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The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

Some Thanksgiving Humor for This Holiday Season

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing cover imageIt’s Thanksgiving, and that means all the family is going to Grandma’s house. Gavin is dressed in his best sweater vest and tie, and ready to be bored. His parents put him in the room with the babysitter, and tell him to wait there until he’s called for dinner.

“Have fun!” Gavin’s dad called.
But Gavin knew it was not going to be fun.
Not fun at all.

In The Great Thanksgiving Escape by author/illustrator Mark Fearing, (Candlewick Press, 2014; $15.99, Ages 3-7), Gavin resigns himself to spending his day with drooling, milk-spilling, block-throwing little kids. But his boredom comes to an end when his cousin, Rhonda, emerges from under the coat pile and coaxes a reluctant Gavin to make a break for the swing-set out back.

“The way I see it, Gav,” she said, “is that sometimes you have to make your own fun.”

There are many obstacles between the two escape artists and their desired goal. Cheek-pinching aunts, zombie-like teenagers, and The Great Wall of Butts (adults standing in front of the football game on T.V.), must all be dodged en route to the swings.

Mark Fearing is no stranger to illustrating picture books. He has several award winners under his belt, including The Book That Eats People, The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, and How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans. He’s even written and illustrated a graphic novel, Earthling!, but this is the first picture book that he has both written and illustrated. I’m guessing, it won’t be his last.

Fearing has captured the spirit of Thanksgiving from a child’s perspective, both physically and emotionally, though there’s plenty of grown-up humor as well. His illustrations, done in pencil and completed digitally, are of adult shoes, hemlines, and grabby hands in a palette of fall colors. The children’s excited faces are seen peeking over the counter tops at baked goods. Their wide-eyed excitement turns to sad eyes of disappointment, when an ill-timed rainstorm almost spoils their fun. Almost. As Gavin says:

“The way I see it, Rhonda, is that sometimes you have to make your own fun.”

This picture book is a good place to start having fun with your young ones this holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!

Click here to download an activity kit.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Puddle Pug by Kim Norman

PUDDLE PUG
Written by Kim Norman
Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi,
is reviewed today
by MaryAnne Locher.

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Puddle Pug written by Kim Norman and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi, Sterling Publishing, 2014.

Percy the pug loves puddles. He enjoys puddles of all shapes and sizes. He has his old favorites, which he loves so much he creates a map so he can remember where they are located. Still, he hasn’t found the perfect puddle. Until…

One day Percy heard splashing on
the other side of the fence.
He peered through, and there it was:

The PERFECT puddle.
It was big. It was brown.
And it was oh so friendly.
Percy couldn’t resist.

Perhaps the puddle was inviting, but not the mama pig who occupied it with her three little piglets.

In Puddle Pug, written by Kim Norman and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi (Sterling Children’s Books, $14.95, Ages 3 and up), Percy, a pug, gets creative and tries to find a way to get on the good side of mama pig and into his perfect puddle. Percy bribes the pig with treats and even tries sneaking into the puddle in disguise, but finds it’s going to take an act of nature to persuade an overprotective sow to let him share her puddle or her piglets, and that’s exactly what happens. After a storm sends pigs scattering in all directions, Percy uses his map to help find Petunia, a teeny, tiny piglet who is lost. Percy not only saves the day, but gets into the good graces of mama pig who finally lets Percy back into the perfect puddle.

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Interior spread from Puddle Pug by Kim Norman with illustrations by Keika Yamaguchi, Sterling Publishing, © 2014.

Norman, the author of several children’s books, combines prose and Seuss-like verse,

Blue puddles,
dew puddles,
thick as turtle
stew puddles.

and creates the perfect rhythm for a good puddle-romping book.

Yamaguchi, a talented Art Center College of Design (Pasadena) graduate and former Disney intern, provides playful illustrations drawn in pencil then digitally painted. Whether you’re a pug person or not, this picture book will leave both you and your little ones wallowing in the joy of friendship and sharing.

Hey pug lovers, did you know you can read more about your favorite dogs at Pugshome.com, a great website for all things pug? And don’t miss their comprehensive article on 7 Reasons Why You Should Own Pugs.

 

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Photograph of pug reading Puddle Pug courtesy of Sterling Publishing, © 2014.

Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears by Corey Rosen Schwartz & Beth Coulton

Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears puts a perfect twist on a beloved fairytale classic,” says reviewer MaryAnne Locher.

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Gold Rocks and the Three Bears by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton with illustrations by Nate Wragg, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.

In Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton with illustrations by Nate Wragg, (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99, Ages 5-8), the story begins with Papa, Mama, and Baby bear who have their own rock-n-roll band, but are in need of a soprano. When they leave their cottage to find one, the story, written in pitch perfect verse, follows the original tale. Goldi Rocks comes knocking on the three bears’ cottage door, only to find it unlocked, empty with some porridge cooling on the table. This is where the story takes a spin faster than a D.J. scratching records. Goldi forgets her hunger when she sees the music studio with Papa Bear’s drums, Mama Bear’s guitar, and Baby Bear’s keyboard, all of which she must try out, making a mess of things as she goes.

Meanwhile, the bears are holding auditions with some other familiar fairytale characters, but none of them quite work out. The bears return home only to find the cottage a terrible mess and Goldi Rocks asleep on Baby Bear’s keyboard.

They stared at the
slumbering blond girl,
and Papa asked,
“Who could she BE?”
He disrupted her dream.
She awoke with a scream-
the pitch was a perfect high C!

The three bears quickly forget about the mess Goldi had made once they hear her fine soprano voice, and ask her to join the band.

Corey Rosen Schwartz is no stranger to the fractured fairytale, her previous success being The Three Ninja Pigs, but forming a duo with co-author Beth Coulton makes for a chart topper! This may be Wragg’s debut picture book, but his background in animating projects including Ratatouille, Toy Story 3, and Puss in Boots give him the chops needed to bring this book to life through his illustrations.

Just as the band’s song,“Too Hot, Too Cold, or Just Right?” is a hit single, I believe this book will be as well.

Peter Panda Melts Down! by Artie Bennett

Peter Panda Melts Down!, by Artie Bennett
with illustrations by John Nez, is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

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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!

Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison

Extraordinary Jane, a new picture book
written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison,
is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

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Extraordinary Jane written and illustrated
by Hannah E. Harrison,
Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin, © 2014.

Kids will fall in love with Jane, a circus dog, and the most adorable and extraordinary character in Harrison’s new picture book, Extraordinary Jane (Dial, $16.99, Ages 3-5). Jane might be a mutt although she reminded me of a little fluffy, white Maltese my family once rescued. But that really doesn’t matter because what Jane definitely is is lovable, precious, friendly and loyal. And while these qualities make her so very special, Jane clearly doesn’t realize these things about herself.

The book opens with a spread of antique-style circus posters, none of which show Jane. From these first illustrations readers know they’re in for a treat with Harrison’s warm, inviting and detailed artwork. Parents will love the opportunity to scour each page for the fine details Harrison’s included so they can point them out to younger children. Older kids may find them on their own. Written with few words, the story is still easily understood and helped along by the circus characters’ many expressions and emotions which say so much.

“She wasn’t graceful like her mother [who rides atop a galloping horse], or mighty like her father.” We see the daddy dog lifting a humongous elephant while Jane struggles to pull a pail of water nearby. Jane has to cover her ears when her daring brothers are blasted out of circus cannons and, fearful of heights, Jane could never attempt to traverse the tightrope like her sisters.

“Jane was just Jane.” And just being Jane meant being loved by all the circus members despite an array of things she was unable to do (and humorously conveyed in Harrison’s illustrations). My favorite image is of Jane looking down from the trapeze as “She tried to find her special talent.” She does not look happy in the least!

Everyone knew what was good about her, especially the Ringmaster and ultimately, Jane.  This ideal read-aloud book is great for story time, bedtime and any time a parent wants to reinforce the message to their child about how they should celebrate themselves. I’m looking forward to Harrison’s next book because if it’s half as good as Extraordinary Jane, it will still be super.

If you enjoy Harrison’s artwork, click here to read our review about another book she illustrated called Just Like You.

