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A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream by Kristy Dempsey

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream (Philomel Books, 2014; $16.99 Ages 5-8), by Kristy Dempsey and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

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Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream written by Kristy Dempsey with illustrations by Floyd Cooper, Philomel, 2014

Inspired by the story of Janet Collins, the first African-American ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream is a story of high hopes and grand dreams. Told from the point of view of a young African-American girl in 1950s Harlem, the story encompasses her wish to become a ballerina set against the realities of racial prejudice and poverty. Even though our young heroine has practically grown up at the ballet school and has accomplished the movements, she is concerned that she will be held back by societal barriers. Could a colored girl like me ever become a prima ballerina? Mama says hoping is hard work. Mama unpins the extra wash she’s taken on to make ends meet…If there’s one thing Mama knows, it’s hard work. Mama works all day long every day, and most times on into the night, for the ballet school.

Hopes are raised when Janet Collins’ performance is featured in the newspaper. The young girl and her mother go to the opera and watch as Ms. Collins takes the stage, and suddenly the girl’s heart jumps up from where I’m sitting, soaring, dancing, opening wide with the swell of music. In my heart I’m the one leaping across that stage, raising myself high on those shoulders. When she and her mother head home, the girl knows that there is no need to waste my wishes. I’ve got dreams coming true.

The art work is a perfect match for the story, seeming almost ethereal, as if the viewer is watching from beyond, back in time. The muted colors give a feel for the setting, with the factories spilling out pillars of smoke.

To be completely honest, this book brought tears to my eyes. It is a wonderful tale of courage, perseverance, and determination. Children, regardless of ethnicity, will be able to identify with having a dream, the fear that it might not come true, and the inspiration to see it through. My girls certainly did.

Robots, Robots Everywhere! by Sue Fliess

ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE!

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Robots, Robots Everywhere! by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Bob Staake, Golden Books, © 2013

This latest Little Golden Books, ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE! (Random House Children’s Books, $3.99, ages 2-5), by Sue Fliess with illustrations by Bob Staake, should fly off the shelves because, between the flawless rhyme, the playful illustrations and the $3.99 price, it makes a perfect addition to any picture book collection.

Okay, so technically they’re machines, but robots are cool machines and we love ’em! In the book there are all kinds of robots featured in all kinds of places: on the ground, up in space, beneath the seas, in fields, on farms and at home. Here’s one of my favorite rhyming couplets –

Under couches, over rugs,
Vacuum robots have no plugs.

Kids will like the cheery, colorful looking robots because they look friendly and funny. And what’s funnier than a robot with a good sense of humor? The robots are clearly designed to appear non-threatening for even the youngest of readers. In fact, some are even used to save people like the one shown rescuing a little scout. (Rescue robots seek and find.)

Robots spin and race and run.
Robots, robots — I want one!

Well I want one, too, especially the vacuuming kind! For a child ready to learn about robots and all the different tasks they perform, Robots, Robots Everywhere! is an ideal introduction. The bonus is getting Fliess’s fantastic rhyming text together with Staake’s whimsical artwork. So parents, whether you’re a Jetson’s fan, or a fan of jetpacks, you’re going to enjoy sharing this picture book with your kids.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Author Sue Fliess has been reviewed on GRWR before so click below to read previous posts:

SHOES FOR ME

A DRESS FOR ME

TONS OF TRUCKS

For links to books illustrated by Bob Staake that were reviewed here, please click titles below:

BLUEBIRD

LOOK! A BOOK!

WE PLANTED A TREE

MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMP

Follow Your Heart

DorothyI’m so glad I recently broadened my book review horizons to include titles by Spanish publisher, Cuento de Luz, as I have enjoyed each and every title I’ve read so far. This publisher’s books deliver powerful messages in delightfully subtle ways.

Dorothy: A Different Kind of Friend ($16.95, Cuento de Luz, Ages 5-7) by Roberto Aliaga presents readers with a story about an unidentifiable furry animal girl who befriends a not-so-popular girl in town, named Dorothy. Dorothy is big, clumsy and very different than the others. The bully girls in town all hang out together and tease the protagonist when she hangs out with Dorothy, saying very cruel and hurtful things about her. Will those harsh words be enough to make the protagonist drop Dorothy as a friend? Read the book and you will find out for yourself.

