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Too Much Noise

It’s a story anyone who has ever had a college roommate or a noisy apartment neighbor can relate to. You are ready for bed after an exhausting day, burrowing under the covers and trying to surrender to sleep when you hear an incessant noise—the pounding of base that throbs along with your mounting headache. The neighbor’s are playing their music too loudly again, and it’s 11:00 p.m. Josh Selig’s new children’s book Red and Yellow’s Noisy Night ($14.95, Sterling  Children’s Books, ages 4-7) parallels this experience we have all likely had as adults, but in a way that teaches children to stop and consider those whose actions are irritating them.

Charmingly illustrated by Little Airplane Productions, Red and Yellow’s Noisy Night tells the story of Red and Yellow who live together in an Olive Tree—the symbolism should not go unnoticed. One night, as Yellow is trying to sleep, he hears a very loud noise: Red playing his guitar loudly. Yellow confronts Red, but neither can see the other’s side. However, through compromise Red and Yellow come up with an idea that allows both to get what they want—Red can continue to play his guitar, while Yellow can get his zzz’s.

Based on an animated television series, “The Olive Branch,” which promotes conflict resolution and mutual respect, Selig’s story is an important book for any child to have in his or her collection. In a world of growing division and increasing animosity towards those whose views differ from our own, children need to learn about acceptance and compromise early in life. Using a story such as Red and Yellow’s Noisy Night gives parents a platform for encouraging their children to consider the other side’s perspective and to negotiate a reasonable compromise with which both parties will be contented. It’s message is clear: there is no one right viewpoint, but if we can learn to accept others and be sensitive to their positions, perhaps we too can live happily together like Red and Yellow in their Olive Tree. All parents who want to teach their children to grow into compassionate and thoughtful youngsters should pick up a copy of Josh Selig’s Red and Yellow’s Noisy Night and share it, and its message, with their children.

Today’s review was written by Karen B. Estrada.

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Life in The Ocean

A New York Times best-selling author and a Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator take you down deep for a look at life below the waves. Reviewed today by Karen Estrada.

In the Sea ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 3-5), David Elliot’s companion volume to his books On the Farm and In the Wild, is a stunning and educational glimpse into the creatures of the ocean deep. Holly Meade’s magnificent woodcut illustrations are reflective of the ever undulating world beneath the sea’s surface; the often bold, sometimes fierce, images of sea life juxtaposed against the soft shades of their ocean habitat reminded me of days I spent scuba diving off the coast of Thailand where the vibrant colors of sea life stand out against a muted palette of blue-green hues. Meade’s illustrations are nothing short of art—images I would happily purchase and frame to hang in my child’s room.

If only for the illustrations, this book is worth purchasing, but let’s not discount the enlightening poetry of David Elliot who offers descriptions of both familiar sea creatures, such as the Shark, and those less likely to appear in a children’s book, like the Mackerel or Chambered Nautilus. Using a variety of poetic styles imposed over Meade’s captivating illustrations, Elliot gives children a keen insight into the characteristics, lives, and habits of twenty creatures of the sea. The vocabulary Elliot employs in his poetry often surpasses that of a young child, using words like “apparition” and “belligerent,” which deepens the educational opportunities this book has to offer. I had no idea what a turtle’s “carapace” was until I looked it up; even I learned something from reading this remarkable book. David Elliot’s poetry and Holly Meade’s illustrations in In the Sea pair together swimmingly to depict the often enigmatic nature of sea life in a book that I will return to again and again.

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Heart and Soul, the History of African Americans

Debbie Glade reviews a remarkable ALA Notable Children’s Book, Coretta Scott King Author Award and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book for Black History Month.

Heart and Soul:The Story of America and African Americans ($19.99, Balzer & Bray, ages 9 and up) is an essential historical fiction book for children and their parents and teachers. It was written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, one of our nation’s most accomplished, multiple award-winning artists. You will undoubtedly be wowed by the 44 illustrations in this remarkable book and will want to covet every page to soak in all the details. Made from oil paintings on canvas, these pictures are so incredibly impressive that they alone are worth the price of the book – and then some.

In the Author’s Note, Mr. Nelson talks about how history was never a favorite subject of his. Yet he found himself illustrating many historical figures over the years and getting more and more fascinated by the subject. It’s a good thing he did, because through his fascination comes this incredible summary of the most important aspects of the history of African Americans through the time of Abe Lincoln’s presidency. Through the voice of a narrator, Heart and Soul is a concise account of the life of the narrator’s ancestors, who endured the wrath of slavery.

I like the way the story touches upon a wide timeline, covering a great deal of information, while not being overwhelming to young readers. From injustice and despair to hope and freedom, the story inspires readers to want to learn more about slaves – the very people who were the “Heart and Soul” of our great nation. A detailed timeline in the back of the book helps readers better understand the history of black America. There’s even a detailed index too.

