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Waiting is Not Easy! by Mo Willems

 

Waiting is Not Easy! (An Elephant & Piggie Book) 
Written and illustrated by Mo Willems
(Disney-Hyperion; $8.99, Ages 6-8)

 A 2015 Theodor Geisel Honor Book

WaitingisNotEasy-cvr.jpgMo Willems’ latest installment in the popular Elephant & Piggie series, Waiting is Not Easy!, is a short and sprightly story about friendship and patience.

Piggie tumbles up to her elephant friend Gerald, excited about a surprise she has for him later that day, but she will not reveal the surprise and says that Gerald will just have to wait. Poor Piggie literally gets bowled over by Gerald’s impatient groans as the hours slowly pass by, but Piggie is able to keep calm and composed while waiting for the surprise to arrive. After a day of waiting and waiting, Piggie’s surprise dazzles them both—it’s the night sky lit up with a blanket of stars, a sight that they can share together. Instantly, Gerald’s frustration fades away in the warmth of this stunning scene and in the presence of his thoughtful friend.

Willems rewards readers as always with his economy of words while never including a dull moment. Waiting is Not Easy! reminds new readers that patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait, especially those just learning to read on their own!
– Reviewed by Krista Jefferies

 

 

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Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods
Written by Rick Riordan
Illustrated by John Rocco
(Disney-Hyperion, 2014; $24.99. Ages 9-12)

percy-jacksons-greek-gods

 

When approached by a New York publisher to “tell all” about the gods, Percy Jackson asks:

“Can we do this anonymously? Because I don’t need the Olympians mad at me again (Percy Jackson, p.ix).”

Despite his understandable concerns (irking the gods can be dangerous to your health), Percy, in typical teen fashion, humorously narrates nineteen stories about the Greek gods, weaving in snarky comments and observations. Surprisingly, blending these dark and grim stories with irreverent humor makes the myths (a little) less horrific. Here’s Percy’s interpretation of an exchange between Kronos and Rhea concerning their children and …um…. Kronos’ food choices:

“He [Kronos] stuffed Hestia in his mouth and swallowed her whole.
Just like: GULP. She was gone.
As you can imagine Reha completely freaked.
“My baby!” she screamed …”
“Oh wow,” Kronos belched. “My bad …(p. 23).”

Percy’s title for each myth, not only reflects his wit and humor, but lets the reader know how Percy will interpret that myth. Demeter Turns Into Grainzilla puts a spin on a pop culture monster (Godzilla) when Demeter becomes a monster and daughter, Persephone, is abducted by Hades.

I’m ashamed to admit that I laughed while reading stories about kidnapping, infanticide, and cannibalism. Good gods! What kind of mother does that make me?

John Rocco, who has illustrated three of Rick Riordan’s series, is the 2012 Caldecott honor for Blackout. Rocco’s dramatic illustrations depict robust and muscular gods (recalling Classical Greek statuary), powerfully pulsing with light and energy. His strange and grotesque monsters should satisfy horror fans without overly frightening gentler souls. Visit Rocco’s website to learn more about the books he’s illustrated. Also check out his  blog which includes his artwork and sketches and links to painters who have influenced him (including Frank Frazetta and N.C. Wyeth).

At my school library, this middle grade book is already a big hit with Percy Jackson fans, as well as those who love Greek mythology. As both the 5th/6th grade classes are studying Greek mythology, one of the resources I used (in addition to this book) was the publisher’s excellent event kit. Activities include Percy’s Snarky Word Search, Get Your Greek On (trivia), party games, and more. Such a fun-and funny-way to learn about Greek mythology!

Click here to download the teachers’ guide.

– Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

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The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Cover art for Rick Riordan's The House of Hades
The House of Hades – Heroes of Olympus, Book Four, by Rick Riordan from Disney-Hyperion, 2013.

Rick Riordan’s seven heroes of Olympus are at it again, fighting monsters and trying to save the world with a little help (and hinderance) from the gods, says MaryAnne Locher, today’s reviewer.

At the end of Rick Riordan’s The Mark of Athena, Percy and Annabeth have fallen into the depths of Tartarus and must find the Doors of Death in order to leave. In Riordan’s latest, The House of Hades – Heroes of Olympus, Book Four (Disney-Hyperion/Disney Publishing Worldwide, $19.99, ages 9-12), the other five heroes have been instructed by Percy to not only return the Athena-Parthenos statue to abate a war between Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter, but to also find and seal the earthly side of the Doors of Death, preventing the rise of the evil Earth Mother, Gaea, and her league of underworld followers.

The reader will be reacquainted with monsters from previous books, as Percy and Annabeth have to face those they’ve slain in the past as they walk through their own personal Hell. But this is far from a rehash of books past, as some of the darkest and deadliest monsters and gods are introduced for the first time. Riordan doesn’t stop with imaginary monsters, he also makes the young heroes, as well as readers, question themselves and face their own personal demons in this very diverse book of love, friendship, and the fight between good and evil. Hazel is at a crossroads, and her decision affects the outcome of the quest. Nico faces being different than his friends. Frank, Leo, and the others all have to stretch their attitudes and abilities to save the world.

Will the seven accomplish their goals? Will Percy and Annabeth be trapped at the Doors of Death for all eternity if the doors are sealed? Well, you’ll have to read the book and find out for yourselves. To tell you would be just plain evil.

Watch The House of Hades book trailer, read excerpts and download activities by clicking here.

 

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On this day, 133 Years Ago, Helen Keller was Born

cover-helen-276x300Your first clue that you’re about to read something special is that the jacket cover title, Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller ($17.99 Disney-Hyperion, ages 6 and up) by Doreen Rappaport with illustrations by Matt Tavares, is written in Braille. Here’s a picture book that utilizes every last available printed page to impart meaningful information to young readers.

To say that Helen Keller only changed the world’s attitude towards blindness would be an understatement. At 19 months old, Keller fell ill and the resulting blindness and deafness turned her life from bright to dark. Before their daughter’s seventh birthday, Helen’s parents hired the once legally blind teacher Annie Sullivan.

Sullivan would go on to change the course of Helen’s life with her unwavering devotion and determination to help Helen learn to communicate. Helen proved to be a sponge, soaking up every bit of information Sullivan could share. She eventually went on to college and became an advocate not just for people with disabilities, but for people of color, the poor and women. Author Rappaport injects many of Keller’s transformational quotes into this touching book. “We do not think with eyes and ears, and our capacity for thought is not measured by five senses.”

The evocative illustrations by accomplished artist Matt Tavares serve to highlight Keller’s courage and numerous abilities including a profound embrace of life and homeland. Not only are there resources listed in the end pages for children, but a Manual Language Chart, too. It’s been decades since I read about Helen Keller’s inspirational life so I appreciated learning many interesting new facts. In Keller young readers are sure to find a role model worth emulating.

Click here for a link to author Rappaport’s invaluable teachers’ guide.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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