There are so many children’s books about being bullied that it is impossible to keep up with all of them. But what sets this book apart is that the characters are unique and the message is delivered in muted tones, leaving the reader with a lot to think about. The illustrations by Mar Blanco are both colorful and adorable, highlighting the uniqueness of the characters. In the end, we must all follow our hearts, no matter what others tell us to do, and Dorothy: A Different Kind of Friend shows us the way.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

Sassy Board Book Series

9780448477879HKnown for their developmental toys, Sassy has branched out into baby books and it’s a good move. The newest Sassy brand board books for babies are very cute because they’re simple, colorful, and bold. Like their toys which encourage exploration, these sturdy 12 page Sassy books, including Sassy Baby Sees: A First Book of Faces (Grosset & Dunlap, $6.99, ages 0-3) by Dave Aikins, invite even the littlest ones to look more closely.

The images of Mommy! Daddy! Dog! Cat! are in black and white providing the high contrast newborns can see most easily. There’s even an embedded mirror at the end page for a lovely surprise. Colored dots and striped patterns on the pages opposite each picture work as nicely in this book as they do on the toys.

These books, along with some complementary developmental toys, are perfect for a baby shower gift. Other titles in this line of board books are: Sassy Who Says?Sassy Baby’s World: A First Book of Senses, and Sassy Baby Loves Colors.

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Splash!

deep puddleLast week Debbie Glade reviewed a terrific counting book about primates, so she thought it perfectly fitting to review a very different (but equally as fantastic) counting book this week.

I love it when my dog pulls me toward a puddle so he can splash through it like a toddler. What little kid doesn’t love a puddle? There’s just something so wholesome about it, don’t you think? The Deep, Deep Puddle ($16.99, Dial Books, Ages 3-6) by author and former teacher, Mary Jessie Parker, will enchant even the youngest of readers and set imaginations soaring (or swimming!).

One day, in a big city, it starts to rain and a small puddle forms. It rains and rains and rains and the puddle grows as do the number of items and creatures who fall into it. From taxis and street vendors to cats and dogs, everything seems to disappear in the ever growing puddle, counting from one to twelve things. Then something amazing happens to make the puddle shrink more and more and more. And the counting goes backwards from twelve to one.

What I love about The Deep, Deep Puddle is that it is so absurd, albeit ultra creative, making it a wild adventure to read as the cover clearly shows. The words have unique sounds, so fitting for a young child’s book, and the vibrant illustrations by Deborah Zemke couldn’t be better. I enjoyed studying each picture for a while, and their adorableness made me smile.

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If you’d like to teach your child to learn to count in a fun, fun way, and you love looking at beautiful illustrations, this is the perfect book.

Too Cute For Words

I appreciate author/illustrator Michael Townsend’s sense of humor. How many picture books do you see with wording on the jacket cover like the latest mouthwash or detergent only funnier? Now with added CUTENESS! 

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From the striped jacket art to every last delightfully drawn facial expression on the characters’ faces, CUTE & CUTER (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15.99, ages 5-8), will pull kids in and keep them turning each and every adorable page! Designed in quasi comic book style, this 40 page book will not just help parents broach the sensitive subject of sibling rivalry or tackle the topic of why the new baby demands so much of mom and dad’s attention, it will entertain and amuse. I know because I had a huge grin on my face from the moment I was introduced to Janie Jane, “an expert on all things cute.”

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The language Townsend uses throughout the story will totally appeal to today’s youngsters who would absolutely name their own new puppy Sir Yips-a-lot just like Janie Jane does. The new pet and owner spend 24/7 together year round until Janie Jane’s next birthday when she receives a new kitty. Suddenly, no longer the cutest pet in the world, Sir Yips-a-lot must take a back seat to Lady Meow-meow, “The World’s Cutest Kitty!” according to Janie Jane.

Watching Sir Yips-a-lot try to win back Janie Jane’s attention is hysterical and his realization that he is jealous will surely be a conversation starter for many families. But my favorite part was the page devoted to Sir Yips-a-lot’s schemes to rid the world of his competition as he launches OPERATION CUTE-BE-GONE!! Things backfire, however, when the puppy feels guilty about his awful deed and is determined to find Lady Meow-meow.

Townsend’s plotting is perfect and he wraps things up or maybe I should say unwraps things (see for yourself) with a happy ending that makes CUTE & CUTER ideal both for story time or for bedtime. TCFW!!

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

It’s A Firefly Night Picture Book Giveaway!

ItsAFireflyNight_CVRWe’re excited to be giving away two copies of this marvelous book reviewed by Debbie Glade and perfect for summer!

