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A Model of Determination – A Guest Post by Randi Lynn Mrvos

 

A MODEL OF DETERMINATION
A Guest Post by Author Randi Lynn Mrvos

Cover image from Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell

 

When I first sat down to write the story about a little first-grader named Maggie, I had not yet met Charlie, a mix-breed hound whose determination changed his life. All I knew of the story was that Maggie had a problem at school. How she would be able to solve that problem was still a mystery to me.

At that time with the seeds of this story slowly germinating, I spent the better part of Saturdays supporting my freshman daughter’s cross-country team in Lexington, Kentucky. While the student athletes stretched and warmed up, I chatted with the mothers manning the concession stand. After attending a few meets, I got to know these heard-working ladies and sadly realized they would not be present next year. Their kids would be graduating.

The following year I stepped into the role of running the concessions along with Barbara, another mom whose daughter ran on the team. Standing side by side selling bagels, bananas, bottled water and hot chocolate, I learned about Barbara’s family, her talents, and her pets.

Charlie the inspiration for Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-TellOne of her dogs was named Charlie, and later during that cross-country season, I got the chance to meet him. On that day, Barbara told me his story. She said that a few years ago, she and her family were driving in rural Kentucky in search of buying a farm. They came across an injured dog that had made a bed of leaves by the side of the road. It had used his last bit of strength and resolve to get their attention. He wagged his tail when they approached him. It occurred to Barbara that the dog may have once been someone’s pet. Without a doubt, Barbara knew they were going to bring the animal home.

The dog, after being nursed back to health, learned to walk again. Barbara and her family named him Charlie and he fit right in along with the other dog and two cats in their house. Charlie loves everyone he meets along his walks and wants to befriend everyone. Barbara says this special animal taught her so much about unconditional love, trust, hope and never giving up. Charlie is her best friend.

I was so impressed with Charlie that he became the model for Maggie’s pet. Soon after, the solution to Maggie’s problem became apparent and the themes of the story, animal adoption, compassion, determination, and problem-solving emerged.

Charlie’s story touched me in a personal way. I know what it’s like to feel rejected. Before Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell was published, it had been turned down close to fifty times. Sure, there were anger and tears, but I believed in Maggie. Like Charlie, I was determined to deal with rejection and not give up.

 

Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell
Written by Randi Lynn Mrvos
Illustrated by Emiliano Billai
(Saturn’s Moon Press, $16.99, Ages 4 – 8)
32 pages, available in Hardback
Visit Randi Lynn Mrvos’s website here.
Get to know Maggie here.

 

headshot of author Randi Lynn MrvosRandi Lynn Mrvos’s Bio:

Randi Lynn Mrvos is the editor of the Kid’s Imagination Train e-zine. She has written over a hundred articles for children’s magazines such as Highlights as well as articles for Mothering magazine and The Christian Science Monitor. Mrvos lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband and cat Ozzie. Awarded prizes by the Tennessee Mountain Writers, Writer’s Digest, and the Alabama Writer’s Conclave, Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is her first book.

A Brief Summary: Meet Maggie, a first-grader in Ms. Madison’s classroom. Maggie has a big problem. Tomorrow is summer vacation show-and-tell. All of her classmates know exactly what they are going to talk about, but Maggie doesn’t have any idea what she can share. She could say she went on safari, or hiked the South Pole, or zoomed into outer space to Mars and the Moon. The truth is, Maggie didn’t travel during the break. The day is nearly over and Maggie hasn’t found anything to bring to school. .. until she remembers falling in love with something special over the months of summer.

For children ages four to eight and pet-lovers of all ages, Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is a story of love and compassion. Mrvos’ children’s book was inspired by Charlie, a deserted dog that was rescued on a country road by a friend. Charlie’s remarkable story is included as well as a discussion guide for starting conversations about summer vacations and caring for pets.

NOTE: The opinions expressed here are those of the author, Randi Lynn Mrvos. No compensation was received for this coverage.