Nest by Jorey Hurley

NEST by Jorey Hurley

“Newcomer Hurley lets her bright, clean illustrations do her storytelling … a handsome, disciplined debut.” —-Publishers Weekly

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Nest written and illustrated by Jorey Hurley, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Nest, written and illustrated by Jorey Hurley (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, $16.99, Ages 3-7) is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

Although the view from my window is still a frozen, icy snowscape, yesterday I saw two brown robins flitting in and out of the bare branches on my forsythia bush. Too early, friends! I thought, but I remain hopeful that their appearance means spring will soon arrive.

Nest is the perfect book to lure young readers into noticing and appreciating this first sign of spring, the arrival of the American Robin. Matte, bold illustrations draw us immediately into the life cycle of a robin family from nest to egg to bird. Featuring just one word of text per page allows plenty of time to attend to the action at hand, whether hatch, fly, feast or snuggle.

Hurley reserves the perfect shade of blue for the robins’ egg, which appears only twice in the book but rolls gloriously across the endpapers. The bird family poses against backgrounds of lush green leaves, pale beige daylight, and pink rosy dawn. Rain and snow, sun and moon, and even the wind play significant roles in the ever-changing natural landscape.

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Interior spread from Nest by Jorey Hurley, © Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

The storyline of Nest is scant but familiar; family, home, seasons, and nature. But don’t be lulled by the simplicity of the text – the illustrations in Nest have a powerful pull that will lead you to flip through the book again and again. Poring over the pages reveals subtle textures, dimensions and details that enrich every image.

For readers eager to know more, the author’s note at the end provides interesting supplemental information about the American Robin.

 

 

–   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.

 

 

Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse

In Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse, it seems not all little girls are waiting for their prince to come, says reviewer MaryAnne Locher.

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Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse with illustrations by Randy Cecil, © 2012 Candlewick Press.

The princess in the castle in the picture book, Lovabye Dragon, written by Barbara Joosse with illustrations by Randy Cecil (Candlewick Press $15.99, Ages 3-8) dreams of having a dragon for a friend.

Cecil’s choice of soothing blue, purple, and green oil paint colors and brush-stroke technique are the perfect match for Joosse’s book, reminiscent of Mem Fox’s lyrical prose and poetry blend. Silver tears of loneliness make their way through the castle, across the moat, around the glen and at last reach a bug-eyed sleeping dragon in his cave who has been dreaming of a girl for a friend. The dragon follows the trail of tears, back around the glen, across the moat, and through the castle to at last find his girl.

An unlikely, forever friendship ensues as the dragon chases away the monsters and giants from the little girl’s life and she in turn sings him beautiful lullabies to help him sleep. They know that although they are very different on the outside, they are “exactly the same size in the middle” where it counts. It is refreshing to find a book with an atypical princess (she’s not your usual beauty) flying off on an unusual dragon (he’s protective, not scary).

Now I can’t wait to read this perfect little book to two perfect little girls in my life.

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Interior spread from Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse with illustrations by Randy Cecil, © 2012 Candlewick Press.

NOTE: Though not a new picture book to review (this one’s from 2012), Lovabye Dragon was one that stood out as an exception.

Sparky! by Jenny Offill

Savor the Silly, Slothy Delights of Sparky!

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Sparky! by Jenny Offill with illustrations by Chris Applehans, © 2014 Schwartz & Wade/Random House Books for Young Readers.

Sparky!, written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans (Schwartz & Wade Books, $16.99, Ages 4-8) is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

An earnest young girl asks her mother every day for a month if she can have a pet. Mom finally acquiesces, as long as “it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.” A bit of research in the Animal Encyclopedia leads her to select a sloth, which arrives by Express Mail. Our sweet narrator optimistically names him “Sparky,” finds him a tree home, and attempts to engage him in games like Hide-and-Seek and Kung Fu Fighter.

Sparky! will delight any young reader who has or desires a non-traditional pet. The narrator is a fine role model who exudes patience and acceptance, allowing her new friend to acclimate at his own very, very slow pace. All is well until she endeavors to teach Sparky “countless tricks” to perform in a Trained Sloth Extravaganza. Funny scenes ensue as she implores the be-glittered Sparky to play dead, roll over, and speak.

Appelhans’ warm brown illustrations are both subdued and comical, perfectly capturing the dull but endearing expressions of the sloth on a limited creamy colored background. Splashes of blue-green and gentle red add warm, bright accents in soft detail. Offill’s text is spot-on for the reflective and thoughtful child, expressing a lovely balance between hope, humor and twinges of doubt.

Sparky! is filled with slow sweetness and quirky humor that is appealing and fun. Don’t speed past this story without savoring its silly delights.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

NOTE: This book will be on sale March 11, 2014. In the meantime, kids can begin enjoying some slothy activities by clicking here.

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

 

Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble & Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket by Tatyana Feeney

A Delightful Double Dose of Tatyana Feeney!
Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble & Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket,
both reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

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Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble written and illustrated by Tatyana Feeney, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Tatyana Feeney wows us again with her simple brand of illustrating and storytelling in Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 1-3).

The universal tale of a new baby (or in this case, nine tadpoles) taking all of mommy and daddy’s attention from big brother (or in this instance, Little Frog) will delight older siblings, whether boys or girls.

We all know newborns don’t do much, but require oodles of attention from their parents. So it is when Little Frog suddenly finds himself the big brother to nine tadpoles. They can’t build towers, they can’t play the drums, and they can’t even jump! All they can do is take mommy and daddy’s time away from Little Frog, who is resentful of missing story time and goodnight kisses from his parents.

Then, one day the tadpoles grow into little frogs themselves becoming perfect playmates for their big brother. Little Frog decides having siblings isn’t so bad after all, and that it makes his family better than ever. Little Frog becomes the best big brother and one youngsters can relate to.

A companion book for Feeney’s other works: Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket (see below) and Little Owl’s Orange Scarf, Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble is the perfect book when a new baby is brought into the family.

 

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Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket written and illustrated by Tatyana Feeney, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Here’s a book for all of you parents out there with little ones who have an attachment to a blanket, stuffed animal, or other inanimate object. You are not alone! Who hasn’t tried to sneak a sour smelling “doggie” into the washer? How many times have you heard of the dad cajoling the night janitor to let him into the preschool to retrieve the “bunny” left in a cubby, just so his daughter could go to sleep, or seen the dirty, frayed, and much loved blanket dragging behind a toddler in the grocery store? Tatyana Feeney, author of Little Owl’s Orange Scarf and Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble, has enchanted us again with Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket and captured one of the cutest and at the same time most frustrating, loves of wee ones: the security blanket.

Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $6.99, ages 1-3 ) is released this time as a board book, just perfect for tiny hands to hold. With simple text and illustrations in watercolor and ink, it will be enjoyable for the youngest of “readers.”

Small Bunny and his blue blanket are inseparable. They swing together, play in the sand together, and even paint together. Just as bunnies get dirty and need a bath, so do blankets. At bath time, Small Bunny tries hiding from Mother, but she finds him and his blue blanket. After giving Small Bunny a bath, she insists on washing blue blanket too. Small Bunny counts the minutes until it is done washing and drying, which to him feels like an eternity. Mother is happy with the blanket and says it’s “just like new.” Small Bunny doesn’t like “new” and goes about swinging, painting, and playing with his blue blanket until it’s just the way it was before.

Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden and Illustrated by Renata Liwska

Once Upon a Memory

Keep This Picture Book Close to Your Heart 

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Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden with illustrations by Renata Liwska, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Once Upon a Memory, written by Nina Laden and illustrated by Renata Liwska (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.00; eBook, $9.99, Ages 3-6) is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

I fell head over heels in love with this book from my first glance at the cover – the entire cover – so flip this book over after you have studied the image above. A little bear watches a feather dangling from a squirrel’s fishing pole, thus introducing the book’s first charming line: “Does a feather remember it once was … a bird?”

Gentle rhyming couplets draw the reader through a wondrous, daydreaming journey that touches upon memory as well as natural and philosophical transitions. Although that sounds rather high-falutin, the book is perfectly pitched to young readers as well as the young at heart, pushing at the edges of natural curiosity and whimsy.  “Does a chair remember it once was … a tree?”

The illustrations are soft, lovely and endearing. Liwska’s details carry a tender repeating theme throughout the book, bearing the images from the “before” question to the “after” answer in captivating ways.  Splashes of warm, rusty reds and nutty browns enhance the rich images perfectly sized to reflect the tiny kernel of the initial question on the left page to the broad imagining of its answer on the right.

Are you still curious about the back cover?  Here it has become night, and our friend the little bear is now jotting his thoughts into a journal by the light of a firefly cloud.  What do you suppose he is writing?

Back cover art for Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden with art by Renata Liwska

Back cover art Copyright © 2013 Renata Liwska, Once Upon a Memory written by Nina Laden and illustrated by Renata Liwska, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

This is a quiet, cozy read perfect for the child whose pockets are filled with pebbles, feathers and other curious treasures. It is a lovely poem for little ones who often ask Why? How? and What if? Once Upon a Memory is a wonderful springboard for capturing snippets of childhood musings within the delightful journey of its pages.

– 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.

 

Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go 40th Anniversary

Scarry’s Books Are Back & Good Reads With Ronna’s Got ‘Em!

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go 40th Anniversary Edition

40th Anniversary Edition of Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry, Golden Books, 2014.

The most well-known Richard Scarry’s books including Cars and Trucks and Things That Go (Golden Books, $15.99, ages 3-7), now classics, were first published when I was a teenager. And while I may have missed growing up with his books, my kids fortunately did not. Now I can look forward to the day when I’ll share Richard Scarry’s books with my grandchildren because there’s a timeless quality to the humor in his stories that will entertain generations to come. It’s true some of Scarry’s books have been updated and made more politically correct, but for the most part, characters like Lowly Worm, Huckle Cat, Bunny Rabbit and the Pig Family along with all their antics will help Scarry’s popularity endure.

Did you know that Scarry’s first books were published by Golden Books back in the  ’40s and by the time he died in 1994 he had sold over 100 million copies of his books worldwide in more than 20 languages? No wonder some of his most beloved books are in the Busytown series – he must have been very busy himself writing and illustrating over 150 books! Scarry was even posthumously awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Society of Illustrators in 2012. Now that speaks volumes.

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go is an ideal intro for children fascinated with anything and everything vehicularly related. There are tractors and tow trucks, vans and buses, trucks and cars, cherry pickers and cement mixers, as well as trains, planes and dune buggies. In other words, if it moves it’s in there.  And your kids will want to study every single page not once, but over and over again because Scarry’s packed so much into every illustration.  And if that’s not enough, there’s also tons of activity going on, from log-loading trucks lifting to ditch-diggers digging. Why not build up the suspense for your children and have them watch out, perhaps even try to predict things, because with a Richard Scarry, book you never know what’s going to happen next.

In a nutshell, “The Pigs are going to the beach to have their picnic.” Will they make it there in their broken-down truck while dodging all sorts of wild and crazy obstacles along the way? Then Dingo Dog, who has “knocked down all the parking meters” with his awful driving, will be pursued by Officer Flossy (a fox) who wants to give that rascal a ticket. And don’t forget to remind kids to search for Goldbug, a tiny creature who can be found somewhere in every spread. This is truly transportation at its best!

I don’t know who was more excited to see this 40th Anniversary review copy show up at our house, me or the kids? All I know is my murder mystery will remain on the night table tonight while I get nostalgic and swap my cloak and dagger for some crane and digger!

Eager to explore more of Scarry’s books? There are several more titles now available including Richard Scarry’s Best Bunny Book Ever; Richard Scarry’s Nicky Goes to the Doctor; Richard Scarry’s Pie Rats Ahoy; Richard Scarry’s Best Nursery Tales Ever; and Richard Scarry’s Bunnies.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

 

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson

Peter Rabbit’s Back for Christmas Thanks to Emma Thompson

cover art of The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson with illustrations by Eleanor Taylor, Frederick Warne, 2013.

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Emma Thompson with illustrations by Eleanor Taylor (Frederick Warne & Co., $20, Ages 3-5) arrives just in time for Christmas and is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

Mr. and Mrs McGregor, Peter Rabbit, and Benjamin Bunny appear again in this story inspired by the original tales of Beatrix Potter, but this time a new character, William, appears.