Enter now by clicking here and you may be one of two lucky winners to receive a copy of IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT by Dianne Ochiltree. Remember to write FIREFLY in the subject line and please give your name and address in the email.  The giveaway ends midnight on June 17, 2013. For full contest rules click here. Good luck!

What child (or adult for that matter) doesn’t love fireflies? After all, they are the first sign that summer has truly arrived. It’s a Firefly Night ($12.99, Blue Apple Books, Ages 3-6) is a beautiful picture book that celebrates every child’s rite of passage into the warmest season of the year.

The concise flowing, rhyming prose by Dianne Ochiltree offers the youngest readers insight into the story of a little girl and her dog who are out in the yard with a jar, chasing, capturing and releasing fireflies back into the air. Just reading the book will make you want to get out into the fresh air with your family. In the back of the book is a spread with factual information about fireflies. Did you know that fireflies are beetles?

“Flickering quicker,
they sparkle and shine.
I love catching fireflies,
but they are not mine.”

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What makes this book standout are the vivid collage illustrations by Betsy Snyder. The colors are both deep and brilliant, depicting the most magical night sky you could ever imagine. It’s a Firefly Night is a great way to kickoff summer with your kids. Just be prepared to get out in the yard with them chasing those glittery sparklers as soon as they appear.

Picture Window Books’ Little Dinos Series

9781404875364Four new glossy board books in Picture Window Books’ Hello Genius series ($7.99, capstoneyoungreaders.com, ages 2-4) teach positive behavior, good manners and first words in just 20 sturdy, brightly colored and boldly illustrated pages.

Little Dinos Don’t Yell, Little Dinos Don’t Push, Little Dinos Don’t Bite and Little Dinos Don’t Hit are all books I would have loved to set out on my coffee table before playgroup when my kids were toddlers and preschoolers. Naturally mine weren’t the ones doing the yelling, pushing, biting or hitting, but some other little dinos we knew sure were testing their limits!

In very simple, straightforward language, author Michael Dahl conveys the message parents may be hoping to teach their children when selecting these kinds of books. Here’s an example from Little Dinos Don’t Yell:

9781404879126“ROAR!”

“Your voice is LOUD and STRONG, Little Dino! But be careful with your booming voice.”

Illustrator Adam Record’s easily identifiable artwork shows shattered plates on a dining room breakfront so children see an immediate cause and effect. The large fonts and few words per page make it easy for youngsters to follow along and recognize first words. Using family members like sisters, brothers, and grandparents in each story will help to make learning the lessons more realistic and less intimidating.

97814048753339781404875340These affordable books combine humor with important social skills and make learning these everyday life lessons more palatable and colorful for our kids whether they’re really getting pushed, bitten, hit or yelled at or just reading about them in books.

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

A Book That Will Transplant Kids to Another Land

Miss Maple’s Seeds (Nancy Paulsen Books, $16.99, Ages 3-5), written and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

Reading a debut picture book is always exciting especially when it’s by a fellow SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) member. Author/illustrator Eliza Wheeler hails from northern Wisconsin, but now calls southern California -L.A. to be precise – her home. With Miss Maple’s Seeds she has created a magical story that is pure, positive and totally appealing.

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What child won’t be excited about wee Miss Maple, a Thumbelina-sized, willowweed hatted character who makes a hollow in a tall maple tree her home? Best of all, the benevolent Miss Maple has made it her mission to collect orphaned seeds “that got lost during the spring planting,” with the hopes of nurturing them until they are ready to go off and take root on their own. Wheeler’s color palette is warm like the sun needed for the seeds to flourish, and it conveys a tenderness that will resonate with parents as they share the story with their little ones. Perfect for a bedtime story, Miss Maple’s Seeds has no real demonstrated conflict, only the inference that Miss Maple must watch over her “guests” and keep them safe because, as she repeats throughout the text, “Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small.” Young imaginations will be sparked by the idea of this tiny woman working alongside nature much like they would Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies.

Miss Maple is a comforting, reassuring presence on a cold, rainy night; a friend of the fragile; a strong yet gentle woman who has the seeds’ best interests at heart and knows when it’s time for them to be released to the elements because “… even the grandest of trees once had to grow up from the smallest of seeds.”

Click here for a link to some Miss Maple’s Seeds activity sheets for kids.

