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Early Chapter Book Review – Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem

STELLA ENDICOTT AND THE ANYTHING-IS-POSSIBLE POEM:

TALES FROM DECKAWOO DRIVE

Written by Kate DiCamillo

Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

(Candlewick Press; $14.99, Ages 6-9)

 

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Starred Review – Kirkus

“I like the idea that anything is possible, don’t you?” (Stella to her teacher, p. 7)

In Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem, Stella Suzanne Endicott, is one of those glorious young children who finds the whole world and all of life absolutely amazing. A wonderfully engaged, curious and imaginative child, she lives in the same neighborhood as that awesome pig, Mercy Watson, and other characters on Deckawoo Drive. On the first day of school, she meets her new teacher, Tamar Calliope Liliana, and thinks the teacher’s name “… sounded like the name of a good fairy in a deeply satisfying story … “ Her “arch nemesis” is Horace Broom, a big know-it-all, whom she finds most annoying.

 

Stella Endicott int1
STELLA ENDICOTT AND THE ANYTHING-IS-POSSIBLE POEM. Text copyright © 2020 by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Chris Van Dusen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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When Miss Liliana asks the students to write a poem using a metaphor, “Stella had a feeling that she was going to be very, very good at coming up with metaphors.” Unable to work at home, due to her brother’s hovering (he sometimes reminds her of Horace), she goes to visit Mercy Watson and curls up beside her on the couch.  As everyone knows it is

 “… a very comforting thing to lean up against a warm pig.”
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Stella Endicott int2
STELLA ENDICOTT AND THE ANYTHING-IS-POSSIBLE POEM. Text copyright © 2020 by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Chris Van Dusen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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The next day she and Horace have a disagreement over Mercy Watson. Horace, a literal type, refuses to believe a pig could live in a house and sleep on the couch! Stella angrily assures him that Mercy Watson does! Miss Liliana sends the arguing pair to Principal Tinwiddie’s office (“the toughest sheriff in town”). Horace, greatly frightened of the principal and of a blemish on his academic record, flees from the office and hides in the janitor’s storage closet. Stella races after him and, as she steps inside the closet, the door closes and the two are locked in. Did I mention that poor Horace is also claustrophobic? While they wait to be rescued, Stella comforts him. A glow in the dark map of the solar system gives Horace the opportunity to help Stella learn the names of the planets, and keeps his mind off of his fears. They share the things they love best: Horace, who wants to be an astronaut, loves telescopes, Stella loves metaphors. By the time they are rescued, both are fast friends.

With an almost lyrical narrative, a gently humorous, but thoughtful story, and delightfully quirky characters, this early chapter book is pure DiCamillo. Van Dusen’s gouache illustrations humorously enhance the narrative. DiCamillo helps children see the value of imagination and creativity and that trying to understand that annoying person could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. As Stella always says: “anything can happen …”

Kate DiCamillo
Chris Van Dusen

  •  Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

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Best Back-to-School Books 2019 Part One

BEST BACK-TO-SCHOOL BOOKS 2019

∼ A ROUNDUP ∼

PART ONE

 

Back-to-school free clipart of backpack

It’s that time of year again when we review the best back-to-school books. For 2019 there are many so we’re going to present them over several days.

 

flight school book cvrFLIGHT SCHOOL
Written and illustrated by Lita Judge
(Little Simon; $7.99, Ages 1-5)

Award-winning author illustrator Lita Judge’s sweet story is now available in board book format and is as charming as ever, and Penguin is just as precious.

There are all kinds of schools but one thing they have in common is that people, or in this case, birds, attend so they can learn things. Enter Penguin. He’s come to Flight School to learn to fly. The teacher tries to point out that Penguin, who claims to have “the soul of an eagle” is a penguin and therefore cannot take to the skies like his classmates. Penguin remains unconvinced.

Attempt after funny attempt, the persevering Penguin fails at flying while his classmates “took to the wind.” He is heartbroken and considers giving up. Fortunately for him, Flamingo figures out a way to get the bird soaring … even if it’s not a permanent solution and that suits Penguin just fine. With its adorable, expression-filled art and upbeat message, Flight School is a reminder of how rewarding it can be to follow your dreams and how friends can help.

Bunny's Book Club Goes to School coverBUNNY’S BOOK CLUB GOES TO SCHOOL
Written by Annie Silvestro
Illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
(Doubleday BYR; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

Bunny and his forest friends are back for more good times in Bunny’s Book Club Goes to School. In this 40-page picture book, Bunny’s library buddy, Josie, confides in her animal pal that school starts the following week and she’s worried she won’t make any friends.

Bunny hatches a plan to go to Josie’s school to be a friend for her and along the way he runs into Porcupine. Porcupine wants to come with Bunny so the two carry on toward Josie’s school. As the pair journey on, the group gets larger as more and more forest friends want to join in.

Soon there’s Bunny, Porcupine, Bear, Bird, Mouse, Raccoon, Frog, Squirrel and Mole. Nine buddies for Josie. As they hunt for Josie, first Squirrel, then Bird, Mouse and Bear become distracted in various classrooms. I can’t blame them. The basketball game, the music room, and cafeteria were indeed tempting places to be, but Bunny is determined to find his friend.

With everyone gone, (yes, Porcupine “dipped into the art room, and now he was stuck”), Bunny carries on by himself. Alone in the school library, Bunny is impressed. He is eventually joined by the gang. They see Josie through the library windows enjoying her classmates at the playground. When the critters head outside, the fun multiplies. They, too, easily make friends and are happy for Josie, and for themselves.

Silvestro’s hopeful and humorous story is a great one to share at back-to-school time. Mai-Wyss’s lovely water-color illustrations depict a diverse group of children where all look welcome. I noticed a wheelchair ramp in front of the school and a young boy in a wheelchair playing ball with a friend. Bunny and his furry friends provide a gentle reminder for any child starting school that quite often they’re not the only ones interested in making new friends.

If I Built a School coverIF I BUILT A SCHOOL
Written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
(Dial BYR; $17.99, Ages 5-8)

It is so easy and entertaining to read Chris Van Dusen’s If I Built a School, which follows the first in the series, If I Built a House. Between the nod the artwork makes to the “Jetson’s” TV show and the rollicking rhyme that accompanies every spread, I could easily see children re-reading this picture book again and again every back-to-school season.

Jack, the picture book’s narrator, has a fantastic imagination and tells the playground aide, Miss Jane, just what type of school he’d build instead of the plain school where we first meet him.

This school is beyond your wildest dreams and I’m not sure I’d get any work done there because I’d be too busy zooming through clear transportation tubes from towering pod building to towering pod building. Then there are the floating “hover desks” that resemble bumper cars, one of my favorite amusement park rides. Holograms of historical figures teach lessons and in gym the basketball court is a trampoline! At lunchtime, well you’ll just have to see for yourself, but it’s like a robotic automat that serves up any type food, “simple or weird—from PB & jelly to squid lightly seared.”

I pored over every single spread so as not to miss a single thing Van Dusen designed. That includes a sweet blue-nosed, black and white pup who features in almost every illustration along with several disabled characters, one a child in a wheelchair and the other a dog with wheels supporting his back end. The gym and recess illustrations are terrific and, together with younger readers, parents can read the story aloud then help point out all the different activities kids can get up to. If you’ve got a child with an active imagination or one who’s looking for STEAM inspiration, you’ve come to the right book!

See Chris at the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, GA on Saturday, August 31st. And check out his blog to find out about September visits that may be close to where you live.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Here’s a link to last year’s roundup of the best back-to-school books 2018.

 

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President Taft is Stuck in The Bath by Mac Barnett

PRESIDENT TAFT IS STUCK IN THE BATH by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Chris Van Dusen is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

– A Junior Library Guild Selection

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President Taft is Stuck in The Bath written by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Chris Van Dusen, Candlewick Press, 2014.

President Taft is Stuck in The Bath (Candlewick Press, $16.99, Ages 4+), a new picture book written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, is as good as its cover, if not better, and the cover is just terrific (or should I say terry-ific?)! PLUS: if you enjoy this review, enter our giveaway to win a copy of the book. *Details below!!

I couldn’t wait to read my review copy of President Taft is Stuck in The Bath. I’d always heard the rumor/anecdote that the hefty (and I don’t mean muscular hefty, but big, heavy hefty) William Howard Taft, our 27th U.S. President, had gotten stuck in the White House tub, but I never pursued this line of inquiry let alone thought it was material for a children’s picture book. I was wrong! Thankfully Mac Barnett thought otherwise and chose to dig deep into the archives for this hilarious picture book that will make both parents and kids crack up (no pun intended). As I’ve said, I was ready from the cover and certainly from page 1, with its page-size portrait of a handlebar mustachioed, scowling Taft, to follow this riotous romp wherever it took me. I think you will feel the same way.

By including a plethora of the President’s cabinet called upon to remedy the situation, Barnett has created a cast of characters that do not fail to entertain. We first meet the demure Mrs. Taft. Her attempts to offer her husband suggestions as to how he could be extricated from the White House bathtub are disregarded by the angry and frustrated President. “It’s a disaster!” said Taft. He asked her to call for the Vice President who, upon seeing Taft’s dilemma, could not disguise his eagerness to be sworn in as President. When it was evident the V.P.’s one track mind was of no help, the President summoned the Secretaries of State, Agriculture, War, Navy, Treasury and Interior one after the other. But alas, all their over-the-top ideas proved futile.

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Interior spread from President Taft is Stuck in The Bath written by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Chris Van Dusen, © 2014 Candlewick Press.

And though it comes as no surprise that it’s the First Lady who saves the day, it doesn’t matter. It’s the artwork that’s the star here as we see a birthday-suited Taft finally freed from the tub. In all his naked glory, Taft the President is still human.  The book’s uproarious take on this often-told tale may even tempt young readers to delve more deeply into the past of this and other American leaders.

Between Barnett’s delightful usage of early 1900s sounding language, “Blast that!” bellowed Taft. “A preposterous plan.” and Van Dusen’s humorous illustrations (who thought a picture book featuring an overweight man in a bathtub could be so engaging), the pair have managed marvelously to pull off presenting a president getting stuck in the tub in a way I could never have imagined. It doesn’t hurt that, while the anecdote has never been corroborated, Barnett includes an interesting author’s note along with “Some Facts Pertaining to President Taft and Bathtubs” that should not be missed. My takeaway – who cares if this tale is fact or fiction? It’s a lot more fun speculating with Barnett and Van Dusen!

Here’s a link to an interview with illustrator Chris Van Dusen.

* Enter here by sending an email with your name and address included. Be sure to write Taft is Stuck in the subject line. This giveaway valued at $16.99 ends at midnight PST on Monday, April 14, 2014. One winner will be chosen randomly on Tuesday, April 15th. You must first like us on Facebook or Twitter for eligibility. Good luck! U.S. and Canadian Residents only.

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