled with gold, threw it over his shoulder and marched off, grumbling and crying, “Stupid people! To cut off a piece of my beautiful beard. Plague take you!”

Patient and kind, the sisters help the ungrateful dwarf three times. In each instance, we see young women who are capable, clever and confident. They do not turn from danger. They rely on their wits to help another, even when he, in turn, insults them and ultimately attempts to bargain their lives for his freedom.

Marvelously illustrated by Rachel Cloyne, this book features shades of black, white and red. Each page has 3-D pop-ups that are beautifully drawn. The artwork is striking in its detail, and captures the darkness of the time period and of the tale. It is truly a spectacular book for Halloween or any other time of year.

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Fridays Featuring Flintridge – Star Wars Reads Month

Catherine Linka shares her picks for ..

Star Wars Reads: Using the “Force”

Getting boys to read can be a challenge, but they can be lured in when a topic excites them. October is Star Wars Reads Month, and you can use the “Force” to encourage your child to read.

The youngest readers can choose from a large selection of DK READERS that offer four graded levels of reading and include stories about the original characters from the Star Wars movies and from the animated Clone Wars (by Simon Beecroft) series. Prices range from $3.99 in paperback to $14.99 in hardcover.

For kids in 3rd grade and up, check out THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA ($12.95, Abrams). This series of three novels by Tom Angleberger tells the story of Dwight, a 6th grade oddball whose Yoda finger puppet appears to tell the future when you put it on. Like DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, this series can engage even reluctant readers.

Boys often prefer non-fiction to fiction, and DK has a terrific series of books for kids 7-12 that feature Star Wars “facts” and details about the world. The latest book in this series is THE SECRET LIFE OF DROIDS ($12.99, Dorling Kindersley) by Jason Fry, with pages devoted to topics such as how C3PO has evolved over the years, why it is pointless to plead mercy with a battle droid, and how to choose a droid.

Another strategy to trick boys into reading is by giving them books with instructions. Two fun new books are DRAW STARS WARS: THE CLONE WARS ($16.95) from Klutz. This is perfect for fans 10 and under who want to learn how to draw their favorite characters. For 8 to adult, get a copy of  STAR WARS ORIGAMI ($16.95, Workman Publishing) by Chris Alexander. Step-by-step instructions are provided for 36 projects, including origami lightsabers, battleships and characters.

Please visit the Flintridge Bookstore today to pick up your copy of these great books, buy gifts, enjoy their extensive selection of other great reads  and relax over a great cup of coffee.  Also visit the website at www.flintridgebooks.com to keep up-to-date with story times, author events and other exciting special events.

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God Bless Our Troops

Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops by Jill Biden and illustrated by Raul Colon ($16.99, Simon & Schuster, ages 5 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

“Does Daddy have to go?” is the question young Natalie poses as her father, a soldier, gets ready for deployment. Based on the true events of her granddaughter, Natalie, Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops is Jill Biden’s tribute to the courage not only of the American troops but also to the families they leave behind.

We read along as Natalie faces the challenges of missing her father through milestones, holidays and simple, everyday life.  At school and in the community, Natalie is reminded of her father, but perhaps the most difficult times are the ones at home. Natalie sits on the floor of her room with stuffed animals around her. Her dolls are here. Her books are here. Even her dog, Webbie, is here. But one thing isn’t here. Daddy isn’t here.

Natalie isn’t the only one to miss her father; her brother, Hunter, and mother also must come to terms with his absence. Luckily, Natalie and her family have friends, extended family and neighbors nearby to help. So many people are kind to the family. Yesterday the neighbors brought over a homemade pizza. Today Dad’s friend Alex is shoveling the sidewalk. “Your dad is sure helping the country,” Alex says. “I want to help too!”

The book includes many additional sections: the Author’s Note, About Our Military, How You Can Help and Tips for Kids. Here readers learn facts such as 1% of the American population is in military service and 1.9 million children (up to 18 years old) are children of military personnel. There is a list of national organizations that provide information and volunteer opportunities to help military families. Lastly, children are provided ideas and suggestions for helping fellow students who have military parents.

In Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops, Dr. Biden reminds us how the families of soldiers must also sacrifice to help our country. They must live with the absence of a loved one, live with the fear that the worst may happen, and yet still try to live life as normally as possible. Dr. Biden also reminds us that simple acts of kindness can have long reaching effects. The book is an effective tool to help young readers learn how to look outside of themselves and help others when they can, even if by saying a simple, “Hello.”

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Picture Book Review & Giveaway Day 3

LET’S GET KIDS READING!

Today is Day 3 of our picture book giveaway worth over $130, and the theme we’ve chosen is Learning.

Monday, September 10, through Wednesday, September 12, 2012 of this week we’ll be reviewing and/or briefly mentioning picture books that we’ve read recently then giving them away! And guess what? If  you LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by Monday, September 24, 2012 you’ll be entered to win a prize package of all books covered!! Remember to write Picture Book Giveaway in the subject line.  **YOU MUST LIST ALL BOOKS COVERED ALL 3 DAYS as part of your entry eligibility so be sure to read the blog every day!! One lucky winner will receive eight hardcover books worth a total retail value of $136.88!  We’re making it SO easy for you to get your kids reading again this back-to-school season. And isn’t that priceless?  The giveaway opportunity ends at midnight on Monday, September 24, 2012 and a winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Click here now for rules. Good luck!

Green ($16.99, A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press, ages  2-6) written and illustrated by Caldecott Honor Book and Geisel Honor Book awardee, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, will make you and your children think about green in a whole exciting new way. I’m in the process of repainting both the interior and exterior of my home and since green is one of my two favorite colors (the other is purple), I just knew I would be wild about this book. And speaking of wild, of course there’s jungle green, forest green, sea green, lime green and pea green covered. But what really works so well is how there’s a deliberate die cut on every spread which little ones will love looking through. Add to that how they’ll enjoy talking about a certain surprise they may notice when peering through to a different page to find moths flitting near a fern or the delicious looking red apples on a tree, or the word khaki hidden in tall grass.  Here’s a great book of discovery for youngsters that is ideal to use as inspiration for creating their own picture book or work of art.

My Pop-Up World Atlas ( $18.99, Templar Books, ages 5-8) by Anita Ganeri and Stephen Waterhouse is a book right up reviewer Debbie Glade’s alley. She’d loves promoting geography to kids and here’s a book that would make doing so all the more fun. Who doesn’t love a pop-up book?  Travel around the globe from the comfort of your sofa as you learn facts, check out maps, lift flaps, pull tabs, spin wheels. There are so many thing to do on every page to keep a child glued to this book. 

**Recap – To be eligible for the giveaway: 

1. Read our blog this week
2. Like us on Facebook
3. Send us an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by Monday, September 24, 2012. Write “Picture Book Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, write:
a. The names of all the books mentioned in our blog posts from Monday September 10 through Wednesday September 12, 2012.
b. Your name
c. Phone number
d. Address
A winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.
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Picture Book Review & Giveaway Day 2

Win over $130 worth of picture books and bring a smile to your child’s face!

Monday, September 10, through Wednesday, September 12, 2012 of this week we’ll be reviewing and/or briefly mentioning picture books that we’ve read recently then giving them away! And guess what? If  you LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by Monday, September 24, 2012 you’ll be entered to win a prize package of all books covered!! Remember to write Picture Book Giveaway in the subject line.  **YOU MUST LIST ALL BOOKS COVERED ALL 3 DAYS as part of your entry eligibility so be sure to read the blog every day!! One lucky winner will receive eight hardcover books worth a total retail value of $136.88!  We’re making it SO easy for you to get your kids reading again this back-to-school season. And isn’t that priceless?  The giveaway opportunity ends at midnight on Monday, September 24, 2012 and a winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Click here now for rules. Good luck!

Today’s theme is school.

