skip to Main Content

Inspired by a True Tale – The Dam by David Almond

THE DAM
Written by David Almond
Illustrated by Levi Pinfold
(Candlewick Studio; $17.99, Ages: 5-9)

Starred Review – Kirkus, Publishers Weekly

 

cover illustration from The Dam by David Almond with art by Levi Pinfold


Poignant words and haunting illustrations tell this tale based on a true story of love, loss, and rebirth in The Dam written by David Almond and illustrated by Levi Pinfold.

“He woke her early. ‘Bring your fiddle,’” a father tells his daughter. Through these sparse words, the book opens with an immediate sense of urgency. A dam under construction will soon flood a valley cherished by Kathryn and her father. Once home to beloved musician friends, this valley will forever “be gone” and “washed away.” Pinfold’s illustrations echo the somber tone in a palette of gray, green, and white. While his “snapshot” pictures highlight samples of the delicate flora and fauna that will be lost, his double page spreads bring a bigger perspective to the vastness of the English countryside—the vastness of the loss and of the task at hand.

 

interior spread by Levi Pinfold from The Dam by David Almond

THE DAM. Text copyright © 2018 by David Almond. Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Levi Pinfold. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

 

“‘Take no notice. There’s no danger,’” Kathryn’s father tells her. Tearing off boards on the abandoned houses they once gathered in to dance and sing, Kathryn’s father asks her to enter the rooms and play her fiddle. I couldn’t help but pause after reading these lines in the book. No danger? Had this story taken place in America, such an area would be visibly marked off with miles of flourescent yellow “CAUTION” tape and multiple “NO TRESPASSING” signs. Though the illustrations in the book show no such signage, it’s quite possible the characters’ presence in the valley was to some degree illegal. Though whatever physical danger there may have been, they faced an even greater one: the danger of the grieving process.

I compare tearing off boards from house to house to tearing off the bandage on a deep wound, acknowledging its pain, and being present with the discomfort. Kathryn plays and “Daddy sing[s],” lifting spirits “gone and … still to come” up and out of the houses and setting them free to become part of the landscape—the earth, the sky, the animals, and people. What a profound mystery of the human spirit, that we can find the safety of healing only by taking the risk to be vulnerable. Father teaches daughter there really is no danger when we grieve fully and wholeheartedly.

 

interior spread from The Dam by David Almond with art by Levi Pinfold

THE DAM. Text copyright © 2018 by David Almond. Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Levi Pinfold. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

 

“The lake is beautiful” the author tells us, reflecting on how Kathryn and her father embrace the new creation. And just as before, Pinfold’s illustrations give us both detailed and wide-angled views of the landscape. Peaceful blues, gentle greens, and flowy whites restore what was once lost. Even the movement of the little fish mimic the dance of the spirits. Though the valley is gone, music continues to be celebrated.

Both multi-award winners, Almond and Pinfold complement each other beautifully. I strongly recommend the book to caregivers and educators alike, especially as an introduction to issues of change and loss for younger elementary-age children and to issues of death and bereavement for older ones.

  • Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

Read a review of another David Almond book here.
Read another review by Armineh here.

100 Bugs! A Counting Book by Kate Narita & Flying Deep by Michelle Cusolito

100 BUGS! A COUNTING BOOK
Written by Kate Narita
Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99, Ages 5-7)

&

FLYING DEEP:
Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible ALVIN
Written by Michelle Cusolito
Illustrated by Nicole Wong
(Charlesbridge Books, $17.99, Ages 5-9)

 

are reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

 

Sharpen your math and science observation skills with two new, detail-packed STEM-rich picture books from debut authors.

100 Bugs: A Counting Book by Kate Narita cover artIn 100 BUGS! A COUNTING BOOK, two young summer explorers aren’t bugged by insects at all. They are on a seek-and-find counting quest from the pond to the field to the forest and everywhere in between. Armed with a butterfly net and magnifying glass, the daring duo discover and count an astonishing variety of interesting insects. Narita employs bouncy repetitive couplets to keep the mathematical and entomological journey moving at a quick pace in increasing sets of ten.

Kaufman’s bright, colorful collage-style art is engaging and cheerful, adeptly including an impressive accumulation of bugs throughout every page. A beautiful array of wildflowers and plants are also featured, complementing the detailed and intricate insects. Kaufman adds lots of birds and animals as well as an enthusiastic dog who follows the children on their adventures. With so much visual interest, young readers will be captivated. Notes at the end provide additional information on the insects and plants, making this a great STEM book selection. 

cover art from Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible ALVINIn FLYING DEEP readers will imagine an underwater journey of exploration with the pilots of ALVIN, a deep-sea submersible. Their mission is to observe and analyze creatures and structures from the depths of the ocean floor, and to collect samples for further research at the surface. Cusolito uses a narrative logbook structure, inviting readers to ponder practical and procedural questions as if they are one of the crew members. What might you eat? How will you breathe? What will you see? Exciting discoveries and the possibility of danger raise the stakes for readers who will soak up this immersive science adventure.

Digital illustrations from Wong enrich this tale with incredible scenes from inside and outside the ALVIN. Realistic details abound, including the amazing variety of sea life and the riveted, technical components of the ALVIN itself. Wong uses light to her advantage, balancing sunlight and ALVIN’s spotlights above and below the ocean surface to focus attention on the stunning discoveries. A glossary, resources for further reading and notes from the author and illustrator round out this unique, informative book.