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One Word Pearl by Nicole Groeneweg

One Word Pearlby Nicole Groeneweg with illustrations by Hazel Mitchell (Mackinac Island Press/Charlesbridge Publishing, $17.95, hardcover; $7.95, paperback, Ages 5-8), is reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

– Winner of the NAESP Children’s Book Competition, Picture Book category

One Word Pearl Cover Image

One Word Pearl is written by Nicole Groeneweg and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell from Charlesbridge Publishing, 2013.

One of my favorite words is SCRUMPTIOUS. I also like DAPPLED, LUSH, and EXTRAVAGANZA. Although none of those are words that young Pearl collects, she does have some super selections! Floppity, poppity. Pizzazz, sizzled. Noodles, doodles.

The words Pearl chooses and uses are fun to say. But she must ration them carefully after a windstorm swirls through her treasure box filled with clipped words. She squeaks through the week one word at a time until the words run out. After days filled with long silences, Pearl must summon her courage to regain her marvelous vocabulary.

The rhythm of the snazzy synonyms and vivacious verbs makes this story a delight to share. What truly makes this story sparkle are the multilayered words, clipped and placed throughout the illustrations that are softly torn, crumpled and shaded for texture. Pearl also has a feathered friend, a brightly colored bird, who isn’t named in the story, but is a delightful addition for young readers to search for on each page.

This imaginative tale will captivate children and parents who appreciate spoken words as well as words on paper, and encourage their creative use of language to express and describe.

Nicole Groeneweg's One Word Pearl with interior spread illustrations by Hazel Mitchell, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2013.

Nicole Groeneweg’s One Word Pearl with interior spread illustrations by Hazel Mitchell, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2013.

 

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober

Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost, by Natalie S. Bober, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company, $17.99, ages 4-8), is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.  

Papa Is A Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober with illustrations by Rebecca Gibbon, Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Papa Is A Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober with illustrations by Rebecca Gibbon, Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Sometimes it’s easy for a child to describe the work that their parents do for a living: firefighter,  mail carrier, farmer.  What can you say to describe that work when your father is a poet?  Through the eyes and words of young Lesley, this charming book tells young readers what life is like as the child of poet Robert Frost from 1905 to 1909.

The dramatic opening spread shows the tiny Frost family debarking from a looming ocean liner onto a barren New York City dock. The parents and four children are clutching old-fashioned trunks and carpet bags, ready to begin an adventurous new life on a farm in New Hampshire.

As the story unfolds, the family works, plays and learns together while Frost struggles to earn a living as a poultry farmer.  He tends to farm chores at midnight so he can read and write “in the hush of a sleeping household.” During the day the family picnics, hunts for flowers, and watches sunsets.  At night they share stories, read, and stargaze. Through all the activity, Frost is a loving husband and father, teaching his children to observe the world with care and write down their thoughts, dreams and impressions.

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Interior art by Rebecca Gibbon from Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober, Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2013.

A young reader need not be familiar with Frost’s work to appreciate his deep passion for poetry and words. Lovely excerpts from his poems are sprinkled carefully throughout, and twelve complete poems are contained in the back pages. The charming illustrations pace this book smoothly with warmth as well as detail, offering delightful glimpses into turn of the century life.

This book is a treasure to be savored slowly and repeatedly for all those who love the magic of beautiful words read aloud.

.- Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty

The Snatchabook: Who’s stealing all the stories?

The Snatchabook, Who's Stealing All The Stories? by Helen Docherty with illustrations by Thomas Docherty from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky 2013.

The Snatchabook, Who’s Stealing All The Stories? by Helen Docherty with illustrations by Thomas Docherty from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky 2013.

“So wonderful it demands to be read out loud.”
– Brian Selznick,
Caldecott Medalist, author and illustrator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret

What’s not to love about a picture book that conveys a heartwarming message about bedtime stories and the simple joy of reading together? In The Snatchabook, (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, $16.99, ages 3 and up) by Helen Docherty with illustrations by Thomas Docherty, a book I’ve seen on bookstore shelves everywhere I go, readers will be immediately pulled in by the images of animal families settling down for the night in warm, glowing rooms.