Jacqueline Dembar Greene, the author of Speak Up, Tommy! ($17.95, Kar-Ben, ages 3-8) was inspired to write this picture book after reading about a police dog who was first trained in Israel to sniff out bombs and sense odd behaving individuals before being brought to America.  Catch was, he only understood commands in Hebrew!  In this story Greene has changed the characters around to focus on Tommy, a new boy in school who speaks very little English and when he does, his self-consciousness makes him barely speak above a whisper.  This prompts his teacher and classmates to ask him to speak up.  He is also teased by another student for having to learn to write in English, clearly no fault of his own. “You’re tracing letters?”  he is asked.  “We did that in Kindergarten.”

When Officer Sweeney from the local police department brings his police dog Samson to school, things begin to look up for Tommy.  It turns out that Tommy can communicate best with Samson using his Hebrew skills leaving teacher, classmates and even Officer Sweeney more than impressed. Poor Officer Sweeney explains to everyone that Samson ignores him, not understanding a single word of English. In the end, new friendships are forged  as Tommy’s confidence increases by helping out Officer Sweeney. Tommy is then enlisted to teach Hebrew to the policeman to better work with Samson and in return he’ll be taught English. The artwork by California illustrator Deborah Melmon makes the story come alive on every page and children will especially love the depiction of  tennis ball loving Samson.  A list of English/Hebrew Dog Commands is included at the end.

My Teacher ($16.99, Dial Books for Young Readers, ages 5-8 ) by author/illustrator James Ransome celebrates the power of terrific teachers. If every child had a teacher like the one Ransome writes about in My Teacher, parents could all rest a lot easier. While she never is named, she represents those special teachers who educated us, cared about us, inspired us and never lost the passion for sharing knowledge and wisdom with a new generation. Thanks James Ransome for this lovely and truly fitting tribute.

You Are My Wonders ($16.99, Philomel Books, ages 3 and up) by Maryann Cusimano Love with illustrations by Satomi Ichikawa is yet another glorious book with rhymes and artwork that jump off the page straight into your heart. As a parent I was touched by the sheer magic of the poetry and the beauty of every illustration. “I am your blank paper; you are my work of art. I am your lace doily; you are my glitter heart.” They had me at blank paper! 

**Recap – To be eligible for the giveaway: 

1. Read our blog this week
2. Like us on Facebook
3. Send us an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by Monday, September 24, 2012. Write “Picture Book Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, write:
a. The names of all the books mentioned in our blog posts from Monday September 10 through Wednesday September 12, 2012.
b. Your name
c. Phone number
d. Address
A winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.
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Go Out and Play, You Say?

Debbie Glade reviews a book that reminds her of her own childhood, way, way back when.

You know you’re dating yourself when you say, “When I was your age, we did not have electronic toys. We went outside and made up games, playing and running around all day long.” Frankly, I thought those days were over until I read Go Out an Play: Favorite Outdoor Games from KaBOOM ($11.95, Candlewick Press, Ages 5 and up). KaBOOM (nonprofit) was created by Darell Hammond with the mission to keep children active and playing, while using their imaginations. What a stellar idea that was and what a big hit KaBoom has been!

Go Out and Play is simple, yet delightful. Page after page, you will find indoor and outdoor tag, hide and seek, ball, team, sidewalk, circle, race and other games to keep your little ones active and busy all day, just like you did when you were a kid. Remember Marco Polo, Mother May I?, Egg and Spoon Race and Red Rover? There are plenty of games like these in the book, plus some new ones your kids will want to try. There’s an intro from Darrell Hammond as well as information in the back of the book about getting and keeping kids active with a call to action.

In this age of sedentary living, computers, iPads and video games, any book, toy or product that encourages kids to get up, get out and play is a winner. There’s nothing like seeing children engaged in old-fashioned good fun, burning up energy and staying fit while having a ball. And perhaps just as wonderful is the fact that these activities don’t cost a dime!

Reading this book reminded me of a sidewalk game with chalk and a ball my older sister and I played for years called Rolly Polly. I remember winning much more often that she did, but she insists I’ve got that all wrong.

Now I’m in the mood for playing Follow the Leader. I’m the leader. Are you in?

