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Pirate’s Lullaby: Mutiny at Bedtime by Marcie Wessels

PIRATE’S LULLABY: MUTINY AT BEDTIME
Written by Marcie Wessels
Illustrated by Tim Bowers
(Doubleday Books for Young Readers; $16.99, Ages 3-7)

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I first heard about Pirate’s Lullaby when Marcie Wessels spoke at a writer’s conference almost a year ago and it’s been worth the wait to get the book knowing all the hard work that went into. So did I enjoy reading Wessels debut picture book, Pirate’s Lullaby: Mutiny at Bedtime? Arrrgh! Can ye hear me, mateys? It’s a keeper alright. Kids love a good pirate tale and with Wessels’ perfectly metered rhyme and illustrator Tim Bowers’ adorable artwork, they’ll be in for a treat.

The story isn’t complicated, but it’s charming and one that so many parents and children will relate to, which is why the subtitle, Mutiny at Bedtime is so apt. Papa Pirate wants his young son, not-so-sleepy Ned, to get to bed, but alas the little scalawag balks at the suggestion.

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Interior Artwork from Pirate’s Lullaby by Marcie Wessels with illustrations by Tim Bowers, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, ©2015.

Bowers portrays Papa Pirate as a kind, smiling man. Wessels gently demonstrates that, despite Ned’s dad being nice, he’s also a limit-setting father, who dearly loves his son and gets a kick out of his stalling antics. Still the laddie must get some shut-eye! Thus the story pits the persistent papa against the procrastinating pirate-in-training in a playful back and forth that never misses a beat.

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Interior Artwork from Pirate’s Lullaby by Marcie Wessels with illustrations by Tim Bowers, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, ©2015.

First Ned has some chores to finish up. Then he can’t locate Captain Teddy, his eye-patched cuddly companion. Could he have fallen overboard?

There’s the requisite request for water followed by a plea for Papa to spin a yarn or two and, last but not least is Ned’s desire for Papa Pirate to sing “a shanty of the oceans vast and deep.” The clever twist at the story’s end will surprise and delight readers young and old.

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Interior Artwork from Pirate’s Lullaby by Marcie Wessels with illustrations by Tim Bowers, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, ©2015.

Of course, Wessels has included all the appropriate pirate verbiage kids love such as:

Ned shimmied up the mainmast, grinning ear to ear.
“Walk the plank to catch me,” cried the little mutineer.
“Ho, ho,” laughed Papa Pirate, “I’m afraid ye’ve met yer match!
Gotcha, little rascal. Down ye go into the hatch!”

                         OR

“Ye’ve got yer mate, ye’ve had a drink,
Ye’ll have yer bedtime tale.
Ye must be getting sleepy.
Ain’t the wind out of yer sail?”

And though Talk Like a Pirate Day is soon approaching, why wait until September 19th to practice your Aye, Ayes, your Batten Down the Hatches and your Yo, Ho Hos? Pirate’s Lullaby just begs to be read aloud with the best pirate voice ye can muster!

It’s hard to resist a well-crafted picture book with artwork that’s warm and inviting coupled with rhyme that’s top notch, so what are ye waitin’ fer, mateys? Add this little gem to your own little pirate’s bedtime book treasure chest so yer both can go catch yer forty winks with satisfied grins on yer faces!

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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Touch The Brightest Star by Christie Matheson

TOUCH THE BRIGHTEST STAR
Written and illustrated by Christie Matheson
(Greenwillow Books; $15.99, Ages 3-6)

Send your children to sleep with a bedtime story that will make them eager to greet the night.

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As little ones know oh so well, nighttime is a magical time. In Touch The Brightest Star, Christie Matheson’s follow up to Tap The Magic Tree, all the wonderful things that happen when the sun sets are joyfully celebrated.

With an invitation to actively participate in the story, youngsters can respond to this tale’s request to first “wave good-bye to the sun’s bright light.” As dusk beautifully blends into darkness in Matheson’s watercolor and collage illustrations, readers are asked to “Gently press the firefly.” Then press once again because this time it’s to “light up the sky.” After blowing a quiet breeze along with a white-tailed deer, your children will experience more magic as they see the direct results of their interaction. Nighttime’s surprises come alive while wishing on a star, tracing the “picture of the dipper” or communicating with an owl, all a prelude to closing eyes and drifting off to dreamland. Best of all, the promise of yet another magical day is but a sweet night’s sleep away.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Feet, Go To Sleep by Barbara Bottner Blog Tour & Giveaway

FEET, GO TO SLEEP
Written by Barbara Bottner
Illustrated by Maggie Smith
(Knopf Books for Young Readers; 16.99, Ages 3-7)

A BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY

 

Feet-go-to-sleep-236x300It’s Day 2 of this terrific picture book blog tour. And for parents who need a way to get their little ones off to the land of nod, we’re guessing the timing couldn’t be better!