This is not your every day children’s book. Heart and Soul is a book you should buy and keep, rather than borrow and return. Trust me on this one.

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Career Humor for the Youngest Readers

I have often expressed my concern for the lack of career education offered in our schools. We teach our children to read and write, but don’t teach them much about choosing a career or getting a job when they graduate. Then along comes How to Get a Job: By Me the Boss ($17.99, Schwartz and Wade, ages 4 -8). This book introduces the youngest readers to the subject of careers and jobs, in a most adorable, original and entertaining way. Cleverly written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and imaginatively illustrated by Sue Heap, you will love reading this book to your children. It combines pertinent information about specific careers and resume writing with some silly tidbits, supported by darling, colorful illustrations.  For example, “If you are Mommy or Daddy first you get some children…You MUST be good at changing diapers and not throw up.”  Then there’s a list of what else you must be good at to be a Mommy or Daddy such as “liking your children more than other people like them.”

Go ahead and get this book and read it to your kids, or even to yourself. I promise you’ll get a good chuckle, and you’ll learn a thing or two, too.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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As Far as Your Imagination Will Take You

Pretend ($15.99, Philomel/Penguin Group USA, ages 3 and up) is a book that shows children their adventures are limited only by their imaginations.  Author/illustrator, Jennifer Plecas, tells the story of a boy who plays “pretend” with his dad, and together they embark upon a great ocean and island adventure. I enjoyed this book because it encourages creativity and lays a good foundation for teaching kids about the process of coming up with ideas to write stories – something they will have to do throughout their educational years. The illustrations are colorful and cute, and I like the playful font too. Simply said, it’s a cute book, and it will likely inspire your little ones to come up with wild, new  adventure stories of their own. So get on board parents and give the gift of imagination to your children by reading to them then watch as their ideas flourish.

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Life is a Garden

If you thought it was no longer possible to come across a totally original children’s book, then you haven’t read Grandpa Green ($16.99, Roaring Brook Press, ages 5 and up). The story is told through the voice of a great-grandson of a talented gardener. The gardener’s life unfolds through imagery of the many topiaries he created in his garden. From childhood experiences to war, marriage, children and old age, this is a most creative way to illustrate a man’s life.  You’ll find yourself looking at the pictures for a long time.

The book is written and illustrated by talented Caldecott Honor Medalist, Lane Smith (of bestselling It’s a Book fame). Grandparents everywhere will certainly enjoy reading this imaginative picture book to their grandchildren.

– Review by Debbie Glade

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Too Much Stuff!!!

Yay! Here’s a children’s book with big, vivid, adorable illustrations, by Noah Z. Jones, and a delightful story, by Margie Palatini, that teaches an important lesson. How can anyone ask for more than that in a children’s book?

Stuff ($16.99, Harper Collins, ages 4-7) is a story about Edward, an adorable rabbit who has collected so much stuff in his house that it takes over his entire life.  Even though his best friends suggest that Edward get rid of some of his many possessions, he continues to collect even more. One day something happens that makes Edward realize that all his stuff is taking over his life, and he decides to do something about it.

I know I could sure relate to the message in this book, and I am sure there are many more Americans who can as well. Why not teach our children this valuable lesson now, so their lives are not taken over one day by a whole bunch of stuff?!  I think the holidays are a perfect time to read Stuff to the children in your life (and maybe to yourself, too).

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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Gift it! Putting iPad to Bed

Everyone’s talking about …well let me rephrase that, everyone’s texting, IMing, Skyping, Facebooking and Tweeting about the new parody of Goodnight Moon entitled Goodnight iPad: A Paradoy for the Next Generation ($14.95, blue rider press, all ages). However, the author, Ann Droyd (aka David Milgram) really does not ridicule this classic children’s book, but rather pays homage to its battery-free simplicity. With Goodnight iPad, originally conceived by his agent as Goodnight iPhone, Milgram imagines a scenario where a tired (and ticked off) grandma takes all the electronic gadgets from the characters depicted and tosses them out so a family can get to sleep unaffected by the impact of modern technology. Absent from the original Goodnight book, technology has taken over this household in a big, handheld remote, shiny silver way. The author succeeds in contrasting life’s current fast, plugged-in pace with, if only for one night, a time when going to bed was relaxed and unwired. Now we cannot tear ourselves away from our electronics and it’s taking a toll on our down time and for many, probably the ability to fall asleep!  I’m certain that’s why my 10-year-old son enjoyed the book so much. He knows he’s as wrapped up in technology as the next tween but could easily take a step back and laugh, just like Milgram does. Our recent 60 hour power outage drove that point home. We all emerged unscathed, and a bit more tuned in to one another instead of to our phones, laptops or Playstations. While Milgram may be a children’s author, he’s clearly branching out and his message is reaching a larger and more varied audience.  So put away your gadgets guys and gals and listen to Grandma! Kick back for a bit. You just might like it.

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Put a Lid on it, Mike!

BE QUIET, MIKE! ($14.99, Candlewick, ages 3-6), reviewed today by Lindy Michaels, was written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli.

What kid hasn’t blown on a kazoo, pretending it was a trumpet?  What kid hasn’t let their fingers fly on a table top pretending it was a piano?  Well, from the time Mike, the monkey, was in his momma monkey’s womb, he was drumming to his own beat.  “Kick, thump, pow!”  It was a very active pregnancy for momma monkey, to say the least.  And once Mike was born “…He played with his fingers, he played with his feet, a funky little monkey, with a beat, beat, beat.”

As Mike grew bigger, there was nothing he came in contact with that didn’t become a… drum!  Banging on a wastebasket, slapping the water in the pool, clanking on a trash can.  And how was his creativity received by his family?   “BE QUIET, MIKE!”  But that didn’t stop this monkey as he grew older.  “He played on the table like a wild baboon…”  “BE QUIET, MIKE,” was what he heard day and night, over and over again. “Mike tried to be quiet, he tried to be still, but the beat in his heart, was stronger than his will.”

And then one day, he saw in the window of a music shop, “… a real live, full-sized jamming drum set”  “… an ape with long fur, beating so fast – arms and legs a blur.”

Ah, the sheer ingenuity of little monkey Mike.  He went home and used everything he could find in his house, like coffee cans and pots and pans and two sticks, to make his very own drum set.  And then he started to beat his home-made drums.  “Zat.  Zoom.  Crash!”

And just then his parents and sister opened the door to his bedroom.  Oh, yes, Mike certainly knew what was coming.  “BE QUIET, MIKE!”

But is that what happened?  I adore books  that encourage children to explore their bliss, even if it’s very, very loud!  Leslie Patricelli, the talented author and illustrator of the popular YUMMY YUCKYQUIET LOUDTUBBYTHE BIRTHDAY BOX and other fun children’s books, has done it again, when it comes to engaging children on their own level.  Now all you moms and dads,  go and give your little ones some pots and pans and let them go to town.  Just don’t forget some cotton for your ears!

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You’re Sure to get “Stuck” on this Picture Book

Reviewed by Debbie Glade, STUCK is storybook you’ll want to keep around. It’s due to be published Nov. 11, 2011, so mark your calendars!

Why read a run-of-the-mill picture book when you can read an utterly adorable, whimsically illustrated and wonderfully entertaining book like Stuck ($16.99, Philomel, ages 3-7), by Oliver Jeffers? As soon as I saw the darling cover of this book, I just had to open it up. I must confess that part of the allure for me is that when my daughter was about two years old, she loved to say, “I’m stuck! I’m stuck!” Now she’s 19, but I know this book would still put a smile on her face.

So Stuck is about a boy named Floyd, who got his kite stuck up in a tree.  That may not sound all that exciting at first, but wait until you see the methods Floyd uses to try to get his kite out of the tree and the bigger mess he creates while trying to solve his dilemma. This is one of those cozy books you read to your child at bedtime over and over again, while admiring the illustrations and giggling throughout the story. Both you and your child will also enjoy the childlike font used in the book.

Author Oliver Jeffers (originally from Belfast) is a mega-talented author and illustrator who has won numerous awards for his various children’s books. With books as awesome as this one,  it’s no wonder why.

As for me, I’m sending my copy to my daughter in college, just to bring back some happy memories of her early years.

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Two Families. Two Cultures. One Very Unique Book.

Read This Terrific Tale of Two Very Different Places

Debbie Glade reviews today’s pick.

Mirror ($18.99, Candlewick, preschool – grade 4) while not brand new, is one of the most unique books I’ve ever seen. Yes, I said, “seen.” Award-winning illustrator and collage artist, Jeannie Baker came up with the idea to compare two very different places in the world – Sydney, Australia and The Valley of the Roses in Southern Morocco – using most extraordinary visual means.

Open up the book and you will discover two books on opposite sides. One book opens to the left, while the other opens to the right. The idea is to turn the pages in each book together to compare what the family is doing in Australia with what the family is doing in Morocco (thus the title of the book, Mirror).

Each side of the book starts with words in the languages appropriate to the places – English for Australia and Arabic for Morocco. But the rest of the learning is all visual, though you will not find the usual illustrations you are used to seeing in most children’s books; rather these are photographs of Jeannie Baker’s impressive collages.

She starts out with illustrations and the builds collages on wooden boards, using materials such as earth, sand, clay, paint, fabric, wool, vegetation, paper and plastic. It is apparent that Ms. Baker spent a great deal of time and effort in making the collages for this very special book.

I like any story that effectively teaches children about cultures and geography, and Mirror does just that in a most original way.

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