 

100 BUGS and FLYING DEEP were both recipients of starred reviews from Kirkus!

        • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Read another recent #Epic18 review by Cathy here.

Where obtained: I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Good Reads With Ronna occasionally provides links to shop at Once Upon a Time bookstore with whom we partner monthly to share a Wednesday What We’re Reading post. GRWR blog and its reviewers receive no compensation for any titles sold via this independent bookstore, but we do hope you’ll choose a local option when making your next purchase.

Mira Forecasts the Future Blog Tour

Bruce Springsteen, Superstorms, and Fortune Telling
on the Boardwalk

Inspiration for Mira Forecasts the Future

Guest Post for Good Reads With Ronna

By Kell Andrews

 

Mira Forecasts the Future book cover

 

Brief Summary of Mira Forecasts the Future:
Telling the future is a gift: you either have it, or you don’t. And Mira, daughter of the famous fortune teller Madame Mirabella, just doesn’t. When Madame gazes into the crystal ball, magic swirls. When Mira looks . . . nothing. Then one day Mira gets a pinwheel and a windsock, she finds her own form of “magic” in the science of predicting the weather—and saves the day for everyone! This engaging tale, with a fun touch of science thrown in, helps kids understand that we all have our own special talent.

 

Guest Post:
I’m a Belmartian by marriage, which means I claim the beach town of Belmar, NJ, as a home. During Superstorm Sandy, Belmar’s boardwalk was destroyed, and many homes were damaged or demolished.

My beach town was on my mind when I was looking for a picture book idea, and it combined with a line from a Bruce Springsteen song, “Asbury Park, Fourth of July (Sandy).” “Did you hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.”

Sandy, storms, boardwalks, fortune tellers — they all came together in Mira Forecasts the Future, the story of the daughter of a boardwalk fortune teller who can’t see the future with magic, so she learns to predict the weather with science.

Mira learns about weather, and this book is the story of a girl who saves a surfing contest and the day. It doesn’t take place in the present or in the past, despite Lissy Marlin’s gorgeous Boardwalk Empire inspired ilIustrations, but somewhere in between.

It doesn’t take place in New Jersey — it could be Coney Island, Santa Cruz, or any beach town. Boardwalks and beach towns seem like tourist traps to those visiting, but there are real people who live there. I wanted to capture a warm small-town environment — flavored with salt water taffy and pizza by the slice, soundtracked by calliope music and the crash of waves.

Headshot of author Kell Andrews

Kell Andrews, author of Mira Forecasts the Future.

In Mira Forecasts the Future, I mixed together facts and fiction, and not just about the weather. There was a real Madam Marie, Marie Castello, who told fortunes on the Asbury boards, just as her granddaughter still does. Madam Marie was never arrested, so the fortunes she told must have come true.

There isn’t a real Mira. I hope instead there are a lot of them — kids who learn to use science to learn about nature, forecast the future, avert disaster, and make the world a better place.

Visit Kell Andrews’ website here to find out more about the author, book signings and more.

Visit illustrator Lissy Marlin here.

Get your copy of Mira Forecasts the Future (Sterling Publishing; $14.95, Ages 5-8) at B&N or your local independent bookseller today.

Diana’s White House Garden by Elisa Carbone

 

DIANA’S WHITE HOUSE GARDEN
Written by Elisa Carbone
Illustrated by Jen Hill
(Viking BYR; $17.99, Ages 5-8)

 

Diana's White House Garden book cover

 

Diana’s White House Garden takes place in 1943 when the US is at war. Ten-year-old Diana Hopkins lives in the White House because her father, Harry Hopkins, is President Roosevelt’s chief advisor. When the president announces, “we all need to do our part to win this war,” Diana considers how she can contribute and soon tests her skills as a spy and a city official. Clearly, she’s better at playing with the Roosevelts’ little Scottish terrier, Fala. Next, Diana tries leaving sharp pins in the satin chairs to deter the enemies; it doesn’t have the effect she hoped for.

President Roosevelt decides to ship most of the food grown by US farmers to the soldiers, ensuring they are well fed and strong. He declares that Americans should grow their own food, turning backyards and vacant lots into Victory Gardens, starting with one on the White House lawn. Diana offers to help, excited to begin.

She works with Eleanor Roosevelt and the groundskeeper. Soon the garden sprouts—only to be nibbled down by hungry rabbits. Enlisting Fala does the trick; the dog is able to keep the rabbits out while Diana learns from Mrs. Roosevelt that, “sometimes you just have to start over.”

The story comes to fruition with their first delicious harvest. As Diana and her father dine with the Roosevelts, the reader gains intimate access into a world rarely revealed to the general public. This book successfully conveys the human element at the heart of all meaningful relationships, whether between president and citizen or girl and dog.

Sepia-tone paper perfectly accompanies the lively illustrations which depict well-researched scenes from the 1940s. We travel through this important historical period with Diana, understanding the timelessness of childhood. The opening line says it all, “Diana Hopkins lived in a white house.” An enduring need for community—whether you live in a white house or in the White House—connects this seventy-three-year-old story with families today.