Light Up the Sky

ItsAFireflyNight_CVRWhat child (or adult for that matter) doesn’t love fireflies? After all, they are the first sign that summer has truly arrived. It’s a Firefly Night ($12.99, Blue Apple Books, Ages 3-6) is a beautiful picture book that celebrates every child’s rite of passage into the warmest season of the year.

The concise flowing, rhyming prose by Dianne Ochiltree offers the youngest readers insight into the story of a little girl and her dog who are out in the yard with a jar, chasing, capturing and releasing fireflies back into the air. Just reading the book will make you want to get out into the fresh air with your family. In the back of the book is a spread with factual information about fireflies. Did you know that fireflies are beetles?

“Flickering quicker,
they sparkle and shine.
I love catching fireflies,
but they are not mine.”

What makes this book standout are the vivid collage illustrations by Betsy Snyder. The colors are both deep and brilliant, depicting the most magical night sky you could ever imagine. It’s a Firefly Night is a great way to kickoff summer with your kids. Just be prepared to get out in the yard with them chasing those glittery sparklers as soon as they appear.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade

Make Room Powerpuff Girls, The Ultra Violets & Giveaway Are Here!

The Ultra Violets by Sophie Bell (Penguin Books for Young Readers, $12.99, Ages 8 and up) is reviewed today by Hilary Taber of Flintridge Bookstore (we know it’s not a Friday, but we’re featuring Flintridge Bookstore anyway!) Also, for a chance to win a copy the book along with an Ultra Violets T-shirt, click here. For entry rules, click here. Giveaway ends midnight PST on Friday, May 10, 2013. Remember to write Ultra Violets in subject and good luck!

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Girl superhero books are few and far between. Yes, of course, we all will always have Wonder Woman. However, I was hard pressed to think of a book whose main character was a little girl who was a superhero. Now, that problem is solved thanks to Sophie Bell’s book The Ultra Violets. Reminiscent of The Powerpuff Girls, this book will provide a delightful free read. Printed in violet ink (a very nice touch) the book chronicles the adventures and exploits of Iris, Cheri, Scarlet, and Opaline. These girls have been best friends since forever (as one of the characters might say), but one slumber party changed their collective lives forever. A science experiment went awry, and some mysterious purple goo showered on all four girls! This changed them into the superhero team known as The Ultra Violets.

Each girl has a very separate personality, and distinct superpower. One of them even ends up with violet hair! As the cover’s tag line says, “The Fuchsia Is Now!” and clearly now is the time for some of the fans of The Dork Diaries or Diary of a Wimpy Kid to have a superhero adventure. The, “Hey, you! Yeah! I’m talkin’ to you kid!” style of narration, tongue-in-cheek puns, and sassitude will appeal to readers who like a more informal read. In The Ultra Violets there is imagination, there are acts of courage, purple, and glitter references galore, which is pretty much the point of this book.  Like the first bite of grape bubblegum, this book is a sweet treat, and would make a great summer read. It’s like a vacation to a world beyond the usual and ordinary. Look for the next book in the series Ultra Violets #2: Power to the Purple! in early August, 2013.

Find THE ULTRA VIOLETS computer game on www.missoandfriends.com.

HilaryTaberPlease visit the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse today to pick up your copy of this book, buy gifts, enjoy their extensive selection of other great reads and relax over a great cup of coffee.  Also visit the website at www.flintridgebooks.com to keep up-to-date with story times, author events and other exciting special events. And when you stop by, keep a lookout for Hilary peeking out from behind a novel.

Because Amelia Smiled Picture Book Giveaway

61D-B9B8C2L._SL500_AA300_We reviewed Because Amelia Smiled ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 3-7) by David Ezra Stein several months ago and are now excited to be able to give away a copy of the book to two Good Reads With Ronna readers. Are you smiling yet?

In Because Amelia Smiled, Stein effortlessly takes readers on a world tour all because a little girl, Amelia, wore an infectious smile while skipping down the street. For details how to enter and for entire contest rules, please click here or scroll down all the way to the bottom of this page for partial info. The contest ends midnight on April 16, 2013 so don’t wait to enter and good luck!

As Stein says in his jacket flap, “The story of Amelia is bigger than anything that can fit in a book. It’s the story of how we are connected.”  I could not agree more. Perhaps you are as fascinated by the idea of six degrees of separation as I am and if so, you will love sharing this picture book with your children.

