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Lucy Cousins’ Latest: PECK, PECK, PECK

In Peck, Peck, Peck no holes are barred!

PECK, PECK, PECK (Candlewick Press, $15.99, ages  2-5 ) by Lucy Cousins, best known for her super popular and successful Maisy series, has written and illustrated an adorable picture you should get, get, get! My 12-year-old son picked it up (it’s hard not to be attracted to the bright yellow cover with actual die-cut holes) and, after reading it, announced, “Very cute! Kids’ll love this.”

Lucy Cousins' Peck, Peck, Peck

This 32-page hardcover book, with its bold graphics and signature bright Cousins’ colors, is so much fun and it’s easy to see how much time was devoted to getting the locations of the holes on every page just right so as not to ruin the next page. The rhyme is simple and catchy that little kids will certainly want to chime in. To start, the little red-headed woodpecker says,

“Today my daddy
Said to me,
“‘It’s time you learned
to peck a tree.'”

And so the pecking begins … first a tree, (with kudos from Dad for a hole superbly pecked) … then onto a fence, a big blue door then into the house for more pecking galore.  The humor is not lost when the little woodpecker practices his newfound skills on an armchair, a teddy bear, and a book called Jane Eyre!! The variety of items that receive holes is hysterical. Nothing seems to have escaped the bird’s beak.

Besides all the rhymes, children will thoroughly enjoy the tons of holes everywhere that they can poke while having one last silly fest before settling down for bed.  Even the story’s little birdie is beat and decides to return to his nest.  Thank goodness that when Daddy plants some goodnight kisses on his little bird’s head, only lots of love and pride, but no holes, accompany them!

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Where’s the bird?

There are hundreds of books about being different and embracing one’s uniqueness. Ironically, A FUNNY LITTLE BIRD (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $15.99, ages 4-8) by graphic artist Jennifer Yerkes about a lonely, invisible bird, truly stands out!


“When he was seen, other birds made fun of him.” So the little bird set out on his own, all the while accumulating various beautiful items found during his journey, items like magnificent feathers and flowers that would certainly get him noticed. Bringing attention to himself, however, proved to be a double-edged sword when this funny little bird was pursued by a fox. Yet in his haste to escape, his so-called treasures were lost.

Then, like the Rainbow Fish before him, the funny little bird realized that all the accoutrements would not lead to happiness. In fact, it was his invisibility that made him special. This wonderful gift he could share with his pals could also keep them safe. So, it turns out, that this funny little bird learned a most valuable lesson that takes many others years to grasp – excessive pride can push potential friends away and to have a friend you must first be a friend.

In 48 pages, Yerkes’s crsip yet sparse artwork manages to be fluid, fresh and fun, a beautiful blend of Jon Klassen meets Lois Ehlert. A Funny Little Bird is truly this year’s must have for self-esteem building! Get a copy at your favorite independent bookstore today.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Out to Sea: An Interview with Sophie Webb, Biologist, Children’s Book Author and Illustrator

Sophie Webb is a scientist and award-winning author and illustrator. She has written three outstanding scientific journals for middle grade readers including: Far from Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage, Looking for Seabirds: Journal from an Alaskan Voyage and My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal. In addition she has penned two field guides: A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and North America and Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast.

After reviewing Far From Shore, Debbie Glade was eager to ask the author about her fascinating work. Good Reads With Ronna is excited that Webb so generously offered her time to share her extraordinary travel, research and writing experiences with us.

Sophie taking photos at sea

Can you tell us how your work as a field biologist and ornithologist inspired you to start writing science books for middle grade readers?

I have loved and drawn wildlife all my life. At Boston University I spent a year in the School of Fine Arts but ended up changing my major, getting a degree in Biology. Post college I began working as a field biologist on various projects, studying birds that took me many places:  the Antarctic, through the neo-tropics, the Galapagos and the Arctic. I really began combining my interest in art and biology by working on field guides of neo-tropical birds.

My first children’s book was My Season with Penguins. When I worked in the Antarctic I kept an illustrated journal on large watercolor paper sheets. After my first season there I showed them to some friends who had kids or were teachers, and they encouraged me to make it into a book for children. So I pursued finding a publisher, (which in my case I really fell into) modified the journal somewhat, and it was published. I enjoyed working on the book. I liked the writing, illustrating and figuring out how to lay it out. My Season with Penguins did quite well, which encouraged me to work on further books associated with field projects I was working on.

Temperate offshore Species A Field Guide to the Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast, University of CA Press

You write in a language that is easy for children to understand, yet you manage to keep from talking down to your readers. Is it difficult to write about science for an audience of middle grade readers?

Generally I write in a fairly uncomplicated way, so it has not been too difficult for me to write for a younger audience. My editor and friends who have children have also been helpful advisors when I get carried away. Their feedback prevents me from imparting too much information and getting bogged down in language that is too complicated or lacks clarity.

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And This Bird Can Read

51thq7kdjel_sl500_aa300_CALVIN CAN’T FLY: THE STORY OF A BOOKWORM BIRDIE ($14.95, Sterling Children’s Books, ages 4-8) written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Keith Bendes is reviewed today by Lindy Michaels, of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

Calvin is a little bird called a Starling. He has seven brothers and sisters and sixty-seven thousand four hundred and thirty-two cousins. Wow! Starlings have big families. But Calvin wasn’t like his other family members. While they did Starling things all day long, like discovering worms and dirt and grass and bugs and ants, Calvin discovered books. And as he learned to read, he dreamt of adventure stories and legends, poetry and even of becoming a great writer, himself, one day.

But while he had his beak buried in a book, all the other Starlings were learning a very important skill… how to fly. While they all practiced swooping and hovering and flying figure eights, high in the sky, Calvin’s mind soared with all the knowledge flying into his brain.

And then, one day, it was time for the Starlings to fly South for the winter… everyone except Calvin, that is, since he had never learned to fly. What happens next is two-fold. One, how a family comes together to help one of their own, and two, how one little Starling’s knowledge, learned from reading books, would save his entire family.

This engaging and satisfying tale will delight little ones and reinforce how important, educational and fun the written word can be.

lindymichaelspic1The very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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