Find educational resources and more about author Elisa Carbone here.
Visit illustrator Jen Hill’s website here.

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com

Co-editor of and writer for SCBWI’s Kite Tales https://SCBWIKiteTales.wordpress.com/

They Just Know: Animal Instincts

THEY JUST KNOW: ANIMAL INSTINCTS
Written by Robin Yardi
Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein
(Arbordale Publishing; $17.95 hardcover, $9.95 paperback, Ages 4-8)

 

They Just Know: Animal Instincts book cover

 

Kids are curious. They wonder about everything they see in nature, especially about living creatures. So if your child has ever asked you how animals know what to do in any given situation, it’s the perfect time to introduce the concepts of instinct and learned behaviors with They Just Know: Animal Instincts, a terrific nonfiction picture book. When those questions start you’ll definitely want to have a copy of this helpful resource on hand not just for your kids but as a refresher for you parents and caregivers

 

They Just Know: Animal Instincts Interior spread of horn shark

Interior artwork from They Just Know: Animal Instincts by Robin Yardi with illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein, Arbordale Publishing ©2015.

 

While gently teaching about instinct versus learned behaviors, life cycles and metamorphosis, the young and their parents, They Just Know shows children that throughout the animal kingdom, all kinds of creatures are growing and changing, learning and succeeding and ultimately making it on their own.

 

They Just Know: Animal Instincts interior spread of ladybugs

Interior artwork from They Just Know: Animal Instincts by Robin Yardi with illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein, Arbordale Publishing ©2015.

 

Just like no one tells a baby when to cry, “no one reminds a caterpillar to eat her leaves, or to make a chrysalis when she’s old enough. Caterpillars just know.” Using this and other excellent animal examples, author Robin Yardi, and illustrator Laurie Allen Klein, introduce us to black swallowtails, horn sharks, king snakes, ladybugs, loggerhead sea turtles and spring peepers. The light-hearted artwork that anthropomorphizes the animals, imagines them in humorous situations preparing and studying for what actually comes naturally. Kids will find these depictions so funny. My favorite is the illustration of the horn shark sitting in his inflatable wading pool, wearing a float which, in all its contrariness, captures the text, “Nobody tells a horn shark to stay in the shallow end until he can swim.”

 

They Just Know: Animal Instincts interior spread of sea turtles

Interior artwork from They Just Know: Animal Instincts by Robin Yardi with illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein, Arbordale Publishing ©2015.

 

The book’s back matter includes four pages of learning activities in a section entitled For Creative Minds and it’s also a great conversation starter for the youngest of readers. Make sure to spend some time reading They Just Know: Animal Instincts before your next visit to the aquarium or zoo and I’m sure some enjoyable and entertaining discussions are bound to happen.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Find author Robin Yardi here.
Find illustrator Laurie Allen Klein here.
Click here for They Just Know teaching activities.
They Just Know is also available in Spanish Paperback, Ebook, and Spanish EBook

 

 

Bringing The Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals

BRINGING THE OUTSIDE IN
Written by Mary McKenna Siddals
Illustrated by Patrice Barton
(Random House BYR; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

 

Bringing The Outside In cover image

 

The essence of childhood play is beautifully conveyed in Mary McKenna Siddals’ sing songy picture book, Bringing the Outside In. In this ode to outdoor pleasures, four pals spend carefree time galavanting in nature and their joy is contagious. Siddals’ rhymes and Barton’s seasonal artwork make every page loads of fun to read aloud and look at any time of year.

 

Interior artwork of children playing outdoors from Bringing The Outside In

Interior spread from Bringing The Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals with illustrations by Patrice Barton, Random House Books for Young Readers ©2016.

 

I must add here that even if there were no lovely, action-filled illustrations by Patrice Barton, you could still imagine the scene easily: kids dashing about with rain jackets and umbrellas, splishing and sploshing to their hearts’ content. Whether in the garden or at the beach, in the rain or in the snow, the children always find something to do outside. Then, when they’re inside, they can delight in the memory of having been together by looking at photos.

 

Interior image of children playing at beach from Bringing The Outside In

Interior spread from Bringing The Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals with illustrations by Patrice Barton, Random House Books for Young Readers ©2016.

 

Siddals has included simple yet catchy repetition to engage the youngest of readers who’ll want to have the story read over and over. Bringing the Outside In is a great book to encourage outdoor play with the promise of wonderful treasures of nature to discover everywhere.

 

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

Ava Dreams of Water for Earth Day 2016

AVA DREAMS OF WATER
Written by Nancy Moss
Illustrated by Sara McCall Ephron
($18.99, Ages 5-8)

 

AN EARTH DAY 2016 GUEST POST

 

Ava_Dreams_of_Water

 

In honor of Earth Day, we’re sharing a guest post by Ava Dreams of Water author, Nancy Moss.