“I’m not ready!”
“I keep thinking about today .”
“I don’t feel tired.”

How do you respond to hearing those words at bedtime, especially if you know it’s not procrastination, but more a case of simply not wanting a wonderful day to end? It’s difficult because we all at one time or another have experienced that hyped-up, can’t turn my brain off feeling just like our kids.

Feet, Go to Sleep by Barbara Bottner is the perfect read aloud picture book response to these occasional protestations. But frankly, it’s also a lot more. Reading Feet, Go to Sleep is an original way to teach children a popular relaxation technique (referred to in yesterday’s post as Savasana) for winding down to ensure a speedy visit to dreamland. Along the way, children can practice the process of putting each part of their body to sleep just like Fiona, the book’s main character, while recounting their day’s events either to their parents or to themselves.

It’s no wonder young Fiona can’t easily settle down. Her busy day at the beach with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandma, was packed with family fun and activities. Fiona keeps thinking about it all. First there was the dash to the beach. That involved toes gripping flip-flops. Then came feet. Watch out for splashes as they go “stomping in the waves at the ocean’s edge.”

Toes were easy. They went right to sleep.
“What’s next?” asked Mama.
“Feet, go to sleep!”

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Interior artwork from Feet, Go To Sleep by Barbara Bottner with illustrations by Maggie Smith, Knopf Books for Young Readers, ©2015.

Thoughts of her carefree day continue as she pictures herself building a sand castle, launching a seaweed attack against cousins, munching down some scrumptious picnic lunch, then …

“Shoulders, go to sleep,” said Fiona, giving
them one last roll before they lay still.

Shoulders were for rubbing with sunscreen.

Playing carries on with a beach ball toss, followed by an outdoor shower back at home and then a barbeque at dusk, and bedtime. But can Fiona fall asleep when she’s tuned in to grown up voices chatting outside her open window?

Smith’s spot on illustrations have captured all the action and joy of a sunshiny day at the beach, so much so that you’ll find yourself ready to grab the sun block and join the group. And the blues she uses for her bedtime spreads are soothing and slumber-inducing.

Together Bottner and Smith have got it right with this lovely to look at and delightful to read story. I can’t think of a single over-tired child (or parent) who wouldn’t benefit from the simple steps provided, starting way down with toes, and feet, then moving all the way up the body and ending with …

“Eyes, go to sleep,” whispered Fiona.

If my kids were still young, I’d welcome the chance to introduce this powerful, yet peaceful way of releasing tension from their bodies, that’s cleverly wrapped inside an ebullient beach day bedtime story.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Check out all the great bloggers on this tour to get a variety of perspectives on Feet, Go To Sleep.

5/12 Booktalking #kidlit
5/13 GoodReadsWithRonna
5/14 Wrapped in Foil
5/15 Teaching Authors
5/16 Big Hair and Books
5/18 Frog on a Blog
5/19 Chapter Book Chat
5/20 In Bed With Books
5/21 Shelf-employed

AN EXCLUSIVE GIVEAWAY! See below. Plus, if you follow us on Facebook and let us know in the comments below, we’ll give you an extra entry. An additional comment on our Facebook post for this blog tour gets you yet another entry. Good luck!

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Power Down, Little Robot by Anna Staniszewski

POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT
Written by Anna Staniszewski
Illustrated by Tim Zeltner
(Henry Holt and Company, $16.99, Ages 3-7)

 

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In a pale green, star-filled cosmos, a little red robot is relaxing with snacks and television when his mother announces that it is time for bed. With a reluctant frown, he turns on his stalling program. Little Robot will do anything to avoid powering down! He lingers by the pantry, hoping for a can of oil. Then he dallies at the sink, brushing his cogs at half his normal rate. When he asks Mom Unit to read him a bedtime manual, she chooses the thinnest one on the shelf. She even has the nerve to fast-forward!

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Interior artwork from Power Down, Little Robot by Anna Staniszewski with illustrations by Tim Zeltner, Henry Holt Books ©2015.

 

Parents and kids will relate easily to this tale of bedtime resistance, told with pitch-perfect flair in Anna Staniszewski’s debut picture book. She has charmingly translated every kooky but common human toddler complaint about slumbertime into sweet, humorous robot-ese.

Mom Unit, firm but ever-patient, maintains her slight smile and weary half-lidded eyes as Little Robot moves into stalling phase part two. He needs his favorite toy -a riveted, antennae-sporting teddy. He wants to whisper secrets about the hummingbot. And Mom Unit must not forget to check the closet for rust monsters!

Little Robot resists and resists, but Mom Unit is determined to tuck him into his sleep module so he can power down and recharge for the next day. Can he continue battling bedtime, or will his programmed resistance to the fluffy pillows and soft blankets finally wear down?