You may know Stein from his Caldecott Honor–winning Interrupting Chicken. Here again Stein’s art flows from page to page, person to person, country to country just the way  today’s technological tapestry has brought us all together seamlessly. So, rather than tell the entire story, I suggest you read Because Amelia Smiled  to learn what caused Amelia to grin in the first place and then find out how many people are positively affected by Amelia’s smile, including you! For more of our review, please click here.
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HOW TO ENTER:

  1. Beginning Monday, April 8 we’re offering two readers the chance to win a copy of Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein. Simply LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by midnight Tuesday, April 16, 2013 and you’ll be entered to win a copy of this picture book. Remember to write SMILE in the subject line.
  2. The giveaway opportunity ends at midnight on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 and two winners will be randomly chosen on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. For an additional entry please follow us on Twitter @goodreadsronna too! If you don’t provide an email where you can be contacted your chance to win is forfeited.
 

Chirp, Click, Buzzzzzzz

BUG_COVERI absolutely love bugs! In fact, if I were not a writer, I’d choose to be an entomologist. There’s just so much to learn about bugs, and they are so fascinating to look at, too. Noisy Bug Sing-a-long ($8.95, Dawn Publications, Ages 3-8) written and illustrated by John Himmelman provides the littlest readers with a delightful introduction to the world of common bugs. Himmelman, who has written and illustrated more than 75 children’s books, started a “Bug Club” when he was eight years old. He has since co-founded the Connecticut Butterfly Association. How wonderful it is that he utilizes this love of nature to educate and express himself through his books!

Inside the pages of Noisy Bug Sing-a-long are big bold, eye-catching illustrations, with close-up detail of bugs and their surroundings. Simple one line prose teach readers about the sounds each critter makes, while the illustrations teach them about the environments where one may find them.

In the back of the book are illustrations of the sound waves coming from each bug, plus more information about the different species and tips about what to watch and listen for when you are looking for bugs in your own back yard.

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Curious kids will love Noisy Bug Sing-a-long.  When my daughter (now in college studying Geology) was young, I bought her a plastic bug box that came with a little magnifying glass. She would spend hours catching and studying bugs before releasing them back into the wild.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading many Dawn Publications books, and each and every title educates children about plant and animal life on our planet, how to identify it, grow it, respect it, care for it and learn more about it. What a terrific mission that is.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade

Something Fishy Going on Around Here

9780938663539_p0_v1_s260x420The cover of Something Fishy ($14.95, Rainbow Morning Music Picture Books, Ages 7-9) is awesome! Open it up and you will find many more terrific illustrations too, all done by cartoonist David Clark, whose work has been featured in The Washington Post.

You’ll find the illustrations to be so fitting for the clever rhyming verse, written by author Barry Louis Polisar. Each 2-page spread features a different sea or freshwater animal. From crabs and jellyfish to killer whales and crocs, there’s a lot to learn about creatures that live in water.

Sweetlips Fish

An odd name for a fish
And perhaps a bit explicit

It might be a sweetlips fish
But I would never kiss it.

What I love about this book is that, while it ranks high on the cuteness factor, it is also very educational. The youngest readers will be enamored with the illustrations while learning a whole lot about animals that swim. The author and illustrator of this book seem to work quite brilliantly together because they have teamed up on several previous titles. Definitely a two fins up for this one.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

Limited Only By Your Imagination

Dog Loves Drawing by author/illustrator Louise Yates ($16.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, Ages 4 and up) is a most imaginative book. It is a story about Dog who loves reading books so much he opens his own book store. One day his aunt sends him a blank book, which he finds to be refreshingly different than the books he’s used to reading. This one is a blank book – a sketch book with no words and no pictures.  So Dog sharpens his pencil and gathers his brushes and draws a stickman. Miraculously that stickman comes to life and together, with one drawing after another, they doodle their way into a glorious imaginative adventure.

I have no doubt that Dog Loves Drawing  will stir up creativity in your child in a most clever and original manner.  Dog teaches us that we are limited only by our own imaginations. What’s better than a dog who loves to read and owns a book store? The darling drawings are made to look like those a child might make, but only more advanced. And I love the fact that Dog writes his aunt a thank you note for the sketch book she gave him. I’m a major advocate of writing thank you notes!

Before Dog Loves Drawing was written, Yates penned Dog Loves Books. Both of these titles would be a lovely addition to any child’s library. Consider making a holiday gift package with a set of colored pencils and a sketch book for the child in your life.

Reviewed by Debbie Glade.

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