Ava Dreams of Water  began with the image of a boy in the remote Peruvian Amazon village of Yomybato …

Int_art_canoe_Ava_Dreams_of_WaterIn the sixteen years since the publication of A Long Walk to Water, awareness of the global need for clean water has grown, but unfortunately, so has the problem. Ava Dreams of Water strives to introduce younger kids to the issue, along with ideas for how they can help, and the power of friendship and dreams. I was inspired by the work of the non-profit Rainforest Flow, which brings clean water and sanitation systems to the Peruvian Amazon. Its founder, Nancy Santullo, told me about an amazing young boy in Yomybato – where a suspension bridge and slow sand filtration system had been built – who brings people across the local river in his family’s boat. In Ava Dreams of Water, I decided to connect this boy to a child in the United States by having them meet in their dreams. With a dash of magical realism, and the wondrous illustrations by Sara McCall Ephron, the characters of Ava and Juan have a true impact on one another, as I hope the book will have on the reader/pre-reader!

int_art-building_Ava_Dreams_of_WaterClean water is one of the most fundamental needs that humans have. Earth Day gives kids the opportunity to think about what they have, what others might be lacking, and what they can do to help. Clean, healthy drinking water is a resource that no one should take for granted! This is a global issue and, indeed, there’s a growing awareness and urgency regarding the lack of healthy water in some of our American communities as well. Books about the environment, green living, conversation, and the natural world all contribute to young readers’ breath of knowledge and curiosity. Knowing that other children do not have healthy water opens the door to empathy and action.

Ava Dreams of Water is about a real place where children just like themselves have had their lives transformed by the clean water and sanitation systems that been brought to them. Across the world, water is a health, economic, and overall quality of life issue. With a story of imagination, dreams and friendship, Ava Dreams of Water strives to embody the spirit of Earth Day by informing and inspiring a new generation of caretakers of the planet! The ability of children’s books to open minds, explore worlds, and spur creative and constructive imagination is extremely powerful. It’s our hope that Ava Dreams of Water shares the idea that it is possible to change the world for the better, one drop at a time.

int_art_fresh_water_Ava_Dreams_of_WaterA portion of the proceeds from Ava Dreams of Water  goes to Rainforest Flow, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that has brought clean water to villages in the Amazon of Peru since 2003.

About Nancy Moss – Nancy lives in Los Angeles with her twin sons, Gabriel and Elias. She is a former film executive and screenwriter. Learn more about Nancy and Ava Dreams of Water  here.

About Sara McCall Ephron – Sara writes, illustrates, and teaches art in NYC. See more of Sara’s illustrations here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Giveaway to Celebrate 10 Years of Stink Moody

 

HAPPY 10th ANNIVERSARY, STINK MOODY! 
It’s Children’s Book Week and We’re Celebrating.

We’re delighted to get all Stinky with it as the Stink series marks ten years on the scene. And what better way to celebrate Judy Moody’s hilarious and curious younger brother than with a generous giveaway of books courtesy of Candlewick Press! We’ll be following up this giveaway with an in-depth interview with author Megan McDonald so please watch this space.

If you’ve read or heard of the popular Judy Moody series of books by Megan McDonald, then you’ll also be familiar with Judy’s younger brother, Stink. The last decade has seen Stink get his own book series (he’s got more than nine titles now if you count his Stink-O-Pedias) while growing in popularity, so much so that he’s even getting his own celebration from publisher Candlewick Press. The best thing about the Stink series is how McDonald weaves STEM into every plot, whether it’s about the solar system, sharks and guinea pigs or sneaker sniffing, and makes it fun. There are fascinating facts along with Reynolds’ funny cartoons included in every book so children learn while laughing. Sure to pull in reluctant readers, these chapter books are filled with just the right amount of illustrations, Stink-y humor, and lovable characters to keep kids coming back for more.

SharkSleepovercvr.jpgIn honor of this super sniffer, letter S loving “spotlight stealer,” we’re singing Stink’s praises and giving away three books including a brand new illustrated first chapter book and two new paperback releases. All books are perfect for adding to your child’s collection or for giving away to a fun-loving fan or school library.

Stink and the Shark Sleepover by Megan McDonald with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick; $4.99, Ages 6-9)

When a first chapter is called There Will Be Sharks you just have to read on! The Moodys have won an overnight trip to the aquarium and everyone’s going to be there including Stink’s best buddy Webster, that oh-so-annoying classmate, Riley Rottenberger, and sharks, lots of ’em. But there’s just one catch, after an evening full of activities, Stink’s heard a scary story about Bloody Mary and he’s creeped out so much that he can’t fall asleep. A ghostly red glow and mysterious noise coming from a door nearby doesn’t help matters. Stink might have to pull a prank, or two, because Judy is sleeping a little too peacefully in the presence of sharks.

Click here to read a sample chapter.
Click here to download an activity kit.
Click here for a teacher’s guide.

MasterofDisastercvr.jpgJudy Moody and Friends: Stink Moody in Master of Disaster by Megan McDonald with illustrations by Erwin Madrid (Candlewick; $12.99, Ages 4-6)
Geared for “newly independent readers,” the Judy Moody and Friends series will breed a whole new flock of Judy and Stink fans. There are just a few chapters, large print, colorful illustrations and an engaging storyline. As this story begins, Judy and Stink are sleeping out in the backyard in the hopes of seeing comet P/2015OZ4, also known as the Sherman-Holm comet. Or in Stink’s case, the Sherlock-Holmes comet. The space theme is carried through when Stink, convinced that a giant asteroid is speeding toward Earth, decides to build an asteroid-proof bunker in the basement, transforming into Asteroid Boy to save the day.