After spoiling their mothers’ attempts at holiday baking, both Benjamin and Peter are sent on errands. They run into their friend, William, a turkey who is foolish enough to believe the special food and treatment he receives from the McGregors is due to his importance. Peter, having lost his father to one of Mrs. McGregor’s pies, and being the good friend he is, decides he must warn William that he is being fattened up for the McGregor’s Christmas dinner. William blanches at the thought, but the three friends, come up with a brilliant idea that leaves the old couple eating nothing but boiled potatoes and winter cabbage on Christmas day. The Rabbit family enjoys a delicious Christmas feast and Mrs. Rabbit even bakes a special barley-cake for William, whose feathers are still too puffed up to fit in the burrow.

I almost forgot I wasn’t reading Miss Potter’s words or enjoying her illustrations, this book was so exquisitely done. Eleanor Taylor’s sprinkling of woodland animals and barnyard critters in all the right places with just the right colors, provides not only beautiful pictures, but an opportunity for story building. This book is certain to ensure a Merry Christmas for all who read it!

If you’re an Emma Thompson fan, click here to read our previous review of her first Peter Rabbit picture book, The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Holiday Gift Guide – Fraidy Zoo by Thyra Heder

Fraidy Zoo by Thyra Heder – a roaring
great read for kids!

A GRWR recommended picture book
for Christmas gift-giving.

 

Cover art from Fraidy Zoo by Thyra Heder, Abrams, 2013.

Cover art from Fraidy Zoo by Thyra Heder, Abrams, 2013.

Fraidy Zoo, by Thyra Heder (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95, Ages 4-8), is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

What would you do, if you were afraid of the zoo?  If you weren’t sure why, then what would you do?  This is an inventive, alphabetized romp through the efforts of a highly creative family trying to help the youngest member get over her fears about visiting the zoo.

Kids will giggle and roar at the clever ink and watercolor illustrations that depict a menagerie from A to Z constructed from ordinary household items. Silly Dad adorns himself with a pink tutu, pink socks, and pink sticky notes to question whether Little T is afraid of flamingoes. Sister suggests that perhaps it is parrots by sporting a green turban, soda can, and terry towel wings. With cardboard, newspaper and miles of tape, the entire family even recreates bigger critters like a rhino, snake and T-Rex.

Fraidy Zoo interior image by Thyra Heder.

Fraidy Zoo (Abrams, 2013) interior illustration by Thyra Heder from The Cardboard Collective, http://thecardboardcollective.com/2013/10/22/cardboard-costume-inspiration-fraidy-zoo/

 

Lively, captivating dialogue moves the story along at just the right pace, while subtle jokes and hints abound.  Even after young readers have guessed all of the animals, they’ll want to re-read the story to find the sweet black and white cat hidden on every page.

A tiny twist at the end will surprise and delight readers, and reinforce the idea that it is easier to face your fears when you rely on the love and support of those around you. Give this charming and witty book as a gift with a few rolls of tape, and Fraidy Zoo fans will enthusiastically recycle your holiday boxes and wrappings into an incredible assortment of creative creatures!

– 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.  Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Forever by Emma Dodd

Forever, by Emma Dodd (Templar/Candlewick Press, $12.99, Ages 2-5) is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

Emma Dodd's FOREVER

Add Forever by Emma Dodd to your holiday gift list! From Templar/Candlewick Press, 2013.

Perfect for reading and snuggling at bedtime, this is a sweet and simple book for parent and child to share and enjoy. In a vast white Arctic wilderness, this engaging bear pair plays, cuddles, swims and sleeps side by side.  The quiet, comforting text assures little bear that his parent will always be there to encourage, reassure, and guide him.  Spare but captivating prose perfectly carries the story forward through the book.

The illustrations are both muted and show-stopping, so lovely that you must pause and appreciate the scale and setting on each page. We see the bears close and cuddling, but also venturing through their snowy home beneath the Northern Lights, under swirling snowflakes, or paddling through a brilliant silver sea. Foil softly enhances the scenes as sparkling stars, moon, snow and water, adding an extra dimension of depth and interest.

Artwork from Forever by Emma Dodd, copyright 2013

Interior artwork from Forever by Emma Dodd, copyright 2013, Templar/Candlewick Press.

The sweet-faced little cub absorbs the calm and steady wisdom of his parent throughout the tale, whether happy, blue, worried or hopeful.  Ending with the enduring promise that (“No matter what may come as we journey on together…know that deep within my heart, I will love you…forever.”) this tale will be a warm and lovely bedtime favorite.

– 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.  Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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