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Interior artwork from Power Down, Little Robot by Anna Staniszewski with illustrations by Tim Zeltner, Henry Holt Books ©2015.

 

Illustrator Tim Zeltner depicts an ultra modern, space age robot home with crisp, metallic elements. He balances the stark interiors with soft-eyed, expressive characters that gently gleam. Zeltner’s images are created with acrylic on plywood using unique combinations of stains and glazes. The colorful boy bot and his purple-pink mother pop against the muted backgrounds.

If your young cyborg fights sleepytime with a vast array of ruses and excuses, this is the book for you! POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT will tame toddler tuck-in troubles and delight parents at the same time.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

 

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a promotional copy of POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT from the publisher and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood with illustrations by Hazel Mitchell – Blog Tour

IMANI’S MOON BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY

Today we’re excited to share Cathy Ballou Mealey’s review of Imani’s Moon written by JaNay Brown-Wood along with Ronna Mandel’s Q&A with illustrator Hazel Mitchell. Plus we’ve got a great book giveaway!

Principal’s Award (National Association of Elementary School Principals): Picture Book of the Year

REVIEW: IMANI’S MOON is written by JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell (Charlesbridge/Mackinac Island Press, $17.95, Ages 5-8)

Hazel_Imanis MoonCover high resImani, the smallest child in her African village, has been teased mercilessly by the other children because of her size. Their heartless jabs are just beginning to take a toll on Imani’s self-confidence when her mother tells her the legend of the brave moon deity Olapa. Inspired by a dream in which she stands hand in hand with the lunar goddess, tiny Imani awakens with the desire to do something great, to touch the moon.

In pursuit of her dream, Imani tries to reach the moon by climbing a tall tree, and building herself a giant pair of wings. The village children, even a snake and a chimpanzee, scoff at her valiant but failed attempts to reach the sky. But Imani’s mother still believes in her, offering the tale of Anansi the spider as a soothing and inspirational bedtime story. “A challenge is only impossible until someone accomplishes it,” she reassures her young daughter.

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Interior spread from Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood with illustrations by Hazel Mitchell, Mackinac Island Press/Charlesbridge Publishing, ©2014.

Although discouraged, Imani attends a village celebration featuring the adumu, a special Maasai warrior jumping dance. She is particularly fascinated by one dancer who jumps higher and higher with each beat. Imani wakes the next morning, determined to try jumping her way to the moon. All day and into the night Imani jumps, a little higher each time. Despite her aching legs and throbbing feet, Imani keeps her focus on the moon, resolute on her goal.

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Interior spread from Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood with illustrations by Hazel Mitchell, Mackinac Island Press/Charlesbridge Publishing, ©2014.

Readers will yearn for Imani’s success in the face of her faith and tiny warrior-like endurance, and cheer when her persistence is ultimately rewarded by the moon goddess herself.

Gleaming and triumphant with arms stretched wide, the cover of Imani’s Moon welcomes readers into this magical story touched with mythology, folklore and story-telling traditions. Mitchell’s watercolor illustrations offer sharp contrast between the soft earth tones of the African landscape and the rich, star-studded night skies. Lovely details abound, from cuddly goats to beaded jewelry and colorful shuka robes.

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Interior spread from Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood with illustrations by Hazel Mitchell, Mackinac Island Press/Charlesbridge Publishing, ©2014.

This sweet, inspiring fantasy will rouse young readers to leap for their dreams, and dance, spellbound, until they hold the proverbial moon in their hands.

Don’t miss the charming book trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DS1yRoBITEk

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Medley

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a promotional PDF file copy of Imani’s Moon and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Q&A WITH HAZEL MITCHELL: 

Good Reads With Ronna: Imani is a beautiful person and a wonderful role model. She feels so real. Did you have someone in mind when you drew her?

Hazel Mitchell: Thank you! It’s lovely to know that. I didn’t have a particular child in mind when I began. The text conveyed a strong sense of Imani to me. So that’s where I started. And then I spent a lot of time looking at photos of Maasai children, who are very charming and full of character. So I began to make sketches. I did have a live model, but mostly for positions and expression and not for facial features. But she was a very lively model and I think that came across!

GRWR: The artwork in Imani’s Moon is joyful, even despite the local girls teasing Imani for being small. That’s an impressive accomplishment. What medium do you generally work in? Or, do you approach each picture book as a blank canvas that you’re eager to experiment with?

HM: I am glad the illustrations gave you such a good feeling – I feel I accomplished my task. I do approach each book with an open mind. I let the manuscript, the age group and the subject suggest to me the mood, the characters and what might work with medium. Sometimes an editor/art director tells me that they like something particularly that I have done before and that is the starting point. But mostly I am left to my own devices. I don’t have one set style, so I guess it can be a leap of faith on the publisher’s part sometimes! Having said that, I’m experimenting much more in my work, using more watercolour, collage and mixing in digital techniques. Imani’s world spoke to me of rich colours and textures and dramatic effects, so I had a lot of fun with this book!