0763672181.int.2

Interior artwork from Stink Moody in Master of Disaster by Megan McDonald with illustrations by Erwin Madrid, Candlewick Press ©2015.

TheBigBadBlackoutcvr.jpgJudy Moody & Stink: The Big Bad Blackout by Megan McDonald with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick; $6.99, Ages 6-9)

With its cool glow-in-the-dark title on the cover, this paperback edition of Judy Moody & Stink: The Big Bad Blackout is certain to entice some nighttime reading under the covers by flashlight. A big storm, a blackout and time off from school – what could get more exciting than that? Add Grandma Lou visiting with a host of her pets to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for fun family time together. And some great stories to boot. Speaking of boots, Judy and Stink are going to be needing them with the amount of rain that’s in store.  But there are double rainbows at the end plus tips on what things kids can do during a blackout (reading books by candlelight, flashlight or headlamp is one of ’em) making this book a must-have for any home library.

 

 

TheBigBadBlackout.int.3

Interior artwork from Judy Moody & Stink: The Big Bad Blackout by Megan McDonald with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds, Candlewick Press ©2015.

Visit www.stinkmoody.com to learn more about the character and his super series of books.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

GIVEAWAY BONUS: Follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/goodreadswithronna, then let us know and we’ll give you an extra two entries in the giveaway! Valid, too, if you’re already a fan. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor

HOOT OWL: MASTER OF DISGUISE

Written by Sean Taylor

Illustrated by Jean Jullien

(Candlewick Press; $15.99, Ages 3-7)

 

Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

Hoot-Owl-cvr.jpgI love larger-than-life characters who never let defeat get in their way. I think of Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther series; there’s also the self-proclaimed genius Wile E. Coyote whose only success is consistently failing to catch his adversary. No matter how many times they fail or get rejected, these characters’ shameless ineptitude has us laughing clearly at, not with, them.

Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise uses this larger-than-life character trait in the loveable Hoot Owl who invites us to laugh right along with him. Hoot Owl’s flair for overly dramatizing his predatory skills consistently botches his ability to catch any real dinner. Even before the dedication page, we feel the suspenseful tone build up in the warning posted on page 1:  “Watch out!  I am Hoot Owl!  I am hungry. And here I come!” In his first picture book for children, Jullien, of course, eases the hearts of even the youngest reader. Hoot Owl’s egg shaped head and wide eyes peeking from the bottom corner of the page assure us no animals (illustrated or otherwise) were harmed in the making of this book.

Especially appealing in this character driven story are the similes Hoot Owl uses to describe his supposed deftness at flying through the “darkness of midnight…as quick as a shooting star…like a wolf in the air…like a knife.”  On his first attempt to catch dinner, Hoot Owl boasts of the “sharp beak” that will soon “gobbl[e] that rabbit up!” But Hoot Owl isn’t just any old owl; he is an owl of great mental prowess too. Before he closes in for the kill, he states:  “Everyone knows owls are wise. But as well as being wise, I am a master of disguise.” And so our hero disguises himself as a (not-so-convincing) carrot. The bunny’s calm smile confirms our suspicions that Hoot Owl is more likely to win an Academy Award for Best Performance Before Dinnertime than to actually catch anything to eat.  The adorably bespectacled “juicy little lamb” and mellow “trembling” pigeon are next on our predator’s supposed hit list, highlighting once more the comic disconnect between Taylor’s sensational diction and Jullien’s heartwarming illustrations.

Hoot-Owl.int1.jpg

HOOT OWL: MASTER OF DISGUISE Written by Sean Taylor and Illustrated by Jean Jullien, Candlewick Press ©2015.

That Hoot Owl shares with us he’s in on this comedy, too, is what I find most endearing about his character.  “The shadowy night stretches away forever, as black as burnt toast,” he says using a simile so forced you know deep down he’s laughing at his own incompetence. Adults and children will be pleased and surprised at the dinner our hero finally does  catch—then back again into the “enormousness of the night” Hoot Owl glides stealthily, warning us of his return….which readers of all ages will, without a doubt, impatiently await.

 

 

 

– Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

 

Garden-Themed Books for Spring: Lola Plants a Garden & In Mary’s Garden

Lola Plants a Garden
Written by Anna McQuinn and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
(Charlesbridge; $15.95, Ages 2-5)

In Mary’s Garden
By Tina and Carson Kugler
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $16.99, Ages 5-9)

Spring is only a few short weeks away, and most of the country can’t wait to thaw out. In anticipation of sunshine and warmer temperatures, here are two picture books about different types of gardens.

Lola-Plants-Garden-cvr.jpgIn Lola Plants a Garden, young Lola is inspired to plant a garden after reading the “Mary, Mary, quite contrary” poem. First, she conducts her research with books from the library. Next, she and Mommy make a list of Lola’s favorite flowers. Then they’re off to buy seeds and carefully follow the instructions on the seed packets. But growing a garden doesn’t happen quickly, and Lola has to wait. Not to worry, as Lola and her parents have plenty of ways to keep busy.

