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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.

 

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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

 

 

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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.

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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.”

 

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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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The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins

The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins

The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins with illustrations by David Slonim,
Candlewick Press, 2013.

The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins (Candlewick, $15.99, Ages 3-7) is a quiet book. While there was not a lot of action and adventure in its 32 pages, I found myself drawn in by the promise a father made to his little boy, that this would be the summer they saw a deer.

This beautifully illustrated book, with oil paintings by David Slonim, took me back in time to treasured memories of communing with nature. As our civilization takes over more and more land, our jobs (and electronics) take up more and more of our time, and our children are under so much pressure to succeed at such a young age, an outing in nature allows us to reconnect on a deeper level. There are so many lessons that can’t be learned in school.

Take a hike through The Deer Watch, with a boy and his father. Meet the construction crew who, with their noisy equipment scares, the deer away from the corn the hunters left as bait. Ironically, they are saving them while at the same time pushing them out of their natural habitat.

Interior illustration from The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins with illustrations by David Slonim

Interior illustration from The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins with illustrations by David Slonim, Candlewick Press, 2013.

We see all types of interesting wildlife as we turn the pages, but like the young boy in the book, our goal is to see a deer, and more importantly, to have a promise kept. And, just as the boy’s father doesn’t disappoint, neither shall the book.

I adored this moving story of anticipation and discovery, but would recommend it more for children 4-8 years old. Younger children might get a little squirmy as the boy in the story does when he has to wait quietly to spot a deer. However the reward of father and son sharing this special experience is well worth the wait.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

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