Welcome to Burrow Down, invitingly depicted by T. Docherty, a quaint forest community dotted with cozy tree hollow homes, mole holes and rabbit warrens. Nighttime is a special time to hear all sorts of tales, a time when children are ready to let their imaginations soar. But suddenly all the bedtime books begin disappearing right before everyone’s eyes. H. Docherty wastes no time in setting the stage for a great mystery, though a subtle clue is given in the second spread (hint: look near the moon). Who is stealing all the stories?

Enter Eliza Brown, a bunny determined to catch the thief red-handed, or winged, because she really hasn’t the slightest idea who or what the culprit could be! Eliza sets a trap using a pile of books as bait and waits … and waits. When at last a long shadow appears, she braves the unknown and conquers her fear shouting:

“Stop stealing all our books,
right now!
Just give them back,
I don’t care how!”

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Sample interior artwork from The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty with illustrations by Thomas Docherty from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky 2013.

Hovering just outside the window is a small, rodent-like creature with dragonfly wings, a long skinny tale and large, lonely eyes appealing to Eliza for forgiveness, “I’m just a little Snatchabook.” Snatchabook didn’t mean to swipe all the books, he explains to Eliza. He simply had no one to read them to him. In a wonderfully satisfying ending, H. Docherty has Eliza teaming up with the Snatchabook to right his wrongs, return all the books while finding a few good bedtime story readers to feed his imagination and soul.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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A New Look For Good Reads With Ronna


WE’VE CHANGED OUR LOOK!
KEEP CHECKING US OUT DURING CONSTRUCTION BECAUSE
THERE’S LOTS GOING ON.

Under Construction, but still blogging!

Under Construction, but still blogging!

We’re almost done cleaning up our site. It was truly a case of out with the old and in with the new, and long overdue! Thanks so much for your patience during our blog remodel. Please let us know what you think about our updated look.

The current blog tour is for Super Schnoz and the Gates of Smell along with an author signed book giveaway. Enter by clicking here now for your chance to win because that great opportunity ends this weekend.

Our next blog tour in conjunction with Peachtree Publishers begins on Friday, October 4th, so watch this space for more details about the surprise book review and giveaway. But in case you can’t wait, here’s a little preview:

Some other stops on the Peachtree Publishers Blog Tour & a chance to win a copy of the book!

Visit Blue Owl Reviews today to get a taste of what’s to come.

On Tuesday, check out Gidgets Bookworms and Maestra Amanda’s Bookshelf

Wednesday stop by the Peachtree blog for the giveaway contest!

Thursday’s the blog tour is on Kid Lit Reviews

and Friday it’s here at last: Good Reads with Ronna.

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Cinderelephant by Emma Dodd

Coming to bookstores this October is a really terrific retelling of a most beloved fairy tale, Cinderella, this time starring none other than the perfectly plump and pleasing pachyderm known as Cinderelephant (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, $16.99, ages 4-8) written and illustrated by Cinderelephant by Emma DoddEmma Dodd.

Parents, it’s likely that by the time you read this to your child, he or she will have already heard this classic or watched the Disney version. That’s definitely a plus because it will allow you more time to spend pointing out all the humorous touches Dodd’s included in the colorful and cheerful illustrations. And if your youngsters are new to the tale, they’re still in for a tremendous treat.

You know the plot and to Dodd’s credit, her economy of words keeps the story fun and flowing for those of us for whom the tale is not new. Cinderelephant is bossed around by the Warty Sisters, two unattractive Wart Hogs who are “horrible, mean, and smelly,” plus they clearly lack table manners.

When an invitation to Prince Trunky’s ball arrives, young readers get their first clue as to what this Prince might look like considering the king is called King Saggy and the queen is Queen Wrinkly.  Calling her “Cinder-irrelavant,” the Warty Sisters slough off Cinderelephant’s hope of also attending the ball.

I love how Dodd features a Furry Godmouse who’ll save the day and get the gigantic gray gal to the Prince’s party. She even manages those appropriately placed superlatives and the occasional big but (you’ll see what I mean) joke with both her text and artwork.

Parents and kids will be entertained by the humor, whimsical illustrations and happy ending (pun intended) because, let’s face it, we all know one pink size 20+ shoe can only belong to one palatially-sized pachyderm!

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Blanket & Bear, A Remarkable Pair

Where Do Lost Stuffed Animals and Baby Blankets Go? Read on to find out!

by L.J.R. Kelly with illustrations by Yoko Tanaka

by L.J.R. Kelly with
illustrations by Yoko Tanaka

Blanket & Bear, A Remarkable Pair (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99, ages 3 and up), the debut picture book from L.J.R. Kelly (grandson of Roald Dahl) with illustrations by Yoko Tanaka, is an ideal parents’ go-to book when beloved toys get lost. Some parents buy two of everything just-in-case, others spend hours retracing their steps or making frantic phone calls in an attempt to locate a lost teddy or blanky. But here’s another option. Read this picture book to your distraught youngster and it’s likely they’ll find solace in this charming story with its muted artwork harkening back to a time when men wore hats, women wore dresses and people traveled abroad by steamship. Parents may find Tanaka’s illustrations a bit sombre in the beginning, but I found that as the story’s mood changed, so did the feeling conveyed in each picture. Stick with this story as it tugs at the heartstrings and is sure to start a meaningful conversation with your child.

With an original voice very different from that of his grandfather, Kelly is a terrific storyteller in his own right. The premise is quite a simple one in that when a young boy loses his beloved blanky and teddy, he carries on with his life. The focus is not on how he copes with the loss.  Quite the contrary. Kelly chooses to show how the boy’s cherished possessions, spend their time searching for the boy, hoping to be reunited. Instead, they arrive “at an island of lost blankets and bears, living in retirement without worries or cares. It’s here they sadly learn from the island’s king that they’ve likely been replaced. Unable to accept this possibility, they depart and resume their quest. When at last they find the boy, he’s a young lad more interested in sport and girls. No longer needed, they’re free to return to the island and join the other lost or abandoned blankets and bears.

Children hearing this story read to them or reading it with the help of a parent, will likely want to discuss this new take on “they all lived happily ever after,” because in this case the book’s characters did not end up living happily ever after together, but there’s no denying they were all happy in the end.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Powerful Words from a Powerful Voice

NOTE: This review was originally posted on Jan. 17, 2012, but we felt it was fitting to repost to mark the 50th anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this special day in America, we take the time to think about the forward-thinking, visionary leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. His courage and wisdom are even more inspiring as time passes. That’s why I was thrilled to read My Uncle Martin’s Words for America ($19.95, Abrams Books, ages 5+). The author, Angelina Farris Watkins, PhD, is the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.  (She is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA.)

My Uncle Martin’s Words for America is a wonderful summary of the highlights of this extraordinary leader’s journey to promote justice, freedom and equality for all Americans. Young readers are introduced to segregation, Jim Crow laws, King’s incarceration, protests, speeches and the events the led up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the back of the book you’ll find an excellent chart summarizing the protests MLK led, matched with the resulting changes in civil rights. There’s also a helpful glossary. I respect the fact that this book does not focus on the assassination, but rather on his philosophies and accomplishments.

I have read and reviewed countless children’s picture books, and only a few of them really stand out as momentous as far as the quality of the illustrations; this book is indeed one of them. To simply say that the Coretta Scott King award-winning illustrator, Eric Velasquez, is extremely talented is just not enough. Not often does one come across illustrations so realistic, vibrant and beautiful as these. He paints with oils on watercolor paper, and it is a glorious combination. Just take a look at the jacket cover – front and back – and you’ll have no choice but to open this book and take it all in. It’s obvious that Eric Velasquez has a calling in life, and he answers that call each every time he paints a picture. Oh how I’d love to have one of his paintings on my wall at home!

Once you read this book, I think you’ll agree that it should be on the bookshelf in every elementary school classroom in America. (There’s a second title, too, Uncle Martin’s Big Heart, written and illustrated by the same author and artist as this book.)

Read my interview with illustrator Eric Velasquez.

This book is reviewed by Debbie Glade.

P.S. As I wrote this review, there was a woman on my local news station at an MLK parade in Miami being interviewed about this holiday. She said, “What Martin Luther King, Jr. did was not just for black people, but for all people.” I could not have summed up his achievements any better than that.

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Reading Dogs and Writing Snakes You Say?

What the Snakes WroteIn a picture book, any scenario you can imagine – and even those beyond your wildest dreams – can come to life. In What the Snakes Wrote ($9.95, Firefly Books, Ages 5-8), a farm dog named Rufus befriends a big family of snakes that slither and arrange themselves into letters and words to send messages. Rufus, being the friendly, helpful canine that he is, runs to the rescue of the snakes as they post different messages calling for help. He even tries to get the attention of the farmer when the snakes need more assistance than he alone can give. But the farmer is busy and just doesn’t notice what’s going on. When the snakes are in real deep trouble, will Rufus be able to save the day?

Snakes

The story, by author Hazel Hutchins, is original and the message is one of literacy. I like the fact that even though the story is not reality (i.e. snakes cannot write and dogs cannot read) in the back of the book the author provides two pages of interesting true facts about snakes. The cheerful illustrations are cartoon-like, and I love the way illustrator Tina Holdcroft depicts the snakes as they form words.

Reading What the Snakes Wrote with your children, is the perfect time to broach the subject of the importance of being able to read and communicate. It also opens the door to further exploration of the fascinating world of snakes. And it is just a really cute story.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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For the Child in All of Us

page_1_thumb_largeAlbert Einstein once said, “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Inside My Imagination ($15.95, Cuento de Luz, Age 5-7) by Marta Arteaga is a captivating book about a girl who enters a magical paradise, all created by her own imagination. She “breathes in a story” while taking young readers through her mind and ever-changing random thoughts. Her visions are enchanting, and she tells us how they flow together making her more and more creative and giving her more and more original ideas.

The hardcover book is of the highest quality, and the delightful illustrations by Zuzanna Celej are misty and imaginative, perfectly fitting for the somewhat poetic prose.

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The true beauty of Inside My Imagination is that it encourages readers to think outside the box. It lets them know that it is perfectly okay to use their imaginations, and in fact is a wonderful thing to do. It can take them to never before explored places and send them on a path of discovery of new ideas. More importantly, it teaches them that their imagination is what gives them the freedom to be themselves.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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Simplicity in Numbers

OneGOrillaTake one look at this book cover and you’ll know why I couldn’t wait to open it up and read it. Look at that illustration! Plus I recently went to Miami Metro Zoo recently and observed gorillas for a while and was completely enamored as they were using sign language with the zookeeper. By the way, after that zoo visit I was compelled to find out why gorillas have that huge and strangely shaped head. The reason is that it needs to support their super-sized temporal muscles that are required to help them chew all the fibrous veggies they eat. They do not eat meat! Yet I digress …

One Gorilla: A Counting Book ($16.99, Candlewick Press, Ages 3-5) is simple, just like a counting book for wee ones should be. But it is also wonderful because the illustrations are extraordinary. Author/illustrator Anthony Browne, a recent Children’s Laureate in Great Britain, has penned and illustrated more than 40 books! His attention to detail makes these pictures worth lingering over for a really long time.

The book features 10 different primates, plus has a little bit of a clever ending. From the book jacket, colorful inside front and back covers to each and every page, it is a visual wonderland. Your little ones are sure to be motivated to learn how to count after reading One Gorilla. It may also invite you to open an initial discussion about evolution, if you so choose to do so.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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  ©Photo by Debbie Glade

Feeding time at the Miami Zoo sure is entertaining. Look closely: this big guy has an orange in his mouth.

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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.”

Cute and Cuter illustration 1

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

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Wordless Narrative Floods Pages With Powerful Message

4544159_origMore and more it seems that stories of fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods tug at our heart strings. How do we explain these disasters to our young children? Capstone came up with a most creative and unusual way. Flood ($15.95, Capstone: Picture Window Books, Ages 6-8) took a bold approach and created a book with no words, rather with incredibly detailed and impressive illustrations by Alvaro Fernandez Villa. These pictures tell the full story of a family of four that must flee their home before a major flood destroys it.

Capstone is making a substantial donation from the sale of Flood to the non-profit organization, Save the Children. The money raised will be used for the Domestic Emergency Relief Fund which provides food, health care and education to families with children following natural disasters.

As parents, we want to protect our children from pain and despair, yet this is not always possible. This book was created with that purpose in mind; it helps young children understand and deal with natural disasters, teaching them the inevitable lesson that some life events are unfortunately out of our control. The wordless narrative allows parents to open up discussions about what the family in the book is experiencing. Capstone provides an excellent Flood Reader’s Guide containing general information about floods and tips on “reading” a wordless book – before reading, while reading and after reading the book. It’s all in studying the details of the illustrations and asking children what they see and how the family must be feeling while fleeing their home. There are even suggestions about acting out the story or posing as a reporter.

floodspread1

Flood covers the gamut of  so many emotions – hope, fear, despair, sadness and eventually gratitude. It gives children and parents a chance to express themselves without the fear of being judged. I admire Capstone for taking the risk to broach such a sensitive and unpleasant subject for young children – and oh, how well they do so. I also love the fact that this book will inspire children to think in ways they may never have before. They will look at the illustrations and use their own judgment to determine what is taking place. And I must add here that these are some of the best illustrations I’ve seen in a picture book.

When you finish “reading” Flood with your children, you are left with the powerful message of hope.  And, as I mentioned earlier, when you buy the book, Capstone donates a portion to Save the Children, leaving others in need also with hope.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

Our family has been enjoying Barefoot Books for many years mostly because of their diversity, quality and beautiful illustrations. All you have to do is check out their website here and you’ll see what I mean. There are bilingual books, independent reader books, stories from around the world, games and more. It’s not hard to find yourself wanting everything. However today I’m reviewing a version of A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea (Barefoot Books, $16.99, hardcover with enhanced CD; $9.99, paperback with Enhanced CD, $6.99, paperback only, ages 3-6), adapted by Jessica Law with artwork by Jill McDonald and sung by The Flannery Brothers.

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This classic cumulative song is perfect for print and features creatures such as a shark, an eel, a squid, a crab, a snail and a weed thus introducing nature’s food chain to youngsters in a fun, gentle way. And kids will enjoy pointing out the eel and all the others as they each try to hide from their respective predator.

“There’s an eel and a shark in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

He’s concealed from the shark in the hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s a hole, there’s a hole, there’s a hole in the bottom of the sea!”

The book works on many levels in that it’s repetitive and sing-songy, there’s a page with numbers where the creatures are counted, all with easy to read text. McDonald’s engaging art is created using textured and painted papers that are then assembled digitally with a bold and vibrant outcome sure to please.

The helpful end pages contain loads of info on the blue holes found in the bottom of sea, the food chain, and the creatures who call the ocean their home. Plus there are words and music included to play with an instrument not to mention the CD containing video animation and audio singalong.

When you purchase a Barefoot Book you are helping the planet as they only use paper from sustainably managed forests.

“Playful, beautiful and created to last a lifetime, our products combine the best of the present with the best of the past to educate our children as the caretakers of tomorrow.” That’s a credo to admire in this day and age of over-packaged goods, and non-environmentally friendly products.

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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There’s a New Kid in Town

9780375855801_p0_v1_s260x420 Bad Astrid ($15.99, Random House, Ages 3-7) by Eileen Brennan is a charming book for young readers about an age old problem – bullying.

Astrid is a bad girl dog who wreaks havoc when she moves into a new neighborhood. The story is told by another child dog (that looks a bit like a beagle) who finds herself in Astrid’s destructive path. Astrid destroys gardens, sprays water on chalk drawings and is just all around grumpy, nasty and mean. One day the beagle makes a great big Eiffel Tower out of Popsicle sticks, but Astrid crashes into it with her bike. Naturally the beagle’s first reaction is anger, but soon she is able to see Astrid for who she really is. What she does will warm your child’s heart.

The book is written in rhyming prose and is rather catchy and cute. I love the cartoon-like illustrations by Regan Dunnick as they really capture the emotions of the dogs. It’s the message of this book that makes it most special – behind every trouble maker is an individual with some good qualities too. Reading this terrific book is a great way to start a conversation with your child about being bullied and about keeping an open mind to help find out the truth about another in need.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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