Lola makes her own flower book…She finds shells and some old beads. She even makes a little Mary Mary. Daddy helps Lola hang her shiny bells. Lola finds Mary Mary a special spot. It’s just perfect. And, before Lola knows it, her flowers grow and her friends visit. They share the crunchy peas and sweet strawberries…What kind of garden will Lola plant next?

Int-Lola-Garden.jpg

Interior artwork from Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn with illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw, Charlesbridge Publishing ©2014

This sweet book highlights the fun of getting back to nature and teaches the virtues of hard work and patience. Good things come to those who wait, and Lola must wait for her flowers to sprout and grow. With the help of her parents, Lola doesn’t dwell on the waiting and enjoys her time with related activities. I just adore the illustrations. They are bright with the little details that convey so much meaning. We know Lola is working hard on her flower book when we see her tongue stick out from the corner of her mouth. And pulling weeds isn’t easy as we can tell from Lola wiping her brow. I especially liked seeing how Mommy and Lola lean into each other as they make cupcakes. These touches are the illustrator’s mastery. The font is also spot on with just the right size and style (modern with clean lines) to help emerging readers identify letters and words.

 

InMarysGarden-cvr.jpgIn Marys’ Garden brings to life a true story of art and inspiration. Mary Nohl was a little girl in Wisconsin who loved to create, invent, and build things. Mary tried woodworking. She helped her father build a house on the shore of Lake Michigan. She won the first place prize in her industrial arts class for building a model airplane. This was unusual for the time, as girls were supposed to follow traditional paths. In fact, Mary was one of only two girls in the class. But Mary had an intrepid spirit and a keen eye for art. As she grew older, she traveled the world and drew inspiration from everywhere. One summer, her dogs, Sassafras and Basil, found driftwood on the lakeshore. Mary then began to hunt for more items—old keys, shiny rocks, feathers, cogs, combs, and on. She began to create. It took a long time to put together all the odds and ends and bits and bobs, but finally Mary was done. The creature was magnificent. She continued to create art piece after art piece in her garden and then in her home. After her death, Mary’s art is being preserved.

My daughters and I greatly enjoy this story. It shows a woman who follows her own path and mind. Despite society’s conventions, Mary Nohl kept true to herself and her muse. These are lofty concepts, but even young children can understand the idea that a person can do what she loves. Older children will hopefully take away the lesson that gender shouldn’t stop someone from achieving milestones and following a dream. The book ends with factual information and photographs of Mary and her garden.

The book’s art is traditional watercolor with digital painting, collage and vintage papers. Postcards, patterns, and writing are used as backgrounds for the main illustrations and offer a look at Mary’s creativity. The “creatures” (statues and creations) are unconventional but fun to study. They demonstrate Mary’s incredible imagination. There’s a lot to take away from In Mary’s Garden—creativity, inspiration, challenging society’s norms, being true to yourself—and it’s well worth the read.

NOTE: If you live in L.A., you can see Tina and Carson Kugler at Once Upon a Time Bookstore at 11a.m. on March 28th.

Here’s a book trailer to enjoy, too.

Throwback Thursday: Olinguito Speaks Up/Olinguito alzo la voz by Cecilia Velástegui

Olinguito Speaks Up/Olinguito alzo la voz by Cecilia Velástegui
with illustrations by Jade Fang 
(Libros Publishing, 2013, $19.99, Recommended for ages 4 and up)

Olinguito-Speaks-Up-cvr.jpgThe recent discovery of the Olinguito, a new species of mammal resembling “…a cross between a cat and a furry teddy bear …” prompted Ecuadorian author Cecilia Velástegui to write a contemporary children’s fable about respect for others and for the world’s wildlife.

Shy Olinguito helps forgetful Tómas, an ancient Galapagos tortoise, recall how he ended up far from his native island and in Ecuador’s cloud forest. Due to Tómas’ memory loss and confusion, the other animals think his stories are “tall tales” and tease him. Olinguito finds the other animals treatment of Tómas disrespectful and sets out to help Tómas prove the truthfulness of his stories. With Olinguito’s support, Tómas reveals the twists and turns that took him from his island home to the cloud forest.

While the story focuses on its moral: “honor our elders and cherish our wildlife,” Velástegui uses the fable to gently point out the threats to the diverse wildlife referred to in her story. Through the long-lived and widely traveled Tómas, Velástegui hints at mankind’s devastating impact on the nature. In his narrative, Tómas refers to several “friends” who are now “gone” or “rarely seen” such as the Pinta Island (Galapagos) Tortoises, the Galapagos Petrel, and the cloud forest’s Harlequin Frogs.

Despite the dismay readers will experience over the loss of the many and striking species, the book ends on some positive notes: Olinguito shows young readers the importance of respect for others and the natural world and of standing up for friends who are being bullied or teased. Again, through Tómas, children will learn that some species, such as the Galapagos Pink Land Iguanas, are thriving and that other new species, such as the Galapagos deep sea catshark have been discovered.

Additional front and end material includes a brief note on the discovery of the olinguito, a “Facts/Datos” page, a colorful map of South America dotted with cheerful symbols marking significant cultural, historic, and wildlife locations, and photos of an olinguito and a giant tortoise.

As the book is bilingual, the layout consists mostly of two page spreads. On the left are the English and Spanish versions of the story. The right side features an accompanying illustration. Occasionally, illustrator Fang takes advantage of the expanse of the two page spread to create an illustration that floats across both pages. The illustrations contribute to the story, realistically capturing characteristics of the animals in the misty and diffused light of the cloud forest.