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Mrs. Harkness and the Panda

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet ($16.99, Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, ages 5 and up) is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

As a woman and especially as the mother of two girls, I’m ashamed to admit that I’m not able to name very many women scientists, explorers or activists/politicians. So, whenever I come across a book that celebrates the contributions that women have made, I am eager to read it, both for my daughters’ education and my own. Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter is an engaging book that will capture the imagination of girls and boys (and adults).

The year is 1934, a time when in Western society pandas are thought to be mythical creatures and women are “considered too dainty for exploring.” Mrs. Harkness, a gown designer who “wasn’t particularly strong, athletic, or daring” doesn’t let societal convention stop her when she decides to find a panda in honor of her husband, who died in China trying to do just that. What unfolds next is the true, heroic and touching story of her quest to complete her husband’s dream when almost everyone in her life tries to convince that she would be foolish to try.

“Mrs. Harkness’s friends scoffed. ‘You’re no explorer!’ ‘You’re out of your head!’ ‘Don’t forget your husband died trying to find the panda!’ Mrs. Harkness didn’t listen. She knew her husband had died trying to find the panda. And now she had an expedition to plan.”

Through the 40 pages, we read about Mrs. Harkness and her Chinese colleagues, Yang Di Lin and Lao Tsang and their journey through China to find a bei-shung. We also learn how she overcame many obstacles–gender expectations, difficult terrain, and inhospitable weather–to find the first panda shown to Western society. She didn’t let any of the difficulties stop her. I’m guessing this story is not well-known and that’s a shame. Against all odds and expectations, Mrs. Harkness accomplished something that has had a long-lasting impact: “evoking universal sympathy for the plight of the species.”

In addition to the heartfelt story is the eye-catching artwork. Melissa Sweet uses illustrations, water color paintings, collages, traditional Chinese patterns and characters, postcards, maps and photographs, including one of Mrs. Harkness and the panda she named Su Lin, which means “a little bit of something very cute.” Just about every page has a clever use of media that helps capture the feel of the story. Indeed, Sweet mentions in her note that she took a trip to China where she collected items that she used to create the art for the book. The reader (and viewer) really gets a sense of the expedition.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda is an entertaining, educational and worthy read, and one that I (and my daughters) highly recommend.

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Turning a Dream Into Reality – The Story Behind the Creation of Mount Rushmore

I had no idea that I could learn so much from a children’s picture book, but after reading Tina Nichols Coury’s book Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose: Growing Up On Mount Rushmore ($16.99, Dial Books for Young Readers, ages 5 and up) with its fantastic, beautifully envisioned illustrations by Sally Wern Comport, I’m convinced.

Perhaps like me, you were on a cross country teen tour when you first laid eyes on Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Or maybe you and your family were vacationing and taking in some of America’s most iconic landmarks. Whatever brought you to Mount Rushmore, I am sure it is something that you have not yet forgotten. Well neither could author Coury who was determined to share the story of “one little boy who grew up to complete one of America’s greatest monuments.”  I am so glad she did!

The book introduces us to young Lincoln Borglum, son of the renown sculptor Gutzon Borglum, and transports us back to the 1920s into his father’s art studio where he spent much of his childhood. Lincoln preferred sweeping up the studio or modeling for his father over socializing with other children his age. The family moved often for the elder Borglum’s commissions and forging friendships for a shy lad like Lincoln proved a lot less interesting than observing a master sculptor at work. 

When Gutzon Borglum shared with businessmen his idea to carve the faces of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln into a South Dakota mountain, it was welcomed as a terrific venture.  What I did not know was that originally the monument was conceived with only the above mentioned three presidents and that it was President Calvin Coolidge who suggested the addition of Teddy Roosevelt.  I also was very surprised to learn that during the half-completed  carving of Thomas Jefferson it was discovered that the “rock under Jefferson’s face was unstable.”  The entire work had been for naught and had to be demolished and begun all over again.

There are so many other interesting facts that Coury has provided, but rather than go into too much more detail here, suffice it to say that we find out Lincoln eventually chose working alongside his father on the massive monument rather than attending university. The significance of  that choice was major as it was Lincoln, after his father’s death, who would be instrumental in continuing his father’s work and seeing it to fruition. 

While I do not picture 5 year olds reading this book on their own, I do envisage parents, older siblings and librarians happily sharing the story with them. With the publication of Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose we now have a child-friendly vehicle from which to launch into our own impressions of this great monument depicting two Founding Fathers along with two other great presidents and for that alone we can be grateful. Happy Independence Day! 

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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I See London

Pop-Up London by Jennie Maizels is reviewed by Krista Jefferies: 

As the torch is passed to the Mother Country for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, who can resist a book of fun facts about London, especially when it’s a pop-up?  Jennie Maizels’ Pop-Up London ($19.99, Candlewick, ages 5 and up) is suggested for ages 5 and up, but adults will enjoy it just the same as they take a journey along the Thames with their toddlers and teens.  Richard Ferguson’s paper engineering brings London to life. In a few impeccably detailed pages, readers will learn of the Globe, Parliament, and Oxford boat races to traditions, attractions, and England’s famous faces.  Though a bit of care must be taken to keep the pages fresh and intact, readers will enjoy finding tips and trivia that hide under every flap and in every corner of the page. So travel across the pond without leaving home by making tracks to your local bookstore. Pop-Up London offers the best views around and no crowds. Add this to your reading list and I know you and the kids will simply flip for this book while you enjoy the games this summer! 

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A Cat Who Can Bake and Kids Who Love to Eat Cake

Debbie Glade shares her thoughts on this imaginative chapter book.

Mrs. Noodlekugel ($14.99, Candlewick Press, ages 5 and up) is a charming chapter book about a boy and his sister, who discover a tiny house sandwiched between tall buildings behind their apartment. The janitor in their building tells them a nice old lady lives there, though they should not bother her at all. But kids being kids, naturally their curiosity leads them to explore where they are told not to go.

What they discover is a secret garden and a friendly old lady whose house smells like fresh-baked goodies. It is there that Mrs. Noodlekugel introduces the children to a cat who can bake and play the piano, among other things and a few other interesting creatures too. There’s a nice surprise for the children when they tell their parents they have been to the old lady’s house.

Here’s a book that in addition to being very imaginative, also reads like a quirky, yet wholesome adventure every young child would love to have. Who wouldn’t want to be treated to yummy fresh-baked goods while interacting with endearing animals with human characteristics?!  Along with the story are some cute cartoon-like black and white illustrations by Adam Stower. Author Daniel Pinkwater, who has written many popular books, generally bases his characters on people he knows in real life. This leaves us asking the question: Who is the Mrs. Noodlekugel in his life?!

If you read and love this book, you’ll be happy to know the adventures continue in 2013 with Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice.

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Make Time to be a Kid!

Just the title, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister ($16.95, Flashlight Press, ages 5 and up) made me want to read this book. Written by Linda Ravin Lodding, this is a story written as much for parents as it is for kids.

Ernestine is a typical girl, who likes to play like other kids her age. But Ernestine’s parents have so many activities scheduled for her, that there is no time for fun. Between school homework, sculpting class, ballet, tuba, karate and even yodeling and knitting lessons, Ernestine hasn’t a minute of free time.

One afternoon, Ernestine’s tells her nanny that she is going to the park and refuses to go to her planned extracurricular lessons. What do you suppose happens when Ernestine’s yodeling teacher reports to Mr. and Mrs. Buckmeister that their daughter is missing from class?

In this age of overachieving children and over-parenting parents, this book teaches a valuable lesson – that kids are kids, and they need their playtime. In addition to the wonderful storyline, you and your child will love the fabulously creative and colorful illustrations by Suzanne Beaky as much as I do.

If you are the type of parent who over-schedules your children’s activities, this book will make you see things in a new and brighter light. You’ll want to take your child and run through a park, throw a ball or just sit on a blanket and look up at the clouds together. Ernestine Buckmeister teaches you there’s simply no better way to spend your time.

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See London and Get Ready for the Olympics With Candlewick Press

Today’s review, by Rita Zobayan, arrives in time for us all to get psyched for the London 2012 Olympics. 

I spent my childhood in London’s East End borough of Hackney, a working-class community full of blocks of flats, pubs and the vast Victoria Park.  Every so often, my parents would take my sisters and me into “the City,” the heart of London itself. There, we would mingle with the tourists and admire the hundreds of offerings that London bestows.  There was always something new to discover, whether it was a historical landmark, a museum, a park, a stately home or a new borough to explore. London is immense, vibrant and alive. It has something for everyone.  There is good reason, after all, that the father of the modern dictionary, Samuel Johnson noted, “If a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” If you’re one of the lucky ones, you will get to experience the magnificence of London for yourself in July and August when the city plays host to the thirtieth Olympic Games.  If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll be living vicariously and watching the games and the city on television. To help your young ones “explore” a few of London’s most distinct sites, Candlewick Press has two fun books that children will enjoy.

The first is London: A 3D Keepsakeillustrated by Sarah McMenemy, ($8.99, Candlewick, ages 5 and up). Presented in a handy and sturdy cardboard sleeve that is small enough to fit into a day bag, this clever novelty features twelve of London’s most famous sites in an accordion-style 3D pull out. We begin our vicarious tour with an introduction to London, and gamely move on to some of the most historic and cultured landmarks in the city’s vicinity, including Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square.

Each location has a retro-feel illustration reminiscent of children’s books from the 1960s. Although sparsely drawn, the illustrations do not spare important details such as flags, guards, and so on. The pop-up feature adds to the fun. Children will love opening up the book and spreading open its pages. (It spans approximately 5 feet.)  Accompanying each illustration are fun facts and information for each location. For example, who knew that one could purchase an ambulance from possibly the world’s most famous department store, Harrods, or that the London Eye has become the city’s number one tourist attraction? The book also has a neat, little map of inner London that highlights the twelve hot spots, tube (metro) stations and neighboring boroughs.

This book is an enjoyable way for young children to learn more about London. My daughters, ages 3 and 7, both wanted to look at it, albeit for different reasons. My younger daughter greatly enjoyed playing with the pop-up illustrations and looking at the details. My older daughter was interested in the text and in trying to point out the locations on the map. All in all, it was a good time exploring the book with them. When we’re ready to take them to London, they’ll have a reference that’s right for them.

 

Candlewick Press’ second offering is A Walk in London by London native, Salvatore Rubbino ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 5 and up). Over the course of 40 pages, we journey with a young girl and her mother as they tour the sites. We experience the Tower of London, the Bank of England and St. James’s Palace and park to name a few of the stops. Information is woven into the narrative, which is told mostly through the girl’s point of view: “Around the corner, we find the bank’s museum. In the display cases, there’s lots of money! Coins…paper money…and even a bar of gold! Ooooooof! I try to lift it, but I’m not strong enough.” In addition to the narrative, the book is chock full of facts. We learn that the St. Paul’s Cathedral dome weighs about 64,000 tons and that a “whisper against the wall on one side of the dome can be heard 105 feet away on the other.” There are three more facts for this venue alone! In fact, the book is so full of information that a child could almost use this as a reference for a report.

Rubbino’s artwork with muted palette and pen-and-ink style illustrations is reminiscent of famed author-illustrator Miroslav Sasek. They are whimsical cartoonish sketches that young readers will appreciate for their energy. You can almost see Rubbino’s hand freely sketching the city, capturing the details, shapes and movement of the bustling metropolis. Multiple fonts capture the reader’s eye and are playfully placed on the pages to complement the illustrations. For example with the narrative, “There’s a Whispering Gallery inside. We climb around and around and around, until we’re in the dome,” the text is spread around the illustrations of our duo climbing steps. 

A couple of fun bonuses are the River Thames panorama and a game to spot the royal family’s car appearing throughout the book. Opening to four pages, the panorama outlines additional venues and provides more facts about the city in general. Additionally, the inside front and back covers have maps with the featured venues, bridges and main streets of inner London.  Both the panorama and maps give a feel for the vast expanse of the city.

If you’re viewing London from the comfort of your couch, A Walk in London is a great introduction for children old enough to appreciate the information and narrative style

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