GRWR: What tends to be the hardest part of working on a new picture book: Starting it? Trying to capture the author’s vision while remaining true to yourself? Finishing the book, or waiting for the next assignment to roll in?

I personally find the initial roughs the hardest part, but also the most interesting. It’s where the first thoughts of the book come out. It can be frustrating, as the vision is only half formed and sometimes it’s exhausting. The hardest part is trying to keep the freshness that you have in the initial sketches. Once you get to finals, the vision is there and it’s time to have some fun with technique and any little surprises that come along that you didn’t expect. After the book is finished, it’s like you gave birth. Then it incubates, until it finally arrives in book form. Then it’s a love/hate relationship!

GIVEAWAY: Hazel Mitchell has kindly offered one lucky reader a signed copy of Imani’s Moon. Please enter the Rafflecopter below and good luck!

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Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy

What Great Personality You Have!

Very Little Red Riding Hood, the first in a series of three picture books by Teresa Heapy with illustrations by Sue Heap, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, $16.99, Ages 4-8), is quite possibly the most adorable retelling of a classic fairytale.

Very-Little-Red-cvr.gifJust as in the original fairy tale, Very Little Red Riding Hood is going to visit her Grandmama. In this version, Red, a wee toddler, is taking her suitcase and red teddy bear with her for a sleepover. Along the way, Red meets Wolf, but instead of being afraid, she’s excited and gives him a big hug. Heapy chooses her words wisely, and masters the voice and diction of a toddler. Heap’s illustrations show the wide-eyed innocence and playful antics of a child that age.

Red captures the wolf’s heart and wraps him around her very little finger. They pick flowers for Grandmama, but “Foxie” as she calls the wolf, doesn’t get it right.

“NOOO!” screamed Very Little Red Riding Hood.
“Not LELLO flowers. RED!” So they picked some red flowers.

Between carrying her suitcase and the flowers, and playing chasing games all the way to Grandmama’s, Wolf is tired out by the time they arrive. Red is still bubbling over with energy. Grandmama is reluctant to let the wolf into her house, but Red, like many toddlers, manages to get her way again. The wolf comes in for a cup of tea, and stays to play hide-and-seek, to dance, and to draw. Grandmama and Wolf are very tired and want Red to go to sleep. But, Red misses her Mummy, bursts into tears, and can’t be consoled by her Grandmama, who turns to the wolf for help. Wolf gives it a try, and just when you think he’s going to eat Red … well, that wouldn’t be a very good ending for a children’s book especially just before bedtime, now would it? Not as sweet an ending as a good tickle, a lot of laughter, a sleeping toddler, and a happily ever after.

Click here for a Very Little Red Riding Hood Activity Kit

NOTE:  This is the first book in a must-have read-aloud series of three, followed by Very Little Cinderella, and Very Little Sleeping Beauty.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

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Picture Books Back to School Giveaway

Enter our exciting picture books giveaway today!

Out here in California, lots of kids have already returned to school. Others across the country will head back after Labor Day. Either way, parents are looking for new reading material to share with their children and we’ve got a set of three new and soon-to-be-published picture books for you to win courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt & Clarion Books! Scroll down after the reviews for our Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway.

9780544104433_lresNANA IN THE CITY by Lauren Castillo (available in bookstores September 2, 2014) $16.99, Ages 4-8  Now a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book!!

Review: I couldn’t wait to read this book starring a Nana as one of the main characters because I, too, had a Nana and growing up there were no books mentioning Nana (unless you count Nana the big sheepdog in Peter Pan). However, unlike Nana in this story, my Nana did not live in Manhattan (the water towers on top of the buildings along with the subway art shouted the Big Apple to me.)

This picture book’s young narrator goes to stay with his grandmother “at her new apartment in the city.” From the very start, the little lad makes it clear he does not like the city nor the fact that his nana is living there. It may be a busy, loud, and scary place (Castillo’s illustrations depict construction and scaffolding, menacing-looking graffiti and homeless people asking for money) to a child, but to Nana the city is “wonderful – bustling, booming and extraordinary.”

With the help of a knitted red cape, and an eye-opening walk around the neighborhood to see close-up what is really going on, Nana shows her grandson that the city, though busy and loud, is  actually a “perfect place for a nana to live.”

Castillo’s use of primary colors interspersed with blacks and whites conveys the city’s mood and totally complements the text. Whether your child is heading to NYC or any other city for that matter, sharing Nana in the City with them is an ideal way to allay any trepidation they might have about visiting someplace new and different.

9780544233515CREATURE_FEATURES_HICREATURE FEATURES: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page (available in bookstores October 4, 2014) $17.99, Ages 4-8 A Junior Library Guild Selection

Review: Creature Features’ authors and illustrators, Jenkins and Page, have come up with an interesting and fun way to engage readers in this nonfiction picture book about all sorts of animals, from the blobfish to the Egyptian vulture, from the axolotl to the thorny devil. There are so many neat new facts to learn and bright bold artwork to enjoy. By addressing each creature individually  …

Dear red squirrel:

Does that fur on  your ears help you hear better?

children will feel as if the first-animal (can’t really say first-person now can I?!) response is directed to them personally.

No. It’s there to keep my ears warm. It falls off in the summer and grows back in the winter.

There is also a spread in the end pages with a chart showing animal sizes compared to humans, a map with the locations of where the creatures live and what their diet consists of.  Check out www.stevejenkinsbooks.com/creaturefeatures to get details on this delightful book.

9780544164666SMALL BLUE AND THE DEEP DARK NIGHT by Jon Davis (available in bookstores now) $16.99, Ages 4-8

Review: Small Blue, a young rabbit, has an active imagination, especially in the deepest, darkest night. It’s then she’s convinced her bedroom is full of “creepy things” like gremlins, goblins and giant hairy spiders. In other words, all types of characters that are intent on preventing a little bunny from getting a good night’s sleep.

But Big Brown comforts Small Blue by offering up a completely new perspective after turning on the light It’s just as likely there could be delightful doggies riding around in a unicycle convention. Or, maybe a smiley spaceman is hosting “a zero-gravity birthday party.”

I love how Davis has introduced a plausible new paradigm for parents to share with an upset or  frightened child. Kids will be empowered by this picture book. They can choose to be scared of the nighttime, preoccupied by all the sneaky things lurking in the dark, or they can re-envision their room as a realm of positive possibilities; a place where doggies, spacemen and yes, even retired sock-knitting pirates parade about, and by doing so welcome the darkness as one big adventure.  And isn’t thinking that way a great way to greet the night?

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

FLASHLIGHT BY LIZI BOYD
IS REVIEWED
BY RONNA MANDEL

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Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, Chronicle Books, 2014.

Lizi Boyd’s wordless picture book, Flashlight (Chronicle Books, $15.99, Ages 2-6) makes darkness delightful, full of fun creatures to be found by a little boy camping out in the woods.

Just one flashlight shining upwards highlights bats, a surprised looking owl and raccoons all hidden in their normally pitch black homes. Shining downwards and watch out! Some skunks are nearby. Boyd’s artwork of simple grays and whites and a touch of color creates the woodsy environment suddenly brought to life by the beam of the boy’s flashlight. There’s a chalkboard quality about the illustrations that will appeal to all ages. And it wasn’t until I turned to the second enchanting spread that I noticed the clever die cuts revealing new nighttime treasures with every turn of the page.

Without words, and only images to steer the story forward, this book enables parents to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity to make up a narrative or listen as youngsters invent their own tale. Boyd’s sense of humor shines, too, as the woods get more and more full of animals and then the little boy trips, only to have his flashlight picked up by one of the forest creatures, then another and more still. This unexpected yet welcome turn of events is sure to please even the littlest of readers. It will make the next camping trip your family takes a most looked-forward-to adventure.

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Buy this book, add an adorable roaring tiger flashlight or even a mini MagLite, and you’ve got yourself one birthday present that will light up the face of any child that receives it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Turn the Page! by Rachelle Burk

Don’t Turn the Page!, written by Rachelle Burk and illustrated by Julie Downing, is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

 

1. Don't Turn the Page.coverDon’t Turn the Page! (Creston Books, $16.95, Ages 3-6) is a cozy bedtime tale that capitalizes on a universal truth: Children will resist going to bed. Burk and Downing cleverly execute this idea as a book-within-a-book featuring a cuddly hedgehog and a sleepy bear cub.

Although Sami Hedgehog doesn’t want to stop playing with blocks, she is eager to hear just the first page of her new book. Cuddled on the couch, we – the readers – peer over Mama Hedgehog’s shoulder to learn about sleepy Little Bear of Rambling Woods who is getting ready for bed. Although they stop after one page, Sami begins to wonder “How do bears get ready for bed?” so Mama reads on. Inspired by Little Bear, Sami is gently encouraged to follow her own bedtime preparations step by step, page by page.

Burk divides the text into rhythmic rhyme for obedient Little Bear’s nightly routine. Sami’s story is told in prose, punctuated perfectly with her repeated, resistant command, “Don’t turn the page.” Mama Hedgehog is ever patient and reasonable, adapting to Sami’s sleepy pace as the book unfolds.

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Interior spread from Don’t Turn The Page! by Rachelle Burk with illustrations by Julie Downing, Creston Books, ©2014.

9781939547064.039781939547064.03Downing masterfully weaves the two tales seamlessly together through clever illustrations that show clues of the story-in-story on each page in alternating fashion. Different typefaces and thick page borders also reinforce the message about which story is being told and ties it neatly together in the end. The creatures are charming, and the soft colors are rich and muted. A special treat are the book’s endpapers, which echo the animal’s pajamas!

Don’t Turn the Page! is an endearing winner for bedtime reading. There may be no guarantee that kids will ever willingly get ready for bed, but I’m willing to bet that they will ask for this book to be read again and again.

–       Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

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

 

 

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Baby Animal Farm by Karen Blair

Baby Animal Farm by Karen Blair is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

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Baby Animal Farm written and illustrated by Karen Blair, Candlewick Press, 2014.

Come along, and bring a picnic lunch! We’re headed off to the Baby Animal Farm, (Candlewick Press, board book $6.99, Ages 0-3) written and illustrated by Karen Blair. It’s never too early to start developing an appreciation for books, and this one is sure to be a crowd pleaser with its traditional story line and pleasing illustrations done in lithographic crayon and water color.

Blair starts the story on the cover of the book where one of the diverse group of toddlers has unknowingly dropped his teddy bear. What a great time the friends have following in a row like baby ducks, chasing baby chicks and feeding a lamb from a bottle, all before lunchtime. There are no adults shown in this board book, just five independent little ones who settle down for a healthy lunch of fruit, cheese, and what appears to be a rice cake, while watchful puppy looks on from a distance.

After lunch, it’s back to petting and patting the kittens, piglet, and calf, until one youngster discovers he’s lost his teddy. Your little reader will love it when puppy saves the day and shows up with the teddy bear.  It’s fun but tiring playing with all those baby animals and learning all the sounds they make …

Cuddle the kittens.
Mew, mew, mew.

Pat the piglet.
Oink, oink, oink.

Touch the calf.
Moo, moo, moo.

Which is why at the end of the book five sleepy toddlers go Zzz…Zzz…Zzz…

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Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt

Sleepyheads written by Sandra J. Howatt and illustrated by Joyce Wan, (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster, $16.99, Ages 2-6), is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

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Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt with illustrations by Joyce Wan, Beach Lane Books, 2014.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun sets quite late in the summer. I relied on room-darkening blinds and soft music to lull my toddlers to sleep when the sun was still shining. If only I had owned a copy of Sandra Howatt’s delightful, yawn-inducing Sleepyheads about a decade ago!

Howatt’s story begins outdoors under soft moonlight with a delightful assortment of cuddly creatures snoozing in nests, trees, caves and waves. The cozy dozers – bear, duck, rabbit, pig – are relaxed and content. Quiet oozes throughout the soft “S” assonance sprinkled through the rhyming lines. While an owl keeps vigil (This one’s not a sleepyhead – this one slept all day!) we transition inside the house where the cat and dog are sound asleep. There is one last special sleepyhead to be found, where a pillow, bed and blanket await.

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Interior spread from Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt with illustrations by Joyce Wan, Beach Lane Books, ©2014.

Wan’s illustrations are perfectly sweet, soft and soothing. Fuzzy, thick-edged images reinforce the look of deep night sky, with subtle pops of pink, green and brown. The creatures are rounded into large, simple shapes that are just right for little ones learning animal names and homes. The night sky is sprinkled with luminous, glowing stars as tiny fireflies dot pages in a lovely rhythm.

Sleepyheads is just long enough, just soft enough, and just dreamy enough to cause even the most sleep-resistant tots to rub their eyes. Kirkus gave Sleepyheads a starred review, calling it “A superb execution of soporific shapes and sounds perfect for the bedside table.” Perfect for sweet nighttime tuck-ins!

–    Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

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

 

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Even Monsters … by A.J. Smith Virtual Tour & Giveaway

Welcome to the EVEN MONSTERS Virtual Tour & Giveaway courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky!

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Even Monsters … written and illustrated by A.J. Smith, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2014.

Be sure to scroll down to devour every last morsel of our exciting EVEN MONSTERS by A.J. Smith art contest, giveaway, interview & EVEN more!!

MONSTER ART CONTEST: Even the bravest little monsters can be scared of what’s lurking in a closet or under the bed. Author and illustrator A.J. Smith’s family-friendly picture book, Even Monsters (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $16.99, Ages 4-8 ) written and illustrated by A.J. Smith, is perfect for helping children understand that sometimes the things we are afraid of are not scary at all. In fact, they can be quite funny – see Fur of The Loom undies above!! To help kids overcome their fear of the dark and see how silly monsters can be, A.J. invites them to participate in the Monster Art Contest. Children ages 2-9 can send in their best monsters drawings for the chance to have their art animated into their own music video! The best 100 drawings will appear in a special Even Monsters art gallery, and the top 20 drawings will be animated into their own music video. WOW!

http://www.evenmonsters.com/artcontest.html
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PLEASE WATCH THIS TERRIFIC EVEN MONSTERS BOOK TRAILER BEFORE YOU READ OUR INTERVIEW.  Even Monsters Book Trailer

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR A.J. SMITH

Hi AJ! EVEN MONSTERS is ADORABLE and something both my kids would have loved when they were younger.  There’s something to discover on every page meaning kids will want to go back again and again to see if they can find something new. Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 5.43.03 PMGRWR: With that last sentence in mind, did you deliberately include those tiny cute orangey-red, big-eyed creatures for kids to seek out on every page (and perhaps count)?

A.J. SMITH: Certainly I want the story to be fun and engaging in its own right, but yes, the little cooties were added as a way to extend the life of the story by inviting kids to come back for multiple reads and explore the book for cooties. Taking it even a step further, kids can print and play this cootie-counter game: http://www.evenmonsters.com/cootieCounter.pdf

GRWR: I noticed a lot of broken items scattered throughout the book and thought you got into the young monsters’ heads quite well. Were you a monster when you were growing up?

A.J. SMITH: Kids (and monsters) can sometimes be destructive even when intentions are at their best. That said, I was an exceptionally gentle and thoughtful child who never did anything wrong. It’s possible my parents may have their own perspective on the matter, however.

GRWR: What prompted you to take this picture book one step further by introducing the digital element where kids (with help from their parents) can scan the QR codes throughout the book for assorted fun activities?

A.J. SMITH: I like the idea that a children’s book is a toy. Yes, it’s hopefully an eventual gateway to bigger literary endeavors. But in the meantime, a picture book should encourage interactivity and play. QR codes were just one more way for me to help facilitate that, which then brings you to more content online that revolves around Even Monsters. Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 5.52.51 PM GRWRAside from the fact that you’re obviously very talented, what else would you say influenced you to first enter the world of animation and designing?

A.J. SMITH: Thanks for the kind words. I’ve always liked to draw from a young age … Always enjoyed cartoons and books. I could talk all day about specific influences from pop culture to everyday events in childhood. But mostly I just always wanted to create stories and make people laugh. Animation, design, illustration, and writing became the best ways (for me) to make that happen.

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Peter Panda Melts Down! by Artie Bennett

PETER PANDA MELTS DOWN!

Written by Artie Bennett

Illustrated by John Nez

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Peter Panda Melts Down! by Artie Bennett with illustrations
by John Nez, Blue Apple Books, © 2014

Artie Bennett has either done his homework very well or happens to know a little boy just like his main character, Peter Panda, because he’s captured him to a T (for temperamental)! In Bennett’s latest picture book, Peter Panda Melts Down! (Blue Apple Books, $16.99, Ages 2-5), we meet the melt down king, a three-year-old who tends to lose it, so to speak, when he doesn’t get his way.

We’ve all witnessed or personally dealt with children’s temper tantrums, but Peter’s are presented with such finesse as Bennett’s characters are wont to, that the humor is not lost on the parent reader. When Peter sets his sights on a chocolate bar at the supermarket and mama firmly says “No!” young Peter Panda melts “dowwwwnnn!” When he has to leave the playground sooner than he wants …

“Uh-oh.
Here it comes.
Here comes that frown.
Peter Panda melts dowwwwnnn!”

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Interior artwork from Peter Panda Melts Down! by Artie Bennett with illustrations by John Nez, Blue Apple Books, © 2014

Peter Panda’s typical toddler reactions are expected, but funny nonetheless and part of the reason is Bennett’s tight writing and relatable examples, but the other part is because of John Nez’s expressive illustrations. They’re not over the top and they’re not too simple, they’re just right. And despite being such high maintenance, Peter Panda’s precious, too.

Little ones will just love the assortment of situations Peter Panda faces that he just can’t handle. From his dinner time drama to his bath time boo hoos to his bedtime brouhaha, Peter Panda’s melt downs make for entertaining reading. While throughout the day, a very understanding Mama Panda has remained calm and in total control, Peter Panda’s final flexing of his toddler muscles makes Mama Panda melt-down, too! There’s nothing like a good laugh to open the flood gates of discussion and parents will certainly find reading Peter Panda Melts Down! a great way to get the tantrum conversation started … that is unless your child melts dowwwwnnn, too!

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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Add A Book of Babies by Il Sung Na To Any Easter Basket

Meet Baby Animals on The Day They Are Born
With A Book of Babies by Il Sung Na
& reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

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A Book of Babies by Il Sung Na, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Spring is just around the corner. It’s the time when bulbs blossom into flowers, leaves sprout from buds on tree branches, and baby animals are born.

Take a journey around the world with a duck who has just become the father of five noisy ducklings. You’ll see many different animals in this beautifully illustrated picture book, A Book of Babies by Il Sung Na (Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15.99, Ages 0-3) and your little ones will learn that some are hatched, some are not; some have scales, some have fur; there are single births, and multiple births; and daddys sometimes play a bigger role than mommys in raising their young (as in the case of the seahorse), but at the end of the day, all types of babies must go to sleep. Father duck comes home after his adventures and finds that even his noisy ducklings get sleepy.

A Book of Babies is a perfect gift for a new parent, soon-to-be big brother or sister, and would also be a sweet, but healthy addition to any Easter basket. Sparse, but lyrical text, and illustrations done in all the colors of the rainbow, make this the perfect book to hold the attention of even the youngest ‘reader.’

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An Interview with Aaron Becker

PURE IMAGINATION,
An Interview With Aaron Becker

Headshot of Aaron Becker, author and illustrator of JOURNEY, Copyright © 2013 courtesy of Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA., 2013.
Aaron Becker, author and illustrator of JOURNEY, Copyright © 2013 courtesy of Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA., 2013.

Today’s interview with Aaron Becker, author and illustrator of JOURNEY (Candlewick Press, $15.99, Ages 4-8), comes to us courtesy of Hilary Taber and just before the naming of the 2014 Caldecott winner and honors announcement later today.

NOTE: At the time of posting we did not know that JOURNEY was named a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book. Congratulations to Aaron Becker!

Treat yourself and your children to one of 2013’s most talked about picture books, Aaron Becker’s JOURNEY. Though wordless, this colorful tale speaks to its readers in so many different ways, a big part of why JOURNEY will continue to bring immense pleasure to so many for years to come. Find out about Aaron Becker here with Hilary’s insightful interview.

Hilary Taber: Thank you for this interview, and thank you so much for the book as well. It’s gorgeous, so beautifully and wonderfully illustrated. My family has enjoyed it so much.

Aaron Becker: Thank you.

Hilary Taber: Congrats, too, on all the starred reviews! Horn Book Best of 2013, a New York Times Notable Children’s Book, so many accolades for JOURNEY. It must have been so fun to get those, and very affirming.

Aaron Becker: Yeah, it is and has been an amazing response. Like nothing I anticipated or was really imagining.

HT: Was your family delighted?

AB: Well, for sure. Totally, yeah … I mean, that’s something I always wanted to do … a children’s book, and to get to do one is delighting enough. And then people respond to it in ways I wouldn’t have even anticipated. It’s just very exciting.

HT: So, you have always wanted to write a children’s book or illustrate one?

AB: Oh, yeah. When I was a kid I made my own books … I wrote my own stories and drew pictures … it was one of my hobbies. This is my first book and I’m almost forty … there was a career in the middle there. I spent about a decade working as an illustrator on motion pictures.

Cover of JOURNEY by Aaron Becker. Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Becker, from Candlewick Press.
JOURNEY. Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Becker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

HT: Do you feel that your career in movies helped you as a picture book illustrator?

AB: It sure does. Certainly there’s the technical side of just learning the craft of telling stories through pictures. We do that in film and in books. So, there’s just a lot of technical stuff I learned – composition, how to lead the reader’s eye, where you want them to go – but it’s a different craft as well. So, there’s some crossover for sure.

HT: I have some familiarity through my family with film production. I read that you refer to the picture book as having sets in it. Are the main characters like actors?

AB: I know, I caught myself using that word (sets), I noticed that too. It’s how I think, only right now I’m working on the third … there are three Journey books … I do think in terms of film. In some ways I think that if films were easier to make, less capital intensive, and less time intensive, I’d be making short films, not books. The nice thing about a book is that the scope of the project can be taken on by one person … it’s easier for me to be just like, “Okay, I’ll work with an editor – you know, with an agent.”

HT: Do you feel that you had people in your past, family or mentors, or somebody that was very key or crucial to you becoming an illustrator today?

AB: It’s easy for me to think in terms of books I like, but my parents definitely were important. Especially my mom, she was very focused on feeding my interests. She bought me a pad of paper, she bought me markers, and she made sure I had trips to the library to get out my drawing books and stuff.  So, I was encouraged, but I wouldn’t say there was anyone around me doing this kind of work. It was my own interest for sure.

HT: It was your own journey.

AB: Yes, it was absolutely my journey.  I started working on this book just after my daughter was born, and I had lost my job with the film company … I had always wanted to do this children’s book thing, a now or never kind of feeling, all my cards on the table, just a “Hail Mary pass.” It definitely felt like a journey, especially because it took so long for the book to come out. You know, it was about a three year process from inception to publication, which actually isn’t long for a book. It seemed like forever.

Interior spread from JOURNEY. Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Becker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
JOURNEY. Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Becker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
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