Primarily a fable, use this picture book with younger children as bibliotherapy for social and/or emotional issues around respect, aging, friendship, teasing and bullying. This book could be used with older children to introduce them to South American geography and ecosystems, threatened or extinct or new animal species, and the effects of exploration, colonialism, and development on the natural world and indigenous people. Needless to say it could also be used with children as a springboard for writing their own fables.

Visit the Olinguito Speaks Up website for more author info, facts, and a book trailer.

The author won First Place in Adventure Fiction at the International Latino Book Awards for her adult novel Missing in Machu Picchu.

– Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

FLASHLIGHT BY LIZI BOYD
IS REVIEWED
BY RONNA MANDEL

Flashlight-cvr.jpg

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.

9781452118949.PT03

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.

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview With Susan Lendroth, Author of Old Manhattan Has Some Farms

OLD MANHATTAN HAS SOME FARMS

95729Local L.A. Author, Susan Lendroth, Shares Her Insights About Neighborhood Gardens in a Clever Play on the Beloved Children’s Song.

– A Junior Library Guild Selection

Lendroth’s new read aloud, sing aloud picture book, Old Manhattan Has Some Farms, (Charlesbridge, $16.95, Ages 3-7) is a clever way to introduce urban farming to youngsters while also encouraging interaction with the enjoyable and catchy E-I-E-I-Grow! refrain. The places highlighted in the story are (Manhattan) New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Toronto, Seattle, and The White House in D.C. Little ones will get a brief tour of North America while learning all the different ways to grow food in lots of different locales.

Whether you’ve got a windowsill or a rooftop, Lendroth’s included a variety of garden venues that should make getting started a looked-forward-to adventure. Illustrator Endle’s bold, primary colored art is cheerful and warm like the sunshine, but she even makes a rainy Seattle inviting with swirls of clouds against a lavender sky. Best of all, Lendroth’s included in the end pages what she calls Green Matters with more info on all the ins and outs of urban gardening such as beekeeping, hydroponics and worms. There are links to additional resources and a free song, too, from Caspar Babypants.

Good Reads With Ronna: Old Manhattan is quite different from your other books. When did the seed of this story begin germinating?

Susan Lendroth: Thanks for asking that question, Ronna; I really hadn’t thought about it before now. The truth is that my books — published and unpublished — are all over the map, but yes, the first four that were published all dealt with the past in one way or another, while Old Manhattan Has Some Farms is definitely current. The rhyme just popped into my head when I read an article about a rooftop garden in New York and sort of hummed to myself, Old Manhattan Has a Farm … It’s a bad habit of mine, singing and/or rhyming without warning. I have fought my tendency to write in rhyme because the market for rhyming books is smaller than for picture books in prose. However, sometimes, a rhyme just breaks free, and there is no corralling it.

GRWR: Why do you think the public is experiencing a renewed interest in urban farming and is this a passing trend or here to stay?

Author Photo

Susan Lendroth, author of Old Manhattan Has Some Farms, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2014.

SL: Unless we find a more efficient way to clean the air than plants do as a by-product of photosynthesis, I hope making our cities greener is now the norm rather than the exception. Throughout human history until the last 100-150 years, it was commonplace for householders and market gardeners to grow produce in urban areas. Before the advent of fast transportation and refrigeration, it was the only way to put fresh fruits and vegetables on the table. We moved away from that system when it became possible to mass produce food and truck it in. However, another product of our fast-paced age, the internet, has made accessible a great deal of information about the harmful effects of certain pesticides, and people are concerned about the source of the foods that they are eating. Buying from reputable local growers and growing their own foods gives consumers more control. I like to think that our last 100 years of totally separating food sources from consumers was the aberration rather than the norm, but I can’t predict the future.

GRWR: The farm to table movement is something I’ve noted in more restaurants of late. To what do you attribute this?

SL: Fresher produce tastes better. Restaurant patrons can visit farmers markets just like chefs do so they are becoming more savvy about what is available and more discerning about what they want to eat.

OldManhattan_Spread1_300website

Interior spread from Old Mahattan Has Some Farms by Susan Lendroth with illustrations by Kate Endle, Charlebridge Publishing, 2014.

GRWR: I just visited Manhattan where The High Line on the West Side was attracting scores of visitors who want to be surrounded by nature. There’s something similar in Paris, too. Do you think this is the next phase in cities around the world?

SL: Oh, I hope so. As cities and their satellite suburbs cover larger and larger stretches of land, it pushes the “countryside” further away. No one should have to commute an hour or two to find a shady nook. And the green spaces are also the cities’ lungs, helping to clean the air and lower the temperatures.

GRWR: Old Manhattan Has Some Farms is a great idea to get kids excited about growing fruit, vegetables, herbs, and getting honey from beekeeping. Did you grow up in a city and do this as a child? And if not, do you do it now with your daughter? 

Daughter with container gardenSL: I grew up in a suburb of L.A. where we had a nice-sized backyard. My parents planted a few veggies for us to tend as children, but Mom was more into roses than radishes. I do remember corn and tomatoes, but unfortunately, recall a bumper crop of tomato worms more than our harvest. My daughter and I live in an apartment with a private patio, but it’s shaded for most of the day which means that while tropical plants thrive there, when it comes to sun-loving produce — not-so-much. When my daughter was three-years-old, we planted a few seeds in containers lined up against a sunny wall in the carport. I don’t know if the bees failed to find and pollinate the blossoms or (more likely) the pots were far too small for the plants, but we raised lots of leaves and one watermelon the size of a walnut. Now I stick to herbs on the windowsill. Basil is hearty enough to survive even my poor gardening abilities.

GRWR: You’re so knowledgeable on the subject of sustainable gardening and even include great resources in the back matter of the book. How can parents, schools and even our government encourage more Americans to go green?

SL: Many organizations exist with just that mission. There are foundations dedicated to promoting gardens in schools, neighborhood groups reclaiming city lots for community gardens, architects devoted to designing green buildings, etc. I think anyone interested in any aspect of urban agriculture will be able to find like-minded individuals in their own community with a quick search on the internet. The best encouragement we can all give is to support the movement with our efforts and our funding:

– buy food from co-ops, farmers markets and supermarkets that promote locally grown and organic crops
– make donations to community organizations that reclaim lots, plant school gardens, etc.
donate books, DVDs and other materials about urban greening to local schools
– buy a few potted herbs at the market and let your children tend a windowsill garden, and then cook with them — sprinkle basil on pizzas, dill in a salad, etc. Let everyone taste how fresh makes foods pop.

Atlanta Page

Interior spread from Old Manhattan Has Some Farms by Susan Lendroth with illustrations by Kate Endle, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2014.

GRWR: What else would you have liked to have included in the book that space simply did not permit?

SL: Actually, this is one of the first times I wrote a book where I didn’t feel constrained by the word count. One of the benefits of rhyme is that it serves as a kind of shorthand where much is packed into a few words. Plus, I was allowed a section for back matter to explain concepts further so I was satisfied. However, I am sure that there are many elements other people may have wanted me to include, such as backyard chicken coops or cities of different syllable counts, like Portland or Dallas, that just didn’t fit my rhyme pattern.

GRWR: In your opinion, which city or state is doing the best job of promoting urban farming?

SL: I have no way of ranking the efforts. What I do find amazing is how many of them are taking place, from city officials greening up rooftops to municipal codes being changed to allow beekeeping to an edible garden being installed at AT&T Park, the baseball stadium of the San Francisco Giants. Whether a city or state’s efforts is large or small, the fact that any effort is being made should be applauded. I’ll leave the measurement of those efforts to someone else.

GRWR: Can you tell us about the free song by Caspar Babypants readers can get with your picture book?

SL: The amazingly talented Kate Endle, who illustrated Old Manhattan Has Some Farms, is married to the equally talented musician, Christopher Ballew, A.K.A Caspar Babypants. He volunteered to record the book’s text as a song. I’m tempted at readings to just whip that out and play it for the audience while I turn the pages, but in the interests of being more interactive, I gamely sing book with my less-than-professional voice. And audiences are great about singing the refrain with me: E – I- E – I – Grow!

GRWR: Is there anything else you’d like to add before we all head off to buy some seeds?

SL: How about a healthy tip? Right now is a great season to buy organic grapes. My favorites are the black seedless. Pluck them off the bunch, wash them and let them dry on a baking sheet or paper towels spread out on a table. Once they are dry, bag the now clean, ready-to-eat grapes and freeze them. They are the most terrific snack. My daughter says they’re better than ice cream. And they will last long beyond grape season.

Thanks, Susan for this enlightening interview. You can find Susan on Facebook or at her website here: www.postwhistle.com

Pocket Piggies Numbers! & Pocket Piggies Colors!

Pocket Piggies are back
in a new line of board books from Workman Publishing.

What’s cuter than one pocket piggy? Two pocket piggies – in a teacup!

9780761179795.jpg

Pocket Piggies Numbers! with photographs by Richard Austin, Workman Publishing, 2014.

The Teacup Pigs of Pennywell Farm are back, this time starring in a new 22-page board book line perfect for tiny hands to hold. The simple language accompanied by Richard Austin’s adorable photographs will have your child “reading” in 1, 2, 3!

4 pocket piggies with a pup

5 pocket piggies in a row

6 pocket piggies in the snow

Counting from 1 to 10 is fun in Pocket Piggies Numbers! (Workman Publishing, $5.95, Ages 0-3) and the book is such a quick read, parents will love reading it again and again.

9780761179801.jpg

Pocket Piggies Colors! with photographs by Richard Austin, Workman Publishing, 2014.

Pocket Piggies Colors! (Workman Publishing, $5.95, Ages 0-3) with photos by Richard Austin is the perfect companion book for Pocket Piggy Numbers! With only two words on a page, this book will hold the youngest child’s attention and have them reading right along.

Brown Dog

Orange Flowers

Purple Car

I don’t know how Austin managed to get the pocket piggie to hold a miniature red guitar, or push a baby buggy, but it’s easy to see why children and parents alike cannot resist the Teacup Pigs of Pennywell Farm. Now that’s something to oink about!

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher

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

9780385752909.jpg

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.’

Back To Top
%d bloggers like this: